6. 25 January 1985
Thanks for the splendid Epistle. You and Paul! I reply, equally seriatim;
1. How can one be a Christian without experiencing religion? Of course it's different from experiencing music. It's because Paul 'had it' that I dislike and distrust Paul. No, the idea of being Christian because that provides the most satisfying available explanation of life and its values is not theology. More like autobiography.
2. I say: The God of Christianity is Jehovah. You say: to think like this is to miss the whole point of Christ and Christianity and in fact the N.T. itself. I reply: to think otherwise is to invent the whole point. I mean, suppose there isn't (as for me and the billionfold majority of the species past present and future) a point? What if Christ (Gal. 2.21) did die to no purpose?
You're not allowed (by my rules!) to write down the answer to the sum beforehand and then point to those selected factors which, multiplied together, produce it. What's the evidence that it's the right answer?
If you begin also by saying that it's the right answer because it's the right answer for you (as per (1) above) then why can't I say that it's therefore the wrong answer because it's the wrong answer for me?
If the New Testament is riddled (the mot juste!) with the Old Testament, and could not be otherwise, can it really be all that amazingly different?
The argument about the Jews not needing to put Jesus to death looks rather two edged to me. As that diabolical atheist Christopher Marlowe was accused of saying: if the Jews crucified Jesus, it was they that knew him best.
Besides, they didn't: that ancient scandal, furthermore, fuelled the furnaces of Dachau. It was surely the Romans who rut him to death? Crucifixion was never a Jewish form of capital punishment, was it?
3. I don't see what, exactly, makes Paul (or Jesus, come to that) anything other than Jews preaching a Jewish religion. The fact that it was preached to the Gentiles is surely a confirmation, not a disproof, of that basic and obvious fact? Of course one may explain that they chose to speak in those terms because only in those terms could they be understood; but what's wrong with the simpler explanation that they said what they said because that's what they actually meant?
4. All that stuff about blood and pain and sacrifice, as I see it (namely with distress and distaste) is absolutely not novel, not in any way nor by one hair's breadth detached from the O.T. roots. It is the very language of sacrificial ritual, or witch-doctor mumbo jumbo. What exactly is supposed to be different about it? God is to Jesus as Abraham to Isaac, i.e. murderous, in an allegedly benevolent sort of way.
You say that Jesus was sometimes (how often?) confined within the thought-processes of Judaism and guilt offerings etc., but at other times made claims of identity (where?) and sonship with God. But surely if the first part of that is right, then the claims must also be within those same thought processes? How could they not have been, except by conjuring or cheating? And it further seems to me that such claims were always part of Jewish O.T. monotheism. Moses already was on terms of easy and affable intimacy with God. It was only after detailed personal discussion that he was able to reduce the commandments to only ten, I bet.