Sexual Hypocrisy in Church and State

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 25 October 2006 0 Comments
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As long time readers of yours, we have come across something that we do not

know how to answer and we were wondering if you would like to shed a little

light on this subject for us. It concerns Heb. 11:8-16, particularly v. 16.

It states (paraphrasing here) that God is not ashamed of Abraham and Sarah

because they believed by faith the things God promised to them. No argument

there.... however...would God have been ashamed of them if they HADN'T

believed? And, by extension, is it possible for God to be ashamed of us if

we do not believe in that "heavenly country?" I'm not asking because I want

to know if God would be ashamed of me (because I believe that God isn't), I'm

asking because theologically I don't see how it is possible for God to feel

ashamed of those who have been adopted, sanctified and justified. It would

seem to me that IF a person were under grace, then it would be impossible

for God to feel anything but union with that person by way of the Holy

Spirit through Jesus Christ.


First you need to read the text carefully. It does not say that

God is not ashamed of Abraham and Sarah. It says God is not ashamed to be

called their God. In Hebrew society, it was considered a woman's shame if

she could not conceive. According to the Book of Genesis, God removed the

shame by making it possible for a postmenopausal Sarah to have Isaac. The

story in Genesis was written some 900 years after the time of Abraham and

Sarah and, I suspect, grew in the process so the next question is to

determine what it meant to the author of Hebrews.

It surely had nothing to do with shame as we tend to use that

word. It was important to the Jewish image of themselves as the chosen

people to demonstrate that nothing could stop the promises of God from being

fulfilled. Miracles at the inauguration of a new nation are common features

of folklore.

Finally, whoever wrote Hebrews (it was not Paul) was not writing

the words of God. He or she was writing his or her words to a late first

century C.E. audience. Read them, mark, learn and inwardly digest their

meaning but don't ascribe to them inerrancy. That is to give to them

worship that is only due to God.

John Shelby Spong




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