As I pointed out some weeks ago on the blog, in the mid to late 1980s, as a liberal Christian, I was fully aware that the Bible was filled with mythological views that could no longer be accepted as literal truths but had to be translated into a modern idiom if they were to have any relevance. And I thought that the Bible did have relevance. But not in its literal sense.
This made interpretation of the Bible an extremely important affair. It was the *interpretation* of the text that determined how, in what sense and in what way, the Bible could and should determine how a person understood the world, the deity, and our relationship to both (the world and the deity).
The teachings of Jesus, the writings of Paul, and in fact most of the earliest Christian tradition as found in the New Testament, was rooted in apocalyptic views that were very much situated in their own time and place, but were no longer tenable for 20th century Americans (i.e., for me in my context at the time). Jesus (and Paul, and all the others) literally believed the world they knew it was going to come to a crashing halt very soon – probably in a matter of months. A cosmic judge was literally coming from heaven on the clouds to avenge God and his people by destroying everyone and everything opposed to them. A utopian kingdom would arrive on earth that would last forever.
In the meantime, the devil – a literal being, very much present here on earth – and his henchmen, the demons – actual spiritual beings – were active and afflicting the human race with terrible suffering. That is why, for them, there are so many problems here. But God’s cosmic judge would destroy the devil and his demons, and a good kingdom would emerge.
I was never completely sure that this ancient apocalyptic view was entirely coherent. That is to say,
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