Essay Archives View as a list
3 March 2016: The Sources of Political Gridlock and Anger
It has been a very unconventional political primary season. In the last three weeks two public debates sank to what seem to me to be new lows in presidential politics. In the first of these debates three of the candidates called other candidates for the same office “liars” on fifty-two occasions in that single debate. …
I was sorry not to see you at the Parliament of World Religions held a while back in Salt Lake City, which was a joyous celebration of love, unity and togetherness as children of God. I wanted to ask your view and interpretation of the celebration of Holy Communion. What is its history? How would you interpret it since you do not subscribe to the blood sacrifice theory? Does it still have its usefulness or would you exclude it from a new progressive Christianity?
25 February 2016: Charting a New Reformation, Part XI –The Third Thesis: Original Sin – The Myth of the Fall
“The biblical story of the perfect and finished creation from which human beings have fallen into “original sin” is pre-Darwinian mythology and pre-Darwinian non-sense.” If one were to look at recent Christian history, one would discover that most of the ecclesiastical energy over the past 150 years has been employed against two perceived major enemies. The …
18 February 2016: Charting a New Reformation, Part X – The Second Thesis: Jesus the Christ
“If God can no longer be thought of in theistic terms, then conceiving of Jesus as ‘the incarnation of the theistic deity’ has also become a bankrupt concept.” Some years ago in conversation with the Dean of a theological seminary, he made what he surely thought was a safe assertion: “I base my faith on …
11 February 2016: The Anglican Communion R.I.P.
It was an historical illusion anyway, a cherished and romantic notion practiced in all kinds of theoretical venues. The idea that the lands that once constituted the British Empire would all have a single faith tradition was always little more than a lovely bit of pious propaganda. History has recorded the fact that wherever the …
I am an open-minded and lifelong truth seeker and enjoy your thoughtful commentaries on spiritual topics. Given my spiritual journeys to date, I think that one of the most profound spiritual ideas with infinite implications that I have recognized is that the words “God” and “Truth” are synonyms. It appears that most people, however, have not reflected on what the implications include. I would appreciate your thought on this issue.
4 February 2016: Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Heresy
The Book has Arrived! It has happened in my life twenty-five times before. It seems that one might get used to it after a while. That is not, however, how the emotional patterns work in the life of an author. The moment of the book’s birth is always accompanied by anxiety; sometimes even reaching the …
I admire your work and I am currently working on my master’s thesis on your views of Christianity and its future. I am at the moment dealing with your writings on atonement and Yom Kippur and finding them very intriguing and important for a better understanding of religion. You talk a great deal about consciousness and a probable “universal consciousness,” which might be the next step for human beings seeking God.
Lately I’ve been reading writings by the late Jesuit named Anthony De Mello and some publications of a non-religious spiritual teacher named Eckhart Tolle. If I am not totally mistaken, you find some mystical views of Christianity fruitful and I think these two fellows are bringing some mystical aspects, awareness and deeper consciousness to the modern era. So I would like to ask you if you’re familiar with their work and if you can relate to their thoughts in any way.
28 January 2016: Charting a New Reformation, Part IX – An Evolving God inside an Evolving Christianity
Today, I conclude the discussion of the first of my twelve theses posted on the internet in my hope to “Chart a New Reformation.” I began with the crucial task of reimagining God, which is foundational in all religious thinking. I have struggled to be careful with the way I use words. I have sought …
21 January 2016: Charting a New Reformation, Part VIII – God –“Not a Being but Being Itself” (Cont.)
It was a 6th century Greek philosopher named Xenophanes who wrote: “If horses had gods, they would look like horses.” Xenophanes was pointing to the reality, which all of us face when we try to speak of or to conceptualize that which we acknowledge as the ultimate reality, or what theologian Paul Tillich referred to …
I have a question about the concept of the “messiah.” I understand that this idea comes from the belief that we are fallen people, who need to be saved from original sin and also out of a culture of oppressed people, who were looking for someone to lead them to freedom. My question is this: What does it mean today? Was Jesus the messiah and, if he was, exactly what does that mean? We are still living in an imperfect world and from what I can see, Christians are no less sinful than anybody else. What makes Jesus more of a messiah than any other great religious leader?
14 January 2016: Charting the New Reformation, Part VII – Re-Imagining God: Not a being, but Being-A Place to Begin
In the light of our expanded knowledge, God, understood theistically, turned out to be our own creation in which we human beings tried to fit God into words that met our needs. We were seeking to describe our experience of the ultimate, but we had only human words and human concepts with which to do …
“I am eagerly looking to the essays on the twelve theses that you recently put forth in your column. You have been a major mover in this whole arena and endeavor and I want to thank you for your creativity and your work. It has been most enlightening and helpful.”
Professor Robert Albers, Retired, the Faculty of The United Theological Seminary in Minnesota
“Wow! What a great way to end my year. You know my take on theology. I am loving following your twelve theses campaign."
Anna Curran, San Diego, California
“Your column today is the best summation I have ever read of why the Bible is not “the word of God.” and why the God of the Bible is not even the God we should be inclined to think about in these days. Thank you for your remarkable clarity, to say nothing of your marvelous understanding of what’s what.”
Hal Wingo, a former editor at both Life and People Magazines
“The Twelve Theses are nailed to my door metaphorically speaking.”
Rev. Joel Biggers, UCC New Jersey.
“I understand what you are saying about new liturgies to encompass these new insights and I can’t wait. But what are we to do in the meantime? Most prayers invoke a god that doesn’t act in that way, yet I am still called to pray.”
Elizabeth Oakes (the Rev. )
“The God who dwells within us would let us love all humankind and all colors and races, all lefties and righties, all people of different sexual preferences, and treat women as equal in status to men. Our God in the new Christian religion shall not make use of religious authority to make profit or to oppress or degrade others anymore.”
Eugene Wei, Suzhou, China
“I would like to help, but don’t have a clear idea of what you want in terms of transforming our holy words into believable words of today. As a retired teacher of English and the wife of a Niagara priest, I could be a reader for you: read your emails and put them in whatever categories you have in mind.”
Eleanor Johnston, Niagara, Canada
“Based on your twelve theses I fail to understand what there is left of Christianity that merits calling it so. I am an Episcopalian, confirmed, and a post-graduate in engineering. I accept science, the theory of the “big bang,” evolution, etc. I am also aware of the struggle of early Christians in reaching an “orthodoxy” and the late influence of imperial Rome on Christianity. It is the old conflict of faith vs. religion and I harbor both beliefs leading to a great deal of angst. My inadequate solution is to compartmentalize into “rational” and “spiritual” boxes to stay calm and carry on."
C. Hutcheon via the Internet.
"Just read your New Reformation Declaration. Wow! Oh my God!! Congratulations for taking such a bold move. I am greatly relieved that it is 2015 and not 1515, because I would hate to think of a great man going to the stake to be burned. Intellectually your reformation makes sense. On reflection and in truth. I have known this for most of my life, being much influenced, “stirred, but not shaken,” when I was in seminary by Bishop (John A. T.) Robinson’s book of the sixties Honest to God. Here is the real difficulty I have. Following the intellectual logic and all the benefits of today’s scientific reality does not help me grow spiritually.”
Father Max Augustine, OPC, New South Wales, Australia
“Yours is the voice that sings Christ’s song for today and beyond. You touch the chords where God’s love belongs, in the human heart where it has been all along.”
The Rev. Dr. Patrick Berryhill, Unity minister
“As I read your writings you seem to focus only on God (and humankind) in the third physical dimension. I like to quote Edgar Mitchell, the Apollo astronaut who said: “There are no unnatural or supernatural phenomena, only very large gaps in our knowledge of what is natural. We should strive to fill those gaps of ignorance. So I would love to have your thinking on what to you is “Spiritual.”
Beverly A. Shade via the Internet
“The time for the theistic God is over, but when are you going to replace the theistic god with a Godin words that a modern intelligent person can understand and accept? This involves the topic of Jesus as the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity and the definition of “divinity versus humanity.” Does our God have an ontological, evolutionary dimension and progression?”
Tony Jacobs via the Internet
“When can we expect the language of our liturgies to begin to become more progressive? What can we do to encourage our clergy to move away from the old worship language? Do they face authoritative discipline by using less theistic language?”
Frank Pepe, Poughkeepsie, New York
“I have been enjoying Bishop Spong for years and embrace most of his positions. However, they tend to be negations requiring us readers to construct our own beliefs and expressions, so that we can lift our eyes in hope.”
Richard Hill, Ph.D. via the Internet
“The human need for certainty in face of the realities of life leaves us uncomfortable and uncertain. It is what most strive for throughout their lives. Perhaps we might revisit Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs.” Often uncertainty and insecurity leads us to certainty and security, facing the realities of life. But we are not alone in this need. Shaking foundations is very, very difficult, as one faces partial truths, untruths and tradition. Even Bultmann and Tillich left us wondering.”
R; L. Duncan, Naples Florida.
“This is fantastic! Exactly what I have been wondering about lately. If we could possibly bring about a “New Reformation” Oh how it would change the world and bring people together. I would like to join you in creating “A New Christianity f9or a New World.”
Sandra Sammons, Tryon, North Carolina.
“I am a former Catholic and an astrologer. Your article gave me such hope. I am happy to find such open-minded individuals in the Catholic Church. I want to hear more.”
Martha Dominguez via the Internet.
“God is not to be found in this way, nor is God to be as it were, not found. It is not that the Immanuel promise that Jesus fulfilled would be that God would be within us, although prophets like Ezekiel proclaimed it so, rather that all of this ever expanding universe is within God. God is not confined within the world of space-time or matter and energy. Therefore, no preposition that we use that concerns any of those time-connected or space connected ideas can be applied to God. No before, or after, no above and no below.”
Colleen Fay, via the Internet
7 January 2016: Charting the New Reformation, Part VI – Building the Case for the Death of Theism: The Impact of Freud
First there was the revolution in astrophysics led by Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo. In that revolution, the comfortable assumption that God lived just above the sky, watching over us, recording our deeds and misdeeds in the book of life and ready to intervene on our behalf when needed, was challenged. The result was not only …
I have a question which could be submitted for the Q&A "blog" or could just be answered personally, if that is possible.
I'm seeking a resource, hopefully a book, which does with the Old Testament what Marcus Borg did with the New Testament, that is, puts it in the order in which it was written, and then adds scholarly information about the circumstances surrounding the writing of each “book” in the scriptures.
For instance, instead of Genesis being written first, it is fascinating to think that it was the Babylonian captivity that seemed to spark the need for putting down the creation stories! I wonder why each “book” of the OT was written, where and by whom, but I know all the answers aren’t known. If there ARE any answers or at least opinions, I would like to study them.
31 December 2015: Charting the New Reformation, Part V – Building the Case for the Death of Theism: Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin
In the growth in knowledge about the shape and size of the universe, God was dislodged from the realm we called heaven and in that process God was rendered homeless. As the growth of knowledge continued, all of the things that we once attributed to this theistic definition of God began to be explained with …
I follow your weekly articles and appreciate them. My question: Is there an ontological divine life that exists above and beyond Homo sapiens (human) life, as we know it? What does it mean when theologians say: “Jesus participated in both human and divine life in his very essence”? If we deny Jesus as having divinity (whatever that means) are we not heading toward the position of Bart Ehrman and agnosticism?
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