pets endangered by possible book avalanche
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I thought the author did an excellent job in sorting out the complexities, difficulties, and apparent contradictions in Christianity. It was interesting to note how much more difficulty is introduced when Christian theology is added to the Old Testament base. It seems there is much less about Judaism that is disputable.
But we are supposed to be talking about human nature. If I forget that, I'll go off on a long ramble about the bigger subject of Christianity. Yet the Christian concept of human nature (HN) is a theological concept in itself. This concept of HN relates to a topic that interests me: the remarkable success of Christianity over the past two millennia. The Christian view of HN is really the same as the diagnosis of what is wrong and the prescription for the remedy. We are created by God and are granted some of his own qualities. But we have a fatal flaw that makes us often choose what we know is not the way of goodness. Our choice in life then becomes one of giving in to our (sinful) nature, or resisting it by staking our lives to the only sure guide, which is not our own ability to reason, but God as revealed to us in sacred writings or to some extent by our own spiritual instincts. God will provide us our salvation on earth if we obey him.
This idea is a foundation accessible to anyone, I think, accouting perhaps for some of the popularity of Christianity. It is not explicitly Christian as stated, though, because it provides only for our earthly salvation. Christ, I assume, appeared in order to assure us of an eternal salvation, and when we add this to the Judaistic base, we have the entire prescription for the predicament our nature places us in.
This point is also where the great difficulty for me comes in. The chapter tells us that Christ's death is not seen by theologians today as a blood offering to win God's forgiveness of sinful humanity. But it has surely been seen in that way historically, and it is hard to see how Jesus' death on the cross is meant to function if not in this way. I am afraid that an explanation avoiding this very repelling idea would strike me as too strained or esoteric.
Of course, the very notion of eternal life is also a difficulty, but what can be said against it, besides that it may be irrational? The whole point of religions is to give us answers or promises that we need but can't arrive at through thinking. If we agree that there is a dimension beyond the reach of our reason (not all would agree), then it becomes not irrational to concede the possibility of immortality.
But in kernel form, at least, the Judeo-Christian concept of our nature is simple and compelling. It is easy to attribute much of the power and success of the religion to this idea, because when we believe we know who we are and what our purpose is, we find it easier to act in the world with confidence and boldness (for better or worse).