MY ENCOUNTERS WITH THE HOMO-PAULINUS
AN ESSAY ON THEOLOGY
“Why should I accept a theory from someone who, in the simplest possible terms, cannot satisfactorily explain it himself?” ~ Adebajo A.F.
In my on-going quest through this serene yet tumultuous world, I have met persons of different tribes, faiths and dispositions; whether physically or virtually (i.e. online). This might be partly due to the multi-religious and heterogeneous nature of Nigeria, where I hail from. I, as a person, just like the people I have met and the acquaintances I have made; also have an identity: a set of beliefs, ideas and opinions I strongly hold on to, my world-view. For instance, I believe there is a God, and He is one (no strings attached), I believe in the prophethood of Muhammad (PBUH) and many who have come before him, I believe that there is no naturally superior man or race, I believe this world is a test for mankind, a journey to the hereafter etc. My beliefs, be they invented or accepted, are of course, open to criticism or even condemnation. However, there truth-values do not depend on the existence, or in fact, the possible existence of these criticisms, but on whether, indeed, they can withstand further objective debate.
The world is designed in such a way that it is harmonious, yet much divided. Everybody, down to each single individual, has a specific and unique combination of ideologies; many of which violently contradict. It is these contradictions that make this world beautiful and exciting, as we tend to learn many grotesque things every day and meet many a strange people. But then again, it is these inevitable contradictions in thought that cause tribal, racial, religious and ideological rifts among men, leading to avoidable deaths and tragedies.
Since my days in senior high school, I have found myself engaging in inter-faith debates. However, then, I knew more or less little or, in fact, nothing on the subject. I, like many other ignorant mature ones, would (although very rarely) resort to argumentum ad baculum (appeal to force), when other defences prove futile. But as time went by, most especially after my introduction to the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria), I became more familiar with theological and metaphysical topics. And the various discoveries I have made on this journey, in my personal research, only gave me a stronger, logical conviction that my creed is the not just the best for the settling of worldly affairs, it is a perfectly divine set of ideas that guarantee eternal peace. It is both mundane and transcendental.
Man is naturally a homophilosophicus, a reasoning animal. He is naturally curious, asking questions about the nature of things, demanding answers to everything imaginable. Once he gets a satisfactory answer, he feels fulfilled. However, after a flaw is detected in that answer, the quest starts all over. Perhaps, to seek a new answer or patch the defect in the already found one. This is the nature of man, always seeking perfection, cognitive consonance and a good understanding of his place in the realities of life. This is who we are, and it is a good thing.
But… this good nature is usually suppressed by the environment man finds himself. I believe man passes through three phases of reasoning. As soon as he is born, he becomes sort of an iPod because his parents will start downloading their thoughts into his brain. They tell what to do and what not to do, what to believe and what not to believe; and he just accepts all the files, including viruses too. As time goes by, he turns into an automaton, able to act on his own but still depending on his earlier programming for survival. Many never leave this stage, they become affixed to it. However, the last phase is that of a homo-sapien. At this final stage, he becomes truly philosophic, weighing and assessing ideas before accepting or rejecting them. His bias and sentiments do not take the better part of him.
It may be a cause of wonder what actually I mean by the word ‘homopaulinus’ in the title. The Merriam-Webster dictionary, ‘Pauline’ means “of or relating to the apostle Paul, his epistles, or the doctrine or theology implicit in his epistles. So, who are the homopaulinus? They are men who follow Pauline propositions in their day to day activities. And they are no other than the modern-day Christians. What? No, that can’t be, you say. Christians are followers of Jesus Christ, the son of Mary. They even bear his title. Well, my reason for saying otherwise is quite simple. Paul, a self-acclaimed apostle (taking the place of Judas Iscariot) is an ex-Jew known for fervently persecuting Christians, who then mysteriously converted to Christianity after seeing a vision of Jesus. He wrote over half of the book in the New Testament, that is 14 books, if the book of Hebrew (one of the books with doubtful authorship) is to be included. Most of what Paul taught in his epistles strongly contradict the gospels of Jesus and his disciples.
Davis D. Danizier, on http://www.liberalslikechrist.org/about/paulvsall.html, said: ‘There is more than enough evidence to support the view that the “Christianity” that we have inherited is the legacy, not of Jesus of Nazareth, but of Paul of Tarsus.” He also quoted Jeremy Bentham, a famous English philosopher, as saying “if Christianity needed an Anti-Christ, they needed look no farther than Paul” (paraphrased). Pauline contributions to the Bible are the most solid sources that vindicate or give divine backing to acts such as slavery, degradation of women, celibacy; there is even evidence that he supported gaiety. Most Christians follow his principles, thinking that they follow Jesus. I’m sure few people are aware of the fact that “the conversion of Paul is the only event in the lives of the saints that is universally commemorated in the church as a feast day…celebrated every year on January 25.” For more Biblical references pointing to how Pauline and Jesus’s teachings are not compatible, see the work of Edgar Jones in http://www.voiceofjesus.org/paulvsjesus.html.
Now back to the crux of this write-up. I have a lot of Christian friends, some of whom I have find myself one time or the other engaging in religious talks with. A couple of course-mates in Olabisi Onabanjo University, some in the University of Ibadan, evangelists here and there and even my room-mate who constantly and indefatigably attempts to convert me. And one of the major things I have noticed about them (I.e. Christians) is their reluctance to give in to logic, science and common sense as yard-sticks when judging fundamental issues of faith. They say, how can billions of people who believe in nearly the same thing be wrong? They say why is it that they derive so much peace and pleasure from reading the Bible? They say Christianity provides a remarkable moral-code and ideal way of life and that is all that matters. They say if it is wrong, why does it feel so right? They talk about the inscrutability of speaking in tongues. However, all other faiths; Buddhism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Idolatry, Hinduism; feel right to those who practise them. Their scripture also pacify them. But they cannot all be holistically right as God is one and He can only wish to be worshipped in one way, and one way only. He cannot sanction abortion in one religion, and oppose it in another. He cannot give room for polygamy here and severely condemn it elsewhere. He cannot have the same image as man here and say that there is none comparable to Him somewhere else. He cannot describe Himself as 3-in-1 or 1-in-3 here and assert that He is one, no strings attached, there.
Only a people are right, the Catholics, Protestants, Hinduists, Buddhists, Judaists or Muslims. And that rightness can never be determined using emotional states or how one feels while practising ones faith. It cannot be determined by guess, for example by choosing at random from a heap of papers containing names of world religions. It can only be determined by using that one thing that makes us human, the one thing that distinguishes us from animals, the thing naturally given to all from birth- our intellect, the ability to separate right from wrong, ability to identify good and bad arguments, logic. I hereby submit that logic is the only available yardstick for the task of separating the wholly divinely authenticated religion from the others which misguide billions of lives daily.
The unfortunate thing is most Christians will never give in to this fact. They always fidget and forcefully oppose you if you mention logic while discussing theology, perhaps because they are well aware that Christianity, if subjected to critical intellectual bashing, will not survive even a minute. When shown facts that state that there are inconsistencies in the Bible, making it not wholly the word of God; they simply reply that you cannot judge the Bible like other texts, you need the holy spirit, the inner eye, to be able to understand it. Or at times, they say it does not matter, as long as it teaches them morals (which is not even so, and those that it teaches, they often do not follow). They prefer to grope in their state of complacency than engage in deep thoughts which bring emotional inconvenience but intellectual progress.
History, in fact, shows that Christian leaders, from time, have never been in good terms with science, whenever it appears to derail from established biblical propositions. The church seemed to have always been at war with scientists and natural philosophers. As Carthaginian lawyer, Tertullian said around 200 A.D.: ‘what indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem? What concord is there between the academy and the church?’ Scholars like Copernicus, Galileo, Michael Servetus were persecuted because their theories were considered heretical or inconsistent with the content of the Bible. Copernicus, who first postulated the theory of heliocentrism, in fact delayed publishing his work until he was on his death bed for fear that the church may violently disagree with him. Servetus was burned at the stakes by the protestant Switzerland. Galileo, an Italian scientist, was convicted for his heliocentric views i.e. the view that the Earth revolves around the sun which contradicts Christians’ placing the Earth at the centre of the universe. He was asked to “abjure, curse and detest” his views and then placed on house arrest for life. So, it is not a surprise, to find Christians, today, doing the same thing, but more mildly, as they no longer possess the power to do and undo, imprison and maim.
Another thing I have noticed in my encounters is their use of rhetoric. Christians greatly enjoy twisting words to evangelise and form a defence in discussions. For instance, you find them saying ‘no, no, no…you get it all wrong. Christianity is not a religion. It is a way of life’. I recently learnt that, perhaps after noticing a flaw, they now flatly equate Christianity to not just a way of life, but life itself. They even go to the extent of saying religion is not the solution, it is our problem, it is the opium of the society. What we need is to accept Jesus Christ. And if you ask what the difference is between the two (i.e. religion and way of life), the same perambulation will continue. They also often say that ‘can you say that in the religion you are now, you are enjoying a true relationship with God?’ Or perhaps, ‘what is your testimony? What is your personal experience that makes you stick to your belief?’ All these in an effort to confuse you. It is like they have been programmed to reply the way they reply. Whoever agrees with them solely on the basis of how they present their arguments and not on what the argument actually is, is like a bling man backing a bling man.
The incontrovertible truth is that the whole propagation of Christianity is an emotional enterprise. It feeds on the manipulation of human emotions. I am yet to see a successful pastor (in terms of followers) who is not ‘mouthed’, who cannot speak fluently and persuasively, who does not apply the principles of rhetoric. Their preaching is mainly on love, total cleansing of sin and salvation. For God so loves the world that he gave his only begotten son, right? Even non-Christians reflexively know this verse which is ever found on the lips of bible-thumpers. Well, it has been established as an interpolation. If you peruse the Revised Standard Version, never will you find this deliberate, ‘grave mistake.’
The fact that music constitutes 80 percent of an average Christian’s notion of worship also corroborates this claim, as music is the most effective way of tampering with a man’s state of mind.
My room-mate, while trying to tell me what Christianity has got to offer me, always resort to the holy-ghost and morality. ‘You see, you need the presence of the Holy Spirit in order to live a sinless life. Once you become born-again, you are no longer yourself; it is Christ that liveth in you.’ I then ask him: ‘are you saying since you’ve been born again, you have never sinned against man or God.’ And of course, he will reply in the negative. He will say, the holy-ghost only acts as guidance, it does not actually control ones actions as that is still subject to our will. Then, I say, what is the difference between the holy-ghost and the human conscience which every man possesses, even the atheist? No doubt, he thereafter resorts to prevarications.
I am certain that many Christians too have hidden doubts about their held believes. Many Christians have never completely read the bible. Many of them do not know how the bible came about, they do not know the origin of Christmas, new year, Easter; they do not know the origin of the trinity, praying on Sundays or closing of eyes. But the sad thing is not this profound ignorance, but the lackadaisical attitude they display toward it. They do not know and they do not care.
All they know is they can never become muslims. Islam is simply not an option because “muslims are terrorists, paedophiles, women haters, polygamous, dirty and blood-thirsty illiterates, who kiss the ground, worship the moon-god and bow down to the sun, towards a black stone in the desert.” And because of this, they prefer to just stick to what they have, no matter how absurd it is.
In conclusion, I wish to cite the story of a man called Dr Laurence Brown (www.leveltruth.com, http://www.drlaurencebrown.com, http://www.truetojesus.com, http://www.realityofgod.com, all sites belong to him). Dr Brown used to be an atheist before God changed his life. His two daughters were born in more or less an interesting, miraculous manner. In 1989, his first daughter, Pristina, was born, and she was able to stand by herself on the very first day of her life. But he did not get any message. 10 months later in 1990, his second daughter, Anna, was born in the George Washington hospital in the US, one of the best. He was much concerned to find that Anna was blue, from the chest to the toes. This means that her blood did not have oxygen. With scanning, they saw that her aorta was very narrow at a point. She was dying and her body was suffocating. There was a surgery, at the time, which could allow the aorta to be replaced by a graft. But the possibility of survival was slim, children who undergo it don’t often do well. His expectation was that she would be acted on, live a few years, have to do the surgery again and then eventually die.
He left the intensive care unit because he was not helping the doctors do their job. And there was a prayer room nearby. He entered it and prayed with sincerity the first time in his life. Hitherto, he felt he was always in charge, he knew how to handle his problems. He had never been in a helpless situation in his life. Dr Brown used to be an atheist, denying the existence of God and in fact, convincing others as well.
He went into the prayer room, thinking it was just a prayer room, nothing more. No cross, crucifixes, no religious symbols at all. and immediately, he felt it was the right place to be. At that moment, he knew there was nothing he could do with his worldly power to help his child. And the power that can help her (if it did exist) was that of the Almighty. As he was an atheist, his prayer was: ‘oh God, if you are there, I need help…if you save my daughter, and you guide me to the religion that is most pleasing to you, I will follow it.’ He made a deal. He went back to the intensive care unit about 15 minutes after he had left, and he noticed immediately that something had changed. The cardiac surgeon then told him that Anna was going to be fine. The doctor tried making a scientific explanation for this turn-around, but they all knew it could not be and he did not buy into it.
He, therefrom, in a bid to keep his promise, started searching for this religion that was ‘most pleasing’ to God. He studied Buddhism, Taoism, and Shintoism. It did not take him long to decide against these religions. He then worked his way to Judaism. In Judaism, he found some truth. But he was not satisfied. There he found the prophesy of three men to come (John the Baptist, Christ and the prophet). He moved to Christianity. He found Jesus calling himself the son of man. He found him saying in 3 different places in the bible that ‘God is one’ is the first of the commandments. He could not find the concept of trinity anywhere in the bible. The bible scholars would say but it says so in the first epistle of John, chapter 5, verse 7; but he also found out that that verse was nothing but a forgery. It does not exist in the original manuscripts, and modern bibles do not contain it (scoffield’s reference bible). He could not find a priest in any sect to answer his questions and clarify his doubts. He could not find himself accepting many Christian doctrines, such as the trinity, original sin and so on.
He felt confused and lost. It was like he was not making any progress. And due to the fact that, in the west, the last religion most people consider is Islam, it was Islam he studied last. Reading about Islam and Prophet Muhammad, everything fell in place; the prophecy in the old testament, the oneness of God, accountability of every man for his own deeds, direct relationship with God, all these which Jesus truly taught. He found a consistency between the two teachings. And eventually, he accepted Islam. He found all the answers to his questions in Islam. And he “found Islam as the conclusion in the chain of revelation.”
Concluding his story, Dr Brown says, “if there is one message I have for the audience, it is this: we come to the religion of truth not on our own except as we ask for it. Allah guides those who he wills. Pray to Allah by whatever name you know him. Pray to the creator with sincerity. Ask him to guide in your heart and in your mind to the religion of truth, and to make you pleased with it. You will find, if you are sincere and if Allah answers your prayer, you will find that the religion of truth enters your heart. And in shaa Allah, you will join us as a brother or sister in Islam.”