Peter and Paul in conflict? Part 2 – Dismissing the case for a lack of evidence.

Last time I noted the origins of the belief that Peter and Paul were in a major theological controversy. We traced this back to a nineteenth century New Testament scholar named Johann Christian Bauer.

Bauer and others who argue that Peter and Paul taught distinctively different versions of Christianity make this argument from Galatians 2:11-21most specifically Galatians 2:11-14. The problem is that there was a theological disagreement between Peter and Paul.

To understand and fully dissect this view, we must first begin with an understanding of the context of the epistle to the Galatians.

Galatians 2 and the controversy at Antioch

The controversy at Antioch seems to have occurred within the context of larger discussions about the place of gentiles in the Christian Church. Paul’s major point is is that justification is received by faith alone, and therefore gentiles do not need to adapt themselves to the law.

Within the immediate context, Paul presents first a basic unity between himself and Peter, along with James and John on these basic questions.[1] Modern students then who believe the controversy at Antioch was theological in its tenor rarely discuss the controversy at Antioch in its larger context.

Hypocrisy – not doctrine

Second, they ignore the details of the passage. Paul does not describe Peter’s actions of no longer eating with gentiles in terms of distinctions in belief, but rather in terms of hypocrisy. For example:

Vs 12 Peter’s actions of eating with the gentiles would make no sense if he differed from Paul on justification or the place of gentiles in the Church. Paul later states that Peter withdrew himself from table fellowship out of fear.

Vs. 13 – He describes the actions of other Jews behaving hypocritically.

Vs 14 – Paul explicitly describes those who imitated Peter’s actions as hypocritical

Vs. 15-16 – Paul begins his conversation on the larger issue in a way that makes no sense if Peter and Paul’s beliefs were the same in regards to the gospel itself.

At no point does Paul use any language indicating that Peter is holding to incorrect beliefs, instead, Paul seems to state explicitly that Peter’s behavior is hypocritical. But if that belief is hypocritical, then it means Peter betrayed his own beliefs.

Later confirmation

Galatians was likely written around AD 48-49, though this dating is not accepted universally. In 1 Corinthians 2:12-13 Paul discusses factions identified with particular apostles, including Peter. In verse 13 he states, “Christ isn’t divided, is He? Indicating there were no divisions between himself and the other apostles.

Conclusions

Someone once suggested that Evangelicals fail to read between the lines in our discussions of Galatians 2:11-21. In point of fact, however, what those who argue for a Petrine and Pauline split are actually doing is not reading between the lines, but wholly ignoring the details of Paul’s discussion.

[1] Galatians 2:1-10

Peter and Paul in Conflict? Pt 1, Origin of a myth

Lately, I have heard a number of discussions from those in academia about how 1st century Christianity has “evolved.” One of the things that is often brought up in these discussions is that Peter and Paul taught two very different types of Christianity (sometimes this is alternately discussed in terms of Paul and James having a disagreement with Peter either being in the middle or siding with James), and it is usually intimated that Paul changed Christian teachings at this time.

This theory goes back to the nineteenth century, when it was formulated in terms of the “Bauer Hypothesis,” formulated by Johann Christian Bauer, and was the foundation for the “Tubingen school” of New Testament Studies. Bauer sought to combine the study of the New Testament with ideas that were current in nineteenth century philosophy, most notably Hegel.[1]

Bauer sought a thesis/antithesis basis on which the New Testament was written, and he thought he had found one in Galatians 2:11-21, when Paul confronted Peter at Antioch. Bauer then assumed that this was the crucial conflict upon which later Christianity was developed, and he dated most of the New Testament to a period between the late second and late third centuries on the basis of his perceptions of how this conflict was settled along Hegelian lines.[2] The Bauer Hypothesis, and the Tubingen school of theology were later overturned with the publication of Lightfoot’s work on the Apostolic Fathers. Lightfoot basically demonstrated that the Apostolic fathers who quoted the books of the New Testament were older than the dates assigned by Bauer to the New Testament books themselves, and the entire school of thought died an unceremonious death as it was placed on the rubbish heap of history.

To be fair, there was a notable controversy at this time that ended in the council of Jerusalem and a schism with the first Christian heretical sect – a group known as the Ebionites. Yet, while this controversy is central to the controversy between Paul and Peter (and Galatians as a whole) there is little actual evidence that Peter and Paul were actually in a theological disagreement, even if there was a serious question of Peter’s practice. As to the Galatians 2:11-21, we will discuss this next time, as we demonstrate how this is an insufficient basis for positing that Peter and Paul were in a long-term conflict.

            [1] Hegel hypothesized the ideas developed and changed as they were brought into conflict with other ideas; Hegel’s dialectic is often simplified, (perhaps overly simplified) into an idea known as a thesis, in opposition to its opposite, known as the antithesis, and the two eventually form a synthesis, which becomes a new thesis.

            [2] Francis Schaeffer is famous for noting that the theological left was founded on Hegelian thought. Many modern theologians who reject historical Christianity but somehow feel their ideas are Christian in some sense object to this, noting that they have come a long way from Hegel. Yet, Hegelian assumptions underlie a great deal of non-believing New Testament and Old Testament scholarship, even if it does not interact with the theologies of heretics like Tillich, Barth or Bultmann. When moderns discuss sources for the gospel, (such as Q, M, and L) or sources for the Torah (J, E, D, and P) they are building their views on what is ultimately a Hegelian foundation, and in this sense Schaeffer is more correct than his critics.

Mike Lee and offering Incense to the Emperor

In first century Rome, Christians were considered dangerous to the harmony of society and that their failure to honor Roman gods meant they damaged the pact between Rome and the gods. Thus, when crops failed the cry went out to throw the Christians to the lions. While Roman persecution was sporadic, brutal, but founded in a belief that Christians were socially undesirable.  In many ways, that is the precise point for same-sex marriage and marriage equality.

It has recently been suggested by Senator Mike Lee that if Gay marriage becomes a “right” under federal law, Christian schools, Universities and other Christian organizations could lose tax exempt status (the goal of such a move would likely be to close the institution, itself). This has been called fearmongering, though I remember many on the left arguing that bakers and florists would not be sued for civil rights violations in the past, so I will remain skeptical of arguments that this will not happen. This was also mentioned in the Supreme Court’s hearings, and the Obama Administration’s lawyers did not substantively answer the question.

We live in dangerous times. We are in a time when we must not only be able to state what we believe, but we must also be able to coherently make the case why we cannot accept gay marriage as being equivalent to heterosexual marriage. Towards this end, I’ve written Offering Incense to the Emperor, which is currently available on Kindle for free today and tomorrow.

The thesis of our booklet, Offering Incense to the Emperor is that the point of gay marriage policies are to silence criticism of gay marriage in the public sphere, violating Christian’s first amendment rights in the process. I have argued this is essentially a use of economic force and pressure where gay activists have failed to make their case to Christians.

Kindle Publishing only allows me to do free deals for 5 days per quarter, so after Friday it will be a few months before I can offer it for free again. Download it today.

The Christian Struggling with Homosexuality.

I spend a lot of free time in the Christian Apologetics alliance’s discussions on facebook. During two recent discussions, the point was raised that the New Testament doesn’t address the issue of Christians struggling with attractions to members of the same gender.

Of course, the New Testament has a lot of similar issues it doesn’t directly address – it does not, for example deal with the problem of the woman who had an adulterous affair, who is trying to be reconciled with her husband but is still receiving phonecalls from her former illicit lover. It does not address the question of the heroin addict who is converted to Christianity, but still suffers from the physical symptoms of withdrawal.

And yet, if it does not address these things directly, there are applicable Scriptural principles. Matthew 18 and 2 Corinthians 2 discuss elements of the discipline process that are important for this discussion Matthew 18:15-20 discusses the process of discipline and excommunication.[1] At every stage, upon repentance the process stops and reconciliation (and when needed counseling) commences instead. Paul in 2 Corinthians 2:4-6 similarly referred to a disciplined member of the church at Corinth. He argues that this person should be welcomed into fellowship.

The issue of gay marriage is not about those who struggle against same sex attraction – the very existence of a struggle tells us that they accept God’s law and seek to live in accordance with that law. The issue is about those who argue that God’s law doesn’t apply to them, or doesn’t apply to anyone, at all. It is for those who deny that human beings are sinners by nature.

To someone struggling with same sex attraction, there is hope. Joe Dallas and other people have come past this temptation, others live lives of celibacy to honor our Lord. Is it a difficult burden to bear, well yes, but then, I did not marry until I was in my mid-thirties, and celibacy as a single man was not easy at all times either, but I am a Christian.

This is not the question faced by the Church from those outside. For that question, my kindle pamphlet Offering Incense to the Emperor is still free until June 12th.

            [1] There is a textual variant in this passage that affects the interpretation of this passage ( a rare thing in general). One of the canons of textual criticism reads that the shorter reading is to be preferred, because scribes tended to expand the text with explanatory notes as they moved forward, and there are a few other, more technical elements involved in this discussion.

Christians and Homosexuality – Losing with Salt and Light

The Supreme court is expected to rule on whether gay marriage will be made the law of the land, nationwide, this month.

Whether or not the Supreme Court assumes the right to rewrite God’s natural order in 2015 or not, this will happen eventually. Romans Chapter 1 presents homosexuality in terms of a societal death spiral, as God turn men over to their own way because of their rebellion against their Creator. Acceptance of homosexuality is the last step in that societal decay, it does not mean homosexuality is a worse sin than others, but its acceptance is a step in the process of man being surrendered to the depravity of his own heart. Barring revival, eventual changes in the laws are inevitable.

As Christians, our job is not to reform society; nor is our Christianity ultimately based on the culture. While we would like to see our religious liberties preserved, our purpose in the world is not to focus on our rights, it is to serve as salt and light. Our job, apologetically, is to make the case not because God needs us to prove that He is right, but so that the world is confronted by the choice in front of them.

Ironically, this is precisely why we should discuss this in terms of religious liberties – it provides an opening for the discussion of the gospel in terms familiar to unbelievers, and more importantly demonstrates the hypocrisy of those who would make a state religion of modern philosophers who want to make compulsory public acceptance in the name of the false god “tolerance” an idol required to be worshiped by all. It demonstrates that unbelievers, in a society that prides itself on its use of reason demonstrates they will use “force” when they have not been able to make their case.

Whatever the Supreme Court decides, then as Christians, we must not only stand firmly on the Word of God on the issue itself, it behooves us to remember that sin is the problem, and Christ is the solution.

Towards that end, I am releasing for free our booklet, Offering Incense to the Emperor on Kindle from June 8th until June 12th. While not intended as a final answer to the question of the Christian response, it is a start in that direction.

The Duggar Family, Gay Marriage and the Central Message of the Gospel

I was listening to a DNC representative discussing the Duggars and gay marriage on Megyn Kelly’s show on Fox news.

I have not commented on this scandal, as I did on the BJU issue, for a number of reasons. The Duggar’s are a family, and the parents of both the perpetrator and four of the victims, I do not envy them that position, and I want to respect the privacy of the girls involved. As a Christian, the real questions of sexual abuse surround larger issues – we do believe in forgiveness both by God and for man; Paul was a murderer, as was David the man after God’s own heart. As I’ve noted before, we are all imperfect believers. There are additional issues as well, the Church has not always been wise in handling these matters, we forgot that the tares amidst the wheat are also wolves among the sheep. This is sometimes difficult for Churches to admit – but then, it is our basic understanding of truth that mankind is by nature sinful, what is so difficult there?

The mission of the Church is not one of justice, that is within the sphere of the state; for Christian institutions our limits when it comes to a discussion of the justice of the matter is to report all allegations to the police, and to honestly answer questions posed during an investigation. If Josh was taken to a Christian ministry for counseling, that ministry should be investigated by the about whether they complied with mandatory reporting laws.

No one (including the Duggars) is condoning what Josh did; no Christian would ever suggest that such sin can be tolerated; and my prayers like many Christians, are with the victims, who are apparently being victimized again by having their privacy violated for what amounts to a political point on gay marriage and Christian moral beliefs on the other (and perhaps many of the Duggar’s critics should do some examination of their own treatment of these poor girls before discussing hypocrisy).

Of course, the question of the comparability of homosexual acts and sexual violation is not the issue. Both are morally reprehensible, as are murder, hatred, and those who make or love a lie. The issue is not whether we are sinners, it is not who is the bigger sinner, the real question for the Christian is always how do we respond to our sin; Scripture is clear, we are all guilty, we have all gone astray and none of us is innocent.

If Josh has truly repented of His sin, then like Paul and David, he is a trophy of Grace, a demonstration of the power of the gospel. And yet, the forgiveness by God does not mitigate the temporal consequences of those actions he took. I will leave the civil authority, God’s minister in these matters to answer these questions.

The question of homosexuality is ultimately no more germane to this tragedy than is the question of the Duggar’s economic theory. God’s word stands the same today in judging homosexuality as wrong as it did when it was penned. And yet, the Duggar tragedy reminds us that God’s judgment does not fall on us without hope; if the gay community will repent and turn to Christ, He will forgive them as well. If Josh, Paul and David can be forgiven, there is room at the cross for the gay man, as well.