“the words of the Apostle Paul must be interpreted in terms of the historical setting”

Like many Biblical affirmations, the words of the Apostle Paul must be interpreted in terms of the historical setting and psychological mood of the age in which they were written. The Apostle Paul–along with all of the early Christians–believed that the world was coming to an end in a few days. Feeling that the time was not long the Apostle Paul urged men to concentrate on preparing themselves for the new age rather than changing external conditions. It was this belief in the coming new age and the second coming of Christ which conditioned a great deal of Paul’s thinking. Early Christianity was far from accepting the existing social order as satisfactory, but it was conscious of no mission to change it for the better. It taught its adherence neither to conform to the external framework of their time, nor to seek directly to alter it, but to live within it a life rooted in a totally different order. Today we live in a new age, with a different theological emphasis; consequently we have both a moral and religious justification for passively resisting evil conditions within the social order. — Advice for Living, Ebony Magazine, 1957 MLK

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