Is modern Christianity merely an invention of St. Paul?
It is true that many who have studied the life of St. Paul made similar conclusions: it was he, single-handedly according to the gospels, who made Jesus’ teachings available and attractive to non-Jews. He also articulated and explained aspects of Jesus’ teachings that brought a certain focus and clarity for more general acceptance.
My experience is that those who make such observations are inclined to do so as a critique of St. Paul’s contribution rather than in admiration.
But is this observation true and correct? Based on the precepts and my experience of discipleship, I would say that St. Paul was doing his best to fulfill his own dharma in attunement with the will, mission and grace of God and his guru, Jesus Christ.
I would also add that St. Paul’s life and teachings are as much misunderstood as they are wisely interpreted.
One example of this is the partial quotation or misquote: “By faith alone are you saved and not by works….” Paul was not denying the importance of self-effort; rather, he was emphasizing the role of grace.
Self-effort — sincere and energetic — magnetically draws divine grace. Yogananda said that enlightenment is achieved by this formula: 25% our effort; 25% the effort of the guru; and 50% the grace of God.
But our 25% is 100% of our effort. Like a sailboat which we might have to purchase, build and then outfit (and learn to sail), ultimately it is the wind or breeze of grace that carries the sailboat to the shores of Eternity.
Or, to use Ramakrishna’s image: our job is to hoist the sail to catch the wind of divine grace.
St. Paul did his part the best he could. And overall, his contribution was significant and overwhelmingly positive.
Blessings and joy to you,
Seattle WA USA