Friday, April 28, 2006

Jack Spong

This past week I attended two lectures by Bishop Bishop John Shelby Spong. If you don't know that name, he is the poster child for liberal Christianity or for heresy, depending on your perspective. In a nutshell his lectures said that experience is universal but that descriptions and explanations of experience are cultural bound. The experience of God through Jesus doesn't change but our talk about it must or the story becomes irrelevant. This is the situation in which he sees the Church currently - trying to describe a universal and very real experience using language and categories that do not speak in today's world. Thus, we need to change our descriptions or Christianity will die.

As an aside, he sees numeric growth in Christianity in two places - the "Church Alumni Society" made up of those who can no longer accept the culturally bound assertions of Christian thought, and "fundamentalists" we he sees as reacting to the change in the world from a posture of fear and retreating into tribalism.

Personally, I think he dismisses the scriptural texts a little too easily but his basic thesis is extremely challenging to me. How do we frame an ancient message that reflects an experience of the very power of God in ways that communicate in today's culture? And his discussions of tribalism as it is reflected in the Church and modern culture provides an important perspective on what is happening in the world and why.

All in all... this has been a very stimulating week.

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