Faith & Self Defense

Building Confidence Through Evidence

Paul – Apostle or Fraud (Part 15)

Saint PaulIn our last post about Paul, we addressed a question about what Paul believed about eating meat sacrificed to idols. We showed from 1 Corinthians and Galatians that Paul opposed idol worship and did not promote eating meat sacrificed to idols.

We received another question about the same subject and will begin there.

Question

  • Why did Paul tell the Corinthians idol meat was okay when the New Testament Church council at Jerusalem had specifically listed this as a forbidden practice to New Testament believers in Acts 15:29?

Answer

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How to “Un-Create” an Atheist

It happens every day around the world. A Christian teenager goes away to college and returns an atheist. How does that happen? How can someone who grows up in a Christian home and church be turned so quickly from their faith in Christ? I can tell you how it happened to me.

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Is “Faith” Worth Believing?

Faith in StoneAtheist philosopher Peter Boghossian believes that faith is pretending to know things you don’t know (May 6, 2012 public lecture – richarddawkins.net/). As a former atheist, I find that statement both challenging and strange. Let me explain why.

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 5

Mesha SteleAs an atheist I believed in what I could see, not in what I could not see. The “natural” was something I could see – the “supernatural” was not. So, the archaeological finds that supported various aspects of the historicity of the Old Testament impressed me. Even though most of the ancient discoveries were located in museums around the world, being able to see photos of the objects and knowing that I could see them in person if I wanted to helped me in my investigation about whether the Old Testament of the Bible was verifiable on any level. I was especially interested in whether the Old Testament was rooted in myth and legend or in history.

The 19th and 20th centuries AD were a great period of time for archaeological discoveries about some of the oldest civilizations of the world. Oriental studies and research led many explorers and archaeologists into the Middle and Far East looking for ancient treasures. Some of them that we’ve already looked at include the Philistines, Hittites, Dead Sea Scrolls, and Assyrians. Another ancient people recorded in the Old Testament and uncovered by archaeologists are the Moabites.

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Paul – Apostle or Fraud (Part 14)

Saint PaulWe continue with questions from people who believe Paul was a fraud and not a true apostle of Jesus Christ. What’s at stake is almost half of the New Testament.

Question

  • If eating meat sacrificed to idols is okay as long as your “weaker brother” is not around as described in 1st Corinthians 8, then why is this practice later described as being hated by Jesus as the “doctrine of Balaam” in Revelation 2:14? Why does Rev 2:20 condemn it when Paul says it’s okay if nobody knows about it?

Answer

Let’s look at each reference you mentioned.

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Paul – Apostle or Fraud (Part 13)

Saint PaulThe question is not frivolous or trivial: was Paul an Apostle of Jesus Christ or a fraud? We’ve seen from the history of the early Church in Luke’s second letter to Theophilus (known to us as the Book of Acts) that Jesus Christ personally called Paul to be an apostle (Acts 9) and that the Holy Spirit called Paul to open the door of faith to the Gentiles (Acts 13).

About half of the Book of Acts references Paul’s ministry to Jews and Gentiles, and Paul wrote almost half of the New Testament. However, even with that overwhelming evidence, many people still refuse to believe that Paul was an apostle and go as far as to call him a fraud. In calling Paul a fraud they also call his writings fraudulent, which is a major issue for Christians. Most of the Paul-challengers I’ve heard from also believe 2 Peter is fraudulent, partially because the letter supports Paul’s apostleship and his authorship of Scripture.

If Paul is fraudulent, then what do we make of the writings of one of Paul’s most famous students, Luke? Can Luke be trusted if his mentor is a fraud?

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 4

As any good atheist would have done more than 40 years ago, I ridiculed the history of Israel as recorded in the Old Testament of the Bible. How could anyone believe what the Jews wrote about their national history when they were just trying to promote their own brand of “religion?” Why should I believe them?

Taylor PrismThe problem with that line of thinking, I discovered, was what to do about the histories of other ancient nations that gave credibility to many of the historical records in the Old Testament? Were the historians of other countries who served other gods somehow joined in the Jewish conspiracy to promote the one God of Israel? That didn’t seem logical to me, so I looked deeper into several archaeological discoveries to see if I could find the truth. Could archaeology have the answer to my challenge to “Convince me there’s a God?”

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Paul – Apostle or Fraud (Part 12)

Saint PaulWe are answering questions from people who believe Paul was a liar and a fraud. These people say they believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, so the questions go beyond the usual opposition we receive from Muslims, Jews and others about Paul’s apostleship. The questioners claim to love Christ and His Word, but deny half of the New Testament. That is a concern when we see in Acts that Jesus personally chose Paul for a special ministry to the Gentile world (Acts 9) and that the Holy Spirit chose Paul to open the door of faith to the Gentiles (Acts 13 – 14).

Because half of the New Testament is in question, we are addressing the questions we’ve received in recent months in the hope this will help the people who sent them and others who are not open to hearing from God in Paul’s letters. (Many of the people who do not accept Paul’s letters as Scripture also do not accept 2 Peter and other Books of the New Testament as Scripture.)

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Paul – Apostle or Fraud (Part 11)

Saint Paul

We’ve spent the past 10 posts in the Book of Acts building a case for the connection Paul had directly to Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the 12 Apostles, and the disciples of Christ in Judea, Samaria and Syria. We’ve also demonstrated confirmation by the 12 Apostles of Paul’s call to be an apostle to the Gentiles. Not once in the Book of Acts do any of the 12 Apostles call Paul a fraud or apostate.

We come now to the direct challenge to Paul’s Apostleship. Many who believe Paul is a fraud use the “steamroller approach,” asking scores of questions accompanied by Scripture to give the questions an appearance of truth. Don’t be fooled by that technique. The proof is in the quality, not the quantity.

I’ve been contacted by multiple people about my quoting from Paul’s epistles, so I’ll take their questions in order.

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Paul – Apostle or Fraud (Part 10)

Saint PaulOpposition to Paul’s apostleship did not end at his death. The same group of Judaizers Paul warned about in his epistles continued to oppose the freedom Paul had preached to Gentiles.

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” Galatians 5:1-4

The Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and the deaths of the Jewish apostles led to a decline in the numbers of Jewish followers of Christ in Israel who held to circumcision and obedience to the Mosaic Law. However, that did not mean the opposition to Paul’s message to Gentiles disappeared. Even though the decision of the apostles at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) should have ended the opposition to Paul’s apostleship and ministry to the Gentiles, Jewish followers of Christ continued to make trouble for Paul and the Gospel he preached “among the Gentiles (Galatians 2:2).

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 3

Qumran Caves For those of you who have studied Biblical archaeology, you’ll recognize that I am not mentioning the greatest discoveries of the last 40 years during this series. That’s because I’m limiting my comments to those discoveries available for me to consider during the early part of 1971. These findings, and others too many to mention in a limited series, were part of my journey from atheist to theist.

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Paul – Apostle or Fraud (Part 9)

Saint PaulSome Christian friends have asked me why I’m writing a series to answer questions about the legitimacy of Paul’s apostleship. Almost every Christian I know personally believes that Paul was an apostle of Christ and that the Holy Spirit inspired him to write letters to 1st century churches (e.g. Romans, 1&2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, etc). So, why bother with what appears to be a fringe group of people who call themselves Christians, but do not accept Paul’s apostleship? I am concerned about three important matters.

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Paul – Apostle or Fraud (Part 8)

Saint Paul“Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. So they stayed there a long time with the disciples.” Acts 14:27-28

Saul (Paul) and Barnabas returned to Antioch of Syria after many months on a journey that began with the Holy Spirt saying, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:2) That “work” included preaching the Gospel in several countries and opening “the door of faith to the Gentiles.” This was something that “both” Barnabas and Saul did, so again we see a powerful connection back to the Jewish apostles in Jerusalem who sent Barnabas from Jerusalem to Antioch as their representative.

It was Barnabas, representative of the Jewish apostles in Jerusalem, who saw what God was doing in Antioch and traveled to Tarsus to find Saul. It was Barnabas, representative of the Jewish apostles in Jerusalem, who brought Saul back to the Antioch Church to minister to the congregation of Gentiles and Jews. It was Barnabas, representative of the Jewish apostles in Jerusalem, who the Holy Spirit sent with Saul to open the door of faith to the Gentiles. It was Barnabas, representative of the Jewish apostles in Jerusalem, who returned to Antioch with Saul to tell the church congregation all that God had “done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.” It was Barnabas, representative of the Jewish apostles in Jerusalem,  who traveled with Saul to Jerusalem to face those same apostles about what they had done in opening the door of faith to the Gentiles.

Was Paul an apostle or a fraud? Let’s see what happened when he and Barnabas met with the apostles in Jerusalem. If they thought Paul was a fraud, this would be their opportunity to call him out and set the record straight forever.

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Paul – Apostle or Fraud (Part 7)

Saint Paul“Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, saying, ‘You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!” Acts 11:1-3

Uh-oh, Peter’s in trouble. The other apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard what had happened in Caesarea. Those of the circumcision (Jews) “contended” with Peter about his going into the home of uncircumcised men (Gentiles) and eating with them.

Watch what happens next because it sets the stage for what God is going to do through Paul (Saul).

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Paul – Apostle or Fraud (Part 6)

Saint PaulIn the last part of our study, we saw disciples of Christ sending Saul (Paul) from Jerusalem to Tarsus for his safety. That led to a time of peace for the believers throughout all Judea, Galilee and Samaria. “And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.” (Acts 9:31)

Luke, the human author of Acts, then turned his attention to the ministry of the Apostle Peter. Most of the people I’ve spoken with who believe Paul was a fraud look to Peter as one of the true apostles of Christ. That’s helpful to know because God used Peter in a special way to prepare the apostles and Jewish disciples to acknowledge and accept the special call Jesus had for the ministry of Paul.

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Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 2

Hittite Lion's GateSolid evidence. Something an investigative journalist can sink his teeth into. That’s what I needed to see in 1971. Christians I had invited on my radio talk show to intimidate and make fun of were turning the tables on me. Me! A well-known, hard-core atheist talk show commentator, was actually listening to Christians talk about why they believed in the existence of God. Sound ridiculous? I thought so at the time, but they kept coming back with more and more evidence. For a free-thinking journalist interested in knowing whether something’s true or not, evidence is hard to ignore.

What I was hearing about how archaeology supported many of the claims in the Bible was impressive. One of the most impressive was the discovery of the Hittite nation.

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Paul – Apostle or Fraud (Part 5)

Saint PaulWe’re continuing an investigation into whether Paul was a true apostle of Jesus Christ or a fraud. A surprising number of people who call themselves Christians believe Paul was a fraud. They say that doesn’t affect their faith in Christ at all and even makes it stronger because they are following Christ and not “Paul.”

Paul wrote almost half of the New Testament, so people who believe he was a fraud do not obey the writings of Paul. Many of them also believe that 2 Peter is fraudulent, which just happens to support Paul’s apostleship. Others have doubts about some of John’s writings. However, most accept Luke’s Gospel and at least the first part of Acts, also written by Luke who was mentored by Paul.

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Paul – Apostle or Fraud (Part 4)

Saint PaulWe are laying an historical foundation for answering questions about the involvement of Saul of Tarsus in the growing movement of Jews who followed the crucified and risen Jesus Christ. There are many people today who identify themselves as followers of Jesus Christ who believe Paul was a fraud and not a true apostle of Jesus Christ. Because of that they do not subscribe to Paul’s epistles as Scripture, thus cutting out almost half of the Books of New Testament. Many of them believe 2 Peter is also fraudulent, which contains Peter’s support of Paul as an apostle and author of Scripture.

Paul made it clear in his epistles that he was “an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God” (Ephesians 1:1) and that he was speaking and writing what Jesus had revealed directly to him (1 Corinthians 9). So, for a group of Christians to deny that Paul was an apostle and to declare his writings as fraudulent is a major problem.

This is not the first time in the history of the Church that groups have opposed Paul’s apostleship and questioned his writings. As we continue laying the historical foundation for answering serious questions by these groups, we will also look at the history of anti-Pauline theology.

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Paul – Apostle or Fraud (Part 3)

Saint PaulThis is the third part in a special series looking at the question of whether Paul was a true apostle of Jesus Christ or a fraud. We’re investigating Paul because many people believe that Paul was a false teacher and opposed to Christ and His teachings. That has led those people to deny almost one half of the New Testament (Paul’s letters). They say that what Paul wrote does not represent the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is a serious objection and one that must be dealt with thoroughly.

Jesus told His disciples to do everything He commanded them to do and if what Paul wrote to the churches includes the commands of Jesus Christ, we must obey them. However, if Paul was not an apostle of Christ and was in fact a fraud, then we must not do what he wrote in his epistles because they are a lie and do not contain the commands of Christ. Whether we include Paul’s writings into our churches and our lives is all based on certain historical facts which can be verified. In other words Paul is who he said he is or he isn’t. We need to figure out which one is the truth.

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Paul – Apostle or Fraud (Part 2)

Saint PaulMany people do not believe that Paul was a true apostle of Jesus Christ. Some of them are Jews and Muslims, but some say they are followers of Jesus Christ. Because they believe Paul was a fraud, they deny that any of his epistles are to be followed as part of Scripture. That’s almost half of the New Testament, so it’s a serious issue. That’s why we are investigating questions about Paul in this special series.

The evidence for Paul’s legitimacy as an apostle of Jesus Christ begins in the Gospel of Luke. Luke wrote an extraordinary narrative to a Greek friend for the purpose of explaining what happened in Israel 2,000 years ago.

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