Essay Archives View as a list
19 March 2008: The Origins of the Bible, Part II Biblical Contradictions, Discredited Attitudes and Horror Stories
The aura of holiness, the defense shield that endows the Bible with an unchallengeable authority, can exist only so long as people do not bother to read its content very closely. That is, of course, what has happened during most of Christian history. Few people in medieval history other than the clergy could read and …
I have been an excited student of yours since the first time
you came to our church in Austin, Texas. You affirmed the
beliefs I held from childhood while I "served" as a daughter of a
Baptist minister. I knew I didn't buy what was being sold, but I
had no way, short of blasphemy, to express my feelings.
I have a cousin in his mid 60's who has had a stroke, making
his life hell on Earth. He is a person whose beliefs consist of
seeing God in the beauty around him and has always expressed a
lot of gratitude for his simple, joy-filled life. He has made
the decision to take his life, because day by day it becomes more
unbearable. His life has little "quality" right now. He is
alone. Friends have scattered and I'm the only connection he has
with the outside world. Now that he has faced the fact that he
really does want to go on to whatever is next, his childhood
fundamentalism teachings of hell keep cropping up and he becomes
riddled with fear. While I want him to be in full control of his
decision to stay or go, and I do not share with him that I couldn't
live the life he's in, I would also like to assist him in getting
beyond this fear of hell and a punishing God. What do you say to
people who want to control the process of their death?
12 March 2008: Sexism! Still a Force in American Politics
The quest for the Democratic nomination continues to ebb and flow as the two rivals struggle to gain an edge. Senator Clinton was presumed to be the front runner prior to the Iowa Caucuses, but Senator Obama won that state impressively. Then Senator Clinton came back to win the New Hampshire primary and looked poised …
I subscribed to your essays a few weeks ago. I live in
Turkey, where most of the population is Muslim. I accepted
Christianity about three years ago and began to study the Bible
with some missionaries living near my university. I realize they
are very hostile to those who think or act differently. They see
people who have different beliefs as inferior creatures. Turkey
has always been the hub of different cultures, different
civilizations, and, of course, different religions. A person
living in this land could never believe that Christianity or any
other religion is the only way to experience God or, in Christian
terms, the only way to salvation. The Christianity to which I
converted is love. It is not magic. I am blind but I didn't
become a Christian because Jesus would open my eyes miraculously.
I am also against all dogmas that limit our minds. Questioning
the Bible or God or anything should not be an act of sinfulness
or shame. Whenever I challenged the missionaries, they said I was
absolutely wrong and I would definitely go to hell. So I left
that Christian church because it did not respect people equally
and did not love as Jesus commanded.
One day, I was listening to Internet radio and
heard an interview with you that inspired me a lot. I felt I was
not alone in the world. You were expressing my feelings very
well. Before I was hesitant to say out loud that I am a
Christian because I didn't think the literal stories in the Bible
reflect real Christianity. You have given me courage to say
openly that I am a Christian. I am happy to know you and to be a
new Christian of this new and ever-evolving world.
My question is, have you ever been to a Middle
Eastern or an Islamic country to deliver lectures or to give
conferences? If you have, what impressions do you have about
them? Unfortunately, war and destruction are almost everywhere
in the Middle East, and there the children need love, the
families need care, and, most importantly, people need to know
who God is. I think you would be much more welcome here than any
missionaries who are trying to convert people and bring them to
their own way of thinking.
Publisher’s Note: Last summer John Shelby Spong began a series of lectures at the Highlands Institute for American Religious and Philosophical Thought in Highlands, North Carolina, on how the Bible came to be written. Originally intended to be completed in four presentations, the material proved to be so complex that the series will be continued …
First let me say how much I enjoyed reading Jesus for the
Non-Religious. It was extremely insightful, debunking the
myths surrounding Jesus to bring out the humanity of the man. I
particularly enjoyed your thesis that Jesus' crucifixion might
actually have occurred in the festival season of Sukkoth. You
explained that, for liturgical reasons, the crucifixion was moved
by Mark to the time of Passover and attached there so that the
commencement of the new faith story would align with the
commencement of the old faith story. This allows Mark to tie his
stories to the Jewish Holy Days and be read on every Sabbath from
Rosh Hashanah to Passover. Matthew then expands Mark's text to
fill in the balance of the Jewish calendar, beginning with Jesus'
genealogy and the birth story. My question is this: Since
Matthew's birth story would have been read sometime during late
April, how did the birth of Jesus come to be celebrated in
December rather than late April? Did it have to do with the
Emperor Constantine blending the birthdays of Mithras and Sol
Invictus (both supposedly occurring on December 25) with that of
Jesus in order to unify the people and various religions? Or is
there another reason, perhaps tied to Jewish rather than pagan
27 February 2008: Holy Cross Lutheran Church: A Jewel in the Frozen North
The wind chill factor was minus 25 degrees. Snow showers fell regularly on the already icy white countryside. It was not the time one would normally visit Newmarket, Ontario, a town about fifty minutes due north of Toronto, but I had been invited by the Holy Cross Lutheran Church, a congregation of less than forty …
I have been fortunate enough to be a recipient of your
newsletter for just a few months. I dropped in to your thesis on
the Third Fundamental, which sent little shivers through me as
you revealed something of which I had not been fully cognizant.
Your words resonate with truth when you illustrate the nexus
between God and evolution, in a way that I believe Pierre
Teilhard de Chardin always did. My questions are "Are we going
somewhere? Is there purpose driving evolution?" In other words,
it would seem that a theology of God and evolution demands human
responsibility to see that plan through to fruition. This
changes the status quo somewhat, from patiently waiting to
purposeful action. How say you? May God bless you and your
ability to make connections.
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 …
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?
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 …
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
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. …
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?
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 …
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 …
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, …
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.
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