Paul the Apostle
c\o Aquila the Tentmaker
We recently received a copy of
your letter to the Galatians. The committee has directed me to
inform you of a number of things, which deeply concern us. First, we
find your language to be somewhat intemperate. In your letter, after
a brief greeting to the Galatians, you immediately attack your
opponents by claiming they "want to pervert the gospel of Christ."
You then say that such men should be regarded as "accursed"; and, in
another place, you make reference to "false brethren." Wouldn’t it
be more charitable to give them the benefit of the doubt—at least
until the General Assembly has investigated and adjudicated the
To make the situation worse, you
later say, "I could wish those who trouble you would even cut them
selves off!" Is such a statement really fitting for a Christian
minister? The remark seems quite harsh and unloving.
Paul, we really feel the need to
caution you about the tone of your epistles. You come across in an
abrasive manner to many people. In some of your letters you’ve even
mentioned names; and this practice has, no doubt, upset the friends
of Hymenaeus, Alexander, and others. After all, many persons were
first introduced to the Christian faith under the ministries of
Although some of our
missionaries have manifest regrettable shortcomings, nevertheless,
it can only stir up bad feelings when you speak of these men in a
derogatory manner. In other words, Paul, I believe you should strive
for a more moderate posture in your ministry. Shouldn’t you try to
win those who are in error by displaying a sweeter spirit? By now,
you've probably alienated the Judaizers to the point that they will
no longer listen to you.
By your outspokenness, you have
also diminished your opportunities for future influence throughout
the church as a whole. Rather, if you had worked more quietly, you
might have been asked to serve on a presbytery committee appointed
to study the issue. You could then have contributed your insights by
helping to draft a good committee paper on the theological position
of the Judaizers, without having to drag personalities into the
Besides, Paul, we need to
maintain unity among those who profess a belief in Christ. The
Judaizers at least stand with us as we confront the surrounding
paganism and humanism, which prevail within the culture of the
contemporary Roman Empire. The Judaizers are our allies in our
struggles. We cannot afford to allow differences over doctrinal
minutiae to obscure this important fact.
I also must mention that
questions have been raised about the contents of your letter, as
well as your style. The committee questions the propriety of the
doctrinaire structure of your letter. Is it wise to plague young
Christians, like the Galatians, with such heavy theological issues?
For example, in a couple of
places, you allude to the doctrine of election. You also enter into
a lengthy discussion of the law. Perhaps you could have proved your
case in some other ways, without mentioning these complex and
controverted points of Christianity. Your letter is so doctrinaire,
it will probably serve only to polarize the differing factions
within the churches. Again, we need to stress unity, instead of
broaching issues, which will accent divisions among us.
In one place, you wrote, "Indeed
I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will
profit you nothing." Paul, you have a tendency to describe things
strictly in black and white terms, as if there are no gray areas.
You need to temper your expressions, lest you become too exclusive.
Otherwise, your outlook will drive away many people, and make
visitors feel unwelcome. Church growth is not promoted by taking
such a hard line and remaining inflexible.
Remember, Paul, there is no such
thing as a perfect church. We have to tolerate many imperfections in
the church, since we cannot expect to have everything at once. If
you will simply think back over your own experience, you will recall
how you formerly harassed the church in your times of ignorance. By
reflecting on your own past, you might acquire a more sympathetic
attitude toward the Judaizers. Be patient, and give them some time
to come around to a better understanding. In the meantime, rejoice
that we all share a common profession of faith in Christ, since we
have all been baptized in his name.
Charles Phinney [fictional]
Coordinator, Committee on Missions