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Old 5th August 2022, 04:03 PM   #1
Thor 2
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John Shelby Spong - Christianity Without Theism

Just reading (for the second time) "The Sins Of Scripture" by John Shelby Spong and (as I did the first time) find his propositions confounding.

Spong rejects just about everything written in the Bible, both Old and New, and still insists on describing himself as a Christian. He even rejects theism and redefines God as a quality in man, that is evolving, and not a separate entity.

I do agree with every criticism he makes about existing Christianity however.
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Old 5th August 2022, 04:11 PM   #2
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He knows intellectually that Christianity is nonsense, but emotionally he still wants a "Get out of Hell free" card because it's hard to shake off childhood trauma?
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Old 5th August 2022, 04:13 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Olmstead View Post
He knows intellectually that Christianity is nonsense, but emotionally he still wants a "Get out of Hell free" card because it's hard to shake off childhood trauma?
That doesn't seem consistent with Thor2's characterization of his work.
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Old 5th August 2022, 04:27 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
That doesn't seem consistent with Thor2's characterization of his work.
Maybe not. Honestly, he seemed to have been an agnostic who had bought into the children's book version of Christianity and really wanted it to be true.
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Old 5th August 2022, 04:34 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
That doesn't seem consistent with Thor2's characterization of his work.
True. Spong doesn't belief in the existence of Hell.
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Old 5th August 2022, 04:53 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
Just reading (for the second time) "The Sins Of Scripture" by John Shelby Spong and (as I did the first time) find his propositions confounding.

Spong rejects just about everything written in the Bible, both Old and New, and still insists on describing himself as a Christian. He even rejects theism and redefines God as a quality in man, that is evolving, and not a separate entity.
What is confusing about that? Sounds clear enough. Can you explain any particular thing you find confusing about Spong's Christianity?

I'll note there are some atheists that seem to think that only literalist / fundamentalism / young earth creationism represents the 'true' Christianity and more liberal Christianities don't make sense. In that, they have the agreement of literalist / fundamentalist / young earth creationists!
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Old 5th August 2022, 05:07 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by GDon View Post
What is confusing about that? Sounds clear enough. Can you explain any particular thing you find confusing about Spong's Christianity?

I'll note there are some atheists that seem to think that only literalist / fundamentalism / young earth creationism represents the 'true' Christianity and more liberal Christianities don't make sense. In that, they have the agreement of literalist / fundamentalist / young earth creationists!

I would have thought it was obvious...... not to you though?

Most would define Christianity as resting on the words of holy scripture. The life of Jesus in particular more instance. Spong rejects just about everything however, including the notion that Jesus died on the cross for the sins of man.
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Old 5th August 2022, 05:29 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
I would have thought it was obvious...... not to you though?
It's been a while since I've read anything by Spong. I found him interesting but not confusing IIRC.

Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
Most would define Christianity as resting on the words of holy scripture. The life of Jesus in particular more instance. Spong rejects just about everything however, including the notion that Jesus died on the cross for the sins of man.
Ebionite Christians rejected substitutionary atonement as well. Marcionite Christians rejected the OT and most of the NT, holding to only one Gospel and some letters by Paul, all of which they believed were corrupted by orthodox Christians. They are some of the earliest Christians.

Spong is certainly inconsistent with orthodox Christianity, but that doesn't make him confusing.
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Old 5th August 2022, 08:58 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by GDon View Post
What is confusing about that? Sounds clear enough. Can you explain any particular thing you find confusing about Spong's Christianity?

I'll note there are some atheists that seem to think that only literalist / fundamentalism / young earth creationism represents the 'true' Christianity and more liberal Christianities don't make sense. In that, they have the agreement of literalist / fundamentalist / young earth creationists!
If you reduce Christianity to the belief that "Jesus was a mostly good person" then we are all Christians. If you think Jesus was the Son of God, then you are deluded.
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Old 5th August 2022, 09:17 PM   #10
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A lot of my forebears were Universalists and though I haven't read Spong, the description sounds pretty familiar. Other sects have been gunning for Universalists and Unitarians and Deists and whatnot, for generations, claiming that they can't be real Christians because they reject this or believe that. But anyone who wants to call himself a Christian is free to do so and I don't think any honest Christian can reasonably call the cherry picking of others a sin.
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Old 5th August 2022, 09:18 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Gord_in_Toronto View Post
If you reduce Christianity to the belief that "Jesus was a mostly good person" then we are all Christians. If you think Jesus was the Son of God, then you are deluded.
Correct. Nothing confusing there.
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Old 5th August 2022, 10:43 PM   #12
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Call it No True Scotsman if you like, but a guy who lives in Poland, whose entire family has lived in Poland for generations, and who has never so much as set foot on the British Isles is not a Scotsman.
Likewise belief in a God (singular) and some sort of deification of Jesus (usually literally, but I'd accept metaphorically) is the barebones minimum I will accept for someone calling themselves Christian. Words can be nebulous in their meaning, and dividing people into groups almost always comes with edge cases, but there must be SOME restrictions otherwise a term becomes quite literally meaningless.
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Old 5th August 2022, 11:43 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
Just reading (for the second time) "The Sins Of Scripture" by John Shelby Spong and (as I did the first time) find his propositions confounding.

Spong rejects just about everything written in the Bible, both Old and New, and still insists on describing himself as a Christian. He even rejects theism and redefines God as a quality in man, that is evolving, and not a separate entity.

I do agree with every criticism he makes about existing Christianity however.
Does that mean he accepts the "Christian" ethos, but not the scriptures that are its basis?
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Old 6th August 2022, 12:05 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Olmstead View Post
He knows intellectually that Christianity is nonsense, but emotionally he still wants a "Get out of Hell free" card because it's hard to shake off childhood trauma?
Well, he'll have found the answer to that last September.
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Old 6th August 2022, 04:24 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by GDon View Post
Correct. Nothing confusing there.
There also isn't anything confusing about me being a Shintoist because I really like Spirited Away.

Oh wait, yes there is. I should get that checked out.
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Old 6th August 2022, 04:36 AM   #16
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Old 6th August 2022, 06:07 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by GDon View Post
Correct. Nothing confusing there.
However, I does mean that you cannot be an Anglican because to be an Anglican you must accept the truths in the Apostles' Creed. Primarily one of which is the Godhood of JC.
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Old 6th August 2022, 06:10 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by zooterkin View Post
Well, he'll have found the answer to that last September.
No he did not! When you die you stop functioning. You know like a burnt out light bulb.
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Old 6th August 2022, 07:07 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by Gord_in_Toronto View Post
However, I does mean that you cannot be an Anglican because to be an Anglican you must accept the truths in the Apostles' Creed. Primarily one of which is the Godhood of JC.
And conversely if one is a Quaker or a Baptist or a Unitarian or a Dutch Reformed Congregationalist, etc. one can call oneself a Christian if they find the designation comfortable, since those sects, like many, are "non-creedal."

There's another thread around about what it means to "identify as" something. Here's one example. For many Christian sects, if you're not embarrassed to identify as one of them, you are one.
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Old 6th August 2022, 11:06 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by bruto View Post
And conversely if one is a Quaker or a Baptist or a Unitarian or a Dutch Reformed Congregationalist, etc. one can call oneself a Christian if they find the designation comfortable, since those sects, like many, are "non-creedal."

There's another thread around about what it means to "identify as" something. Here's one example. For many Christian sects, if you're not embarrassed to identify as one of them, you are one.
You can call yourself anything you like but to get the official Anglican membership card you must agree to the contents of the Apostles' Creed.
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Old 6th August 2022, 12:02 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Gord_in_Toronto View Post
You can call yourself anything you like but to get the official Anglican membership card you must agree to the contents of the Apostles' Creed.
Exactly, because the Anglican Church is creedal while others are not. You can pretend to be an Anglican without agreeing to the creed, but you can be a deacon or a preacher in other sects without doing so.
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Old 6th August 2022, 03:12 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by Gord_in_Toronto View Post
No he did not! When you die you stop functioning. You know like a burnt out light bulb.

As I believe also.

A gripe I have, is that when those Christians I have been arguing with die, they will not know they were wrong.

If they are right however, when I die, I will know I was wrong big time.
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Old 6th August 2022, 03:15 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by Lplus View Post
Does that mean he accepts the "Christian" ethos, but not the scriptures that are its basis?

He certainly rejects the scriptures.

The Christian ethos is a hard one to nail down methinks.
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Old 6th August 2022, 03:23 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Irony View Post
Call it No True Scotsman if you like, but a guy who lives in Poland, whose entire family has lived in Poland for generations, and who has never so much as set foot on the British Isles is not a Scotsman.
Likewise belief in a God (singular) and some sort of deification of Jesus (usually literally, but I'd accept metaphorically) is the barebones minimum I will accept for someone calling themselves Christian. Words can be nebulous in their meaning, and dividing people into groups almost always comes with edge cases, but there must be SOME restrictions otherwise a term becomes quite literally meaningless.



Something must have a definition, that is accepted by all those in discussion about it, before any meaningful discussion can be had.

Bertrand Russell in his book "Why I am not a Christian", firstly defined what a Christian was, before he entered into his argument. I don't think the Spong description of his own Christianity would have fitted.
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Old 6th August 2022, 04:31 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
As I believe also.

A gripe I have, is that when those Christians I have been arguing with die, they will not know they were wrong.

If they are right however, when I die, I will know I was wrong big time.
I like it.

We can call this the "Thor 2 Wager".
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Old 6th August 2022, 08:50 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by Thor 2 View Post
As I believe also.

A gripe I have, is that when those Christians I have been arguing with die, they will not know they were wrong.

If they are right however, when I die, I will know I was wrong big time.
I know you do. I was just adding emphasis.

Maybe there is a god and when you die he'll say. "Congrats Thor, you figured it out correctly. Here, have some delicious white grapes (qv)."
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