Funny, but Paul created believers back in the day by telling them that Jesus was coming again, imminently, and the only way to escape God’s wrath was to trust in Jesus to save you from it.
Now for all of you “atonement is clearly spelled out in scripture” types, you may want to read 1 Thessalonians because Paul apparently forgot to tell these new Gentile converts that, “Oh, by the way, don’t mourn your dead; there’s also the eternal life rider thing in play. It’s all good!” The point of that letter was to inform them of that very new idea no one had ever let them in on.
Want to take a guess why the rider is what many Christians think Christianity is all about, some 2,000 years after Jesus’ death? Unless you have a very patient sense of what “imminent” means — completely unlike what Paul and those of the church at Thessaloniki had — then you too don’t put much stock in that motivation.
Funnier still is the fact that the idea of eternal life and damnation has passed its zenith too, and Jesus of Nazareth is going to have to repackage itself once more, or fade away as irrelevant. My thought about Paul and this sort of coercive ploy is that the whole schema is antichrist. That may be why fear is the only selling point of that theology. None of it is good news, certainly. The good news bit is what’s relevant! Paul got the wrong memo.
Thank God God is far bigger than Christianity, and so is Jesus the Nazarene!
“Howbeit, Paul succeeded in stealing the image of Christ crucified for the figurehead of his Salvationist vessel, with its Adam posing as the natural man, its doctrine of original sin, and its damnation avoidable only by faith in the sacrifice of the cross. In fact, no sooner had Jesus knocked over the dragon of superstition than Paul boldly set it on its legs again in the name of Jesus.
He is no more a Christian than Jesus was a Baptist; he is a disciple of Jesus only as Jesus was a disciple of John. He does nothing that Jesus would have done, and says nothing that Jesus would have said, though much, like the famous ode to charity, that he would have admired. He is more Jewish than the Jews, more Roman than the Romans, proud both ways, full of startling confessions and self-revelations that would not surprise us if they were slipped into the pages of Nietzsche, tormented by an intellectual conscience that demanded an argued case even at the cost of sophistry, with all sorts of fine qualities and occasional illuminations, but always hopelessly in the toils of Sin, Death, and Logic, which had no power over Jesus. As we have seen, it was by introducing this bondage and terror of his into the Christian doctrine that he adapted it to the Church and State systems which Jesus transcended, and made it practicable by destroying the specifically Jesuist side of it. He would have been quite in his place in any modern Protestant State; and he, not Jesus, is the true head and founder of our Reformed Church, as Peter is of the Roman Church. The followers of Paul and Peter made Christendom, whilst the Nazarenes were wiped out.”
George Bernard Shaw, Preface; Androcles And The Lion, 1912