Pitt Street Uniting Church, Sydney, Australia The Face of Tomorrow's Congregation

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 26 September 2007 0 Comments
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I was a Christian once - for about 18 years, or most of my
adult life. But then I read the Bible honestly and realized it
was mostly evil. I am now Pagan/Hindu and will never be a
Christian again. I know you agree that there is much evil in
the Bible. You even reject basic Christian doctrines like being
born in sin, the vicarious sacrifice of Jesus' blood for those
who believe and heaven and hell. How then are you still a
Christian? The depiction of Satan in the Bible is far better
that the depiction of God. If the Bible reflects God in any way
truly, then he is a monster and Satan is a hero for rebelling.
Don't you agree? So, why are you still a Christian?


No, I do not agree. Of course, there are parts of the Bible
that reflect tribal hatred and portray God as a vindictive ogre.
I point them out constantly in this column and in my books.
However, that fact does not render the core message of the Bible
to be either wrong or irrelevant. The Bible defines God as love
in the book of Hosea. The Bible defines God as justice in the
book of Amos. The Bible asserts that proper liturgy is not God's
desire but proper lives that "do justice, love mercy and walk
humbly with God" are. That is the message of Micah. The Bible
stretches the tribal deity of its own limited past into a
universal presence in the book of Malachi. The Bible enjoins us
to rise to ever new levels of humanity in Jesus' exhortations to
love your enemies and to bless those who persecute you. So I
study the Bible daily and treasure it as a resource.

In three quick sets of statements, I cherish the Bible

  1. It affirms that my life is holy and that all of us were
    created in God's image.

  2. It proclaims that I am loved no matter what I do or who I

  3. It calls me to be all that I can be.

Please note the Trinitarian formula, for that is what I mean
when I acknowledge God as Father (creator), Son (fully loving
life), and Holy Spirit (life giver).

I do not worship the Bible. I do not regard it as the
inerrant word of God. I know its content far too well for that
to be a possibility. I accept the Bible for what it is, the
chronicle of a faith story that grows as people journey through
time, seeking to understand their God experience.

The things you call basic Christian doctrines
like "being born in sin" or the "vicarious sacrifice of Jesus'
blood for those who believe" and "heaven and hell" are not basic
Christian doctrines to me at all. They are various theories
developed by a behavior-controlling religious institution
designated to frighten people or to make them pliable. There is
no sense of hell in Paul, for example, and the vicarious
sacrifice as the interpretation of the cross appears not to be
something that Jesus taught but the message of the Jewish Day of
Atonement being literalized and applied to Jesus by a later
generation of Christians. Only then did Jesus become the new
sacrificed Lamb of God. I have no desire to worship a God who
requires the death of Jesus as the means of achieving salvation.
Sadism is hardly a Godlike attribute, neither is the victim's
masochistic pleasure in being crucified. That idea of salvation
is simply not consistent with the message of the Fourth Gospel
that the purpose of Jesus was to give life abundantly.

So I suggest that the Christianity you reject is
not Christianity at all, but a terrible distortion that we all
need to reject. Christianity, as I understand it, is far more
than that. I hope you will find someday a church that does not
distort Christianity, as your present experience seems to

John Shelby Spong




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