Sunday, March 22, 2009

Spong's Negative Certainty

Back in August 2008 I noted a fine essay on Bishop Spong's "phantom religious faith" by Eric Von Salzen over at "The Anglican Centrist." Today I've come across another critical take by "The Reformed Pastor," this time in response to Spong's March 20th "On Faith" column for The Washington Post entitled "Losing Faith in Old Traditions."

The "Reformed Pastor" quickly diagnoses the theological emptiness and absurdities at the heart of Spong's negative certainty:

Spong may not have a clue what he believes, but he is absolutely, positively certain of what he doesn’t believe: anything even remotely connected with historic, biblical Christianity. ...

So our “current faith systems” bear no resemblance whatsoever to a reality that is hopelessly beyond any of us anyway, but they shouldn’t be abandoned. They should apparently be propped up for the sake of the children of all ages who can’t stand to be without their fairy tales. I can’t think any other reason not to abandon the frauds that Spong claims all of the world’s religions are. In fact, it’s obvious that if Spong is right about the nature of God, there’s no reason to pay Him any more mind, since He hasn’t revealed Himself to us, is incapable of relationship with us, and is no more relevant to our existence than King Arthur or Elmer Fudd. ...

This is meaningless gibberish. Surely if the world’s religions, including Christianity, have nothing to tell us about “God,” whatever that is, then there is no meaningful sense in which they can be the “means through which we journey.” If they haven’t got a clue where we’re going, why should we want to walk the paths they lay out? For that matter, how can we “walk into the mystery of a God” whom we cannot know in any sense? And what does that mean, anyway?

Good questions.

Read it all.


Joe Rawls said...

One thing about Jack that jerks my chain--among others, of course--is this: he was ordained in 1955 and retired in 2000. From 1976 on he was Coadjutor and Diocesan Bishop of Newark, when he presumably received a very respectable salary. I also assume he paid into the Church Pension Fund for those 45 years. I just checked the Fund's site and they are giving recipients cost of living increases of 5.8% for 2009. I also have to assume that his monthly check from the CPF is fairly respectable.

What if we could factor out the percentage of his check derived ultimately from payments made by doctrinally orthodox or even moderate clergy? How big would it be then? Does the phrase "biting the hand that feeds you" mean nothing to +Spong?

Bryan Owen said...

Interesting points, Joe. I would add to them the fact that Spong's stature as a bishop has given his books more credibility and media "sex appeal" than they would otherwise have received, and that, of course, has translated into more sales. One could argue that he has used his position as a bishop of the Church to make a name (and money) for himself.

Anonymous said...

Bryan: Thanks for the link (I've put you in my blogroll, and have enjoyed getting acquainted with you here). I think you're right on target. Among other things, Spong is a poseur, who presents to the public the face of a courageous questioner of received orthodoxies, but who in reality is just an atheist who didn't have the integrity to clear out when his faith went south. Maybe he even considers it some kind of cosmis joke that the TEC keeps him in the lifestyle to which he has become accustomed, all while he does all he can to undermine everything it used to stand for. So he continues to suck at the Episcopal teat, even in retirement, all because his colleagues didn't have the guts to do what needed to be done decades ago.

David Fischler

Bryan Owen said...

Thanks for your comments here, David, and for the good postings over at your blog.

I completely agree with you about Bishop Spong. As an Episcopal/Anglican Christian, I'm all for the kind of comprehensiveness historically affirmed by the tradition to which I belong. One of the many things that troubles me about folks like Spong is that they've taken advantage of that comprehensiveness by using it as a license for promoting teachings that contradict the dogmatic core of the historic faith of the Church and as a platform for self-promotion. And in response, my church has failed to hold them accountable.

I note that Bishop Wolf of Rhode Island is holding the Rev. Dr. Ann Holmes Redding accountable to her ordination vows by requiring her to either recant her confession that there is only one God and Muhammad is his prophet by March 30, or lose her status as an Episcopal priest. Bishop Wolf is right to do so, because, in spite of some of the points of overlap, at their core, Islam and Christianity are incompatible and irreconcilable.

Likewise, Bishop Spong's theological views are incompatible and irreconcilable with the faith of the Church. I wish that the House of Bishops had found the courage to require Bishop Spong to do something similar to what Bishop Wolf is requiring of Redding. For while Spong might possibly make for a fine Unitarian, his theological views simply do not square with either scripture or the Prayer Book tradition.

robroy said...

I wrote in the comment section

"Spong denies all fundamental tenets of Christianity, yet he doesn't have the integrity to resign from a Christian organization. Why? Because a guy in a purple shirt spouting heresies sells more books than a guy off the streets spouting heresies."

Spong: God is impotent to intervene in humanity.
God: I created the universe, but I can't cause a miracle or two, Jack?

Bryan Owen said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, robroy. I saw your comments over at The Reformed Pastor about how "a guy in a purple shirt spouting heresies sells more books than a guy off the streets spouting heresies" before I responded to Joe's comment on this posting about how Spong has used (and abused) his position as bishop to make a name and money for himself. I think we're basically on the same page with this.