Was Paul a phony? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Just recently, I wrote a post on Paul based on information from a Muslim meme. It’s not really a shock when I see the same thing coming up from atheists. Once again, it’s like people don’t understand concepts that they would freely accept in any other place, but when it’s in the Bible, you make it as bad as you can.
Ever heard those commercials for Babbel where people talk about going to another country and learning the language before they go? You also have to learn the customs. For instance, if I go into someone’s house here, I usually don’t change my attire at all. When you walk into a Japanese home, you could be expected to take your shoes off.
Now imagine if Paul was somehow transported to Japan. Being a Jew, there is no reason he would remove his shoes really except for a good foot-washing, and in our day and age, that is not necessary. Today, if he went to Japan, if he wanted to share the gospel, he would remove his shoes when he entered a house. Why? Because there’s nothing immoral about it and it’s a simple way to respect the culture of the person.
According to someone like Campbell, that is deceitful. After all, look at 1 Cor. 9:20-23? Paul says that when he’s with Gentiles, he lives like a Gentile. When he’s with a Jew, he lives like a Jew. That’s deceitful. Paul fakes like he honors the law when he’s with a Jew.
No. Paul is just respectful of the people he’s with. You don’t invite a Jew to a seafood restaurant with you and order lobster. If you’re going to talk to a person from India, it’s best to avoid hamburgers. If I had Mormons coming over to visit me, as much as I love tea, I would abstain from it then.
I have friends who are a husband and wife and both are on the spectrum. When we call each other sometimes to talk about problems, what do we do? We jump straight to why we’re calling. No small talk. Why? We all hate it. That’s a respect thing as well. While normal greetings might be respectful to many other people, I will personally take it as more respectful if you DON’T do that with me.
Also, if Paul was doing this to deceive people, why on Earth would he publicly say it so that word could get to others like that? What Paul is doing is simply learning how to work with the customs of the people that he is reaching. This is not being deceitful. This is simply being respectful of the culture of another. Of course, if there was something immoral, Paul would not do it. William Carey was fine with changing his life for many Indian customs when he went there as a missionary, but he did everything he could, and succeeded also, to stop widow-burning as that was an immoral practice.
Atheists and others regularly tout this out as some sort of example of what a wicked character Paul was. It is nothing of the sort and it’s something understandable with a few moments of thought. A little tip for them. Generally, if there’s a charitable way to read someone, you try to read them that way first.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)