Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Jesus For The Non Religious

As many of you know, I call myself a "Progressive Christian." Trying to put meat around exactly what that means is not always easy. I consider myself a disciple of the teachings of Marcus Borg, and feel that he has really opened up to me the questions that I have wrestled with for years. I have also been enamored with the writings of John Shelby Spong, but put off by his inability to reconstruct a modern theology.

Spong is like most of us, much better at de-constructing the theology of the past (which does not work for me), but he has always left me short. O.K., what do I replace it with.

FINALLY, Bishop Spong has written his most important work. It is not one for the faint of heart (or afraid of the quest) for he spends the first 2/3rds of the book destroying traditional Christianity. He acknowledges in the preface that many who are tied to traditional Christianity will see this work as negative. As he puts it: "New truth always offends the security systems that have operated in the world of yesterday."

I found in the book — freedom — freedom to truly experience God through Jesus.

For me, the notion of a theistic God (a God who is "up there", listening and interjecting into daily life) doesn’t work. I have outlined that position many times before, but to put it simply, I cannot any longer believe in a God who acts on a whim to save some from disaster and neglect others from another disaster. A God who can be coerced through prayer is not a God to me.

So what is the role and function, what is the purpose of God? Spong spends the last part of his book creating a theology that erupts from the work of Tillich and his understanding of God as "the ground of all being." He also brings to the front Matthew Fox’s works, particularly "Original Blessing."

He concludes his book with a poem, written for him, based on a sermon that he had preached in 1974. The poem CHRISTPOWER is powerful indeed.

Is Christianity dying as Spong argues? That is a difficult question to answer, but if it is to become more rigid, more narrow, more legalistic as the right would have it become — I want nothing to do with it. Instead I embrace the love that Jesus showed and shared.

Spong writes:

The call of the God experienced in Christ is simply a call to be all that each of us is — a call to offer, through the being of our humanity, the gift of God to all people by building a world in which everyone can live more fully, love more wastefully and have the courage to be all that they can be. That is how we live out the presence of God. God is about living, about loving and about being. The call of Jesus is thus not a call to be religious. It is not a call to escape life’s traumas, to find security, to possess peach of mind. All those things are invitations to a life-contracting idolatry. The call of God through Jesus is a call to be fully human, to embrace insecurity without building protective fences, o accept the absence of peace of mind as a requirement of humanity. It is to see that God is the experience of life, love and being who is met at the edges of an expanded humanity.
Clearly, this book isn’t for everyone. If you are still clinging to a theistic notion of God, Spong will probably offend you. But if theism doesn’t work for you anymore, and the church seems to be barking up the wrong tree, take a look at what Spong has to say. I think that he really does offer hope to the majority who have given up (or are giving up) on traditional Christianity.

No comments: