About a year and a half ago I started reading Why Christianity Must Change Or Die, by John Shelby Spong. My purpose had to do with apologetics rather than because I expected I might agree with him about much of anything. My expectations proved accurate. After a couple of months my loss of patience with it and changing personal activities led to my putting the book aside.
Reading things with which I disagree is not a problem for me, if I have a reason for it. The problem I had with Spong's book, over which I lost patience - was his, to be blunt, dishonesty. Argument tactics such as denigrating one's opponent(s) (aka ad hominem attacks) and misrepresenting one's opponents' views for the purpose of falsely making the opponents' views look foolish or easily refuted (straw man arguments) are common tactics. And fallacious and dishonest. J. S. Spong, given his education, would know this. Yet Change or Die is riddled with just such denigrations and misrepresentations.
This is a long introduction to saying that I have resumed reading Spong's book. And already I'm waxing verbose. I'm not finding his views or rhetoric any more agreeable, but I now have a bit more time for reading. As a result, several things have caught my eye that I think worth blogging about.
Rather than make this a reeeeeeeally long post, I will point out several themes that about which I will post further in coming days or weeks. J. S. Spong's core idea is that he wants his religion to be moldable into whatever he wants it to be, yet still call it "Christianity", as if "Christianity" were utterly undefined. Of course, that puts several inconvenient things athwart his path, things he must clear his from path to making religion what he wants it to be.
The first obstacle (my word choice), in the order he presents it, is the idea that God is in any sense a person. Spong wants his god totally malleable and utterly undemanding. Having a God Who designed the universe and humans would, in revealing Himself, define Himself. Such a God would also have the right to say what things are right and wrong, and call for and define loyalty to Himself. Much too much like God as "Fundamentalists" understand God to be! I already touched on some of J. S. Spong's denigration of the idea that God is a person in these two blog posts: http://soapypetesbox.blogspot.com/2011/10/sponged-attributes-of-god-or-you-can.html and http://soapypetesbox.blogspot.com/2011/10/sponged-of-god-and-scarecrows.html. Spong's second target is the Bible. Since this has from its beginning defined Christianity - and is thus utterly too confining and "narrow" for his liking - Spong dismisses it. And then there's Jesus. The Jesus of the Gospels is much too limiting! Spong needs a "Jesus" who is utterly moldable and malleable into whatever Spong needs and wants him to be. If anything is really known to be true of Jesus and of what Jesus taught, it would interfere with the flights of Spong's religious fancies.