Food for thought #3: A New Kind of Christianity
“What is the overarching story line of the Bible?” McLaren asks. His response, which really comes across as more of an authoritative answer in some areas, is that current Christianity reads the Bible through the lens of an Aristotelian-Platonic universe. He calls it a Greco-Roman story line where Christians see God as something akin to Zeus or Jupiter—a perfect heavenly being that is ready to strike down flawed creatures on a whim—and if certain creatures never reach the Platonic ideal of heaven then they are sent down to a Greek Hades, a hell, “imagery misappropriated from Jesus’ parables and sermons.” (p. 44)
McLaren may have a point. Perhaps Christians read the Bible through the lens of this Greco-Roman narrative, but it’s worth pointing out that Jesus’ story developed within a Roman context. (Pilate? Caesar, anyone?) And that the New Testament was written in Greek. As a result, I disagree with McLaren that this Greco-Roman narrative is necessarily bad. Instead, I argue that the Greco-Roman narrative provides a form of context as a result of being influenced by the Roman Empire and the original language of the New Testament. This influence is inescapable.
McLaren also makes the point that we should read the Bible for the Judaic narrative that it is—as Jesus would have read it. That is a fair and valid point as well. Therein lies the challenge: reading the Bible for what it is without inserting a post-Jesus historical lens (ie, reading the Bible through a post-Reformation lens or a post-Council of Trent lens).