Rescuing Christianity from Spong
Shortly after becoming a believer in Jesus, I became interested Christian apologetics. Since then, I’ve made it a habit to expose myself to various forms of unbelief, whether that’s reading the works of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, atheists, or theological liberals. Liberals in particular, and John Shelby Spong in particular, are an interesting bunch. Spong has written books challenging the orthodox understanding of almost every essential Christian doctrine imaginable. But there is profit in reading some of his works. As a teaching exercise, I have always thought that it would be profitable endeavor to subject students (for apologetic purposes) to work through at least one of Spong’s books.
John Shelby Spong is, and has been for the past 30 years, a rockstar in the world of Protestant theological liberalism. As noted above he has written numerous books attacking doctrines such as the deity of Jesus, the reliability of the Bible, the virgin birth of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, the moral acceptability of homosexuality within the Christian life, and even the personality of God (Spong advocates a “God without theism”). Spong’s works are veritable apologetic workbooks for deciphering logical fallacies, incongruous presuppositions, academic arrogance, and factual inaccuracies.
Lately I’ve been working through Spong’s Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, his 1994 work with the subtitle which reads “A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture,” and its accompanying study guide. Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism is indeed a provocative title. If Spong, and his publishers, were using the words in the title of the precise sense in which they should be used, I would have no problem. After all, I do believe that the Bible needs to be “rescued” from the grips of a rigid, dogmatic, and overly literalized fundamentalism. Any approach to the Bible that overlooks historical settings, literary genres, figures of speech, and other things of this nature ultimately impresses upon the Bible a grid that forces it to say what our interpretive systems demand that it says. And this of course prevents us from hearing what God is saying. But this isn’t the type of fundamentalism that Spong is ultimately against.
For Spong, in the final analysis, a fundamentalist is a person who believes the Bible, who think it’s inspired by a personal and speaking God, who longs for the fulfillment of its promises, trembles at its treats, lives by its standards of conduct, who glories in the cross of Jesus Christ, and believes in the existence of the supernatural.
Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism contains nearly all the standard objections to Christian faith floating around in the hallowed halls of secular education.