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9 September 2010: China Revisited, Part I
I first went to China in 1984. In that year we could only visit Hong Kong and the New Territories. The Cultural Revolution, led by the “gang of four” and fuelled by those called “The Red Guards”, had thrown the nation into a paroxysm of paranoia from which it was still emerging. Suspicions ran high. …
I'd like to take the opportunity to let you know that both my husband and I, Catholics, have been enjoying your newsletters and your books. We have evolved away from the institutional church's thinking (although we still go to church and sing in the gospel choir) and look to scholars like you to inspire and inform us. A Presbyterian friend of mine with whom I have shared your newsletter asked if I would pass this question on to you. Would you please give it some consideration?
The attached letter came from Bill Millen:
Pastor Terry Jones and other members of the Dove World Outreach Center, a Florida church have planned an "International Burn a Koran Day" this September 11.
Pastor Jones writes: We are unconvinced that the "nice" church is winning against the Kingdom of darkness. God and God's people were not always sweet and loving to people and practices that were evil. We hope you will be interested in the book "Islam is of the Devil," a challenge to the Christian Church in general to come out of sleepiness and apathy. We hate the Koran.
This letter concerns me on many levels:
- Lumping all of Islam as evil
- Inspires hatred of a group of people
- Burns more than a book — it burns a way of life, a people.
2 September 2010: The Origins of the New Testament, Part XXXVI: Johannine Epistles and the Book of Revelation
We come this week to the final chapter in our three-year-long walk through the 66 books of the Bible. We conclude with the final pieces of the Johannine literature: the three epistles that bear his name and the book of Revelation that is also attributed to John. Since I treated the gospel in more detail …
Mick, via the Internet, writes:
Hello, I have followed your columns for a number of years and have also read a couple of your books. It's because of your point of view that I have been able to redefine my atheistic ideas (it's hard to accept a magical Santa Claus in the sky) into what I guess you could categorize as (for lack of a better word) a modern forward-looking Christian willing to believe that whatever God is, we can only scratch at the surface.
I have a question or concern with some statement you made in the column, The Origins of the New Testament, Part XXI: Introducing the Gospel of Matthew. You state that the author of Matthew appears to be the leader of the synagogue, followed the liturgical patterns and observed the high holy days of the ongoing Jewish tradition, had a deep knowledge of and appreciation for the Jewish Scriptures and the Jewish expectation that the Messiah would come to and for the Jews. Then you state, "The fact is that Matthew quoted the scripture in a fast and loose way." To me these two statements seem to contradict each other. Would a leader of the synagogue with a deep knowledge and appreciation of the scriptures really play willy-nilly with their meanings to tell his story? Do you plan to address this as the discussion of Matthew continues? I usually agree with and follow your explanations and arguments but this one has me wondering. Any comments? Please keep up the great work.
The last chapter of John’s gospel, known as the Epilogue, is not believed by most scholars to be part of the original text of this gospel. A careful reading of chapter 20 makes it clear that this was how the original evangelist chose to end his story. Listen to his closing words: “Now Jesus did …
Evelyn Evans, via the Internet, writes:
I am an Anglican, but having accepted the concept of a non-theistic God, I feel uncomfortable attending church with all its outdated forms of worship. To leave the church, however, is to lose my "church family" and the human contact, as well as my part in the church's ministries, all essential to the expression of God's love. What shall I do?
19 August 2010: The Origins of the New Testament, Part XXXIV: The Raising of Lazarus and the Identity of the Beloved
We began this study of John with the assertion that the author of this gospel was writing a highly symbolic, interpretive account of Jesus of Nazareth. He created this account some 65-70 years after the events he is describing, which marked the end of Jesus’ earthly life. He tells his readers time and again that …
If I had to give my readers one clue and one clue only that would unlock the Fourth Gospel and allow its honesty and wonder to flow forth, it would be that in reading John one must always keep in mind that the author is not writing history or biography. Indeed, this author is constantly …
Mitzi Roberts, via the Internet, writes:
Thank you for your enlightenment. I find the more we try to define God, the more likely it is that we are on the wrong page. The more I read of your teachings, the more I know that we must not try to understand, but to accept that we will never understand on this plane. The Bible tells a beautiful story and I love my Episcopal upbringing, but I don't have to take everything in the Bible and prayer book as "gospel." At 76 years, it is so comforting.
The last series of books that I will consider to complete our study of the Bible’s origins is referred to as “The Johannine Literature.” It consists of five books: the Gospel of John, the three epistles, I, II and III John, and the Revelation of John. There was a time when people generally assumed that …
Bert Knapp from Granbury, Texas, writes:
I have just finished reading your latest book, Eternal Life: A New Vision. I believe the thought you stated, but I have been afraid and almost ashamed to admit it. I am 81 years old and my journey of faith has involved many changes. I certainly enjoy reading your weekly columns and look forward each week to reading your latest series on "The Origins of the New Testament." After reading your book, however, I am curious about your position on prayer. I will appreciate receiving your thoughts.
A grateful reader.
29 July 2010: The Origins of the New Testament, Part XXXI: The General Epistles — James, I & II Peter and Jude
When we come near the end of the New Testament, we run into four small books that bear the names of well-known figures in the gospel tradition. They are James and I Peter, each of which consists of five chapters; then there is II Peter with three chapters and finally Jude with only one. James …
John, via the Internet, writes:
For some time now, I have been reading your weekly essays and I have read many of your books. Your understanding of the Bible and your insight into it are remarkable. I am challenged by your thoughts. However, I read a lot about what you no longer believe, but what do you believe? Regarding Jesus, I would like to see, in a page or less, what your basic belief really is. Do you believe in any of the basic doctrines that we have been taught since childhood?
We do not know who wrote it. We do not know the date of its composition. We do not know to whom this book in the Bible was actually written. We are clear that it was not authored by Paul. It was certainly not written as a letter or an epistle. Its format is much …
sleahead.kerry1, via the Internet, writes:
My husband was raised in Christian Science, but was an avowed atheist all his adult life, often denigrating the faith of others. In June of 2008, a friend gave us a copy of A New Christianity for a New World. After reading this and Why Christianity Must Change or Die, my husband announced, "If Bishop Spong can write this and still be a believer, I guess I am too." I was widowed that August (2008). I shall be forever grateful to you, Bishop Spong, and your message to those of us who have been in exile.
15 July 2010: The Origins of the New Testament, Part XXIX: I and II Timothy and Titus — The Pastoral Epistles. We Have the Truth!
Thus far, as we have explored the origins of the various books of the New Testament, we have not yet come across that familiar form of human religion that asserts: “We have the Truth!” “If you disagree with me, the truth is not in you.” It is our “God-given duty to define truth, defend truth …
Mary Ann Dobrik, via the internet, writes:
I am very disappointed that the Gospel of John is not being discussed next in this series of columns. Elgin United Church book study is studying this gospel, following the question series in: John: 26 Studies for Individuals and Groups written by N.T. Wright. I do not particularly like this study book and was hoping that Bishop Spong's articles would give me some helpful guidance in refuting some of the remarkable fundamentalist claims in this study book. When will Bishop Spong reach the Gospel of John in his discussions? I need his insightful scholarship.
Will Bishop Spong be coming to Peterborough, Ontario to lecture in 2011? I hope so.
Mary Ann Dobrik
When the book of Acts moves beyond the conflict that set Jewish Christians against Greek Christians, it is ready to chronicle the story of how Christianity became a universal human religion. From the capital of Judaism to the capital of the Roman Empire is the story line that the book of Acts follows. The hero …
Dr. Larry L. Ligo, Professor of Art History at Davidson College, writes:
Thank you so much for your clear, informative, exciting, liberating insights into the meaning of Christ for Christians living in the twenty-first century. I first heard of you and your ministry in a Charlotte Observer article when you were lecturing in the Myers Park Baptist Church in Charlotte last fall. I missed your presentation there, but was intrigued by the article and have since read five or six of your books. Thank you.
I also wish to express my condolences to you concerning the recent death of your friend Michael Goulder. I have gained much from your treatment of his work in Liberating the Gospels. I have been trying to find copies of his out of print books, but have not, as of yet, been successful.
Will you be speaking in the North Carolina area in the near future? Do you have a schedule of your up-coming speaking engagements?
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