John Shelby Spong was the Bishop of Newark, NJ 1979-2000
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:
Spong’s words are in italics
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.
We are at a loss to understand why theos (Greek for God) should be talked about any other way than the way He talks about Himself. His definition of Himself in His word ought to be adequate.
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.
Jesus is God come in the flesh, incarnation from the Latin carne (flesh). In First John 4:2-3 those who refuse to identify Jesus as God in the flesh are called non-believers.
2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
So let’s hold on to our Christology for a while until we can understand what God is saying to us in His word. OK?
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.
Since Charles Darwin did not create the world and its inhabitants there is no reason to bring his name into the discussion, even more so for not having any proof that his theories are valid outside of this world system. The creation was not described as perfect but as “good” and the sin which was inherent in man is what brought the “bad” into the good. What is evolving is the state and understanding of Man in this world.
4. The virgin birth, understood as literal biology, makes Christ’s divinity, as traditionally understood, impossible.
God as an agent of creation lives and works outside His creation and is in no way hampered by it. If he wants a virgin birth, He can do it. Furthermore the virgin birth is completely explained by the presence of the unique DNA in Jesus which Satan and Man can not and could not replicate making the one sacrifice for sin not just possible, but impossible to fake.
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.
Post Einsteinian theories open the way for anything to be outside space-time, another dimension. Newton’s ideas works for the world; Einstein’s work outside the world. Both eternity and time are compatible, no matter how separate their dimensions are. Physicists say there are 10 or more dimensions, meaning we have some learning ahead of us.
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.
Since Man cannot save himself, he cannot determine the method of his salvation. He can only accept it or reject it. Frankly, how God saves is really none of our business but God is generous and wants us to understand.
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.
Paul said that of all that we must believe, resurrection was key. Why? Because it means we are released from the world system and its corruption to enter an eternal state, renewed and ready for an eternal future with God. Even ancient Job, not even a Jew said, In my flesh I will see him. Why limit God? He’s smarter than we are.
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 .
Jesus said to his disciples the night before his death, “I have much more to tell you but you cannot bear it now. Yet when that one I have spoken to you about comes—the Spirit of truth—he will guide you into everything that is true.” John 16:12 (Phillips) So the universe is not 3-tied. So what? We had stuff to learn and still do.
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.
We were given 10 commandments plus two others from Jesus. Until we have lived according to those rather simple rules we have no reason to change the list.
10. Prayer cannot be a request made to a theistic deity to act in human history in a particular way.
Prayer as practiced by Jesus and millions of followers hence follows a Biblical pattern in a variety of ways. And He did ask his father directly and specifically for certain events in his followers lives and the history of man kind. Otherwise who are you praying to? Yourself?
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.
It is helpful to read the Bible before making statements like this. Guilt may get us to His Cross but it is the pursuit of heavenly rewards by our obedience that gets us beyond. Heaven is not a static environment teeming with stuffy guilt-obsessed folks. It is a perfect being (you) in a perfect environment and generations of believers have anticipated eternity in just this way. Besides, everyone lives forever; where we live is the question.
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.
Spong shreds the very concept of God and then says we are in His image. Image of what?