My Take: The 3 biggest biblical misconceptions
The Bible presents us with an evolving story, writes John Shelby Spong.
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.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Bible • Christianity • Opinion

soundoff (6,068 Responses)
  1. Raptor Jesus

    Praise my name and I shall protect you from Satanasaurus Rex.

    January 13, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  2. Flying Spaghetti Monster

    Bow to me so that you can be touched by my noodly appendage...

    January 13, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • gman

      don't wory when you see satan , you'll have ample opportunity to have fun there if you can stand the heat.

      January 13, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • rick

      gman: if you have no body when you are visiting satan, how do you feel heat?

      January 14, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • gman

      i'm assuming that you are half way serious when you ask that question and on that basis i'll answer it. if you have
      ever researched near death experiences and interviews of people who have died and seen loved ones that have
      passed away, you would see that they have all expressed an overwhelming joy in their souls. many of them have
      seen themselves on the operating table floating outside their body then going to heaven and coming back. so they
      have the power to feel emotion and joy in their spiritual body's. the same is true for some people who can testify
      to near death experiences and having gone to hell and seen the horror and sorrow and then came back. in hell
      the flames are unquenchable and your spiritual soul can suffer great torment. the story of lazarus, the rich man &
      abraham show this. when the rich man died and went to hell he saw lazarus and abraham and begged for water
      and to leave that place because it was burning hot. i don't want to see people go there but it's not a joke. satan
      will kill steal and destroy whatever he can.

      January 14, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
  3. Nancy S.

    "Unless we leave our comfor zone, we really don't meet God at all, but pull God inside of our own small sphere, and it is no longer God that we meet at all. Just religion."
    ~ Fr/ Richard Rohr

    January 13, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  4. Oakspar

    I question, why Mr. Spong would dedicate his life to a religion that he does not like nor at any level believes in?

    He questions if the Bible is historical accurate, and says it is not, without any evidence from a conflicting history. True, the Bible was not written to be a history textbook and there may be flaws, but that can be said for the vast majority of all history. He mentions that none of the disciples could read, write, or speak Greek. What is that based upon? Not history, as Josephus proves that there were Greek literate Jews before Jesus's time as the Helenization of Palestine goes back to Alexander the Great's time. To hold an ancient manuscript to a higher historical standard than one's contempory conjecture is hypocracy.

    Second, he questions God, much in the same vein as William Blake ("Did he who made the Lamb make thee?" – "The Tyger"). Coming with his preconseptions about God, he says the Bible cannot be accurate because it does not reflect the kind of God that he believes God to be. Mind, this is a God that he can only have specific knowledge of from the Bible, otherwise it is some other god and not the Christian God. This is as absured as reading "Peter Pan," desciding that Peter Pan is a good guy, and then saying the first few chapters of the book are inaccurate because Peter Pan is a good guy and a good guy would never kidnap children and take them from their parent's home without permission.

    He also seems to offhandedly dissmiss anything supernatural as an impossibility. If God is not supernatural, then He is not God, but a natural part of creation. If He does not act within Nature, then there would be no Bible, as the vast majority of it is God's work in Nature, written not because it is the way things are, but because it is the exception to the way things normally are. If the sun standing still, a burning bush that is not consumed, or walking on water were the way things normally worked, they would not be worth writing about (as there is not much written about normal solar passage, walking on gravel, or typical combustion in most religious texts).

    If you deny the supernature and the historical nature of the Bible, you are left with nothing else.

    As for the laws of the Old Testament, they also condem murder. I notice that he did not have a problem with that one. If one's personal beliefs and convictions were the ultimate test of morality, then we would not need any laws at all. Each person would do as they pleased all of the time. People tend to like laws that tell them not to do things that they have no inclination of ever doing, tollerate laws that they see are reasonable because they want to be the only one allowed to defy them, and condemn those laws which actually would require them to change their behavior. Mr. Spong is no different in this case than the drug deal who rationalizes that society forces him to sell drugs in order to survive or the murderer who rationalizes his acts because his ex-wife has no right to move in with some other guy.

    All of this to say, Mr. Spong, you chose the wrong profession in life and I pity you for how trapped you must feel in it.

    January 13, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  5. Nancy S.

    After reading the comments here I just had to leave out a huge "sigh" in exasperation! And I send out support and admiration to Bishop Spong for his courageous determination to share the knowledge and truth he has worked so long and so hard to discern. I and many, many others appreciate him to a great degree. It astounds me that there are yet so many people who remain imprisoned by beliefs and interpretations of centuries ago! Good grief, we don't cling to the knowledge of medicine or other sciences of centuries ago, so why do we not want to use our abilities to reason and evaluate when it comes to religion or spirituality? I would guess that it has a lot to do with a deep fear of questioning what was taught to you by those in religious authority, and supported by your parents or teachers. But it is written in the New Testament that we should "test all things, and retain that which is good." Something that is not true or is misunderstood is not "good." Why be afraid to test what is written? If you really want to know, we are living in such a wonderful time of an abundance of information that is easily accessed. Step out of your comfort zone and read authors that don't line up with what you now believe, and do that with an open mind and a sincere desire to find truth. After all, Scripture has Jesus saying, "The truth shall set you free."

    January 13, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • JoeS

      Nancy S, it would be better to read the Book of Mormon, since it is the most correct Book on this Planet. After you read, ask God if its true and if you are really sincere, you will get the answer from the Holy Ghost.

      January 13, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Steve

      Joe, I've done just what you said, and got no response. Some people have believed the Holy Ghost ordered them to do all kinds of crazy things.

      How about looking at facts instead? The evidence says the Book of Mormon is completely made up. It refers to all sorts of things that definitely didn't actually exist in the New World - elephants, steel, horses, etc. It refers to tribes of people who supposedly came over from the Middle East, yet the DNA evidence and the archaeological evidence say that's completely wrong.

      What's the likeliest explanation for this: 1) A vast conspiracy to cover up "the truth"; 2) God is deceiving us now into thinking these things didn't really happen; or 3) Joseph Smith made it up?

      January 13, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • Robert Sutherland

      Nancy S. No spiritual beliefs can be reconciled with science and it shouldn't be necessary for people with true faith. The very foundation of Christianity is built on the divinity of Christ, without which there would be no resurrection and therefore no salvation for anyone. You cannot take the virgin birth out of Christianity for example and be left with anything to believe in. The Bible is very clear that Jesus was fully man and fully God. It was Mary conceiving through the holy spirit that provided Jesus with his divinity and provided the very foundation for Christianity. My issue with Mr Spong is his secular approach to Scripture. If this has not destroyed his faith it has certainly weakened it. Unfortunately there are many people who don't read and attempt to understand their Bible. These people attend Church each week and believe whatever is presented to them by their Minister, Pastor or Father, or whoever takes the lesson on Sunday. I just feel that Mr Spong would be far more helpful if he found himself a place in the secular world rather than weaken peoples faith from within the church.
      I took on board your comment of clinging to something centuries old but that misses one of faiths great strengths. In a rapidly changing world where peoples values change from generation to generation Christianity provides a rock solid foundation for individuals and families all over the world. When you start to dilute the teachings of Christianity to make it more acceptable to the secular world, faith and the Church will be weakend dramatically. I know many would see this as a good thing, I personally believe society would be far worse off.

      January 13, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
  6. Confused in Cleveland

    There are two answers to the question: “Why does anything exist rather than nothing at all?” The atheist answers, “There is no explanation.” The theist replies, God. An intelligent case can be made for either answer. But to say that the laws of physics alone answer it is the purest nonsense.
    Stephen M. Barr
    Professor of Particle Physics in the
    Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Delaware

    January 13, 2012 at 11:39 am |
  7. Confused in Cleveland

    Because philosophy arises from awe, a philosopher is bound in his way to be a lover of myths and poetic fables. Poets and philosophers are alike in being big with wonder.
    Thomas Aquinas

    January 13, 2012 at 11:06 am |
  8. gman

    for those of you who do not believe in JESUS , he came and died on a cruel cross for you. i challenge you to find
    anyone who could have walked the walk that christ did without lifting so much as a finger against anyone. as a christian
    it hurts me sometimes to look at the cross and how my sin is the cause of this innocent man being crucified for my sins.


    January 13, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • chad

      An innocent man died. But were that bit of mythology true the most important point is that an all powerful God did nothing to save him, or the billions of innocents who have died before and since. Isn't 2000 years of shouting at a silent sky long enough? Is the dream of eternal life in servitude to an uncaring being or the fear of it's punishment really going to continue to hold mankind back from harmony, understanding, and progress for another 1000 years?

      January 13, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Carole Nichols

      Jesus was born, lived and died in fulfillment of prophecy, a prophesy set forth by God. Thank God for Jesus and his blood which was shed for all of us sinners.

      January 13, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • Steve

      Chad - it's quite a leap in logic to assume that because bad things happen, God must be uncaring (or not exist). We do exist, after all, so that's something. And we don't have it so bad, all things considered. Most of the time, when bad things happen, it's due to other people, or it's your own fault. But what do you want God to do - control everybody's lives so that they can't do bad things? Then we'd basically be puppets... is that what you think a caring God would do? If you think a world without God(s) would be a paradise, you're completely in lala land. People always have and always will fight over things that have nothing to do with religion at all - land, food, resources, women, pride, etc.

      January 13, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • rick

      And it could have been all forgiven without the blood sacrifice. But he (as his daddy) chose it not to be

      January 14, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • rick

      steve: how does our existence imply that of a god?

      January 14, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Steve

      Rick - it doesn't prove it, but to me, suggests it. The fact that we exist is mind-blowing, when you really think about it. Why does *anything* exist, when by all rights, nothing should exist at all. I wouldn't say that everything happens for a reason, but I do think there's an explanation for everything. To say that matter, energy, and life exist "just because" isn't good enough for me (and, yes, I believe in evolution). I'm a scientist... but science will never be able to explain how and why there is such a thing as existence, I guarantee you. I think there must be some higher power that set everything in motion, although it may not be what people have traditionally thought it to be.

      January 15, 2012 at 5:41 am |
  9. gman

    the reason christians love JOHN 3:16 in the bible is because of it's simplicity. It says whom so ever shall believe may
    be saved. And all christians know above all things how desperately we need the grace of God. We don't like to
    to look to harshley at how short we all fall.

    But ROMANS 3:10-18 give the reason we so desperately need this.

    10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

    11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

    12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

    13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:

    14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:

    15 Their feet are swift to shed blood:

    16 Destruction and misery are in their ways:

    17 And the way of peace have they not known:

    18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.

    January 13, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • rick

      wow, you don't get any more relevant to 21st century man than the translated, edited hearsay of bronze age sheepherders, i tell you

      January 13, 2012 at 9:29 am |
  10. Robert Sutherland

    You state that in the Gospel of Mark Jesus appears to no one. I have five different translations of the Bible and in every one of them Jesus make four appearances in Marks Gospel, the first to Mary, then to Cleopas and his companion, then to seven of the disciples and his finale appearance when he gives his Great Commission. Makes it very hard to take anything you put to print seriously. Your meant to be a man of the cloth, surely you should know your Bible a little better.

    January 13, 2012 at 6:18 am |
    • backup666


      Spong stated, "In the first gospel, Mark, the risen Christ appears PHYSICALLY to no one,"

      Mark 16:9 Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he APPEARED first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. (KJV)

      Mark 16:12 After that he APPEARED IN ANOTHER FORM unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. (KJV)

      Mark 16:14 Afterward he APPEARED unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. (KJV)

      I believed you missed the "appeared in another form."

      January 13, 2012 at 9:05 am |
    • Carole Nichols

      The Bible says beware of false prophets. This dude surely sounds like one. Does he not know that the first book of the Bible that was written was Job? He is more or less calling God a liar. That God that He has given me salvation and with it an understanding of what the Bible is, and what it means to humanity. Jesus lives.

      January 13, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • J

      I would also like to point out that verses 9 through 20 of Mark 16 were not available in the earliest manuscripts of this gospel. Meaning, they were added on later. Meaning, it wasn't part of the original, earliest story of the gospel and was left out for a reason. I can even find this important piece of information on my iPhone Bible (as well as listening to lectures on the gospels). I know I know, someone is going to question the validity of the lectures I've heard as well as my iPhone. I get it...

      Also, the earliest version of Mark is probably used in Mr. Spong's Catholic version of the Bible, meaning verses 9 through 20 aren't in his bible.

      January 13, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Steve

      Carole, so if I said that God told me that 1 + 1 = 4, and you questioned that, you'd be calling God a liar? Ever consider that the people who wrote parts of the Bible were liars, or at least were writing down a story that had been changed over the generations?

      January 13, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • rick

      carole: why do you feel that you are in need of "salvation"?

      January 14, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  11. gman

    denying god's existence in essence presupposes that you are supperior to him because you deny his existence.

    but the bible is a testimony of a lost kingdom and the path back to it. it's hard to believe with the human mind , but

    who can fathom eternity. if jesus was indeed god then he came in the most humbling way of all to allow people

    a choice of whom to follow, not to make himself a dictator. but if you assume the role of god by assuming there is

    no god then what kind of judge would you be. it's fantasy to believe people will al get along without moral laws

    and are able to govern themselves as they see fit. just look at the world now.

    January 12, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
    • Bill

      I hate you.

      January 12, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
    • rick

      Are you superior to Zeus?

      January 13, 2012 at 4:39 am |
    • Mirosal

      Humans are superior to 'god', for we ALL have the power to kill of ANY 'god'. It's simple. Just stop believing, and they eventually end up in the realm of mythology. Take a pinch of logic, a dash or reasoning, and a dose of common sense, and you have the poison to kill of a 'god'. Pretty simple recipe isn't it?

      January 13, 2012 at 4:48 am |
    • rick

      mirosal: i agree. the less and less any "god" is pushed, the more quickly it disappears.

      January 13, 2012 at 5:35 am |
    • chad

      You are right it is the way back to a bronze age of ignorance and illiteracy. The bible is the inspired word of story tellers who wanted people to listen and be entertained for several generations. Were this the "word of god" would it not have been delivered to everyone simultaneously? Why would the god of all mankind have only brought his word to the middle east? And why is Jesus's death even mildly important? Firemen do no harm and die to save others without being assured of ruling the universe after they are done everyday. Jesus sacrificed himself to himself for himself. He did nothing for anyone (even within the confines of your mythology) by doing so. Were god truly an enlightened being his basest emotions would not have to be quenched by suffering, sacrifice, war, power, fear, and death. Believe what you will but at least throw in a little critical thinking to make it interesting. If you don't your beliefs will always register with those of us who don't accept things without proof as an adult equivalent of waiting for Santa.

      January 13, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • isolate

      Your first sentence is a logical fallacy. If I don't believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster or Bigfoot it's not because I feel superior to them, it is because no one has been able to prove their existence in an acceptably rigorous scientific manner. Ditto any of the myriad gods people have believed in over the millennia. As the unknown author of Epistle to the Hebrews put it so succinctly, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (KJV 11:1) That simple line expresses the difference between religious people and non-believers.

      I greatly admire Bishop Spong's approach to the Bible and, although I am an atheist through and through, I share his love for it as one of the most complex and beautiful records of human existence we have. There is nothing else like it. I keep it by my bedside, refer to it constantly and read it cover to cover every 3 years.

      January 13, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • Steve

      Mirosal - apparently you're a believer that if a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, it doesn't make a sound. People who assert that there is no higher power are every bit as dogmatic as people who say the Bible is 100% the word of God. Nobody alive really knows the answers to these big questions.

      January 13, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • gman

      @chad , when god created everything that is , he gave all souls the gift of free will. the biggest lie that satan would
      have you believe is that the world never had order. it did !!!!!! satan destroyed all that when he lied to eve and she
      took from the tree of knowledge and opened her eyes. you ask why JESUS TOOK RELIGION ONLY TO THE MIDDLE
      EAST ? yes this is the place of the birth of christ and abraham the father of a nation. but god chose to use this nation
      and that's why the middle east. as far as the effectiveness of this. in nuclear reations it takes one fission to set off
      a chain reaction of immense power. how much more so when JESUS came here and gave power to people they don't
      even understand. do you know you have power over satan with the holy spirit. one event in history ( the death of
      jesus on the cross ) set off a chain of events that crosses the borders of time and eternity. you try to understand
      it with your own mind but you can't fathom it anymore than you can't count the stars in the cosmos before you die.
      if you haven't contemplated even that logic then you don't really want to see the enormity of gods awesome creation.
      can the fish in the ocean comprehend the immense ocean he or she swims in ? we are that small compared to the
      universe. unless you empty you mind of this worlds poison and go back to the creator of this universe and all others
      you will stay confined to you own mortal logic. with god there is no time. he's limitless. even logic doesn't apply to god.
      can he make a rock so heavy he can't lift it. you can't put god in that kind of box. he superceeds all dimensions and all
      bounds. we can't even understand his infinite abilities. just that he smiled on us, we went our own way with following
      satans lies with adam and eve, and that he gave us a path back and authority over demons and unbelief. seek , knock
      and you will find. keep seeking but look at yourself and realize the enormity of god compared to your finite exisitance

      January 13, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
  12. scrambolo

    The Christian Religion, or ANY religion, is based on one word: FAITH! Faith is defined as 'believing' in something, anything which cannot be definitively proved. Therefore whatever is believed without being proved is FAITH, and FAITH alone!

    January 12, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • Bill

      Faith is scry though, because it is baseless and leaves logic out of the equation. For instance, I could have faith that the god wants me to hurt people who don't believe in him/her/"god." How can someone convince me not to? Faith is fine, but don't say it
      s based in the bible, it's no more true than the next fairytale.

      January 12, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
    • rick

      i agree. i have no problem with "faith", but rather it's top down nature

      January 13, 2012 at 5:37 am |
  13. A Brown

    I offer no contradictions here or explainations. Simply that what I read and understood is about faith and the gift humans were given by God was choice. Faith to accept and know not to do harm to yourself or others, no matter who they are. Choice to do right, choice to do wrong; choice to love, choice to hate; choice to extend a hand in friendship, help, love or stay apart. Choice to believe in words written by men who believe they had the word of God and men whose words cause fear, pain, and death. I choose faith that with all I have read, learned, talked about, had talked at me (lol), I will still simply know who I am and if I take comfort in believing in a guiding hand, that is my choice.

    January 12, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • J. Swift

      A baseless assertion, to state that "God gave me..." because it presupposes an unverifiable set of premises: (1) that God exists; (2) that God personally cares about your particular well-being; and that (3) you can actually know God's mind.

      As neither you nor any other human, ever, can know the above three with any shred of evidence, your belief is unjustifiable, unless you intend to keep it to yourself and never peddle it as truth. Faith is a private matter. Keep it where it belongs, if you please.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
  14. J. Swift

    cls2641 wrote:
    "Were you aware that there is huge disagreement about evolution being even remotely possible in the time frame it's supposed to have happened."

    "Please learn the history of what you believe before hypocritically quationing the h\istorical knowledge of those that believe differently than you."

    There is no legitimate disagreement among evolutionary biologists, geneticists, ecologists, socio-biologists, or geologists that the theory of evolution (descent of organisms with modification in gene frequency over time) is wrong. Evolution is the best theory we have developed (at less than 200 years old, even!) and its elegance and parsimony is stamped in the DNA in our cells and the minerals in our earth.

    You may very well be a young-earth creationist, an agnostic, a true believer, or anywhere on that spectrum of self-doubt. But do not suppose that science is "sadly lacking" to answer the questions about the origins of life on earth. It isn't. Scientists are in disagreement that evolution exists? We aren't.

    And whether you are a "great believer in science" or not, the beauty of science is that it doesn't matter; reality exists, and is explained by the scientific process, whether you believe in it or not.

    January 12, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  15. GodGirl37

    wow. first of all, the Bible was written by men who were "carried along by the holy spirit". so no, the time in which each book was written didn't go in chronilogical order. i mean, obviously Moses wan't there when creation occurred, but he was able to give an accurate account of creation because the Holy Spirit led him when he was writing. so yes, ALL of the Bible is true. it is one of the greatest history books and all of the information it contains is the truth.

    January 12, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • J. Swift

      ...This from the same god that thought it necessary to remind his twelve tribes of Israel (and by extension all of humanity) not to engage in se.xual relations with giraffes, rhinocerous, beluga whales, toads, dogs, cats, or any other animal. [Leviticus].

      January 12, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  16. J. Swift

    John Paul II is not an authority on any chemical, physical, or biological science. He never studied any scientific discipline sufficiently to hold any real opinion of what science can or cannot enlighten us about. Moreover, he represented a Church infamous for its repression of science, for its burning of heretics at the stake, for its medieval and ghastly torture and wholesale slaughter of women, minority groups (ie the Cathars of France), and its continual stupefying clinging to dying, harmful beliefs (such as Pope Ratzinger's claim that, "Condoms cause AIDS.")

    The history of the Church as an authority on anything remotely scientific is abysmal at best, and destructively counter-productive at its worst, most dark days of humanity. Do not expect the words of a Pope to carry weight in the meaning of life. It's a lot of hot air blown by a virgin in a white pointy hat.

    January 12, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • !!!!!*****GOD*****!!!!!

      True story.

      January 13, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  17. Mike Honcho

    Your first two points are related to ‘time’ limiting historical fact (so technically one point). Both of which are explained by and that explanation, subsequently, invalidated by your third point. That being, yes, passing ‘stories’ along for centuries prior to writing can be historically accurate if you take into account an omnipotent God and his ‘hand’ in the writing. So, ultimately, the entire basis of all three of your points comes down to “what kind of God would do these things”. Probably difficult to impossible to explain based on the god you have in mind. The fact that you see “immorality” anywhere in the Word Of God, tells me you’re not trying very hard. Sorry, just the truth. I suggest a little more personal time with the Lord.

    January 12, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  18. Ben Hogan

    The Bible defends itself. This author does not believe that it is actually God's inspired message; His Word. He rejects the very writings of Paul (in the Bible) that clearly say "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work."

    Once you deny the authority of Scripture and its divine inspiration, then anything goes. Look, if you don't believe what the Bible says, then stop trying to teach even parts of it that you can think you agree with. Episcopalians have given up on the authority of Scripture long ago, so this comes as no surprise. If his final concluding paragraph were actually true (which it isn't) then Christianity would have no difference that any other religion and would be utterly pointless. It is entirely different from all other world religions for one reason...it is true.

    January 12, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • rick

      in your opinion

      January 13, 2012 at 4:43 am |
    • Raptor Jesus

      It's only true if I say it is...BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

      January 13, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • Steve

      Ben - so you believe that God controlled every word written down by somebody writing about events that happened centuries earlier? Why wait all those years when He could have commanded somebody to write them down much earlier? Or do you believe that nobody in all those generations misremembered parts of the story, added their own touches, or flat-out made things up? I'm sure you have no problem believing that people in other religions did just that, though.

      January 13, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  19. Todd

    Is it just me or do the majority of 'religious' people only focus on the spirit of one specific part of the bible and ignore all the 'bad stuff' or do not even know the actual history of the bible at all, such as where it came from, which have been highlighted in this article? I bet if you go ask 10 religious people what language the first discovered gospels now in the bible were written in, not one of them would say Greek.

    January 12, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • cls2641

      Todd- the unfortunate probably answer to your question is "Not many." However, is it necessary to know in which language the original text was written? I can assure you, the author of this article used a very loose, less than intellctually honest account of the history of the bible. But for the purposes, I won't touch on that hear. The purposes of this post, I'd like to ask you...have you researched what the most knowledgeable scientists say about the theories of evelution and the Big Bang? My guess is you believe in both of those. Were you aware that there is huge disagreement about evolution being even remotely possible in the time frame it's supposed to have happened. The solution to that? Some have speculated that life came from another planet first and was then brought here. Clearly unprovable...but since they can'tmake their evolution theories work, they've had to go to unprovable theories. Have you read any of th critical analysis of the "Big Bang"? If so, you would see that leading SCIENTISTS argue that the only way for life to exist at all in this universe is if there "Isn't actually one universe." They argue there "Must be" a multiverse instead. There's an endless number of "Universes" of which we live in only one...and because there is an infinite number of universes, it was inevitable that one of them would have "Life." Again, entirely unprovable. In fact entirely unlikely....but if you begin with the premise that "Intelligent design" is not a possibility, then you have to end up with some widely outrageous leaps of faith. Science? I'm a great believer in science. Science answer to life? It's unfortunately sadly lacking. Please learn the history of what you believe before hypocritically quationing the h\istorical knowledge of those that believe differently than you.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • ReplytoTodd

      Todd the original text in the Bible was written in Paleo-Hebrew Script, then in Aramaic Script, then in Greek!

      -The author obvisouly does not know his history and it is a shame that someone from his position (Bishop) would write something like this, that is not only historically inaccurate but Biblicaly incorrect.

      -People please do your own research and don't believe everything you read especially from uncredible sources such as this.

      January 12, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
    • Steve

      cls2641 - what do you mean "in the time frame [evolution] was supposed to have happened"? It's been happening ever since life arose on the planet.

      ReplytoTodd - he said the Gospels were originally in Greek, not the whole Bible, which is true. You're talking about the Old Testament, of which the Gospels are not a part.

      January 13, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  20. Confused in Cleveland

    Science alone is not capable of answering the question of meanings, in fact it cannot even set it in the framework of its starting point. And yet this question of meanings cannot tolerate indefinite postponement of its answer.

    John Paul II

    January 12, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • rick

      "meanings" are philosophical. that is not in the realm of science

      January 13, 2012 at 7:11 am |
    • ohmah

      Bishop Spong's whole point is that the Bible follows the developement or eveolutyion of man's beliefs and his view of reality.

      To me God is everthing, including us. He/she/It is Iranian and American, democratic and republican, Red Sox and Yankies and God is good. One might ask, "if God is everything then why is there poverty and war and etc...?" Judgement is man made...there is no good or bad.

      January 13, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • ohmah

      All sciences were first philosophies before becoming sciences. Man's search for the Unified feild theory is his atempt at quantifeing God.

      January 13, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • !!!!!*****GOD*****!!!!!

      Meanings are subjective and up for interpretation...along with everything else, including this so-called "Bible". True story.

      January 13, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
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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.