John Spong


David Gibson in the National Catholic Reporter wrote a nice tribute to 82 year old Anglican bishop and writer John Spong.

The latter  is indeed a lightning rod for traditionalists who have little understanding of scripture and how it was written.

One respondent to Gibson’s article was so full of bile blaming Spong and others for the decline in church attendance all over the western world. By this criteria  prosperity preachers like Joel Osteen are wildly popular and worthy of credence.

Spong’s books, 24 of them are indeed assaults on fundamentalism and traditionalism  but never tradition which is always evolving.

When I interviewed him a decade ago i told him that to me his stuff was not new but the necessary popularization of the assured results of biblical scholarship. He was doing exactly what John Robisnon was doing in the early 60s. He laughed heartily and totally agreed with me.

Spong besides his biblical work championed female priests and the rights of homosexuals both as clergy and as oppresed citizens..

Gibson wrote of Spong,”  he questioned long-held doctrines and literal interpretations of the Bible, the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection of Jesus” . Spong was simply saying in easily understandable language what bible scholars have confirmed. The Virgin Birth is not about Mary or her hymen. It is about the uniqueness of Jesus. The resurrection is not about a reconstituted body.All common coin today.

Spong is like many progressives, often too far ahead of his troops. As a result he gets shot as the enemy!

His latest book is on John’s gospel,The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic  the least historical and most poetic of the gospels.

Spong , Gibson writes, “doesn’t think any of the Gospels are literal retellings of the life of Christ. All of them were written 40 to 70 years after the crucifixion, in a language that Jesus did not speak, and not by eyewitnesses,” he said. “I see them more as Jewish interpretive portraits painted by Jewish artists try to capture the essence of this man’s life.”

Those are, of course, the kinds of statements that set many Christians — even many fellow Episcopalians — on edge, to say the least. “A lot of people hear me attacking their certainty. I don’t have any interest in doing that. I’m interested in penetrating the meaning of certainty. We have to get beyond the symbols. And John’s Gospel does that for me.”



  1. 1

    Long live the Sponge!

  2. 2
    theobloke Says:

    Some irony here: John Shelby Spong made his living as a priest/bishop under the aegis of his church – not a judgment – just a comment.

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