Essay Archives View as a list
The story of Jesus’ birth has now been celebrated in pageants, Christmas cards and in hymns for almost two thousand years. The characters in this drama like Mary, Joseph, the Christ Child, the Shepherds and the Wise Men are familiar icons even in our secular society. The star in the East, Bethlehem, the manger and …
I'm really bothered by the fundamentalist Christian movement that talks so much about the 'end times.' My daughter-in-law admits to being a fundamentalist Christian, and my husband and I get into some discussions with her from time to time. I'm wondering about your views on the book of Revelation, since I haven't heard you mention it. Do you have any reading suggestions about Revelation?"
Marilyn's husband adds:
I recently reviewed the Book of Revelation, which I hadn't read for some time. There's been a lot of fuss about end times among evangelical friends and family. It's no wonder, in the 2x2 church in which I grew up, that we didn't spend a lot of time reading this book. I have a question about the 12 tribes mentioned, of which 12,000 each are spared: Are they the original Israel and Judah tribes (which couldn't have all been around when this material was supposed to have been written)?
I return this week for a second look at the first of the “Five Fundamentals,” that series of principles which in the early 1900′s gave birth to the rise of fundamentalism in America. In this second column I want to examine the claim that the Bible is the “inerrant Word of God” from a different …
“God wrote it! I believe it! That does it!” Those words adorned the bumper of a car I saw in the deep South. “This is the word of the Lord!” That is a liturgical phrase heard after the scriptures are read in many Christian churches. “The Bible says!” “It’s in the Bible!” Those are phrases …
21 March 2007: The Rise of Fundamentalism, Part III: The Five Fundamentals
I remember well an experience I had as a young lad in the late 1930′s in the South’s Bible Belt when I first heard about evolution. A neighbor was visiting my mother and they were sharing “a dope” (the colloquial name for Coca-Cola in that day, a carry-over from the days when that soft drink …
I can find countless numbers of biblical commentaries that hold a very
conservative, fundamentalist, evangelical, literal and archaic world view.
I cannot find one biblical commentary with a post-modern (or is it post-post
now?), pluralistic, scholastically valid, metaphorically interpretive
contemporary world view.
I have read most of your books, many of your essays; listened to your
tapes (can I get more? Where?) And I have read most of Marcus Borg's
books, some of John Hick's books and essays. All of you relate alternative
(to literalist) and astute interpretations of biblical stories but where can
I get a complete volume? I know they exist somewhere. An excellent example
of this is your interpretation of the Book of Job.
Can you help me with this? I want to help create a new Christianity for
a new world but I need a way to teach not only educated adults but also
lesser educated adults and children. If we could start out teaching
children in a loving and compassionate, rational way, we would not have to
re-program them to a new cosmology, etc. when they grow up and start
realizing that certain things they were taught in Sunday School and church
do not make sense.
14 March 2007: The Rise of Fundamentalism, Part II
One of the things we need to embrace in order to understand the conflicts being waged in most of the main line churches today is that throughout most of human history, the average man or woman could neither read nor write. That is why the Church used art forms, like the Stations of the Cross, …
My name is James Jensen. I read of you through UU World and recently read
"Sins of Scripture" (excellent book, by the way).
Today, I ran across this article on Wired, entitled, "The Church of
author talks about a so-called "New Atheism," pioneered by Richard Dawkins,
Sam Harris and Daniel Dennet that is quite militant about their non-belief.
They accuse moderate and liberal believers of being essentially accessories
in the harm done by the fundamentalists and radicals.
They make a few good arguments, essentially mentioning the fact that no
politician in this country has declared himself or herself an atheist
because it wouldn't be politically safe to do so. I can also sympathize with
the idea that moderate and liberal believers aren't doing enough to oppose
the fundamentalists, who strike me as not unlike the "Nation of Islam" in
their approach to freedom and justice.
It seems likely to me that this means there is going to be a new
consciousness (as you term it) breaking through soon enough but I am left
wondering whether this will be more of a breakthrough in Christian thinking
or in atheist thinking. In other words, is this the end of religion or
atheism? What's your opinion on the matter?
Personally, I am no longer sure what to believe and while I sympathize with
atheism, it seems to me that without "some" basis in faith for proclaiming
that life is not only good but right, crackpots are going to start thinking
they can "fix" human nature, just like people have thought nature needs to
be "fixed" and made more orderly, resulting, of course, in environmental
destruction. After all both the experience-affirming Carl Rogers and the
utopian-behaviorist B. F. Skinner were chosen Humanist of the Year by the
American Humanist Association.
Is the escalating conflict, which is public in mainline Protestant Christianity and private in Roman Catholic Christianity, really about homosexuality? I do not think so. Homosexuality is only the content of the present dispute, even being called by some right wing ideologues “the final straw” that drove them into a stance of militancy. If, however, …
I live in the United Kingdom. I am an Anglican Christian in
the Diocese of Canterbury. We have been asked to provide voluntary help in
staffing and supporting the 2008 Lambeth Conference. This set me thinking
about the nature of that meeting and what might transpire. I am feeling more
and more that the Anglican Communion is being forced by the vocal minority
of bigots into a position where almost the only topic will be homosexuality
and whether the Anglican Communion should be inclusive or exclusive. Any
vote on that issue can only be divisive and could result in schism. I and
many others would value your thoughts on this matter.
Have we reached the place where schism of some sort would
actually be beneficial to the Anglican Communion? Would we, in the words of
a retired, high-ranking Church of England Clergyman of my acquaintance who
was not a bishop, have a purer form of Christianity as a result? He and I
are united on the "side" of inclusivity? I am a member of something called
"The Inclusive Church Movement," designed to change attitudes here in this
diocese. My experience is that although this matter is acknowledged as
vital for the future of the Anglican Church, no one is prepared to discuss
One of our bishops (Graham Cray of Maidstone) is the
Episcopal Advisor to an organization known as "Anglican Mainstream," whose
chairman, Dr. Philip Giddings, led the witch hunt against Dean Jeffrey John,
the openly gay priest who was appointed as an area bishop in the Diocese of
Oxford in which, as you rightly say, the new Archbishop bowed to the bigots.
Bishop Cray is conducting a parish visit here next month. I want to raise
this issue at the Church Council meeting which will bring his visitation to
a close. I will have the support of some of the council and the tacit
support of at least two of our clergy - the incumbent and our retired
curate. Is this occasion the best in which to tie a bishop down? The
Church of England faces financial meltdown as a result of many bad
investment decisions taken over the decades. These decisions violated all
the Old Testament laws on usury, financial manipulation and abuse, of which
there are many more than those laws in the Old Testament which refer to
homosexuality, which nevertheless has been placed in the forefront of the
present debate in the church.
Can you suggest ways forward that will ensure that the Church
remains inclusive - as established by Our Lord - and retains the last shred
of integrity in the eyes of the country it is said to represent? I am
excited and haunted at the moment by words from the introduction to the
book, "Anglicanism: The Answer to Modernity" written from the perspective of
theologians and priests working in universities. One passage talks about
the deep dissonance between the students expectations of dialogue and the
paternalistic dogmatism of the church which the students see or sense not
far below the surface. These are the words: "What they (the new students)
yearn for is wisdom and to be good. What they are told by the Church to
desire is to be saved and to be obedient." Where do we go from here?
I write in great admiration of your stand and ability to
communicate it with such vigor and integrity - long an inspiration to me and
28 February 2007: Why Did You Write JESUS FOR THE NON-RELIGIOUS? The Perennial Question
A new book possesses for its author and sometimes even for its potential readers a mysterious quality. Writing a book represents such a large investment of time and energy that something has to compel the author to undertake it. A novelist, for example, must be captured by the plot that he or she plans to …
When you were talking about secular humanism, you said
nothing awaits a secular humanist. Were you referring to non-realism (God
is not real) and the belief that this life is all the life we have? I
suddenly thought of Don Cupitt. I like a lot of what he writes but
absolutely cannot agree that God is not real or that we have no future in
21 February 2007: The Birth of the Book – Jesus for the Non-Religious
It does not matter how many times it has happened before, for me it is still a transcendent moment. The doorbell rings, a courier bearing a package so important that it merits the cost of overnight delivery, is at the door. I see the return address to be that of my publisher, HarperCollins, and I …
14 February 2007: An Audacious Institution
The Episcopal Church has been in the news recently. One diocese on the west coast, led by its bishop, has amended its canons to remove every reference to the Episcopal Church to deny that it is bound by that church’s constitution. Eleven Virginia congregations have voted to depart from the Episcopal Church in order to …
I am a 63-year-old man who was raised in the Pentecostal Church until I
rebelled and forced my way out at about age 14. I subsequently have lived
my life with the existence of God as an open philosophical question to me
and with utter contempt for all religious structures and teachings. I have
always thought they were self-serving as institutions and for the people who
wrap themselves in those teachings.
I once had a conversation with two doctors who were both raised in the
same Muslim faith. One remains devout in the most human way. The other has
drifted from the religion of his birth. He now believes that "democracy"
is the best religion. I have thought about his concept and your teachings
as I have read them in your newsletter and several of your books.
Democracy, in its purest form, and the Christ experience as you ponder and
teach it. What a marvelous concept. In a pure democracy there would be
neither "man nor woman" nor any other of the differences that exist now in
our world and religions. For me, my recent reading of your teaching on Paul
and the scripture quoted above seems to make "democracy" and humanity the
best religion. As for the Christ experience and your teachings not just of
faith but humanity in the Christ experience, it is something I have started
to think about. I must thank you for a lifetime of faith, work and all that
goes into it so that one day I might pick up your writings, read them, and
begin to think about WHY AM I HERE DOING THE GOOD "CHRISTIAN DEEDS" IN MY
LIFE WITHOUT THE SUPPORT OF RELIGION OR EVEN A BELIEF IN GOD BECAUSE I
BELIEVE THEY ARE RIGHT?? Maybe there is a new Christianity that would
reveal itself in me, but perhaps not in my lifetime. Thank you for
reaching out to people like me. I look forward to each newsletter.
7 February 2007: There is a Time to Grieve: John Harvie Knight 1960-2006.
Life, for all its sweetness and wonder, still strikes us with unbearable pain from time to time. Tragedies that are so far out of the normal order of things are never anticipated. Yet that experience engulfed close friends of mine when a phone call at 4:00 a.m the day after Christmas informed them that their …
In Need of a Good Word?
We encourage you to show your support for positive and progressive Christian views by becoming a part of Bishop Spong's growing online community. You'll receive a new column each week on topics in social justice and spirituality that matter most.
Free Q&A Email
Sign up for Bishop Spong's FREE weekly Q&A email.
Looking for something special? Search here:
Browse by Date
Browse our monthly archives: