>That's an argument you'd expect from a wokie. "My truth!"
Wokies think theirs is the whole truth. I don't expect to ever know the whole truth, but I commit to honoring the fragments of what Christ preached that I can know from that which we still have today.
>Christianity is declining as of now, with more and more Christians are leaving the religion for atheism, neo-paganism, and even Islam.
Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity is the world's fastest growing religion among third-worlders, for better or for worst, despite the decline of the established church in the West. Fanatics, loose on dogma, fired on emotion. The church isn't going to die despite what the secularists, Muslims, and Jews tell you.
>And again I ask : who gave Paul the authority to author entire chapters of the New Testament, when he didn't even know Jesus personally?
>And again I am met with no answer.
I'll concede: he didn't get proper authority, the Bible only documents the following:
"Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
4 So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus."
Galatians 1, Paul admits:
"15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace,
16 to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:
17 neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.
18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.
19 But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.
20 Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not."
"Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.
2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain."
"6 But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:
7 but contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;
8 (for he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)
9 and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.
10 Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do."
So he had met with Christians in Antioch following his sudden conversion and had been preaching for three years before meeting Peter and James (for only 15 days), and 14 years later met with the rest of the disciples; according to his word, they didn't disown him, but directed him to gather donations for the church in Jerusalem. He was on his way to deliver his collected donations before his arrest, transfer to Rome, and execution during the first Imperial persecutions. It was due to his efforts, though, that Christianity lasted beyond the Roman-Jewish War, so you must credit him for that. Unless if you think something is imperfect, it should never be at all. If he had delivered the donations and met with the apostles, your doubts would probably never have been, or at least not taken the same form. It's for you to decide if fate set you inevitably on the road to doubt.
>and I can't really use the Bible to clarify these issues because what I have now is a bastardized version with its original meaning completely lost.
Did you ever read the Gospel of Thomas? It's not a gospel the Paulists would tell you.
>I guess I do.
Ironically, despite Paul's complaints about Judaizers in the church demanding Jewish law apply to gentiles, in a sense he Judaized the church's understanding of Christ from ultimate embodiment of living by the Will to distant master and object of bondage. I know others here are going to disagree but I don't care to preach to the choir, you don't gain anything out of it. Having a discussion with a person like you who challenges assumptions is a lot more interesting because you actually point out the defects where there can to be further refinement.