Essay Archives View as a list
10 May 2012: A Meditation on the Meaning of a Brief Life
They were a very happy young couple. Both the wife and the husband were successful professionally. They had worked hard to achieve this success, postponing much of what young adults think of as fun in order to pursue their goals. They were in their early thirties when they met, fell in love and decided to …
3 May 2012: The Vatican vs. the Nuns
Perhaps it takes a political campaign to reveal the fault lines in both our nation and in institutional religion. At least that is what appears to be happening in current American politics. The political season has a way of loosening latent fears, exciting the extremists and bringing silliness to the political arena. We have watched …
This has been a most unusual day for me. I picked up Vincent Bugliosi’s new book, Divinity of Doubt, at the library. I agree with Bugliosi, whom I do not know. I defined myself before reading this book as a spiritual atheist, but now I think the term agnostic is more suitable. Until today, I always felt I had to know, but in reality I do not see how that is possible. I do not know if there is a God or there is not a God. I am much more comfortable with uncertainty than the certainty expressed in the Christian religion and creeds. I have been reading a book on Spiritual Literacy by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat that gathers spiritual expressions from many different literary sources. It is quite refreshing. I do not need to know. I am at peace. I experience joy on the things I learn that resonate with my own spirit.
26 April 2012: “Think Different – Accept Uncertainty” Part IX: What is the Human Reality Our Ancestors Called Original Sin?
What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be alive? Why are we constituted the way we are? What was there and what is there about our humanity that caused our ancestors to develop a mythological understanding of human life, portraying it as fallen and infected with what they called “original …
I would guess that this letter could be, or has been, duplicated in its essence by many who have written to you. Recently, I began reading The Sins of Scripture, having asked those same questions, without receiving authoritative answers, for over 50 years. Not once, in all that time, have I ever found a church person, deacon, minister or other who has ever understood why I was asking curly questions. Year after year, first in the UK for 32 years and then in New Zealand, I have hoped to find someone who will give me straight answers, explain the inconsistencies - and not let God cop out of the bad stuff. Finally, I have found someone who thinks like me, but is wise enough not just to have the questions, but the answers as well. You have changed my Christian life from one who has dragged along under the cloud of “Ah well, I suppose there are some things we’re not meant to understand, I’ll just keep plodding along” to “Halleluia, the sun has come out and NOW I know where I’m going.” Please accept my deepest thanks for your unbelievable courage in daring to speak the truth. It can’t have been easy and I am sure you will have many critics and even enemies but if those blind would only see, they would realize that you are their kindest friend. I am wholly and sincerely grateful to have found God again in a guise I can relate to and serve.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend and Right Honorable Dr. Rowan Williams, has recently announced his plans to retire at year’s end. This announcement was greeted with little notice or emotion. This fact may be attributed to the declining influence in the Western world of religion in general and of Christianity in particular or …
I am hoping you can answer my question. The thing is, I have been very worried for some time and even more so now. I've heard and read some parts (from various websites) of Revelations. I'm a 27-year old man, nearly 28, and I'm scared! I'm scared that the world will end! I hope that I don't sound silly, but then again I hope I'm worrying about nothing. With 2012 being repeatedly said to be the end constantly, I guess it grinds you down eventually and I see many natural disasters, wars, economic failures and nuclear weapons, divisions between countries. I want to live free of these constant worries, but the way of the world is really getting me down. I'm half full of optimism and the rest is filled with fear and despair. I do hope you can get back to me. I have been watching you on YouTube and have found your words to be so comforting.
12 April 2012: On Being Honored by the Jesus Seminar
In the early spring of this year the Jesus Seminar paid me a special tribute at its meeting held in Salem, Oregon. First, I was invited to give two lectures to the assembled hosts of scholars and guests on “Changing the Christian Paradigm from Salvation to Wholeness.” Next, I was featured in an hour long, …
The argument before the Supreme Court as to whether the Federal government can mandate health insurance for all citizens represents a fascinating dance around shifting realities. It is an argument that totters between the values inherent in an interdependent society and those cherished by an individualistic society. The reality is, however, that in an ever-shrinking …
You have said that there is no mention of the Virgin Birth prior until the ninth decade when Matthew wrote the first account of the miraculous Nativity. You also say that there is no reference to a miracle associated with Jesus prior to the gospel of Mark. How can you make these statements since they violate Lutheran doctrine of the Word?
29 March 2012: “Think Different – Accept Uncertainty” Part VIII: Deconstructing the Story of the Fall
The way Christians have told the Christ story, beginning with Augustine in the fourth century and continuing through Anselm in the twelfth century, is to postulate an original and perfect creation from which human life has fallen. This original perfection was first perverted and then lost by an act of human disobedience. At least that …
I would love to hear your thoughts on the so-called “lost years” of Jesus. I’ve been reading some late 1880’s books about how Jesus went to and studied in India during that time. Thank you for your thoughts and for sharing them. I’ve only recently become acquainted with your work and just ordered your two newest books. I’m looking forward to reading them.
22 March 2012: “Think Different – Accept Uncertainty” Part VII: The Corruption of Human Life According to the Bible
In the beginning all was good, said the oldest biblical story of creation (Gen. 2:4b-3:24). That goodness was symbolized by the portrait of life in the Garden of Eden, a garden that contained everything for which a human being could yearn. There was ample water, fruit and vegetation. The author of the story even asserted …
One of my readers, Sunny Hill, sent me this open letter from a friend of hers to Rick Santorum about the role of religion in government. I thought it was worth passing on to my readers.
She says that the author Jon Carroll writes from a secular perspective, but I find it expressive of my own religious concerns.
~John Shelby Spong
Note: See the Announcements section for a clarification on the order of the entries in this series. Bad theology is inevitable when it is based on bad anthropology! That is, the way we understand human life always determines the way we understand God. This becomes very clear when religious people begin to grapple with and …
You have been one of the pioneers in an understanding of Christianity which for some time has been identified as progressive Christianity. Please describe the evolution, present status, characteristics and impact of progressive Christianity and your projections for its future. Thank you.
8 March 2012: The Contraception Debate: Is Misogyny on the Rise?
Here is some of the evidence. In Virginia, the State Legislature was poised to pass and Republican Governor Bob McDonnell to sign a bill requiring a vaginally-invasive medical procedure be performed on any woman seeking an abortion until a massive demonstration of female voting power caused them to “modify” it very slightly. In the United …
A couple of weeks ago, we found two demonstrators across the street from the church as the 11:15 service ended. They had a giant prop Bible, about six feet tall, on which was printed “The Holy Bible by Jesus.” They also had their own PA system. They had a variety of complaints: A Muslim as a guest in the pulpit; marriage equality; the ordination of women. There was lots of talk of heresy and blasphemy, all delivered with a high degree of anger, venom – and volume.
As you have said, the defense of bigotry is never rational and I wouldn’t expect to be able to have a conversation with these people. What I don’t understand is that their views on LGBT issues are not really different from those expressed by Kendall Harmon at TitusOneNine and others like him. Harmon is obviously a highly educated man, with a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Oxford University. His web site proclaims “a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it…..” I’m not sure if a commitment to truth can ignore the witness of the LGBT faithful. I know you no longer debate LGBT issues. I don’t blame you. But I wonder if you can shed any insight as to how both our ignorant demonstrators and many of our highly educated Episcopal/Anglican clergy can hold the same views.
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