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brutaltruth

An Open Letter, Written In Good Faith And With The Best Intentions, To

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Dear Bishop:

As a devout Christian and an avid opponent of Christian fundamentalism, discrimination, superstition and intelligent design, I was pleased to learn that a prominent theologian as yourself would dedicate the greater part of his academic career to arguments (far more eloquent and learned than any I’ve yet generated) against the same aberrations.

 

I was extremely pleased to read of your call for a sort of new Reformation, as I myself have long embraced some basic version of the notion that reformation should not be a one-time event. As societies change, I believe it necessary for Christians to preserve themselves by abandoning increasingly flawed and outmoded religious institutions in favor of a perfect and eternal God.

 

However, I fear the far-reaching idiosyncrasy of some of your proposals could be interpreted as an invitation for Christians to voluntarily exterminate Christianity as opposed to what you theorize as a natural extinction of the faith.

 

The famous “Twelve points for Reform,” which I see as the probable introduction to your theology for many truth-seekers (and, sadly, perhaps the only words some will ever bother to read of it), have proven an efficient means of stirring up controversy in contemporary religious conversation. If only Martin Luther were able to exercise such brevity with his infamous list, the first reformation might have spread much more quickly. However, I fear that all but a few points overreach their goal of conscientious reform, and that your proposals would lend themselves to a new doctrine which spreads the fundamental tenets of Christianity so thin, they would eventually cease to exist. I fear you have altogether given up the goal of assimilating reason and modern science into any mode of Christianity and propose apologizing for the faith to such an extent that no reasonable person could afterwards claim it. In each of your points, I have highlighted what I consider to be obstructions on the path of conscientious reformation:

 

1) Theism is nothing if not a way of defining God. Throughout the history of Christianity, devout followers have sought a better understanding of God, even if that meant going against the religious conventions of the time. The Christian’s seeking of wisdom and understanding of God must not only continue, but it must accelerate. However, to abandon the notion of God as the one supreme being would dismantle Christianity entirely, since Jesus, now regarded as the human version of God, would be reduced merely to a man calling himself ‘God’ in a godless world. To lose understanding of a superior being is for humans to become further disassociated from their sense of mortality and of humility.

 

2) If God is not conceived in terms of a ‘being who is superior to man,’ men and women would evolve a perception of themselves as the superior beings. And if Jesus is not the incarnation of a theistic deity, man’s understanding of Jesus would evolve to His being nothing more than a man of a high degree of “greatness.” Were this understanding embraced, humans would be further distanced from an understanding of themselves as mortal and of Jesus as immortal, creating an influx of Christ figures, thereby creating an exponentially greater division and conflict among mankind than is already present, until finally, Christianity dies a violent death.

 

3) The biblical story of creation should not be interpreted literally. The story of the fall of man is compatible with Darwin’s theory of evolution, however, because it documents what could be considered primates’ evolution to the point of becoming the humans we are today-- namely, the moment we first acquired our sense of sin and guilt, and furthermore, the moment we gained an understanding of our creator, and of free will. (Of course, I do not claim to know the specific details of this event.)

 

4) Even before the Age of Reason, the virgin birth was rationalized as biologically impossible. God does not ask that we reject science, only that we accept the unacceptable where Christ is concerned.

 

5) Even before Isaac Newton, the miracles performed by Christ were regarded as physically impossible events. Christ either defied the laws of the natural universe outright, or he had such a superior understanding of the laws of the God-given universe that he was able to use them to showcase his omniscience. Newton does an excellent job explaining the laws of physics as they pertain to man, but since Christ claimed to be above the laws of man and Newton was not a contemporary of Christ, Newton can never prove Christ a liar on the basis that such an event would be physically impossible.

 

6) Christians shouldn’t feel the need to label themselves with any symbol, but the cross remains the one universal symbol of Christianity. The cross symbol is only as barbaric as the torture we caused Christ to endure.

 

7) Heaven exists in a realm entirely separate from the physical world, so whether or not the physical body of Christ was truly resurrected is insignificant-- he went to a better place as a better being.

 

8) If the ascension story assumes a three-tiered universe, this is only because its writer assumed a three-tiered universe. The very same story has Christ telling his apostles, “it is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.” Luke was describing an eyewitness account of the ascension without knowledge of the post-Copernican space age.

 

9) There is no external, objective, revealed standard written in scripture or on tablets of stone that will govern our ethical behavior for all time-- but we must at least acknowledge the longstanding history of scriptures and tablets that purport to do so, for to claim a unique and wholly unprecedented understanding of God is a kind of vanity.

 

10) God surely will not change his plan for any petty or selfish request, but as a means of acknowledging our subservience to God, prayer can help us on our own spiritual paths. In the worst case scenario, prayer is a redundant ritual to further acknowledge our desire for a connection with God.

 

11) (From your perspective, this will appear to be by far the most contentious of my arguments): As we are creations of God, I hold that admission to hell is not possible, because Satan, already an angel (spirit-being) himself, cannot come to terms with the fact that, man can become a spirit being upon death and thus an ‘equal‘ to Satan. Satan’s goal is to totally void humanity of any semblance of the Holy Spirit, so that when we die, we deny ourselves entry to Heaven and simply rot in the ground. Fear of damnation and guilt lose their standing as motivators under this belief, because whether we ascend to Heaven or rot in the ground, all humans find in death the fate they are truly seeking.

 

12) On this last point, I completely agree.

 

I confess that I haven’t read every one of your works, so I’m sure that I am missing some of the vital discourses which further support and articulate your list. However, in attempting to advocate a Christian doctrine more compatible with contemporary culture, I found your corresponding attempts so troubling that at some point, I had to temporarily halt my studies and outline an introductory counter-argument. Consider these words to be the uninformed ramblings of another self-important college student if you will. I am in a rather early stage of my spiritual journey, but I confess to feeling a great spiritual imperative to enter my own modes of understanding into the discourse of the establishment-- an imperative so great, I can only ask forgiveness for lacking the proper academic credentials before showcasing my ideas.

 

If you have given my ideas even a moment’s notice, then I consider myself grateful. God bless.

Anonymous Truth-Seeker

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Anonymous Truth-Seeker,

 

First, welcome to the forum.

 

For your information, Bishop Spong does not participate in this forum. I don't know, but rather doubt, that he reads any of the posts.

 

We ask new members to introduce themselves in a thread so titled. We would be interested in learning more about your background and how you came to this place.

 

George

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(snip)

However, I fear the far-reaching idiosyncrasy of some of your proposals could be interpreted as an invitation for Christians to voluntarily exterminate Christianity as opposed to what you theorize as a natural extinction of the faith.

 

What is there to fear? People will as in the past continue to interpret as they will. Is Christianity as Jesus taught a way of life or a religion? Does Love as Jesus taught require a label that is to be feared it will be rejected?

 

(snip)

 

1) Theism is nothing if not a way of defining God. Throughout the history of Christianity, devout followers have sought a better understanding of God, even if that meant going against the religious conventions of the time. The Christian’s seeking of wisdom and understanding of God must not only continue, but it must accelerate. However, to abandon the notion of God as the one supreme being would dismantle Christianity entirely, since Jesus, now regarded as the human version of God, would be reduced merely to a man calling himself ‘God’ in a godless world. To lose understanding of a superior being is for humans to become further disassociated from their sense of mortality and of humility.

 

Is God so knowable to you that you would limit God to the definition of "the one supreme being" as if by those mere vowels and consonants you now know or have an understanding of God?

 

2) If God is not conceived in terms of a ‘being who is superior to man,’ men and women would evolve a perception of themselves as the superior beings. And if Jesus is not the incarnation of a theistic deity, man’s understanding of Jesus would evolve to His being nothing more than a man of a high degree of “greatness.” Were this understanding embraced, humans would be further distanced from an understanding of themselves as mortal and of Jesus as immortal, creating an influx of Christ figures, thereby creating an exponentially greater division and conflict among mankind than is already present, until finally, Christianity dies a violent death.

 

Was Jesus really more than a man as we are? If so then what would living his his life as he did prove to us? I think Christianity must change or die but irregardless Christ ( as in the annointing, or as in the smearing together with God's Spirit ) remains.

 

(snip)

 

4) Even before the Age of Reason, the virgin birth was rationalized as biologically impossible. God does not ask that we reject science, only that we accept the unacceptable where Christ is concerned.

 

Is that right? " that we accept the unacceptable where Christ is concerned" Who told you that? Does the God who created us expect us to believe that which we cannot?

 

5) Even before Isaac Newton, the miracles performed by Christ were regarded as physically impossible events. Christ either defied the laws of the natural universe outright, or he had such a superior understanding of the laws of the God-given universe that he was able to use them to showcase his omniscience. Newton does an excellent job explaining the laws of physics as they pertain to man, but since Christ claimed to be above the laws of man and Newton was not a contemporary of Christ, Newton can never prove Christ a liar on the basis that such an event would be physically impossible.

 

Do you have firsthand knowledge or are all here to believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God and all things said are true? Is Jesus reported to have written anything except for something in the sand?

 

6) Christians shouldn’t feel the need to label themselves with any symbol, but the cross remains the one universal symbol of Christianity. The cross symbol is only as barbaric as the torture we caused Christ to endure.

 

Personally, i see no problem if you find a symbol necessary. i also see no problem if you see a symbol unnecessary. Do you have a problem with that view of mine? Are not the teachings of Jesus more important than the torture or any symbol?

 

7) Heaven exists in a realm entirely separate from the physical world, so whether or not the physical body of Christ was truly resurrected is insignificant-- he went to a better place as a better being.

 

What makes a better being? Are we all not creations of the One. (God) ? Is the realm of heaven "separate" or 'out there' ? If so, why was Jesus's message largely the kingdom of God (Heaven) is at hand ? and when demanded when it should come it is written he answered " the kingdom of God cometh not with observation (or outward shew) for the kingdom of God is within you?

 

(snip)

9) There is no external, objective, revealed standard written in scripture or on tablets of stone that will govern our ethical behavior for all time-- but we must at least acknowledge the longstanding history of scriptures and tablets that purport to do so, for to claim a unique and wholly unprecedented understanding of God is a kind of vanity.

 

Perhaps so, perhaps not? Jesus claimed an unprecedented view or understanding of Jewish scripture in his teachings that were significant enough to create a religion with its own name.

 

10) God surely will not change his plan for any petty or selfish request, but as a means of acknowledging our subservience to God, prayer can help us on our own spiritual paths. In the worst case scenario, prayer is a redundant ritual to further acknowledge our desire for a connection with God.

 

I don't think a basic understanding of Progressive Christianity will show any principles that are at odds with your prayer life or anyone else s.

(snip)

 

Bishop Spong may or may not read posts in this forum. If he does it is as a guest as he has never responded or enrolled as a member. I have given some brief thought replies to your points as a member assuming you are a subscriber to his newsletter..

 

You are certainly welcome to join in discussions in other areas of this forum whether you are or not a subscriber. This forum is basically for Spong subscribers only to post threads and to discuss his weekly newsletters. Others may join threads here as guests. If you are a Spong subscriber you may continue to post topics in this area . if not, please use our debate and dialog section and start a related thread in that area if you wish members to respond to your thoughts. Thanks JosephM (as Admin)

 

Regards,

Joseph (member)

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Brutaltruth-

 

You adhere to a very complex and detailed faith. If this structure satisfies you in your need to understand God, I applaud that.

 

The very existence of God is utterly improvable. The additional descriptions of God's form, where God lives, what God thinks and wants... all are a further compounding of this initial improvable.

 

That is why this is faith. Each of us bring our individual needs to the table for clarification and satisfaction. It is very personal.

 

Theology is not, ever, science. It often longs to be but, in the end, cannot.

 

My very best to you.

 

Donald

Edited by DrDon

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