The Victory of Paul Over Christ

You know what?  It’s been a while since I sat down to write a good properly angry blog post, hasn’t it?

Well, that streak ends tonight, because by the blood of Christ I am angry right now.

Why?  At whom?  At what?  The target of my anger, o my brothers and sisters, can be found right here.  Ms. Jan Markell, of the Worldview Times, is on guard to protect us from the threat posed to Christianity by the words of Christ.

Read that essay.  Read it all, every single comically underlined word of it.  I’ll wait.  Because I want to talk about it, and I don’t want anybody to have to play catch-up.

All on the same page now?  Good.  Then let’s get to it.  What I see here is the message written across the shoulders of the rich young man after he turned his back on Christ because he couldn’t pass through the eye of a needle.

She starts, promisingly enough, by assuring us that there’s nothing actually wrong with marking out the words of Christ Jesus Himself, God incarnate, Alpha and Omega, Author and Finisher of our Faith, Redeemer, Salvation, Word of God and founder of Christianity, as being of particular interest to Christians.

But some of us, apparently, have taken this whole Jesus business too far.

“But something is wrong when Leftist Christians or so-called Christians want to mute the words of Paul and other writers and only follow Jesus’ words.”

I’m going to stop you right there.  Ms. Markell, my Sister in Christ, had you paid more heed to the words of Jesus rather than those of Paul, you might have noted the parable of the wheat and the tares.  Not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” will enter the Kingdom of God, but we do not get to make that call.  You dare, you dare to deny my communion with Christ?  You dare to call my testimony a lie?  You dare to do this on the grounds that I pay too much attention to the teachings of Jesus Christ?

No.  No, Jan Markell, you have no right.  You have no standing to challenge my faith, or accuse me of falseness.  For this slander alone, I may safely rebuke you.

But she goes on.

They feel it is convenient to blot out the words of Paul on homosexuality and focus in on the good deeds Jesus talks about.”

First off, what Paul has to say on homosexuality isn’t really a whole lot.  Second, there’s plenty of serious scholarly debate about exactly what he did say on the subject, shifting cultural references and the vagaries of koine Greek leaving some room for doubt on the subject.  Third, and this is the point that probably I’m going to return to a few times tonight, I’m reasonably sure that what Jesus has to say is more important than what Paul has to say.  On account of one of the two of them being Jesus.

The next sentence is even better.

Most are pacifists who reject an “eye for an eye” (Leviticus 24:19-20).

Let me help you out on this one, Ms. Markell.  We reject “an eye for an eye” because Jesus told us toHe was pretty specific on this point.  He also had some things to say about how to treat enemies, and what happened to people that live by the sword.

They focus on Jesus’ words about helping the poor, ministering to “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40), loving our enemies, etc.”

Consternations, uproar!  Whatever will they think of next?  Cats and dogs living together, total anarchy!

That justifies abandoning hundreds, even thousands of condemning verses in the Bible they choose to wish away. That makes homosexuality OK and war wrong! And remember, Paul and the others in the Bible represent Jesus’ words. They were His spokesmen.

Okay, straight up, this woman is condemning the attitude that war is bad.  Can I just say that this is messed up?  Because I’m gonna say that that is messed up.

Homosexuality, there’s an issue that we need to talk about some.  On this blog, we’ll be doing that later, because that’s it’s own can of worms.  Short version, though, is that Paul mentions some homosexual behaviors in passing a couple of times, using language notably vaguer than that found in, say, the Septuagint (and that, incidentally, can be covered rather neatly by Peter’s vision of the unkosher buffet; let no man call unclean that which God calls clean), and this might, uncharitably, be applied to all same-sex couplings.  Jesus Himself, of course, says nothing about it.

Can we, as Christians, agree that Jesus is more important than Paul?  I mean, I’ll concede that Paul was Jesus’ spokesman, but Jesus was actually Jesus.  So why is it that homosexuality is the premiere issue the Evangelical church seems to want to mobilize for?  All I’m saying right now is, maybe our efforts could proportionately reflect the emphasis various sins receive in scripture.  That would be a radical shift in the church’s priorities, I suspect.

Some who believe this way practice a form of neo-Marxism and others would call it “Christian Marxism” — an oxymoron if there ever was one. They note that the early church shared everything (socialism).  A close cousin to this is “liberation theology.”‘

“An oxymoron if there ever was one”?  Citation needed, my Sister in Christ.  I know no small number of Marxist Christians who’d hotly dispute the point with you.  The Gospel stands above political and economic theories, beyond isms and schisms.  I put it to you that it’s no more of an oxymoron than Christian Capitalism.  Indeed, given what Jesus had to say about wealth, and sharing…Well, how many successful capitalists can pass through the needle’s eye?

Can Pat Robertson?

And I note you don’t even try to refute the point about the early church.  You cannot, can you?

And then there’s the scare quotes around liberation theology.

Liberation theology has always frightened the rich, the powerful, the comfortable. It frightened the Pharisees enough that they murdered Christ to shut Him up.  It frightened the Roman Empire enough that they martyred thousands.  It frightened America’s slave owners when the Quakers stood against them, and it frightened their grandchildren when Martin Luther King Jr. started leading boycotts.

Those who are high profile in this movement include Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo, Brian McLaren and his Emergent bunch, and the National Council of Churches. Jim Wallis says, “In those red letters, Jesus calls us away from the consumerist values that dominate contemporary American consciousness.” Translate that to mean he loathes capitalism and opts for socialism and/or communism.

I see no need to translate for him.  Jim Wallis speaks tolerably good English, and he’s speaking it plain enough there.  Is he wrong about the values that dominate America?

Is he?

Find the answer to that in your own hearts, if you dare to look.  Find it in the mirror of your possessions.  I can find it in mine, and I don’t much like what I see.  Call that socialism if you like.  The drunken bastard McCarthy’s long-dead, and it’s not a word that frightens small children anymore.

Wallis continues, “Jesus calls us to be merciful, which has strong implications for how we think about capital punishment. When Jesus tells us to love our enemies, He probably means we shouldn’t kill them. Most important, if we take Jesus seriously, we will realize that meeting the needs of the poor is a primary responsibility for His followers. Ghandi once said that everybody in the world knows what Jesus was teaching in those verses except Christians.” To your average evangelical, the words of Ghandi are meaningless.

My Sister in Christ Ms. Markell is not practicing sound rhetoric.  She’s openly deflecting, to avoid answering a point she doesn’t want to answer by changing the subject to Ghandi.  Which is weird, because by choosing to quote those words, she raised the subject in the first place.

Is.  He.  Wrong?

Red-letter Christians feel evangelicals spend far too much time worrying about abortion and homosexuality. Wallis and Campolo make the college circuit and get standing ovations from young people who are seeing them as newfound gurus. Red-letter Christians champion “social justice,” the cause of illegal immigrants, environmentalism, high taxes, discrimination issues, socialized medicine, and getting rid of the death penalty. They are first to stand in line to play the “blame America” game.

What Jesus had to say about homosexuality:


What He had to say about abortion:


What the Bible has to say about abortion:


But Jesus had a lot to say about social justice.  Caring for the poor, the sick, the dispossessed, the imprisoned.  Showing mercy.  The Torah is filled with laws specifically designed to protect the rights of immigrants.

But tell us, pray, what is the “blame America game?”

I’m sorry, the “Blame America” game.

Because frequently, when I see talk like that, it’s from someone who doesn’t like it that someone else is calling America out for the bad stuff it’s responsible for.  I mean, it’s not exactly a spotless record we’ve got here, is it?  I love my country, but I love it despite its many flaws, not because I believe they don’t exist.

Also, when Falwell said we brought 9/11 down on our heads with our godlessness, liberalism, and homosexuality, was he playing the “blame America” game too?

Red-letter Christians support unrestricted big government, sometimes equating the welfare state with the Kingdom of God.

Not much to say on this one, really.  This one’s just a point-blank lie.  A lie based on a grotesque caricature of things that are actually true, but that just makes it Macbeth’s fiend that lies like truth.

This crowd loves to spend other people’s money. They put down conservative Christianity when, in fact, it is conservative Christians who are first to step up to the plate whenever there is a disaster at home or abroad!

And this one doesn’t even really mean anything.  It’s just kind of there, warning the reader that they want to take your money, and they put you down, despite the fact that you, the conservative Christian, are totally into disaster relief.  It’s just calorie-free rhetoric.

As David Noebel of Summit Ministries writes about Wallis, “Wallis and his Sojourners’ community believe Castro, Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortega, and the other revolutionary forces are the Communist paradises the U.S. needs to emulate in order to establish ‘social justice.’ “ Noebel emphasizes the startling and frightening fact that Wallis is Obama’s spiritual advisor.

David Noebel is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  I feel no strong urge to judge Wallis based on what Noebel says he believes.  Again, the man writes tolerable good English his own self.  He doesn’t need his enemies to speak for him.

Ronald Nash in his book, Why the Left Is Not Right, says, “Wallis was pro-Viet Cong and gloried in America’s defeat in Vietnam. Wallis said, ‘I don’t know how else to express the quiet emotion that rushed through me when the news reports showed that the U.S. had finally been defeated in Vietnam.'” But he said not a word about the blood baths that followed.

An interesting quote, which I can find no context for anywhere else on the web.  But given the intellectual honesty I’ve had occasion to observe both from Ronald Nash and my Sister in Christ Jan Markell, I would dearly love to see that context.

The issues you will never hear red-letter Christians talking about include winning the lost, the lateness of the hour, or sin and repentance.

This, again, is simply a lie.  But the rest of the paragraph, that’s a stupid lie.

Their mantra is peace, yet they do not understand that only Jesus ruling from Jerusalem will bring peace to this planet. They would scoff at that and say peace would be better accomplished if they saved the planet with their works based on the red letters of Jesus. And their understanding of the peace of God is minimal.

The Peace of God, sister, passeth understanding.  And I assure you, I am quite aware that only Kingdom Come will perfect this world.  I was not, however, aware that this knowledge meant we were supposed to stop trying.  Perhaps this was in one of the Pauline epistles that I overlooked, being too busy with the Gospels.  Other Christians, is it maybe in Romans, the bit where Paul says we shouldn’t try to make the world a better place because only Jesus can fix everything?

As Mark Tooley of the Institute for Religion and Democracy writes, “These people only criticize the U.S. and Israel in its human rights critiques, while remaining largely silent about monstrous regimes. They focus on America’s supposed mistreatment of Indians, about slavery, and the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. But they will never talk about the Holocaust.” You will also note they don’t talk about the butchery of Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, or Kim Jong IL.

Again, Mark Tooley is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  So, too, it seems, is my Sister in Christ.  For the record, we totally acknowledge the Holocaust, and the fact that Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot Hussein and Kim Jong Il are bad men.  I’d have hoped that this could be taken as a given, but then I’d also hoped that Mark Tooley would someday stop slithering on his belly and spitting poison out from his forked tongue, so this is a night for disappointments.

Red-letter Christians join the chorus of those who believe in a utopia with no wanting or war. Yes, that will come someday, but not the way they think. This could come as a shock to them just because they have little to no regard for other parts of the Bible. They have almost created a new meaning for the term “biblical illiteracy.”

No, Sister.  Just stop.  You have no grounds to insult my understanding of the Scriptures.   You have no right to challenge my regard for the Scriptures.  I know as well as you do that there’s no perfecting of the world until Christ reigns, I just don’t use that as an excuse to embrace injustice.

“It is also tragic that these folks are frequently called “the evangelical Left.” They don’t have even 1% of evangelical theology in a single bone in their body. They cherry- pick the verses they like, almost exclusively the red letters of Jesus.”

There’s worse verses to cherry-pick, my Sister in Christ.  Some of my brothers and sisters, for instance, tend to lean most heavily on the ones promising condemnation and hellfire for people who succumb to temptations they themselves do not experience, while seeming to pass over the verses that touch on mercy, grace, redemption and love.  Do not presume, my Sister, to lecture me, to lecture us, on the soundness of our theology.  Your own eyes may have motes that need attending.

Also on a sad note, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) is promoting a Leftist conference featuring Jim Wallis October 21. This was announced in their “NAE Update” received today, October 5, by e-mail. Tooley’s more Mainline Protestant Institute for Religion and Democracy takes a more righteous stand against Leftist causes than does the NAE.

Sad note, indeed, for some.  “The skeletal grip of a dead man’s hand, around eggs waiting to hatch.”  I’d like to see some proof, Biblical proof, to justify the attitude that all stands against “Leftist” causes are perforce righteous.

To better understand deception issues, visit our Web site and the category of “Spiritual Deception.”

I fear that may well be true, in a bitterly ironic fashion.

I have but a little more to say.

When you condemn, when you renounce your Christian Brothers, because of their devotion to emulating the example of Christ Jesus, you have taken it upon yourself to become the spirit of antichrist.  I denounce you.  I reject your teaching.  In the name of Jesus, I rebuke you for your insult of His Gospel.  I am a Christian, washed in the same blood as you, and like you none can separate me from His love.  I find your interpretation of His Way to be horrifically misguided, but I still call you Brothers, Sisters.

Nevertheless, my Brethren, I must call upon you to bend your stiff necks, to let go of that which keeps you from passing the needle’s eye, to refresh yourselves on the concept of summing up the whole of the Law and the Prophets by loving the Lord your God with all you are, and loving others as you love yourselves.  Insofar as you and I can do this together, we have communion.

But when you stand, and Jan Markell does here, in clear opposition to the Gospel, I will deny you with everything that I am.

Brad Ellison, follower of Christ, wrote this after Midnight on the ninth of October, 2009.  Read it.  And if you find it worth reading, pass it on.  Whether you agree or disagree with all or any of what I say, let us speak together, as a family should, seeking not to justify our politics, but to more closely walk with God and each other.

*Oh, there’s verses that can be ruthlessly taken out of context to imply that life begins at conception, and the Bible’s clear enough about murder, so if you believe a fetus is a fully-fledged human, there you go.  Of course, then you have to ask yourself why the Bible doesn’t say anything about not killing fetuses, except for the bit of the Torah that calls for a modest fine if a man causes an accidental miscarrriage.  I am far from satisfied in my own mind on this subject, and so I’ll leave it alone here for now.


14 Responses to “The Victory of Paul Over Christ”

  1. I feel your outrage at being mislabeled and a misrepresented by person who (despite probable good intentions) obviously has a distorted view of the Gospel and the role of the Church in our world.

    I look forward to your future posts that deal with some of the real concerns that are raised by her post…Especially the weighty issues surrounding a call for Christians to affirm homosexuality and abortion. We are undoubtedly in agreement that the overall way we approach these topics in our teaching, preaching, and sub-culture is very wrong. That said, these issues are still vitally important in that our conclusions regarding them and the Bible have very real practical implications for how we live out faith…I am far from at peace about these things, and I always welcome a thoughtful, Christ-centered approach.

    While I disagree with most of the author’s statements and certainly take issue with her idea that there’s something wrong with ascribing supreme importance to the words of Christ, I also certainly have concerns about any efforts to downplay the words of the Apostles as if they are less authoritative, or do anything other than affirm the words of Christ themselves. As inspired scripture, the letters of Paul and others–while perhaps not as important to the essentials and essence of our faith as the words of Christ–are in my opinion essential for maturing and solidifying doctrine that does indeed affect how we live a radically Christ-centered life.

  2. Arbane the Terrible Says:

    I’m forbidden to discuss politics on, so I just wanted to say that that is some GOOD ranting.

    Please keep up the good work. The rightwing lunatics can’t hold Jesus hostage forever.

  3. bradellison Says:

    Oh, indeed, Nathan, I’m on board with you on the importance of the Apostles. I’m all about the totality of the Scriptures. But the tendency I’ve observed in modern Fundamentalism is to elevate Paul’s letters to a place of preeminent importance, to a degree that verges on idolatry. And if we have to choose sides, I prefer to be on the side opposite that tendency. Paul is Christ’s servant, not the other way around.

  4. I think it’s also important to note that Paul himself had some things to say to those who would elevate his teachings over those of Jesus.

  5. Brad, I love your rants so much I may abjure your B and just call you Rad Ellison.

  6. @Brad A hearty “Amen” to an renewed understanding of Paul as the servant of Christ. More than anything, we should be emulating his example as a dedicated disciple of our Lord.

    @dsus4 Thanks for highlighting that passage…as Christians we tend to skip over those verses a lot…probably because they convict us on too personal a level.

  7. I’ve rather enjoyed reading this. I hope you’ll continue writing, thought from what little I’ve seen there doesn’t seem to be any immediate danger that you’ll stop.

  8. I linked here from your RPGnet sig. Nice, coherent, point-for-point rant. It’s refreshing (but not surprising) to find solid theology in the gaming community. I tried so hard to follow your instructions and read all of the lady’s post … I just couldn’t do it and keep my lunch down at the same time.

    Honestly, I think the fact that their website has a full section titled, “Spiritual Deception,” immediately destroys any credibility they might pretend to have. That, and their Chris-Farley-esque use of scare quotes.

  9. anti_supernaturalist Says:

    ** Why didn’t Paul hallucinate Buddha?

    There are no religious phenomena at all, but only religious interpretations of phenomena.


  10. Bravo.

  11. 4854derrida Says:


    I’ve just uploaded two rare interviews with the Catholic activist Dorothy Day. One was made for the Christophers [1971]–i.e., Christopher Closeup– and the other for WCVB-TV Boston [1974].

    Day had begun her service to the poor in New York City during the Depression with Peter Maurin, and it continued until her death in 1980. Their dedication to administering to the homeless, elderly, and disenfranchised continues with Catholic Worker homes in many parts of the world.

    Please post or announce the availability of these videos for those who may be interested in hearing this remarkable lay minister.

    They may be located here:

    Thank you

    Dean Taylor

  12. Brad, I was a Red Letter Bible Reader (TM) before it became a brand name or an ideological category. I also have the very odd notion that Paul is most understandable when taken in context of Jesus, not the other way round. So while wanting to say, with Paul, “be angry, and sin not,” I must hasten to add that I am, with you, aghast at the way so much of modern Evangelicalism has done its best to make the Savior of the World totally irrelevant to actual life on earth. In fighting the good fight for the whole counsel of God, you may want to consider, and other rants of mine.

  13. Katja in Minneapolis Says:

    Dear Brad,
    I have remarked on the irony in my life that the more certain I became of existence of Jesus Christ, the more I felt His influence in my life, the less I was inclined to call myself “Christian.” My experience of Christ in my life has been the presence of love, peace, gratitude and goodwill towards other beings. I am aghast at these crazies ranting on about “condemning verses” and so forth. (I can’t bring myself to quote her any more; “messed up” is really a polite way to put it and doesn’t really begin to cover the situation vis a vis the rightness of war.) Meanwhile, I am not a Bible scholar, so I am truly pleased to find someone like you who can quote the relevant verses and dish up some great humor as a bonus. I so enjoyed reading this. Aside from the visceral satisfaction of the verbal one-two punch landing so soundly, it also reminds me of the values that I hold dear.

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