Introduction to This Blog

Updated 1-21-2019

Hello, I am Tim Chastain the author of this blog—Jesus without Baggage.

In this first entry (January 2013) I want to let you know what this blog is about, why I wish to share it, and whom I think might be interested.

When I was seven years old, I ‘got saved’ in a fundamentalist church. That event set me on a journey that is still unfinished, and I am now 67 years old. During that time, I have never rebelled against God or the church. However, for reasons I still do not understand, my journey involved a characteristic I do not always find among fundamentalists or evangelicals. I had a strong need to follow the truth.

Now this is not to say that other fundamentalists are not concerned for the truth; in fact, they often contend fiercely for the truth. But the fundamentalist position on most things is that they already have the truth and it is not up for consideration. Of course, this is not unique to fundamentalists and evangelicals; it is a concept shared by many religious individuals and movements.

As a seeker for truth, when I became a teen I began to examine the truths that I had accepted in the fundamentalist-evangelical package that came from my desire to follow God. Some of the ‘truths’ did not hold up, and some of those were BIG ones! Among my conclusions:

  • God is not an angry God and he is not angry at us. In fact, he is the Father.
  • No one is going to be tortured in hell for eternity.
  • The Bible is a wonderful book, but it is not inerrant. It is the story of people trying to understand God from the limitations of their eras, cultures, and inadequate grasp of God’s character.
  • Jesus is the central focus of what we can learn about the Father and he is the only one I can trust with my spiritual well-being. I would give my life for him. I believe that in his resurrection he demonstrated a power over death that assures our own eventual victory over death.
  • The message of Jesus is tremendously inclusive. He gives us good news. He frees us from feelings of alienation from the Father, from others, and from ourselves; he frees us from fear and superstition; and he assures us of eternal life. This good news is without conditions.

I believe this good news is for all of us and our task as believers and followers is to share the good news with others, so that they can access it in their lives. It is not based on acceptance of ANY set of doctrinal beliefs nor ANY list of behavioral rules. Of course, behavior does matter—it matters very much–but not in the way many people think, and not in any way that one person can dictate to or judge another person. His good news is for everyone, whether or not they have even heard the name of Jesus.

The conclusions I have drawn from my journey are now my pre-suppositions. Although, as a seeker of truth, my beliefs are always open to further consideration.

As a believer and a follower, I wish to share this good news to others. We will elaborate on the many practical ramifications of this good news. I have no desire to persuade anyone to accept my views, but some may find that they make sense and are helpful in their own journeys. Among the people whom I anticipate might want to read this blog are:

  • Those who are struggling with doubts about the Christian ‘truths’ they have been taught.
  • Those who are interested in Jesus but not in the baggage they find associated with him among many Christians.
  • Those believers who have rightfully abandoned Christian baggage but who need strength from and communication with others on the same journey.
  • Those who have rightfully abandoned Christian baggage but who have abandoned Jesus along with it.

If you are interested in Jesus, but not the baggage, I invite you to join me on my journey.

Jesus without Baggage exists to assist and support those questioning beliefs they have been taught in fundamentalist, traditional evangelical, and other groups. If you know someone who might find Jesus without Baggage helpful, feel free to send them the introductory page: About Jesus without Baggage.

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12 Responses to Introduction to This Blog

  1. sheila0405 says:

    I just found your blog from a link in another blog. I read through your reasons to reject the notion of a physical hell, which is a place of torment forever and forever. My own concept of hell has also changed over the years. I see the soul as eternal, but if the soul rejects God until his very last breath, that soul will be deprived of friendship with God forever. That way of existence–one forever apart from God–will be the torment. I believe life without God is miserable. Souls separated from God will live in misery for eternity. I have gone over your theory about annihilation, and I will explore this in more detail for myself. Specifically, does the Bible teach that every soul is eternal? Thanks for a great jump start for me,. Oh, about me: I was raised a fundamentalist who converted to Roman Catholicism. I am 58, and I left Protestantism because there are too many versions and too many interpretations in the Protestant world. I came to believe that the Catholic Church is Christ’s original Church on earth. The Church is the pillar and foundation of the truth, and it is the Church which rightly interprets Scripture. And, I got 7 more books in my Bible! That was a nice bonus. ::smiling::

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  2. Hi Sheila, I am glad you have had a good journey in developing your ideas on hell. Though I believe in annihilation, I could be wrong. If so a scenario such as you describe could be the case, but I cannot accept the belief of eternal torment in a burning hell; it makes no sense at all.

    I am also glad you are happy about your seven ‘extra books’. I have enjoyed reading several of them myself, and I think I have read parts of all of them.

    Thank you for your comment, and I hope you continue to enjoy my blog.

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  3. sheila0405 says:

    Tim, I assume you deleted Steve’s comment? I was going to alert you about it.

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    • Thanks for looking out for me Sheila!

      The blogger has posted in comments several times. The first time, I interacted with him and looked around on his blog, but since then I deleted his lengthy comments as they did not relate to the posts at all. This time I blocked him (and dropped him an email to explain).

      I hate that. I have never blocked anyone before. It seems to be his way of promoting traffic to his blog. I have no problem with someone including an appropriate link to their blog, but it is not helpful to attach an unrelated post as a comment. Perhaps he is not familiar with blogging practices.

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  5. Dennis Wade says:

    Tim, I really think that blogs like yours are gaining more and more relevance as time goes by. The number of people who can no longer accept or tolerate institutional doctrine or fundamental thinking is growing in this world, and so many times these people think the only other alternative is to abandon a belief in God altogether. And this leaves an abcess in a person’s soul that grows to eventually poison their whole being.
    Unlike you, I did have a period where I did rebel against God and the church, but I was never completely able to abandon Jesus. He always seemed to be there as the best example I could find of those values that did make sense to me. And eventually He did restore me to a better and clearer understanding of God. I now know that I never actually did reject God, but only those fables about God that have come to dominate our civilization and culture.
    I used to say to myself and others that if God really was the way most churches portrayed Him, then I could understand why Lucifer felt the need to rebel! I could not imagine spending eternity having to live with such a being! How wonderful to know that THAT God doesn’t exist!

    There are many authors and blogs that have helped me in my search for the authentic Jesus, and yours is still at the top of my list! You have helped me to understand that not only is it OK to question doctrine, but that it is absolutely necessary in order to grow as a person. And you have introduced me to many authors who have enlarged my faith.
    Thank you for that!

    I think there is something new starting in the world today. The Shepherd seems to be leaving the 99 in the fold and going out into the secular materialistic world to seek out the other sheep that are no longer being reached by religious institutions. He seems to be quite willing to dwell with them out there, letting them know that it’s OK, that Jesus is bigger than institutional Christianity and that He will always be there for them whether they ever go near a church or not. This doesn’t negate church; instead, it gives it a new definition, enlarges its borders, and gives it new purpose in today’s world. And blogs like yours are helping Him to do just that!
    Unfortunately, the church often acts just like the older brother in the story of the prodigal son.

    Liked by 1 person

    • theotherlestrangegirl says:

      Dennis, I really hope you’re correct about more and more people accepting this way of thinking. That would be lovely! I would love to see fundamentalism end for good.

      If it makes you feel better, I am also a person who rebelled quite a bit. I could no longer stomach worshipping a god I thought to be cruel, angry, and sadistic. Seriously, why would I worship a god like that? I’m just so thankful that I learned much better.

      Interestingly, there is a piece of children’s literature that sort of parallels the way we think about God to me, which is Peter Pan. I’m sure you’re familiar with the book or Disney movie, and you may be wondering what it the world that has to do with God.

      In the classic story, we supposedly know that Peter Pan and Captain Hook are lifelong foes, and we know that Peter is good and Hook is bad. We are never told why or how their rivalry starts, but just that it’s there. We don’t stop, for just a second, and think that maybe we don’t have the whole story.

      The interesting thing is that many people have done studies and re-readings of the original text, only to ascertain that we have been misreading the novel this whole time and have gotten it backwards. Yes, it appears to many that Peter is actually the villain and Captain Hook is the good guy.

      For those of us who haven’t heard this before, we would ask: How can that be? It’s very clear about what happens, and Peter is only a child so he can’t possibly be the villain. That makes no sense.

      However, it does make sense, but only if you agree to open your mind and see things in a different way. Peter doesn’t “save” children from abusive homes. He abducts happy children from their homes under the guise of adventure, only to force them to stay. There are hints in the novel that he even abuses the boys and kills them when he no longer has use for them. He considers the island he lives on “his” and has complete disregard for anything else that lives there, always expecting them to bend to his will. Some do, but those that don’t (i.e. the pirates) are labeled as “bad” and worthy of extermination. As for Peter and Hook, it is Captain Hook, not Peter, that has been maimed. In addition, Peter continues to incessantly torment Hook about his missing hand, which seems needlessly cruel.

      Some might say, “But Captain Hook deserves it!” But does he? What did Captain Hook do to Peter? That’s just the thing–we don’t know.

      That might seem like a pointless long ramble about a children’s book, but this is actually very, very similar to the way many people read the Bible. They make snap judgments and assumptions without comprehending that a huge chunk of the story is missing.

      For example, when you look at the Old Testament, it’s very easy to see (allegedly) that God is angry, violent, and quick to judge and punish. There are piles and piles of evidence. However, there are questions that need to be asked in order to form assessments like that. In the case of Peter Pan, we would ask: What happened between Peter and Hook? Who really started it, and why?

      In the case of the Old Testament, we need to ask: Who wrote those passages? What did they believe? What other religions were they influenced by? Why did they believe what they did? Where did those beliefs come from? And so on and so on.

      It’s shocking to me how many people don’t do this. I want to be able to tell them that they’re only getting part of the story, and it’s severely obscuring their vision. But so many people seem content with their blurry vision. It’s almost like they’re not ready for the truth.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Dennis Wade says:

        I like your name, and, yes, I do get the literary reference!
        Thanks for the comment about Peter Pan. It did sound familiar, so I must have come across it somewhere before.
        You’re right, even Paul said that we don’t know the whole story, but only what we manage to make out “through a glass darkly”. One of my favorite books while growing up was the “Tao Te Ching” by Lao Tze. In it he refers to the Divine Intelligence that maintains the universe as the “Tao”, and he says: “The Tao that can be named is not the true Tao”. By that he meant that God is greater than we can imagine, and of course he is right.
        We only know God by experiencing the teachings and nature of Jesus, and by simple observations of the natural world (i.e.: the balance and cooperation that exists in the natural order, the interconnectedness of life, the beauty and diversity of nature). These all speak about the nature of God if we listen. God IS Beauty and Diversity and Love, and takes great pleasure in every little manifestation of life and sees it as “good”.
        There is a verse in the gospels somewhere that says something to the effect that Jesus had many things that He was unable to teach His disciples because they were not yet ready to receive them. And so He used stories and illustrations from the culture and traditions they were familiar with, and He is still doing this today in our “modern” culture, with stories we are familiar with.
        I DO believe that Jesus is using this modern world to help people to see that love, acceptance, and compassion are the only values that bring life, and by doing so, He is speaking to them about God, for God is Love! And no one, no religious tradition, no legalistic doctrine, can claim that they have a corner hold on that Love, for it is given to all beings freely! And if they open their hearts and lives to Love, they will not be able to reject Jesus when they finally see that He is the embodiment of that Love!
        Only those who think compassion and caring for others are minor virtues and of little value will find no pleasure in Him, as many now find none.
        If you look you will find that most people everywhere appreciate and value kindness and compassion, and don’t even realize that these things come from God, because of the stories they have been told about God.
        We need to do all we can to change these stories.

        Liked by 1 person

        • theotherlestrangegirl says:

          Haha, thank you. I very much agree with your idea that we should “change the story.”

          Interestingly, it is taboo in some Oriental cultures to write a book before you’re 50. That’s because you can think you know or understand something for years, only to realize you’ve been wrong all along.

          I can think of a specific Christian author that wrote a book about a particular fundamentalist principle, and then letter realized he was wrong and renounced his book. While I appreciate that his viewpoint changed, I wonder how many people will still see his novel and not know that he feels much differently now and no longer agrees with himself.

          So, to me, the practice of waiting a significant amount of time before claiming to know or be sure of something seems wise.

          Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Strange Girl, I know what you mean about writing (or teaching) too early. One of my regrets is that some of my early fundamentalist evangelistic efforts were so successful that when I began to change my views I could not go back and un-indoctrinate them. So sad.

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      • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

        Wow, Strange Girl! I have never heard that side of Peter Pan. But I can see now how that might be. And I think you tie it in very well with the way some people read the Bible: “but this is actually very, very similar to the way many people read the Bible. They make snap judgments and assumptions without comprehending that a huge chunk of the story is missing.”

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    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Dennis, I like what you said: “I used to say to myself and others that if God really was the way most churches portrayed Him, then I could understand why Lucifer felt the need to rebel! I could not imagine spending eternity having to live with such a being! How wonderful to know that THAT God doesn’t exist!”

      I think this is honest and well expressed. And I do understand why so many people rebel against God because of the things they have been taught and because of what they often read in the Old Testament.

      I also very much agree that, “Jesus is bigger than institutional Christianity and that He will always be there for them whether they ever go near a church or not. This doesn’t negate church; instead, it gives it a new definition, enlarges its borders, and gives it new purpose in today’s world.”

      I think many church leaders and congregations are recognizing this and are changing–a lot. Which is exciting.

      Liked by 1 person

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