I was thinking this morning - a very dangerous thing to be doing at 5.47 in the am - about if and when we begin to develop theologies based on our felt needs. I'll give you an example: We cannot bear to believe that God wants for us to suffer, so we develop a theology of Christian Hedonism. And when I say develop, I don't mean necessarily from thin air, but borrow from other places, re-construct previous theologies, etc.
I was in my World Religions class yesterday. I am taking it amidst people of several other religions. That has been cool. We are currently studying classical Hinduism. The caste system (4 levels of social standing) is a fascinating theological development. Although there are different creation myths that explain why it is as it is in a place like India (where the caste system is still very much in play), some believe it was created by elite intellectuals who didn't want their families to lose their place in society, so they developped this social ranking system to keep everyone in their 'proper' place.
Well, I think of this in regards to Christianity as we think of it. Doctrines of universalism (that all will be go to heaven) developped from the need to see God as purely a God of love and forgiveness, not judgement. Or the doctrines of legalism in their many forms (man is entirely sinful, you need the church to remain as part of the faithful, doctrines of giving, 'praying the prayer', etc.) could have been developped because some wanted to secure their place (perhaps priests/pastors/heads of churches) and make sure that the church was the only 'deliverer of religious goods and services'.
You tracking with me here? Entire theologies based on the need to maintain social structures, so that now, in order to 'get out of hell', you must seek God through the church [read: through a Christian]. Hmm.
I'm gonna definitely have to look at some of my theology and consider its implications. Where did these thoughts come from, for surely they are not original. And what do they say about me, or the communities from which they were birthed?