Log in | Sign up | Contact us | Cancel my account | Get help

A Manifesto! The Time Has Come!

15 October 2009: 3 Comments »

Visitors: Read in full here I have made a decision. I will no longer debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone. I will no longer engage the biblical ignorance that emanates from so many right-wing Christians about how the Bible condemns homosexuality, as if that point of view still has any credibility. …

Please login or signup to read the full essay.

Question & Answer

Question:

John Compere from Baird, Texas, writes:

My wife and I recently retired and relocated from metropolitan to rural Texas. As independent thinking, mainstream Protestants, we have encountered a "theology" in some of the small fundamentalist churches with which we are not familiar. Jesus is believed to be God and is worshipped as God (i.e. not the son of God, or a person with the presence of God.) The Bible reference usually provided is "I and the Father are one" John 10:30. However, it is our understanding that the Greek "one" is neuter, meaning one in essence or nature, not one person or being. We would appreciate your comment on the origin of this "theology" and its scriptural basis, if any.

Answer:

Dear John,

I am not surprised that you have found fundamentalism in rural Texas difficult to understand. One has to be raised in that tradition, as I was, to know what it means to the people involved. You do not engage this way of thinking by rational argument. The Fourth Gospel is the only place where Jesus claims the identity of God, but I am not sure that is a proper understanding of this gospel. That is, however, is the way the Fourth Gospel is traditionally understood. I have just finished working my way through Rudolf Bultmann's massive commentary on John's gospel. He sees Jesus as "the Revealer" of God who becomes so mystically at one with God that John's Jesus can say things like "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father." John's Jesus is portrayed as believing that God worked through him. Later interpreters interpreted that to be that Jesus was identical with God. Yet in this gospel Jesus is made to utter the "High Priestly" prayer of Chapter 17. That prayer was not addressed to himself, but to one he envisioned as being beyond himself. John's Gospel portrays Jesus as dying. Surely God is not subject to the limits of humanity, but Jesus is. So it is apparent to me that these texts should be read as God being revealed in and through Jesus, but not incarnationally as if Jesus is God masquerading as a human being.

Mark, the first gospel to be written, portrayed God coming into the human Jesus at his baptism. That is not dual nature, but a God-infused life. The earliest records of Easter in the Bible speak of God raising Jesus. The action was God's not Jesus' — again no single identification.

What is clear throughout the text is that people met God in Jesus and through Jesus and that is what the core of the word incarnation was designed to say.

I hope you will find a church in which you can participate without necessarily buying the theology. Don't argue with it, but live out your values and through love be an agent of change within that church. I'm sure there are others like you in Baird, each waiting for someone else to take the first step.

John Shelby Spong

 

Announcements

3 Comments

Please login or signup to participate in the discussion.

In Need of a Good Word?

We encourage you to show your support for positive and progressive Christian views by becoming a part of Bishop Spong's growing online community. You'll receive a new column each week on topics in social justice and spirituality that matter most.

Join the Movement

Free Q&A Email

Sign up for Bishop Spong's FREE weekly Q&A email.

Browse by Date

Browse our monthly archives:

Connect on Facebook