Postmodern pastor scolds Paul, the Apostle

(Fictional, but relevant to the postmodern church)

   "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare [are] not fleshly but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ."

2 Corinthians 10:3-5


Paul the Apostle

c\o Aquila the Tentmaker

Corinth, Greece

Dear Paul:

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 matter?

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 these men.

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 dispute.

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

July, August 1988 Copyright 2003

Posted by permission from Trinity Foundation

Post Office Box 68, Unicoi, Tennessee 37692


 Telephone: 423.743.0199


A few excerpts from Paul's letter to the Galatians:

Chapter 1:3-10.  "Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ,  who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us  from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,  to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
     "I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed....

     "...if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ...."
Chapter 2:4-5, 20.  "And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you....
     "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me...."

Chapter 3:1-4.  "O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? ...Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?"

Chapter 5:16-22. "I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish....
     "Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

     "But the fruit of the Spirit is blove, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness,goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control."

Chapter 6:7-10, 14.  "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good.... Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith....
     "But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."


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