Easter Explained

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 10 May 2006 0 Comments
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In your answer to the humanist question, you seem to
suggest by your final quotes that secular humanism is
"descended" from Christianity. I don't know if that
indeed is what you intended. It seems to me, however,
that secular, humanist values might parallel those of
other religions. Might the parallels with Jesus"
teaching that you correctly cite instead be a


Thanks for your letter and give my regards to your
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Central

Because secular humanism is a western phenomenon not
an eastern one, it seems obvious to me that it has
grown out of a western value system that has been
significantly shaped by the Judeo-Christian tradition.
I see Christianity at its heart as deeply humanistic.
The core doctrine of the Christian faith suggests
that God is revealed through a human life. Jesus
states his purpose in John's gospel to be that of
giving life abundantly. So I see secular humanism as
the residual remains of Christianity once the
supernatural elements have been removed.

The relationship between the two is, however, even
more complex than that. The next issue we have to face
is that of determining whether the supernatural
understanding of God is essential to Christianity. I
do not think it is. Furthermore, I do not think that
the mythological framework in which Jesus has been
traditionally understood, as God's divine invasion of
this world to rescue the fallen, is either original or
accurate, to say nothing about its being an adequate
way to understand the meaning of the Christ. Indeed, I
think that understanding of Jesus is exactly
backwards. It was because Jesus was fully human that
people experienced in him all that God means. It will
take the Christian Church at least another century or
two to overcome the way we have distorted God and to
rid ourselves of the primitive images with which we
have surrounded Jesus; but it will happen and, when it
does, Christianity will experience a burst of new

John Shelby Spong

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