What Would Paul Say?

Journal 2005

I have been taught all my life that we are to believe and follow every word written in the Bible. But we are inconsistent. We decide which rules and principles we want to follow and then gloss over the rest. (See The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight.) And if we question some portion of another person’s pet doctrine or rule, we’re accused of going against the Bible.

There’s a reason, obviously, why the Apostle Paul’s letters are included in the canon, but one must keep in mind that he wrote to specific individuals or churches about specific issues in the context of their culture. How different would these letters read if he were alive today and wrote to the American church or the Korean or Ethiopian or Brazilian? Different needs, different pastors, different times, different issues.

Would Paul, for example, still address the role of women in the church? Would he still preach, “Women, don’t usurp authority over men,” or would he instruct, “Exercise your God-given gifts, and don’t hinder each other’s spiritual growth”?

Would he still say, “Wives, submit to your husbands,” or would he say, “Be mutually respectful of each other”?

How would he address the subject of clothing, hairstyles, and modesty? Would he tailor his words to the country he’s writing to?

All the instructions regarding the widow list don’t apply so much to us in our U.S. culture where widows have more resources. Perhaps Paul would preach about ministering to the homeless instead.

Would Paul address employee-boss issues in the USA instead of slave-master dynamics?

Would he still need to give instructions on the use of spiritual gifts?

A 2022 Update. How politically correct do you think he’d be? I suspect Paul would not mince words to the churches about his opinions on issues he didn’t address in the first century, such as abortion, euthanasia, cloning, transgender choices, and gay marriage.