Spong: Heaven and Hell Have Got to Go
The IRD’s Jeff Walton:
“We’re so excited about this opportunity to have this wise man in our midst and to hear his new thoughts,” said Maxine Clarke Beach, Dean of the theological school and a former official with the General Council on Ministries of the United Methodist Church.
“[Spong] has tackled issues that others do not want to touch, with the courage that rises out of a deep faith,” declared Drew University Associate Academic Dean Anne Yardley in her introduction of the bishop.
“Heaven and Hell have got to go,” the bishop said, questioning Christian teachings about the afterlife and suggesting that their primary purpose was control of human behavior in this life.
Spong ridiculed historic cultural portrayals of the afterlife, among them concepts like limbo, purgatory, and different levels of Hell for different sins. All were visions of the afterlife that changed because human knowledge and sensitivities changed, according to the bishop.
“Do people like Aristotle and Plato deserve an eternity of torment?” Spong asked. “Until we dismiss all concepts of reward and punishment, we can’t walk into concepts of life after death.”
“Nobody knows what the afterlife is all about; nobody even knows if there is one,” Spong said. “All of these images of bliss and punishment, heaven and hell are not about the afterlife at all. They’re about controlling human behavior with fear and guilt and reward on this earth.” The retired bishop labeled these classic Christian teachings as “human control techniques that lean on emotions that are not life-giving.”
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