Dying recently at 90 years of age, John Shelby Spong’s long life began in fundamentalism but for the most part has been marked by an aggressive theological liberalism. As usual in such cases, he saw the rejection of the basic articles of Christianity as essential, ironically, for the future of Christianity. Nevertheless, as bishop of Newark, his own diocese dwindled despite his notoriety as a champion of “progressive” faith. He exerted considerable pressure to keep out (and drive out) orthodox Christians in the diocese who disagreed with his views.
A trail of books against the resurrection and supernatural religion in general merely seemed to repackage old liberal arguments that have been refuted time and again. Our friend C. FitzSimons Allison (retired Episcopal bishop) debated his fellow bishop on many occasions, concluding that he “perjured himself every time he repeated the creed.”
As Christians, we do not rejoice at a moment like this. On the contrary, we hope that in his last moments he was able to confess the faith without perjury. At the same time, it is an opportunity to reflect on the gravity of the life-and-death issues at stake.
I had the opportunity to interview Bishop Spong about his book The Sins of Scripture when it was first released back in 2005, and if you’re interested, you can listen to that conversation via the link provided below.