I continue my review and refutation of Ali Ataie’s attack upon the Apostle Paul titled “Can Paul Be Trusted?” Thus far we have seen Mr. Ataie offering horribly flawed interpretations of Paul’s words that betray both a great prejudice and bias on his part (bordering on bigotry) as well as a tremendous amount of ignorance concerning the art of serious literary exegesis. Nothing he has raised has, as yet, provided a serious reason to doubt Paul. But now he moves to the assertion that Jesus and Paul were in contradiction in their teaching, and as Ataie’s accusations mirror the thinking of many Muslims, especially in the West, we will find reviewing his words educational.
Paul has managed to contradict Jesus in almost every single area of faith and practice. Jesus says that there is no original sin (Mark 9:13-14) while Paul says there is (Rom. 5:12-14).
I can only assume that Mr. Ataie has very badly mis-cited his sources here. If you look at the Markan reference, there is nothing even remotely relevant to be found. I looked around Mark a good bit, and had given up finding any references at all when it struck me that the only possible text Ataie could be referring to would not be in Mark, but in John; not verses 13-14, but 3-4, and the only part he got right was chapter 9. So, I think he is referring to this:
Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 “We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work.
So, if this is in fact the text, then does it follow that Jesus did not teach original sin? Surely not. In the context, Jesus is answering a very specific question from the Apostles, who had accepted the thinking of their day: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”Jesus is not even addressing “original sin” at all: he is addressing the common belief that if a child was born with a defect, that either the parents committed a particularly gross sin, or, even the child in the womb committed a sin (such as kicking on the Sabbath day!). Jesus’ reply is that neither of these assumptions were correct: instead, the man was born blind for a purpose, a purpose that was about to be fulfilled in his healing. To place this in contrast with Paul’s teaching in Romans 5 is completely without merit. Jesus taught the same doctrine as Paul in such chapters as John 6 and 8, for example.
Jesus says that not ALL of us are unrighteous people (Mark 2:16-17; Matt. 15:24) while Paul says that no one is righteous (Rom. 3:10, 23).
The irony here, of course, is that Romans 3:10 is simply a citation from Psalm 14, so unless Ataie wishes to say Jesus contradicted the Old Testament Scriptures, he hardly wishes to make this argument. But even without this consideration, once again Mr. Ataie completely mishandles the texts:
And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? 17 When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Mark 2:16-17).
Matthew 15:23-28 23 But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, “Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us.” 24 But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” 26 And He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 But she said, “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at once.
Romans 3:10 As it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one.”
Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and come fall short of the glory of God.
There is no question that Jesus taught that all men had to repent; there is no question that Paul said the same thing. So the only question is why Mr. Ataie so badly misunderstands the gospel text. Evidently, the argument goes like this: if Jesus came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance, then there must be righteous folks that Jesus did not come to call. But since Jesus called all to repentance, this is an obvious error on Ataie’s part. Ataie is missing the fact that the Pharisees did indeed claim to be righteous, and it was their vaunted self-righteousness that kept them, in His words, blind. This was the point of the story of the Pharisee and the publican (Luke 18:10-14). There are no righteous people in and of themselves: the only ones who can stand before God in righteousness today are those who are clothed with the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ given to them by faith and faith alone.
Jesus says that our good works are necessary and meaningful (Matt. 5:16; John 10:24-25) while Paul says they are worthless and unnecessary (Eph. 2:8-9; Gal. 3:6-14).
We are once again left wondering if Mr. Ataie is simply looking up phrases in a Bible search engine, for his handling of the biblical text leaves one amazed at its utter lack of comprehension of basic contextual issues. Here are the relevant texts, as cited, though, I shall provide the necessary contextual addition to the Ephesians 2 reference (one which, if Ataie had cited it, would have refuted his own point!):
Matthew 5:16 16“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
John 10:24-25 24 The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me.
Ephesians 2:8-10 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
Galatians 3:6-14 6¶ Even so Abraham BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. 7Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. 8 The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU.” 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. 10¶ For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM.” 11 Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” 12However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “HE WHO PRACTICES THEM SHALL LIVE BY THEM.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us– for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE “– 14in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Here Ataie shows the very same kind of ignorance of fundamental biblical teachings that often marks Christian discussions of his own scriptural text, the Qur’an. One of the reasons I am studying the Qur’an, Arabic, and Islamic theology, from Islamic sources, is so that I do not make this very kind of mistake in the future when I turn my attention more fully to the Islamic sources themselves (so far, most of my work has been defensive, i.e., correcting just these kinds of errors on the part of Islamic apologists when they attack the Christian scriptures). In any case, once again Ataie misses the contexts of each of the passages he cites, and, in the case of Ephesians 2:8-9 (as he cited it), his leaving off before verse 10, together with the previous examples of “cite the passage right up to the point where it would contradict you if you kept citing it” surely causes the reader to wonder just a bit.
Ataie ignores the difference between doing good works as part of one’s loving and serving God, which Jesus and Paul both taught, repeatedly and with force, and the idea of good works forming the basis of one’s justification before God. The proper relationship of faith and works is laid out in the text that Ataie neglected to cite in Ephesians 2:10, where it is God’s purpose that those He redeems walk in good works. This is Paul’s teaching, this is Jesus’ teaching, and once again, we find Ali Ataie to be very far removed from having a serious, or even fair, understanding of the Christian scriptures. Paul has been vindicated in each and every accusation thus far, and Ataie proven wrong. But we have really only just begun our examination!