The Marmite Apostle: Making sense of Paul – by Stephen Kuhrt

In 1902 Marmite came into existence when it was discovered that brewer’s yeast could be made into an edible form. Its richness of Vitamin B helped increased its popularity.

The most fascinating aspect of Marmite, however, has been its marketing. In the mid-1990s, its distinctive flavour led to the genius decision to promote it through a ‘Love it or Hate it’ campaign.

The Marmite effect

Suddenly the unpopularity of Marmite was as significant as its popularity. The phrase ‘Marmite effect’ became used to describe things and people that provoke diverse and extreme responses.

St Paul was undoubtedly a hugely influential figure in the development of Christianity. But as much as any figure in history, Paul often produces strongly positive and negative reactions. He has ‘the Marmite effect’.

Supreme messenger?

Many Christians enjoy the taste of Paul’s thought immensely. They praise its nutritional value, appreciate how easily it can be spread and express bewilderment at why believers might respond to him differently.

To his numerous fans, Paul is the supreme messenger of God’s gift of grace through Jesus Christ proclaiming this good news for humankind with an unmatched clarity and passion. 

Or bigot?

Others, including many Christians, have the opposite reaction. They respond to the overpowering flavours within Paul’s writings with extreme distaste.

To his detractors, Paul is a bigot who distorted the simple message of Jesus of Nazareth into a harsh and unnecessarily complex belief system singularly lacking in love and compassion. Most commonly mentioned in this regard is his alleged attitude towards women and those who are gay.   

Serious engagement

Any proper response to Paul will be based upon a sustained and serious engagement with his actions and thought. This involves understanding Paul against the context of the world in which he lived and all the complexities involved in how the early Christian movement interacted with Judaism, Greek culture and the Roman Empire.

It also involves considering the various schools of thought that have developed down the ages concerning Paul and the legacy of these perspectives upon us. The insights that emerge from such engagement will often challenge the assumptions of both the ‘love him’ and ‘hate him’ camps in equal measure.

Making Sense of Paul

At Christ Church, New Malden this coming Sunday 13th November we are starting a new venture called ‘Sunday School for Grown Ups’. Meeting from 6.00 – 8.00 pm on the second and fourth Sundays of the month, this will begin with a course called ‘Making Sense of Paul’.

The aim is that, through engagement, discussion and debate about Paul, all who attend will grow in our understanding of what Christianity is all about.     

Everyone is welcome! If you live around south west London and are not doing anything else on Sunday night, do come along.

Pizza will be served from 6.00 pm with the session beginning at 6.30 pm. The formal part of the evening will finish at 8.00 pm but many may wish to continue the conversations at the pub opposite our church.

Wherever you are located on ‘the Marmite spectrum’ in regard to St Paul, it will be great to see you there!   

Stephen Kuhrt is Vicar of Christ Church, New Malden

3 thoughts on “The Marmite Apostle: Making sense of Paul – by Stephen Kuhrt”

  1. Oh so wish I could come. I’m a “don’t like” Paul person, though when I do look into him I do see amazing insights. Shame I am over 300 miles away.
    And pizza would do it for me too 🙂
    By the way I am a marmite lover. Perhaps a straw poll of whether those who love marmite struggle with Paul. A correlation??? LOL!

    Liked by 1 person

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