Bishop John Shelby Spong Quotes on Religion and Fundamentalism

West facade of the cathedral of Canterbury
Canterbury Cathedral. Angel Villalba / Getty Images

An Episcopal bishop, John Shelby Spong has made a name for himself as a critic of Christian fundamentalism and advocate of a more liberal understanding of Christianity. Heavily influenced by modern scholarship on the Bible and ancient writings, Spong has argued against literalist readings of biblical texts. He has even argued against traditional notions of theism, saying that the concept of "God" needs to be understood in new ways that speak to people today.

Conservative and traditionalist religious groups have, naturally enough, rejected pretty much everything Spong has written, castigating him as a threat to everything they believe to be truly important in Christianity. Even some liberal groups have been made uncomfortable by some of his positions, but in general they have tended to appreciate his willingness to engage traditional beliefs in a critical and reasoned manner.

 

 

Quotes About Religion

A major function of fundamentalist religion is to bolster deeply insecure and fearful people. This is done by justifying a way of life with all of its defining prejudices. It thereby provides an appropriate and legitimate outlet for one's anger. The authority of an inerrant Bible that can be readily quoted to buttress this point of view becomes an essential ingredient to such a life. When that Bible is challenged, or relativized, the resulting anger proves the point categorically.


[Bishop John Shelby Spong, Rescuing the Bible From Fundamentalism, (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1991), p. 5.]

What the mind cannot cannot believe the heart can finally never adore.
[Bishop John Shelby Spong, Rescuing the Bible From Fundamentalism, (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1991), p. 24.]

Biblical higher criticism is preserved in the particular enclave of academic Christian scholarship and is thought to be too unfruitful to share with the average pew-sitter, for it raises more questions than the church can adequately answer.

So the leaders of the church would protect the simple believers from concepts they were not trained to understand. In this way that ever-widening gap between academic Christians and the average pew-sitter made its first appearance.
[Bishop John Shelby Spong, Resurrection: Myth or Reality? (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1994), p. 12.]

At its very core the story of Easter has nothing to do with angelic announcements or empty tombs. It has nothing to do with time periods, whether three days, forty days, or fifty days. It has nothing to do with resuscitated bodies that appear and disappear or that finally exit this world in a heavenly ascension.
[Bishop John Shelby Spong, Resurrection: Myth or Reality? (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1994), p. 12.]

Papal infallibility and biblical inerrancy are the two ecclesiastical versions of this human idolatry. Both papal infallibility and biblical inerrancy require widespread and unchallenged ignorance to sustain their claims to power. Both are doomed as viable alternatives for the long- range future of anyone.
[Bishop John Shelby Spong, Resurrection: Myth or Reality? (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1994), p. 99.]

I cannot say my yes to legends that have been clearly and fancifully created.

If I could not move my search beyond angelic messengers, empty tombs, and ghostlike apparitions, I could not say yes to Easter.
[Bishop John Shelby Spong, Resurrection: Myth or Reality? (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1994), p. 237.]

If the resurrection of Jesus cannot be believed except by assenting to the fantastic descriptions included in the Gospels, then Christianity is doomed. For that view of resurrection is not believable, and if that is all there is, then Christianity, which depends upon the truth and authenticity of Jesus' resurrection, also is not believable.
[Bishop John Shelby Spong, Resurrection: Myth or Reality? (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1994), p. 238.]

The best way to lose all is to cling with desperation to that which cannot possibly be sustained literally. Literalistic Christians will learn that a or a faith system that has to be defended daily is finally no God or faith system at all.

They will learn that any god who can be killed ought to be killed. Ultimately they will discover that all their claims to represent the historical, traditional, or biblical truth of Christianity cannot stop the advance of knowledge that will render every historic claim for a literal religious system questionable at best, null and void at worst.
[Bishop John Shelby Spong, Episcopal (Anglican) Bishop of Newark, NY, in Resurrection: Myth or Reality? pg. 22.]    

Integrity and honesty, not objectivity and certainty, are the highest virtues to which the theological enterprise can aspire. From this perspective, all human claims to possess objectivity, certainty, or infallibility are revealed as nothing but the weak and pitiable pleas of frantically insecure people who seek to live in a illusion because reality has proved to be too difficult. Papal infallibility and biblical inerrancy are the two ecclesiastical versions of this human idolatry. Both papal infallibility and biblical inerrancy require widespread and unchallenged ignorance to sustain their claims to power. Both are doomed as viable alternatives for the long-range future of anyone.
[Bishop John Shelby Spong, Episcopal (Anglican) Bishop of Newark, NY, in Resurrection: Myth or Reality? pg. 99.]

They amuse themselves by playing an irrelevant ecclesiastical game called Let's Pretend. Let's pretend that we possess the objective truth of God in our inerrant Scriptures or in our infallible pronouncements or in our unbroken apostolic traditions.


[Bishop John Shelby Spong, Episcopal (Anglican) Bishop of Newark, NY, in Resurrection: Myth or Reality? pg. 100.]

 

 

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Cline, Austin. "Bishop John Shelby Spong Quotes on Religion and Fundamentalism." ThoughtCo, Mar. 25, 2016, thoughtco.com/bishop-john-shelby-spong-quotes-4011980. Cline, Austin. (2016, March 25). Bishop John Shelby Spong Quotes on Religion and Fundamentalism. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/bishop-john-shelby-spong-quotes-4011980 Cline, Austin. "Bishop John Shelby Spong Quotes on Religion and Fundamentalism." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/bishop-john-shelby-spong-quotes-4011980 (accessed June 19, 2018).