The Lambeth Conference of 2008 and the Curious Behavior of the Archbishop of Canterbury

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 20 June 2007 0 Comments
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Protestant churches in the U.S. seem to believe in a "second coming of
Christ." What do you believe?


I find belief in the second coming of Christ to be generally
limited to Southern fundamentalist and evangelical churches. I do not see
references to or hear people speak much about the second coming outside the

That phrase was popular in early Christianity when they came
to identify Jesus with the Son of Man whose purpose in Jewish mythology was
to inaugurate the Kingdom of God. Much of the New Testament is written from
this perspective. The healing miracles attributed to Jesus were in fact
designed to be understood originally as signs that he was ushering in the
Kingdom of God. Paul even called Jesus "the first fruits of the Kingdom of

However, that expected Kingdom of God did not come in the
life of Jesus and history moved on. Christians then began to refer to Jesus'
life as a "foretaste" of that kingdom. So the idea was born that the
Kingdom that Jesus revealed would only be fully inaugurated when he came
again. This second coming was then projected to accompany the end of the

I, for one, have little interest in this concept. If I knew
that the Kingdom of God would come tomorrow, I do not believe I would do
anything different. No one knows what any tomorrow will bring. So my
concentration is always on the present. I see little value in thinking about
the Second Coming of Jesus or any other eschatological event.

The world will surely end some day. Perhaps the sun will
burn out and life will become extinct. Perhaps one day we will experience
"the big crunch" as the world once experienced "the big bang" and we will
fall back into the sun and be extinguished by heat. Perhaps we Homo sapiens
will so foul our environment that life will no longer be possible. I see
all second coming language as symbolic of the incomplete nature of life and
the constant hope and dream of fulfillment.

Second Coming language also always assumes a three tiered universe so
that Jesus can come out of the sky in the same manner that he ascended into
it. That is a nonsensical idea to me. So is the recent suggestion that
Jesus would come from outer space. So I concentrate on what I know and what
I have some chance of controlling.

On an even deeper level I think Christ comes each day in me
when I live fully, love wastefully and dare to be all that I can be. When I
assist others in the task of living loving and being, I think Christ comes
to them. I commend that pattern to you.

John Shelby Spong




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