As a seminarian, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote that the bible was not to be taken literally. In one paper King practically denied basic tenets of the Christian faith. Does anyone know if the beliefs he espoused in seminary were genuinely held by King? What role, if any, did they play in his ministerial life? I cannot find copies of his sermons on topics touching these doctrines, or later writings on these topics.
Below is an excerpt of this paper concerning these critical doctrines--
But if we delve into the deeper meaning of these doctrines, and somehow strip them of their literal interpretation, we will find that they are based on a profound foundation. Although we may be able to argue with all degrees of logic that these doctrines are historically and philolophically untenable, yet we can never undermind the foundation on which they are based.
A King quote from this same paper about the Sonship of Jesus--
The first doctrine of our discussion which deals with the divine sonship of Jesus went through a great process of development. It seems quite evident that the early followers of Jesus in Palestine were well aware of his genuine humanity. Even the synoptic gospels picture Jesus as a victim of human experiences. Such human experiences as growth, learning, prayer, and defeat are not at all uncommon in the life of Jesus. How then did this doctrine of divine sonship come into being?
We may find a partial clue to the actual rise of this doctrine in the spreading of Christianity into the Greco-Roman world. I need not elaborate on the fact that the Greeks were very philosophical minded people. Through philosophical thinking the Greeks came to the point of subordinating, distrusting, and even minimizing anything physical. Anything that possessed flesh was always underminded in Greek thought. And so in order to receive inspiration from Jesus the Greeks had to apotheosize him [make him into a God].
...As Hedley laconically states, "the church had found God in Jesus, and so it called Jesus the Christ; and later under the influence of Greek thought-forms, the only begotten Son of God."
Next, King on the virgin birth--
First we must admit that the evidence for the tenability of this doctrine is to shallow to convince any objective thinker. To begin with, the earliest written documents in the New Testament make no mention of the virgin birth. Moreover, the Gospel of Mark, the most primitive and authentic of the four, gives not the slightest suggestion of the virgin birth. The effort to justify this doctrine on the grounds that it was predicted by the prophet Isaiah is immediately eliminated, for all New Testament scholars agree that the word virgin is not found in the Hebrew original, but only in the Greek text which is a mistranslation of the Hebrew word for "young woman." How then did this doctrine arise?
A clue to this inquiry may be found in a sentence from St. Justin's First Apology. Here Justin states that the birth of Jesus is quite similar to the birth of the sons of Zeus. It was believed in Greek thought that an extraordinary person could only be explained by saying that he had a father who was more than human. It is probable that this Greek idea influenced Christian thought.
A more adequate explanation for the rise of this doctrine is found in the experience which the early christians had with Jesus. The people saw within Jesus such a uniqueness of quality and spirit that to explain him in terms of ordinary background was to them quite inadequate. For his early followers this spiritual uniqueness could only by accounted for in terms of biological uniqueness. They were not unscientific in their approach because they had no knowledge of the scientific. They could only express themselves in terms of the pre-scientific thought patterns of their day.
And finally, King on the resurrection--
The last doctrine in our discussion deals with the resurrection story. This doctrine, upon which the Easter Faith rests, symbolizes the ultimate Christian conviction: that Christ conquered death. From a literary, historical, and philosophical point of view this doctrine raises many questions. In fact the external evidence for the authenticity of this doctrine is found wanting. But here again the external evidence is not the most important thing, for it in itself fails to tell us precisely the thing we most want to know: What experiences of early Christians lead to the formulation of the doctrine?
The root of our inquiry is found in the fact that the early Christians had lived with Jesus. They had been captivated by the magnetic power of his personality. This basic experience led to the faith that he could never die. And so in the pre-scientific thought pattern of the first century, this inner faith took outward form.
Quotes here are taken from "What Experiences of Christians Living in the Early Christian Century Led to the Christian Doctrines of the Divine Sonship of Jesus, the Virgin Birth, and the Bodily Resurrection" (http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/kingpapers/article/volume_i_13_september_to_23_november_19491/)