More and more as I work with people who come from Christian backgrounds I find they have a conflict with the organization of Christianity more so than the teachings of the bible and that they want to live good lives but can’t embrace a blind faith. They need reason and need to understand the culture.
This does reflect some of the reasons I moved away from orthodox teachings. When I was 16 I came face to face with this conflict and at the time I decided to leave the church thinking that if I had the ability to reason and it came from a higher source, then that higher source must also be able to reason, and it make sense to me that the world around us, spiritual world included, is rooted in something that could be understood, something that can be reasoned.
During my life I followed reason and coupled with my ability to see pattern I stumbled upon one idea and another that made sense, and after some time, I had whole portions of teachings of the bible that I read in very different ways.
Elaine Pagels both studied and wrote about the Gnostic Gospels, a series of papers that were discovered in Nag Hamadi I believe, in the 1940’s. The book talks about white people trying to use the bible to justify slavery. My understanding is that people thought if they could show how it supported their political and ideological aims and gain acceptance of wanted practices, then the people of that time are not the first to do so. People used the bible to further their aims because the bible was seen as an authority.
So there are a number of issues that form around the bible and its interpretation. There is a consideration of issues around translation, that not only were the books of the bible at one time a loose collection of writings and ideas and that Christianity was also a loose collection of beliefs and interpretations, there is also something maybe more insidious and that is the culture of ideas that has grown around what Christianity means. This culture has been formed by many people who had agendas and wanted the bible to support their thinking. In a way they were looking for approval and used justification to achieve their aims by trying to change how people viewed the bible and what it might mean. Many of the ideas today around what it means to be Christian, the idea of sin, obedience, morality and so on, grew up in a culture where slavery was common. Obedience for one was important and sought after. Was Jesus obedient? Many of the teachers of his day saw him as a public enemy. Jesus talked a lot about being free and this did not make him popular with the ruling class.
What does it mean to be born again? What is heaven? If it is to be reasonable, these must have been statements within a larger context.