Monday, January 15, 2007

St. Paul - Pillar of the Catholic Church - III

The last two posts under this title have been focusing on Paul's letter to the Romans (which seems to be the most commonly used epistle against the Roman Catholic Church). Let me explain briefly that I am not attempting to start a debate or even "prove" anything to anyone. This series of posts on Paul is primarily for my own benefit. This is the first time I have gone through the New Testament as a Catholic and I am writing this summary of the Pauline epistles to help gather my thoughts and reflections. I post it here in case it may be of some use to any one else. So enjoy.

We now turn our focus to his remaining epistles which shall prove to be more "Catholic friendly" (as if Romans wasn't).

I'd like to start out with a couple very general observations about Paul's writings. He is not afraid (as some seem to be) of exploring typology. I think it self evident to say that the orthodox faiths have been much more effective in illuminating typological arguments from the Old Testament. This is especially reasonable to state considering that typology never points to any non-orthodox doctrines (such as the rapture for example) and does quite often point to exclusively orthodox doctrines (such as the Real Presence). This, I suggest, is the reason why typology is only loosely advocated outside of the orthodox branches of Christianity.

However, Paul himself establishes a hermeneutical paradigm which orthodoxy continued to expound on through the works of the early Church fathers. Paul first uses Adam as a prefiguration of Christ or Christ (as the new Adam) (Romans 5:12, 1 Corinthians 15:22) and then later he explains that the relationship between Hagar and Sarah prefigure the relationship between the Old & New Covenants (Galatians 4:21-31). I found all this allegory to be decidedly Catholic.

Dying to the Law - Alive to Faith Alone?
Paul wrote more than once portraying the Christian life as one which had been born anew (now dead to the things of the past). Most notable was his imagery of dying to the Law. But as was the case with Marcion, it is not difficult to allow that imagery to lead one into false doctrine.
Galatians 2:19
For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.
Now before being too hasty and casting out the necessity of works in the Christian life, we should look back once more to the book of Romans:
Romans 7:4
So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.
How did we die? Through the body of Christ. Why? So that we might belong to Another (Romans) / live for God (Galatians). Christ (the one whom we are now alive to) was raised in order that? We might bear fruit to God.

This isn't rocket science; stay with me.

Why do we need to bear fruit? Because according to the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, the vines which do not remain in Christ are unfruitful and those will be cut off and "thrown into the fire"(1). This also gives us a fuller understanding of what John the Baptist was talking about when he said:
Luke 3:9
The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
We're talking very basic language here. There's no need for complex doctrines. If you don't produce fruit, you will be cut off and thrown into the fire. In other words, you will go to hell. If you died to the Law through Christ and are now alive to Him through faith given you by the grace of God AND you abide in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit producing good fruit, then you will go to Heaven.

Therefore, you died to the Law not to prove the necessity of faith as opposed to works, but that by faith you might produce works and if you dont you're going to hell.
Galatians 5:21 - and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Those who act according to the lusts of the flesh shall not inherit the kingdom of God. He is not advancing a complex doctrine here. He has no hidden agenda. He means what he says. He is speaking with the intuitive cause and effect pattern. If A then B or in this case: if A (you live like this) then not B (inherit the kingdom of God). (And now we're starting to see why Occam was Catholic.)

He doesnt speak this way because his audience is too stupid to understand the complex doctrine of "just believe and you go to heaven" or "just believe and you go to heaven and if you're going to heaven we'll all know it because of your good works." but rather he is advancing the more intuitive "if you do bad things you wont go to heaven (whether you believe or not)" For again, Paul is certainly not ignorant of the words which our Lord spoke:
Matthew 7:22
Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?'
Moving right along...
Galatians 1:8-9
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
Paul does not appeal to the Scriptures. He does not tell them to search the Scriptures to see if what they are being told is true. He holds his (apostolic) authority in such high regard that damned be anyone (including an angel) who disagrees. Thats either pretty self indulgent or it says something significant about how much Paul understands about the authority he held as an apostle. Not to mention what he is writing now is infallible itself!
Ephesians 4:1-2
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
This is good. As according to the Catholic teaching on salvation which I laid out in the first post in this series, we receive an unmerited calling from God (by His grace) to which we have the ability to accept (by faith) or reject. This is the beginning of our journey. This is our calling and now Paul is urging us to live a life worthy of it. Although he is rather soft spoken about it here, we have seen in other places that there are serious consequences if we do not live a worthy life.
Ephesians 4:17
So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking
His language becomes a little stronger. Changing your lifestyle is not optional. Though Martin Luther (who had taken sola fide to its logical and extreme conclusions) suggested that when the Devil tempted us to sin we should do so just to spite him, Paul seems to think otherwise. (Lets not forget Romans 6:1 either).

I thought I could lump the rest of Paul's epistles into a third and final post but I was mistaken. I had underestimated the Catholicity of Saint Paul. Hah! I'll stop here since we're at the end of Ephesians. To be continued...

1 comment:

NotMyOpinion30 said...

Haven't finished reading it, but I like the disclaimer at the top. Good job.