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

Essay Archives View as a list

21 February 2008: Pope Benedict XVI and Captain Robert Fitzroy of The Beagle

I want to return this week to the book Jesus of Nazareth by Joseph Ratzinger, better known as Pope Benedict XVI. I do this because I was so shocked at the indefensible conclusions revealed in this book that I began to wonder what happens in the minds of people who, like the Pope, continue to …

Read More…

Q & A:

Sydney is a conservative place, where the only approach to the

Bible is literal and judgmental. The God of the Bible seems to

be vengeful and angry. The God in the Old Testament is

particularly unappealing. What resources could you suggest to

help me find a more open and life-affirming interpretation of the

Old Testament God?

Read the Answer...

21 February 2008: Pope Benedict XVI and Captain Robert Fitzroy of The Beagle

On February 26, 2008, my latest book, Jesus for the Non-Religious, will be released by my publisher, Harper Collins, in a paperback version. Since its original publication on February 27, 2007, I have traveled extensively to speak about this book, delivering 168 public addresses in 16 states, eight countries and four continents, including two trips …

Read More…

Q & A:

I am a Christian, a person of faith, but one who

ascribes to the spirituality of it all, not the religiosity. I

have found a church in the Presbyterian tradition in which I can

worship, one that is very active in social justice. Recent

conversations with my atheist brother have posed a problem for

me. He has decided to write an article about the "mistakes in

the Bible" and draw the conclusion from these that there is no

God. Because, he believes, if God is omnipotent and is the

author of the Bible, why would God give information to the

writers that was not true? This is such a basic assumption that

I found myself at a loss to delve into a theological discussion

that would assist him in his quest. Can you suggest any of your

writings that might be helpful for him? He is open to reading


Read the Answer...

7 February 2008: Teaching at Drew Theological Seminary in 2008

I have just completed teaching a course at the Theological School of Drew University. The creative faculty at this respected institution has developed special opportunities in the month of January that allow students to have an intense and concentrated course taught by an outside lecturer that is designed to supplement and enrich their core curriculum. …

Read More…

Q & A:

Since the Bible contains so much misinterpreted

information, what kind of reference should a praying, spiritual

person use? Are there certain translations that are less

derogatory than others? Also, in looking at a deeper and clearer

understanding of the Bible, are there metaphysical understandings

that would enhance one's spiritual journey and that would be

useful? If so, what are they?

Read the Answer...

30 January 2008: Heresy on the BBC

Recently I had the privilege of doing an interview with BBC World Service from its studio in New York City. The program was entitled “Free to Speak” and was hosted by Dan Damon, one of the BBC’s best known radio personalities. The topic for this interview was those religious leaders who seem to be theological …

Read More…

Q & A:

Have you read Letter to a Christian

Nation, by Sam Harris? If so, I think many of us would

like to learn what you think of his seemingly well thought out

arguments in condemnation of religion.

Read the Answer...

23 January 2008: Governor Huckabee: A Second Generation Evangelical Politician

In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson managed to get through the Congress of the United States a national Voting Rights Act. It was not an easy task since Johnson had to maneuver the bill through a Senate controlled by old line Southern Democrats still wedded to segregation. To achieve this victory, he employed his prodigious reputation …

Read More…

Q & A:

You mentioned the problem of miracles and the hand of God in prayer, but even men and women have power to affect the world. In what sense do you believe that God has such power?

Read the Answer...

16 January 2008: Reflections on our Final Days in South Africa

On our last few days in South Africa, we tasted the land in several ways. With Professor Izak Spangenberg as our guide, we went on a four day, three night safari in Kruger Park near the Mozambique border. With Professor Hansie Wolmarans as our guide we ventured into the depths of the historic gold mines, …

Read More…

Q & A:

The news has been received that a California Episcopal Diocese

(San Joaquin) has reached the second stage in voting to leave the

national Episcopal Communion over the issue of homosexuality.

The media is describing the anti-gay position as biblical, the

pro-gay as being against Bible teaching. After reading

Living in Sin and The Sins of Scripture, I

cannot believe that it is that simple. Reporters are not doing

their job of careful investigation.

  • Have these biblical stories and texts that are quoted to

    support the anti-gay position ever been read, analyzed,

    thoroughly debated, and defended in bishops' conferences? These

    are supposedly intelligent people who respect scholarship. How

    can they support exclusion on such flimsy evidence?

  • Am I wrong to think this struggle among Episcopalians might

    be a healthy thing, and that resistance from the highest levels

    might be a way of teaching and illuminating facts and reality,

    exposing the prejudice for the evil it is?

  • Where is all this going? What could or should be done to

    bring about a rational and acceptable result?

    Your thoughts and your comments would be very much appreciated.

Read the Answer...

9 January 2008: Iowa’s Vote – National and International Scandals

In the Iowa caucuses last Thursday a mighty tide of frustration was released in both of America’s political parties. Establishment candidates, well financed, were overturned by newcomers. Political pundits were shocked. They should not have been. If these pundits had only looked at three recent events across our world: one in Pakistan, one in Kenya …

Read More…

2 January 2008: South Africa’s “New Reformation Network”

It is a relatively new organization. They call it “The New Reformation Network.” Its primary leaders are three Afrikaans professors. Two of them, Dr. Izak Spangenberg, Professor of Old Testament Studies and Dr. Pieter Craffert, Professor of New Testament Studies, are colleagues at the University of South Africa in Pretoria; the third is Dr. Hansie …

Read More…

Q & A:

I just finished reading a provocative book,

St. Paul Versus St. Peter: A Tale of Two Missions, by

Michael Goulder. In it he argues, very persuasively in my

opinion, that there were actually two ways of seeing Jesus from

the very beginning of the early Church: Peter's way and Paul's

way. Theirs was a bitter battle, which can be inferred clearly

from Paul's writings about "those who would lead you astray."

Goulder's point was that while Peter won some battles, Paul won

the war.

One school of thought formed around Peter and

the Jerusalem-based followers like James, Jesus' brother. They

held Jesus to be special in many ways, but underneath it all a

human being like the rest of us, who was entered into by God's

spirit at his baptism, which spirit then departed his body on the

cross. The Petrine position was that the kingdom had been

ushered in via Jesus' life, death, and resurrection: the "kingdom

now" view. He also believed that people needed to practice

Jewish laws concerning food, the Sabbath, and circumcision to be

followers of Jesus.

The other position was Paul's, that Christ was

a divine being all along, whose death and resurrection ushered in

only the possibility of God's kingdom coming: the "kingdom later"

view. In addition, followers did not have to follow Jewish law

to be members, since Jesus was the sacrifice that satisfied all

those requirements. (Also, persuading adult Greeks and Romans not

to eat meat and to place themselves under the knife for

circumcision put a dent in the evangelism effort.)

Here is my quandary: given that there seems to

have been at least two diametrically opposed ways of viewing

Jesus and his divinity from the very beginning, and given that

our theology apparently goes back not to Jesus but to Paul (since

he "won" the battle), why are we Christians so arrogant? Doesn't

this argue for a little humility, and even relaxing the "our way

or the highway" mentality that grips the Church? It seems to me

that in the face of yet another example of the humanness of the

words we have received and the process by which they have come to

us, conundrums like the "inerrancy of scripture" need to be

gently laid to rest and we need to be searching for what it means

to be a follower of Jesus in a world that finally must be lived

by faith and awareness of how the spirit is moving in this


Read the Answer...

26 December 2007: My Return to South Africa

For years I have yearned to return to South Africa. I have not been there since 1976 when apartheid was still fully enforced. Nelson Mandela was in jail on Robin Island, his wife was under house arrest, Desmond Tutu was the Dean of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Johannesburg and the Soweto riots, in which between …

Read More…

Q & A:

I have read several of your books and as a result have changed my

thinking I believe to a more rational approach to Christianity

and the Old Testament.

With regard to the Old Testament, I don't recall having read your

opinion regarding Moses and the birth of the Ten Commandments.

Did God speak to Moses via a burning bush and dictate the Ten

Commandments? I think not. It seems to me Moses and perhaps a

group of Jewish elders wrote the Ten Commandments after a great

deal of thought and discussion. The idea of course was for the

purpose of developing guidelines for the people to follow for the

betterment of all concerned. I believe it was decided Moses

would spend time in the mountains and then return with the Ten

Commandments stating they were given to him by God via a burning

bush. The chance of the people following these guidelines was

much greater than if Moses told the people he and the elders

wrote the Ten Commandments after much thought and discussion and

felt as civilized people they should be followed as law.

If they had followed that path, there would have been endless

discussion about what should and should not be included. Why Ten

Commandments? Should there be more? Perhaps less, etc. The Ten

Commandments as we know them probably would be nonexistent today.

The power of religion cannot be over estimated. One only has to

look today at what some radical Muslims have been taught from

childhood, i.e., to hate and kill Jews and "infidels" truly

believing it is God's will to do so.


Read the Answer...

19 December 2007: Christpower

Dear Friends, On December 24th, 1974 I delivered in my Church in Richmond, Virginia, a sermon, which sought to put the Christmas story into a modern context through the medium of poetry. It was based on an earlier poem I had written, entitled Christpower. In 1975 this Christmas piece was incorporated into and published along …

Read More…

Q & A:

In keeping with the Christmas season for the Question and Answer

part of this column, I would like to publish with the permission

of its author, Joy Cowley, a Roman Catholic Christian from

Auckland, New Zealand, her translation of the words of Mary's

Song from the birth narrative of the Gospel of Luke. That song,

called "The Magnificat," can be found in Luke 1:46-55. Joy

understands the essential task of the modern disciple of Jesus to

make yesterday's words capable of being understood in the words

of the 21st century. I am grateful to her for her gift.

John Shelby Spong

My soul sings in gratitude.

I'm dancing in the mystery of God.

The light of the Holy One is within me

           and I am blessed, so truly blessed.

This goes deeper than human thinking.

I am filled with awe

           at Love whose only condition

           is to be received.

The gift is not for the proud,

           for they have no room for it.

The strong and self-sufficient ones

don't have this awareness.

But those who know their emptiness

           can rejoice in Love's fullness.

It's the Love that we are made for,

           the reason for our being.

It fills our inmost heart space

           and brings to birth in us, the Holy One.

Joy Cowley, Auckland, New Zealand

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