1. Donationrwingett
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    02 Dec '07 13:371 edit
    John Shelby Spong was the Bishop of Newark, New Jersey, from 1979 to 2000. He's what you would call (to put it mildly) a liberal theologian. He's a prolific author whose titles include:

    Jesus for the Non-Religious

    A New Christianity for a New World: Why Traditional Faith Is Dying and How a New Faith Is Being Born

    Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile

    Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture


    From these titles you can get the impression that he's not real big on traditional, conservative Christianity. He has a 12 point program for the re-vitalization of Christianity, which he lays out as follows (copied from Wikipedia):

    1. Theism, as a way of defining God, is dead. So most theological God-talk is today meaningless. A new way to speak of God must be found.

    2. Since God can no longer be conceived in theistic terms, it becomes nonsensical to seek to understand Jesus as the incarnation of the theistic deity. So the Christology of the ages is bankrupt.

    3. The biblical story of the perfect and finished creation from which human beings fell into sin is pre-Darwinian mythology and post-Darwinian nonsense.

    4. The virgin birth, understood as literal biology, makes Christ's divinity, as traditionally understood, impossible.

    5. The miracle stories of the New Testament can no longer be interpreted in a post-Newtonian world as supernatural events performed by an incarnate deity.

    6. The view of the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world is a barbarian idea based on primitive concepts of God and must be dismissed.

    7. Resurrection is an action of God. Jesus was raised into the meaning of God. It therefore cannot be a physical resuscitation occurring inside human history.

    8. The story of the Ascension assumed a three-tiered universe and is therefore not capable of being translated into the concepts of a post-Copernican space age.

    9. There is no external, objective, revealed standard writ in scripture or on tablets of stone that will govern our ethical behavior for all time.

    10. Prayer cannot be a request made to a theistic deity to act in human history in a particular way.

    11. The hope for life after death must be separated forever from the behavior control mentality of reward and punishment. The Church must abandon, therefore, its reliance on guilt as a motivator of behavior.

    12. All human beings bear God's image and must be respected for what each person is. Therefore, no external description of one's being, whether based on race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, can properly be used as the basis for either rejection or discrimination.

    Anyone have an opinion on Mr. Spong?
  2. Hmmm . . .
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    02 Dec '07 19:441 edit
    Originally posted by rwingett
    John Shelby Spong was the Bishop of Newark, New Jersey, from 1979 to 2000. He's what you would call (to put it mildly) a liberal theologian. He's a prolific author whose titles include:

    [i]Jesus for the Non-Religious

    A New Christianity for a New World: Why Traditional Faith Is Dying and How a New Faith Is Being Born

    Why Christianity Must Change or the basis for either rejection or discrimination.

    Anyone have an opinion on Mr. Spong?
    [/i]I’ve always liked Bishop Spong (no surprise there!).

    You might like his book Liberating the Gospels, in which he follows the work of Michael Goulder, which he became familiar with while doing a sabbatical at Magdalen College, Oxford. Apparently, Goulder’s work changed the way in which Spong viewed the Gospels (though I think he and Goulder disagreed about Q).
  3. Illinois
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    02 Dec '07 20:131 edit
    Originally posted by rwingett
    John Shelby Spong was the Bishop of Newark, New Jersey, from 1979 to 2000. He's what you would call (to put it mildly) a liberal theologian. He's a prolific author whose titles include:

    Jesus for the Non-Religious

    A New Christianity for a New World: Why Traditional Faith Is Dying and How a New Faith Is Being Born

    Why Christianity Must Change or the basis for either rejection or discrimination.

    Anyone have an opinion on Mr. Spong?
    From the little I've read, Spong can hardly be called a Christian, i.e., I don't see much difference between his view of Christian truth and Richard Dawkin's view. Furthermore, his "new Christianity" isn't new and neither is it Christianity; it is merely unbelief disguised as something moderately religious. I roll my eyes when I hear people like Spong wax eloquent about their veiws; to me the abandonment of the miraculous in scripture, just because the miraculous challenges mankind's current understanding of the world, is the height of folly and mediocrity. Does Spong not realize that belief in miracles has always been the challenge for those who would believe in Christ?

    Tozer once remarked that the world has a special genius for being wrong. People like Dawkins and Spong prove him right every day.
  4. Standard memberKellyJay
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    02 Dec '07 20:231 edit
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    From the little I've read, Spong can hardly be called a Christian, i.e., I don't see much difference between his view of Christian truth and Richard Dawkin's view. Furthermore, his "new Christianity" isn't new and neither is it Christianity; it is merely unbelief disguised as something moderately religious. I roll my eyes when I hear people like Spong special genius for being wrong. People like Dawkins and Spong prove him right every day.
    edit
    Never mind.
    Kelly

    🙂
  5. Donationrwingett
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    02 Dec '07 20:59
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    From the little I've read, Spong can hardly be called a Christian, i.e., I don't see much difference between his view of Christian truth and Richard Dawkin's view. Furthermore, his "new Christianity" isn't new and neither is it Christianity; it is merely unbelief disguised as something moderately religious. I roll my eyes when I hear people like Spong ...[text shortened]... special genius for being wrong. People like Dawkins and Spong prove him right every day.
    The link below is to Spong's website where he talks about Jesus. It is his contention (and mine) that the miracle stories about Jesus were later additions, added during the oral period of Christian history, around 70 CE.

    http://www.johnshelbyspong.com/bishopspongon_jesus.aspx

    I wonder if you would care to offer any comment on this particular link.
  6. Illinois
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    02 Dec '07 21:511 edit
    Originally posted by rwingett
    The link below is to Spong's website where he talks about Jesus. It is his contention (and mine) that the miracle stories about Jesus were later additions, added during the oral period of Christian history, around 70 CE.

    http://www.johnshelbyspong.com/bishopspongon_jesus.aspx

    I wonder if you would care to offer any comment on this particular link.
    Spong uses the same device as Dawkins and his ilk do: appealing to the unbelief in his audience by contrasting the miracles of the bible with a more scientifically plausible alternative. Of course his audience is going to question the veracity of scripture since obviously miracles are impossible. Spong's own disbelief leaves no room to conclude other than there must be a different explanation for the miracles in scripture, or the original texts must have been fudged.

    The problem is, there is no historical proof of any followers of a "non-divinized" Jesus ever contesting a post-crucifixion "divinization" of Christ. Christ's apostles not only witnessed His miracles, but they themselves performed miracles in His name, not only during His earthly ministry but after. It is unreasonable to think that people could have gotten away with divinizing a human Jesus within a generation of His death without any protestation from His disciples. Sorry, I don't buy it for a second.

    Would you like to comment on this link? (EDIT: I don't support the starcourse website (as I've never heard of it before), but the refutations of Spong's theses here are spot on.)

    http://www.starcourse.org/spong/index.html
  7. Melbourne, Australia
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    02 Dec '07 22:12
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    Spong uses the same device as Dawkins and his ilk do: appealing to the unbelief in his audience by contrasting the miracles of the bible with a more scientifically plausible alternative. Of course his audience is going to question the veracity of scripture since obviously miracles are impossible. Spong's own disbelief leaves no room to conclude ...[text shortened]... ons of Spong's theses here are spot on.)

    http://www.starcourse.org/spong/index.html
    As with any theological dispute, you find someone who supports your view and someone else will come up with support for their opposing view. They sort of cancel out in the end - a zero sum game I guess.

    I know a lot of people here in Australia are sympathetic to Spong and his ideas - my Mum is one very ardent supporter. I think it's a reaction to the literal fundamentalism and the rampant religiosity that spreads from the US into other societies.
    The rise of connections between religion and politics here is one example of this - politicians embracing their religion and bowing to religious lobby groups. That's a new feature of political campaigns here and is worrying to many who grew up in an era where religion supported social justice not making social policy. They embrace Spong because he has an alternate viewpoint and is a terrific public speaker too.
  8. Illinois
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    02 Dec '07 22:561 edit
    Originally posted by amannion
    As with any theological dispute, you find someone who supports your view and someone else will come up with support for their opposing view. They sort of cancel out in the end - a zero sum game I guess.

    I know a lot of people here in Australia are sympathetic to Spong and his ideas - my Mum is one very ardent supporter. I think it's a reaction to the lit They embrace Spong because he has an alternate viewpoint and is a terrific public speaker too.
    I'm with you there; I can't stand it when politicians purposefully (and cynically) use religion for advantage. The blight on my country which is George W. Bush is a perfect example. What most people don't realize is that the Bush administration purposefully manipulated believers in the US with carrots and sticks in order to pursue their less-than-ethical policies at home and abroad. As a Christian I've seen no indication throughout the last seven years that Bush or his cronies are genuine believers in a sovereign and just God, since I cannot imagine a person in genuine fear of God's judgment willingly pushing for a preemptive war with Iraq to the point of manipulating the justifying evidence.

    And for that reason I don't understand the relationship between George W. Bush and literal fundamentalism. Where is the correlation?
  9. Melbourne, Australia
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    02 Dec '07 23:52
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    I'm with you there; I can't stand it when politicians purposefully (and cynically) use religion for advantage. The blight on my country which is George W. Bush is a perfect example. What most people don't realize is that the Bush administration purposefully manipulated believers in the US with carrots and sticks in order to pursue their less-than-ethic ...[text shortened]... relationship between George W. Bush and literal fundamentalism. Where is the correlation?
    Is that a rhetorical question?
    I'm not claiming a link between George Bush and fundamentalism. I wouldn't claim to know enough about American politics for that.
  10. Donationrwingett
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    03 Dec '07 00:59
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    Spong uses the same device as Dawkins and his ilk do: appealing to the unbelief in his audience by contrasting the miracles of the bible with a more scientifically plausible alternative. Of course his audience is going to question the veracity of scripture since obviously miracles are impossible. Spong's own disbelief leaves no room to conclude ...[text shortened]... ons of Spong's theses here are spot on.)

    http://www.starcourse.org/spong/index.html
    He's not appealing to your "unbelief." He's a bishop, for cryin' out loud. He's trying to drag your belief out of the middle ages and make it relevant to the 21st century. Spong is a believer. His beliefs just happen to be quite different from your's. If you would look into the growing body of work being done over the origins of the bible and the early history of Christianity, you'd see that he's right on the mark with his research.

    I looked at your website. Needless to say, I was not impressed. It seemed to consist largely of someone who was far too fond of using the phrase "Refuted QED" in cases where it was not warranted.
  11. Donationkirksey957
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    03 Dec '07 02:07
    Originally posted by rwingett
    He's not appealing to your "unbelief." He's a bishop, for cryin' out loud. He's trying to drag your belief out of the middle ages and make it relevant to the 21st century. Spong is a believer. His beliefs just happen to be quite different from your's. If you would look into the growing body of work being done over the origins of the bible and the early hist ...[text shortened]... s far too fond of using the phrase "Refuted QED" in cases where it was not warranted.
    It is always disappointing to me when new Christians are not affirmed in the faith for where they are. Here you are doing all this reading and research to enhance your new found faith and it seems that a Buddhist and a heretic are the only ones coming out to affirm you.
  12. Illinois
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    03 Dec '07 02:281 edit
    Originally posted by rwingett
    He's not appealing to your "unbelief." He's a bishop, for cryin' out loud. He's trying to drag your belief out of the middle ages and make it relevant to the 21st century. Spong is a believer. His beliefs just happen to be quite different from your's. If you would look into the growing body of work being done over the origins of the bible and the early hist s far too fond of using the phrase "Refuted QED" in cases where it was not warranted.
    He's not appealing to your "unbelief."

    Indeed he is. The foundation of a Christian's faith rests in the power of God; that is, in God's ability to perform miracles. If we take the miracles out of the gospels or explain them away, the integrity of the entire NT falls apart. Spong, in his attempt to remove or discount any vestige of God's wonder-working power from the Bible, undercuts the entire NT message. You'll probably take issue with that statement, but it's true. The faith which Christ and the apostles all look for in others is a faith in God's miracle power -- that Christ has the power to heal lepers, give sight to the blind, make the lame walk, and raise the dead, etc.

    Note what Christ says here:

    "And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, "Have mercy on us, Son of David." When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" They said to him, "Yes, Lord." Then he touched their eyes, saying, "According to your faith be it done to you"" (Matt 9:27-29).

    And also what Paul says here:

    "If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (Rom 10:9).

    God's miraculous power is irrevocably part of the Christian gospel; you cannot remove it without the whole thing collapsing like a house of cards. Spong, I'm sure, attempts to prop up his version of the Bible with weak metaphorical interpretations of the texts rather than what they plainly describe. His faith rests in his own intellect and mankind's current understanding of the world and he calls his audience to do the same. Yes, indeed, he appeals to unbelief.

    He's a bishop, for cryin' out loud.

    Are you seriously this naive? Just because he is a "bishop" doesn't mean anything; there are plenty of "Christians" who are quite religious yet haven't an ounce of faith. Spong is by definition one of them. What exactly is he believing in by believing in his own watered-down version of Christ? Some guy, like Plato or Nietzsche? Even if I were an atheist I would consider that pathetic. I loved Ralph Waldo Emerson growing up, but I would never join a church devoted to him, let alone become a "bishop" of one. Why? Because he's just a man. The only reason I'm a Christian is because Christ was the great miracle-working Maestro, who defeated death by literally rising from dead.

    He's trying to drag your belief out of the middle ages and make it relevant to the 21st century.

    Relevant to the 21st century? What's so special about the 21st century? Unfortunately for Spong, Truth doesn't change to fit the times; if it did, it wouldn't be Truth.

    If you would look into the growing body of work being done over the origins of the bible and the early history of Christianity, you'd see that he's right on the mark with his research.

    I suppose you'd both like to believe that. What slam-dunk evidence convinced him?
  13. Melbourne, Australia
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    03 Dec '07 02:46
    Here's a take on the debate Spong had with William Craig about the 'reality' of the resurrection:

    According to Spong, who described himself as not being a "biblical literalist," it's not possible to be a Christian and deny the "reality of the resurrection." But, says Spong, this reality should not be understood as a physical return from death. What appear to be historical narratives are more properly understood as symbolism employed by Jesus' followers to convey their powerful and ineffable "God experience." A God-experience, says Spong, must be put into human words and our language is not big enough to envelop that inbreaking of eternity.

    Once I heard Bishop Spong's take on the inadequacy of language to describe God, I patiently waited for him to refute himself by ascribing some attributes to God. I wasn't disappointed. In his closing statements, just a few moments after saying "I cannot tell you who God is or what God is," the bishop proceeded to affirm that God is the source of love and the ground of all being.
  14. Donationrwingett
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    03 Dec '07 03:27
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    [b]He's not appealing to your "unbelief."

    Indeed he is. The foundation of a Christian's faith rests in the power of God; that is, in God's ability to perform miracles. If we take the miracles out of the gospels or explain them away, the integrity of the entire NT falls apart. Spong, in his attempt to remove or discount any vestige of God's wond ...[text shortened]... believe that. What slam-dunk evidence convinced him?[/b]
    You see, that's why nobody likes you. Not even Jesus, I'd warrant. You proclaim your particular version of Christianity to be THE ONE TRUE FAITH to the exclusion of all others. What if Spong did bring more people into the church by divesting it of all its supernatural trappings left over from the Dark Ages? Wouldn't that be a good thing for Christianity? But noooooo, that's not good enough for you hidebound literalists. Unless they believe your particular way you brand them as unbelievers and atheists. Well I think Spong is a sincere man who does believe in the power of god. He just doesn't need some tawdry miracles to make the case for him.

    Spong's point about the 21st century is not that the truth is mutable, but that our understanding of it is more nuanced. Our limited understanding in the Dark Ages colored our interpretation of the truth. But we should not bind our views to some outdated modes of perception. I see no reason why contemporary Christians couldn't understand Jesus through a 21st century lens. If that means giving up your beloved miracles as being figurative events, rather than literal ones, then so be it.

    As for the origins of the bible and the early history of Christianity, it's a rapidly growing field, with an ever growing number of books on the topic being made available to the general public. Bart Ehrman is a particular favorite of mine. He's a former fundamentalist Christian who found his narrow views could no longer be supported in light of his research into the topic. John Dominic Crossan and the Jesus Institute, with their research into the historical Jesus, is another. That coupled with research into the other early Christian groups, the Q gospel, etc., etc., all make a compelling case that the traditional interpretation of Christianity is simply no longer tenable. Spong is merely trying to save Christianity before it drives itself into extinction.
  15. Illinois
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    03 Dec '07 07:245 edits
    Originally posted by rwingett
    You see, that's why nobody likes you. Not even Jesus, I'd warrant. You proclaim your particular version of Christianity to be THE ONE TRUE FAITH to the exclusion of all others. What if Spong did bring more people into the church by divesting it of all its supernatural trappings left over from the Dark Ages? Wouldn't that be a good thing for Christianity? Bu e. Spong is merely trying to save Christianity before it drives itself into extinction.
    You see, that's why nobody likes you. Not even Jesus, I'd warrant. You proclaim your particular version of Christianity to be THE ONE TRUE FAITH to the exclusion of all others.

    If nobody likes me because I refuse to pick and choose from scripture or change what is there according to my own prejudices, then so be it.

    Spong's point about the 21st century is not that the truth is mutable, but that our understanding of it is more nuanced. Our limited understanding in the Dark Ages colored our interpretation of the truth.

    You talk as if people back then were complete dolts without the capacity to tell it how it is. But the Greek language is richer than our own -- more precise by a long shot. Surely the minds which created such a language were endowed with the ability to use it? These were not barbarians. Not only that, but the world's most brilliant minds predated even Christ's incarnation. Not the least of which being, Plato. Some of Christ's followers were educated men, and Paul himself possessed one of the most brilliant minds of that era (and others). Surely Augustine's genius could grasp the difference between a physical resurrection and a merely figurative one.

    The point is, the apostles knew exactly what they were saying, and nowhere did they purposefully specify that they spoke of the resurrection in purely figurative terms (which would have been an utterly necessary thing to underscore, if it were true). It's a convenient misconception which feeds Spong's idea that Christ's followers were unable to express themselves, or say exactly what they meant, simply because they "lived a long time ago." If he gave them any more credit, perhaps he might be better acquainted with the Truth which they so ardently championed unto death.

    What if Spong did bring more people into the church by divesting it of all its supernatural trappings left over from the Dark Ages? Wouldn't that be a good thing for Christianity?

    I suppose, if you're concerned with sheer numbers of converts. But at what cost? A Christ stripped of His authority and power? A congregation of followers unable to live in the power of the Holy Spirit for lack of faith? A dead church? You have to ask yourself: what are you believing in if you strip Christ of His authority and power? What is left?

    There is real wonder-working power in Christ, then and now. And He'll be returning to the earth someday, so I suggest you get the matter straight. Sacrificing the Truth to the whims of contemporary thought is hardly a good start; in fact, in the end it will appear downright foolish. Don't be a fool.

    Well I think Spong is a sincere man who does believe in the power of god. He just doesn't need some tawdry miracles to make the case for him.

    Tawdry? As in cheap, low, mean, showy, and gaudy? You would seriously characterize Christ raising Lazarus from the grave as a "tawdry" miracle? Or the healing of the ten lepers? Or the healing of the cripples? All tawdry? How about Christ's own resurrection from the dead? Tawdry, too? Are the works of God really so cheap?

    Spong is merely trying to save Christianity before it drives itself into extinction.

    The Gospel as the original authors meant for it to be understood will continue to be preached throughout the earth for another two millenia if need be. It is utterly laughable to think that mere men, flesh and blood, will help or hinder it in any way.

    "So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it" (Isaiah 55:11).

    If Spong had any faith in God's power, he wouldn't be so willing to sacrifice God's word to the fickle winds of popular opinion in order to "save it from extinction."
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