Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Paul Event

I had a thought recently that with all the justifiable attention we pay to the Christ event, we might well miss the potential significance of the Paul event.

Think of hierarchy. Think of succession. Think of disciples. Think of those entrusted with Christ's own teachings. And then think of a compleat interloper having the majority say on the meaning of all that happened in the presence of those same guardians! Such a thing flies directly in the face of the whole concept of succession. It should have called into question the whole fantasy of the rule on rule, the whole quasi-talmudic approach where everything is built on something else. But instead, the early church got around the issue by declaring the interloper an Apostle after all. And we have since based much of our teaching on his. There's a weird irony around the word "Apostle." It's supposed to be the same as missionary, which Paul obviously was. The irony is the historical assumption that it also means something akin to "benevolent dictator for life," which I just don't think was Jesus' intent.

But really, doesn't it blow everything wide open, that someone so from the outside of everything could have a personal revelation of Christ and leave such a deep mark on a movement that he had nothing to do with starting? It says to me that actually we are all equal partners in the New Testament conversation after all. God starkly and astonishingly ignores the fledgling hierarchy of the church right at its outset. Maybe he was trying to help the church set aside any idea of hierarchy. Such an action on God's part means that potentially we all have a voice. We are nobodies in the church but Paul was less than nobody -- he was, to borrow a biological term, an antibody. If such a one as he can look on the Christ event and commentate on its meaning, ought we not also to be able to do the same?

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