The function of Spong’s Jesus is thus simply to maintain the social and political status quo. He takes our own most cherished and self-evident Western values, and he provides them with a theological justification. Thus our own values are made absolute and unimpeachable – they are elevated to the status of ideology. Simply put, Spong tells us that political correctness is correct, since even Jesus was politically correct.
This should give pause to any reader of the Gospels. After all, the Gospels consistently depict a Jesus who is radical and confronting and unsettling – aJesus who challenges the status quo, who hangs out with the wrong people and antagonises the establishment, who resists every attempt to domesticate his message, refusing to allow his actions to be calmly assimilated into any existing religious framework. And for just this reason, the Jesus of the Gospels is finally executed. In contrast, however, it’s hard to imagine why anyone wouldbe offended by Bishop Spong’s politically correct Jesus. A Jesus whose sole commitment is to tolerant inclusiveness is simply not the kind of Jesus whom anyone would want to crucify.
So in spite of Spong’s characterisation of his own book as radical, “shocking” and “audacious” (pp. 10, 290), the real problem is that this book is not radical enough. The Jesus who emerges from these pages is ultimately indistinguishable from any other respectably innocuous, politically correct member of the Western middle classes.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Is Spong's Jesus Radical Enough?
I know that a lot of progressives love John Spong and I hear he's a nice guy, but I must confess I find him to be just a bit silly. He lacks the sophistication of a Marcus Borg and makes claims about the Bible that on one hand seem extreme and yet seem to reflect what was radical in the 19th century. His scholarship is outdated and more in line with Christopher Hitchens or Sam Harris, both of whom show little awareneness of the full spectrum of Christian scholarship.
Ben Meyers at Faith and Theology has written a review of Spong's latest -- Jesus for the Non-believer. I've not read the book but trust Meyers' judgment here, so I think I'll pass. What I find interesting is Meyers' judgment that Spong's interpretatin of Jesus isn't radical enough. What we have here is a Jesus who is the champion of Western values of inclusiveness and tolerance -- a sort of PC guide. Now I'm for inclusiveness and tolerance -- but the Jesus of the Gospels -- texts that Spong seems to place no trust in -- was deemed a radical in his own day.
To read the whole review -- which I suggest you do --click here.
If you go down to the comments section you'll note the anecdotes by Kim Fabricius -- of a conversation with Spong who termed Walter Brueggemann a Fundamentalist. That should say what needs to be said.