John Shelby Spong helps expose and dispel religious ignorance and fundamentalism. He is a truly visionary Christian. He was recently interviewed for The Weekly and shared some invaluable insights.
Bishop John Shelby Spong presented a week of lectures for The Chautauquan Daily’s Interfaith Lecture Series in June 2012. The series was named after his book, Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World, and you can watch all 5 lectures here, or download them in .mp4 format for your archive.
“I study the Bible every day of my life, I’ve read that book from cover to cover more than 25 times, some parts of it many more times than that, but I am one priest and bishop in the church who is no longer willing to read that book through stained glass lenses.”
“I was amazed by how many educated people actually thought the Bible dropped from heaven fully written, divided into chapters and verses and in the King James version. Paul only wrote seven of the Epistles that are attributed to him. And Solomon did not write the Proverbs.”
“Did you know that in the book of Deuteronomy we are told that if a child is willfully disobedient and talks back to his or her parents, that child is to be taken to the elders of the city and stoned until dead at the gates of the city?”
“Someone said the church likes to treat laypeople like mushrooms. You keep them in the dark and you cover them over with — shall we say — manure.”
“Everything we have in the New Testament about Jesus floated through some kind of oral transmission for 40 to 70 years before anybody wrote it down. How literal can such a process be? And there is no evidence that we can find anywhere that miracles understood as supernatural acts were ever associated with the memory of Jesus of Nazareth before the eighth decade of this Common Era.”
“The division between Christianity and Judaism is a very late division. The Christian inability to place its story into a Jewish context is the primary source, I believe, of the way the Christian story has been distorted with literalism.”
The Judeo-Christian Faith Story: How Much is History? [mp4]
The Prophets: Not Predictors of the Future but Change Agents [mp4]
The New Testament: An Evolving Story [mp4]
The Story of Judas Iscariot [mp4]
Re-Casting the Christ Story: Not a Rescue Mission but the Birth of a New Consciousness [mp4]
John Shelby Spong was the Bishop of Newark (New Jersey) from 1979-2000. He is a brilliant theologian who has written many intensely-researched books on Christianity. He calls for a new Reformation — a fundamental rethinking of Christian belief — in which many of Christianity’s basic doctrines should be reformulated.
Spong said: Martin Luther ignited the Reformation of the 16th century by nailing to the door of the church in Wittenberg in 1517 the 95 Theses that he wished to debate. My theses are far smaller in number than were those of Martin Luther, but they are far more threatening theologically. The issues to which I now call the Christians of the world to debate are these:
Twelve points for Reform
1. Theism, as a way of defining God, is dead. So most theological God-talk is today meaningless. A new way to speak of God must be found.
2. Since God can no longer be conceived in theistic terms, it becomes nonsensical to seek to understand Jesus as the incarnation of the theistic deity. So the Christology of the ages is bankrupt.
3. The Biblical story of the perfect and finished creation from which human beings fell into sin is pre-Darwinian mythology and post-Darwinian nonsense.
4. The virgin birth, understood as literal biology, makes Christ’s divinity, as traditionally understood, impossible.
5. The miracle stories of the New Testament can no longer be interpreted in a post-Newtonian world as supernatural events performed by an incarnate deity.
6. The view of the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world is a barbarian idea based on primitive concepts of God and must be dismissed.
7. Resurrection is an action of God. Jesus was raised into the meaning of God. It therefore cannot be a physical resuscitation occurring inside human history.
8. The story of the Ascension assumed a three-tiered universe and is therefore not capable of being translated into the concepts of a 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.
10. Prayer cannot be a request made to a theistic deity to act in human history in a particular way.
11. The hope for life after death must be separated forever from the behavior control mentality of reward and punishment. The Church must abandon, therefore, its reliance on guilt as a motivator of behavior.
12. All human beings bear God’s image and must be respected for what each person is. Therefore, no external description of one’s being, whether based on race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, can properly be used as the basis for either rejection or discrimination.
Here is another fantastic interview with Bishop John Shelby Spong (promoting his book, Liberating the Gospels) on how to properly interpret the New Testament. Spong explains why it is a mistake to interpret the Bible literally.
“I don’t know of a single biblical theologian of world rank that thinks of the virgin birth as literal history, and I think it’s time we say that to the world at large. Now, you might find one at some of these fundamentalist schools, but they wouldn’t be recognized as scholars in the academies of Christian learning around the world.” – John Shelby Spong
This is a great interview with Bishop John Shelby Spong about Christianity and his book, Jesus for the Non-Religious.
On May 24, 2005, Bishop John Shelby Spong presented a lecture on “Who is the Popular God in Public Life in the 21st Century?” in Columbia Hall at the University of Oregon campus [mp4]. This was around the time of publication of his book, The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible’s Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love.