Sometimes I Just Have To Wonder About Things

Do you ever just wonder what would have happened if…?

I do. As the old advertising slogan said, “Inquiring minds want to know.”

The Apostle Paul’s writings can be divided into two themes. There was the theology arguing Jesus as Messiah, the resurrection, and presenting spiritual development.

Then there are the instructions (usually prefaced by “I say this”) for the organization of the first century church. This, of course, after the early writing (say, 1 Thessalonians) where he expected Jesus’s return to be any day now.

For centuries we have had men (not women typically) pulling sentences out of these later instructions and built religious movements upon them. Look at the variety of Protestant denominations continually splintering off the mother church because of one sentence or another.

Someone asked me recently about the part of Romans 13 where Paul discusses the role of government. Supposedly someone quoted this passage in support of the current US administration. I didn’t hear these same people quoting Romans 13 under the Obama administration. Just saying…

The thesis (I owe my original thinking to the theologian Elton Trueblood and then studies beyond that) of the passage basically is that government is part of the order of things for the stability of civil society. If you are living a just and true life, Paul says, then you should have nothing to worry about from government.

We know with just a cursory read of the last 2,000 years of Western history–or even the last 10 years–that Paul had it wrong. The atrocities visited upon the people by their governments have been manifold.

Paul wrote during the few years of relative calm in the Roman Empire. Later, after Paul appealed his hearing to the Emperor as the right of a Roman citizen and was shipped to Rome as a prisoner, a new emperor came to power. He was so bad that eventually there was an uprising and a civil war. Nero burned down Rome and blamed the Christians. Thousands were killed. Perhaps Paul was one of them.

The Christian church went underground for the most part until Constantine.

What if Paul had written Romans under Nero? We greatly underestimate the power of the idea of the Pax Romana today.

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