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Is an Interfaith Future a Possibility in Our World?

21 June 2012: 2 Comments »

Recently I was part of an intensive two-day “think tank” experience on “The Future of Interfaith Cooperation,” which asked the question as to whether the religious violence that marks so much of our world can ever be overcome and be replaced with interfaith understanding and cooperation.  This “think tank” was sponsored by the Chautauqua Institution …

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Question & Answer

Ken, via the Internet, writes:


I am new to the site so you have probably answered this many times over but I have two questions. If a person doesn’t honestly believe some of the things in the Nicene Creed, can they still be Episcopalian? I have been reading about the “Gnostic Gospels” and to be honest, they make a lot more sense to me than some of the beliefs coming out of Nicaea. So many of the “beliefs” in the creed, I find to be so unimportant to the message of Christ. And it makes a lot of sense to me that yes, we try to bring Christ into our lives, do all the things we hold necessary for salvation, BUT there has to be more than just being a good person, going to church and being baptized. This also leads into my second question, my sister and I both had the same experience/vision in the same church while practicing on the organ to play on Sunday. We hadn't talked to each other about it at the time, it was many years later and were shocked that we had both experienced the same thing. We didn't understand it, but we both knew it was some kind of "message." We have both continued to try and understand in our own ways. The Gnostics talk about secret knowledge gained through psychic experience, dreams and visions. How would you see this fitting within our traditional views being Episcopalians and would you pursue trying to understand an experience of so long ago (we were in our teens and are now in our 50’s)? It doesn’t consume my thoughts or anything like that, but is more of a “hole” in my spiritual understanding. Do you think God was trying to tell me something possibly more than just “I am with you?”


Dear Ken,

To answer the second question first, I need to say that I would need to know more about you as well as your sister before I would want to entertain the possibility of responding to this concern. I recommend that you take it up with a close friend or pastor.

In regard to your first question, please know that the Nicene Creed is a product of the fourth century. It is quite obvious that early Christians, including Paul and Mark, did not believe or even debate some of the tenets in the Nicene Creed.

The Christian life to me is a journey into the mystery of God and the life of Jesus is the name of the path we walk. The scriptures point to God, but they do not capture God. The New Testament came into written form between 50 C.E. at the earliest and 140 C.E. at the latest. The authors of these scriptures lived in the first and second centuries of this Common Era and made assumptions, based on the knowledge available in their day that we can not make today. They knew nothing about the size of the universe, the causes of sickness, how low pressure systems turn into hurricanes or the collisions of tectonic plates beneath the earth’s surface cause earthquakes or Tsunamis.

The creeds are 4th century documents built on the basis of a three-tiered universe. All they say about Jesus is that he was miraculously born, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, buried, raised and ascended. They never mention Jesus’ teaching or the impact of his life.

I see the Christ as a call to live fully, to love wastefully and to be all that each of us can be. I believe our purpose as the followers of Jesus is to build a world where everyone has a better chance to live, love and be. That seems to me to have very little to do with reciting 4th century creeds. I recite them because I see them as love songs created by our 4th century ancestors to sing to their understanding of God. I sing along with them with no difficulty.

I hope this helps.

~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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