That's my point.
Ask the Bishop
Q: I have read much of your work and met you once at Stetson University in Deland, Florida, at a pastor's conference. It was the same venue where I also met Marcus Borg. I am a retired civil trial lawyer and a late-life seminary graduate, now an ordained Disciples of Christ minister, although before seminary I was a lifelong Presbyterian (USA) from the same time frame and section of North Carolina as you. My question, which gives me a great deal of trouble, is: What is your basic understanding of petitionary prayer? I believe you have said, "A God who would save the life of one prayed-for cancer-stricken child and not another would be a monster." This makes sense but gives me a great deal of trouble in considering petitionary prayer. (I have read your book Honest Prayer — I find no answer to this problem there.)
A: Thank you for your comments and for your question. Your question on petitionary prayer is almost always the first question that comes up wherever I go to lecture. People can talk about their understanding of God until the cows come home, but nothing really changes until they translate their understanding of God into their prayers. More than anything else, our prayers define our understanding of God. So to talk about prayer, we have to define who the God is to whom we pray. To say it differently, "Who do we think is listening?"
Most people, quite unconsciously, approach the subject of prayer with a very traditional concept of God quite operative in their minds. This God is a personal being, endowed with supernatural power, who lives somewhere outside this world, usually conceptualized as "above the sky." While that definition has had a long history among human beings, it is a definition of God that has been rendered meaningless by the advance of human knowledge. This means that for most of us the activity of prayer does not take seriously the fact that we live in a vast universe, and that we have not yet come to grips with the fact that there is no supernatural, parental deity above the sky, keeping the divine record books on human behavior up to date and ready at any moment to intervene in human history to answer prayers. When we do embrace this fact then prayer, as normally understood, becomes an increasingly impossible idea and inevitably a declining practice. To get people to embrace this point clearly, I have suggested that the popular prayers of most people is little more than adult letters written to a Santa Claus God.
There are then two choices. One says that the God in whom I always believed is no more, so I will become an atheist. People make this decision daily. It is an easy way out.
The other says that the way I have always thought of God has become inoperative, so there must be something wrong with my definition. This stance serves to plunge us deeply into a new way of thinking about God, and that is when prayer itself begins to be redefined. Can God, for example, be conceived of not as supernatural person, but as a force present in me and flowing through me? Then perhaps prayer can be transformed into meditation and petitionary prayer becomes a call to action. The spiritual life is then transformed from the activity of a child seeking the approval of a supernatural being to being a simultaneous journey into self-discovery and into the mystery of God. It also feeds my sense of growing into oneness with the source of all life and love and with what my mentor, Paul Tillich, called the Ground of All Being. It would take a book to fill in the blank places in this quick analysis, but these are the things that today feed my ever deepening discovery of the meaning of prayer.
– John Shelby Spong
Don't know who you are, but I heartily agree with you.
No one here cares much about scripture because they'll pull out something from 10,000 BC and say, "See, look, here is proof that this or that is up to questionable meaning and is not valid."
Scripture is clear that it is not by your own efforts you get to heaven. Yet dandelion has pulled out the New Church and Swendenborg, who makes the human and thus reasonable assertion that it is only by a Godly life you get to heaven. Swedenborg, in many ways, decided his visions were good enough to be considered a Third New Testament. Where did he find that in scripture? Well, actually, he said he had visions. And scripture is clear you are not to add to what has been already written.
Paul goes on to say that no one is allowed into heaven where he can go around boasting about his life style being adequate for getting into heaven. You find that also in book of Ephesians.
Doug Spaulding continually pulls out Bishop Spong, a recognized left winger as far left wing and radical as you will find. He couldn't care to two cents what scripture has to say concerning Christ. He is more concerned about the humanity involved in Christ and not his Divinity. Thus, he rejects Easter, the Resurrection, the very single event that Christianity is based on and on which it either stands or falls.
Spong rather it fall. As does Spaulding.
And Spaulding will certainly agree, saying it's time for a "...revision of Christian history". Or some word(s) to that effect. Is the problem that he never has discovered the meaning or experienced the meaning in the historical one? I say to Doug Spaulding, have you experienced salvation thru the intervention of a living Christ into your soul and marrow of your being? The kind of salvation experienced by the apostles and disciples of old and those who would empty themselves fully for Christ to dwell within?
Nico: As to your questions as to what is right or wrong, why not pull out an old sturdy edition of the Bible and read the Epistles.
If you are going to follow Christ, then you have to go thru everything Christ went thru. Self denial, etc. etc. Christ in you, the hope of glory, is not an easy commodity to have. The good, bad and ugly are always at struggle in the soul for dominance.
I just read the first 13 pages of this thread (very interesting, btw) and just decided to skip ahead and plug in a few thoughts. Here is something I learned that has greatly helped in my understanding of the Bible:
For centuries, artists such as William Blake and many others have had the misconception that the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are different...almost incapatable with one another (Blake went as far as suggesting they were two separate gods). The God of the Old Testament, people say, was vicious and cruel. In the NT, however, God (i.e. Jesus) is a figure of love and 'turning the other cheek'. Here is my discovery, which, I'm sure to some of you is old news. The people of God in the OT were a PHYSICAL nation, the Jews. When Jesus came and died, a new kingdom was established, one of a SPIRITUAL people. In the manner that the Jews handled sin and disobedience through physical acts (stonings, sacrificies, keeping the race pure by shunning other tribes) the new people of God were to treat in a spiritual fashion. When Christ said, "If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off," He did not mean literally, but in a spiritual sense. If this commandment had been given in OT times, you better believe the Jews would have been walking around looking like pirates. This kind of transition from the physical to the spiritual is best represented by Christ becoming the sacrificial, spotless lamb.
For Christians today, seeing the attitude that God displayed towards sin in the OT should give us a pretty good (violent) insight into how we are to treat sin today. But of course SPIRITUALLY is the key word....I don't want to see any of my fellow Bradburyites cutting limbs off now.
Another insight I'd like to add: If you want to know which quality God expresses as most defining of His character it's this: Holiness. The cherubs encircling the throne do not say God is "peace, peace, peace" or even "love, love, love" but "holy, holy, holy" (repetition was the Jewish way of placing emphasis, whereas today we use italics and so forth).
Quote from an earlier thread by Doug: "Atonement theology involves far more than a salvation doctrine. It brings into question the theistic understanding of God and even the morality of God. This theology assumes that God is an external Being who invades the world to heal the fallen creation. It also assumes that this God enters this fallen world in the person of the Son to pay the price of human evil on the cross. It was the central theme in Mel Gibson's motion picture The Passion of the Christ which might have been dramatically compelling but it represented a barbaric, sado-masochistic, badly dated and terribly distorted biblical and theological perspective.
All atonement theories root in a sense of human alienation and with it a sense of human powerlessness. "Without Thee we can do nothing good!" So we develop legends about the God who does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. For Christianity, I am convinced that our basic atonement theology finds its taproot not in the story of the cross but in the liturgy of the synagogue, especially Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. In the Yom Kippur liturgy an innocent lamb was slain and the people were symbolically cleansed by the saving blood of this sacrificed Lamb of God. Jesus was similarly portrayed as the new Lamb of God. As we Christians tell the story of Jesus' dying for our sins in doctrine, hymns and liturgy, we quite unknowingly turn God into an ogre, a deity who practices child sacrifice and a guilt-producing figure, who tells us that our sinfulness is the cause of the death of Jesus. God did it to him instead of to us who deserved it. Somehow that is supposed to make it both antiseptic and worthwhile. It doesn't. I think we can and must break the power of these images.
Consciousness is rising on this issue all over the Church, and as it does, Christianity will either change or die. There is no alternative. I vote for change."
Douglas: Is the above a quote or your own writing? If a quote, can you give your sources?
While atonement theory does have a premise of prior separation, the idea of the at-one-ment is that God reconciles us to Him through the sacrifice and work of his Son; so to emphasize the idea of separateness of God only works if you deny the love-based, sacrificial work of Christ in reconciling man to God.
There will always be arguments about theology, but I'm hard-pressed to understand any New Testament interpretation of Christ without reference to the atonement. You would need to discard the passion scriptures, and Hebrews and Romans carte blanche, wouldn't you? And once you get that far from a reading of the New Testament as an integrated witness to Christ, you have created something other than a New Testament Christ.
That's okay, I suppose, but once you deny the veracity of the New Testament witness of Christ, there seems to be no firm criteria for defining Christ--other than one's own opinion.
My sources are mostly Spongian (surprise). No, I can't point to an electronic version, as I am unaware of one.
A New Church (Swedenborgian) minister once said that although the church doesn't accept the idea of saints, going by the atonement theory, the Catholic idea of intercession makes sense. "This guy" (God) "got mad before, He can again." So you go to Mary, the understanding mother, she takes it to her compassionate Son, and HE puts your case before the Old Man. Protestants take quite the chance going straight to the Big Guy.
Swedenborg rejected the idea of separating the Son from the Father, and yes, he also rejected the writings of Paul as basically historical or moralizing works, not divine scripture. Not sure if he put forth his own writings as scripture--he NEVER founded a church--but his followers certainly did both.
But that's the problem, you see - we try to understand God by thinking like humans!
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."
Christ is risen!
"If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me. If you try and keep your life for yourself you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the good news you will find true life."
If this was a different situation perhaps so, but with these particular things it is. People born gay is not a sin, but they have to fight the urge to look at the same sex sexually just as straight people have to fight the temptation of lust.This message has been edited. Last edited by: Mr.Faith,
Uh-oh, philnic's been at the religion thread again!
That's funny. In fact, I just chuckled.
Chuckle is a good word.
Wait a minute - Spalding?
Hahaha, whoops my bad
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