Here's a response to Ross Douthat's thought-provoking New York Times piece on liberal Christianity from a member and former senior warden of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Louisburg. It's too long to run in print. Read Douthat's piece here if you missed it.
I could not disagree more with Mr. Douthat's assertion that John Shelby Spong, retired bishop of Newark, is responsible for the decline in membership in The Episcopal Church - U.S.
Far from it. Bishop Spong recognized a problem, described the problem in simple terms and pointed the Church toward solutions. His voice was the voice of reason He simply said that "In the light of our ever-expanding knowledge and understanding of the physical and natural sciences and of the place of our Earth within the universe, we must find new ways to express our Christian theology. If we do not, the time will soon come when no educated person will believe us."
The following 12 points summarize Bishop Spong's argument:
1. Theism, as a way of defining God, is dead; so most theological talk about God today is meaningless. A new way must be found to speak about God.
2. Since God can no longer be conceived in theistic terms, it makes no sense 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 therefore cannot be translated into the concepts of a post-Copernican space age.
9. There is no external, objective, revealed standard written 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 its reliance on guilt as a motivator of behavior.
12. All human beings bear God's image and must be respected for what that 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.
Now, honestly, who can find fault with that? Remember that we are living in the year of our Lord 2012.
Peter V. Andrews