John Spong's theses for a New Reformation


John Spong has issued a "Call for a New Reformation", which is available on his web site. This includes 12 theses. I agree 100% with each of these. The theses are as follows:

  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.
  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.
  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.
  4. The virgin birth, understood as literal biology, makes Christ's divinity, as traditionally understood, impossible.
  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.
  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.
  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.
  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 age.
  9. There is no external, objective, revealed standard writ in scripture or on tablets of stone that will govern our ethical behavior for all time.
  10. Prayer cannot be a request made to a theistic deity to act in human history in a particular way.
  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.
  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.


CT said...

If there's one scholar not afraid to tell it how he sees it, it is Spong. I am surprised your post hasn't generated more comment.

To me Spong clearly identifies many of the aspects of traditional Christianity that just dont add up - especially if you come from a secular background.

1. Theism - this is so simplistic. Look at the Universe. The idea that there's this being sitting just outside it who is personally interested in the lives of humans (not animals or insects) seems to me to be so clearly a human creation. It's not a coincidence that this God is just like us in so many ways. How will we alter this perspective when we finally locate life on another planet in this massive Universe of ours ?

5. Miracles - we simply don't see them any more. And the only 'evidence' we have is from some first century followers of Jesus who were very keen to prove their point about who Jesus was to them. Of course it is presumptuous for us to imagine we know everything and decide the material world is all there is, but the evidence we do have suggests miracles do not happen.

6. Sacrifice - steeped in history of a nomadic and/or agrarian people wanting to control factors outside of their control (weather, natural disaster, etc) .If we offer up sacrifices then we are restoring some level of control through our God. Why would the ultimate being possibly require us to offer sacrifices of any sort ? It does not add up and it has a clear historical explanation.

9. Scripture - the Old testament is full of hideous acts of God-sponsored violence and revenge and yet believers still speak of it in hushed tones. Read it and ponder. If God is the best we can be, or the ultimate that we strive for, would he/she/it behave in this way ?

10. Absolutely - comes back to the 'God' idea of a father figure sitting there resolving requests as they come in. Its not only simplistic but it doesn't account for the lack of response to such prayer. History and our own lives are littered with events that indicate there is no heavenly intervention in our world. There is a role for meditation on who we are, where we are going and how we should behave but not a role for submitting lists of requests.