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14 January 2010: The Origins of the New Testament, Part XII: Romans — Paul’s Most Thorough Epistle

If there is one book in the New Testament that might be called “The Gospel of Paul,” it is the Epistle to the Romans. This letter is different from all of Paul’s other work in several ways. First, Paul had never been to Rome and so he had no relationship whatsoever with the Roman church. …

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Q & A:

Sally and Jon from Washington, D.C., write:

Would you comment on the recently passed law in Ireland on blasphemy?

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7 January 2010: Thoughts on the Passing of 2009

It was an incredible year, that weary old 2009. It dawned with the high expectations surrounding the new president-elect. We reveled in the pomp and circumstance of his inauguration. The world greeted this new president with an enthusiasm that had not been seen since the election of John F. Kennedy. In the Obama election, the …

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Q & A:

Sally and Jon from Washington, D.C., write:

Proposed health-care reform legislation included a provision that allows Medicare to pay for "end-of-life" counseling for seniors and their families who request it. The provision, which Sarah Palin erroneously described as "death panels" for seniors, nearly derailed President Obama's health-care initiative. Some Republicans still argue that the provision would ration health care for the elderly. Does end-of-life care prolong life or does it prolong suffering? Should it be part of health-care reform?

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31 December 2009: The Origins of the New Testament, Part XI: Resurrection as Paul Understood It

It is quite easy to see how one could read Paul, especially those epistles known as I Thessalonians and Galatians, and come away believing that Paul saw the resurrection of Jesus as a literal miracle in which a deceased body, quite physically, was restored and walked out of a tomb alive and once more was …

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Q & A:

Jann G. Gilley from Charlotte, North Carolina, asks:

You said in a recent lecture at Myers Park Baptist Church in Charlotte that you believe you love people into being loveable. What about sociopaths?

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24 December 2009: The Origins of the New Testament, Part X: Resurrection According to Paul — I Corinthians

The first written account that we have of the Easter event in the Bible — Paul addressing the congregation in Corinth around the year 54-55 — gives us material that is both scanty and provocative. In order to understand his meaning fully, we need to cleanse our minds of the traditional Easter content found in …

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Q & A:

Charles Brittain from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, writes:

I am a progressive Christian, one who follows your scholarship and that of my pastor. In fact, you have visited our church and I have heard you speak in person. It was a wonderful experience for me. The problem I'm having at this present holiday season is that the scholarship and the traditional Christmas music and the visuals are not in agreement with each other. I feel that I abandon my intellectual knowledge when I participate in the traditional forms of Christmas liturgy and imagery. Can you suggest how that I may enjoy both the scholarship and the traditions of Christmas without feeling conflicted?

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17 December 2009: The Origins of the New Testament, Part IX: Paul on the Final Events in Jesus’ Life

“I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received.” With those words Paul set out in writing to the Corinthians the earliest account we have of the final events in the life of Jesus. Paul was not an eyewitness to these final events, since as far as we know he never met …

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10 December 2009: The Origins of the New Testament, Part VIII: The Corinthian Letters

Paul was a complicated mixture of many things. He was a missionary who traveled hundreds of miles by foot and by boat to tell his story. He was, as we noted last week when examining the letter to the Galatians, an intense zealot who would fight vigorously to defend his understanding of the gospel. He …

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Q & A:

John Ford, via the Internet, writes:

I had to smile when reading your recent newsletter in which you suggest that you might be becoming a mystic. I have always read you as a mystic.

God's peace be with you.


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3 December 2009: The Origins of the New Testament, Part VII: Paul’s Early Epistles, I Thessalonians and Galatians

In our Origins of the New Testament series, I now turn to the epistles of Paul since he was the first author to write any part of the New Testament. My plan is to divide the authentic writings of Paul into three broad categories. There is what I call “the early Paul,” best seen through …

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Q & A:

Donna Fettig from Omaha, Nebraska, writes:

Do you sometimes relate your evaluation of the Bible as a living, progressing document to the Constitution of the United States?

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26 November 2009: A Church Tower in a Shopping Center! A Restaurant in a Church! Is This Evolving Christianity?

I have just completed a whirlwind tour of the United Kingdom — nine lectures in eight days in places as far east as Colchester, as far north as Edinburgh, as far west as Exeter and as far south as London. This tour was under the auspices of a group called the Progressive Christian Network of …

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Q & A:

A. Wiant from Gainesville, Florida, writes:

If we are to presume that being gay is just a personality trait of a minority of people and that gay people should be welcomed into the Christian community as "equals" (whatever that means in this context), how do we consider pedophilia as a perversion of the human condition to be segregated and punished if the source has similar roots in the mind? If this is so, why do we as a society feel that pedophilia can and should be treated and homosexuality should be considered a normal variation? (This is an academic question and does not reflect my own feelings in this matter.)

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19 November 2009: Canterbury and Rome: Ecclesiastical Kindergarten Games

Let me see if I have this straight. The Pope has a clergy shortage and the Anglicans have a small group of alienated clergy who cannot adjust to women priests and bishops and who abhor the idea of homosexual people being welcomed into the Christian Church. Why not solve both problems at once? That seems …

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Q & A:

The Rev. Dore' Patlian from Sarasota, Florida, writes:

I have long been an ardent admirer of your wonderful work to return Christianity to the root values of love, empowerment and healing of the body, mind and spirit. Anger and condemnation have no place in any church or group calling itself Christian. My question is, do you feel Paul and John, in particular, are responsible for much of the twisted doctrines of male domination, exclusion and hatred that are found particularly in Evangelical Protestantism? They did, as you point out, write nearly 80 percent of the New Testament, and Paul virtually invented Christianity as a religion.

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12 November 2009: The Origins of the New Testament, Part VI: Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh

Have you ever wondered what Paul’s deepest secret was? Surely he had one. If you listen to his words, an agony of spirit is easily recognized, perhaps even a deep strain of self-hatred. How else can we read these words, “I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived …

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Q & A:

Rob Friedman, via the Internet, writes:

How do you interpret the episode of Jesus and the money lenders in the synagogue? Taken literally, was his anger out of step with his message of tolerance and forgiveness? Or do you believe the story was devised by later generations with an anti-Jewish message?

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