I came across this quote in Spong’s, Why Christianity Must Change or Die: “Karen Armstrong, in her insightful book A History of God, has demonstrated that Jews, Christians and Muslins were all at one time accused of being atheists when their ideas began to challenge the popular religious wisdom of their day. It is almost typical of religious people to make idols out of their religious words. Perhaps in their quest for security, they identify their concept of God with God. When that concept is challenged, they think God is being challenged. That is why no concept of God can ever be more than a limited human construct, and personal words about God, we must learn to admit, reveal not God but our own yearning. So believers in exile are forced to face the fact today that all Bibles, creeds, doctrines, prayers, and hymns are nothing but religious artifacts created to allow us to speak of our God experience at an earlier point in our history. But history has moved us to a place where the literal content of these artifacts is all but meaningless, the traditional definitions inoperative, and the symbols no longer competent pointers to reality.”
If Bishop Spong is correct, which I don’t believe he is, I am not entirely sure why this is not the conclusion of the book. What else can be said? For if all conceptions of God are inadequate, and if all conceptions of God “reveal not God but our own yearning,” then what is left to be said about God? Why? Two reasons.
First, Spong applies evolutionary principles to the veracity of religious conceptions. Humanity has moved past the warring tribalism characteristic of the Old Testament God. No longer can the modern mind embrace this barbaric sentiment. Therefore, the OT presentation of God is no longer useful. Upshot? What makes Spong think that anything he says about God is any closer to describing God as he is than those “archaic conceptions” or future conceptions of God.?
Second, and more importantly, if all conceptions of God are doomed on the basis that at no point is the individual able to reveal God as he “is,” since he only reveals his own yearnings, then how can Spong expect to say anything to his reader that is not conditioned on his cultural conditioning, yearnings, hopes, and aspirations?
So when he says Christianity must change or die, what he really means is that Christianity must change into something that looks nothing like Christianity, at which point, Christianity will have died.
Yeah, I don’t think I’ll be wasting time with this book.
I know I shouldn’t be wasting my time with this book, especially since I have so many better things to read. Yet, I am deeply curious as to what Spong proposes as an evolved Christianity. I want to know what remains when he is finished and on what foundation it rests. It’s a lot like a train wreck; it is difficult to avert the eyes.