Thoughts to Ponder are my musings regarding community, things of the Spirit, and living as a Christ-follower. I don't offer the words of a professional or an expert; just a fellow traveler and explorer. Please don't take my musings more serious than I do. I've discovered a long time ago that I do not hold the keys of knowledge or wisdom. If I did, I misplaced them somewhere...typical.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Inconsistency in Paul?

“It is of course pleasantly easy to produce apparent self-contradiction in almost any writer. Ronald Knox had no difficulty in proving the existence of different hands in the Sherlock Holmes corpus, or in demonstrating that the second half of Pilgrim’s Progress was written by a middle-aged Anglo-Catholic woman (Pseudo-Bunyan, of course). If we imagine the sort of reply Bunyan himself would have made to this happy nonsense we may well be able to imagine also potential replies that Paul might make. The way to produce inconsistency is to ask a sharp question (especially on a subject not central to all the writings in question: try asking, for instance, what was Jane Austen’s attitude to repentance) and to insist on a yes-or-no answer. Is Montreal a hot city, yes or no? Is Greek an easy language to learn, yes or no? Was Jane Austen in favor of repentance, yes or no? Is the Bible the word of God, yes or no? Is the Torah abolished, yes or no? We surely want to reply ‘It all depends…’, but the words are scarcely out of our mouths before our questioner interrupts: don’t prevaricate, don’t fob me with cheap quibbles—I only asked a simple question. When we meet this sort of thing in real life, we smile and explain the problem, or simply change the subject. When we meet it in scholarship we allow ourselves to be browbeaten, to be threatened by the implied rebuke: if you manage to answer yes and no, you’re just a harmonizer, a flattener out of Paul’s craggy contours, denying the poor apostle the fun, and the scholarly prestige, of his own splendid inconsistency.”

Dr. N. T. Wright, Bishop of Durham, England, The Climax of the Covenant: Christ and the Law in Pauline Theology, p. 5.

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