My question is this. I have been seeing claims, specifically by atheists and Muslims, that the Christianity that exists today is Pauline. Paul interpolated on everything that Jesus taught, contradicted Jesus’ teachings on the law, and changed the gospel. Their ultimate point is, the critics, that the Christianity we have now is from Paul, not Jesus. How do you respond to this?
These claims are very plainly and simply not true. This is false inuendo, as is proved by the Bible itself. I am not a Pauline Christian. I am a biblical Christian. I read all the Bible. Right now, at my church, I am preaching for an entire year through the gospels. I will not do a single sermon from one of Paul’s letters this year (not that I have anything against Paul!). In fact, since coming to my current ministry position, I have preached through Hebrews (not by Paul), James (not by Paul), Ezekiel (not by Paul), Matthew, Mark and Daniel (not by Paul). This is a specious and simply untrue charge. Someone says that Paul “Interpolated on everything that Jesus taught.” OK, so please give me a single significant teaching in one of Paul’s letters which contradicts what Jesus said. Please do this, I say to these critics, and I will show that this is not true. The reason: because it is not true. They say that Paul taught salvation by faith and Jesus did not. Jesus taught salvation by faith (John 3:16, John 6:29). They say that Paul taught that we are no longer under law, but Jesus did not teach this. Well, Jesus was a Jew who submitted to the Old Testament as a Jew at a time when the covenant of Moses was still in effect, yet he told us that he fulfilled the Law and superceded the Law in Matthew 5:17-48. Again, I hear this stuff all the time, but the facts belie these false claims about Paul. We have the words of Peter that Paul’s writings were inspired in 2 Peter 3:15-16. It was Jesus himself who commissioned Paul, and the other apostles accepted this fact. Whose opinion ought I to listen to, the critics of Christianity or the apostle Peter? I believe the inspired word of Peter rather than the critics who make unsubstantiated claims that Paul contradicted Peter or Jesus. This is a spurious claim, coming from people with an agenda to undermine Christian faith.
Has any important Christian teacher over-emphasized the letters of Paul over and above the gospels, the general epistles and the Old Testament? Probably. Some have accused Martin Luther of doing this because of his heavy emphasis on Romans. However, I am sure that Luther would vehemently reject the charge. You can judge for yourself if it is true of Luther. Is it possible to get out of balance, putting too much stress on the letters Paul wrote? Yes, it is possible. I certainly have not done so lately, as you can see. But even if some have had an emphasis somewhat out of balance, there is no essential theological contradiction between Paul and Jesus, unless someone can give me an example, but I have read their material and found the charges to be unfounded. You can safely reject these false charges as intended on the part of Muslims and atheists to divide Christians from one another on a false basis.