Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The Pauline Event Context

Over at Bad Christian, the eternal issue of Paul's legacy in Christianity rears its head. Paul's privileged position within protestantism is troubling to many of us. I mean, the guy seems to be a bit of a nutter at times. So how do we deal with that? If I read him right, Brandon's first response is to question Paul's authority:

Paul saw Jesus on the road to Damascus, you say. I buy it. I just don't think that does much for Paul as an intellectual source. 90 seconds with Jesus, a blinding light, and wham...instant genius. He can write spiritual truth with almost omnicient maturity. Doesn't seem very plausible to me.

Frankly, it doesn't seem very plausible to me, either. However, the unthinking acceptance of Paul's authority doesn't bother me so much as the notion that all we have to do is 'clear our minds' and the text will become transparent to meaning. As much as I'm skeptical of Paul's revelation, I'm far more skeptical of the claim that a lazy and uncritical reading (which, as a translation, is already a reading) will produce Truth. There are two huge pillars in comtemporary American protestantism: first is the notion that the Spirit will act as an epistemic guarantor; second is the idea that we all 'ought to become like children'.

Perhaps each is true when considered in isolation, but when combined in a certain way, they make for a perverse witch's brew of dumb that rewards non-thinking ahistoricism.