Thursday, January 12, 2012

Re-Thinking The Bible

I am in the beginning stages of reading what is turning out to be an absolutely fascinating book about the Bible.
John Shelby Spong, a decade into his retirement as an Episcopal Bishop in New Jersey, shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, in one footnote he refers to a subsequent book, scheduled to be published in 2014. This current one is called Re-Claiming The Bible For A Non-Religious World.
My initial reaction? One word --> Wow!
For those of you who may not already know, I myself have a bachelor degree in Theology. I studied full-time in college, for four years, [1987-1991] and graduated with Honors -- which is to say, I took it fairly seriously. Since then, though, all I have really excelled at is…. being a bachelor.
All that aside, my interest in the Bible has not waned. But my focus has shifted, largely in part to authors like Spong, who have taught me that the Bible is a book that is not meant to be interpreted literally. In my opinion, only when that fact is fully understood can the Bible become a relevant text, worthy of true study.
One would have to be fairly ostrich-headed to have not noticed in the past decade or so the plethora of books that have been written about the Bible and/or the Christian religion in general. Writers like Tom Harpur, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens come to mind. I've read them all.
The difference with Spong is that he is someone who still considers himself a "believer." But his perspective is so astute, so NOT nonsensical, that he succeeds in bridging a gap that these other writers seem only to widen, at times, with their own brand of fundamentalism.
Spong says, on page 15 -- When I read books written by the new breed of militant atheist writers, who have become both best-selling authors and household names, I find myself perplexed as to how to respond to them. I have no desire to attack them or rise to God's defense. The religion, the Christianity and the Bible that they reject are the same religion, Christianity and Bible that I reject. My problem with such writers is not located there. It is rather in the apparent fact that they do not seem to know that there is any other way. Why should they, since the church has worked so hard not to allow other possibilities to become visible? My desire is to work in that very arena and to close that gap in knowledge at least in regard to the Bible. I am not the enemy of the Bible. I am the enemy of the way the Bible has been understood and the way the Bible has been used. I do not think for one moment that the Bible is in any literal sense the "Word of God."

Having read many of his books, it is not the slightest exaggeration to say that I have learned [infinitely] more from John Shelby Spong than I've learned in all the years of my formal study.
This book is a gem. It begins, just like God did, in Genesis, and finishes off at Revelation. Thing is, with every chapter, Spong respectfully shows the reader how incredibly foolish that phrase "just like God did" really is.


1 comment:

Stefanie said...

This books sounds like it was written just for you. One of the best classes I had in college was the Bible as literature. It was so liberating to be able to talk about the Bible as stories in all their beauty and insight and weirdness and inconsistency. It made me appreciate the book much more than sitting in church on Sunday ever did.