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“Think Different—Accept Uncertainty” Part XII: Are the Miracles of Jesus Miracles or Interpretive Signs?

14 June 2012: 6 Comments »

Last week, we began to look at the miracles attributed to Jesus in the gospels.  Most of them are familiar stories to those of us raised in the Christian faith.  When I was a young child growing up in North Carolina, I was taught that the miracles were both demonstrations of Jesus’ divinity as well …

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Question & Answer

Frances, via the Internet, writes:


You spoke one winter at the Fountains Methodist Church in Fountain Hills, AZ.  My daughter-in-law, Sandy, and I had the pleasure of attending and meeting you there as well.  Ever since then I have been reading your books, starting with your Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism and you make so much sense to this aging adult.  I also look forward to your weekly articles since I subscribe to your web site and learn so much from them.

I was raised Catholic, although my mother had been a Presbyterian and couldn’t quite accept the tenets of Catholicism.  Yet she insisted that my sister and I attend catechism classes on Saturdays and Sundays taught by the Sisters of Notre Dame.  Their lurid stories about death, torture and hell traumatized me and I had nightmares about dying and going to hell in which the nuns assured us that there was a clock that didn’t “tick-tock” as most clocks do, but said, “Never, never, never.”   I vowed that if I ever married, it certainly wouldn’t be to a Roman Catholic….but I married an Irish-Catholic, wouldn’t you know?  My husband had a massive heart attack in 1967 and died in our 23rd year of marriage.  Following his death, I became an Episcopalian where all the color and beauty of the Catholic mass, which I had learned to love, was there but without the rigidity and negativity of the Roman rite.

Now I am 89 years old and know that already I’ve been living on borrowed time and so I have searched your excellent books about a life beyond the grave.  In the meanwhile, I have been infatuated with a very dear physicist, Dr. Michio Kaku.  I heard him being interviewed by CSPAN-2 last October 3rd.  He talked about there being 11 different dimensions in our universe, but we haven’t been able to communicate with any of them yet.  He suggested that perhaps when we die, God takes that tiny spark which was our life and puts us into another dimension where we live on into eternity.  Somehow I was less fearful of death if such a thing were so.  Meanwhile, I can’t believe in a three-tiered world with “heaven” above, the earth beneath and “hell” somewhere underground.  Yet I yearn to be with my eldest son, Terry, who died in 2001 of melanoma which I believe he contracted having been stationed in an office for the US Navy in Da Nang where our forces sprayed Agent Orange every day in the jungles outside of the city.  He had to have been breathing that stuff all of the time that whole year.  I have lost a husband, a sister and my parents but there is nothing compared to my having lost my dearest son.  I long to be with him.  I know it’s asking a lot and I know that you do believe we live beyond this earthly existence….but where?  Will I ever see my son again?  Thank you so much for all of your wonderful books and for your weekly articles on-line and for just YOU being YOU!


Dear Frances,

Thank you for your letter and your kind comments.  I understand the pain of death and the separation it brings.  I have lost both of my parents, my first wife, my brother and several treasured friends.  Life does seem fragile and thus drives us to seek hope and certainty in our religious symbols.  It is, however, not to be found there and those who pretend that they find it there soon become idolatrous.  I tackled the issues you raise in my recent book Eternal Life: A New Vision, but I cannot answer the where question or any other question that arises about life beyond death.  I can write about life, but beyond that only by pointing the things to which I believe life points.

I do not know Dr. Michio Kaku, but I have little confidence in anyone who asserts that there are “eleven different dimensions in our universe, but we haven’t been able to communicate with any of them yet.”  The obvious question is that if we have not been able to communicate with these dimensions, how does he know they are there?  How does he know there are eleven?

No educated person I know still believes in a three-tiered universe either, but much of our liturgy still assumes it.  I do believe that people we love are part of us and we are part of them.  I also believe that all of us are part of something beyond ourselves.  I call this ‘a universal consciousness,” and I define it only as that which is beyond our limits, but I have no empirical data to cite that will demonstrate this conviction.  Life seems to point me there is all that I can say.

All I know for sure is that I am alive now.  I have been made who I am by the gifts to me of many people.  I believe that the word God stands for those gifts that lift me beyond my limits, allow me to escape my survival-driven existence and invite me into a deeper experience of being human.  As I give my life away, I experience life being expanded. As I share love, I find my ability to love is increased.  When I have the courage to be myself, I find my participation in being itself enhanced.  That is where I have glimpses of the divine and intimations of immortality. I wish you well,

~John Shelby Spong


Read what Bishop Spong has to say about A Joyful Path Progressive Christian Spiritual Curriculum for Young Hearts and Minds: "The great need in the Christian church is for a Sunday school curriculum for children that does not equate faith with having a pre-modern mind. The Center for Progressive Christianity has produced just that. Teachers can now teach children in Sunday school without crossing their fingers. I endorse it wholeheartedly."

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