Just wondering (as an atheist): Why are Paul’s letters considered to be authoritative to most Christians?
Is it because he was an apostle?
But consider: “Get behind me, Satan.” Seems like apostles can be dead wrong sometimes, right? If Peter can be influenced by Satan, why can’t Paul?
Is it because the Catholic Church included Paul’s letters in the cannon?
This seems like a rather arbitrary metric. Christians in the early Catholic Church could have decided to include anything in the cannon. Are you saying that a bunch of 5th century RCC bureaucrats get to decide what is divine truth and what isn’t?
I’m not trying to be annoying or trollish. This is something that genuinely bothers me about the Christian religion/ Bible. I think Paul’s writings are inspiring and poetic. But (it also seems to me) that Paul contradicts some of the things that Jesus teaches in the Gospels (especially concerning judgment of others).
The Jesus guy seemed to be able to love others, even the ones who nailed him to the cross. But Paul (at times) seems full of resentment. Sure, Paul wrote some powerful passages about love, but he also wrote some bitter things. I don’t hold Paul’s bitterness against him or anything. I just wonder if it is wise to take one ancient man’s bitterness to be the unblemished truth (as many Christians seem to do).
Also, Paul himself might not have ever intended to have his letters put on the same level as the teachings of Christ. Taken at face value, they were simple communiques (albeit super inspiring ones) perhaps meant to keep Paul’s various parishes running smoothly and NOT intended to be “just as true as the things Christ said” as most modern Christians take them to be. Maybe Paul himself would say that (where there is contradiction between his words and Christ’s), the words of Jesus ought to supercede his own. But modern Christianity doesn’t seem to afford Paul that option. Every one of his rants or opinions is taken to be divine truth. If Jesus and Paul say two things that seem incongruent, both statements are warped so that they can fit together and (to the comfort or inerrantists) count as divine truth.
If the Jesus guy is the one you consider to be God, what’s wrong with saying that Jesus was right and (if there is a contradiction between Jesus and Paul) Jesus always wins out? Isn’t it a bit risky to take the teachings of Christ and warp them so that they are congruent with Paul’s writings?