Friday, March 21, 2008

Splash du Jour: Friday

Integrity and honesty, not objectivity and certainty, are the highest virtues to which the theological enterprise can aspire. From this perspective, all human claims to possess objectivity, certainty, or infallibility are revealed as nothing but the weak and pitiable pleas of frantically insecure people who seek to live in a illusion because reality has proved to be too difficult. Papal infallibility and biblical inerrancy are the two ecclesiastical versions of this human idolatry. Both papal infallibility and biblical inerrancy require widespread and unchallenged ignorance to sustain their claims to power. Both are doomed as viable alternatives for the long-range future of anyone.
-- Bishop John Shelby Spong, Episcopal (Anglican) Bishop of Newark, NY, in Resurrection: Myth or Reality? pg. 99 –

Have a Good Friday!


Vienna for Beginners said...

The title of the book, what the person is saying, and what office he represents seem at odds. Like hearing the sound of a car screeching.

Anonymous said...

Do you really think that they are at odds?
I wonder if they are at odds at all.

I would think that anyone working under a belief system would be about trying to help keep people in a faith that seems right for them -- not one that has been externally decided and dictated. To me, that is a contradiction in terms. Someone saying…HERE is what you are to believe? How can anyone really DO that? We can pretend or brainwash ourselves into it…but no. It’s wearing someone else’s wedding dress.

How can it possibly be valid or valued unless it’s personal?
Not mass produced.

When it becomes increasingly difficult for people to believe an illusion – or stories that are completely at odds with what science has proven to be true -- what I think I see Spong doing is trying to point them toward what proves ultimately to be a higher truth...the deep truths of metaphor that reaches us in a whole other way than “facts” do.

Those who have studied the mythological sequences of Biblical literature – and compared it to parallel archetypal myths that have predated it - may be unable to believe claims of its literal truth.

But they can perhaps believe that the myths it represents – myths that transcend time and place - have profound significance as an indicator of what is a universal metaphor...through all ages.

As Bishop it would be Spong's duty, I should think, to do his utmost to bring a measure of integrity to his position. If he risks that position -- if infallibility is insisted upon as a requisite to his serving as bishop -- then to speak out as he does here may be nothing short of heroic. He most definitely marches to the beat of a different drummer.

Those who understand the role of myth in the way it gives us deep underlying truths about our existence perhaps misunderstand the message.

Really to accept the narrative as myth is a testament to something that I see as going beyond an all consuming and blind faith. With myth one is allowed to retain a belief in the mystery: the numinous, transcendent nature of this thing called life that transcends our poor ability to define it. Inexplicable.
Beyond our poor powers of understanding EXCEPT as we can experience it through myth.

I recommend a look at Joseph Campbell's Thou Art That. It is thoughtful and well researched. And the only thing that it may openly challenge is a strictly literal fundamentalist view of scripture as interpreted by (fallible) Man.

See what you think.

cipriano said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cipriano said...

Dear Merisi [at Vienna For Beginners] I do understand what you are suggesting... what "Bishop" Spong "represents" is at odds with where conventional Christianity stands on biblical interpretation for sure... much like a car screeching maybe.

I feel that a lot of people would do well to let that screeching awaken them to some further insights into new ways of looking at conventional understanding of the Bible, though.

And that is where Spong sits, in that camp.
Admittedly, it is not a bonfire where a majority of churchfolk want to "roast their weenies" [so to say] much less warm their frozen hands, but nonetheless, I really feel that he is a relevant voice, in a religious world that seems to be caught in an ineffective doldrum caused by a thoroughgoing LITERAL APPROACH TO SCRIPTURE.

What Spong believes is that the Bible is a very relevant and even life-changing grouping of man-made myths.
But he presents his arguments in the face of a religious world that interprets the same writings as being [the one and only-->] "God's" LITERAL HUMANLY-TRANSCRIBED COMMUNICATION TO MANKIND.
Careful study reveals that it is, in fact, not this.
It is not a literal, objectively understood or appreciated book. It's a cave-drawing, found in jars. And one of many.
It's a good guess. 
And has lots of merits. But is not GOD'S WORD, per se. The only way it is at all understood [by anyone] as such is "by faith."
The same "faith" that will cause someone next to you to sever your head, because you revere it as such.
I think every point that "anonymous" makes here is something that I would get up on my apple box, and applaud.
In conclusion, if whatever "Easter" means does not include some sort of conversion experience for the non-Christian "heathen" then hell... I'm all for it! [As is Spong!]
But let us not pretend to know what we cannot possibly know, in its obligatory application to someone else, regarding religious conviction.

The real Gospel [Good News] is this!