Why Christianity Must Change or Die
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This is the thrilling romance of Orthodoxy.
People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy.
It was sanity: and to be sane is more dramatic than to be mad. It was the equilibrium of a man behind madly rushing horses, seeming to stoop this way and to sway that, yet in every attitude having the grace of statuary and the accuracy of arithmetic. The Church in its early days went fierce and fast with any warhorse; yet it is utterly unhistoric to say that she merely went mad along one idea, like a vulgar fanaticism.
She swerved to left and right, so exactly as to avoid enormous obstacles. She left on one hand the huge bulk of Arianism, buttressed by all the worldly powers to make Christianity too worldly. The next instant she was swerving to avoid an orientalism, which would have made it too unworldly. The orthodox Church never took the tame course or accepted the conventions; the orthodox Church was never respectable. It would have been easier to have accepted the earthly power of the Arians.
It would have been easy, in the Calvinistic seventeenth century, to fall into the bottomless pit of predestination. It is easy to be a madman: it is easy to be a heretic.
Lumen Gentium 37
It is always easy to be a modernist; as it is easy to be a snob. To have fallen into any of those open traps of error and exaggeration which fashion after fashion and sect after sect set along the historic path of Christendom—that would indeed have been simple. It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands. To have fallen into any one of the fads from Gnosticism to Christian Science would indeed have been obvious and tame.
But to have avoided them all has been one whirling adventure; and in my vision the heavenly chariot flies thundering through the ages, the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect. Second, I agree with Spong that much Christian doctrine and practice is outdated and irrelevant. The Virgin Birth does make sense - but only if you live at a time when women are understood to be mere vessels in which the male seed grows to fruition, when sin is understood to be sexually transmitted, and when you believe in a literal Adam.
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A supernatural, interventionist God is irrelevant to many in an age when daily life is lived functionally without God. He acknowledges that. Christians have prized and in many cases tenaciously maintained images of God that positively invite religious scepticism… 4. A miracle-wielding potentate who finds me a parking spot in my hour of need, or who baffles the doctors by curing my son or daughter of leukaemia - I'm sure you've heard the stories - and yet who, in his wisdom, allows the kind of suffering we see everyday on the television news: that kind of God no longer cuts the mustard.
As for Christian practice: take prayer.
- Design by Nature: Using Universal Forms and Principles in Design (Voices That Matter).
- Progesterone in orthomolecular medicine;
- John Mark Ministries | Why Christianity Must Change Or Die (Spong’s 12 theses).
Although many of the particularly embarrassing bits - like suggestions that lean times are punishment for sin - have been removed from our prayer books, there is still a long way to go to make A Prayer Book for Australia a relevant document. As an Anglican for the best part of forty years, I would pray week by week for the Church. Specific Anglican bishops, dioceses and parishes around the world supposedly benefited from this though I confess to having been a little drowsy by that stage of the service - but I do not recall, ever, any Catholic parish being prayed for.
They didn't exist. Look also at the typical Christian attitude of prayer: eyes closed to shut out the sinful world, kneeling, head bowed, paying homage to the medieval Lord as though we're all extras in a remake of Robin Hood. The overt paraphernalia of royalty with which we invest bishops is another part of this whole outdated tableau. There is, of course, the issue of morality as well as relevance. In the words of English clergyman and theologian Don Cupitt,. Living by it as it stands is actually harmful to people. Reforming Christianity , Spong is right to call traditional Christian theism and some of its outworkings "morally bankrupt" Male headship, the priestly franchise on forgiveness, the hypocritical call for gays and lesbians to be celibate, a reliance on the promise of heaven and the sanction of hell to produce ethical behaviour, the invoking of God as we wage war, miracle cures for the faithful, a God who requires that we placate and flatter him, and who demands a blood sacrifice as the price of redemption… Spong is right.
It's irrelevant, and it often stinks to high heaven. A third respect in which I believe Spong to be on the right track is in his assessment of scripture. It is not a set of propositions 'once for all delivered to the saints'. The Gospels, as Spong says, are not in any literal sense holy, they're not accurate, they're not to be confused with reality.
They are beautiful portraits designed to point readers towards the holy and the real And the Bible is certainly not a 'maker's manual' on how to live an ethical life. Spong's exposition of the Ten Commandments ff is required reading here. I recently read a report which said that rap singer Eminem was intending to quote scripture to his audience to show them how hypocritical were Christian opponents to his concerts. I don't mean for a moment to defend Eminem, but does anyone doubt he could find a good number of verses from the Bible that are offensive to our sense of morality?
Fourth: Spong is right to emphasise the importance of the human factor in religion. The basis of ethics, says the Bishop, is to be found in our own humanity, not in some divine or eternal law undergirded by God What is Spong advocating here? Christian humanism? But where would we be without the ethical guide and constraint that the traditional Christian God represents? Well I grant that humans fail, even when their intentions are impeccable. However, I think history shows that they fail every bit as much - if not more - when they profess to rely on God to guide their decision-making.
Bishop J.S. Spong’s ‘Why Christianity must change or Die’ | Lumen Gentium 37
Personally, I'm in favour of Christian humanism. I think we should, as Bonhoeffer suggested half a century ago, be living before God as if there was no God. As Synod Rep in Rockhampton Diocese many years ago I heard the presiding Bishop announce - in case we got carried away with our power to change things - that the Anglican Church is not a democracy.
exprob.dev3.develag.com/232-what-is-the.php Anglican hierarchical authority is another hangover from feudal times which needs to change, as John Spong observes. Future worship, he says, will be less hierarchical, more egalitarian. It will be more exploratory, less defensive. It will treasure, but not be bound by scriptural traditions That's my kind of religion, with room for human creativity. There was clearly an enormous power present in his life. Here was a whole human being who lived fully, who loved wastefully, and who had the courage to be himself under every set of circumstances. He was thus a human portrait of the meaning of God, understood as the source of life, the source of love, and the ground of being.
Human life is capable of entering the infinity of God because the infinity of God can be found in the heart of every human life. The two are not distinct. Humanity and divinity flow together. In his life we see a revelation of the Source of Life. In his love we see a revelation of the Source of Love.
These were the aspects of his human presence that made his life so awesome and so compelling that people were driven to speak about him in terms of the theistic images of antiquity. If transcendence can be translated as infinite depth, if immanence can be seen seen as the point of access to those depths, and if the Christ figure can be interpreted as the life where transcendence and immanence come together, then we have a new way of understanding the meaning of the Trinity.
Jesus is for me the life who has made known to us all what the meaning of life is. Yet, despite this sometimes frenzied, but at least persistent, effort, I could not make prayer, as it has been traditionally understood, have meaning for me. The real reason, I now believe, was not my spiritual ineptitude, but rather than the God to whom I had been taught to pray was in fact fading from my view. In my attempt to rebuild and to recreate the experience of prayer, I begin by asserting that there is something deep inside me, and I suspect deep inside ever other person, that requires us to commune with the source of life.
It is something powerful that impinges on my consciousness and seems to invite me beyond the barriers of my security and even beyond the barriers of my humanity. It is something that nudges me into community and into caring for others. I address this presence as a Thou, not because it is a personal being, but because it seems always to call me into a deeper sense of personhood.
I can only imagine, I could never guarantee, that when life is lived this way, an enormous amount of spiritual energy is loosed into the body politic of the whole society. I can imagine that this energy is an agent in bringing wholeness and even healing.
The deity I worship is rather part of who I am individually and corporately. So praying can never be separated from acting. Prayer is the recognition that holiness is found in the center of life and that it involves the deliberate decision to seek to live into that holiness by modeling it and by giving it away. Is that enough to justify my self-identity as a person of prayer? I can respond only by saying that it is for me.