Monday, March 3, 2008

Spong to Christians: Drop Dead

Resurrection-denier and all-around heretic extraordinaire John Shelby Spong once again jabs two middle fingers skyward as he revels in the wisdom of this world and holds in low regard the wisdom of God [for relevant Scripture see I Cor. 1:18-2:16] (emphasis mine):

The traditional church always fights every new intellectual insight, making it difficult for educated people not to stray. Recall the fate of Galileo in the 17th Century. Observe how the church still fights Darwin with such silly things as intelligent design. Look at the present debate in the church over homosexuality in which people use a definition of homosexuality that is no longer saluted anywhere in scientific or medical circles upon which to justify their prejudice. When knowledge collides with traditional faith change is inevitable. I welcome it and if the church cannot engage this intellectually driven change, then it probably should die.
What height of arrogance and humanistic idolatry! And yet, it's understandable why Spong would be so bitter. After all, if Christ is not resurrected, neither shall we be, and we are above all men to be pitied (I Cor. 15:19). If Christ is not resurrected, He is not God, and any and all worship of Him is vain idolatry, a projection of our worship onto a mere dead human being.

But praise be to God that Christ is risen and is coming again in glory!

Spong's problem is not that he is too intellectual for "traditional" Christianity or that Christians are too unintellectual for a changing world, but that Spong is spiteful of Christ himself.

Spong is ashamed of the Lord Jesus Christ: filled with disdain at the foolishness of His cross, blinded to the reality of His divinity, willfully seditious against Christ's lordship, leading open rebellion against Him from his ecclesial perch.

In short, Spong is grievously in error and leading others astray, preaching a damnable "gospel" (Gal. 1:6-8) that has an appearance of godliness but denies the power thereof. (II Timothy 3:1-9)

Let us pray that the Lord will grant former Bishop Spong repentance unto a knowledge of the truth, and that Episcopals and Anglicans specifically, and orthodox Christians generally, will not so much as bid him God speed until such time as he does (II John 8-11).



jackfate March 3, 2008 at 10:32 PM  

I get google alerts when the name of John Shelby Spong appears in articles and blogs and two popped up today, yours and this one:

Strange.... the two could not be further apart in their understanding of Christianity. One humble and appreciative of Spong's insights and the other pompous and repulsed.

Tertius March 4, 2008 at 12:40 AM  


I aim only at being repulsed, not at being pompous. I want to glory not in myself but in Christ, His death and resurrection.

Spong denies the latter and thereby can't fully appreciate the former. Yet he holds himself forth as a herald of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Can I be, and am I at many times an arrogant jerk? Yes. With the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ I hope to grow in Christ-likeness of character. Maybe the tone of my blog post fell short there in some ways.

That said, I cannot but stand by my conviction that false prophets must be denounced and warned to repent, both for the sake of their souls and those who they blissfully mislead straight into the ditch.

Grace and peace to you,


jackfate March 4, 2008 at 9:44 AM  


First of all, Spong does not deny the resurrection, only the traditional, literal interpretation of it. The resurrection was not an historical event that could have been photographed but one that could only be experienced. Jesus is a living reality for his disciples then and for us now. You should read what Spong writes about it.... or maybe you already have.

Not so very long ago I would agree wholeheartedly with your views. Now I cannot. I find it interesting that most if not all who appreciate Spong (and many, many others who demand intellectual honesty of themselves and their faith and write and speak eloquently about it) began their faith journey in conservative, traditional, and sometimes fundamentalist mindsets. The only way, to my mind, that can be explained is that the traditional ways of understanding spiritual things lacked integrity and common sense to them.

Those of us who have made that difficult and painful transition have a sense of liberation that is not easy to describe. A journey like this begins with facing your doubts not suppressing them. I spent many years suppressing my doubts and today I thank God for persons like Spong, Borg, Crossen, Wink (There is a lot of good company "in the ditch.") and others whom I give credit for leading me out of exclusivistic, judgmental religion. I cannot accept in my heart what my mind rejects.

Please know I mean no disrespect to you personally but agree with Spong that Christianity must change or die.

Tertius March 4, 2008 at 9:56 AM  


Christians must change or die, Christianity not so much.

By this I mean orthodox Christianity, the historic and essential teachings of the Gospel, must not change, they must change us.

What Christians need to change is our mindset and our lifestyle, but change them in conformity to the Gospel, not change the Gospel to conform to the fashion of this world.

It seems to me Spong calls for the conformity of Christianity to the wisdom of the world, not the transformation and renewal of our minds to the Gospel so that we might be better witnesses of Christ's love to the world.

As to Spong denying the "traditional, literal interpretation" of the resurrection, that IS denying the resurrection. Christ's resurrection from the dead is physical and the Gospel accounts lay out that Christ gave numerous physical proofs thereof over a 40-day span to numerous apostles and disciples on numerous occasions.

You can't have Gospel-faithful Christianity without a belief in the physical resurrection of Christ.

You CAN have a rebranded and retooled "Christianity" that fails to match the unmatchless grace, glory, and grandeur of the Gospel: Christ crucified for our sins, resurrected physically, ascended to the right hand of the Father, coming again for His church to raise us physically to share in His glory as we have in His suffering.

I find it profoundly sad that you prefer the dusty, fading glory of a false gospel for the life-changing eternal glory of the Son of God.

jackfate March 4, 2008 at 11:57 AM  

You know, tertius, the Gospel is not about an afterlife but is about this life on this earth. May the Kingdom come on earth as it already is in heaven. The Kingdom is something that can be experienced now. It is in our midst if only we are willing to walk through that narrow gate, the road less traveled, the path of exile and return, death and resurrection.

You are correct, the gospel certainly is about changing our lifestyle and mindset... to one of practicing non-violence, compassion, love, peace, forgiveness.... The human, living, breathing, walking, talking Son of Man Jesus, and the sacrificial life he led, is a human possibility and I find that inspiring and frightening and challenging all at the same time.

It is obvious we are on totally different paths. I encourage you to not be afraid of stepping off yours from time to time and discovering what inspiring new things lie out there. I encourage you, my friend, to step into the mystery.

"When you think you know, that is when you do not know. But when you know that you do not know, that is when you know."
--from the Tao Te Ching

Tertius March 4, 2008 at 12:33 PM  

"You are correct, the gospel certainly is about changing our lifestyle and mindset... to one of practicing non-violence, compassion, love, peace, forgiveness...."

I agree with that, but I think you should be careful not to divorce it from its larger context. The Gospel is most glorious in its full narrative: Christ lived the perfect sinless life we couldn't live, died the death we deserved, was raised from the dead as proof of His divinity and to administer the covenant of redemption in His blood, interceding for His church at the right hand of the Father.

Looking back at this, we rejoice at Christ's sacrifice for our sins. Looking back at this we aim to, by the power of the Holy Spirit, grow in Christ-like character. Motivated by love for the lost we warn people to repent and be saved from the wrath of God that is coming upon the unrighteous and ungodly, of whom we once were.

But now we are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. He's taken our sin and imputed to us His righteousness. He's sealed us with his Holy Spirit so that we can live and grow in an upright lifestyle that honors and glorifies God and does so progressively better and better as we come to learn His character and grow in fuller relationship with Him.

That's the Gospel.: "And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." (John 17:3)

Grace and peace to you,


jackfate March 4, 2008 at 4:24 PM  


Permit me one final comment and I apologize if what I say or have already said causes offense.

Whether the Jesus of history lived a "perfect sinless life" is irrelevant to his message of radical grace, compassion, justice and peace. And it is, I respectively submit, a cop-out to state that he "lived the perfect sinless life we couldn't live." I state once again, living the life Jesus lived is a human possibility. The sacrificial life he lived is what we all should strive for. We should be willing to stand up to injustice even to the point of death. That is "the way" Jesus called his disciples to follow and they left him and betrayed him to the authorities, the powers that be. We are still abandoning and betraying him by misunderstanding his message and passing the buck.

Jesus didn't just "die." He was executed by legitimate governmental authority, Rome, with the collaboration of corrupt temple authorities in Jerusalem, because it was determined he was a threat to their status and power. The idea that he was "sent to die for the sins of the world" is morally repugnant. Is that the kind of god you want to worship? One who is unable and unwilling to forgive and save unless an innocent victim dies!? What a repulsive idea. I want no part of a god like that who demands appeasement through violence.

Think of the story of Zaccheus. Salvation came to him and his entire household when he determined to mend his ways and begin to act justly. Not a drop of blood was spilled. A compassionate, loving god would not demand and require the death of an innocent, certainly not his own son! God is able to forgive without such an unthinkable, horrible act of bloody violence. This is one doctrine that needs to be thrown on the trash heap of superstitious, religious dogma.

We have lived much to long under the sway of such repulsive dogma from the middle ages. (Actually, the idea of blood atonement originated with St. Anslem around 1100.) It is time we took a fresh look at the message of the Gospel which is what great thinkers like John Shelby Spong are doing. It is up to us to face such questions as mature adults, not fearing to ask the questions or hear the answers. It is time to discard what is not honorable and hold fast to what is good. I cannot think of anything more dishonorable than blood sacrifice to appease a vengeful god.

There is more I could say about what Walter Wink calls "the myth of redemptive violence." If you want to hear more I would be happy to continue our dialog or suggest a book or two to start with. There are plenty of books out there delving into these questions and can certainly explain it better than I.

I sincerely hope you don't dismiss my comments as worthless babble. I am not alone in my thoughts and the number of people who are beginning to come to their senses about such issues is astounding. Just think, if it were not for some great heretics in the past we would still be burning people at the stake.

Thank you for allowing me to post my thoughts on your blog. I commend you for not blocking me like others have done. I do appreciate your patience.

I wish peace to you and your loved ones.

Tertius March 4, 2008 at 6:52 PM  


Thanks for continuing the discussion, and for the well wishes. I can tell I'm not going to move the ball far down the field in this exchange alone, so I hope that you return regularly to read my blog.

Not because my words are exceedingly wise or persuasive, but because the Word of God is powerful and effectual unto salvation and to transforming our lives, and I often hearken back to Scripture in my posts.

Plus, I could use all the readers I can get.

As to blood atonement, Anselm may have argued it systematically in a fashion unheard of since the Apostolic age, but I think redemption through the shed blood of Christ is very plain in the New Testament record, and the writer of Hebrews makes clear the sacrifices of bulls and goats and sheep in the Old Testament were types and shadows of Christ.

Substitutionary atonement is one of the most misunderstood and maligned doctrines of orthodoxy. Remember, Christ said He was going to the cross willingly. He was laying down His life and would pick it up again (John 10:7-18).

Since Christ is the God-man, 100 percent human and 100 percent divine, he could bear the infinite wrath of God against sin, willingly, as a sacrifice to save the guilty from their sins. Because Christ has a human nature (two natures, one person -- hypostatic union), He can ably represent all of humanity (he's the second Adam, as Paul refers to him).

That's the nature of the atonement.

Christ does the redeeming reconciling work we could never and would never do. God interrupts our sinful lives with His mercy, saves us by His grace, and calls us to lives of repentance and obedience unto Him to model Christ's love to a lost and dying world.

And from THAT changed life flows all the goodness and grace and mercy that God has called the church to exercise.

Anyway, I hope you stick around and leave more comments on other posts and/or on already archived ones. I can see we won't agree on a lot, but ultimately my goal is to present the glories of Christ, the spotless Lamb of God.

I doubtless will err and fall short, but I trust part of God's grace towards me is critique from those like yourself who don't always agree with me, and can from time to time call me on the carpet when I'm tainting what should be a defense of the Gospel with my own sinful pride.

Thanks again for reading.


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