In my social media surfing, I came across a post about the 12 Theses of Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong. I can’t find the article but I was able to find a blog post by Spong himself where the theses are laid out.
I’m going to post them in full below the “fold” but reading them reminds me of how we have similar progressive theses operating in some quarters of the Catholic Church.
Those of us who had any experience in the Anglican Communion of Canterbury know the dangers when “experience” and “history” take on the role of trumping doctrine. So, in a sense the Spong Theses are a preview of coming attractions for a movie we definitely do not wish to see.
On that note, I noticed a little excerpt of New York Time columnist Ross Douthat’s upcoming book To Change the Church: Pope Francis and the Future of Catholicism
It seems here he is noticing a similar trend.
“Yet this is where Francis-era liberal Catholicism has so often ended up—in arguments that imply the Church must use Jesus to go beyond Jesus, as it were, using his approach to the ritual law as a means to evade or qualify the moral law, which means evading or qualifying his own explicit commandments and declaring them a pharisaism that the late-modern church should traffic in no more. To fulfill Jesus’ mission, to follow the Jesus of faith, even the Jesus of Scripture must be left behind,” Douthat writes.
Now for those waiting with bated breath for the Spong theses here they are. Notice how seductive they are. Your thoughts?
The Twelve Theses
Understanding God in theistic categories as “a being, supernatural in power, dwelling somewhere external to the world and capable of invading the world with miraculous power” is no longer believable. Most God talk in liturgy and conversation has thus become meaningless.
- Jesus – the Christ.
If God can no longer be thought of in theistic terms, then conceiving of Jesus as “the incarnation of the theistic deity” has also become a bankrupt concept.
- Original Sin – The Myth of the Fall
The biblical story of the perfect and finished creation from which we human beings have fallen into “Original Sin” is pre-Darwinian mythology and post-Darwinian nonsense.
- The Virgin Birth
The virgin birth understood as literal biology is impossible. Far from being a bulwark in defense of the divinity of Christ, the virgin birth actually destroys that divinity.
- Jesus as the Worker of Miracles
In a post-Newtonian world supernatural invasions of the natural order, performed by God or an “incarnate Jesus,” are simply not viable explanations of what actually happened.
- Atonement Theology
Atonement theology, especially in its most bizarre “substitutionary” form, presents us with a God who is barbaric, a Jesus who is a victim and it turns human beings into little more than guilt-filled creatures. The phrase “Jesus died for my sins” is not just dangerous, it is absurd.
- The Resurrection
The Easter event transformed the Christian movement, but that does not mean that it was the physical resuscitation of Jesus’ deceased body back into human history. The earliest biblical records state that “God raised him.” Into what, we need to ask. The experience of resurrection must be separated from its later mythological explanations.
- The Ascension of Jesus
The biblical story of Jesus’ ascension assumes a three-tiered universe, which was dismissed some five hundred years ago. If Jesus’ ascension was a literal event of history, it is beyond the capacity of our 21st century minds to accept it or to believe it.
The ability to define and to separate good from evil can no longer be achieved with appeals to ancient codes like the Ten Commandments or even the Sermon on the Mount. Contemporary moral standards must be hammered out in the juxtaposition between life-affirming moral principles and external situations.
Prayer, understood as a request made to a theistic deity to act in human history, is little more than an hysterical attempt to turn the holy into the servant of the human. Most of our prayer definitions of the past are thus dependent on an understanding of God that has died.
- Life after Death
The hope for life after death must be separated forever from behavior control. Traditional views of heaven and hell as places of reward and punishment are no longer conceivable. Christianity must, therefore, abandon its dependence on guilt as a motivator of behavior.
- Judgment and Discrimination
Judgment is not a human responsibility. Discrimination against any human being on the basis of that which is a “given” is always evil and does not serve the Christian goal of giving “abundant life” to all. Any structure either in the secular world or in the institutional church, which diminishes the humanity of any child of God on the basis of race, gender or sexual orientation must be exposed publicly and vigorously. There can be no reason in the church of tomorrow for excusing or even forgiving discriminatory practices. “Sacred Tradition” must never again provide a cover to justify discriminatory evil.