Log in | Sign up | Contact us | Cancel my account | Get help

Essay Archives View as a list

11 December 2008: Splinter Episcopalians: Giving Gravitas to Trivia

Ari Goldman, the former religion editor of The New York Times (and not coincidentally my favorite secular religion newspaper writer in America during my active career), once told me that the only way he could get a religion story on the front page of the Times was to combine religion with sex. I thought of …

Read More…

Q & A:

How do we really know what Jesus said? They get so much wrong. Is it not a house of cards?

Read the Answer...

4 December 2008: The Origins of the Bible, Part XVII: Hosea – The Prophet Who Changed God’s Name to Love

Hosea is probably my favorite of all the prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures. His story is so real and so compelling and his expansion of the meaning of God was so closely tied to his personal domestic situation as to make his witness unforgettable. The story line is not always clear in the text, but …

Read More…

Q & A:

I receive your newsletter and have read several of your books, so I am familiar with your work and so appreciate all that you bring to your readers. I am encouraged and nurtured by your teachings. I am presently reading Honest Prayer, which was not easy to find. The book is giving me new insight and excitement about the Lord's Prayer, and I wonder if you have considered a new edition? If you were to write it today, would you change it in any way? I am part of a group of women who meet on Sunday mornings at our church to discuss a book we have chosen to read individually, chapter by chapter. One of the topics we have studied is prayer. Honest Prayer is just what we need to read and talk about to open our understanding of God and of the practice of prayer. For some time now I have had the feeling that much about my prayer life has involved superstition about who God is and what God will do in regard to prayer. In reading your books I am growing and maturing spiritually and I thank you for sharing your life with your readers.

Read the Answer...

27 November 2008: The Origins of the Bible, Part XVI: Daniel

History is not well served by the way the Bible is organized. For example, the Torah (Genesis-Deuteronomy), which seems to tell a continuous story, was actually written over a period of about five hundred years and describes events that occurred over as long a time frame as fourteen hundred years. Yet it is always read …

Read More…

Q & A:

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?

Read the Answer...

6 November 2008: George Will and the Episcopal Church Ignorance Masquerading as Journalism

George F. Will, a columnist and regular political pundit on George Stephanopoulos’ Sunday morning ABC talk show, is a doctrinaire, but not an unthinking, political conservative. He did in fact endorse Barack Obama for the presidency this fall, being turned off from the McCain-Palin ticket for many reasons, Sarah Palin being one of them. He …

Read More…

Q & A:

Why are you now making financial commentary (see The Drama on Wall Street) when your qualifications speak to religious issues?

Read the Answer...

2 October 2008: The Origins of the Bible, Part XIII: II Isaiah — The Figure of the “Servant”

If I were to ask an ordinary group of people, even church people, to tell me about the message of the prophet we call II Isaiah, I suspect I would be greeted by a glassy-eyed stare. Yet if I were to ask the same group if they had ever heard or even sung in a …

Read More…

Q & A:

Why is the current Catholic Church position on transsexualism so dreadful, so lacking in compassion?

Read the Answer...

16 July 2008: Opportunity Time: The Memoirs of Governor Linwood Holton of Virginia

An autobiography entitled Opportunity Time, written by A. Linwood Holton, the Republican Governor of Virginia from 1970-74, has just been released by the University of Virginia Press. When I first read the notice of this book’s publication, a flood of memories overwhelmed me. I lived in Virginia during his governorship, serving as rector of the …

Read More…

Q & A:

A couple of years ago, I preached at our local (Grace

Episcopal Church in Bath, Maine) trying to communicate

biblical scholarship and truth and their relationship to

our contemporary society. After the service a fellow

retired priest said, "You wouldn't last two weeks!" I

haven't been asked to preach since... is that common


Read the Answer...

9 July 2008: The Lambeth Conference 2008: Expect Heat, Not Light

The bishops of the world-wide Anglican Communion, together with invited ecumenical and interfaith guests, will convene on the campus of the University of Kent in Canterbury, England, on Wednesday, July 16. This gathering is called “The Lambeth Conference,” because it was originally held in Lambeth Palace, the official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, just …

Read More…

Q & A:

How do you believe there is an actual God rather than just

principles by which the universe operates? I feel like everyone has

the equivalent of a radio receiver in their brain and almost everyone

can at least get static on the "God channel" for lack of a better

analogy. They at least know there is really something there because

they can hear the static or maybe even hear a bar or two of music once

in a while. Other people have really good reception and can actually

tune into the God channel and have a dynamic experience. I, however,

don't even get static. All my life people have been telling me that I

can use the radio receiver in my brain to listen to someone far away

and hear the music of life. But because I don't even get static, I

have no way of knowing whether they are lying to me and just want to

control my actions, or whether they are delusional and truly believe

there is something there even though there isn't, or whether there

really is something there but my tuner/receiver isn't sensitive enough

to pick it up. I can tune in mathematics, physics, chemistry; all

these things I can believe in even when I don't understand all the

math behind the physics. But I can't tune in "God." My question is,

"How do I do that? How do I get any kind of reception?"

Read the Answer...

2 July 2008: New Mexico: Learning About a Minority Culture in a Majority World

It is historically very difficult for a majority culture to understand the emotions felt by a minority culture living in the same land. In the 1850s a group of white citizens asked Frederick Douglass, a freed slave, to speak at a 4th of July celebration in Pennsylvania. He declined, saying “What does your 4th of …

Read More…

Q & A:

How do you answer questions about Jesus Christ

returning to earth in a second coming?

Read the Answer...

25 June 2008: Beauty, Wonder and Excitement in New Mexico

I am now convinced that there are no sunsets more beautiful than those that blaze through the evening sky in New Mexico. Perhaps it is the juxtaposition of the New Mexico desert with its high sky against mountains that rise to 7,000 feet in the Santa Fe-Los Alamos area that makes these sunsets so exquisite. …

Read More…

Q & A:

You continue to write articles that both excite and

amaze me. My respect for you, as I have often said, started when you

were my bishop in the Diocese of Newark. Every time I heard you speak

you challenged me and widened my spiritual world. I find today that

often in my prayers I fall back into the humanizing of God to assist

me in relating in some way. When I watch our church being torn apart,

however, I realize how limiting my humanizing is. In your columns I

see in the Episcopal Church a way to a new Christianity and that

enables me to enter my parish and celebrate the Eucharist interpreting

what I hear said so that worship becomes much more personal for me.

I feel that the Church must believe what we say every Sunday, "Thou

shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy mind, and

with all thy soul. This is the first great commandment and the second

is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these

two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

Read the Answer...

18 June 2008: The Origin of the Bible, Part VIII The Priestly Revision of the Jewish Sacred Story (B)

While the first wave of Jews entered the Babylonian Exile around the year 596, a second wave came in 586 after a rebellion was put down by the Babylonians and all of the identifiable descendants of King David were executed. Both groups of captive people carried with them their sacred story, which at that time …

Read More…

Q & A:

I've been much concerned over what seems to me great damage done

by those religious leaders who believe that they KNOW the mind and

will of God — usually based upon a literalistic and uncritical

bibliolatry. I wonder whether you would agree with, disagree with,

amend, or consign to oblivion the following line of thought.

As Immanuel Kant showed quite well, I think, we humans cannot claim

knowledge of anything that transcends the realm of our ordinary

spatio-temporal condition. I think this is so, and it helps to

explain why, in matters of theology having to do with gods or God,

there are so many different and conflicting views prevailing in

various human traditions — traditions of humans who are

obviously quite rational beings. On the other hand, I find it

interesting that, when it comes to basic moral rules, the major world

religions come up with rules or principles that are astonishingly

similar. They are not identical, but there is much overlap and

agreement, I believe, on the most important things. But our basic

moral principles are learned through ordinary human experience —

becoming aware of the consequences of this or that sort of behavior.

Even St. Thomas Aquinas believed that revelation was not required for

humans to learn what he called the "natural virtues." To conclude, as

I have, that one cannot claim to KNOW the nature, mind and will of

God, does not, however, mean that one may not EXPERIENCE a reality

that calls forth one's reverence and commitment. I have come to the

point of regarding much of what is in the Bible as myth, as legend, as

tribalistic propaganda — and, indeed, some passages that if

taken as God-inspired, would imply a God that is not worthy of our

devotion. There is in the Bible, however, a great deal that inspires

an awareness of that which is, indeed, worthy of our ultimate

commitment and devotion. I think in this connection of the basic

message of the great prophets, and of what Paul Tillich called "the

picture of Jesus Christ." A renunciation of absolute and dogmatic

claims of knowledge and an appeal to our ordinary experiences of what

makes life sublime might, I think, lead to greater tolerance —

and openness to the spiritual riches of other traditions.

Read the Answer...

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.

Join the Movement

Free Q&A Email

Sign up for Bishop Spong's FREE weekly Q&A email.

Browse by Date

Browse our monthly archives:

Connect on Facebook