“Think Different–Accept Uncertainty” Part XIX: The Dawning of Resurrection
18 October 2012: 1 Comment »
Behind the narratives of Easter contained in the gospel tradition was an experience that was undeniable, powerful and true to the followers of Jesus. That experience exploded upon them in a manner that words could not capture, but it left its mark on them in indelible ways. Because of whatever that experience was their lives …
Question & Answer
I know this email most likely will never reach you, but that is maybe not the most important thing. The important thing is that I do what I feel I need to do and that is, to thank you. I myself am an atheist and my wife is a believer. We have together listened to your speeches on the Internet. We think that one of the best ones is the “Burke Lecture.” We are both happy that there exists so special a person as you, who has the courage to challenge the harmful doctrines of the church and bring more adult kind of thinking into the religion. Thank you for your courage and we hope you have many good years to come so that more people can benefit of your words.
Thank you so much for your letter, which did arrive and was read. The fact is that I receive and read all of them, but I can respond only to the ones chosen for use in my column. If I were to respond to all of them I would have to hire a full-time staff. I am grateful for your comments. We have done lecture tours of Finland on two separate occasions and have many friends in that wonderful country.
The Burke Lecture was delivered a number of years ago at the University of California in San Diego. It seems that the PBS station in that area of California runs that lecture on the air periodically so I get a new batch of mail about it, which regularly surprises me.
I understand an atheist to be one who denies the existence of a theistic deity, not as one who denies the reality of anything beyond or higher than the human. That is a crucial distinction. A theistic God is, by definition, a supernatural external deity who is believed to come to our aid in time of need. That is what “theism” literally means. That definition, however, is a human creation, yet we assume that this definition and God are the same. Suppose we think of God, not as a being to whom we have to relate, but as a presence that can be experienced, but not defined, a presence understood as the source of life flowing through the universe, the source of love enhancing life in all its forms and the ground of being discovered when we have the courage to grasp and even to be what we most deeply are. God then becomes a verb, not a noun. Theism, as a definition of God is quite dead, but God, as the source of life, the source of love and the ground of being is not dead, at least not to me. I think Paul was right when he described God as that in which “I live and move and have my being.” At that place both theism and atheism cease to be real and I walk into the mystery I call God.
These are the thoughts which lead me to suspect that you and your wife are not as far apart as you think.
~John Shelby Spong
Read what Bishop Spong has to say about A Joyful Path Progressive Christian Spiritual Curriculum for Young Hearts and Minds: "The great need in the Christian church is for a Sunday school curriculum for children that does not equate faith with having a pre-modern mind. The Center for Progressive Christianity has produced just that. Teachers can now teach children in Sunday school without crossing their fingers. I endorse it wholeheartedly."
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