Teaching at Drew Theological Seminary in 2008

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 7 February 2008 0 Comments
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Since the Bible contains so much misinterpreted
information, what kind of reference should a praying, spiritual
person use? Are there certain translations that are less
derogatory than others? Also, in looking at a deeper and clearer
understanding of the Bible, are there metaphysical understandings
that would enhance one's spiritual journey and that would be
useful? If so, what are they?


Part of the problem that underlies your letter is
that in your mind and in the minds of countless millions of
others like you, a distorted Bible and a distorted understanding
of the Bible has shaped your life for far too long. To undo that
damage would almost take a lifetime. Some translations of the
Bible are certainly more accurate than others, but any honest
translation of the Bible will still confront the reader in many
passages with an understanding of God who acts in an immoral way.
That is simply part of the tribal story the Bible tells. Tribal
gods have chosen people, which of course means that those not of
that tribe are God's unchosen. Tribal gods hate the enemies of
the chosen people. So the God of the Bible conducts a reign of
terror against the Egyptians with plagues, against the Ammonites
by stopping the sun in the sky to allow Joshua more daylight in
which to slaughter them and even orders King Saul to commit
genocide against the Amalekites. No version of the Bible can
remove the horrors of some of its stories. That, however, is not
the way to read this book. It is not the word of God in any
literal sense.

The Bible is a developing narrative, portraying
the developing God-consciousness in human life. It moves beyond
the tribal deity of some of its earlier parts to a universalism
that defines God as both Love and Justice, and even calls us to
love our enemies. The essential truths of the Bible, useful on
all of our spiritual journeys, is that in creation God proclaims
that all life is holy, in the Jesus story, the Bible asserts that
all life is loved and that through the Holy Spirit, who is said
to be "the Lord and giver of life," the Bible issues a call to
each of us to be all that we can be.

I work on these primary premises of the Christian
story, and that is why I still treasure, read, study and try to
live into what I believe is the essential truth of the Bible. I
do this by rejecting everything that is present in either the
Christian Church or the Christian Scriptures that is used to
diminish the humanity of any child of God, based on any external
characteristic of tribe, gender, sexual orientation or religious
tradition. I invite you to walk with me into this new

John Shelby Spong




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