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Switch to Forum Live View Can anyone answer this question that I have long had about Bishop John Spong?
9 years ago  ::  Jan 22, 2009 - 5:47PM #1
holst
Posts: 245
Below is something that I copied from another site (Wikipedia) about Spong.  I believe this is a quote from one of his books.  It outlines a lot of his beliefs:

    Martin Luther ignited the Reformation of the 16th century by nailing to the door of the church in Wittenberg in 1517 the 95 Theses that he wished to debate. I will publish this challenge to Christianity in The Voice. I will post my theses on the Internet and send copies with invitations to debate them to the recognized Christian leaders of the world. My theses are far smaller in number than were those of Martin Luther, but they are far more threatening theologically. The issues to which I now call the Christians of the world to debate are these:

    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.


MY QUESTION -- Does Bishop Spong advocate for major changes to the basic liturgy, prayers, and forms of worship in the Episcopal Church?  I ask this because much of the typical Anglican service invoves constant affirmations of ideas that are the exact opposite of what Spong is talking about.  The creeds, for example, would be (I think) at odds with what Spong professes to believe in.  Does Spong believe in the Creeds?  Does he support their use?  And does he himself recite them?
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9 years ago  ::  Jan 25, 2009 - 5:22PM #2
RJMcElwain
Posts: 3,013

holst wrote:

..............................The issues to which I now call the Christians of the world to debate are these:

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.


MY QUESTION -- Does Bishop Spong advocate for major changes to the basic liturgy, prayers, and forms of worship in the Episcopal Church? I ask this because much of the typical Anglican service invoves constant affirmations of ideas that are the exact opposite of what Spong is talking about. The creeds, for example, would be (I think) at odds with what Spong professes to believe in. Does Spong believe in the Creeds? Does he support their use? And does he himself recite them?



A good and reasonable question.

Broadly speaking, I think Spong advocates a more informed method of talking about God, heaven, hell, etc. I'm sure if he had his way, we would update the Creeds to be more reflective and meaningful in today's world and in today's language.

I'll make a big presumption here and say that Spong, as I do, recognizes the Creeds as important parts of our Christian heritage. That they were derived from years of "political" wrangling among the early leaders of the Church and have little meaning for most Christians who recite them by rote on Sunday mornings. He and I would both like to seem them brought up to date. Incidentally, there have been several hundred Creeds written over the centuries, but I don't think God has put His/Her blessing on any of them.

And Spong recites the Creeds regularly, just like I and most here do.

Robert J. McElwain

"The strongest reason for people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." (Supposedly)Thomas Jefferson

"He who is not angry when there is just cause for anger is immoral."
St. Thomas Aquinas

One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. Plato
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9 years ago  ::  Jan 26, 2009 - 9:29PM #3
holst
Posts: 245
I also wonder what Spong would say about the Second Coming?

Having read some of his works, I can't imagine that his answer would in any way reflect the traditional, orthodox teaching of the Church.

Would he believe in any sort of second coming as an event inside human history?
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9 years ago  ::  Jan 26, 2009 - 9:29PM #4
holst
Posts: 245
I also wonder what Spong would say about the Second Coming?

Having read some of his works, I can't imagine that his answer would in any way reflect the traditional, orthodox teaching of the Church.

Would he believe in any sort of second coming as an event inside human history?
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9 years ago  ::  Jan 27, 2009 - 9:05AM #5
RJMcElwain
Posts: 3,013

holst wrote:

I also wonder what Spong would say about the Second Coming?

Having read some of his works, I can't imagine that his answer would in any way reflect the traditional, orthodox teaching of the Church.

Would he believe in any sort of second coming as an event inside human history?


I imagine Bishop Spong has commented on the Second Coming, but I don't recall ever reading his thoughts on it. And I'm not sure exactly what the orthodox view of the second coming is. I've heard so many varying opinions and interpretations.

Robert J. McElwain

"The strongest reason for people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." (Supposedly)Thomas Jefferson

"He who is not angry when there is just cause for anger is immoral."
St. Thomas Aquinas

One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. Plato
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9 years ago  ::  Jan 30, 2009 - 8:18PM #6
Kelisha888
Posts: 22
I don't believe Spong is interested in overhauling the liturgy - who would want that job?  I think he advocates more of a personal, as well as small group, reflection and reconsideration of the dogma within the liturgy - a new way of looking at it.

I recently read his "Resurrection:  Myth or Reality?" and found it refreshing and reaffirming.  I recite the creeds and prayers every week, but I don't hold them as literal truth.  Spong writes that God is "out of time," and can be approached as such while not making hypocrites of us for our words.  He uses the "Midrash," the Jewish method of interpreting scripture by examining it from all sides, deriving interpretations not immediately obvious, and and connecting the present and future to the past.  He writes, "For me midrash...was a way to think mythologically about dimensions of reality for which the language of time and space were simply not appropriate...an attempt to gather rational words and concepts around those moments when eternity broke into the consciousness of men and women living in time." 

The many posts under many subjects on Beliefnet so illustrate the transient nature of words and definitions.  I have no idea if the people standing or kneeling next to me in church believe in the same thing I do, but I like to think we have some sort of common goal - to be one with God.  I would advocate with Spong that the 21st century calls us to change our approach to God, but I like the ritual of the Episcopal church and feel comfortable with it, whether I believe it as literal truth or not.. 

My head hurts.

Cheers,

Kelisha*
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9 years ago  ::  Jan 30, 2009 - 9:38PM #7
Icthus33
Posts: 13
Jesus was raised into the meaning of God.

Meaning, what???
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9 years ago  ::  Jan 30, 2009 - 9:42PM #8
Theophilus XX
Posts: 82

holst wrote:

I also wonder what Spong would say about the Second Coming?

Having read some of his works, I can't imagine that his answer would in any way reflect the traditional, orthodox teaching of the Church.

Would he believe in any sort of second coming as an event inside human history?


Given that Spong advocates a Christless Christology, a Theos-less Theology, I imagine he would be likely to feel that there will be a Second Coming but no one shows up.

Spong only stays an Episcopalian rather than become the UU he is at heart because the title of "Radical Bishop" sells books.  As a UU he'd just be another little fish in the big pond of "heresy."

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9 years ago  ::  Jan 30, 2009 - 11:33PM #9
Icthus33
Posts: 13

Theophilus XX wrote:

Given that Spong advocates a Christless Christology, a Theos-less Theology, I imagine he would be likely to feel that there will be a Second Coming but no one shows up.

Spong only stays an Episcopalian rather than become the UU he is at heart because the title of "Radical Bishop" sells books.  As a UU he'd just be another little fish in the big pond of "heresy."


Correct.  Spong is not an advocate of Christianity.  His sole purpose is to demean, deride and debunk the Christian Religion.  I am not saying one cannot engage their critical faculties when it comes to the Faith; but,
at the same time, the traditions handed down to us is what makes us Christian.  If we strip the cupboard bare, what do we have left...?

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9 years ago  ::  Jan 31, 2009 - 10:48AM #10
RJMcElwain
Posts: 3,013
I think the main thing this thread reaffirms is that there is very little middle ground on Bishop Spong. People either love him or hate him. However, without any doubt, he does challenge all to examine their beliefs.
Robert J. McElwain

"The strongest reason for people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." (Supposedly)Thomas Jefferson

"He who is not angry when there is just cause for anger is immoral."
St. Thomas Aquinas

One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. Plato
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