Statesboro, GA, USA
In am in no way speaking about those who find good things in the Bible, or the teachings of Jesus, or anything else, and use them to improve their lives. Because, I agree that there is much in scripture and especially from Christ that would benefit anyone (believer or not) who practiced it. He taught principles that work. He taught a very good moral system.
What I am trying to express is, that this was peripheral to his main objective. The doctrine of morality was already around to set the backdrop for what he would do. He just reiterated it, augmented it, and showed what it (the law) was for. The world as a whole was not lacking in good moral teachers. Judaism itself into whom Jesus was born had profound moral teaching as their foundation... they had the writings of Moses and the Prophets. The rest of the world had theirs too ... Buddha, Socrates, etc... Most religious belief systems taught morality quite well. But here was a man who came to believe that his ministry to the world was not just one of teaching. Reading his accounts, its easy to see that he felt that he was destined to accomplish something. He read such things as the writings of Isaiah . . . "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquites" . . . and saw himself. He understood and foresaw that his death somehow before God would be a peace offering to provide forgiveness to sinners.
I think you may have misunderstood me earlier. What I was trying to express is that there are those (usually embracing pantheism) who will say that Jesus' main message was one of love and spirituality as a means to get closer to God ...of our own accord. So his life becomes, in their mind, one more example among many. He was another spiritual pioneer who got alot closer than any of us, to show us we can do it, another guru to be admired. But if you honestly read in entirety the accounts of him in the gospels... Matthew, Mark, Luke, John... or even just one of them, you will see that this was not the message. Then if you get a sneaking suspicion that he meant to be much more than a good moral teacher, go on and read the writings of the men who saw him and heard him (not the apocryphal writings written several centuries later by second and third handers) and see how they interpreted his life. He accomplished something according to the gospels, and according to the men who knew him, that was unprecedented spiritually. He bridged the gap (caused by sin) between God and humanity.
“there is simply no reason that a non-believer can't find interesting and useful things in the Bible and thereby make his or her life better.”
Brad, I agree. I am not speaking against picking and choosing good advice from the Judeo-Christian world view. . . and if this is where you are then good. I am a practical man myself. If it works good, use it. What I am trying to show is that many who have a belief that we can come to peace with God, or the ultimate reality, through our own efforts, often try to present Jesus as basically teaching the same thing. They misconstrue the system he presented. This is not being honest. If a person is Pantheistic, Agnostic, New age, or whatever, and believes so, then okay. I will say that I think he or she is wrong, but I know that everyone has to decide for themselves. But when the gospel of Jesus is said to be saying something that it just isn’t, I have to speak out. For the record Brad I have never heard You do so. I think you have been more honest than that. Forgive me if what I said came across that way. Your admiration of some things in scripture, is not what I am speaking of. I’m not even against an atheist saying “I like this teaching of Jesus, ‘Love your enemies’, it makes the world a better place. “ This is not the same thing as misconstruing his words to support a believe system for which we can find no consistent evidence that it was held by him. That is the difference between patronizing and admiring.
You also said...
“ I'm stuck, at the moment, in believing that any system will be used to kill other people in the name of something that can never be shown to have accessible results. Medieval Christian Europe was not a nice place to live.”
Unfortunately you are right. How often have people attempted to spearhead their agendas, even thinking they are helping God out. Constantine, the crusaders, and many other sad accounts in history tell this bloody story. But Jesus himself shunned any such way of bringing about the “Kingdom of God”. Especially notable is his memorable rebuke of Peter for striking a guard with the sword, on the night of his own arrest... “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword”. As Ghandi said once ... (I’m paraphrasing) ... “I like your Christ, I just don’t like your Christians”. But how many more Christians (also holding an exclusive world view ) have not shunned their morality and rightly overcame evil with good. “Do not resist an evil man” ... this is what Jesus taught and demonstrated all his life. Do a few bad students negate education? Holding a particuar world view that doesn’t admit to all others being valid, does not mean that you have to be a part of the wrong way of propagating it. The ends doesn’t justify the means, when the means is wrong. And when the means is wrong the end usually is also. This kind of thing makes me sadder than you.