December 29th, 2011
09:10 AM ET
My Take: The 3 biggest biblical misconceptions
Editor’s note: John Shelby Spong, a former Episcopal bishop of Newark, New Jersey, is author of "Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World."
By John Shelby Spong, Special to CNN
The Bible is both a reservoir of spiritual insight and a cultural icon to which lip service is still paid in the Western world. Yet when the Bible is talked about in public by both believers and critics, it becomes clear that misconceptions abound.
To me, three misconceptions stand out and serve to make the Bible hard to comprehend.
First, people assume the Bible accurately reflects history. That is absolutely not so, and every biblical scholar recognizes it.
The facts are that Abraham, the biblically acknowledged founding father of the Jewish people, whose story forms the earliest content of the Bible, died about 900 years before the first story of Abraham was written in the Old Testament.
Actually, that's not in the Bible
Can a defining tribal narrative that is passed on orally for 45 generations ever be regarded as history, at least as history is understood today?
Moses, the religious genius who put his stamp on the religion of the Old Testament more powerfully than any other figure, died about 300 years before the first story of Moses entered the written form we call Holy Scripture.
This means that everything we know about Moses in the Bible had to have passed orally through about 15 generations before achieving written form. Do stories of heroic figures not grow, experience magnifying tendencies and become surrounded by interpretive mythology as the years roll by?
My Take: Bible condemns a lot, so why focus on homosexuality?
Jesus of Nazareth, according to our best research, lived between the years 4 B.C. and A.D. 30. Yet all of the gospels were written between the years 70 to 100 A.D., or 40 to 70 years after his crucifixion, and they were written in Greek, a language that neither Jesus nor any of his disciples spoke or were able to write.
Are the gospels then capable of being effective guides to history? If we line up the gospels in the time sequence in which they were written - that is, with Mark first, followed by Matthew, then by Luke and ending with John - we can see exactly how the story expanded between the years 70 and 100.
For example, miracles do not get attached to the memory of Jesus story until the eighth decade. The miraculous birth of Jesus is a ninth-decade addition; the story of Jesus ascending into heaven is a 10th-decade narrative.
In the first gospel, Mark, the risen Christ appears physically to no one, but by the time we come to the last gospel, John, Thomas is invited to feel the nail prints in Christ’s hands and feet and the spear wound in his side.
Perhaps the most telling witness against the claim of accurate history for the Bible comes when we read the earliest narrative of the crucifixion found in Mark’s gospel and discover that it is not based on eyewitness testimony at all.
My Take: Yes, the Bible really condemns homosexuality
Instead, it’s an interpretive account designed to conform the story of Jesus’ death to the messianic yearnings of the Hebrew Scriptures, including Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53.
The Bible interprets life from its particular perspective; it does not record in a factual way the human journey through history.
The second major misconception comes from the distorting claim that the Bible is in any literal sense “the word of God.” Only someone who has never read the Bible could make such a claim. The Bible portrays God as hating the Egyptians, stopping the sun in the sky to allow more daylight to enable Joshua to kill more Amorites and ordering King Saul to commit genocide against the Amalekites.
Can these acts of immorality ever be called “the word of God”? The book of Psalms promises happiness to the defeated and exiled Jews only when they can dash the heads of Babylonian children against the rocks! Is this “the word of God? What kind of God would that be?
The Bible, when read literally, calls for the execution of children who are willfully disobedient to their parents, for those who worship false gods, for those who commit adultery, for homosexual persons and for any man who has sex with his mother-in-law, just to name a few.
The Bible exhorts slaves to be obedient to their masters and wives to be obedient to their husbands. Over the centuries, texts like these, taken from the Bible and interpreted literally, have been used as powerful and evil weapons to support killing prejudices and to justify the cruelest kind of inhumanity.
The third major misconception is that biblical truth is somehow static and thus unchanging. Instead, the Bible presents us with an evolutionary story, and in those evolving patterns, the permanent value of the Bible is ultimately revealed.
It was a long road for human beings and human values to travel between the tribal deity found in the book of Exodus, who orders the death of the firstborn male in every Egyptian household on the night of the Passover, until we reach an understanding of God who commands us to love our enemies.
The transition moments on this journey can be studied easily. It was the prophet named Hosea, writing in the eighth century B.C., who changed God’s name to love. It was the prophet named Amos who changed God’s name to justice. It was the prophet we call Jonah who taught us that the love of God is not bounded by the limits of our own ability to love.
It was the prophet Micah who understood that beautiful religious rituals and even lavish sacrifices were not the things that worship requires, but rather “to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.” It was the prophet we call Malachi, writing in the fifth century B.C., who finally saw God as a universal experience, transcending all national and tribal boundaries.
One has only to look at Christian history to see why these misconceptions are dangerous. They have fed religious persecution and religious wars. They have fueled racism, anti-female biases, anti-Semitism and homophobia.They have fought against science and the explosion of knowledge.
The ultimate meaning of the Bible escapes human limits and calls us to a recognition that every life is holy, every life is loved, and every life is called to be all that that life is capable of being. The Bible is, thus, not about religion at all but about becoming deeply and fully human. It issues the invitation to live fully, to love wastefully and to have the courage to be our most complete selves.
That is why I treasure this book and why I struggle to reclaim its essential message for our increasingly non-religious world.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John Shelby Spong.
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.
There are definitely mysteries in the Bible, and there are definitely things that those who trust its authority should wrestle with rather than blindly accept. The author of this article makes some interesting points about the nature of God, and the nature of inerrency in the Bible, however, several of his points are unfounded. For one, the disciples were not an overly educated group, but they all would have spoken Greek. Most of the New Testament was written by Paul, who was very well-educated, and Luke was Greek. To deny the historicity of all of the Bible's events based on their roots in oral tradition is also unfounded. The ancient memory was much greater than ours now, and the stories that would have been passed on would have been told and retold with the utmost of care in order to preserve their accuracy.
The author does raise some difficult questions. How do Christians interpret the genocide in the Bible? How do we read the laws of the Pentateuch that seem extraordinarily harsh and antiquated? How do we reconcile the God of judgment with the God of love? How does mercy triumph over justice?
Summarily dismissing the Bible because of these tensions isn't the best way to go; doubting the whole book because of a few details that do not line up is silly. But blindly accepting the things that are portrayed in the Bible without question can also lead to horrible abuses. I prefer to take the position of Jacob wrestling with God. I wrestle with these texts, and some of them, frankly, I don't like one bit. But Jacob said to the angel he wrestled with, "I won't let you go until you bless me," and that is how I want to be when I read these puzzling texts. I have placed my faith in Jesus, and my faith in his resurrection and life remains strong in spite of the difficulties I encounter when I read the Bible. Some may call me foolish, but I wouldn't choose to live any other way.
Well said, Brian. It's amazing how many of these tensions either resolve or lose importance when one is living in daily relationship with the Author.
Seems that the author doesnt really understand the bible either. Additionally, those that are non religious, ARE NOT the problem... its those who claim to be religious, yet are the contrary.
Sean: Thank you for your well-argued points. One thing I would like to add is that Spong is drawing a conclusion from his presupposition, namely, that there is no God who could inspire writers years after events to write accurate history of those events. In other words, he assumes atheism to prove a conclusion of atheism. Well, suppose such a God of inspiration does exist? That should be the focus of the debate.
I didn't see anywhere in the article that he said god didn't exist or endorse atheism. Your point that he can't conceive of a god that could inspire a writer is true, but that doesn't mean he doesn't believe in god, or even that he doesn't think that god could do this. He just doesn't think god did that in this occasion.
I agree totally, Little John.
This article is misguided for someone who is supposed to be a scholar.
There are two basic types of Christianity, contextualist, and fundamentalist. The article assumes the contextualist approach, and ignores the fundamentalists all together. Some versions of Christianity (such as Catholicism) take this approach, but it ignores all the fundamentalists out there.
Their belief is that the words of the Bible are fact, and that the time of authorship does not matter, because the authors were inspired by God.
This is a major question of Dogma, and it's sad that a so-called expert completely missed it.
I liked this article all the way until the last sentence about non-religious people.. I do no believe in Religion but I do believe in Jesus and his father God... I believe it is all about Faith and not religion because it is not religion that makes you Christian it is your faith. Religion is just a stepping stone for some people on their journey to find their faith... All in all it comes from inside you.
if it all comes from inside, how does it matter what you call your god?
Take a look while it’s still up (or read more about it here): Google today honors Nicolas Steno (1636-1686), considered one of the founders of modern geology, with a “doodle” on their home page. An inquisitive young mind, Steno’s early forays into the study of medicine bled into geology, where he articulated what has come to be known as the “principle of original horizontality” – essentially, that the earth’s sediment and its past rock layers align horizontally, entrapping fossils and producing a chronological record of past ages. Many of his texts are “still taught in geology classes today.” Additionally, in the field of human anatomy, Steno is credited with discovering that the heart is a muscle, and that tears form in ducts behind eyelids.
Steno was also a Danish Lutheran convert to Roman Catholicism who was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1988 (his cause for canonization is apparently still open). Ordained a priest in 1675, Steno went on to a brief career in the hierarchy before dying at the age of 48. As the Christian Science Monitor notes, his story “[fails] to fit into a narrative that science and religion are enemies,” and his work was even “embraced by the Vatican.”
Spong's article hits the nail right on the thumb by extrapolating off the most liberal positions on biblical authorship and dating. Were his views tempered by broader scholarship it would be less apparent that his god is so tiny.
Another possibility is the Bible is as accurate as it is possible for man to understand.
I believe God has provided the Bible as Basic Instruction Book for Living Everyday.
People can either live according to the Bible and prosper or live contrary to the Bible and suffer.
"Another possibility is the Bible is as accurate as it is possible for man to understand."
The bible was written when the majority of the population was illiterate. The bible was written by the minority of literates to control the masses.
"I believe God has provided the Bible as Basic Instruction Book for Living Everyday."
Oh really? So we got the bible with training wheels? When do the training wheels come off?
"People can either live according to the Bible and prosper or live contrary to the Bible and suffer."
Are you not suffering while waiting on Jesus to come from the sky?
Or they can live according to the bible and suffer,or live contra to it and prosper
One more thing. Let's take an independent, third-party approach to this supposed dilemma. If this author identifies himself as a Christian and if the Bible is the holy book of the Christian religion, why should he expect non-Christians to be persuaded to convert to his religion and conform to its moral standards when he asserts that its historical narratives are inaccurate??
It is an immense incongruity and inconsistency to assert that the Bible's moral standards are accurate and should be emulated while concomitantly asserting that the narratives are false. Non-believers will not be persuaded but will rather scoff at this inconsistency.
"One more thing. Let's take an independent, third-party approach to this supposed dilemma. If this author identifies himself as a Christian and if the Bible is the holy book of the Christian religion, why should he expect non-Christians to be persuaded to convert to his religion and conform to its moral standards when he asserts that its historical narratives are inaccurate??"
Oh, you came so dangerously close to trying to argue that the author is no true Scotsman. If he self identifies as a Christian, then he is a Christian. To my knowledge there is no accurate litmus test for how Christian a person is.
"It is an immense incongruity and inconsistency to assert that the Bible's moral standards are accurate and should be emulated while concomitantly asserting that the narratives are false. Non-believers will not be persuaded but will rather scoff at this inconsistency."
Unfortunately, the skeptics will still scoff at the Bible's inconsistency, since it's inconsistencies are well known to us. Better to try and convince us the bible has something of value despite all of it's flows. You can't make skeptics ignore the inconsistencies by simply claiming they don't exist, especially when you stick your fingers in your ears as soon as skeptics start listing them for you.
Non-believers choose to be non-believers and it is up to them if they want to have that faith or not. You do not need to conform to any religion because they are not the holders of your faith. You are....
I don't close my ears when people talk about supposed inconsistencies within the text of the Bible. But, I can honestly say that no one has ever produced an "inconsistency" that I didn't see valid evidence to prove there was no inconsistency at all. Most supposed inconsistencies have rational explanations: quotes taken out of context, a misunderstanding of literary genre and devices at the time of the texts writing, failure to see items that were written generally versus those written specifically for a certain context, failure to see how the themes of Scripture as a whole work together, failure to understand two teachings given as poles in tension on a spectrum, taking what is figurative as literal or what is literal as figurative,etc. Often times the one claiming an inconsistency is making the same error I think Spong makes in his article above; that is, they assume that they have all the facts in hand when in reality there is much more information that should be brought to bear. I am fully willing to admit that their are complex and difficult to grasp texts in the Bible that seem problematic. I think we should probably expect some of this if the Bible is divinely inspired. How does one begin to relay divine mystery to weak human intellect? I do know this -though I can only testify to it... I cannot prove it to anyone – that living by the revelation I believe God has given us in the Bible has never let me down. And I have never been stumped by anything in the Bible that God has not helped me reach a peace about as I walked with Him daily. You see, a major thing that often gets left out of these academic debates is that if the Bible is true, then God has not just given us a book of history, rules and rituals to live out...He has given us Himself. As I walk with Him daily He shows up in very real ways in my life and one of the most meaningful places I learn about Him and hear his voice is in the pages of the Bible. Though I don't believe the Christian faith requires us to check our intellect at the front door, there is an element of faith involved here. I have found God to be real, gracious, loving and more than enough for me in this life and the next.
There are a few assumptions/generalizations made by this author which I wish to address.
First, the fact that something was written after the fact does not necessitate that it is inaccurate. Besides, any narrative of an historical event can only be written after the event. I know this is obvious, but the author appears to neglect this when he makes this generalization. Secondly, as others have already pointed out, the author makes another sweeping generalization when he states that "every" scholar recognizes this. True some may recognize this, but that by no means implies that all scholars do. Universal statements are seldom true. And lastly, the fact that the Bible includes violence and atrocities in its narrative of historical events does in no way imply that God, its author, condones these acts. These events are merely recorded. Its not as if these are templates for modern behavior as skeptics often assert.
"First, the fact that something was written after the fact does not necessitate that it is inaccurate."
Which isn't what he said. He said that they were inaccurate because they are inaccurate. For instance, each gospel has different narratives. They do not agree on how/when/and who was involved with the story of Jesus's birth, and they do not agree on his resurection: the date and time of his death and resurrection, the first witnesses, etc. Furthermore, he points out that if you arrange the gospels and epistles in the order they were written chronologically, rather than the order they appear in the bible, you see he narrative of Jesus's life and death become more and more miraculous. Just like Hercules or Perseus or Osirus.
"Besides, any narrative of an historical event can only be written after the event. I know this is obvious, but the author appears to neglect this when he makes this generalization."
He does not. You're simply grasping at straws looking for something to criticize.
"Secondly, as others have already pointed out, the author makes another sweeping generalization when he states that "every" scholar recognizes this. True some may recognize this, but that by no means implies that all scholars do. Universal statements are seldom true."
Again, a nitpicky criticism made to grasp at straws. Your criticism here does not address the actual content of the article, at all.
"And lastly, the fact that the Bible includes violence and atrocities in its narrative of historical events does in no way imply that God, its author, condones these acts. These events are merely recorded. Its not as if these are templates for modern behavior as skeptics often assert."
Whaaat. Go re-read Joshua and Judges and tell me your God doesn't condone violence. God punishes the Isrealites for not fully comitting genocide in the wars they fight in those books.
The bible is astoundingly accurate history, both old and new testament. This proven time and again. Israel Finklestein once swore king David was made up. People claimed Nazareth and Bethlehem didn't even exist at the time of Jrsus. Now the Tel Dan Stele, Egyptian records and excavations of the City of David have proven the bible correct. As has archeological excavations of Nazareth and Bethlehem. The gospels were written by those literate compiling the direct eyewitness testimony of the apostles. St. Paul confirms the gospels independently. Tacitus, Josephus, Pliny and the Talmud all stand as external corroborating sources. The oldest parts of the old testament like Abraham are recorded in detail and specificity unlike any other writing of the time period. In fact the Jews were expert and adept at oral history, remarkably so. Their entire history and culture is highly remarkable and not to be dismissed so hastily and ignorantly as by this ex-clergyman who is obviously now biased. Incredible this is what CNN puts out there. When is the last time they let a leading catholic contribute a piece?
I am glad the above article is posted under the banner "My Take." I wish the language within it maintained that humility and willingness to admit that it is just one person's opinion. Unfortunately, Spong makes statements such as, "First, people assume the Bible accurately reflects history. That is absolutely not so, and every biblical scholar recognizes it." "absolutely not so?" EVERY biblical scholar recognizes it." Statements like this are absurd hyperbole. Truthfully, EVERY bible scholar gathered together in one place couldn't agree on the perfect toppings for a pizza.
There are many statements in this article that are given as evidence, or as though they are simple common sense, that are easily disproven. For instance, the author basically states that there was no talk of miracles with the Jesus story until the eighth century. Are you kidding me! Even Josephus, definitely not a Christian, makes mention of Jesus from Nazareth who was credited with working miracles.
And could oral tradition carried down for 45 generations actually contain real history as we view it today? Why not? The truth is many studies have proven that oral traditions were often carried on over multiple generations with a high degree of accuracy.
Also, the following assertion was made as if it was common sense or irrefutable: "Are the gospels then capable of being effective guides to history? If we line up the gospels in the time sequence in which they were written – that is, with Mark first, followed by Matthew, then by Luke and ending with John – we can see exactly how the story expanded between the years 70 and 100." It seems reasonable to me that if four different people were inspired to write a story of Jesus' life and ministry, those that followed the first gospel would be interested in sharing some information that was not in the first. Of course the story would expand, it would be idiotic and redundant for all four to share the same details. So, why can't the "expansion" be looked upon as an intentional attempt to provide a more fully relayed testimony of the actual events that happened. I believe you might well not see this as a possibility because your bias toward biblical inaccuracy and unreliability is looking for evidence to support it instead of allowing the evidence, or lack there of, to speak for itself. To believe that an all-powerful, loving God was not able to inspire a people to carry an oral tradition accurately for 45 generations, or enable Jesus Christ to work miracles, or inspire normal human messengers like Mark, John or Paul to accurately get across His message to a needy world is a simple lack of faith. And I'm not talking about mindless fideism that neglects looking at any evidence. There are numerous Bible scholars who could, and would gladly, refute your every point with scholarly biblical evidence. I regret that most who read your book and articles like this one may never get to hear the other side of the story. Not all people who believe the Bible is the inspired word of God and accurate in all its teaching are mindless, uneducated fundamentalists, though that is often how we are portrayed. Thanks for your opinion, but it isn't the only scholarly explanation by far.
Whoa. If he's a theologian, he certainly isn't mainstream. This article is like that feature on paint.net which lets you switch the colors in a photo, making it it look like a negative: his conclusions read like a list of misconceptions about the bible.
It's comforting to the ego to focus on scholarly examinations of certain aspects of the bible without ever coming to grips with its overall mandantes. What one choses to do is a matter of character, wisdom, and humility.
Thank you John Shelby Spong for having the courage to write this piece. This is exactly how I feel and think about the bible. The problem is that whenever I share these views with my friends and family they think I’m crazy and that I’m going to be struck by lightening and dragged to hell kicking and screaming by the devil himself. The facts that you have outlined in your article seem to be glaringly obvious to the rational person. One problem that I have with religion is that it puts your mind in a box. When you are overly religious you no longer have the freedom of thought. Being an overly religious person you should not dare think about questions like “What if God does not exist and never existed” “What if the bible is just a well written book of fictional events” “What if Jesus was just a celebrity of his day, just like celebrities are copied and written about today.” You become constrained in your thinking, paralyzed be fear.
""Being an overly religious person you should not dare think about questions like “What if God does not exist and never existed” “What if the bible is just a well written book of fictional events” “What if Jesus was just a celebrity of his day, just like celebrities are copied and written about today.” You become constrained in your thinking, paralyzed be fear.""
Those are extremely important questions that must have answers, and searching for those answers has turned many either right off or totally right on to relationship with God. Depending on what they received or just perceived as an answer.
To receive or to perceive.
You can PERCEIVE the football game is on when you hear it on your neighbor's t.v. but that's not as good as seeing it when your own t.v. set RECEIVEs it. But you definitely can't put your mind, the perceiver, in a box to get there. It takes a bit of time for your mind to catch up to what your spirit receives, but you have to let it do that or you lose it. And then if you lose it, how can you worship God with all your heart, soul, MIND, and strength?
" Yet all of the gospels were written between the years 70 to 100 A.D., or 40 to 70 years after his crucifixion, and they were written in Greek, a language that neither Jesus nor any of his disciples spoke or were able to write." Well that's a silly statement. Luke, one of the writers of the Gospels and author of the book of Acts, was Greek. How can this guy say Jesus' followers didn't know Greek? Or Paul was an educated pharisee who quotes the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures). Or Peter lived in Rome for years, which was Greek speaking, you would think Peter knew Greek too. This guy needs to get his facts straight...
The educated people of Rome spoke Greek as a second language, as it was the official language of the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire (including Palestine), but Rome was not a Greek speaking city. The lanuage of Rome, and of the Italian penensula, was Latin.
This guy will stand before the judgement seat of Christ and give an account for his heritical teaching and leading people astray. Thiis article is totally inaccurate, uninformed, and of the Anti Christ.
Specifically, why? His position is rational, intelligent, and well-thought.
God speaks to people's hearts? What kind of utter nonsense is that?? Satan speaks to people's hearts too, often in the name of "God."
Christians are quick to denounce those that would actually study the bible and consider its sources, yet they'd blindly follow charlatans such as Jimmy Swaggart, Billy Graham, Jim Bakker, and others that deceived them.
More funny is that a Christian ("Judge not, that ye be not judged") is so fast to denounce this man as Christian. Is it the blind morons that take the bible as the literal word of God that choose who is and isn't Christian? Or is it for each man to decide himself?
Hypocrisy abounds in Christianity. FSM fortunately, has no hypocrites.
I love people who criticize scholars, historians and (In general) people who are smarter and/or more informed than them when the reality is, you probably never even read the Bible in it's entirety or have ANY concept on the history of its authors....What a perfect example of why people are running away from organized religion, these days. It's not God that they are running from. It's people like YOU!!!!
I agree....Jesus and all of the disciples knew Greek – they spoke it and understood it. My degrees are all
in art, and even I know that much history and geography. This man is deceiving others, and perhaps himself.
If you don't believe me then google it, do some research. I am saddened that CNN would even publish this
piece online. There are much more interesting people to speak to, much more accurate and well informed,
who have different views. Really crappy journalism that does nothing but feed the trolls....I'm outta here,
going back to msnbc and the Huffington Post. ThHuffington Post moderates trolls very well so the discussions
are actually meaningful.
I am in agreement with neniatak.
Aramaic, not Greek. Many who have studied the history(s) of civilization credit Herodotus and the Alexandrian scribes with the creation of Exodus. The Rosetta Stone ruined everything. We know the daily price of wheat across the dynasty, yet no Egyptian record of Hebrew enslavement, plagues, Moses, 600,000 people wandering about the desert for a generation (leaving 0 artifacts in their wake),... because it never happened.
Manufacturing deities is what distinguishes humans from the other creatures – the empowerment scam. Abraham's god is not the oldest, but undoubtedly the greatest threat to our species.
Gods have always never existed.
On behalf of the class of people who regard religious zealots and those who will kill and die to protect a story-book, I apologize. We do regard you as simple, ignorant and controlled by a form of education designed to maintain that control. You aren't dumb; you simply aren't thinking.
Please forgive me, but you speak as one who is not fairly educated, or does not have enough understanding of what you choose to disagree with. I for example, have done my studies, both for and against religion, christianity, and diffrent sets of theories, however, my experiences and knowledge... and understanding, incline me to lean towards the exsistance of a suppreme being. Additionally, with my inclination towards a set of beliefs, I have done my fair shair of research, and am fully satisfied with my conclusions. Though, just like you, I am no scientific scholar, there are certain things that just make sense and things that dont.
For example... any scientific theory, attempting to conclude the origin of humanity, or even the universe, not only neglects the possibility of a divine intervention, it also doesnt dispute it either.
Thank you for your time, and may you find what you seek in life. Peace be with you.
I have always said the God of the Old Testament is bi-polar. One day he is blessing you then the next he orders people to kill you. I have read a great deal in the bible. It amuses me that people fight over a book they haven't even read. We were created, not because he loved us so much, because there was no one to till the earth in the garden of eden. Look it up. I have always been searching for the truth, but I can't find it in a man's word written down.
What does it mean that there was no one to till the earth in the Garden of Eden? It doesn't mean the place was empty. It means the purpose of the creation was not created yet. The creation was created so that even in the most physical of places, which is a place that hides the presence of G-d so that it cannot be seen or felt, G-d's presence will be there. How can that happen? It can happen when people do what G-d wanted, what He created the world for. He wants people to live according to Seven Basic Human Laws: To believe in One G-d, not to blaspheme Him, not to steal and kidnap, not to murder, not to do adultery, etc., not to eat the limb of a living animal (animal cruelty) and to set up effective courts of justice. When people will live like this, the world will be a wonderful place to live and G-d will "feel comfortable" here. He wants us to make this place into a place where the physical will "hold" the spiritual, and be elevated to feel His presence. When the first generations of people began living how they wanted, and not the way G-d wanted, He gave them a few generations to see if they would improve, and then when they did not, He chose the Jews to teach it to them, either by example or directly. Please see Chabad.org for more information. Please read "The Bible Unauthorized" for an easy to understand translation of the original that shows the relevance of what I just said to today's times.
Spong denies the presence and inspiration of the Holy Spirit to preserve Scripture from error. This is Satan in the sanctuary.
How does this author call himself Christian. He's so far off the mark. Instead of focusing on values and message packed into the bible, he picks apart the bible because of what? Timeline issues!? WTH!? So basically he's saying revelation and inspiration are dead and that BOOKS never existed or were never passed down from generation to generation? Really?
God speaks to peoples hearts. Specifically the spirit is the one speaking. The still small voice. Etc.
Inspiration is real. This authors message is not. No wonder he's a "former" bishop.
...Did you really just say that a magical spirit talks to people? What on Earth makes you think this happens? And you do realize that the heart is an organ that pumps blood, right? Not a telepathic communication device.
I have a strong and abiding Faith that comes and goes...God is either everything or He is nothing...I would love to know what Christopher Hitchens found out last month?
He found out nothing. He simply died