March 29, 2017

April 26, 2010

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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I wouldn’t be betting the same horse as he is…if you know what I mean… cheese

[1] Posted by B. Hunter on 4-26-2010 at 11:35 AM · [top]

Someone who’s read Spong more than I have might be able to answer this:

Given that Jesus talked a lot about Hell, does that mean that for Spong, since Hell has got to go, then Jesus has got to go as well?

Seems to me you can’t exactly just dismiss the Christian doctrine of Hell without dismissing Jesus as a lunatic or liar.

[2] Posted by Greg Griffith on 4-26-2010 at 11:38 AM · [top]

CS Lewis and a friend were visiting a graveyard and came across the headstone of a noted atheist.
Lewis’ friend remarked, “All dressed up and no place to go.”
To which Lewis replied, “I bet he wishes so!”

Spong always reminds me of the unrepentant liberal bishop in “The Great Divorce.”  He will discover in due course how wrong he has been.

[3] Posted by AnglicanXn on 4-26-2010 at 11:41 AM · [top]

Bishop’s Spong is only interesting to me as an historical marker, recording the spot where the Episcopal Church heirarchy, as an organization, reached the point of no return.

[4] Posted by Going Home on 4-26-2010 at 11:44 AM · [top]

Move along, move along. Nothing to see here.

[5] Posted by Jagged Edge on 4-26-2010 at 11:49 AM · [top]

Many atheists will at least acknowledge that they’re proceeding from a premise based on proof, not faith or even evidence - that unless it can be proved, they won’t believe in it. They reject the very notion of faith entirely.

Spong and his ilk proceed from a different and wholly incoherent premise: That faith should be based on proof, when the two are really mutually exclusive. I like the saying that “the opposite of faith isn’t doubt, but certitude,” because it summarizes that mutual exclusivity. There’s no reason to have faith in something if you have proof; indeed, having proof of something renders moot the question of whether one should have faith in it.

I guess that’s what makes me shake my head about Spong more than it does about, say, Dawkins: At least Dawkins says, “I have no faith, because I’m unwilling to believe in anything that can’t be proved. I understand that one excludes the other, and I’m siding with proof over faith.”

Spong is completely incoherent. He doesn’t seem to get that whatever you draw a circle around and say, “All we can teach about this is what we know to be true,” he necessarily excludes faith from the equation. Worse, he wants to draw circles around items of pure faith and subject them to tests of proof.

[6] Posted by Greg Griffith on 4-26-2010 at 11:58 AM · [top]

Nobody knows what the afterlife is all about; nobody even knows if there is one…”

I’m rather convinced the man does not even possess a Bible, much less the ability to refrain from any opportunity to exhibit his ignorance and illogic for the itchy eared to receive. 

Dean Beach, here’s a hint:

<cough><cough> Easter season <cough><cough>

If Spong is right, you might as well save your speaker fee, shutter the UMC, sell the property, and retire early.

“Wise man” indeed. 



[7] Posted by tired on 4-26-2010 at 12:11 PM · [top]

B. Hunter, Spong always seems to be betting on only a part of the horse! wink

[8] Posted by Milton on 4-26-2010 at 12:31 PM · [top]

Weren’t Bishop Spong’s fifteen minutes up years ago?

[9] Posted by Matthew A (formerly mousestalker) on 4-26-2010 at 12:34 PM · [top]

He is a consistent inverted fundamentalist.

[10] Posted by wvparson on 4-26-2010 at 12:36 PM · [top]

Raise of hands….how many of us are thinking:  No, Spong must go!

Why was this man made a bishop much less a priest?  How did that happen?  That process is where the failure began.  Thankful that there are a couple of good seminaries out there, glad the ones responsible for producing Spong are closing.

[11] Posted by The Lakeland Two on 4-26-2010 at 12:36 PM · [top]

The fact that Spong still is let out of the cage as a representative of TEC is one of the many reasons I had to leave TEC.  How can you witness to others without being able to say, “Would you like to come to my church?”  How does that go?  “Well, I’m recommending my orthodox church, but it’s part of a liberal organization that claims Christianity.  In reality, this organization practicies some PC version of sociology rather than Christianity, and encourages heretics that resemble the antichrist rather than Christ . . . but our church ignores them, so y’all come visit.”  If I could have mastered that speech and not felt like an idiot, I might have been able to stay in my local parish.

[12] Posted by Tami on 4-26-2010 at 12:55 PM · [top]

“The fact that Spong still is let out of the cage as a representative of TEC…” 

Ummm no.  Bp. Spong is retired   and has no position as a representative / spokesperson for TEC.  His opinions, which if nothing else are often interesting, are entirerly his own. 

As to heaven and hell, I fear he has at least a couple points.  Most of what folks think is in the Bible about either place is not.  A great deal of what we think we know is medieval culture and art.

The truth is that we do not know much, especially if we espouse “Sola Scriptura.”  If as the bishop probably does, we discount some references in parables as story telling devices taken from first century Palestinian culture,  Jesus is not particularly specific.

He is nothing if not nuanced.


[13] Posted by jimB on 4-26-2010 at 01:12 PM · [top]

A great deal of what we think we know is medieval culture and art

FWLIW Jesus speaks about hell more than any other part of Scripture.

[14] Posted by driver8 on 4-26-2010 at 01:21 PM · [top]

Hi JimB.

Spong is retired and yet remains a bishop in good standing in TEC despite his ludicrous heresies. According to the catholic ecclesiology embraced and proclaimed by TEC, a bishop is a symbol of faith for the entire Church which is why his election must win consent of the whole church.

That he remains a bishop means that, in fact, he can very well be seen as a representative of the faith of the whole church. Hence the importance of church discipline.

also, regarding hell, we have actually quite a bit in scripture. Jesus, in fact, refers to hell far more than any other biblical figure. 27 times I believe…and he is, in fact, quite specific. Hell is the place where the fire is never quenched and the worm never dies. It is a place of torment reserved for the devil and those who follow him. it is the place for those who do not believe in the Son. All of this is quite clear from the NT with no need for medieval stained glass.

[15] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 4-26-2010 at 01:26 PM · [top]

Spong = Whackadoo

[16] Posted by veritas2007 on 4-26-2010 at 01:35 PM · [top]

It’s time for John Spong to get rid of the clerical shirt and collar, which are old and stuck in tradition, like the faith he so denigrates. There’s nothing worse than a phony who likes to dress up to elicit some semblance of respectability.

Come on John, dump the purple Bishop stuff along with the pectoral cross and stand on your own two feet as a supposed theologian and scholar. You might want to switch, maybe, to a shirt and tie, which is more in the way of Unitarian-Universalist attire.

[17] Posted by Albeit on 4-26-2010 at 01:41 PM · [top]

RE: “Ummm no.”

Ummm, yes.  Not only is he a bishop of the whole church, but he also is rolled in repeatedly by various bishops and clergy to “teach” laity in TEC, including by Katherine Jefferts Schori in her own diocese, when she was bishop.


Truth is, KJS and Spong essentially agree.  They share the same gospel.

[18] Posted by Sarah on 4-26-2010 at 01:46 PM · [top]

Only in the TEC could this man have been a Bishop.If you look at most of his “theses” they are merely warmed over heresies of the past.I met the man at my former tec parish on one of his many book/heresy tours. He reaked of hubris and couldn’t begin a sentence in other than the firt person.He is symptomatic of a dead church- dead vine as far as the eye can see.My advice is run and do not look back (you know that whole pillar of salt thing)

[19] Posted by sic transit gloria mundi on 4-26-2010 at 02:35 PM · [top]

A Poem by Henry Gibson

Dear Bishop Spong,
What if you’re wrong?
You won’t feel so well
If there is a hell
and you end up there
Why take the dare?

[20] Posted by DaveW on 4-26-2010 at 02:45 PM · [top]

Most of us can think back and remember when Spong’s public statements and actions, as Bishop of NJ, helped bring focus on the growing rot within the Episcopal Church’s seminaries and governing structure.  We can also remember being told by our reassuring Bishops and Priests that “nobody listens to Spong” and “we are not in New Jersey.”

Truth is, we should have been listening to him more than anyone else, because he was the only person giving us an accurate portrayal of what was ahead for the church.

[21] Posted by Going Home on 4-26-2010 at 02:49 PM · [top]

Satan hates being laughed at.

Spong is a joke.

Unfortunately, not everyone gets it.

[22] Posted by R. Scott Purdy on 4-26-2010 at 03:37 PM · [top]

I wonder if Spong has moved to Arizona, you know, to start preparing for being hot all the time?  ohh

[23] Posted by B. Hunter on 4-26-2010 at 04:03 PM · [top]

[8] Milton,

If Spong is betting on the horse it is probably himself. He has, for a long time, been illustrative of the portion of the horse which tends to cross the finish line last.

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

[24] Posted by Militaris Artifex on 4-26-2010 at 04:14 PM · [top]

#2 This is when Spong relies on the presuppositions (masquerading-as-reasoned-conclusions) of the so-called ‘historical Jesus seminar.’  Depending upon his mood, Spong tends to vacillate between one of two perspectives:

1) All the stuff about heaven and hell was made up by the control-mongering early church, and then retroactively put into the ‘mouth’ of Jesus. 

2) Jesus actually did say this stuff because it was part of his cultural milieu, but we, the enlightened, can/must now free the truth from this primitive husk.  Failure to do so means that Christianity will die…

Part of the excitement of showing up to a Spong lecture is discovering which flavor of the day he’s gonna go with ; )

[25] Posted by Fr. Andrew Gross on 4-26-2010 at 04:43 PM · [top]

The problem with all heresy (such as this) is that it is true.  It is just not true enough.

The image that most people have of heaven and hell is in error.  That is a true statement.

But it does not follow that we need to get rid of heaven and hell. 

We need to teach what the Church teaches and what Scripture teaches about them.

Spong (and I refuse to acknowledge him as a bishop - his multiple heresies condemn him) simply makes the incredible leap from true statement “a” to heretical statement “b” with nothing but his own mind and will joining them.

So, Jimb - you have a point, but you are still wrong in that Spong still represents the Episcopal Church as much as any person who has been ordained a bishop and not deposed does. 

The HOB’s refusal to depose this man speaks more about the rot in TEC than any gay bishop.

Phil Snyder

[26] Posted by Philip Snyder on 4-26-2010 at 04:56 PM · [top]

Spong IS a joke, and most of Christianity knows it!

[27] Posted by Cennydd on 4-26-2010 at 05:44 PM · [top]

Spong is simply the liberal theological project carried towards its end point. That is abstracting from all historical and doctrinal particularity towards universal ethical values Spong finds congenial on other grounds. Of course, in a way its a self consuming exercise - if Spong had even more bravado he would completely consume himself and abstract away not just church history, doctrines, creeds and Scripture but Jesus himself.

Perhaps then he would evaporate in a puff of steam.

[28] Posted by driver8 on 4-26-2010 at 06:10 PM · [top]

Miserable sinner that I am, I prefer my odds at the Pearly Gates to Spong’s.

[29] Posted by Nikolaus on 4-26-2010 at 07:24 PM · [top]

He is nothing if not nuanced.

I think there are a lot of people nominally Christian who believe He is nothing. Not nuanced.

[30] Posted by oscewicee on 4-26-2010 at 07:27 PM · [top]

Just in the interest of accuracy, Spong was bishop of Newark, not New Jersey.

[31] Posted by Greg Griffith on 4-26-2010 at 08:07 PM · [top]

If Spong is right (and he is not) no big deal for him.  If he is wrong (and he is) very big deal for him on the last day.

[32] Posted by Old Soldier on 4-26-2010 at 08:09 PM · [top]

Help, I am being held captive in a parish where Spong’s latest book is being “studied” by an appreciative adult Sunday School group.

[33] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 4-26-2010 at 08:12 PM · [top]

[33] I presume by “held hostage” you mean that you are trying not to blow your cover. I certainly hope the Episcospongians don’t have a mauve-shirt corps to do this to you!

[34] Posted by Doug Stein on 4-26-2010 at 08:47 PM · [top]

He is nothing if not nuanced.

Spong wouldn’t know nuance if it shushed up to him in a Noel Coward smoking jacket, suede shoes with a cigarette holder carelessly held at its lips and said “Cheerio old bean…”

[35] Posted by driver8 on 4-26-2010 at 09:02 PM · [top]

[34] Doug,

You found my graduation picture!

[36] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 4-26-2010 at 09:04 PM · [top]

As Spong approaches his own judgement so, in his sin, he must now face the reality that awaits him.

A pricked conscience and secret fear he must squash by polemics.

How he fights the God desperate to save him to the very end.

Truly there are those that actively choose Hell.

At this stage I feel only pity for him. But I meet his kind every day in the UK and, my goodness, they would choose Hell over God any day.

[37] Posted by jedinovice on 4-26-2010 at 09:46 PM · [top]

“they would choose Hell over God any day”

And if they persist, God will let them have their way forever.

[38] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 4-26-2010 at 10:03 PM · [top]

It is ironic that the author of “Christianity Must Change Or Die.” has lived to see the changes he calls for adopted wholesale by TEC. But with the consequence that it seems as if TEC is dying, while those who still keep to the ‘old paths’ are alive and growing, especially when seen in the global context. The law of unintended consequences is also alive it seems.

It is also remarkable that the author of the book in question seems blind to these consequences, an example of a willful blindness that Jesus warned the scribes and pharisees about.

Peter dewberry

[39] Posted by Peter Dewberry on 4-26-2010 at 10:09 PM · [top]

>And if they persist, God will let them have their way forever.

Quite.  As ‘Jack’ Lewis put it, “The gates of Hell are locked from the inside.”

[40] Posted by jedinovice on 4-26-2010 at 10:11 PM · [top]

Spong also answered a question about euthanasia—a point that seemed to resonate with his audience of about 100 people, mostly of retirement age. Despite the lecture’s setting on a college campus, few young adults were present to hear Spong’s address.

There may be hope for this generation after all.

[41] Posted by Betty See on 4-26-2010 at 10:14 PM · [top]

Spong is a functional atheist.  He uses religious language to illustrate atheistic ideas.  God is not personal to Spong, but instead a metaphorical expression of the development of man.  He must always be read in this light. 


[42] Posted by carl on 4-26-2010 at 10:47 PM · [top]

“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

It’s a good thing I wasn’t drinking anything when I read that.

More seriously, what we see here is a perfect example of a theologian who one day decided that he didn’t want to be made in the image of God - instead he wanted God made in the image of himself. The God that reveals Himself and His attributes to the world, tells the world that they are dead in their trespasses, unable to please God, and deserving of condemnation - Spong had the audacity to sit in judgment of this God, find Him unacceptable, and build in His place a new god conforming to his own worldview. And when he did this the cognoscenti lauded him for “tackl[ing] issues that others do not want to touch.”

This is a bit of a tangent here, but I’ve long considered 1994 to be the year where TEC ‘jumped the shark’ rather than the more commonly cited 2003. That year, Spong, still a Bishop, published a book titled “Resurrection: Myth or Reality?” (oh, just guess which one he argues for!). As heresies go, that’s as big as they come - Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15 that if Christ is not raised, our faith is completely worthless, and we among all men are most to be pitied. The Episcopal Church did absolutely nothing in response to the publication. If your Bishops can deny the Resurrection in so public a fashion without any retribution, then that Church has in a very substantial sense quitclaimed almost all of its legitimacy as a witness to the Gospel.

[43] Posted by LDW1988 on 4-26-2010 at 11:40 PM · [top]

(42) Carl,

Good insight. I would make just one small correction:

Spong is a functional atheist.
Spong is an atheist.

‘Nuff said.

[44] Posted by ProfJohn on 4-27-2010 at 05:37 AM · [top]

Hey Greg…belief that there is a heaven and a hell is not grounded in a blind Kierkegaardian leap into the darkness. That is not Christian faith. That’s like putting on a blindfold and stepping out into busy truffic “believing” you won’t be hit. Good look.

Christian faith is like being really blind but leaning on the arm of One who sees.

Jesus rose from the dead and there is a lot of historical evidence to back up that claim. In fact the ONLY first century primary source evidence we have tells us that Jesus rose from the dead…which means to believe anything else is to believe a story someone made up.

I don’t have enough “faith” to do that. I’ll take the evidence.

Because the evidence is so clear that Jesus did in fact rise, we can be sure that he is approved by God and that his gospel is true.

We may be blind but he has shown that he is not. We can lean on his arm and he will lead us.

Part of his gospel is that there is a heaven and a hell.

So the reason I believe there is a hell and a heaven is that the one who created both has come to tell us about them.

[45] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 4-27-2010 at 10:16 AM · [top]

I admire a man who can live according to his convictions.  I propose a variant of Pascal’s Wager for the soi-disant Bishop of Newark.

How about he take a 9mm handgun of his choice, place the barrel tip to his temple and press the trigger?  If he has nothing to fear, he can show us his point by stepping into the void.

I do not wish the man ill, nor do I wish anyone to hurt him.  It’s just that if your gonna throw down a lotta trash talk like that, you need to, in the line from Zombieland, “N*t up or shut up.”

[46] Posted by Recently Roman on 4-27-2010 at 02:52 PM · [top]

#38, Matt,

That statement suprises me coming from a Calvinist.  I thought no one had any choice, it was all determined in the instant of Creation.

[47] Posted by BillB on 4-27-2010 at 03:49 PM · [top]

BillB, you are caricaturing Calvinism.

Peter Dewberry

[48] Posted by Peter Dewberry on 4-27-2010 at 03:58 PM · [top]

yes BiilB because as we all know Calvinists believe God forces people into his Kingdom against their will. Heaven is populated by elect people who hate Jesus and hell is full of people who love Jesus but who are forced by God to live without him.

[49] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 4-27-2010 at 04:13 PM · [top]

that is, as Peter Dewberry points out, a charicature.

God does not elect people or harden people against their will but through it.

Free agency is the ability to do what seems best to us. We always have that freedom. For the unregenerate fallen man, what seems best is whatever gratifies the flesh. When God regenerates, he brings someone to the point that Jesus seems best. The regenerate sinner begins to desire Jesus and love him and ultimately he decides to surrender everything to him.

Is this the man’s choice? Yes. But the choice and the heart to make it is also a gift directly from God.

[50] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 4-27-2010 at 04:26 PM · [top]


You’re confusing the distinction between evidence and proof.

I believe that the evidence supports Christianity.

But if I had proof, as we commonly define the term, the question of whether I believe would no longer have anything to do with the truth of Christianity, but with my sanity.

Faith is the belief that something unproved is true. As soon as it’s proved, belief becomes a moot question. As C.S. Lewis put it, once the playwright steps onto the stage, the show is over.

[51] Posted by Greg Griffith on 4-27-2010 at 11:49 PM · [top]

Matt and others,

It was a caricature meant in fun.  I live in North Texas that abounds with Calvinists(?) who would fit that caricature. When Fr. Matt starts expounding on some things, I unfortunately think of those folks’ brand of Calvinism.  This thread needs to get back on topic.

Peter D., I think Spong should re-title his book to “Christianity Must Change and Die”.

[52] Posted by BillB on 4-28-2010 at 12:50 AM · [top]

[51]  Greg Griffith

Faith is the belief that something unproved is true.

This formulation bothers me.  The Scripture defines faith:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Heb 11:1

Those two formulations are not identical.  The “assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen” all center upon the future acts of God.  They are unproven only in the sense that God has not done them yet.  But they are not in any ontological sense unprovable.  We in fact have the ultimate proof of the resurrection to establish the fact that God will do what He says.  We therefore should not say we are reduced to belief simply because these things are impossible to prove.  This impression is what bothered me in your formulation.  Faith in and of itself is nothing.  It is rather the object of the faith that is important.  We have faith in God.  His testimony is reliable, and has been proven many times over.  I do not have faith that God raised Jesus from the dead.  I know He raised Jesus from the dead because He has testified to this fact in Scripture.  It’s not a future act yet hoped for.  It’s not a thing unseen. 

Perhaps it would be better to say then that to have faith is to believe that God will do what He has promised to do simply because He has promised to do it.  To have faith is to believe God simply because He is God.  As it is written: “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”  It is wrong to say that He has not proven Himself.  The problem is not with the lack of proof but with man’s lack of vision.  Man disbelieves and therefore refuses to see.  God proved Himself over and over to the Israelites and yet they still refused to believe that God would act the next time.  Their lack of faith was not manifested by a lack of proof, but by a denial of God.  This is the dilemma of natural man.  Even if one were to rise from the dead, he will not believe.  If he will not believe the greater testimony of Scripture, he will certainly not believe the lesser testimony of evidence gathered with his own eyes. 


[53] Posted by carl on 4-28-2010 at 01:15 AM · [top]

Greg, Matt, carl, et alii,

I feel at least somewhat “out of my depth” entering this discussion, but I am informed by last Sunday’s sermon at my parish that, when the New Testament talks about faith, or belief, in Jesus, the meaning conveyed is something much, much more than intellectual assent to a fact or logical proposition. According to our Pastor, it very much carries with it the freight of the new believer experiencing an internal event that utterly transforms his, or her, life and actions.

Having stated that, it seems the discussion here is a little bit caught up over the semantics of the modern usage of the words. But that is just a perception on my part, which may be errant. As I said, I don’t exactly deem myself especially knowledgeable on this topic.

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

[54] Posted by Militaris Artifex on 4-28-2010 at 10:07 AM · [top]

BillB, I am from the south also and I have not heard any Christians, even Presbyterians, refer to themselves as Calvinists, so I have to wonder if those folks in Texas who you consider Calvinists really are Calvinists.
What in particular about their beliefs do you define as Calvinism?

[55] Posted by Betty See on 4-28-2010 at 12:33 PM · [top]

#55, Betty See,

I have had some identify their denomination as Calvinist.  Others have identified the five points of Calvinism as their beliefs and I therefore have taken their beliefs as being a form of Calvinism.  Many are from “non”-denominational churhes and some of those have extremist viewpoints.

[56] Posted by BillB on 4-29-2010 at 09:23 AM · [top]

Bill B, I have to admit that I am not familiar with the five points of Calvinism but I am always willing to learn so I hope you will educate me. I realize that John Calvin has influenced some branches of the Christian religion so I want to thank you for inspiring me to read more about John Calvin’s life and his theology.

[57] Posted by Betty See on 4-29-2010 at 09:18 PM · [top]

With regard to the subject of this thread, I find it interesting that Spong, who identifies himself (as speaker and author) as “Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong” can denounce Theism, Scripture, the Trinity, heaven and hell, and almost all Christianity’s most basic beliefs but he never touches on the idea of the Apostolic succession of Bishops.

[58] Posted by Betty See on 4-29-2010 at 09:43 PM · [top]

Betty See,

The five points in an order represented by the acronym TULIP:

Total Depravity
Unconditional Election
Limited Atonement
Irresistible Grace
Perseverance of the Saints

From a favorite preacher of some of the Calvinist on Standfirm a more indepth explanation:

John Piper “What we Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism”

And from The Calvinist Corner some explanations that fit into my caricature above:

The Five Points of Calvinism

[59] Posted by BillB on 4-29-2010 at 10:15 PM · [top]

The main thing that really mystifies me about Spong, is that once he actually had his “revelation” or whatever it was that the resurrection isn’t real, Jesus probably wasn’t real, Heaven and Hell weren’t real, blah blah blah ad infinitum, why did he continue to want to be employed in an institution that stood for exactly the opposite?

Did he really believe that it was his calling to blow it all up?  Did he just do it for the attention (look how different I am!)?  Does he really believe there is no Christian Journey or is it just fodder for to feed his ego-machine?

I mean, once you figure that none of what we believe is real, then remaining a Bishop seems a massive contradiction of what you’ve just discovered?  Or did he like the robes and pension?


[60] Posted by Mike Bertaut on 4-29-2010 at 10:29 PM · [top]

This caricature does not do John Calvin, or Calvinism justice, I hope this portion of a letter that Calvin wrote will enlighten you:

“Read Demosthenes or Cicero, read Plato, Aristotle, or any others of that class; I grant you that you will be attracted, delighted, moved and enraptured by them in a surprising manner; but if, after reading them, you turn to the perusal of the sacred volume, whether you are willing or unwilling, it will affect you so powerfully, it will so penetrate your heart, and impress itself so strongly on your mind, that compared with its energetic influence, the beauties of rhetoricians and philosophers will entirely disappear; so that it is easy to perceive something divine in the sacred Scriptures, which far surpasses the highest attainments and ornaments of human industry.”

(From: The Story of Civilization; Part VI, by Will Durant.)

[61] Posted by Betty See on 4-29-2010 at 11:26 PM · [top]

[59]  BillB

I’m not quite sure how you think Matt Slick’s presentation supports your caricature. I don’t understand what “brand of Calvinism” you think it represents.  It is in actually a nice summary of the Doctrines of Grace, to which any Calvinist would give assent.  There is nothing unusual or extreme or fatalist about any of it. 


[62] Posted by carl on 4-29-2010 at 11:42 PM · [top]

#60, Mike Bertaut, Spong is traveling down the same path Bishop Pike trod. It’s fun, sexy and good for publicity to be perceived by the ppress as a modern, with-it, controversial priest. He has found that the press is impressed that he thinks as they do. He affirms their non-belief and so they think he’s cool.

Mayor John Lindsey of New York had the same schtick in politics. Senator McCain works some of the same turf. The press loves outliers with whom they agree.

In a debate with the Rev. Al Mohler, Spong would lose but be reported by the press sympathetically and perhaps spun as having won.

In a debate with Christopher Hitchens, Spong would lose and get no publicity for so doing.

For the TL:DR crowd, for some people, being a rebel is sexy. even if you’re over 70 and have been a rebel for most of that time.

[63] Posted by Matthew A (formerly mousestalker) on 4-30-2010 at 05:13 AM · [top]

[58] In all his courageous iconoclasm, he has also neglected to debunk that archaic, patriarchal notion of tithing to TEC, either.  So wise…


(... and does he ever explain where all the dogs go when they die?)

[64] Posted by tired on 4-30-2010 at 07:39 AM · [top]

“We don’t need a savior,” Spong said. “If Jesus died for your sins, you are one wretched human being.

Breaking down the logic:

If Jesus died for my sins,
then I am one wretched human being.
(I don’t want to be a wretched human being)
Therefore, I’m not supposed to believe that Jesus died for my sins. 

Now, let’s apply the same logic to something more uplifting to my human-ness:

If I require the services of a personal trainer to compensate for my affinity for McDonald’s french-fries,
then I am one wretched human being
(I don’t want to be a wretched human being)
Therefore, I’m not supposed to engage the services of a personal trainer. 

Or, how about this:

If I attend AA meetings and go through their 12 steps to address my alcohol addiction,
then I am one wretched human being
(I don’t want to be a wretched human being)
Therefore, I’m not supposed to go to AA and go through their 12 step program. 

Or, how about this:

If I am in a car crash and seek the services of a qualified professional to pull the dings off of my car,
then I am one wretched human being
(I don’t want to be a wretched human being)

Or, if I see a dentist about my toothache

Or, if I ask my priest for spiritual advice because the honeymoon phase in my marriage has just ended

Or, if my insecurity in my faith prompts me to seek the counsel of a iconoclastic guru (Spong, e.g.,)..

“I don’t think that’s good news.”

We know, Johnnie.

[65] Posted by Elder Oyster on 4-30-2010 at 08:09 AM · [top]

#60: The main thing that really mystifies me about Spong, is that once he actually had his “revelation” or whatever it was that the resurrection isn’t real, Jesus probably wasn’t real, Heaven and Hell weren’t real, blah blah blah ad infinitum, why did he continue to want to be employed in an institution that stood for exactly the opposite?

I puzzle over this about a number of “clergy” in TEC. If they don’t believe the basic tenets of Christianity, why don’t they go found their New World Religion and leave the Christians alone?

[66] Posted by oscewicee on 4-30-2010 at 09:27 AM · [top]

#66 - My only assumption is job security.  If Spong or other atheistic clergy were to abandon their jobs, what else are they trained for?  Spong has probably figured he could get money for public speaking, but how much more “interesting” is one who claims to still be a part of a church, but talks against the main tenents of the faith that employs him?  Makes him far more “marketable” as a curiosity.  Just like TEC stays a “church” for the tax exempt status while really being a political stumping ground for liberal causes.

[67] Posted by Tami on 4-30-2010 at 10:12 AM · [top]

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