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Re: Theos-World Hi there, I'm Vince and I am new to the group

Mar 22, 2006 01:13 PM
by Jerry Hejka-Ekins

Yes, I agree that we are in a similar boat, but got there in very different ways. The three topics that my parents never discussed in front of the children were religion, politics and race. So, I never really discovered these things until I was about twelve--and then, on my own. They then became subjects of primary interest. Since I had no religious instruction from home, lived in a Jewish neighborhood, and attended a public school where everyone was Jewish, I just half assumed that I was a Jew, like everyone else.

As I entered my teens, I discovered the beatniks at Venice beach, and used to hang around them. My mother became alarmed and decided that I must be becoming a "juvenile delinquent" and began to take me to a very conservative Lutheran Church. That was my first formal contact with Christianity. I found the services and sermons curious. Lots of mysticism about an invisible god, a ressurected man, and promise of an afterlife if I believed the right things. The problem was that I didn't feel like I was damned. I understood about right and wrong actions, but this idea of "sin" was strange. Why should Eve's eating of an apple have anything to do with me? After all, it was she who screwed up, not me. Soon we began going to classes to learn about the religion. The notion of original sin remain illogical. I couldn't buy it.
The Pastor spent most of his time talking about why Catholicism is in error and how awful the Jew were. One night the Pastor told us that God is only now beginning to forgive the Jews for killing Jesus. That was the first time I ever heard such a thing and the remark deeply disturbed me. All of my friends were Jews and I didn't find them awful at all. The implication I got in the Pastor's remark, was that God must have been pleased with Hitler's attempted extermination of the Jews.
So, other than the unfortunate encounter with the Lutheran Pastor, I entered a study of Christianity with pretty much of a clean slate, and began by reading, on my own, the New English Bible of the NT, which had just been published for the first time. There I was delighted to discover that the three wise men were called "astrologers." That delighted me because I had recently discovered that my aunt practiced astrology professionally, but out of respect for my mother's wishes, never mentioned it to me. So, from the beginning, my investigation into Christianity had no theological guidance, which left me to my own resources to make of it what I could.
When the Nag Hammadi codices were published in translation around 1970, I raced to the Bodhi Tree Bookstore and bought a copy. I then began reading more scholarly commentaries on Christianity, Christian and Gnostic texts, beginning with Elaine Pagel's writings. While all of this was happening, I attended churches and talked casually to ministers of various denominations. When we moved to Northern California, my wife and I began attending the Unitarian Universalist Church where a member with mainline Christian beliefs is not to be found.
So, like you I discovered that the Bible is misrepresented by a strange theological structure, but took a very different route to end up in the same place. When we started the Origins of Christianity class two years ago, I discovered that there were a lot of barriers to communication. Theological conditioning from years of church going was to blame. One of them is as you mentioned: The Gospels read very differently from the theological interpretations. One member or out group who was raised in a conservative Christian home discovered this when we began studying Judaism and investigating the Hebrew scriptures.

Some other barriers that met with considerable resistance were:

1. The Gospels were not written to be historical accounts of Jesus' life. Rather, they are evangelical tracts written for the purpose of gaining converts and to answer the objections of critics of the early Christians.

2. One must therefore, make a distinction between the historical Jesus, the Jesus represented in the Gospels, and the theological Jesus.
3. There were, in the beginning dozens of Christian communities with very divergent beliefs. Many of them had Gospels and religious writings of their own. Most of these writings were destroyed after Christianity was declared the only legal religion of the empire. That is, the variety of Christianity adopted by the Emperor of Rome.
4. Since these other Christian communities, later called "gnostics," were outlawed and their writings destroyed, we know little about them except through a few meager texts that survived, and through the criticisms of the canonical church fathers.
5. The members of these other Christian communities considered themselves to be just as Christian as those belonging to the sect adopted by the Emperors.

6. Critical works of Christianity written by philosophers and other learned people were systematically destroyed. All that survives are the reconstructed writings of Porphyry, Celsus, and the preserved orations of the apostate Emperor Julian.
7. Because of 4 and 6, our knowledge of the earliest history of the Christian movement is fragmentary, biased in favor of the early Roman church, and much is left to conjecture and theological manipulation.

Vincent wrote:


I'm pretty much in a similar boat in my own kind of way. My personal experience has been that I had formerly attended Christian fundamentalist churches for many years, and so I am quite well acquainted with Christian fundamentalist doctrines. However, a vital inconsistency then occured. When I actually went and read the Bible for myself, I began to find that it said things completely different than what my former Christian fundamentalist teachers were telling me.

I therefore concluded that my former Christian fundamentalist teachers were actually misrepresenting the Bible, even though they claim that it infallibly validates their interpretation of absolute truth. When I began asking the leaders questions about various inconsistencies in their biblical interpretations, I was then deemed a threat for asking too many questions which may potentially upset the religious faith of their converts.


--- In, Jerry Hejka-Ekins <jjhe@...> wrote:

Dear Vince,

I'm glad to know that you did not throw out the baby with the bath water. There is a lot of value in the Biblical texts, but they
have to
to be read from perspectives other than traditional theology. In
our own
study group, we are into our second year of seminars on the
origins of Christianity. We began with the classical Roman, Greek
Egyptian religions, philosophical schools and cultures (we already
three years into the origins of Judaism and Kaballah). Now we are looking at both the canonical and the gnostic texts in light of
prevailing beliefs of the time. What we discovered turns
everything one
ever learned in Sunday school on its head. We will be ending the
with an historical overview on Christianity's progress from the
1st to
the 6th centuries. Keep up your reading.


Vincent Blazina wrote:

I've pretty much made a separation from the Christian groups,
insofar as they have deemed me to be a bit too sinful for them, due to my metaphysical interests. I still read the Bible quite a bit, even though some Christians have told me that I have no business doing so, if I am not strictly aligned with their own belief systems.


Jerry Hejka-Ekins <jjhe@...> wrote:
Dear Vince,

I understand what you are going through with the Christian
out there. We live in a very conservative town in California
where most
of the churches are evangelical in nature. But we have found lots
individuals within the community who have been quietly looking
for the
kind of study we offer. It sounds like you already have developed
ties with those church groups over the years. Some may try to
make it
difficult for you to separate from them. I will be very
interested in
learning how your situation progresses.


vblaz20042004 wrote:

Hi there, I'm Vince and I am new to the group. I have recently
attending the Theosophical Society of Wheaton, Illinois for the
month, and have been enjoying the various teachings and
at that facility.

My life has been rich with metaphysical experiences, but the Christian Fundamentalist churches that I had previously attended
twenty years got very judgmental towards me when I might venture
reference them. I also began finding many inconsistencies with
way that many Christians were representing the Bible, and my questions about Christianity were often deemed dangerous to
religious faith.

I am looking for a place in the Theosophical Society wherein I
potentially freely discuss metaphysical issues as they directly pertain to my life, with people who are more open to such discussions. I am very well read with the Bible, although my interpretations of it are more metaphysical versus orthodox.

I look forward to constuctive discussion with the people here,
would like to learn more about the Theosophical Society and it's perspectives, insofar as many of them are brand new to me.

Thank you,


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