The Good: I’m giving up on this category; from now on I’ll include it only if I find something that fits.
The Bad: Paul quotes another bunch of OT verses out of context (v 8-10). Since I have read all of them in context, I know that they originally referred to the downfall of Israel several hundred years before Paul’s writings. And v 33-35 amount to the ‘his ways are not our ways’ philosophy; the idea that god can do anything and it will still be considered good. So whatever happens is god’s will and we should put up and shut up. Pathetic.
The Ugly: The Jews remain god’s first choice when he’s deciding who to save. Gentiles only get a chance at salvation because most of the Jews blew their chance. So now there’s some room on the family tree for a few Gentiles to be grafted on. But they’d better not get too smug about it; they are only a few branches, not the root. God will gladly welcome the Jews back if they change their minds; in fact he tries to manipulate them by creating jealousy (v 14). The Gentiles are ‘second class’ believers. How disgusting and partisan is this? (v 11-21).
God is a malevolent blackmailer, who rewards only those who fawn over him appropriately. Love him, and you win favor. Reject him, and you’re cut out of the family tree and headed straight to hell (v 22-24). Or how about v 32, god caused everyone to be disobedient just so he could show them mercy? How heinous is that? What kind of a sicko manipulates people and causes pain just so he can offer comfort?
Quotes: nothing of note
The Good: Finally! The gist of this chapter is some sage advice for getting along with others.
The Bad: Some of the verses are very ambiguous and can be interpreted to mean anything the reader wants them to mean. V 1-2 for example sound very lofty, but what exactly is meant by ‘give your bodies to God’ or ‘don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world’? These verses can be used to severely restrict personal freedom, sexuality, manner of dress, social conduct, etc.
Likewise, the verses that offer useful advice often cloak it in unnecessary supernatural language. Eg v 3 “Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.”; or v 6 “In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well.” These verses could simply say “Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves.”; and “Each of us has different gifts…”; and so on throughout the chapter.
The Ugly: I hate to rain of the parade and be critical when we finally read something positive, but v 14 (similar to Jesus’ advice to turn the other cheek in Luke 6:29) has often been interpreted to discourage people from seeking justice. A frequent bible message has been to ‘suck it up’, don’t question your lot in life, put up and shut up, etc, and this verse fits right into that. Ditto v 19; it encourages people to accept a crappy deal in this life with the expectation that all will be made right in the next.
Quotes: almost anything – lots of cherries on this tree!
The Good: Most of v 1-7 – respect the government, obey the law, pay your taxes, be a good citizen. Who can argue with that? … V 8-10 are also pretty good, except the same comments apply from the last chapter.
The Bad: V 1-7 can also be used to prop up a dictatorship, an evil regime, the divine right of kings…. All depends on how these verses are interpreted and who is doing the interpreting.
In v 8-10, Paul doesn’t do a very good job of remembering the commandments, and the ones he comes up with predate the OT and are common to most societies. And to prohibit coveting means regulating people’s thoughts. Does anyone really want that? And how about v 13? Does Paul want to ban fun? I think he does.
V 11 – Paul thought the end was near and salvation was at hand. We’re still waiting…
The Ugly: V 14 “clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.” Another verse used to control people and regulate social norms, in particular sexuality.