Sometimes, as I read the bible or listen to a speaker in church, I can't help but feel that while Paul's letters are full of well-grounded Christian wisdom and advice, they can also contain what seems to me like Paul's human opinions, as opposed to God's own word. I do believe Paul is a true apostle, spoken to by Jesus on the road to Damascus, and an important figure, but he's also just a human man, right?
For me, as a Christian, I would never question or disagree with the words spoken by Jesus in the Bible, no matter how challenging they are, or unpopular they can be in mainstream society. Really, I 100% accept them as the direct word of God, as part of His New Covenant.
But Jesus did not talk about every topic. While answers to the questions that really matter can be found in Jesus' words, the answers to every possible question cannot. And so, I often see an individual, or a church, or a whole denomination establish doctrines and views on certain topics solely by studying the words written by Paul (or other New Testament authors). But how can they be certain in these views, if it's Paul's word they are reading and not God's? How is it any different to reading the words of any other human being, past or present, and using them to form their doctrines?
I've come across the view that Paul's letters are God's word because in 2 Peter 3:14-16, they are referred to as Scripture. But that just begs the same question - who gave Peter the authority to define such a thing? He's human too.
I've also come across the view that Paul's experience on the road to Damascus was an act of validation by God of Paul's authority, and so Paul's letters can be seen a validated by God, and so practically God's own words. But surely that's an opinion - a supposition, not an unequivocal fact.
Some also say that Paul's letters were validated as God's word by the Council of Trent in the 16th century. But again, those guys were humans.
Some just have the faith that God must have intervened in the process of compiling The Bible over the centuries, and so we should assume everything in it is validated as God's own word. But again, Jesus never stated this, it's not a Commandment - it's a human supposition.
When I read Jesus' words in the Gospels, I believe I am reading the unquestionable Word of God.
When I read a Christian book by a modern author, I do so appreciating and learning from the wisdom and advice contained within, but I feel entitled to disagree (or at least not entirely agree) with any of the content.
So my question (and struggle) really is: when I read Paul's letters, should I treat them as (1) or (2) above?