Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Can Paul Be Trusted? Ali Ataie vs. Sound Christian Scholarship (#3)
09/10/2007 - James WhiteI continue with my review of, and response to, Ali Ataie's article, Can Paul Be Trusted? Mr. Ataie continues:
Not unlike the Christian missionaries of today who travel into Muslim lands dressed in Muslim garb, Paul admits that he employs the use of deception to catch fish for Christ--becoming a Jew for Jews and a Gentile for Gentiles, that he may gain the more (1 Cor. 9:19-22).It is hard to judge whether Mr. Ataie simply does not understand the context of Paul's epistle to the Corinthians, and specifically, his discussion of liberty in the ninth chapter, or if he is just so intent upon making a point that he is ignoring what is so obvious. Paul is not even addressing the use of deception in the text, of course. In fact, the verse immediately following those referenced by Ataie explains it rather clearly: "1 Corinthians 9:23 I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it." Paul is not saying he pretends to be something he isn't in a deceptive manner, he is saying he uses his freedom so asto make a clear path for the gospel. So, he is free (v. 19) he willingly gives up that freedom so as to proclaim the gospel. So, he uses his freedom to make it possible to preach to the Gentiles when in that situation; when amongst Jews, he does not demand that he be allowed to continue to do whatever he wishes, but instead, he uses his freedom to once again make it easy for him to proclaim the gospel. To accuse Paul of some kind of deception is almost silly at this point, as if Mr. Ataie has no interest at all in actually attempting to understand Paul's context. But it is not as if this is some confusing or difficult section. The language is not hard to follow, if a person is not already so prejudiced against Paul that they cannot allow him to speak for himself.
The despicability of such treachery is something Christians have practiced for over 2,000 years and in many cases have even condoned. When it comes to clinching a convert, anything goes.This is nothing more than rhetoric unworthy of serious interaction, to be honest. Terms like "treachery," "despicability" (!) and "clinching" are emotional buzz-words meant to end rational discussion, not prompt it. Ataie has grossly misread Paul, and now attributes to Paul the worst possible motives without any basis. This is angry denunciation, not serious argumentation.
Such immorality is demonstrated as Paul describes to the Corinthians how he stole money from other churches in order to bribe them to believe -- Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely? I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service (2 Cor. 11:7-8).
Yes Paul, you have committed an offense--remember, Thou shalt not steal (Exodus 20:15; Matthew 19:18)?!
Once again, Ataie's prejudice blinds him to the simplest and easiest of linguistic usages. Paul is referring to the fact that he had not asked the Corinthians for their support, relying instead upon the support of the other infant churches he had founded. His use of the term "robbed" (sula,w) is clearly ironic, not literal. He was not literally saying he took money that was not meant to be for him! If I were to say to a church, "I robbed my family so that I might serve you," I am saying I gave preference to the one, taking from the other, not literally, but figuratively. Surely Mr. Ataie knows this, and one is left wondering if Mr. Ataie simply is not concerned to communicate to knowledgeable Christians who would find argumentation utterly unconvincing and facile.
Most astonishing of all is how Paul tells the Romans that as long as people continue to believe in his doctrine, he cannot be labeled as a sinner for LYING (Rom 3:6-7)?! Lying about what? The fact that he saw Jesus?Again, the serious reviewer is left struggling to believe that such a plain text, and a plain context, could be so completely misconstrued by Mr. Ataie. Here is the text, in context:
Romans 3:1-5 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? 2 Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God. 3 What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it? 4May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written, "THAT YOU MAY BE JUSTIFIED IN YOUR WORDS, AND PREVAIL WHEN YOU ARE JUDGED." 5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.) May it never be! For otherwise, how will God judge the world? 7 But if through my lie the truth of God abounded to His glory, why am I also still being judged as a sinner?What is Paul saying? In context, he has just concluded the demonstration of the sinfulness of the both the Gentiles and the Jews. He has concluded that even those who possess the law of God do not in fact obey the law of God. So he is answering an objection to his teaching: "what advantage has the Jew?" He answers that there is great advantage in that, for example, they were entrusted with the "oracles of God," i.e., the Scriptures. But immediately he faces another objection, one he will actually return to in Romans chapter 9, that being that the Jews, as a group, rejected the Messiah, and rejected the gospel. Doesn't this constitute an argument against the Christian faith? Paul's response is no, for man's actions cannot overthrow the faithfulness of God. Instead, "let God be found true, though every man be found a liar." God's justice must be upheld at all costs, or we face the specter of a universe without purpose and without resolution. But notice then the example Paul raises. He indicate that he is speaking "in human terms," i.e., he is using merely human reasoning to illustrate the folly of the objection. That is, if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, then wouldn't that make God unrighteous to punish our unrighteousness (since is only serves to demonstrate His own righteousness)? To which Paul replies in the strong negative, appealing to the necessity of God's justice as judge of all the world. This then becomes the context of the statement, "But if through my lie the truth of God abounded to His glory, why am I also still being judged as a sinner?" Note the theoretical nature of the statement. Paul is not referring to any specific "lie" as Ataie's reading would require. Instead, just as the contrast pair before was "unrighteousness/righteousness," here the contrast pair is "lie/truth." Ironically, Ataie once again stops his reference citation right before a verse that would, in context, destroy his argument, v. 8, "And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), 'Let us do evil that good may come '? Their condemnation is just." Evidently, Paul had encountered the likes of Mr. Ataie's highly prejudiced, horrifically biased, interpretation of his words, back in his own day.
So in light of the actual meaning of the text, it is next to impossible to track any relationship between that and Mr. Ataie's commentary, it truly is. There is nothing about continuing to believe his doctrine, there is nothing about not being labeled a sinner, there is nothing about Paul having seen Jesus on the road to Damascus. Ataie is simply making this up as he goes along, and I for one find this kind of abuse of the Christian scriptures highly offensive. I believe I am under compulsion to expend myself to accurately represent and examine the text of the Qur'an, for example. I would be ashamed of myself to throw out this kind of invective without being able to show due diligence in my study of the text itself. It shows no respect for God, and no respect for the truth, and no respect for those you believe to be in error, to produce this kind of non-argumentation. If Islam is true, it cannot be properly promoted by ridiculous argumentation, and so to use such argumentation may well indicate that the originator does not have as much confidence in the truthfulness of his position as he wishes others to believe.