Charting a New Reformation, Part XXVIII - The Ninth Thesis, Ethics

Essay by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 14 July 2016 30 Comments

“The ability to define and separate good from evil can no longer be achieved with appeals to ancient codes like the Ten Commandments or even to later interpretations of the Ten Commandments like the Sermon on the Mount. Contemporary moral standards must be hammered out in the arena in which life-affirming moral principles are forced to engage the external structures of reality, for this is where the ethical life is formed. No modern person has any choice but to be a situationalist.”

Finding a basis for making ethical decisions in our contemporary world is far more complicated than most people seem to imagine. This is especially true for those who continue to insist that ultimate authority lies in some ancient code of laws like the Ten Commandments. In this section of our attempt to chart a new reformation, we bring ethical decision making into the full focus of our attention. In the process, whether we like it or not, the mythology that has grown up around all ancient codes of law will be dismantled and the necessity of ethical relativity will have to be embraced. We begin with an illustration that we invite you only to imagine not to copy. It is designed to illustrate the fact that the very same actions might be regarded as good in one context and as insensitive, inappropriate and wrong in another.

On a Sunday afternoon in America’s “great cathedrals” of worship, our sometimes billion-dollar football stadiums, thousands of fans gather during the football season, on occasion braving extreme cold, in order to see the game in person. Simultaneously, millions of additional fans view the game around the world on television. In the clear vision of literally millions a 240 pound linebacker will be seen regularly walking back and forth between the tackles and guards, who form the football line of scrimmage. These linemen are now in a three point pose, ready to charge at the next snap of the football. This linebacker will exhort these linemen verbally and not infrequently he will even swat their upturned derrieres to urge them forward. Most of the people who see this interchange will think it so normal that they might not even notice it, much less remember it. No one watching would regard this interaction as inappropriate.

Suppose, however, that we change the context from a football stadium to a church building during a Sunday morning service of worship. The worshipers have come forward to receive the bread and wine of the Eucharist. They are kneeling in a row at the altar rail. Now imagine an usher or even an acolyte, following the example of the linebacker, walking up and down behind these kneeling people and swatting each of them on their behinds. Would people notice? You bet they would! Not only would they notice, but this behavior would be viewed as “weird, hostile, offensive, abusive and inappropriate” Yet if we were to isolate the specific act from the two contexts, a football game and a service of worship, one would have to conclude that the deed done was identical, which leads us to our first principle. The judgment as to the goodness or badness of a particular human action depends, not just on the act itself, but on the context in which the act is carried out. Subjectivity in ethical judgments is thus inescapable.

Look next at those substances which our human society has defined as “drugs.” One of these drugs, the one we call alcohol, is used in the form of a fine wine to give grace and elegance to a banquet table. It is thus viewed as good. Alcohol, however, can be and often is used in other forms to perpetuate the hopelessness of a lost soul living on the fringes of society. The alcohol is the same; the context in which the alcohol is used renders the moral judgment. The same thing is true when we turn our attention to other drugs. In the hands of a trained physician they are dispensed to ease pain and to facilitate healing. In that context the drug is life-giving. Sometimes, however, that same drug is used as a coping device by a desperate person. In that context it can be and often is life-destroying. Good and evil are not fixed categories; they never have been. No matter what the religious claims of the past have been, it is now quite impossible to build an ethical system on the basis of an unchanging or eternal standard. Unchanging divine rules are little more than lingering religious illusions. Those who seek to chart a new reformation must face this reality, deal with it, dismiss it and look elsewhere for guidance in determining just what it is that makes good “good” and evil “evil.”

It is the common practice of religious people not to acknowledge these uncertainties or to face these realities. The word “relativity” in ethics is considered a “dirty” word in conservative religious circles. Relativity, nonetheless, confronts human beings at every turn and in every decision they make. One of the reasons that religious people do not want to admit relativity is that it forces adult decision-making on them. It is so much easier to remain childlike and to pretend that there is a set of eternal rules, which one just has to learn and agree to apply. Human beings want to believe that they can define the terms “moral” and “immoral.” It is, however, the existential context of life that more often than not, will determine what is good and what is evil.

From where then, we must ask, does the human sense arise that some things are good and other evil? How do we cope with so slippery a slope, which we experience every time we seek to define ethics? This apparently bottomless pit of uncertainty appears to drive us in search of some essential norm that we hope, and sometimes pretend, will define good and evil objectively for all time. We assume that such a norm must exist. Frequently, once we think we have found it, we elevate it to a status that is beyond questioning. We treat it with great respect. In the Western Judeo-Christian world that has been the fate of the Ten Commandments. Look at the importance our whole society has attached to that traditional standard.

In the Christian churches built in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Ten Commandments were almost universally displayed in a prominent place on the inside walls of each church. The popular form for this display was to portray these commandments inscribed on a stone tablet, for stone tablets are not only biblical, but they also give the impression of indestructibility. Not infrequently, these commandments would be on not one, but two stone tablets; the first one including what we in our Christian catechisms have called “our duty toward God.” These are the commandments (1-4) that tell us that God is one, that God cannot be imaged and that God’s name and God’s day must be honored. The second tablet would include those commandments (5-10), which were thought to spell out our “duty toward our neighbor:” Honor your parents, do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness and do not covet.

In the early days of my life in my church, I was treated to the opportunity of hearing the Ten Commandments recited in worship on a regular basis. It happened on the first Sunday of each month. The congregation was taught to respond to this recitation with the words: “Lord, have mercy upon us and incline our hearts to keep this law.” When the final commandment was recited, we were taught to say: “Lord have mercy upon us and write all these thy laws on our hearts, we beseech thee.” Great power and authority were attached to these holy words.

A decline in that power, however, began to set in in the 20th century. My church changed its liturgical directions to make the reading of the Ten Commandments voluntary not mandatory. The result was that the Ten Commandments quickly fell into liturgical disuse. Why did my church take this action? Perhaps it was the fact that both the new scientific discourse and the period of history we refer to as “the enlightenment” had served to erode our confidence in the supernatural deity, whose will these commandments were thought to express. Perhaps we discovered too many exceptions to the rules, which served to destroy the objectivity of this ancient moral code or at least to weaken its authority permanently. Whatever the cause, a very real demise was felt and was accompanied by a heightened sense of anxiety. To many conservative Christians rampant immorality appeared to be the only real alternative.

A judge in Alabama, named Roy S. Moore, decided in 2001 that, in the service of his fundamentalist faith, he would install in his courtroom a two ton statue on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed. Since he believed these ten laws were dictated by God, in his mind he was doing nothing other than defending God’s truth. He was, however, charged with violating the constitutional amendment that guarantees the separation of church and state. His supporters rallied to his side. His critics were called “godless,” “immoral” and “modernists.” Moore suggested that his enemies were those who were eager to remove God and God’s words from America’s courts of justice. The law prevailed, however, and Judge Moore’s statue was removed.

Most people do not know that there is a wide sectarian disagreement over the order and even the way the commandments are numbered. Judge Moore’s Ten Commandments were not “objective” at all, as he claimed. On his statue he had followed the order of the “Protestant” version of these commandments. I happened to be in Montgomery, Alabama, during the time of this controversy and I went to see Judge Moore’s statue before it was removed. On the back were the words: “copyright 2001 Judge Roy S. Moore.” Surely by this time, the Ten Commandments are in the public domain. Are they eternal? Are they unchallengeable? I don’t think so. We move next week to trace the difference between religious rhetoric and religious practice in regard to the Ten Commandments. They are not the same.

John Shelby Spong

 

Question

I am intrigued with your series of essays, “Charting a New Reformation” – especially Parts 7 and 8 in which you develop the idea of God as “the Ground of Being,” a concept hearkening back to Paul Tillich.

I have a couple of questions:

Should I understand this as a form of “pantheism” where the universe and everything included in it is equal to God?
Or, is this “panentheism,” the idea that the cosmos exists within God who, in turn, “transcends,” “pervades” or is “in” the cosmos?

In other words, while pantheism asserts that “All is God,” panentheism goes further to claim that God is greater than the universe.

Or, perhaps, is your notion of God as “the Ground of Being” neither of these? Your concept of God as “the Ground of Being” resonates with my thinking. I just want to be sure I am understanding it in the way in which you wish it to be understood.

Please clarify his critically important concept for me!

Answer

Dear Louis,

Thanks for your letter. To think of God outside the limiting framework of theism vs. atheism is not easy. We have no “God vocabulary” and so we continue to shift and combine human words to provide pointers in a new direction. We can, however, no more literalize our new word combinations than we could the words of the earlier theological consensuses.

I would not use either the words pantheism or panentheism as synonyms for “the Ground of Being.” Of the two I prefer panentheism because it is more flexible and therefore less capable of being literalized than is pantheism, but neither word has much appeal to me. No, I do not conceive of God as identical with all that is. I do not think I or anyone else has the right or the ability to tell anyone who or what God is. Panentheism states that God can be discovered in and through all that is, but is not limited by all that is. That, as I suggested, offers more flexibility, but it also tends to tell me just how God works or operates and not only are we back into theistic images, but we also come up against the human inability to define how the holy works.

Employing language that defies explanation thus becomes an asset in pursuing truth if not an asset in creating the security of certainty which, as I have suggested, is always a delusion.

So I go back to my distinction between an experience and the explanation of that experience. God is an experience of transcendent otherness and holiness. Theism, the Bible and the creeds are attempts to explain that experience.

Jesus was an early first century experience of the presence of that which we call divine. The gospels are a late first century attempt to explain that experience. If we literalize any human explanation of the divine, we inevitably destroy the experience. Both pantheism and panentheism are attempts to explain the experience which cannot finally be explained.

So with what are we left? The best we can do is to walk daily in the experience of God. We walk without road maps; we never find security. Certainty is not a possibility. Does God disappear in our inability to capture the divine in the words of the human? No, but idolatry disappears. Perhaps the best we can do is to pray for “a closer walk with God.” That is the mystical path. I choose to continue my journey into the Source of life, the Source of love and the Ground of Being without any clear or certain answer.

I hope this helps.

John Shelby Spong

 

Comments

 

30 thoughts on “Charting a New Reformation, Part XXVIII – The Ninth Thesis, Ethics

  1. I suspect most of Bishop followers would easily accept the idea that morality can’t be based on rigid, eternal rules. The question to which we are eagerly awaiting his answer is: So what is the basis for ethical consideration? I hope he is not dropping hints about his answer when he refers to efforts to “determine what is good and what is evil.” And when he refers to defining “moral” and “immoral.” My concern is that use of these familiar terms places the discussion in a binary context, that the choice is either/or,” that there is a clear distinction between On” and “Off.” Although there may be clear distinctions between extreme good and extreme evil, the daily situations most of us face lack that purity. I hope that his use of these binary terms will be moderated in his future discussion.

  2. I must tell you how much I enjoy Charting a New Reformation. I became an Anglican lay reader about twenty years ago and no, at 94, I am leading worship one week and doing the sermon the next week so I am quoting Bishop Spong or e-sermons.com more often than I am writing anything. Our small congregation doesn’t have a priest so two of us are doing it. Hope Bishop Spong continues to have good health. I look forward to his e-mails each week.
    Eva McDonnell

  3. When it comes to the question of ethics, Confucius and Mencius were the leaders in ancient China on it. The Chinese under feudal rules by emperors over those dynasties had established five of the most revered by common folks: Heaven, Earth, Emperor, Parents, Teacher(s).
    Today, however, those first three are gone for good. So we are left with just the two. In the past, filial piety required children to more than bend over backwards, so to speak, for their parents and obey, obey, obey…… The teacher was encouraged to physically chastise their students who were not diligent. Parents also could chastise their children. But corporal punishment is no longer legal today.
    A person must learn to follow these behavior goals as personal ethics:
    1. Kindness and love, 2. Righteousness, 3. Manners, 4. Trust-worthy,
    5. Knowledge/wisdom, 6. Peace, 7. Courage (including admission of wrongful behavior)
    Loyalty to the emperor was later transferred to patriotism for the country. (In a one-party political system, one must be obedient to the Party which rules.)
    Filial piety is no longer required, but love and grace are still emphasized.
    But each person must abide by the laws of the land.
    Since communism stresses materialistic interpretation of the world, there has been a virtual vacuum in the spiritual life for the majority of Chinese. Idolatry and superstition under the name of religious freedom has become abundant. Buddhism, Taoism (Daoism) , and Christianity in the old theistic tradition are everywhere. Religious management and control, however, is very strict under a “3-selves” patriotic umbrella: 1. Self-supported (no more foreign money); 2. Self-published (Religious literature, including the bible and the Koran must be printed/ published within the country); 3. Self-preaching (missionaries from foreign countries not allowed).
    Eugene, from Suzhou, China

  4. As a seeker of Wisdom, I challenge myself from time to time to come up with a formula for TRUTH that can survive the scrutiny of the present, as well as having relevance toward both the past and the future.— and before I do, I want you to think of this as we would a mathematical equation: TRUTH equals not only the relationship of IDEA, PERSON, PLACE, THING, — in any circumstance and combination— but, most importantly,— that those named circumstances and combinations are to be framed in a CONTEXT. One might say that TRUTH is the totality of CONNOTATION and DENOTATION. However, with the problem of disparate perspectives, there seems to be a problem: Absolute TRUTH will probably always be Relatively hard to find. Another similarity comes to mind: The LAWS of THE TORAH, where, in fact, despite what is only a part of the “Gentile Heresy”, both the written AND oral laws have total validity.
    One of the most insidious “CATECHASMS” of deprivation-side “NEANDERTHEOLOGY” was the doctrine of “SOLA SCRIPTURA”— and I will happily define those terms in future commentary— but here was one of the worst notions EVER espoused. But because very MANY embraced it, they became the “IN” CROWD! And so we must consider the COERCION OF THE MANY as one of the “CONTEXTS” with which, or by which, our present relationships have been affected. I will now explain why I call it “deprivation- side” : In Judaism the terminology, “Him who HAS/ Him who HAS NOT” refer to one specific thing: KNOWLEDGE! Why does Oliver Twist ask for more gruel? Because in his state of depravity and circumstance, a salmon dinner and wine are not on the menu! “MAN DOES NOT LIVE BY BREAD ALONE” was, unfortunately not sufficient for Martin Luther — as to the NEED of an accompanying oral tradition. I don’t think there are many disciplines or skills that exist where any written code “said it all”. Frankly, what has happened in literalistic Christianity is that a “pseudo-breath” has accompanied the bread of TARES. Who among you would trust a doctor who has only READ his book, PERFORMING BRAIN SURGERY — with no accompanying internship, etc.?
    But now to the real issue I want to share– to so many who are seeking, humbling themselves towards God’s blessing, how many of us would recognize a revelation if it was right in front of us? One might say it is only an interpretation at the moment, for which I am content. In some time past as I was pondering the “Fertility Issue” which kept occurring with the Matriarchs of the Bible, I heard Bishop Spong mentioning all of the bloodshed of the Christian Era,— and it ‘hit me’, that,–the same way as Abraham and Jacob had children, Not by their primary ‘wife’, that– as an allegory, so MARY, which is the Christian Church, has been both blameless-but-bloodshed, Cult-prostitute-but-ever-virgin, unclean for the seven days of the Era {which is actually 7000 years]. That this is not seen on the carnal level should be no big surprise, for then you are introduced to Joseph– JOSEPH IS JUDAISM! EXPLORE THE STORY!— for he “knows her not”, nor do we, until she truly brings forth her son= her most prized express image; Idolatry is Adultery– she is taken in the very act. Now faced with the fact that not one jot of the LAW is to pass away, my question is: will she ever Repent? She is BABYLON, and the very subject of Jesus’ inquiries about DIVORCE!

  5. Theodore, What???? And that’s only the first 2 paragraphs.

    What is the deal with Mary? She is the Church? There is a prostitute/virgin cult? 7 Days is really 7000 years? What is not seen on the carnal level: Mary, the Church, 7=7000, the Matriarchs? And Joe is Judaism itself? He know her not “in the biblical sense?” And Jesus is an express image? What act is she taken in? So it was carnal? Mary is Babylon – so the conquerer of Israel and Jesus wants to divorce Babylon? And What is the context of the original spin and was it carnal?

    Again, what????

  6. Thomas,

    Why do you assume that Theodore intended that you should understand what he wrote? Sometimes the meanderings of the mystical mind make sense only to the person experiencing them.

  7. There are four levels of interpretation in Judaism, denoted by the anagram, PRDS– Whenever the word, ‘paradise’ is named, the scholar who knows the Jewish perspective knows it involves interpretation upon these levels. And as well-intentioned as Bishop Spong is, and truly correct as well to point out that we SHOULD look at Scripture through the Jewish lens, the problem is that there is no magic pair of glasses available to put on. After more than four decades of study in the various fields of Religion, Mythology, Gnosticism, Hieiroglyphics and Philosophy, I have found that –fortunately– Truth is working upon Humanity from many ways. I know that to unlearn a falsehood is as rewarding as learning a valuable insight into Wisdom.
    Can the average person not be astonished to hear: THAT THE WORD ‘HISTORY’ is not found in the Bible? And yet it is a rule in Judaism, there is NO BEFORE nor AFTER in the TORAH. No one is going to see the higher levels of anything Biblical while they approach them with the mindset of historical or carnal prejudices. One might be amazed, as I was, to hear a Rabbi state, in various programs week after week, that Bible characters AND their ‘times’ are totally THEOLOGICAL! Look up JEM yourself—it stands for Jewish Education Media.
    Will the average Christian not be astonished to hear, learn, and know that virtually every aspect of the Jesus story both came FROM, and were used in, several “Godman” stories that are factual mythologies: Osiris, Mithras, Dionysus, Orpheus all shared Dec. 25, wise men. guiding star, and many others. THE JESUS MYSTERIES is such a well-documented book that smug Complacency and Belligerence are in for a “ROOD AWAKENING”. Do you know that “to meet the Lord in the air” is an Aramaic idiom, which only means, QUICKLY? IDIOMS OF THE BIBLE EXPLAINED has been available for decades, but so many are wise in their own eyes. Written by George Lamsa, it is only the beginner book for a treasure trove of “corrections” needed for defining HOLY speech in a mocking world. Other books by him are GOSPEL LIGHT, OLD TESTAMENT LIGHT, THE EASTERN BIBLE, and several Gospel commentaries.
    Who among us is afraid to humble themselves– receive correction? Not I. PEACE and BLESSINGS to all.

  8. Rodgers, not sure if you write this tongue in cheek. Regardless, I am familiar with the “mystic,” having read many, especially my favorite Mesiter Eckhart. The thing is, if the mystic wants to be heard, wants his/her insight to offer light to others, the mean and way of communication is the be all and end all. Now I will try to read Theodore again.

  9. Theodore, who is the Rabbi who said the entire bible is theological? Many agree that much is not literal history but were there no Kings, no prophets, no Babylonians, no people in the Promised Land? I’m open to new insights but would like the source and since you heard him and have read JEM, please give us some additional information – much as others here have done with their readings. And, put it to Spong in a letter, could make for an interesting discussion.
    Next, I enjoy the insights of various authors but why does it matter that meeting the Lord in the air means quickly. And, Spong among others would allow there are idioms but does it follow that the entire OT is then theological, or are these two different insights/authors?
    Finally, you really explained a great deal when you mentioned Gandy and Freke’s “The Jesus Mysteries.” I read them years ago, then weighed them against scholars in the field. One thing is certain: Jesus was not a Gnostic, there was no secret knowledge given for an elite few. The early Church, even given its faults, stood in opposition to this interpretation of Jesus as one who was for the few and did not come and was not accessible for the many; they countered this “heretical” belief. Then there are the “fun stories” of the one Jesus dying on the cross and the other, “real Jesus,” above: the so called “laughing Jesus.” On one hand, this Jesus laughs at the ignorance of man but what truly human being ever laughs at the death of even one other human being?
    As for the godmen, that has been known by many who have studied history and/or the Bible. Actually, Bart Ehrman went into some detail in his book, “When Jesus Became God.” Also remember that, as Spong discusses, this was a 9thC CE development.
    I always thought Gnosticism was fun to learn about but came up short as a belief system because it was not for all. Christianity is not about secret knowledge for some, it is about love/life available for all.

  10. Thanks for responding– The rabbi is Mark Golub from a tv thing we used to get locally– I even recall him saying that Youmay as well try to find Harry Potter’s magic wand as search for an ARK on Ararat. As for “elite knowledge of the few” I don’t agree, based upon other Mystery Plays and such going to all kinds of orgiastic levels–which is to not forget the Hedonism as well as the brilliance of intellect, same as NOW . I have been long concerned about the confluence of themes in Apocryphal, Gnostic, Essene, Judaism, and others— in which, or by which a voice of Wisdom may say similar things but the greatest BEAUTY is that the BIBLE has it all, “WATERS GATHERED TOGETHER”—the greatest TREASURE ON EARTH. , Whether there were “Schools of Thought” which amassed this Wealth, or Rabbis trained in “Writing with Scripture”, as Jacob Neusner stated it, nevertheless a SYNCRETISM has taken place, from the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh to the Book of Coming to the Light, [wrongly called Book of the Dead].
    Having mentioned such syncretism– consider the Essenes— there still IS the potential that the name has a connection to “serpent”– is it not symbolic, even logical, that a wider variety of writings were found? I do not know what others read, but the ‘stomach of my mind’ is far from full– I believe that those who canonized Scripture, intended to limit it unto their “PRIVATE INTERPRETATION– and doing so, made it “STRIPTURE”! But syncretism may be the inner essence of “Essene doctrine”. And like every mystery, there is an exoteric story, with an internal Truth– in the case of the BIBLE, the light which has been hidden is there to be revealed, in JUST MEASURE to our EFFORT, in most cases.
    Consider Spong’s book of Resurrection; I have not read anything yet that mentions Joseph’s “Resurrection” after 22 years “dead” and then to be found “ALIVE” in Egypt! Did someone sew over the torn fabric, or the stains of goat blood, that the FALSE EVIDENCES offered to Jacob were just Forgotten? Doubting Thomas mentions the “PRINT OF THE NAILS”— but one would have to look harder to infer, “IT’S A BEAST”– whether Covetousness, etc.— and His choice of the twelve disciples are “Brethren”, even despite an attempt to posit that they’re emblematic for Tribes of Israel.
    Occasionally, maybe even FREQUENTLY, we may see a show that we already “Know the Plot”— the writers actually seem to “borrow” a theme or a ‘twist’ that you know, inside and out. But, until I return, I will conclude with what I KNOW: There is a certain reason that the “table in the presence of mine enemies”—[consider THIS CONTEXT now}– “David has his ten thousands”]— Moses was told,’These you shall reveal, and these you shall hide”– same as even ‘the signs’ in a baseball game– they help one side Know, and the “Losers” to guess! “THOU SHALL NOT GUESS”, says Rabbi Becher.
    PEACE and BLESSINGS unto all, while I await your response.

  11. P.S. Sorry, I left out “LAKE OF FIRE” and “HALL OF JUDGEMENT” in the reference to Egypt above. Also, since I’m here, I want to recommend the George Lamsa book of Aramaic Idioms again, for besides the “lost-for-long-time” meaning is also the one about “POVERTY”— having no wherewithal, like being “DEAD” for a period, but then “getting that long-awaited break”! The benefit is , hopefully to eventually see that the WORD OF GOD is not bound by Rome’s private interpretations, nor creeds, nor expectations. THANKS!

  12. Theodore, again: what??

    Orgiastic levels, orgies? Does that have to do with gnosticism? With Christianity? With anything?

    Can I ask about the CAPS? Typically that is considered shouting in emails but I allow it could be emphasis. Which is it and why?

    So, is the Bible totally theological – meaning no history, no people?

    And what was that about the Essenes, serpents and the wide variety of their writings?

    Was Stripture a typo?

    Again, in spite of the denial, you are still talking about “secret knowledge,” revealed “in just measure to our effort:” great saying but I doubt God plays that hard to get – otherwise most of us have not and won’t be making IT.

    Then there is torn fabric, goat blood, doubting Thomas and a Beast??

    Who is returning? You or someone else?

    Finally, Life and certainly God or Wisdom is not baseball with signs for those in the “know” and losers to guess. Winners and losers – I would have thought any true Wisdom would move us beyond such divisions, such partisanship. Such a belief does not have the generosity of the God whom John calls Love.

    Theodore, are you goofing on us?

  13. No spoof, Thomas. My caps, for attempted emphasis. The things about Hedonism were during centuries of almost-anything-can be-your-religion. “PALESTINIAN MYSTERY PLAYS” and “THE ORIGINS of the MITHRAIC MYSTERIES” are two of that subject— I didn’t want to get into the prurient stuff, though. I am very slow at typing, but hope to improve. Sorry if there is any miscommunication– for the most part, I feel the need to get some ideas down in print, before really knowing how they’ll be perceived—and, I still feel the need to “get it out there”— I’ve been ‘misconscrewed’ before. And, although more than possible, [as to ‘typo’]— I invent my own words when I believe it has Purpose. So no, the word ‘STRIPTURE’ was not a typo.
    I tracked down Rabbi Mark Golub on the SHALOM TV web site— the programs I knew were called JUDAISM101, so if anyone checks this out, it will open windows and doors— and,thereby, walls will fall down. I am glad to have access to it again, and read other works of every kind, as long as they deal with SCRIPTURE in general. This site did include some Talmud learning as well– all edifying stuff.
    In answer to all your WHAT’s?—- I was trying to show a ” what if the relationship were observed like THIS”— so I’ll approach in a new way. NO SCRIPTURE IS OF ANY PRIVATE INTERPRETATION— let’s start there– The WORD BECAME FLESH means, to me, not only the Beloved ONE, but the CHURCH and all its wherewithal as well. But Christianity, which has been affected by the Mother-Goddess religions, which were Pagan–has put off every effort that would make her admit that if her son affirms Torah, SHE will have to affirm Torah.— eventually— Or that it’s not her son! Consider the Catholic use of statuary== are those things not idols? Is a crucifix “the LIVING ONE?” Let there be no mistake, idolatry is totally viewed as ‘ adultery’. And don’t even bother to sidestep the issue by saying Protestants have no idols— they’re in stony hearts where they are hardest to budge!
    One may have to use more imagination regarding metaphors, because it is not literally real, it becomes REAL in spirit. Suppose the poet said, ” Mohammed gave LIBERTY a black eye, when the twin towers fell”— what’s your response, “WHAT, WHAT?” It is a perennial truth I call Divine Speech– it has thwarted carnal thinking for millennia , because it’s gotten to be a well-known paradox– Western-minded logic often frames things in the Either/Or way, and Eastern culture has the very different approach, two things can appear to be in conflict and yet Both can be right. A picture can be worth a thousand words, but not if you’re blind.
    —- Again, may PEACE and BLESSINGS be yours– Thanks

  14. Ok Theodore, we might be getting somewhere. But more explanation is needed, For example, who is the son that affirms the Torah? Is it Jesus? And who is She? The Church? And, if so, how is she not accepting the Torah that Jesus accepted?

    I grew up with the statues, never worshipped them any more than I worship the statue of Lincoln at his memorial (which by the way, I don’t). And, No, the crucifix is not the Living One – the Living One is the one you take in, embody and become part of in order to become true Son or Daughter. Is that your understanding? I get that idolatry can be viewed as adultery in that it is unfaithfulness but what’s the point of saying that? As for Protestants, or any others, are we allowed, are we called to Judge? I can understand how one can question or disagree with the understanding of the Catholic or the Protestant but who can know their heart except the Living One?

    What is not literally real? What is Divine Speech and where is it found and what is carnal thinking? What does Eastern culture help you see that Western logic doesn’t? Finally, how have Mother Goddess religions affected Christianity? Do you know or accept that the Wisdom (of God) in Christianity has some association with the idea of the sacred feminine? Plus, isn’t it true that God, the Living One, is neither male or female and interesting that God says in Genesis, “let us create them in our image, male and female.” (I might be paraphrasing as it is late and I have not double checked the passage.) So both are the image of God and in today’s world of broken homes and single parents, I have found that sometimes the idea of God, not as Abba or Daddy but as Mommy or Momma, speaks more powerfully to some.

    Your typing is fine but be careful with making up words if you want them to speak so others can hear.

    And Blessings be yours also.

  15. I have pondered the subject of “divine Speech”== difficult to define, yet still can be described by a few scenarios. In the first place, it is duality– and the essence of that duality is, probably the most profound of all: maleness and femaleness. It is enough of a universal phenomenon that even native Americans were speaking the same as the Essenes, about the Earth-Mother and the Spirit-Father. “THE LOST GOSPEL OF THE ESSENES” , translated by Edmond Szekely is replete with the descriptions of ‘mother earth,’ calling her “EVER-VIRGIN”, her ‘blood’ being the waters renewed by what we call the cycle of nature. And SPIRIT, like the great white Father — like clouds above, allows his Love and Wisdom to come down, like rain, upon the whole of Humanity..
    The very concept of Jesus’ Patrimony-being-questioned is the crux of Biblical Mystery—for,by appearances, (earthly things) He is being seen as a mamzer– a bastard child— but all the while we seek in Him the guidance, the Instruction that are Spiritual Things, and, by His own testimony— He declares, “I AM NOT OF THE WORLD.” In my opinion, Christianity has been the vessel for not only things OF THE WORLD, but in heavenly things– and inadvertently is blind to “CONTRA-DICTION” in her teachings, Confusion begets Unbelief— whose ‘son’ is THAT? The situation, I think, is THIS—earthly lessons can teach Spiritual Truths, but all carnal phenomena are otherwise Vanity. SPIRIT is superior, and moreover IMPERISHABLE=== while FLESH is corruptible— and tantamount to LIFE ad DEATH; LIGHT and DARKNESS; of Men or of Angels. It is the code of Revering THE KING, CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE, and not the kings of the earth, to Hearken, not just to hear. Signs which have been known/Learned for millennia are “all in there”— it just requires awareness, discipline, and focus.
    You might view the Bible as the analogy of ‘black-and-white” compared to “Color TV”— which is closer to “Real”? But black-and-white showed the images of the true– same as a material story– what the immature eyes do NOT see is that Christianity’s REPORT–THE GOSPELS– was seed, growth, fruition, and now harvest— of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Because its roots were in the earth, which is corruptible, its fruits are from a poisoned tree. Let me qualify that, however— later on in my exegesis of these things is the ‘hidden manna” where Peter realizes that NOTHING is unclean of itself— what God has cleansed, you shall not call, ‘unclean’. Even the “thorns, thistles, tares, vinegar, and gall are to be regarded as “FIRSTFRUITS”— even of those who “SLEPT”–in carnal-mindedness.
    Recently I mentioned that David’s ten-thousands meant ‘enemies’. In the Jewish Lore, he who “is able to go forth in war” means, IN TORAH! How is it that you do not understand God’s SPEECH?– because the many ‘walk in darkness’, their eyes “are darkened”, the Tables of law of God and man are overturned— Hearken unto these corresponding “Miracles”; Egypt has its “waters”, doctrines all changed into blood—LIFE OF FLESH— whose captivity is its literalism, compared unto the enemies of Jesus, “SON OF DAVID” not in flesh, but by SPRIT— expresses emphatically, You shall not make my FATHER”s house a place of merchandise! David had stated, “let their table become a snare”– at the same time, the 23rd Psalm says, Thou preparest a table before me IN THE PRESENCE OF MINE ENEMIES. Now who are the enemies, except those who have exalted themselves, “taking the name at interest”– which is False Witness, and then limiting Interpretation to themselves as infallible? With ‘righteousness’ like this, who needs a Satan? You have heard that it was said– means, gossip. I say unto you, “People are not waking up at an alarming rate!” Not only the Wine, but the Bread which comes to being through Jesus— become a doubled dualism, because God confused all nations, rather let them go their ways–the Bread being heavenly/earthly teachings, and the TRUE VINE {HOLY SPIRIT} versus “vine of the earth” being UNDERSTANDING. The tree is known by its fruit, so how could any evil be found coming from a tree of GOOD? The short answer is that in worldly things is an endless-if not-infinite RELATIVISM.
    Try to re-orient your Foundation in Heavenly treasure, which looks upside-down to the world; food for the body is not the Bread for the SOUL; the understanding of the carnal mind is not Understanding that refreshes in gladness the THIRSTY SPIRIT… The land of “milk and honey” comprises the earthly teachings for neophytes in “THE WORD” , as from a nurturing mother, up to and including the SWEET PEACE of Fulfillment and consummating the Ultimate Marriage— which is the Spirit to the Flesh. Both worlds are in you, but you can’t serve two masters. The RIGHTEOUS are alive no matter what, and the WICKED are dead while they live.
    LIGHTS, even the luminaries of all history, were brought forth TO US— to help separate the light from the darkness— Verily, Verily it is true— both of God’s TWO WITNESSES agree, Heaven and Earth. The current Essenes book I spoke of looks like the early source-material for Revelation, inasmuch as it portrays seven angels of the Earth-Mother as well as seven angels of the Spirit-Father. “Taste this wine”– when you see that the STARS are the Spirit-angels, and the CANDLES are the angels of Earth-Mother—[such a comforter!] It becomes apparent, at least to me, that her candles, which are men, only have a finite time. Does not every child know the voice of his Mother or HIS FATHER?— I only ask you these things to help you wake up, “Come OUT of her, my people”— change your ‘selective hearing” to the Spirit.
    Peace and blessings until we meet again.

  16. Anoiher P.S.==== go to web site, SHALOM TV to find your “Jewish Lens” through “Judaism101″ and Talmudic lessons under the title, DIMENSIONS OF THE DAF”, by Rabbi Mordechai Becher. His recent programs of Saul and David, and great insights about the meaning of Shofar— the ram”s horn, are much needed by MANY starving for Knowledge and Understanding. Another of his courses gives insight into the honor given to “Whosoever” of the community who gets called up to read Torah: All of these programs are free to look at, so please get into the blessing they offer.
    I should have gotten it years ago, but just ordered GATEWAYS TO JUDAISM, by Rabbi Becher. Can hardly wait. PEACE AND BLESSINGS UNTO YOU ALL!

  17. Another theme which underlies the New Covenant besides spiritual Patrimony, is the theme-group that points to a second Babylon: It”s the repeated elements of a kingdom, divided, numbered, measured—mingled with dreams which are mostly ignored. But, underneath it all, firstly we “know” that Jesus is either the interpreter of these things– or, profounder yet== HE IS THE INTERPRETATION, the FULL STANDARD—Measure of Man. That would square nicely with an apocryphal writing which stated that 100 was the number of the FATHER. Perhaps the number of the son was supposed to be 60, but we know one thing— 60 was the basis of their number system. Next, comparing to Nebuchadnezzar’s order to bow down to an image–being 60 cubits high– we come to a similar proposition involving “EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO THE NAME OF JESUS”—- perhaps VOX POPULI is the voice by which this occurs.
    It has long puzzled me that Jesus has not been touted, a Son of Daniel— for the almost miraculous ability to interpret dreams— but found recently that captives were “made Eunuchs” so that they would not be distracted from serving the king. This bit of information actually should have shown up in Mishnah {oral laws commentary} but I could have overlooked it. The late Joseph Campbell stated, “The Kingdom of God is upon the earth and men do not see it.” Jesus promotes the same, but also the Kingdom of Heaven within You. We hang upon every word, even every encounter, to find what our SEER, Jesus– will say next.
    But the most astonishing things are yet to be seen– by a little known aspect of Scripture known as GEMATRIA. I need to qualify that— NOT KNOWN in Gentile circles for centuries, it “sprang forth” as “THEOMATICS, GOD’S GREATEST SECRET”– but it is nothing new to Jews. The quest for “THE BEAST” of Revelation was the impetus of this search in which every letter of Greek has a mathematical value. Now, Lo and Behold, a whole new field opens up— which becomes manifested as themes and Design. But, like other things hidden, we did not have the “Jewish LENS” to seek them. To this day, every letter of Torah is painstakingly counted, and both Exegesis and Insight are amplified by it. {Gematria, the Spice of Torah, is a book I have on this subject} The authors of “THEOMATICS” are Jerry Lucas and Del Webb— they felt it was important, and worth the exploration— not realizing that it is the SUM TOTAL of the RELIGION BABYLON. Things which are measured are not a blessing, says a rule of Jewish living.
    I maintain that GEMATRIA is a ” JESUS-NET”– not only because no one saw it coming, but that it cannot be broken. Rather than being vain OR folly, as gematria was treated, it is the means to separate good and bad [as fish] Incidentally, the sign of the FISH– because having no eyelid, is an animal that “HAS NO REST”. Now, because few of you have any idea go what these things mean, let me introduce some of the prominent 666 phrases: WRATH OF GOD — GREAT WRATH– THOSE DAYS–OF THE WORLD– and much more. The fish number, 153, is prevalent throughout the Galilee scenarios– when you see the aspects of Gematria, you can safely infer two things: that it was Jewish, and sod– secret. Eye has not seen, nor ear heard— that the whole of Humanity is going to witness the Fall of Satan, and all his ministers, and the revocation of their powers in “one hour”. Revelation is at the door, but men do not know which side they are on.

  18. Thomas, sometimes “a little while” means 2000 years! Eternalness is also the hard-to -understand POWER of Divine Speech. I cannot but declare what God has revealed to me. Peace and Blessings unto you all.

  19. Theodore, when Jesus stated (to paraphrase) “in your lifetime,” he literally meant the lifetime of his apostles, meaning when they were still alive, in the here and now, in other words before they died: so he didn’t mean 2000 years. Jesus was wrong but I have never been too concerned with that fact since “knowing Abba” and doing the Will of the Father is not the same as knowing everything (including the End)- the latter is never a possibility for man.

    I have enjoyed the dialogue but I do not buy when a TV preacher tells me he/she had had a one on one with God even if they don’t asks for my money. Nor do I buy that God has “revealed” or given knowledge, secret or otherwise, to anyone, now or ever. Revelation is not some thing (i.e. knowledge of things), it is the self-giving of God and faith is man’s (self-giving )response. Jesus never said, “I cannot but declare what God has revealed to me.” Such a statement places too much emphasis on “me:” it is idolatry, the emphasis is on yourself. Jesus wasn’t about “me” he was about the Father; he was always about God. How could any follower of Jesus declare that God has now revealed “secrets” to him, how could any followers judge themselves more important than the First Born Son of the Father?

  20. Resuming my mantra of Divine Speech, I first am so thankful for this website and certainly Bishop Spong’s pioneering scholarship that accompanies all our private journeys, too. While recently reading his book about John’s mysticism, he made mention of a “lower Christology” and a “Higher Christology”— and not only do I concur with the idea, I believe that it will become known as the means by which “Satan made himself into an angel of Light.” There is, as it were, a terrestrial Christ and a Celestial Christ— one who is born in blood, “earthy”, as Paul explained— as contra distinct from “BEGOTTEN”— which is SPIRITUAL.
    Bishop Spong is one of the few minds out there who has not only become a kindred intellectual friend, but one who is a “brother in Christ”, hearing the Word of God, and DOING IT. In the tongue of Aramaic, he has been “Casting out Devils” for decades— which means to dispel false teachings. While a case may eventually be made that we are in the midst of not merely a Gentile Heresy, but a universal Human malady, I have still arrived at most of the same conclusions. And most of those conclusions have involved, and will increasingly involve, the specialized teachings of Judaism.
    So unto some people— or to Legion— BIG NEWS FLASH!!! — Judaism has “code words” in their teachings! And yet it should not be such a surprise. All dialects of language have modifications, even evolution, being adaptable and created as new knowledge arises. The first thing to understand is that the codes are Biblical, especially Torah as foremost. The word “OTHER”, as one example of this “code”, obviously would refer to “other gods”; and the word “THESE”, from “These are your gods,O Israel” are quite straightforward. But the one which applies to the concept of a “Lower Christology” is the word “VERY” — Theologians need to stand up and take notice of this: IT MEANS, THE EVIL INCLINATION.
    It began in usage with God’s Blessings in Genesis—where God saw that it was “VERY GOOD”. It means that the evil inclination is near, even the Gentile Heresy. Of course the word looks invisible-as -any word, but looking through a concordance will indicate otherwise. It is connected to Esau, which is another Jewish secret— Esau is ROME. But then, MOST NOTABLE OF ALL: where it is used in the NT— “THIS IS VERY CHRIST”.— the foundation of carnal-minded-religion itself, wallowing in blood, stumbling in the lost Will of Man, and Buried in the Will of Flesh– which is the heart of the earth. So go ask any Rabbi– What is the meaning of “Very”, — theologically? Also, theologically– in Ezekiel, what does it matter if they “encircled a Very large shoal of fish”? Should men be saved from ditches only, or also from drowning, as it were, from the flood Jesus alluded to.? Is not a man greater than a fish?
    Like the eloquent comparison Bishop Spong made about the stream, I myself may be accused of “paddling the wrong way”— but Hashem has shown me in all the Tribulations— that the “low Christology” is OF THE WORLD, {666] and that the “High CHRISTOLOGY” is within us.

  21. Imagine you re-versed the scripture, “And they shall make a sanctuary for Me and I WILL DWELL IN THEIR MIDST” to the same theme I just mentioned above: Now let the emphasis be that the statement, “I will dwell in their midst” means the Kingdom of Heaven is within You. In the world could be everything from a crystal cathedra to a marble crypt— but we have been asleep to the ineffable Holiness the Holy Spirit came and “hid in our hearts” until such time as we “Awaken, with Thy Likeness”. When the question was asked, “Where is your Faith?” it wasn’t like you shouldn’t KNOW— but that the god of the world has blinded people into believing Holiness is “out there” when “HE, the HOLY ONE was sown in your heart, as well as mine. ‘Tis the THIEF, even Sin, who hath beguiled you who leaves you stupefied-sepulchers in such a state–what is near comes quickly– The Awakening of Adam– all Mankind. Choose This Day whom Ye will Serve— He who seems Great in the world, or HE who has Humbled Himself, allowing the Obstinate GRACE beyond measure? Peace and Blessings unto all who repent….

  22. Theodore, I don’t necessarily disagree with all of what you are saying (although I do disagree with some) but you have to drop the Caps, stop creating your own language and communicate more effectively, so others can understand what it is you are talking about. And, no it is not the Devil blocking them, the Word must resound more clearly in and through the words of men and women so it can truly “lure,” truly call us into Fullness.

    You have got to find a way to translate what you write. Talking about the Thief, angels of light and lower and higher Christology is fine and fun and might be meaningful to you but you must work to make it clearer. It is too dense, as opposed to say Spong’s language, and it is also language and phrasing that I and others have left behind (no pun intended) because it is no longer effective, it no longer “communicates” to modern men and women. If you don’t make a change, you will continued to be misconscrewed and find yourself paddling alone – which is actually not acceptable because we are called to community. If you are serious, you must be like the older brother in the story of the Parable: it is not enough that he knows “something,” it is not enough that he celebrates his own salvation – he must stand watch with the Father, arms outstretched until all the prodigals return.

    Also, when someone disagrees, as I did above, at least try to answer them – if you can. To that end, there are no private, secret revelations.

    Life is getting a bit busy, so it is time to move on, await Spong’s next post and take it from there.

  23. Like a target is to arrows, I get thy point. However, A feeling of dire necessity is upon me; If you would just see Rabbi Mordechai Becher’s program, Dimensions of the Daf, which tells the background story of Saul and David, you would see that Saul’s disobedient attitude to God in the time of Samuel is the Very crux of Saul/Paul’s sacrificially and “religiosity” which precludes MERCY. He has been the “snake in the woodpile for almost two millennia! He is the “stone that the builders rejected,” and a pompous publican. However, having said that, I absolutely Love the cunning ingenuity of the many writings attributed to him in The Mystery of God, which, for some reason, is being characterized otherwise. Nothing hidden, nor secret, huh? Sure, NOW!

  24. These things have I written, that it might be fulfilled, ” We never saw it on this fashion.” See MK 2:12 LK 9:29 ACTS 7:44 1COR 7:31 PH”P 2:8 James 1:11 Grace IS upon Grace to Paul’s secret admirers— and may Peace and Blessings follow those who read Isaiah 22: 11

  25. Is the first line a quote, if so, what is the source? If it is your line, then a bit too self-serving for your own purposes again. Given your quotes, they are both off point and,Theodore, you seem to be committing the gentile heresy by reading too literally. Finally, the secret is there are no secrets.

  26. That man who was healed of Blindness was asked what he thought of Him who had done so—- and he stated, “He is a Prophet.” A Prophet is not a physician, but a SEER who can explain, even to children, how the Holy Spirit– Divine Speech– can heal many maladies. We know the War against Darkness is over, “since day Won”” but please quit blaspheming the Holy Spirit=== that’s what literalists and reprobates do. If you misread what Jesus said, who in the world can prophet you? When it was said that impure thought was already adultery, don’t you see that your accusing tone is aggression, just without the bombs and bullets? I will try to express myself better, while YOU turn the bread into stones, The question, “what shall I liken it to?” has always been a Spiritual Truth packaged in an earthly wrapper— so — you swung at me, fell down, and I’m just trying to help you UP. Please check those referencer above, and review the REFERENCES ABOVE from Jesus, too. May Peace and Blessings pick us all up, and straighten out every crooked path.

  27. Theodore, what are you talking about and to whom are you addressing your words?

    And again, no ability to answer simple questions or answer the suggestion that you are a literalist – and I was truly interested in your answer.

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