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1 June 2011: Examining the Meaning of the Resurrection, Part II: Who Stood in the Center of the Easter Breakthrough?

We begin our probe into the meaning of the Easter moment by asking who it was who stood in the center of the Easter experience. People do not always recognize that the claim of revealed truth requires both a revelation and a receiver of that revelation. The revelation may be of a timeless truth, but …

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Q & A:

I recall reading recently a request from a follower asking if you have ever considered producing a TV program.  Frankly, I don’t think a TV program is effective for “this form of teaching/lectures.”  However, over the last month I have discovered an excellent educational organization, The Great Courses.  I do not know what business conditions apply to producing lecture/courses for them (the religion courses that I purchase are all presented by excellent lecturers, including Professor Amy-Jill Levine, Professor Bart D. Ehrman and Professor Emeritus James Hall.)  Although I’m almost certain that a Bishop easily qualifies as a professor equivalent.  Regardless, I am certain that your courses would outsell almost all of its contemporary (traditional) religious programs-and I would be one of your biggest customers.  Anyway I wanted to pass this information along.  Their website is at www.aboutgreatcourses.com.

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25 May 2011: Examining the Meaning of the Resurrection, Part I: Setting the Stage

Through this column during the weeks before Good Friday, I did a series on the story of the cross and its meaning, seeking to call you, my readers, into a more interpretive way of reading the passion narrative.  I focused on the developing nature of that narrative and sought to show that when the first …

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Q & A:

It has been our privilege to hear your lectures at Highlands, and they are always exciting and provocative. We feel your message to the world is “Copernican” in scope and potential.  We have read all your books through the years, but I don’t recall you ever addressing the idea of the concept of the “Origin of God” in humanity’s time.  Do you have a hunch or idea or knowledge of when this concept entered the human drama?

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18 May 2011: New Dean for the Seminary at Drew University: A Rising Star in Theological Education

One of the most enriching elements of my life today is the relationship I have with Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. Located about five miles from my home, Drew began its life as a theological school designed to train clergy for the Methodist Church. Only later did this theological school grow into being both …

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Q & A:

Just recently I have become perplexed over an alleged saying of Jesus.  Supposedly he admonishes us to Take up our personal cross and follow him.  It seems odd that he could have said that before he, himself, had done so.  Was that just a pious thought plugged in by his successors?  What does the Jesus Seminar say about it?

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11 May 2011: Nebraska: Bright Lights in America’s Heartland

Mutual of Omaha. Warren Buffet and Nebraska Football! These are the best known icons of the Cornhusker State of Nebraska. In my mind there will always be one more. Roman Lee Hruska, who represented Nebraska in the United States Senate from 1954 to 1976. Senator Hruska had a distinguished career as a vocal fiscal conservative, …

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Q & A:

A recent question in your column from Mark Dickinson of Ottawa touched a very sore nerve in me. I am an Anglican priest in Ontario and have, for many years, observed the need for intense revision of what is taught in our Sunday schools. Taking the position that a plant starts from a seed and grows into a tree, for example, the process evident is that the seed must be nurtured in order to achieve its potential. It must come from the bottom up. Having been raised Roman Catholic and converting to Anglicanism after my four years’ service during WW II, I can attest to the extreme difficulty in wrenching what I was taught about religion out of my gut. I say gut because there it is and there it remains to this day. It is a constant battle. Therefore, it is imperative to me, at least, that we must reverse the process. More emphasis must be placed in educating the children than trying to reverse age-old teaching in the minds of adults. Yet I have never seen a comprehensive Sunday School curriculum developed and promoted for use in Sunday School. I suspect some may say that the minds of adults must be changed in order for a new approach to teaching children be accepted. Perhaps if a good curriculum is presented to adults for consideration not only will the children receive enlightened teaching, but it will surely rub off on adults. I have long thought that the poorest paid teachers, those in the lowest grades, should be the highest paid. The emphasis should be on teaching the desire to learn. If done well the rest will be so much easier. That applies to all the books you have written (which I have read) and also books that Crossan, Borg, etal have written: "A Little Child Shall Lead Them.” Have we overlooked a vital link in our religious education of the flock?

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4 May 2011: Rush Limbaugh vs. Lawrence O’Donnell – What Would Jesus Cut?

The political debate, as it is viewed on the twenty-four hour a day cable news television channels, is frequently more amusing than informative. The necessity of keeping an audience glued to the set means that insignificant things are hyped into being major stories. There is indeed a crisis a day, sometimes elevating political nonsense into …

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Q & A:

I in no way intend to belittle you or cause you to become angry over this e-mail. I am a born-again Christian putting my complete faith in Jesus Christ as my savior because I am a sinner and have no way to heaven except through the Son. I thank God every day for opening my eyes and showing me the path to salvation. I just want to take a second of your time after reading your thoughts on Judas and ask why you haven’t investigated in Acts 1:12-21 when Luke tells of how “The Eleven” became “The Twelve” again after adding Matthias to the disciples and how the disciples quote the Old Testament telling of the one that will betray the Messiah, and by you saying this never happened, then you are bringing into question not only the authenticity of the gospels, but of the whole Old Testament and New Testament. I ask that you sincerely delve into the issue and ask yourself why you are really making these claims. You talked about when Paul wrote about Jesus returning and showing himself to Cephas (Peter) and the twelve. Isn’t this the newly-formed twelve (with Matthias as the twelfth)? And couldn’t Jesus have appeared to the eleven (in Matthew) because they had not yet added Matthias? I know it is okay to ask questions, but you aren’t doing a good job answering your questions thoroughly. I am afraid you are trying to destroy the gospel piece by piece instead of truly seeking the truth. I pray the Lord will change your mind and that he will be able to open your eyes so that you might believe in him. Thank you for your time and consideration.

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28 April 2011: Peter J. Gomes, 1942-2011, Preacher Par Excellence

Both the United States and world Christianity lost one of its more preeminent voices recently with the death of Peter J. Gomes, the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at the Harvard Divinity School and the Pusey Minister of Memorial Church at Harvard. He was a friend, a prophet and a remarkable human being. The public …

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Q & A:

I am a big fan of yours and the work you have done over the years. I met you in Charlotte when you lectured at the Gay and Lesbian Center and then arranged for you to speak at Unity Church of Greater Hartford even though I was unfortunately unable to attend as I was there on a one-year assignment as Transitional Minister. I am also a big fan of Rocco Errico and the understanding he brings to the Bible from being a disciple of George Lamsa, who grew up in Kurdistan and spoke Aramaic as his native language. It seems that Rocco makes a big point of his belief that the New Testament was written in Aramaic first and then translated into Greek. I don’t think that’s true but I do find enormous help from his understanding of the Aramaic language and his understanding of Semitic thinking, customs and culture. As a small example, according to Dr. Errico, the phrase “a burning bush which would not be consumed” is a Semitic idiom which means having a big problem which won’t go away. I’ve always interpreted that to mean that Moses knew it was his mission, his guidance to get the Israelites out of Egypt and humanly he didn’t want to accept this guidance.

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21 April 2011: Examining the Story of the Cross, Part VII: What Judas Iscariot Meant in the Eighth Ninth & Tenth Decades of Christian Development

Last week we began a biblical analysis of Judas Iscariot.  First, we noted that Paul, who wrote and died before any gospel had been written, was totally unaware of the tradition that one of the “twelve” played the role of the traitor.  Not only is there no mention of this when Paul wrote the account …

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Q & A:

I am a Methodist fan of yours in Fort Worth, Texas. I first became acquainted with your work in my Sunday School class about three years ago. I was astounded and relieved to find that someone else, a retired bishop no less, shared my doubts about the literal, supernatural claims of the Bible, and even further that this person could claim to be a Christian.

I read your book Why Christianity Must Change or Die and thoroughly enjoyed it. My wife is currently reading another of your books A New Christianity for a New World. On page 15 of this book, you describe an encounter with “an iconoclastic journalist who identified himself as an Atheist.” You and he were both panel members on a television program in London and he was well prepared to combat the old fashioned Christian God, but not the new line of Christianity you advocate. This sure sounds like Christopher Hitchens. Is it in fact? Could you provide some more information about the television program?

I have read your comments that of course the angry vengeful God that Hitchens writes about is not great. I rather like these debates between Hitchens and Christian apologists but unfortunately the ones I’ve seen cling to the old Theistic God that Hitchens so eagerly argues against. I would love to learn more about your encounter with him (or whoever this person may be) since you argue so strongly for a God so different from that old vengeful one.

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14 April 2011: Examining the Story of the Cross, Part VI: The Enigma Called Judas

The anti-hero of the Christian story in general and of the crucifixion story in particular is one who is known as Judas Iscariot. Scorn and ridicule have been heaped on this figure over the centuries of Christian history. Much anti-Semitism has flowed from the depiction of this character. No one anywhere names his or her …

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Q & A:

We met at Stetson University in Florida several years ago. I am the Pastor of Colby Memorial Temple in Cassadaga, Florida, a Spiritualist Center. I am currently reading your book Eternal Life: A New Vision –Beyond Religion – Beyond Theism – Beyond Heaven and Hell. Are you familiar with the Spiritualist ideas on death? If so, how do you respond to those ideas in relation to your Christian thinking, even though you obviously think outside the box? Would very much like to hear from you. I do use your material on Easter when teaching the Easter experience to my congregation.

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7 April 2011: Examining the Story of the Cross, Part V: Barabbas – Another Interpretive Figure

In Mark’s original story of the Passion of Jesus, he introduces for the first time in any written Christian record the figure of Barabbas.  In this story we are told two things:  First, it was a Roman custom to release a prisoner at the feast of the Passover, one whose freedom the people desired.  Second, …

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Q & A:

We appreciate that you don’t want to throw out the Bible, but rather to “rescue it” and focus on its message of love. Do you think there will ever be a day when the Bible will include not only the Old Testament and the New Testament, but also the “Newest Testament” that might reflect modern Christian thought?

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30 March 2011: My Friend: Richard Lester Shimpfky 1940-2011

Recently, I preached at the funeral of one who had been a close friend for more than 40 years.  His name was Richard Shimpfky.  Let me tell you something of his story. I first met Richard when he was a senior at the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, where he was described by Clifford Stanley, …

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Q & A:

You have spoken frequently about talking to our clergy about their role in equipping us lay people for our ministries. I am a lesbian, feminist Episcopalian in a diocese whose bishop has an unspoken “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays. Given this atmosphere of fear and schism in our church, how can I help my bishop come to Jesus or should I just try harder to be a Unitarian or move to New Jersey?

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