As we began to read the book, he brought up these beliefs again, and I thought I would share my response to Mark that I sent during our email discussion: (This begins after a short discussion of Gamaliel's defense of the Apostles in Acts 5)
Incidentally, as I was reading those sections of Acts again, I read Gamaliel's words with a new perspective (no pun intended)... When he defends the apostles in Acts 5, he says:
"Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God."
Gamaliel seems to have the same idea of God that I do: If he does exist and he is a personal, non-deist type of God, than he has a stake in the course of history (especially in the development of the Bible). A god that doesn't protect his communication with his people is not a god I can believe in. In case it's not obvious what I'm getting at: I don't think I can believe in a God that allowed the writings of a "false apostle" to be accepted as inspired by the vast majority of his followers. For me, to believe in God is to believe in the God of the Bible as we have it. Not because I trust Paul for any particular reason, but because any god worth believing in should be trustworthy when it comes to "scripture". Gamaliel's statement in Acts 5 takes as it's presupposition the only god I'm prepared to believe in: a god that fights for ideas that are true and suppresses ideas that are not. (Please don't ask me to explain why Islam is so widespread; I can't.)
I know that doesn't address all your specific comments (attacks :) ) on Paul, but I think my comments above make it clear: I don't think a faith in a god that does not include Paul as a true apostle is a faith worth having. I think it is much more likely that God just does not exist. I'm reading this book to make sense of some parts of the Bible that puzzle me, but it is not an option (for the reasons above) to throw out parts in order to salvage consistency. In my mind, the Bible works (somehow) or God does not exist.
In addition to what I said in my email, it's also important to note the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount:
"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them." Matthew 17:15-20
I think that if we look at the "fruit" of the Apostle Paul as seen in the size and character of the Church today, it is almost silly to suggest that Paul is a false prophet.
To me, it seems like the god that Mark believes in is so unconcerned with his people, or so uninvolved in world events, or simply so weak, that it's not worth pursuing any kind of relationship with his God. If God isn't interested in protecting the Bible from false prophets, then would he really be interested in me at all?