From some of the emails I receive, there are a number of people who are uncomfortable about looking into and even questioning their faith. One of the more frequent criticisms this site receives is that there’s no end-to-end, underlying theology.
I never set out to create a grand Unified Theory of Christianity, so if you’re looking for a contained theology, seek out the various catechisms of Catholicism or the flavors of Protestantism.
I’m more interested in snapshots of history – how different people at different periods of time interpreted things to be applicable to their environment – and given that Judeo-Christian thought spans 3000 years or so, many people spent lots of time debating and writing and working out various theologies that were passed on and debated some more. In doing so, predominant beliefs changed. Some were fleshed out in great detail. Others were discarded. And thus these different modern movements are able to rely on past debates to shape their beliefs while slightly differentiating their worldview from the rest.
My question to all the people that want to put absolute authority in the fourth century creation that we call the New Testament is this – why are the other sources invalid or ‘erroneous’ as one email sender called them? It’s true that the powers-that-be in the fourth century decided they weren’t worthy, but what if they were wrong? The victors are always the ones that decide what becomes orthodox and what becomes heretical. What if the inaccurate side won?
And even if the ‘correct’ side did win, why is it so wrong to consider what their opponents – people that they debated for years and years with – thought and wrote about? These are the people that shaped things you accept as standard Christian doctrine today. I’m sure you don’t shun all of Greek philosophy because it didn’t make it into the Bible. Can you imagine refusing to read Plato because he wasn’t Christian? Yet, I’m amazed that so many people not only refuse to accept that there were numerous flavors of Christianity (and Judaism) floating around at the time but pawn off the entire body of literature as not worth their time.
Just look around now at how diverse Christianity is – there certainly isn’t one mainstream belief that everyone subscribes to. Instead, everyone squabbles over this and that… people tell others they’re bad Christians because they don’t believe one particular thing. Rabbis, scholars, and theologians debate endlessly for certain beliefs and ideas – that’s just how it is. It wasn’t much different in the past. As I mentioned, Peter was not a huge fan of Paul. Augustine had his opponents. Luther had his. Rabbis are notorious for endless debates on what scripture means, hence there are tomes of writings.
But heaven forbid that in this day and age of instant gratification, people actually take the time to think about their beliefs – to question why they believe as they do (rather than accept what people tell them) and to look at how other people throughout history have approached such topics.
The Bible is a fascinating book, even more so if you take the time to research what was going on in the cultural-social-political environment at the time that each writer penned his book. Yes, it’s full of different perspectives (some might say inconsistencies) – but what do you expect when numerous people wrote and contributed to it over several hundred years or so? It just shows that the writers were humans struggling to understand what was going on around them.