Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

Bishop Spong on the Virgin Birth and other Christian "legends"

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Bishop Spong on the Virgin Birth and other Christian "legends"

    Once again, I received a fascinating e-mail from Bishop John Shelby Spong, this time about the literalness of certain Bible stories. Once again, I agree with him completely. I hope that more and more Christians will learn not to take the Bible too literally.

    Thoughts?





    Stephen from Westmere, Australia asks:


    "If, as you say, the stories of Jesus' miraculous birth are pious legends, what are the implications for staging a children's Christmas pageant in a small suburban church?"







    Dear Stephen,



    There is no reputable New Testament scholar in the world today, either Catholic or protestant, who regards the birth stories of Matthew and Luke as history. I say reputable because there are a few evangelical fundamentalists and pre-Vatican II Roman Catholics who have not yet caught up with the last 150 years of biblical scholarship.

    Does that mean, however, that these beautiful stories have no eternal value? Of course not! They are great narratives and our lives would be considerably poorer without those shepherds and wise men, the manger and swaddling clothes, the star in the East and the angelic chorus. These stories are filled with interpretative meaning but they were never written to be understood literally. The star to announce the birth of a special life had a long history in Jewish piety. The story of the Wise Men was based on Isaiah 60. The story of Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus is based on the story of Joseph the patriarch from Genesis 37:50. The swaddling clothes came out of the apocryphal book of the Wisdom of Solomon. The manger is from Isaiah 1:3. The story of Zechariah and Elizabeth having John the Baptist in their old age is a retelling of the Abraham and Sarah story from Genesis 15 to 34. We could go on and on. I developed all of these connections in a book entitled, "Born of a Woman: A Bishop Rethinks the Virgin Birth and the Place of Women in a Male-Dominated Church."

    Does that mean when we learn that these stories are interpretative legends we discard them? I certainly do not. Our home has several crèche scenes on display every holiday season and we normally attend at least one Christmas pageant a year.

    The meaning of these stories is that in the adult Jesus, people believed that they had experienced the presence of the Holy God. That moment was so transforming that when they wrote it they said things like "the heavens rejoiced at his birth." Why cannot those themes be acted out in pageantry without telling the children that they are literally so. The great myth of Santa Claus/Kris Kringle does not disappear when children learn that no literal elf lives at the literal North Pole. The power of the Christ is likewise not diminished when the miraculous story of his birth is recognized as an interpretative myth.

    So enjoy the holidays and welcome the birth of the one many of us acknowledge as our gateway into all that God means.



    -- John Shelby Spong






    Last edited by Ben Trismegistus; December 11th, 2003, 12:43 PM.
    Ben Trismegistus
    Super-Cool Retired Admin Type

    R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to me. Click here.


    Check out my former rock band, Wayward Sun!

  • #2
    I agree with both Bishop Spong and with your hope that more Christians will reject a literal interpretation of the Bible. However (as you and I discussed at length before) the data for the past 30 years says that the fundamenalist (literalist) Christian churches are growing, while the moderate Christian Churches are shrinking. I have yet to see statistics on the results of the gay bishop row in the Episcopal church.

    Who knows, maybe the trend will reverse. At any rate - thanks for the cool letter from Spong!

    -Equinox
    -Equinox

    I like my spirituality because I think it's true. But I love my spirituality because it makes me excited to be part of the universe.
    - Ben Trimegistus, 2004.2.23 (That's how I feel too!)

    What do I believe? Find out on my webpage (here):

    In short, I'm a Naturalistic Pagan (OK, now that link is fixed) who has found a spiritual home at a Unitarian Universalist Church.

    Useful Data for Pagans:
    Equinox/Solstice Times (click here) rise/set and phase data (click here)

    Comment


    • #3
      A lot of pain has been caused by too literal an interpretation of the bible. I wish more people would be openminded instead of accepting things at face value.

      ~It's better to be hated for what you are than loved for what you're not.

      Comment


      • #4
        I COMPLETELY agree!

        Several years back, when my son was 4, my husband and I decided to enroll him in a preschool. At the time I considered myself Catholic. My husband was Lutheran. We found a quaint little Lutheran church with a nice school and a fabulous preschool teacher, but we needed to be members of the church to enroll. In order to do that, I had to take classes because I wasn't Lutheran. I balked at the idea, but then I figured it wouldn't be so bad to broaden my horizons.

        On the first night of class, the pastor talked at length about evolution versus creationism. He held forth, in a very scholarly and intellectual way, on how creationism was what the Bible taught and therefore was the only possible interpretation of how human life came into existance. I found myself twitching in my seat. And finally, I couldn't help myself...my hand shot up in the air.

        "But couldn't the creation story be a myth meant to interpret a scientific event that was beyond human understanding at the time the Bible was written?" I said. Silly me!

        We were all treated to a lengthy lecture. All my questions were met with answers that essentially meant, "THIS is what we believe and it's not open for interpretation!" Strangely enough, nobody else wanted to join me in the debate. Like good sheep, they all nodded their heads in agreement with the pastor. I had to wonder, Do these people just blindly accept everything they hear?

        That Sunday when we went to church, the pastor's sermon was about, you guessed it, creationism, and why it's sinful to question the "Word of God." There was even a full page article, written by the pastor, inserted into the church bulletin. Needless to say, I never went back. My son DID attend preschool at the church, but I almost withdrew him near the end because it all got rather freaky. But that's another story....





        Comment


        • #5
          Aurora, it sounds to me like we are of the same mind. I too have question many sermons i hear and do not like it that people tell me not to question. To me, it is not a lack of faith that I ask questions, it is only that I want to know what the truth really is. I have asked the same questions as you, and i have been frustrated by the same answers as you!

          Comment


          • #6
            Living According to the Bible

            Hi-
            From reading the Bible, it seems to me that it encourages a closed-minded, literal view. I’ve compared the Bible with the 4 rules for objectivity, and that comparison is here:

            http://www-personal.engin.umich.edu/...j7xe4objtr.htm

            These ideas may bother some people, but if they do, please read the Bible (I have) and see if you agree or not. It would be nice to pretend that all books are all goodness and light, but assuming it is so doesn’t make it so. A lot of Christians are open-minded, nice people, but I think that is because they are just plain open-minded, nice people, not because of the Bible.

            Funny how these two threads have converged to cover the same topic. http://www.paganforums.org/showthrea...1&page=1&pp=10

            -Equinox.
            -Equinox

            I like my spirituality because I think it's true. But I love my spirituality because it makes me excited to be part of the universe.
            - Ben Trimegistus, 2004.2.23 (That's how I feel too!)

            What do I believe? Find out on my webpage (here):

            In short, I'm a Naturalistic Pagan (OK, now that link is fixed) who has found a spiritual home at a Unitarian Universalist Church.

            Useful Data for Pagans:
            Equinox/Solstice Times (click here) rise/set and phase data (click here)

            Comment


            • #7
              It seems to me that Christians with a literal interpretation of the Bible are doing themselves a disservice. When you remove the symbolism and metaphor, you are denying the beauty and magic of the religion itself.
              Ben Trismegistus
              Super-Cool Retired Admin Type

              R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Find out what it means to me. Click here.


              Check out my former rock band, Wayward Sun!

              Comment


              • #8
                I agree, Ben.

                -Equinox
                -Equinox

                I like my spirituality because I think it's true. But I love my spirituality because it makes me excited to be part of the universe.
                - Ben Trimegistus, 2004.2.23 (That's how I feel too!)

                What do I believe? Find out on my webpage (here):

                In short, I'm a Naturalistic Pagan (OK, now that link is fixed) who has found a spiritual home at a Unitarian Universalist Church.

                Useful Data for Pagans:
                Equinox/Solstice Times (click here) rise/set and phase data (click here)

                Comment


                • #9
                  Read his biography! He's a very fascinating man. His career took off in the same city at the the same time of another famous minister's, Jerry Falwell.

                  Wherever God closes a door somewhere He opens a window seems to apply here....:toofless:
                  Inanna
                  Evening Star
                  Dispenser of Justice when the moon is new
                  Unseen Light
                  You illuminate the darkness and show the way
                  May my heart be filled with wisdom and love
                  -Hymn to Inanna

                  Comment

                  Working...
                  X