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The Inclusion of the Pauline Epistles in the NT must be Reconsidered

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/1/2011 Category: Religion
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,406 times Debate No: 17348
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (20)
Votes (1)




Thanks in advance for whoever takes this debate. I would like to use this first round to lay the groundwork, determine the structure and rules for debate, and briefly summarize my argument.

I will assume (unless told otherwise) that both I and my opponent accept to some degree the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) and also agree to work with the gospel accounts of Jesus, and place at least some faith in the Book of Acts. The rest of the New Testament is open for debate, as I intend to call the majority of it (Paul's writings) into question.

Round 1: Discussion of premises and definitions, acceptance, and brief summary of position.
Round 2: Full opening argument
Round 3: Rebuttals and/or concessions
Round 4: Counters to rebuttals and any new arguments
Round 5: Final Rebuttals and Final Arguments

1. Thou shalt not personally attack thy opponent.
2. Thou shalt be respectful.

Summary of Argument:
It is my position that Paul's inclusion of in the canon may be erroneous. First of all, I reject the authority of the institutional church to determine canon and believe that faith in the Council of Trent is undeserved as the process for deciding the canon was not satisfactory. I reject the notion that YHWH has necessarily intervened to keep us from making a 2000 year error in belief.
I believe that the Bible should not be viewed as one book and that it is a mistake to hold any epistles on the same level as the words of Christ or the Torah. Even the non-Pauline epistles were probably not likely meant by the authors to later be taken as Scripture and should be considered edifying or supplemental readings rather than the inspired Word of God.
I believe that Paul seems to, if not overtly does, contradict both the Hebrew Scriptures and the words of Jesus Christ. He does so by attempting to repeal the Law of Moses (especially on the issue of meat offered to idols) and his doctrine of salvation is at odds with that of Jesus. James, the brother of Jesus, expressly contradicts Paul. He is not one of the Twelve Apostles (the twelve apostles are the twelve called by Jesus, less Judas and plus Matthias) and does not share in their authority. In my experience, the inclusion of Paul in the Bible has lead to, in most evangelical circles, the de facto placement of Paul as higher than Jesus
I will say now that I do not know exactly where I stand on this issue but would appreciate an interesting discussion of it. Also, I am not a seasoned debater so have some grace (a concept very familiar to the Paulists) with me if need be.


This should be an exciting and informative debate. I look forward to debating such an important topic with my Brother in Christ.

One note, I would ask that my opponent please postpone his argument until Saturday Evening (or Sunday if possible). I will be traveling this weekend due to the 4th of July weekend and will not have access to a computer starting Saturday Morning. I would hate to disappoint the readers of this debate by failing to post an argument during one of these rounds.

Summary of my position:

The Pauline corpus (including the letters attributed to Paul but disputed) is not only permissible in the Canon, but is necessary. I stand in contradiction to my opponent's statements that Paul contradicts the words of Jesus, James, and other NT writers, and look forward to seeing the argument my opponent puts forward.

I would like to propose the following amendment to the assumptions regarding the authority of non-Pauline work. I hold the Hebrew Scriptures (39 books in the Protestant Old Testament), the Gospels and Acts, and all non-Pauline works (Including Revelation) as authoritative, fully inspired, and useful for teaching and rebuke (2 Tim 3:16). It is also my contention that the 1st Century Church consider Paul to be an Apostle, and fully shares in the Apostolic Authority granted to the 12 (as defined by my opponent).
Debate Round No. 1


Thanks for the acceptance. I would like to start by introducing the minor dilemma which first caused me to start looking at the canon more skeptically. It was the citation by a church leader of 2 Tim 3:16 in order to justify the inspiration of the canon, including the Book of Revelation. I am not currently disputing Revelation, but I am arguing the 2 Tim 3:16 can only refer to what both Timothy and Paul understood to be Scripture at the time of that writing. Even if we give the best intention to Paul, he could not have known what writing were later to be written and then considered Scripture by meetings of bishops.

There is no reason to assume that God necessarily would work to make sure we get the right Bible. It is my argument that we must question the “inspiration” of the canon. Paul sometimes claims inspiration and sometimes he expressly denies inspiration. There is no reason to expect that a teacher would immediately follow Jesus and expound upon his teachings. Even the Apostles would not have the authority to make up new doctrines and the account in Acts does not make it sufficiently clear that Paul should be numbered as an Apostle. Even if Paul is to be considered an Apostle, it is certainly possible that he could have erred, and the question becomes this – “Does Paul contradict Jesus, the Hebrew Scriptures, or the ‘other’ Apostles?” I will try to expound on some of these points.

It is baseless to assume that God must have intervened if the canon was being formed in error at the Council of Trent.

This evangelical website ( is a good example of the utter credulity with which many modern evangelicals regard the 397 AD 66-book canon.

God allowed the book of Deuteronomy to fall out of use. It remained that way until King Josiah stumbled across a copy and brought it back. Here we see that God does not automatically intervene when books go missing.

The Book of Enoch was included in the canon used by the Ethiopian Church, and God did not intervene to prevent them from doing so. If the Book of Enoch is correctly considered canonical by the Ethiopian church, then God did not intervene to prevent the Council of Trent from excluding it.

John Calvin agreed that the canon from Trent is not necessarily correct. He doubted that 2 Peter was written by Peter and questioned its inclusion in the canon. Martin Luther felt even more strongly that the canon from Trent was not necessarily correct as he rejected the inclusion of Revelation and James. I think these two were right to not accept the canon without question.

A self-claim to inspiration was not a criterion for canon inclusion. Jude, James, and the author of Hebrews all do not claim inspiration in their works. Luke specifically acknowledges his work as a historical one (Luke 1). Therefore, it is not entirely clear that the canon was even meant by its formers to be a list of inspired and inerrant Scripture rather than a mix of inspired Scripture and edifying supplementary commentary.

Paul sometimes claims to be speaking for the LORD.

At many points throughout his writings, Paul claims to be speaking in the name of the LORD (1 Cor 2:13, 1 Thess 2:13, 1 Tim 2: 11, Eph 4:17, 1 Thess 2:13). In order for this to be true, nothing that Paul says may contradict something the LORD has said previously. I will return to this point later.

Paul sometimes claims to be “just saying.”

At other points in his gospel, Paul admits that he is merely giving his personal opinion. The best example is that it is Paul’s personal opinion that it’s better not to marry – unless of course your one of those “weaker” souls who has lustful desires. The inclusion of personal opinions is strange in a document that is taken to be literally word-for-word as the Word of God and scrutinized in the original language for deep theological meaning.

There is no reason to expect a teacher to come after Jesus.

If there was going to be a teacher who would come right after Jesus and add many new dogmas and doctrines from YHWH, it seems to be something that Jesus would have wanted to highlight. Instead, he explicitly warns of the opposite: false teachers that would come in his name (Matthew 7:15-23).

The Apostles are commissioned in Matthew 28 to tell the nations to obey all things that Jesus commanded. Note that they are not told to come up with new doctrines; they are only commanded to fill the role of messenger. Jesus retains the right to teach for himself, and forbids his disciples from considering themselves Rabbis or teachers (Matthew 23:8,10). Again, the NT mission is to spread the teachings of Jesus not the teachings of any other man.

Paul contradicts Jesus on the general issue of the Law of Moses.

In a parable, Jesus states that he will reject those who did marvelous works in his name if they were workers of “lawlessness” (Matthew 7). The Greek word Nomos is one that was often used to refer to the Torah, and the word Anomia that appears in Matthew 7 refers to Torahlessness.

Even if “Nomos” does not mean “Torah” in the Matthew 7 word “Anomia,” in 1 Cor 9:20-22 Paul expressly states that he is not under “Nomos” (meaning he is “Anomia”) and is therefore guilty of what Jesus condemns no matter what “Nomos” or “Anomia” means.

That Jesus is a respecter of the Law of Moses is even clearer in Matthew 5. Jesus condemns anyone who would teach anyone else to break the Torah (Matthew 5:17-19). In Matthew 19, Jesus tells a young rich man that in order to obtain eternal life one must keep the commandments.

According to Paul, the commandments are null (Ephesians 2:15) and even recognition of the Sabbath – one of the Ten Commandments – is no longer applicable (Col 2).

Paul contradicts Jesus on Salvation doctrine.

According to Jesus, one must keep the commandments in order to obtain eternal life (Matthew 19:16-18). He also shows in many parables - the Parable of the Trespasser (Matt 18), the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matt 25), the Parable of the Sower ( Luke 8), and the Parable of the Unprofitable Servant (Matt 25) – a very severe and demanding salvation message much more involved than “salvation by faith alone.”

I have already demonstrated that Paul is not in the least bit concerned with people obeying the commandments. Paul replaces Jesus’ severe doctrine of salvation with a much easier doctrine of grace.

Paul contradicts the other Apostles specifically on the issue of meat offered to idols.

As I showed earlier, the other Apostles believed that Gentiles must not eat meat that has been offered to idols. This is a Mosaic Law from the Book of Exodus. In Revelation 2, Jesus speaks of false prophets who teach the teachings of Balaam, that eating meat offered to idols is permissible. Note that the prohibition on eating this meat is not contingent upon whether or not someone thinks it is wrong or if it will be a stumbling block to someone. It is a black and white prohibition. Paul disagrees with Jesus and the other Apostles on this matter (1 Cor 8). According to Paul, it is only bad to eat such meat if you’re around a “weaker” brother.

In summary, I have tried to demonstrate some reasons for questioning the canon and investigating Paul’s incongruence with Jesus. Paul’s message of salvation is far more simplistic than anything Christ said. The parable of the sheep and the goats proves that Jesus did not consider faith alone to be saving, as Paul does. The only way to avoid contradictions like these is to take Paul literally and make the words of Jesus mean something other than what they plainly say.



I would like to thank my opponent for his contribution to this important question. It is clear that he has put lots of thought toward this topic, and I look forward to a challenging and profitable debate. I am also excited to participate in a debate that is actually a fully structured debate. As such, I will not be rebutting much of my opponent's initial argument as that will take place in our first rebuttal round (round 3), but I will be offering a few historical corrections.

I would like to open with a series of questions. What is Scripture? Is it only what explicitly claims to be Scripture? Does it only include documents that were intended to be considered Scripture? Does it have to be written by God himself? Does the author determine if it is Scripture? Can only certain people write Scripture?

The answer to this question is complex and tricky and these are questions that have been asked for as long as religion has existed. My hope is that we may come to some conclusions, and that our discussion here will move us closer to having answers to some of these questions. However, I humbly acknowledge that we will not make a breakthrough in Bibliology today. I also want to acknowledge that my opponent does exhibit a lack of faith in any way by asking these questions. This question is essential to anyone studying the Bible.

The question at hand is this: Should the Pauline Epistles (I am considering the Epistles that are in dispute in terms of Pauline Authorship to be authentically Pauline) be included in the NT. To do so, we must understand how the formation of the Canon came about.

This is where my correction to my opponent comes in. My opponent seems to believe that the NT Canon was established at the Council of Trent in the Catholic Counter-Reformation (16th century). However, the NT Canon had been officially codified at the Council of Rome in 382. The work is preserved in Incipit Concilium Vrbis Romae sub Damaso Papa de Explanatione Fidei by Damascus I and reads

Likewise, the list of the Scriptures of the New and Eternal Testament, which the holy and Catholic Church receives: of the Gospels, one book according to Matthew, one book according to Mark, one book according to Luke, one book according to John. The Epistles of the Apostle Paul, fourteen in number: one to the Romans, two to the Corinthians [First Epistle to the Corinthians and Second Epistle to the Corinthians], one to the Ephesians, two to the Thessalonians [First Epistle to the Thessalonians and Second Epistle to the Thessalonians], one to the Galatians, one to the Philippians, one to the Colossians, two to Timothy [First Epistle to Timothy and Second Epistle to Timothy], one to Titus, one to Philemon, one to the Hebrews.[A]

In addition to this we have a list dating back to Athanasius in 367 [B], and Cyril of Jerusalem in 350 [D]

It is clear that we can confidently say that by the year 350 the Pauline Epistles were considered scripture by the vast majority of the early fathers, and it is likely that this list was a result of the Canon declaration of the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. This leads me to my first full contention.

Protestants trust the theological development at the Council of Nicaea, why wouldn't we trust their assessment of what is Scripture?

It is clear that we affirm the Divinity of the Son, the nature of the Trinity, and the rejection of Arian theology. In addition, the Council of Nicaea determined how we would set Easter on the Calendar, as well as other things that we as Protestants agree with. This Council's findings are universally agreed upon by Christians as valid. If we agree to the validity of this council, we are also agreeing to the validity of the Canon they produced.

Next, we must ask another question. Did the Church before this council view Paul's letters as Scripture?

We can see from the Apostolic/Anti-Nicene Fathers that Paul's letters were held as authoritative as early as the end of the 1st Century. Although Clement still reserves the technical term "Scripture" for the LXX, he references them as authoritative teachings for the Church.

In addition, there is internal evidence within the Bible that the Apostles (that is the 12) viewed Paul's letters as Scripture. In 2nd Peter 3:15-16 we see Peter write "And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures."[D]

This brings me to my second full contention

The New Testament Church viewed Paul as an Apostle and his writings as Scripture.

We see in various places in the New Testament that the word Apostle is used in various ways. In one sense, it is used as a technical term for the original 12 disciples of Jesus (Including Judas' replacement). However, in another sense it is used in its more definitional form. It comes from the word "apostello" which means "To send."[E] So an Apostle is simply one who is sent, in the case of the New Testament we see it used as one who is sent under the authority of Christ (while he was on earth) or the Church (after Christ's ascension. We see this term used of the 72 who were sent out by Christ in Luke 10, in addition to the 12 original disciples. We also see Jesus commission Paul for apostolic ministry to the Gentiles in Acts 9 when he says to Ananias "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name."[F] In addition to this we see his being sent by the Jerusalem Council to Antioch with a letter for Silas and Judas in Acts 15.

This is further supported by the fact that the "authentic" apostles were still mostly living and active during Paul's ministry. If Paul was a charlatan Apostle, we would expect to see some sort of rebuke from the 12. However, the Apostle Peter not only allows Paul to continue, but the Jerusalem Council differs to his wisdom in the Judaizer controversy. Even when Paul "openly opposed him, and reproved him."[G] If Paul was not considered equal with Peter and the other 12, we would expect them to have chastised him for this behavior, not submit to it.

Finally, Peter himself calls Paul's writing Scripture. In the aforementioned passage of 2nd Peter he refers to Paul's letter and compares it to "the other Scriptures." If Peter did not consider Paul's letters to be Scripture, we would expect him to use a different word when describing it.


It is my argument that from the very beginning of the circulation of Paul's letters they have been considered to be Scripture. In contention one I showed that this was true of the Early Church, implicitly in the Ante-Nicene, Explicitly in the Post-Nicene. Furthermore, I have presented a reasonable case that the early Church not only allowed Paul's claim of Apostleship, but in fact endorsed and originated it. In addition, we have internal references in the 2nd letter of Peter of referencing Paul's letters as Scripture.

I look forward to my opponent's rebuttal and wish him the best of luck. Thank you.

[A] F.F. Bruce. The Canon of Scripture (Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 1988), 97. - Quote Cut/Pasted from - Please note that this list attributes Hebrews to Paul, which I am not wont to do. The list continues, but for sake of space I have only included pertinent text.
[B] - Paragraph 5
[D] - Emphasis mine

Debate Round No. 2


Thanks for the Round 2 post. I’m going to have to make a major concession. My opponent pointed out that I made an error although he took my error to be the wrong one. This is not his fault; it is entirely mine as I did not double check some of the things that were in my head. He pointed out my error regarding the Council of Trent. I want to make sure that we’re on the same page regarding history, so I will clarify my error now. Rather than thinking that the canon was made in the 16th Century Council of Trent, what I did was mistakenly refer to the 382 Council of Rome as the Council of Trent. So, I was aware of the general time period but got my Council Names mixed up, and I didn’t know that name of the Pope was Damascus. So now that’s cleared up.

I reject the Council of Nicaea on more than just the canon.

First of all, Nicaea was called by the Roman Emperor Constantine. This begs the question as to whether or not God would consider proclamations made by a majority of the clerical elite as summoned by a Roman Emperor to be authoritative. I don’t think YHWH wants people to take the dictates of such councils without question. It certainly follows that one can reject the canon decisions of Nicaea and accept everything else. But I don’t think that’s the right thing either. I do agree with the Nicaea in that the Arian theology has no real basis in the claims that Christ made about himself.

There are a number of holidays and observances that were started by God, but the annual celebration of the resurrection of Christ (or his birth, for that matter) is not among them. So when (if at all) a Christian chooses to celebrate this should not be a matter of church dogma. Paul, of course, does not believe that holidays matter (Romans 14). Modern Paulists tend to celebrate extra-Biblical celebrations likes Easter and Christmas (which is more closely correlated with pagan tradition than the birth of Jesus) and totally ignore feasts and holidays ordained by YHWH.

What the Council of Nicaea did to Easter is consistent with an institutional error that was made by the early church that I believe can partly be attributed to Paul (or an interpretation of him) – that is, the utter divorce of Christianity from its Jewish roots (new holidays, a new “sabbath,” and a very different God). Nicaea decided to celebrate the resurrection independently of Passover (with which the death and resurrection were intimately connected). Jesus added something to the Passover when he passed the bread and wine and said “Do this in remembrance of me.” Modern Christianity has done a real number on that tradition.

The Council of Rome had a different canon than the modern Church.

If we accept the Council of Rome as authoritative, we must also include the Maccabees, Wisdom, Judith, and the Roman Catholic Church’s assertion of its own authority. Needless to say, both of us reject the proclamation of the Council of Rome. It’s NT canon should be subjected to much scrutiny for contradiction, pseudographia, and fraud – and we should reject any findings they made that don’t stand up, much like we reject their assertion of their own catholic authority as bogus.

Martin Luther did not trust the canon from Nicaea or Rome either.

I’ve already pointed out that Reformation leader Martin Luther certainly did not consider the assertion of Rome to be authoritative on the canon, as is evidenced by his take on the Book of James.

Even if Peter wrote 2 Peter, does Peter have the authority to unilaterally call something Scripture?

I decided to leave the issue what books other than Paul should be accepted open. Calvin did not believe that 2 Peter was written by Peter (he says as much in is Commentaries on 2 Peter), but he still believed that it was worth reading. So, I’ll agree to consider it for reading and to tentatively grant that it was written by Peter. Now, I have studied ancient Hebrew a little bit but I have not slightest understanding of Biblical Greek (other than some stuff I’ve read about ‘Nomos’ trying to figure out if its consistently meaning the Torah or not). So, while I don’t know the syntax I’ll accept that he means Paul is Scripture by saying “other.” Does Peter have such authority?

Deut 18 presents fulfilled prophecy as a test for messengers of God. And most importantly, we can’t allow a new person to contradict a previous person and try to hold them both up. So, if we accept the Law and the Prophets we must examine Jesus. If we choose to accept Jesus as well, we must carefully ponder the letter sent by the Apostles saying that the law does not apply to the gentiles – except for eating meat offered to idols and adultery. Then we have Paul. Paul rubs up against the Torah. This is abundantly clear. If that wasn’t enough, he has a salvation message that is much easier than the one preached by Jesus. This is the part that is most serious. We must be extra careful now because if we meet Paul’s salvation criteria and not the criteria of Jesus, there is trouble (After all, what don’t you call the person with the highest failing grade in medical school?). Furthermore, Paul even disagrees with the other Apostles on the issues of what is and isn’t permissible for Gentiles. If Paul contradicts the Law and the Words of Jesus, then Peter’s supposed endorsement is hardly worth considering.

Not everyone included Paul’s ideas.

Paul’s doctrines were pushed heavily by Marcion. When Tertullian wrote against Marcion, he rejected that Paul should be weighed equal with Jesus. Clement rejected salvation by faith alone in the first paragraph of his writing on the Rich Man ( In Polycarp 2:2 (in his letter to the Philippians), Polycarp also emphasizes works (

In Chapter 43 of his First Apology, Justin Martyr explicitly rejects the Pauline notion of predestination.

The Eastern Orthodox and many churches today that aren’t of the Reformed Tradition (while they may try to keep Paul in the canon), reject the doctrine of predestination as explicitly laid out by Paul.

In summary, the institutional church should not be trusted and there is no reason to accept Nicaea. The canon has changed since Nicaea yet Nicaea and Rome are often cited in defending the modern canon! Paul contradicts Jesus on salvation and the law and some in early church did not accept Paul’s writings as equal in authority to the gospel of Jesus. Most modern Christians include Paul, but they play games with the meanings of both Paul and Jesus in order to make their words congruent with each other’s. So, in that sense, many modern churches reject Paul and distort Jesus. Only the Reformed Tradition truly teaches Paul, and in my opinion they must minimize the doctrines of Jesus in order to do so.



ReformedArsenal forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


Okay, I don't remember if 72hours was the longest I could grant for arguments. It is a little punishing of a time scale for someone with a busy life if an opponent posts at an inconvenient time. Given this fact, I intend to consider this round 4 post and his round 3 forfeit as canceled out. My opponent should treat his round 4 as his round 3, and we will make any further rebuttals and final arguments in round 5. Also, in order to save another forfeit, I would ask my opponent to post no sooner than Wednesday if he can manage that.


I would like to thank my opponent again for his rigorous debate. Just a note, I will not be responding to my opponent's rebuttal this round, rather I shall save that for round 4 and 5. In this round I will be rebutting my opponent's round 2 contribution. Also, I will assume that all places in round 2 that my opponent writes "Council of Trent" that he means "Council of Rome" as that has been established that it was simply a matter of mistaken labeling. I would also like to thank him for his gracious treatment of my forfeit mishap.

On with it.

Contention 1) It is baseless to assume that God must have intervened if the canon was being formed in error at the Council of Rome.

My opponent points out various instances of canonical books falling out of disuse, or non-canonical books being used. He then goes on to note that two prominent reformers questioned the canon as it was given to them by the Council of Rome.

The first major issue with this is the fact that it is non-sequitor. If God did or did not promise to preserve his canon is irrelevant. I have not argued, nor will I, that the canon necessarily must be preserved exactly as God directed at the Council of Rome. In fact, I would be quite foolish to do so, since I deny the inclusion of certain apocryphal texts. The fact that Deuteronomy fell out of use (although potentially telling that it was restored to use under a godly King) or that the Church of Ethiopia used a non-canonical text is irrelevant.

Contention 2) Paul sometimes claims to be speaking for the LORD.

My opponent argues that " In order for this to be true, nothing that Paul says may contradict something the LORD has said previously." I am not refuting this contention.

Contention 3) Paul sometimes claims to be "just saying."

My opponent alludes to 1st Corinthians 7 in which Paul qualifies a statement by saying "I, not tot the Lord" (1 Cor 7:12) and claims that Paul is stating that this is simply his personal opinion. However, when we look prior to this verse we see him make a similar qualifying statement but it is the converse "not I, but the Lord." (1 Cor 7:10). When we look at the words he writes, we find that he is essentially quoting a teaching of Jesus. Most modern scholars interpret this as Paul distinguishing between words that are quotes of Jesus, and words that are not. So when we see Paul indicate that these words are his, not the Lords, he is not saying that this is simply his opinion, he is rather qualifying them as saying "this is not a direct quote." This makes them no less authoritative.

Contention 4) There is no reason to expect a teacher to come after Jesus.

My opponent claims that the apostles are not "to come up with new doctrines" and are only told to fulfill the role of messenger. This seems to be suspect when the very next passage my opponent cites instruct them to teach. Beyond that, Christ left many "gaps" in his teaching that we must contend with, and the Early Church did so. Doctrines on the Holy Spirit, the Trinity, the nature of Salvation, and many more are issues that Jesus leaves rather open. In addition, the prohibition against calling themselves teachers is not addressed to the Disciples, rather it is addressed to the Pharisees who were being chastised for elevating themselves at the cost of others.

Contention 5) Paul contradicts Jesus on the general issue of the Law of Moses.

My opponent has a challenge to contend with in this contention. There are several Old Testament figures who precede the Law who are considered righteous. Noah was never circumcised, Abraham did not offer sacrifices at the Temple, and Joseph married foreign women. Each of these people stand condemned by the Law if my opponent is correct. However, if Paul is correct and adherence to the is the result of faith, then these persons have nothing to worry about. We shall see more about this in contention 6.

Contention 6) Paul contradicts Jesus on Salvation doctrine.

My opponent argues that one must keep the commandments in order to obtain eternal life. He the story of the rich young ruler, the Parable of the Trespasser, the Parable of the Sheep and Goats, the Parable of the Sower, and the Parable of the Unprofitable Servant as support for what one might call a "Total Obedience Salvation."

Rather than address each one individually, I would like to instead discuss the soteriology of Christ.

No where in the Gospel accounts of Jesus' life, when we see someone declared saved, do we see obedience come first. In every account, Christ declares someone saved, and subsequently demands obedience. There are three accounts which I would like to highlight. The healing at the pool of Bethesda (John 5), the woman caught in adultery (John 8), and the thief on the cross (Luke 23).

In the first account we see the account of a man lying at the pool of Bethesda. At this pool, when the waters are stired, the first person into the water is healed. Jesus approaches the man and asks if he wishes to be healed, and the man says yes. Jesus immediately declares the person healed and he arrises and walks. Jesus later finds the man in the temple and says See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” (v14) We see that all that was required of the man to be healed was a desire to be healed. Once the person has been healed, Christ then exhorts the man to sin no more. However, obedience comes after healing, not before.

The next account is the famous incident with the woman caught in adultry. The Pharisees drag a woman who they caught in adultry before Jesus and ask what to do with her. Jesus says that the person with no sin should throw the first stone, no one is able to, and they depart. Jesus then asks the woman who condemns her, and she says "no one." Next Jesus states that he does not condemn her (even though he was the only sinless one who COULD condemn her) and bids her to go and sin no more. (v11) Again, we see Jesus extending salvation (in this case in the absense of condemnation) prior to the command of obedience. Christ fogives her whie she is still in sin and incomplete obedience, not in complete forgiveness.

Finally, the thief on the cross. In this account we see a man who has been tried an executed for a capital offense, who confesses that he deserves the punishment he is recieving. He simply asks Jesus to remember him when Jesus comes into his kingdom, and Jesus declares that this man will be with him in paradise today. (v43) It is clear that this man has not lived in obedience to Christ's commands (He was likely there for murder), however the only thing that Christ required of him was the faith he demonstrated.

It is clear from this soteriology that Christ does not have the severe doctrine of obedience driven salvation that my opponent imputes to him. Christ expects obedience as a RESULT of salvation, not as a cause. Furthermore, Paul expresses the same thing in the various lists of sins that cause one to not "inherit the kingdom" (1 Cor 6:9-11 is one example).

Contention 7) Paul contradicts the other Apostles specifically on the issue of meat offered to idols.

This is true. I will not deny it, however when the issue of if Gentile believers were bound by the Mossaic law came up at the Jerusalem council (Acts 15), the other Apostles (namely Peter) concluded that Paul was correct and deffered to his stance. The issue in Revelation 2 was that Ballam was teching the Jews to do things contrary to Mossaic law. Now, no one will contest the fact that Jewish Christians who wish to remain Jewish Christians (as opposed to becoming Gentile Christians) must maintain the purity laws prescribed for Israel (including circumcision). However, the Apostles agreed that Gentile Christians did not need to maintain these ritual purity laws. If we dismiss Paul because he held this perspective, we must also dismiss the 12. My opponend does not dismiss Peter because of this issue, so he cannot dismiss Paul.
Debate Round No. 4


Thanks for the post; I hope that now everything here runs smoothly.

On the Canon

It is true that my contentions about the canon are not wholly relevant. The only point I was trying to make is that the complex history of the canon, and the various books that have been in the canon in history or used by different churches presents a dilemma such that we must not just assume that the canon we have is correct and we must be open that some books may be included in error – and that some books may have been excluded in error – and that some books (like Deuteronomy almost was) may be entirely lost.

On Paul’s Personal Opinions

Regarding the inclusion of personal opinions in the Pauline epistles, I think especially in the case of 1 Cor 7, it is a personal opinion being expressed. He expresses a preference for remaining unmarried (the premise that sex is only for marriage seems to underline the entire passage). This opinion should not be taken as authoritative, as it goes directly against God’s direct command for humans to multiply. Paul has a personal preference for remaining unmarried, yet it is God’s preference that humans multiply. To elevate Paul’s opinions to the status of scripture creates this contradiction.

Furthermore, even if Paul is attempting to go beyond the statement of personal opinion, the apostles or messengers of the Lord should not be considered as authoritative as the Lord himself.

Do the “gaps” left by Jesus need to be filled?

I will shortly return to the most important issue between Paul and Jesus, which is salvation. But there is no need for the “gaps” to be filled. When Jesus left the alleged “gaps,” he never indicated that they were in need of filling. We don’t need to have doctrines about Trinities and personhoods of God and attempt to get official dogma about how God works. Jesus does talk extensively about forgiveness and eternal life, so he is not silent on salvation. There is an absence in Jesus’ teachings of an explicit black-and-white salvation doctrine. This could be a “gap” to be explained by Paul, or it could be because there is no such simple black-and-white nature to salvation. God is not bound to abide by certain rules, nor is he particularly desperate for souls. The Old Testament demonstrates a very distant, harsh, somewhat arbitrary, severe, and demanding God who does not work according to human understandings. He doesn’t necessarily have the same standards for everyone.

Salvation according to Jesus

Paul (and I think my opponent may agree) is “Reformed” when it comes to salvation. Salvation by faith alone, a one-time saving faith, relatively unconditional (except for faith) salvation, that some humans are just damned from the start and made for destruction, that works are unrelated to salvation in any way, and eternal security are all mostly Pauline concepts. Does Jesus preach the same message? Jesus’ parables and teachings show a different story, even in the case of the adulterous woman. Now, before citing a few examples, I wish to say that I do not believe Jesus teaches that keeping the commandments can make one earn salvation. Salvation is un-earnable, which is why Jesus came. Salvation is granted to humans by God as Jesus took the penalty for sin. The question is: under what condition is this grace extended to humans?

Matthew 10: 20 – Jesus on Persecution. Here, Jesus predicts a time of serious persecution of his followers. That they endure in their faithfulness is a condition for eternal life. Also, right after this passage is where Jesus says that a disciple is not above his teacher. He later restates his point that whoever publicly denies Him will be denied in heaven.

Matthew 18 – The Unforgiving Servant. Here, Jesus shows that after being forgiven, we must forgive others. This is not just a command for obedience after salvation – this is a criterion without which our salvation (forgiveness from God) is revoked.

Matthew 25 – The Unprofitable Servant. Here, Jesus casts out into hell the one unproductive servant of three servants to whom he gave some money. Jesus warns that his followers must be productive, lest they be cast out.

Matthew 25 – The Sheep and the Goats. Here, Jesus presents a scenario in which those who were kind to the poor (even if they did not know him – these people are unsaved in the Lutheran sense) are allowed into heaven and those who were cruel are kept out.

Mark 9: 42-50 Self-Mutilation. Here, Jesus teaches that it is better to destroy a body part that causes sin because it is better to enter into eternal life maimed than to go to hell in one piece. A strict follower of Paul would not feel that dealing with the problem of sin in such an extreme way is so important. After all, all things are lawful, aren’t they? It’s only that some things aren’t profitable.

Luke 12:40’s – The Good and Faithful Servant. Here, Jesus presents a story of a good servant who later begins to either doubt or take less seriously his former allegiance to his master. He turns evil, and is cut down by his master. This seems to be a person who is in God’s graces, and by his own actions, falls out of grace.

Luke 18:10-14 – The Pharisee and the Tax Collector. Here, Jesus scorns self-righteousness (in agreement so far with Lutheran salvation doctrine) and shows that the humble person who recognized that he is a sinner goes home justified. Importantly, he beats himself and does not even look up in his humility. There is more here than the passive acquiescence to doctrinal points that we see in the Romans Road.

Jesus forgave the adulterous of her sin and instructed her to go and sin no more. If she, however, continued to live in sin (regardless of what faith she may have had during her encounter with Jesus), Jesus seems to indicate that she will be like the unprofitable servant, or the good servant turned evil, or one of the virgins whose oil ran out before the groom came. The same would apply to all 3 examples given by my opponent. Was the murderer on the cross special only in that he was fortunate enough not to have a chance to fall from grace before his death?

I’ll wrap this up here, as the issue of salvation is where I find the fundamental problem with Paul. I just briefly want to say that I don’t think Jews have the option of becoming Gentile Christians. If they are Jews, they are bound by the law for Jews. According to the apostles, Gentiles need only refrain from sexual immorality and meat offered to idols. Paul disagrees with even this, so I may reject Paul and keep the others since Paul goes so much farther.

Anyways, I won’t be able to come back to whatever my opponent says. I’m sure we won’t agree, but I guess this site is all about disagreement. I’ll take this last paragraph to thank my opponent for a challenging and thought provoking discussion and to say that I don’t necessarily espouse everything I just advanced. My exploration of these matters is far from complete.



I would like to thank my opponent for his thoughtful arguments, as well as for the grace he has shown me by overlooking the FF mishap.

Response to "On the Canon"

I do not question the need for each generation to assess and validate the council's decisions in regard to what was included in the Canon and what was not. However, I vehomently disagree with my opponent's assessment that Pauline documentation should be excluded.

Response to "On Paul's Personal Opinion"

I would like the reader to note that my explanation that this is not simply a manner of personal opinnion was left unadressed. As I stated above, when Paul says "I not the Lord" he is not intending to delineate between a divine mandate and his human preference, rather he is delineating between what is a direct quote from Jesus and what is not. This delineation was not rebutted and therefore stands.

Furthermore, there is strong evidence that Paul's use of the word "unmarried" refers to a specific class of unmarried persons. Specifically those who were once married and no longer are. Furthermore, Paul here is responding to a specific statement that was made to him in a prior letter. The original Greek indicates that the phrase "It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman" is a quote from a prior letter. This is noted by the fact that the grammer of the sentence is abnormal compared to the rest of the letter, indicating that Paul is quoting someone else rather than constructing the sentence. Furthermore, the opening of the chapter indicates "Now concerning the matters about which you wrote." It was the Corinthian church who was asserting that sexual relations were undesirable, likely because of a neo-Platonic/Gnostic influence.

In addition we see in verse 8 that Paul uses a diad. The first is "unmaried" and the second is "widows." He then says "even as I am" in reference to the state of these perosons. There is very strong evidence that Paul was once married, as one of the requirements for Pharissaical leadership was being married. It is likely then that when Paul converted, his Wife left him (note that Paul has a great deal of concession for those who are abandoned in marriage elsewhere in the letter) and he became "unmarried." In addition to this, in verse 26 of the chapter paul references "the present distress." These instructions are only in light of this distress. Many scholars point to a grain famine in Corinth and assert that Paul is saying that "in light of the famine you are experiencing" it is better not to marry. This is bolstered by the fact that in other letters (Ephesians namely) there is no such preference toward celibacy shown. We even see that in 1 Timothy, marriage appears to be a prerequisite for Eldership/Bishopship.

Furthermore, we see that this does not stand in contradiction to the teachin to be fruitful and multiply, for Christ himself expresses similar sentiments. The disciples state "If such is the case (divorce only being permissable upon adultry) then it is better not to marry." Christ responds by saying that there are some who are eunuchs from birth, some who have been made eunuchs by others, and some who have chosen this themselves. A eunuch is someone who has chosen to obstain from sexual relationships and therefore marriage. Christ then says "Let the one who is able to receive this receive it." Indicating that if a person is able to chose to obstain from marriage, that they should. (Matthew 19:10-12) If Paul is dismissed for this aesthetic teaching (if it is indeed an aesthetic teaching) then we must also dismiss Christ himself.

Response to "Do the 'gaps' left by Jesus need to be filled?)

My opponent claims that there is no command to "fill the gaps." I will not disagree with him, however there is also no prohibition. As such, this point is moot and can be discarded from the arguments of both parties.

Response to "Salvation according to Jesus")

My opponent seems to attempt to impute the "Reformed" perspective onto Paul. While I would agree with him on this, I am also self aware enough to know that the majority of the Church does not. Many Eastern Orthodox Christians read Paul and do not see a strict Penal Substitution Atonement theory. Hundreds of Methodists read Paul and do not see the same kind of predestination or election that Presbyterians do. Furthermore, millions of Catholics do not see Sola Fides at all. My opponent has established a strawman with which to argue by placing the teachings of Jesus against the teachings of John Calvin (Representative of the Reformed Theological Position) and then claiming that Paul and Jesus do not agree. Even though I believe that John Calvin's interpretation of both Christ and Paul is correct, it is not equitable to dismiss Paul based on Calvin's interpretation of Paul.

My opponent then continues to give examples where obedience, endurance, or another thing is a required aspect of salvation. What is shocking is that I do not disagree. However, I disagree about if they are instrumental or resultative.

Take for example a pregnancy test (I know it seems out there, but bear with me). Lets pretend that we are all women and may be pregnant, and lets pretend that all pregnancy tests are 100% accurate. Now, if I take the pregnancy test and it comes up negative, it means I am not pregnant. However, that is not because the pregnancy test influences the fact that I am pregnant. Rather, it is because it is an indicator of my pregnancy.

Each of the points my opponent makes functions in a similar way.

I will use Persecution as the example, and will briefly comment on other examples.

My opponent notes that endurance through persecution is a condition of eternal life. That is, eternal life is contingent on endurance. However, is it not also possible that endurance is indicative. If this is the case, then those who do not endure are not saved to eternal life. But we see that in the example of the pregnancy test that this is not a contingency relationship. Just as the pregancy test is an accurate indicator of pregnancy, but does not determine if you are pregnant or not, so also endurance is an accurate indicator of eternal live, but does not determine if you are eternally saved.

Another way to think of it is this: A person who is saved WILL endure (vs) a person who is saved MUST endure. My opponent argues that the later is true, while I would argue the first. There can be no resolution on this, as both are legitimate biblical interpretations.

This plays out in the unforgiven servant as well as my opponent's other examples (a person who is saved WILL forgive, if they do not forgive it is indicative that they are not saved).

The Sheep and Goats - My first point of conention is that it is inaccurate to say that the Goats did not know the Lord. The Goats indicate that they know the Lord, but did not see him in the least of these. The second is this: Can a Goat make a decision to transform into a Sheep? Can a Sheep become a goat if they lose their faith? No! Goats were created as Goats and Sheep were created as Sheep. If anything this is an indicator of the eternal predestiny of believers and unbelievers.

Self-Mutilation - My opponent argues that Paul disagrees with the severity of sin, that dealing with sin in an extreme way is unpauline. He then demonstrates again his poor understanding of Paul, in that the phrase "All things are permissable, but not all things are beneficial" is something the Corinthians were saying and Paul was responding to (Same as "It is good for a man..." from above). Clearly Paul does not believe that all things are permissable or beneficial as he has several lists which indicate who will not be inheriting the Kingdom of Heaven (most applicable is 1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

I think I have made my point and am short on space. I would like to thank my opponent for this debate and look forward to more debates with him.

Debate Round No. 5
20 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Calvincambridge 5 years ago
Thanks guy I am making my own bible translation and I am deciding on canon this really helped

Pauline epistles are going in it
Posted by adampjr 5 years ago
I am a regular church attendee at a Calvary Chapel (not a reformed church) but was largely raised Baptist (that has some reformed elements).
Posted by Gileandos 5 years ago
@Both of you, great debate. It was a great read. The burden of proof was squarely on you within the debate and I apologize but it was not met.

I have a question though. Were you or are you now a regular church attendee? Also was it at a reformed church?
Posted by adampjr 5 years ago
Hey, I'm gonna just type a brief thing (later today) extending the rebuttal for you into 4th round. I won't argue anything new and we'll just make final arguments in the 5th round. I'll get back to do that by the end of the day I think.
Posted by Man-is-good 5 years ago
Well, RA, you lost just a conduct point. Perhaps other points (spelling and grammar) and argument might be considered by the voters. Or, it is possible that the forfeit killed you, as it did with me.

Kindred spirits, let's unite.
Posted by ReformedArsenal 5 years ago
NO!!!! I'm typing my response right now!!!
Posted by ReformedArsenal 5 years ago
RC Sproul... for shame.

RC Sproul is a Hyper-Calvinist... don't lump all of us in with him.
Posted by adampjr 5 years ago
Well, I've learned something today. It's been a while since I've read RC Sproul.
Posted by ReformedArsenal 5 years ago
You have the same misconceptions that most do.

Total Depravity is probably better understood as "Total Inability." It means that there is no part of us that is not tainted by the fall, there is no part of us that remains pure. Because of this we will never chose to turn to God on our own, it is only through the prompting of the Holy Spirit that we are able to see our need for Christ (No there is none righteousness, no not even one, there is none who seek God.)

Limited Atonement means that while the atonement is SUFFICIENT for all, it is only EFFICIENT for the elect. That is, while it is powerful enough to cover all the sins of the world, it only covers the sins of those who turn their heart to Christ.
Posted by adampjr 5 years ago
I assume total depravity means that one is utterly incapable of doing anything good, and I understand limited atonement to mean that the blood of Christ is only sufficient to cover the "elect."
I was raised in non-denom environment - but mostly of the Baptist tradition of believing in a one-time salvation and eternal security but not predestination and the like. I was a missionary kid and the missions realm is largely dominated by Arminians so I was familiar with that tradition as well. Being a missionary kid, the amount of I was subjected to theology debates was more limited than others raised in the church.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Gileandos 5 years ago
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Total points awarded:13 
Reasons for voting decision: Burden of Proof was not met by Pro. Great debate but also Pro showed a less than proficient understanding of the subject matter. I do encourage more study as that will alleviate many of his personal concerns on the veracity of the Biblical books. Conduct point for the forgivness for the FF round ffrom Con.