The Dripping Heretic John Shelby Spong

Honestly, there is so much wrong about John Shelby Spong it is hard to say anything at all. I started this post just to share a tidbit or two about the god he worships and I find myself having to add layer upon layer of explanation so that you get the idea.

The reason for this post is that I recently purchased Spong’s book, Why Christianity Must Change or Die, in order to check a quote of his that I am using in a side project. I thought that I would start reading the book in its entirety in order to review it at a future date, but I couldn’t get past Chapter 1. His book is filled with so much heresy that it is war on the soul of a true believer. It is filled with so many lies, half-truths, and attacks on the faith of Christianity, that I find myself in agreement with those in our past who thought some books were only worth of the burn pile.

This man has artfully set himself up as an expert on religion and has been craftily misleading people for years. He was given authority by the Episcopal Church by being exalted to the empty position of bishop. In Episcopal circles, this means he stuck around long enough, and earned enough liberal merit badges by endorsing enough heretical positions, to be awarded the colorful robe.

To the average true Christian, his robe means nothing. But to the masses, it means he speaks for a god (little ‘g’ on purpose) of their liking.

When I say that John Shelby Spong is a heretic, I don’t mean I disagree with him on one or two points of theology. What I mean is that his theology is so void of anything biblical that it is dripping with heresy. If he were a poet, or atheist, or an accountant, it wouldn’t matter. But men like Spong have large followings because he has the shadow of Christianity, but also an intense hatred for those of the faith, just as the Pharisees had in Paul’s day.

Some might say that this is a strong statement. Does Spong really hate true believers? Not in a red-faced argumentative way. But in his continued attack on the faith he demonstrates the greatest hatred. He attacks the truth of Scripture while replacing that truth with a case for his subjective feelings.

Here is how it started, Spong wrote:

I define myself above all other things as a believer [in what?]. I am indeed a passionate believer. God is the ultimate reality in my life. I live in a constant and almost mystical awareness of the divine presence. I sometimes think of myself as one who breathes the very air of God or, to borrow an image from the East, as one who swims in the infinite depths of the sea of God… I am what I would call a God-intoxicated human being.

Any true believer would be offended at such a description of Spong and his god, simply for his lack of reverence and his ability to ignore Scripture all together. The Triune God of Scripture is not someone we swim inside, or become intoxicated with. We don’t “breathe in” His presence. We bow in humble adoration. We approach with boldness if we are in Christ, yet filled with humility because we fully understand our own sinfulness and the price that had to be paid in order for us to enter into His presence.

Some might claim that Spong was just being poetic in his description of who he thinks himself to be. Please note that none of the Psalmists ever describe their relationship with God like a dive into the local swimming pool. They never treat God with such a level of unholiness.

But wait, there is more. Spong was only getting started on the first page of his book. When a heretic starts writing, he does so in order to please those who are not true believers by challenging every concept of Scripture about the living and true God. Spong does so by challenging the Apostles’ Creed. Here, we get an inkling of that challenge.

The God I know is not concrete or specific. This God is rather shrouded in mystery, wonder and awe. The deeper I journey into the divine presence, the less any literalized phrases, including the phrases of the Christian creed, seem relevant. The God I know can only be pointed to; this God can never be enclosed by propositional statements [which itself is a propositional statement].

What he is describing about himself, his followers and their god is exactly what Our Lord said about the Pharisees and those who reject the propositional truths about the God of Scripture: “they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven (Mark 4:12).”

Spong, like many in  liberalism and evangelicalism, doesn’t want the God of Scripture. They hate the God they find there. As we see above, Spong wants a god that cannot be defined at all. He is the one setting this standard by claiming that “this God can never be enclosed by propositional statements.” (Never mind that anything that Spong has to say about God is put forth in propositional statements.)

By making god undefinable, Spong is really redefining god all together. He is trying to move his followers further away from Scripture (the authors of which have a really bad habit of making propositional statements about the true God) in order to help them all be a peace about their sin and their need for a savior. If you spend any time in Scritpure at all you will find that the main point is that God provides a Savior. Spong doesn’t want that Savior.

This is the type of redefinition that heretics use that appeals to those who are not true Christians because it makes it sound as if we cannot know God at all. It makes one sound erudite, by saying we cannot really know anything about God, except what we feel about God. It’s claiming to be well thought out, but thoughtfully ignorant, all at the same time. It is really a clever trick on the part of the heretic. Yet, the last thing these people want is the God who has given us propositional statements about Himself. The Triune God is one of truth and declaration.

When Spong makes such a statement, what he is actually doing is continuing the lie that he is the knowledgeable one concerning all things god, and we need to turn to him for our understanding, which will be perpetuated simply because god, for Spong and his followers, changes with their mood swings. Never mind the fact that he cannot tell us anything propositionally one way or another about the god he likes.

It is true that we can never fathom the full riches of Who God is. But we can, and should, meditate upon the truths He has made known to us in Scripture. Yes, what we find is clear declarations about Who He is, and who we are. They are hard and wonderful truths. They are not for the faint of heart. They are not for the spiritually blind, like Spong.

 

Heresy is Easy: Orthodoxy Not So Much!

Another quote that jumped out at me from Maurice Roberts from The Christian’s High Calling, was his demonstration of the difference between heresy and orthodoxy. One is easy, the other is work.

The appeal of every heresy is that it offers a quick and easy way to the truth. It short-circuits the process by which true religion is to be known and understood. The ignorant and the unwary are snared by the zealous cult leader because he can ‘prove’ his errors by quoting two or three texts of Scripture. However, he does this stealthily and craftily because he conceals from his hearers six or seven other texts of Scripture which define or qualify those which he advances as ‘proof’ for his error.

The hallmark of any true doctrine is that it satisfies the evidence of Scripture entirely and in every place. The doctrine of the holy Trinity is just such a doctrine. It explains every text of Scripture that bears on the being of God.

The Well-Balanced Christian

Maurice Roberts has a wonderful chapter about being a balanced Christian in his book, The Christian’s High Calling, that shows the need for all believers to be balanced in our views of doctrine. Roberts writes:

To push any point of doctrine just too far is to upset the biblical balance and harmony of the truth. Stress the transcendence (remoteness) of God at the expense of his immanence (nearness) and you become a deist. Stress the immanence at the expense of the transcendence and you become a pantheist.

Just a quick explanation, a deist is someone who believes in the existence of God, but only to the point that He created the world and then stepped back from creation to let it run its course. Deists reject supernatural revelation and therefore reject the miracles of Christ, including the resurrection of Christ. Deists have morality, but no real salvation.

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A Gentle Reminder

My lovely bride loves to make chocolate candy for me, since I’m such a lover of chocolate. You can read more about that here.

The problem is that we ran out of chocolate a few days ago. She is ever attentive and asked me this morning, while she was at work, to leave her a reminder so she could make me more chocolate tonight. I thought it would be helpful to leave the can of cocoa in a place where she would see and be reminded. Then, to my delight, I discovered we had four cans of cocoa. She is really good about never running out of the essentials. Seizing on the opportunity, I placed all four cans in convenient locations. After all, can one leave too many reminders for the need of chocolate? See the photos and tell me if you think she will spot the conveniently placed cans of cocoa. (All photos Copyright TimothyJHammons 2017).

Chocolate 001 Chocolate 002 Chocolate 003 Chocolate 004

The Hebrew 40!

According to John Currid in his commentary on Genesis concerning the flood, the number 40 in Hebrew is significant:

The rain will last for forty days and forty nights. The Hebrew number ‘forty’ is symbolic of a period of testing and trial. Israel, for example, is in the wilderness for four years of temptation. Goliath taunts Israel for forty days before his battle with David (1 Sam. 17:16). Jesus is tempted for forty days in the wilderness (Luke 4:2). So Noah and his family are about to undergo a great period of testing.

Currid also points out God’s absolute sovereignty in bringing the flood. This is interesting in light of a recent news of a liberal Baptist professor claiming that God isn’t actually sovereign. Yet, the bible disagrees.

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Westminster’s Overture is DOA!

Westminster Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America recently submitted an overture to the General Assembly for this coming summer. Westminster is opposing the study committee that was erected at the last GA to look into women’s ministry and women’s role in the church. The PCA has been quite clear on the role of women in the church for years. They have done studies on the issue. They have made it clear: women are not to have authority over men or be in leadership positions, which is according to Scripture.

What interested me is that Westminster points out the fact that this committee actually has women on it, putting men under the authority of women by default. Here is what they write:

“The ad interim committee on the Role of Women has placed women on the committee as members, thereby placing women in the position not only of potentially exercising authority over the men on the committee, but also over the members and churches of the denomination.”

I fully support their overture, but know just from that statement alone that their overture is dead on arrival. Just given the fact that women are on the committee, shows the denominations intent for women being ordained and placed into leadership roles. After all, are any of the men on that committee going to stand up to the women on the committee and run the risk of being labeled a bigot?  I think not. That is how committees end up being run by women. So women in ministry in the PCA is a foregone conclusion. The best thing for Westminster to do is to learn to deal with the new PCA involving women in leadership, or to make other plans.

Fire Pit

It was one of those jobs that I knew I had to do: clean out the drainage pipes under my driveways. Yes, I have two driveways. One for the carport, the other for the husband, which is really just a place for a car under a tree. But both driveways have drainage pipes under them for the ditches out front.

For some strange reason, the previous owner was in the habit of filling in those drainage pipes with large chunks of concrete, asphalt, rocks and anything else he cold find. That led to the pipes clogging up with sediment. And clog they did. When it rained, the water went over the driveway instead of under it. After it rained, the water would stand on both sides of the driveway until it evaporated. I’m sure in the spring and summer the mosquitoes made use of all that breeding area.

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Top 10 Posts for 2016

I had another banner year for 2016 with more than 83,000 views on the blog. I also had some posts that surprised me concerning readership. But the biggest surprise is that my post, Blue Bell Ice Cream: Top 10 Flavors was not in the number one spot.

The number one post was another that falls into the mundane category as far as I’m concerned. It was not one of my deeper theological treatises, but something I just threw together. The post garnered well over 7,000 hits.

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My Egregious Public Error

I never really know what to do when I get comments like the one below on a post or my blog. Robert, who is a first-time visitor, was able to discern from my posts that not only do I believe in original sin (see Romans 5:12) but also the fact that all are conceived in iniquity, therefore sinners, even at their conception (see Psalm 51:5).

In other words, there are no innocent children. No one is born with a clean slate. We are all born into iniquity. In fact, Paul shows us in Ephesians 2 that we “were all by nature children of wrath” until we were made alive by the Spirit of God. The implication is that this is what we are born into because of the fallen nature we inherited from Adam (original sin). We start life in the realm of Satan, the flesh and the world, and it is by God’s mercy that we are moved from being dead in our trespasses and sins, to a state of salvation and new life.

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