The Bible, Spong observed, “never says in a simplistic way that Jesus is God. Jesus prays to God in the Gospels. He is not talking to himself. Jesus dies on the cross. It makes no sense to say that the holy God died. The Bible only says that what God is, Jesus is; that to see Jesus is in some sense to see God.” Alas, though, this proved “a theological distinction too subtle for the secular press to grasp”.
Nevertheless, Spong battled on. The Gospels? Not so much the memories of eye-witnesses, but rather “liturgical works organised against the background of the Jewish liturgical year”. The Nativity? An obscure, illegitimate birth, possibly the consequence of a rape, which early Christians disguised under the extraordinary notion that this was this was the Son of God. The marriage at Cana? Very likely Jesus’s own wedding to Mary Magdalene – why otherwise should Jesus’s mother be concerned that the wine had run out, and why should she be giving orders to the servants?
The Resurrection? In the physical sense, “a late tradition”, dating from the end of the first century. The after-life? “I have no interest,” Spong proclaimed, “in a system of rewards and punishments.”
While atheists have advanced such opinions from the beginning of the Christian era, these were, to say the least, surprising views in a bishop. Yet Spong seemed to revel in shocking the orthodox. Redemption through the death of Christ, for example, he dismissed as “a barbarian idea – why doesn’t God just say, ‘I forgive the sin of the world?’ Why does God insist that the murder of his Son be a part of the forgiveness?”
Spong was a talented debater, and in thus tearing up the traditional roots of Christianity, he adopted a slightly bored tone of sweet reasonableness, as one obliged to combat the ridiculously entrenched prejudices of the brain-washed. Yet, while insisting that he himself was “a passionate believer” – albeit “a believer in exile” – he offered no alternative theology beyond a few vague phrases about God “as the ground of being”.
His ethical system, moreover, consisted mainly of liberal pieties. “God beckons us out of our confining lives to a place where we are able to grow into more sensitive and open people, people capable of reflecting the infinite inclusiveness of God.”
Translated, that meant ordaining gay people with a maximum of publicity. It meant embracing the feminist cause so as to combat a morality that had been formed in the era of the dominant male: the words “Father Almighty” in the creed, Spong declared, “offend me deeply”.
It meant that, while Spong advocated sexual fidelity within marriage, sex outside matrimony could be “holy and life-giving for older or single people or those divorced or widowed, provided it was within the context of a deep and exclusive relationship”.
It meant that divorce “has some very positive values that must be isolated and supported, as well as destructive potential that needs to be minimised”; perhaps, then, there should be a church service to mark the end of a marriage. It meant that abortion was “a legal option for reproductive choice”.
Credit: Source link