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Old 12-15-2004, 11:05 AM   #1
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Relativism in Christianity

Ok as agreed with a fellow forumer BVS, the theses of Bishop Spong which I sited on another post are worthy of their own thread. Ok folks brace yourself .....

1. Theism, as a way of defining God, is dead. So most theological God-talk is today meaningless. A new way to speak of God must be found.
2. Since God can no longer be conceived in theistic terms, it becomes nonsensical to seek to understand Jesus as the incarnation of the theistic deity. So the Christology of the ages is bankrupt.
3. The biblical story of the perfect and finished creation from which human beings fell into sin is pre-Darwinian mythology and post-Darwinian nonsense.
4. The virgin birth, understood as literal biology, makes Christ's divinity, as traditionally understood, impossible.
5. The miracle stories of the New Testament can no longer be interpreted in a post-Newtonian world as supernatural events performed by an incarnate deity.
6. The view of the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world is a barbarian idea based on primitive concepts of God and must be dismissed.
7. Resurrection is an action of God. Jesus was raised into the meaning of God. It therefore cannot be a physical resuscitation occurring inside human history.
8. The story of the Ascension assumed a three-tiered universe and is therefore not capable of being translated into the concepts of a post-Copernican space age.
9. There is no external, objective, revealed standard writ in scripture or on tablets of stone that will govern our ethical behavior for all time.
10. Prayer cannot be a request made to a theistic deity to act in human history in a particular way.
11. The hope for life after death must be separated forever from the behavior control mentality of reward and punishment. The Church must abandon, therefore, its reliance on guilt as a motivator of behavior.
12. All human beings bear God's image and must be respected for what each person is. Therefore, no external description of one's being, whether based on race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, can properly be used as the basis for either rejection or discrimination.


I used these theses to point out how realtivism is running rampant in chruches these days. I do not feel it is an extreme example as was said (BVS ). To say that all chruches everywhere are embracing each and everyone of these "new" proposed tennants would be extreme. I do however see how many of these theses have been and are being embraced by a large number of churches around the country as well as throughout the world. Also, it is worth pointing out that what prompted me to research Spong was someone using his writings as points of reference in another thread.

I welcome discussion on this from Christians and non-Christians alike.

Take care everyone,

Carrie
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Old 12-15-2004, 11:14 AM   #2
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In general, I absolutely despise relativism (in many aspects of life, not just religion). It's probably what defines me as a more conservative Christian. It's like nails on a chalkboard when I here people complaining that this church or that church isn't worth going to b/c it's no longer "relevant" to their lives. WE do not make GOD relevant to us, we make OURSELVES relevant to GOD.
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Old 12-15-2004, 11:36 AM   #3
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Relativism is a self-defeating mindset.
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Old 12-15-2004, 11:40 AM   #4
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Re: Relativism in Christianity

Quote:
Originally posted by thacraic


1. Theism, as a way of defining God, is dead. So most theological God-talk is today meaningless. A new way to speak of God must be found.
A new way to speak of God must be found? Well everyone I know including different churches all define God in a different way. Some as a literal old man with beard, some as an awesome power, some as love, some as vengence. I don't think you'll ever find a universal way to speak of God, but good luck.
Quote:
Originally posted by thacraic

2. Since God can no longer be conceived in theistic terms, it becomes nonsensical to seek to understand Jesus as the incarnation of the theistic deity. So the Christology of the ages is bankrupt. [/I]
I don't buy one and I really don't buy 2.

Quote:
Originally posted by thacraic

3. The biblical story of the perfect and finished creation from which human beings fell into sin is pre-Darwinian mythology and post-Darwinian nonsense. [/I]
It's simplified and some will even simplify it more, but I don't think it's complete nonsence. I believe creation and evolution can intertwine, and I believe the fall can intertwine as well without contradicting any scripture.
Quote:
Originally posted by thacraic

4. The virgin birth, understood as literal biology, makes Christ's divinity, as traditionally understood, impossible. [/I]
This has already been discussed in another thread, I don't see it as impossible.
Quote:
Originally posted by thacraic

5. The miracle stories of the New Testament can no longer be interpreted in a post-Newtonian world as supernatural events performed by an incarnate deity. [/I]
What's the point of one believing in the first place if you can't believe the creator of the universe can act outside it's laws?
Quote:
Originally posted by thacraic

6. The view of the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world is a barbarian idea based on primitive concepts of God and must be dismissed. [/I]
I had a person in my old church(I can't even remember his title) but he always stated that if he ever were to start his own church he would place an electric chair instead of a cross on the steeple. The cross was a form of capital punishment and has really lost all meaning in today's society. Today it's just a nice piece of jewlery or makes a pretty stained glass window. The true sacrifice is lost.
Quote:
Originally posted by thacraic

7. Resurrection is an action of God. Jesus was raised into the meaning of God. It therefore cannot be a physical resuscitation occurring inside human history. [/I]
Once again I'm not sure why a physical one can't occur if you believe God to be all powerful.
Quote:
Originally posted by thacraic

8. The story of the Ascension assumed a three-tiered universe and is therefore not capable of being translated into the concepts of a post-Copernican space age. [/I]
I don't understand why we're assuming a three-tiered universe?
Quote:
Originally posted by thacraic

9. There is no external, objective, revealed standard writ in scripture or on tablets of stone that will govern our ethical behavior for all time. [/I]
Why not? Will murder someday be accepted?
Quote:
Originally posted by thacraic

10. Prayer cannot be a request made to a theistic deity to act in human history in a particular way. [/I]
I believe this to a certain point, I think most people don't know how to pray, and ask for the immpossible and ask the wrong questions.

Quote:
Originally posted by thacraic

11. The hope for life after death must be separated forever from the behavior control mentality of reward and punishment. The Church must abandon, therefore, its reliance on guilt as a motivator of behavior. [/I]
This I believe. Your eternity is not based on a reward and punishment standard. If so heaven would be tiered and then what's the point? And yes quit using guilt.
Quote:
Originally posted by thacraic

12. All human beings bear God's image and must be respected for what each person is. Therefore, no external description of one's being, whether based on race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, can properly be used as the basis for either rejection or discrimination. [/I]
Absolutely.


Most are written very vaguley and people can interpret what his true intent is very differently.

Having said that, I really haven't seen any church I've stood in, moving toward this line of thinking. Just don't see it, but maybe our interpretaions are different.
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Old 12-15-2004, 11:46 AM   #5
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I would like to point out that just because one quotes someone in one debate, it does not mean that you agree with everything the person has to say.

Since I am the someone who quoted Spong's hypothesis on Paul I wanted to make that clear.
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Old 12-15-2004, 11:54 AM   #6
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One thing though, I will take the Bishop's side in this since I am pretty sure, not many will

Before we rip apart his first point lets look at the entire argument for point #1:

[Q]The God Beyond Theism

Thesis #1: Theism as a way of defining God is dead. God can no longer be understood with credibility as a Being supernatural in power, dwelling above the sky and prepared to invade human history periodically to enforce the divine will. So most theological God talk is today meaningless unless a new way to speak of God is found.

From my Twelve Theses drawn from the book, Why Christianity Must Change or Die.

If horses had gods, they would look like horses! That elementary insight is never fully embraced when human beings talk about God. We arrogantly suggest we can speak of what God actually is, when all we can do is describe our experience of God. This theological delusion prevents us from facing the fact that our "gods" look very much like expanded human beings. The argument that God is personal, because we experience God in personal ways, quickly descends to the conclusion that God is a divine person, who acts like a supernatural human being. The two assertions are not the same. The God thought of as a supernatural being is normally conceived of as a male figure living above the sky. We portray this deity sitting on a throne, keeping record books on the basis of which he judges the people. This supernatural being also acts to protect the people in danger. There are no atheists in foxholes, we say. He also is thought to enjoy human praises, to hear human petitions and to grant boons to petitioners. To do so, this Deity is sometimes said to act in miraculous, invasive ways. It is so obvious in these incidences that believers have simply expanded human qualities in order to reach an understanding of divinity.

Human beings, we recognize, are limited in knowledge; but God, we say, is not limited, so we call God omniscient. God, unlike us, is deemed to possess infinite power, so we say that God is omnipotent. Human beings can be in only one place at a time, but God, not bound by such a limitation, is said to be omnipresent. Human beings are mortal. God we define as immortal. Surely the qualities that we have traditionally located in God are reminiscent of those things that mark an expanded human existence.

This theistic God also seems to act like a tribal chieftain possessing miraculous power and using it for the benefit of a favored nation. In the biblical story God was said to work for Jewish goals visiting plague after plague on Egyptians. God split the Red Sea allowing the Hebrews to escape to safety, then closed it to drown the pursuing Egyptians. This God was clearly pro-Jewish! He fed the Jews in the wilderness with heavenly manna and quenched their thirst with water drawn from a rock. If the people were obedient to the divine will, this Deity, the chief priests and prophets said, could be counted on to fight their enemies so they could win their wars.

As ancient people struggled with the exigencies of human life, they began to envision a time when the rule of this God would mark the life of the whole world. The painful and tragic elements of human life would disappear: the deaf would hear, the blind would see, the lame would walk and the dead would be raised. Facing the perils of our mortal struggles, people sought God's intervening power. These are the human hopes which form the content of our theistic definition of God. So deeply has this theistic content captured the common definition of God that one who rejects it is said to be an "a-theist." But this human God construct, this theistic definition of the deity, has fallen on difficult days as knowledge has expanded over the last 400 years. More and more things we once attributed to our invading, external deity are now understood without any reference to God.

Sickness, we know today, results from germs, viruses or some physiological or hereditary weakness. It is not the work of a punishing deity. Cures come through antibiotics, surgery and chemotherapy, not from divine intervention. To assert otherwise is to be forced to explain why those who are not cured did not merit God's favor. As these divine explanations are pushed to the edges of life, by the advance of science God becomes what Dietrich Bonhoeffer has called the God of the gaps. That is, God is the explanation inserted into the gaps of human knowledge in order to explain the inexplicable. But with every new scientific discovery, the gaps that need a supernatural explanation have become thinner and thinner, and God becomes further and further removed from the center of life. Finally the distance becomes so great that God ceases to be a reality even in the minds of believers, and the drift into godlessness grows. Very quickly, after God no longer matters as a coping power, the dismissal of God follows. In many ways this is the situation in which modern men and women live today. Faith has been badly eroded. Religious explanations now seem neurotic. God has become a shaky hypothesis without any real work to do. God no longer sends the weather, heals the sick, fights our wars, or protects us from peril. There is little need for an unemployed deity in our world and so this deity is increasingly ignored. Theism ultimately gives way to atheism.

But is theism the only way to understand God? I do not think so. Throughout western history a subterranean minority voice has always been part of Christianity which has never spoken of God in supernatural or theistic terms, as a superparent, or a divine Mr. Fix-it. That tradition is called mysticism. It sees God in the words of Rudolf Otto, as the "mysterium tremendum," the inexplicable presence, the symbol of transcendence, otherness, the emerging life force that produces an expanded consciousness. It portrays the deity in non-personalistic terms as the source of life, the source of love and the Ground of Being. It challenges that concept of God as a heavenly power relating to human beings as a parent relates to a child, creating passive dependency in the life of the worshiper. This mystical understanding of God calls its adherents out of childishness into a radical new maturity. It manifests itself in a human willingness to accept responsibility for our own actions, to see ourselves as lives through which the power of the divine can enter and shape human history. If one listens, one can hear echoes of this understanding of God even in the New Testament. Paul speaks of the God "in whom we live and move and have our being." The Johannine Christ is made to say "I have come that you might have life and that you might have it abundantly." Jesus is portrayed as arguing against a theistic understanding of God when he suggested that the people who perished when the tower of Siloam fell were not more guilty than those who survived. I believe that a case for the divinity of Christ can be made apart from the traditional supernatural framework of theism that defined Jesus as the incarnation of that external God who entered this world by way of a miraculous birth and departed by way of a cosmic ascension. The divinity of Jesus was first an experience which later was interpreted theistically. But the experience of God present in Jesus is not to be identified with supernatural myths that surrounded Jesus, but with the God experience that marked his existence. Jesus lived so fully that he revealed the Source of Life. He loved so completely that he revealed the Source of Love. He was so completely true to his own being in the way he lived out his own humanity that people saw in him the very Ground of all Being. That is why the ultimate Christian experience is captured in the Pauline exclamation "God was in Christ" that drives us to the meaning of the life of Jesus.

Yes, I am convinced that there is a realm of spirit, transcendence and otherness beyond the limits of my physical existence. I use the word God to speak of this realm. I experience the inbreaking of this realm in those moments when life is expanded, when consciousness is enhanced and when eyes are opened to view dimensions of life beyond our normal boundaries. I do not expect a supernatural being from this realm to invade my world to accomplish some miraculous purpose. I do expect human life to make this realm known in the quality of our lives, in the wastefulness of our love and in the expansion of our being. I do believe that in this mysterious realm of the divine, our love and our caring can loose energy that embraces us, makes us whole, brings healing power, and invites us to share in that which is timeless. I further believe that those of us who know this reality are responsible for acting it out so that it impacts our world and transforms it, calling us into a new awareness of the holy. Finally, this is what leads me to say that I see God in Jesus of Nazareth; and he becomes Christ and Lord for me because he penetrated this realm as no one else has done and his life made clear what God as the Source of Life, the Source of Love and the Ground of Being really is.

Those of us who are disciples of this Jesus call ourselves "The Body of Christ," which means that we are called to be agents of the life, sharers of the love and enablers of the expanded humanity revealed in his being. Perhaps the time has come for men and women of faith to recognize there is no divine supernatural being who inhabits the sky. There is only a divine presence deep in the heart of life, bubbling up in each of us, waiting for the opportunity to emerge in the expansion of our being. So I turn inward to meet God, and the God I find there is the God I see in Jesus of Nazareth. When I give that God away, I become a revealer, indeed a bearer of God in this world. In this sense we human beings are the workers of miracles. We are the persons through whom that holy presence we call God enters life and invites others to enter that which we call the realm of the divine. The incarnation of God, a phrase that we once used to speak of Jesus, becomes now expanded to include the incarnation of God in each of us. The Reformation of Christianity, the delivery of this faith system of yesterday from the irrelevance to which the knowledge expansion has doomed it, must start here, where passive dependency is removed from religion and where we come to understand that in our expanded humanity God is revealed. It was that experience that forced the first Christians to say Jesus is Lord. In and through his humanity, so full, so whole and so free, the holy and transcendent God was met. A Reformation Church will be built on that conviction.[/Q]
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Old 12-15-2004, 12:23 PM   #7
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I am not sure I can defend him, and I am used to taking different positions in here.
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Old 12-15-2004, 01:10 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by Dreadsox
I would like to point out that just because one quotes someone in one debate, it does not mean that you agree with everything the person has to say.

Since I am the someone who quoted Spong's hypothesis on Paul I wanted to make that clear.
I didn't mean to say that in anyway Dread. I was just pointing out that as a result of your posting Spong's views on things, it prompted me to go and research Spong. I guess it did kinda seem like I was saying someone on the forum was quoting this guy and making it out as though that person subscribes to everything Spong puts out there. That is simply not the case. So my apologies for that.
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Old 12-15-2004, 01:12 PM   #9
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Something I want to point out is this.

Martin Luther, when writing his 95 theses used the Bible as his foundation. Spong pulls from many sources. I think that says something as well.
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Old 12-15-2004, 01:29 PM   #10
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In those statements, Spong denies three of the most crucial beliefs of Christianity:

Virgin birth
Substitutionary atonement
Physical resurrection

Those beliefs have been confessed by the orthodox for nearly two thousand years! If you don't subscribe to any of them, on what grounds do you call yourself a Christian?
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Old 12-15-2004, 01:33 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by thacraic


I didn't mean to say that in anyway Dread. I was just pointing out that as a result of your posting Spong's views on things, it prompted me to go and research Spong. I guess it did kinda seem like I was saying someone on the forum was quoting this guy and making it out as though that person subscribes to everything Spong puts out there. That is simply not the case. So my apologies for that.
None necessary.....and I think Spong is out there.

I also think it interesting that my research for the other thread led me to the fact that Martin Luthor did not translate certain passages to be about homosexuality. But that is antoher debate.
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Old 12-15-2004, 01:35 PM   #12
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I'm not quite understanding this thread. What is meant by relativism in Christianity? Pardon my ignorance.
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Old 12-15-2004, 02:13 PM   #13
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I am not up on relativism, and I am not sure why it would apply to the Bishops 12 ideas.

I will say this, almost every one of these twelve deserves its own thread.

I will speak about the 1st one.

There are many who view the God of the Old Testament as being mean spirited to say the least.

I have difficulty myself believing in a God that would wipe out the first born of any nation. I have difficulty in believing in a God that supposedly took sides in wars that killed people.

If Spongs point one and two are valid, that would mean we are looking at a God that did not behave in moral terms yet demands of his people that we behave morally. Thou shalt not kill verses I will kill the first born child of every Egyptian.
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Old 12-15-2004, 02:15 PM   #14
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[Q]JOHN SHELBY SPONG: Well what I'm trying to suggest, John, is that theism is a human definition of God, it is not God. That's a distinction that I find it's imperative to make. Our English language really says if you're not a theist, the only alternative is to be an atheist. What I'm trying to do is develop a language that will enable us to talk about God beyond the, what I think, are sterile categories of theism and atheism. I believe that God is very real. I believe that I live my life every day inside the reality of this God. I call this God by different words. I describe God as the source of life and the source of love and the ground of being. I engage God when I live fully and love wastefully and have the courage to be who I am. [/Q]
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Old 12-15-2004, 02:40 PM   #15
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[Q]10. Prayer cannot be a request made to a theistic deity to act in human history in a particular way.[/Q]

I like this one.
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