Yeah. Those anti-Pauline ideas I shared (at some point?) I likely picked up from Tolstoy, who had a slew of criticisms.
I understand why Paul’s writings are so cherished. They’re good. Very good. They’re incredibly poetic. They have a knack for cutting through the bull and taking an unwavering stand on things. These are (I imagine) only some of the reasons they were considered a shoe in for inclusion in the NT canon. There is also the fact that (alongside being such good rhetoric) these are some of the earliest writings to be found in the tradition… and it doesn’t hurt that they are from one who has “apostolic authority.”
But (since they made it into the canon), now it’s hard to criticize the writings or debate their merits with believers. They’re in the book, and that grants them some kind of validity.
If people want to think Jesus was infallible, fine. But it irks me to think someone who wrote “slaves, obey your masters” was infalible. Why not write, “Slavery is morally wrong”…? It’s no secret that Southern slaveholders, having converted their slaves to Christianity, used this passage to legitimize the bonds of servitude.
Couldn’t Paul just be considered a devoted follower of Christ, whose words should be treasured for their insight? That’d be okay with me. But Paul is far too opinionated (and urged toward creating a religion, not just practicing it) to be the kind of infallible guide he is taken to be.
But that’s just a nonbelievers opinion. And for me, it’s not just Paul. The whole Bible is just too darn big. It’s unrealistic to think most people will even comprehend the whole thing, let alone follow it to the letter. I think it’s a product of being compiled centuries after Christ’s death… too much time for this or that “indispensable writing” to not be added to the canonical body.
For me, if it had just been the four Gospels… things would be much more manageable.
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” seems to rule out slavery as morally permissible activity. But even then you have the nonchalant way the Gospels refer to slaves in parables and such. But at the very least you aren’t left with “Slaves, obey your masters.” That’s to hard a pill to swallow for me, and perhaps others who might otherwise see a lot of good in Christianity.