Shuck and Jive

Friday, July 03, 2009

A New Reformation, Part 5: Spong

I am enjoying this series on A New Reformation. Here is my pal, Bishop John Shelby Spong. I like him. I don't like him because he ticks off the fundies, but I have to say, that is an added bonus.

The good bishop nailed these theses to the internet over ten years ago. They are a bit dated and actually familiar-sounding now. They are more fully outlined in his book, Why Christianity Must Change or Die.

They are posted all over the web. Here is an accompanying article that goes with them in The 4th R. Like Holy Writ, they have slight variations from place to place. Here is a version I found on the website of St. Peter's Church, Nottingham.

  1. Theism as a way of defining God, is dead. God can no longer be understood with credibility as a Being, supernatural in power, dwelling above the sky and prepared to invade human history periodically to enforce the divine will. So, most theological talk today is meaningless unless we find a new way to speak of God.
  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 the divinity of Christ, 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 a sacrifice for the sins of the world is a barbarian idea based on primitive concepts of God that must be dismissed.
  7. Resurrection is an action of God, who raised Jesus 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 behaviour 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 for ever from the behaviour-control mentality of reward and punishment. The church must abandon, therefore, its reliance on guilt as a motivator of behaviour.
  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.

Part 4, Creation Spirituality
Part 3, TCPC
Part 2, Matthew Fox
Part 1, Robert Funk


  1. Hey John! I like Bishop Spong too and have read much of his work; however, I still struggle w/ the prayer thing...what do you do in Sunday morning worship with prayer?

  2. Hi Debbie,

    That is a good question. We often use guided or silent meditation. People are in different places on this, so we use a variety of prayers with the idea that people can use an icon or image to focus.

  3. I would, but...Spong has been so over-analyzed already. I'd feel...trendy commenting, you know?


  4. Always fun to be called nonsensical and barbarian, and then assured that of course it's meaingingless to feel guilty about it.

    Spong to me is the most Orwellian of thinkers. His method is simple: negate practically every tenant of Christianity, and declare that to be true Christianity. There is nothing to argue against, no reason that applies. War is peace, period.