The Origins of the New Testament, Part II: Dating the Jesus of History

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 24 September 2009 0 Comments
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Bruce Wilson from Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada, writes:

I am deeply troubled. I cannot picture God, a supreme Santa Claus, who lives above the sky. I cannot see this as a male entity, as a judge, as a creator of all the universe. This image of a jealous, angry and vengeful entity is repugnant to me. This leaves me with no one to pray to, no one to give me spiritual comfort, no one to love me unconditionally (except my dog). Why do you keep referring to a God when, over the many years that I have read your books and weekly bulletins, you have said the very things about this entity that I quote above?


Dear Bruce,

Thank God for your dog!

Maybe you should see your inability to picture God as a Santa Claus above the sky as a step into maturity and wholeness. Now you need to look at the immaturity of your prayers. The last thing most of us can surrender in our spiritual journeys is the parent figure God who hears our petitions and who loves us unconditionally. However, there are other ways to conceptualize God.

Alfred North Whitehead conceived of God as a Process. Paul Tillich experienced God as the Ground of Being. The problem is that we use the language of time and space to give form to an experience and a reality that is not bound by or within time and space. When I use the word "God" I am not talking about a being. I am describing that sense of transcendence that I believe I have encountered within time and space. I believe I experience God as life fully lived, as love wastefully given, as being completely realized. I cannot tell you or anyone else who or what God is. I can only describe my experience. I may be delusional. Lots of religious people are, but I don't think so.

I join the mystics in saying that I think I am part of what God is. God lives in me, loves through me and empowers me to escape that drive to survive that is in every living thing in order to give my life away. That is the Christ role and I think it is also the role that his disciples are called to model.

So I am drawn by God beyond my boundaries and I perceive that God becomes real when I enter into the task of living and loving and being. This means that it doesn't occur to me that I am alone with no one to whom to pray. This makes me rather a deeply infused, God-intoxicated human being who no longer has the words to describe the God in who I live and move and have my being, but it does not even occur to me to doubt the reality of that which I experience, but can never define. I hope this helps. Hug your dog for me.

John Shelby Spong



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