The Future of Christianity as glimpsed through a Western University

Essay by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 19 March 2003 0 Comments
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Question

"What is a miracle? Do you believe in miracles?"

Answer

     It depends on how you define a miracle. I think my marriage to Christine is a miracle. How could I, just by chance, have met this incredible lady? I think parenthood is a miracle. There is no way I could have produced children like the ones who call me their father. I belive that friendship is a miracle. I know people who have enriched my life dramatically. In that sense I believe that life is full of miracles.

     But that is not what most people mean when they ask that question. What they normally mean is ' Does God set aside the laws of the universe to intervene in life in supernatural ways?' There was a time when our ancesters in faith were quite sure that God did. But when those ideas were prevalent, people understood very little about how the world operated.

     In a world where sickness was viewed as the punishment of God, the kind of cures we produce today from antibiotics, surgury or chemotherapy would be called miracles. In a world where people believed that the weather was the instrument of divine wrath, a hurricane that turned out into the ocean and away from land would be called a miracle. That, however, is not the kind of world we inhabit.

     If religious people believe that God can miraculously intervene in history to cure cancer, to stop war or to redirect a storm, they have to tell me why God doesn't do it regularly. No, Neil, the people who make these claims have simply not embraced either the complexity of the world or the mystery of God.

     That is not all that can be said about miracles, but it is a start. I invite you to walk down this path and to see where it leads. God can no more be boxed into our world view than God could be boxed into the world view of our ancestors who saw miracle and magic everywhere. It is our task to walk into the mystery of God, not to fit God into our existence.

     John Shelby Spong

 

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