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I have been reading a book by Greg Epstein, Good Without God. On page 111 he says that "there are modern inventions that claim more connection to the ancient tradition than is really historically justifiable "( such as the Episcopal theology of a Bishop John Shelby Spong, author of Jesus for the Nonreligious, which ideologically owes far more to Humanism than it does to Saints Augustine or Aquinas.) Although there is a lot in this book that I have found very interesting I just am at a complete loss as to what the author is trying to say here. Would Mr Spong have any interpretation for the above?

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I have been reading a book by Greg Epstein, Good Without God. On page 111 he says that "there are modern inventions that claim more connection to the ancient tradition than is really historically justifiable "( such as the Episcopal theology of a Bishop John Shelby Spong, author of Jesus for the Nonreligious, which ideologically owes far more to Humanism than it does to Saints Augustine or Aquinas.) Although there is a lot in this book that I have found very interesting I just am at a complete loss as to what the author is trying to say here. Would Mr Spong have any interpretation for the above?

 

I would not attempt to answer for Bishop Spong. However, after reading his weekly essays for several years and a couple of his books, I would describe him -- recognizing that labels can be overly simplistic -- as a humanist in terms of values and a pantheist in terms of theology. Although he is a retired Episcopal bishop and still uses the bishop title, he is far from a traditional Christian.

 

George

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  • 2 months later...

I have been reading a book by Greg Epstein, Good Without God. On page 111 he says that "there are modern inventions that claim more connection to the ancient tradition than is really historically justifiable "( such as the Episcopal theology of a Bishop John Shelby Spong, author of Jesus for the Nonreligious, which ideologically owes far more to Humanism than it does to Saints Augustine or Aquinas.) Although there is a lot in this book that I have found very interesting I just am at a complete loss as to what the author is trying to say here. Would Mr Spong have any interpretation for the above?

 

Dear edtones,

 

Good without God. In my opinion, there is no good without God. that's what God is. Good without RELIGION is a whole nuther thing, however. God=good, Devil=evil. how simplistic can it get from historic principles? One can be non-religious and still have the strong sense of god (good). Saints are a construct of religion. Angels, saints, spirits.....choose your affiliation.

 

Next question is what is humanism, really? Is being human devoid of spirit and connection to what God might be to us? I don't think so.

 

I'd guess that humanism is a part of the ecosystem, (which it is) which doesn't give identification to a human/spiritual connection...only a human/ecosystem connection.

 

what's humanism to you? From what I've read, I can associate humanism with autoimmune disease. Multi-espressions of a term.

 

kath

Edited by Kath
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I have been reading a book by Greg Epstein, Good Without God. On page 111 he says that "there are modern inventions that claim more connection to the ancient tradition than is really historically justifiable "( such as the Episcopal theology of a Bishop John Shelby Spong, author of Jesus for the Nonreligious, which ideologically owes far more to Humanism than it does to Saints Augustine or Aquinas.) Although there is a lot in this book that I have found very interesting I just am at a complete loss as to what the author is trying to say here. Would Mr Spong have any interpretation for the above?

 

I can't speak for anyone but me, but it seems that quote is pointing out that things like biblical inerrancy are modern inventions. Several church fathers supported an allegorical reading of the Bible. That's one example, but there are others.

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Dear edtones,

 

Good without God. In my opinion, there is no good without God. that's what God is. Good without RELIGION is a whole nuther thing, however. God=good, Devil=evil. how simplistic can it get from historic principles? One can be non-religious and still have the strong sense of god (good). Saints are a construct of religion. Angels, saints, spirits.....choose your affiliation.

 

Next question is what is humanism, really? Is being human devoid of spirit and connection to what God might be to us? I don't think so.

 

I'd guess that humanism is a part of the ecosystem, (which it is) which doesn't give identification to a human/spiritual connection...only a human/ecosystem connection.

 

what's humanism to you? From what I've read, I can associate humanism with autoimmune disease. Multi-espressions of a term.

 

kath

 

Humanism doesn't need to be agnostic or atheistic, as at its core humanism is about deeply caring for human life, achievement, and potential. There can be humanistic forms of Christianity (Erasmus), just as there can be anti-humanistic forms (the Calvinist stereotype we all know & love). I'd actually call a lot of Spong's work humanist.

 

Also, I agree with you about God as good. That said, I'd argue a self-identifying atheist who worries about the suffering of others and actively tries to make the world a better place is more godly than a self-identifying Christian who thinks God floods cities and causes earthquakes because society occasionally treats gays like real people. I think many atheists and agnostics reject the term God as they know it, a term that has been defined for many in the US in a way I honestly find horrible. The God I (try to) know is not a capricious and jealous tyrant who floods cities because society occasionally treats a gay man like a human being.

 

To be sure, there are secular humanists that anger me to know end (insert a long rant about Sam Harris here), but that's not all of them.

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  • 2 months later...

I would not attempt to answer for Bishop Spong. However, after reading his weekly essays for several years and a couple of his books, I would describe him -- recognizing that labels can be overly simplistic -- as a humanist in terms of values and a pantheist in terms of theology. Although he is a retired Episcopal bishop and still uses the bishop title, he is far from a traditional Christian.

 

George

George,

Thank you for that description of Spong! I, too, have read his essays for years as well as one of his books and I agree completely. If you read "This Hebrew Lord", you'll find how he came to his beliefs. It's sad, really.

 

Doug

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it seems that quote is pointing out that things like biblical inerrancy are modern inventions.

The concept of Biblical inerrancy was written by Paul to the young pastor Timothy in his second letter to Timothy. (2 Tim 3:16-17). It is generally accepted that this letter was written between 64-68 a.d. I don't call this a modern invention.

 

Doug

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I'd argue a self-identifying atheist who worries about the suffering of others and actively tries to make the world a better place is more godly than a self-identifying Christian who thinks God floods cities and causes earthquakes because society occasionally treats gays like real people.

 

I'd agree if it were said self-identifying atheist are more goodly than... That said, yes; I can see where this can be a valid point. When it comes to disasters and earthquakes and such, I believe two things...God makes things happen or God allows things to happen. We know the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, which I believe was God BUT also see 1 Kings 19:11. This verse talks about a great wind and an earthquake but, more importantly, it says God was not in it.

 

Doug

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George,

Thank you for that description of Spong! I, too, have read his essays for years as well as one of his books and I agree completely. If you read "This Hebrew Lord", you'll find how he came to his beliefs. It's sad, really.

 

Doug

 

Doug,

 

My comment was intended to be descriptive not judgemental. In any event, I do not find his worldview and theology "sad."

 

George

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The concept of Biblical inerrancy was written by Paul to the young pastor Timothy in his second letter to Timothy. (2 Tim 3:16-17). It is generally accepted that this letter was written between 64-68 a.d. I don't call this a modern invention.

It isn't modern if it applied only to the Old Testament. If it is applied to the New Testament, which didn't exist, then it is a modern, or perhaps, just after the fact, construct. What scripture is Paul referring to?

 

such as the Episcopal theology of a Bishop John Shelby Spong, author of Jesus for the Nonreligious, which ideologically owes far more to Humanism than it does to Saints Augustine or Aquinas.

Spong's theology may have much in common with humanism, but it doesn't follow that Spong owes his current position to the traditions and thought of humanism. One must honor another's journey and not claim that because we are in the same place that each took the same road. Just saying.

 

I don't suggest that atheist criticism of religion is all wrong; much is spot on. But I often run across arguments that show clearly that the critic does not understand or choses not to honor the journey of another.

 

I like the International Humanist and Ethical Union's Minimum Statement on Humanism, except for the need to say what it isn't but that is a sign of these contentious times.

 

Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethic based on human and other natural values in the spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.

 

Michael Dowd and Dr. Loyal Rue label themselves as Religious Naturalists, which is not much different that humanism except, perhaps, what Michael calls empirical mysticism. Dr. Rue is founding member The Institute on Religion in an Age of science. In their mission statement are three purposes which many could agree with. Dr. Rue believes that both religious and non-religious people can participate. He proposes that the epic of evolution be the great or cosmic narrative which would replace in part in full the narratives in the Bible and other traditions. The third purpose is particularly important because no one religion can dictate values and knowledge.

 

to state human values and contemporary knowledge in such universal and valid terms that they may be understood by all peoples, whatever their cultural background and experience, and provide a basis for world-wide cooperation.

 

dutch

 

 

 

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The concept of Biblical inerrancy was written by Paul to the young pastor Timothy in his second letter to Timothy. (2 Tim 3:16-17). It is generally accepted that this letter was written between 64-68 a.d. I don't call this a modern invention.

 

Doug

 

Doug,

 

It may not make any difference to you, but 2 Timothy was probably not written by Paul.

 

George

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Another problem is that the Bible did not exist as such when 2 Timothy was written. Even at its most strongly defended, 2 Timothy still allows for "wrong" Scripture, even if "good" Scripture is still inerrant (I still have gigantic problems with that word, but that's for another post). In other words, someone can completely accept 2 Timothy but still worry about mistranslations, heretical books being being viewed as Scripture, good books being excluded, etc.

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Another problem is that the Bible did not exist as such when 2 Timothy was written. Even at its most strongly defended, 2 Timothy still allows for "wrong" Scripture, even if "good" Scripture is still inerrant (I still have gigantic problems with that word, but that's for another post). In other words, someone can completely accept 2 Timothy but still worry about mistranslations, heretical books being being viewed as Scripture, good books being excluded, etc.

 

Nick,

I see your point and I don't entirely disagree with it. My point was this concept is no modern invention but has been around since the 1st century.

 

Doug

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Doug,

 

My comment was intended to be descriptive not judgemental. In any event, I do not find his worldview and theology "sad."

 

George

 

Sorry, George. My comment was not to imply that yours were judgmental. I understood they were descriptive. The real challenge I have with Spong is exactly as you put it. Worldview and Theology. He has chosen to "bend" theology to affirm his worldview, which is secular humanism.

 

Doug

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Sorry, George. My comment was not to imply that yours were judgmental. I understood they were descriptive. The real challenge I have with Spong is exactly as you put it. Worldview and Theology. He has chosen to "bend" theology to affirm his worldview, which is secular humanism.

 

Doug

 

Doug,

 

I don't have a problem with humanism whether secular, Christian or whatever. And, I think we all "bend" our theology to conform with our worldview. We tend to be consistent in theology, social views and politics. It would be quite unusual to find a vegetarian, tree-hugging, pro-choicer who is a fundamentalist Christian (although none of these issues are addressed directly in the scriptures).

 

George

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Nick,

I see your point and I don't entirely disagree with it. My point was this concept is no modern invention but has been around since the 1st century.

 

Doug

 

My point is that if 2 Timothy allows for the possibility that one has "wrong" scripture, then it does not support biblical inerrancy. Actually, I should revise that a bit: conservative theologians like Kevin VanHoozer & NT Wright have argued for a weaker inerrancy around precisely this point. However, 2 Timothy doesn't help, for example, the King James only movement.

 

At any rate, regarding biblical inerrancy and modernity, I will happily agree with you that people thought the Bible was true at many different points in history. I have, however, two disagreements:

 

  1. Allegorical readings of the Bible are just as old as "literal" ones. Furthermore, the entire canonization process that created the Bible necessarily occurred because there inerrancy was not a simple category. Even among those who accepted inerrancy, it then begged the question of whose Scripture, and that got messy quick.
  2. While I would agree with the statement, "people throughout history believed the Bible was true," I do not believe that meant the same thing at all points of history. Different people have had different understandings of what "truth" is, and our post-Enlightenment, post-modern, late capitalist understandings are historically situated. People in the 1st Century AD certainly had a category called 'truth,' but I would doubt it was constructed the same way. Consequently, the current debates about inerrenacy, including the Chicago Statement in 1978, are just as historically situated. It is true we strive for eternal truths, but humanity is inescapably within time.

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At any rate, regarding biblical inerrancy and modernity, I will happily agree with you that people thought the Bible was true at many different points in history. I have, however, two disagreements:

 

 

Good points, and of course, there is #3 - translation issues.

 

If we are to claim inerrancy, which specific version and translation are we to claim as inerrant? Given the many variations of the Bible, they cannot all be inerrant. If the original texts are the inerrant version, unfortunately we don't have access to them. Further, the Dead Sea Scrolls indicate that there was significant variation in the oldest extant Hebrew texts.

 

In the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), there are many examples of what are called hapax legomenon, which are words that occur only once in the texts. It is difficult, if even possible in some instances, to ascertain the meaning of an obscure word written 3,000 years ago.

 

To cite any particular verse or word (particularly in the Hebrew Scriptures) to prove a 'truth' is highly problematic at best.

 

George

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Humanism actually originated as a Christian movement in the Renaissance era and only later on became associated with atheism. Humanism is a philosophy that holds reason over blind faith and critical thinking over tradition. Humanism emphasizes caring for humanity as more important than what god you worship. Spong's god is not a supernatural grandfather in the sky who looks down on us and picks and chooses who to heal and who to let suffer and die. Spong's god is the pantheistic god of Spinoza, Einstein, and Paul Tillich. In this regard, I think Spong does emphasize humanity over the supernatural and I think Spong would most definitely classify as a humanist. I certainly don't think many atheistic humanists would be overtly hostile to him as even most atheists I know have a great deal of respect for Spong even if they disrespect religion as a whole.

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George,

 

I find it fascinating that I've seen conservative theologians try to defend sola scriptura precisely by agreeing with you on this point: Both Wright and Vanhoozer have claimed in essence that Scripture is inerrant if we have a perfect translation and know exactly what the intended meaning of the text was. In other words, there is a potential for inerrancy in Scripture that in practice will never be met. I don't personally agree with this (I reject the potential they discuss as such), but it's an interesting tactical retreat of sorts.

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George,

 

I find it fascinating that I've seen conservative theologians try to defend sola scriptura precisely by agreeing with you on this point: Both Wright and Vanhoozer have claimed in essence that Scripture is inerrant if we have a perfect translation and know exactly what the intended meaning of the text was. In other words, there is a potential for inerrancy in Scripture that in practice will never be met. I don't personally agree with this (I reject the potential they discuss as such), but it's an interesting tactical retreat of sorts.

 

Nick, That is interesting. I was not aware of this idea.

 

Maybe the simplest thing would be to just anoint the KJV as the inerrant version and be done with it (although his may have already been done informally by some). As someone was quoted as saying, "If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it is good enough for me."

 

George

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George,

 

I can't find a quick link, but this and thisare two rather long speeches given by Vanhoozer regarding his view of sola scriptura as a type of performance where he goes into things a bit. Also, I can't find a good Wright article, but thisis an interview where he essentially argues that sola scriptura is more of a negative than positive principle, something to prevent the mind from wandering too far.

 

Again, I don't agree, but I find these presentations interesting at the least.

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Doug,

 

It would be quite unusual to find a vegetarian, tree-hugging, pro-choicer who is a fundamentalist Christian

 

George,

You're right about the above. At the very least, a fundamentalist Christian would not be a pro-choicer!

Which, BTW, *is* addressed in the Bible. See Psalm 139:13-16

 

Doug

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Nick,

How does 2 Timothy allow for the possibility of "wrong" scripture?

 

Doug

 

Perhaps a better phrase would be it doesn't speak to the merit of a given text as Scripture.

 

16 All scripture is inspired by God and is [9] useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

 

2 Timothy doesn't tell us what "right" Scripture is, nor does it assure us we have it. For example, is the Gospel of Thomas acceptable? Do the pauline letters count as Scripture? What about Maccabees? All 2 Timothy says, in essence, is that Scripture is useful, but it doesn't give us criteria for defining what is and is not Scripture.

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At the very least, a fundamentalist Christian would not be a pro-choicer!

Which, BTW, *is* addressed in the Bible. See Psalm 139:13-16

 

Doug

 

Doug,

 

I am not comfortable trading Bible verses to support a point as I don't believe that the practices of a Bedouin society 3000+ years ago should be prescriptive behavior for a modern, industrial society. However, there are basic principles as to how we should deal with each other that are a good guide for our lives.

 

In any event, I fail to see that Ps. 139 forbids abortion. The only passage that I find relevant to the question is Ex 21:22 where it is clear that the fetus was considered the property of the father, not a life protected by the law. If the fetus was wrongly killed, the father was entitled to compensation.

 

George

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