In praise of John Shelby Spong
Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Sunday, December 11, 2011
“John Shelby Spong… I recognized his face right off the bat.
“God bless him. He needs it – as we all do.”
That was how I started my response.
It wasn’t as if I went looking for something, and rather, had briefly stopped by another blog and happened upon a Tweet posted on the page, which read “Hell was invented by the Church to Instill Fear says Priest http://t.co/NqN3v8A6.” Naturally, having accomplished the task for I had purposed, I then clicked on the link – shown above – and was directed to a YouTube video post on the same blog. I didn’t watch it. I recognized his face immediately. Thoughts raced through my mind. I wondered how to share. I wondered what to share. I then began to write.
The following is what I wrote.
“However, his statements, over time, have increasingly become vitriolic, even to the point of lunacy. He certainly teaches against most everything considered holy or sacred, and denies scholarly research based upon historical and archaeological finding. He is like a modern day Holocaust denier – he denies the truth of evidence, even when such evidence is undisputed and overwhelming. He is a genuinely misguided man.
“From an historical perspective, most theologians agree that Hell is not an invention of the Church, for even Jesus Christ taught about it. The word translated in the New Testament as Hell is the Greek word gehenna, which was in it’s day, a veritable garbage dump – an unclean and diseased place where all sorts of filth was discarded and incinerated, from which dogs, vultures and other scavengers consumed carrion (ate their meals). It was for Jews, a place where one did not belong, and which they avoided, not only for the sake of private of public health, but for religious and ceremonial reasons, as well.
“Toward accuracy, honesty and truthfulness, it may interest you to know that John Shelby Spong is not Catholic, but is instead, Episcopal.”
Now you, my dear reader, having read that post, perhaps you may be wondering why I entitled this entry so quizzically.
In my journey of faith, at one time, I found Mr. Spong’s words credible. I considered myself a seeker, and honestly, I was. And frankly, I still am. It’s just that my search has been modified – having found answers to questions I’ve long had.
It was dialogue with a man some years my junior, whose loving repartee with me on issues integrally related to our commonly held faith that went to the heart of the matter, which convinced me. He literally brought understanding to my questions. He had the missing piece of the puzzle. And, we remain dear friends to this day.
Faith has reason.
There is rationality to faith and belief.
Always has been, and always will be.
Faith does not – indeed, cannot – operate in a vacuum.
And simply believing something does not make a thing true.
In an earlier entry entitled ““It may not be true, but that’s the way I choose to believe,” and other dumb sayings,” I elucidated why belief itself is truth-based.
A critically important part of that entry is near the conclusion. For your convenience, it reads,
“Belief is a noun, and is defined as “an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists.” Thus, belief is truth.
Often, the word “belief” is confused with “opinion.”
“Opinion,” for example, is a noun, and is defined as “a personal view, attitude, or appraisal,” or a “view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge,” which is frequently subjective in nature, and therefore open to debate or interpretation.
Belief “presumes a subject (the believer) and an object of belief (the proposition). So, like other propositional attitudes, belief implies the existence of mental states and intentionality.” Which, as I stated earlier, simply because someone believes a thing to be true does not make it so, “and is adhering to that conscious decision.”
And that the professor’s act may be witnessed by others is evidence of the truth to which they profess – that they are adhering to a decision. Not that the decision was good, right, just or rational, but rather that they are adhering to it no matter what. It’s akin to the remark made by G.K Chesterton – ““My country, right or wrong” is a thing no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying “My mother drunk or sober”” (quoted from ’Defense of Patriotism’ in The Defendant October, 1901).
And perhaps yet, you may still be wondering why I entitled this entry has I have.
Quite simply, it is in a sense a sarcastic title – sarcasm being “the use of irony to mock or convey contempt.” Irony, of course is “the expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect,” while to mock is to “tease or laugh at in a scornful or contemptuous manner.”
To clarify, considering that every human being is worthy of some degree of dignity, honor and respect – however great, or small – it is not him personally that I scorn, but rather the ideas he espouses and teaches.
God bless you, my dear reader.