“Yes…Yes…Yes… That’s it exactly!” he pronounced to an empty room. Again, Tolstoy came through. Leo just finished explaining that the “chief cause” of the false interpretations of Christianity’s and Jesus of Nazareth’s message was Paul. What caused Tolstoy to decide this? The fact that Paul was the apostle who connected the Old Testament to the New Testament. Tolstoy concludes, “…this doctrine of the tradition, this principle of the tradition, was the chief cause of the distortion of the Christian teaching and of its misunderstanding (xxii).” Tolstoy’s premise? Simply that Jesus’ words should rank higher than any other persons.
“This all makes so much sense,” he thought to himself. Finally, someone said what he had been feeling. But it was not that simple. He still believed and needed some of Paul’s ideas. In particular, Paul’s assertion, “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus,” for him, had singular merit.
So, what should be done with Paul? For years, this question vexed him. During a sermon one Sunday, in an instant the answer came: end the special treatment. Some of what Paul said was true and had value. Some of what Paul said wasn’t true and didn’t have value. His task was to treat Paul no different than any other thinker. The issue wasn’t black and white. He had to discern the value himself, idea by idea. In other words, he finally remembered that Paul was just a man.
Despite the profound meaning and encouragement he gained from this statement, he felt it would be too radical for other believers.
Holding his breath, he hoped instead to discover that it resonated.
Tolstoy, Leo, Leo Wiener, and Greg Oviatt. The Gospels in Brief. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2004. Print.