The Bible - A Divine Gift or an Immoral Treatise?

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 11 November 2010 0 Comments
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I have been made to think that we are perhaps like a walnut. We have a soft outer shell or husk, which is our "civilized–self." This is the part of us that makes friends with others and keeps us (relatively) well–behaved. But with minimum pressure, this husk breaks way to reveal a tough shell underneath. This shell, our "survival–self," saves us from getting hurt; it puts food in our bellies and protects us from the dangers that surround us. That is good, but it also prevents us from experiencing the core of our being, our "God–self." This is the part that Jesus' message is all about; only by breaking open and discarding our "survival-self" can we experience God. If we are to follow Jesus' example we must, as best we can, ignore our own needs and open ourselves fully to the needs of others. It is very dangerous as Jesus and those who have successfully tried it have found out. By doing so, however, we and those around us will catch a glimpse of what God means — or what I call a "God experience." I would appreciate your comments on this simile.


Dear Ian,

I think your simile is wonderful although most people who do not see walnut trees growing are not aware of that soft outer shell. Sigmund Freud had similar thoughts when he wrote about how the super ego protects both the ego and the id.

The fact is that we are survival–oriented creatures and that is not the result of something called "original sin," it is simply a characteristic of life, raised in human beings alone into self consciousness.

I think that, at least for me, self consciousness also opens to me the possibility that I am part of the universal consciousness I call God, which means that I am part of who God is and God is part of who I am. Above all, I know that the God defined as an "external, supernatural, miracle–working deity" is dying. Many people seem to think that if this definition of God dies then God has died. That is not my experience. The death of the theistic definition of God has been for me the doorway into the mystical reality of the God who is beyond any definition. Your analogy of the walnut helps to move me in that direction.

My thanks.

~John Shelby Spong



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