Saturday, November 24, 2007
The Book is Divided into 3 parts. Part 1 looks at the supernatural stuff aroun d Juesus and trys to seprate the myth from the reality, part 2 looks at Jesus in his jewish context and part 3 looks at what it means to be Xn with the understanding of part 1 and 2.
Whilst many people reading the openng chapters on virgin birth, the 12 disciples and the miracles might find them confronting, as Spong dismisses all of them, I had this feeling of almost relief that at least he wasn't going after anything that was central to my faith. Although inexorably linked who Jesus was and what he encouraged others to be was always more important than what he did. That is in healing a leper, it was always more important than a social outcast was brought back into the community than a miracle occuring. His arguments around the birth narratives and and the 12 disciples I found particularly persuasive. Whether Jesus was born of a virgin (Luke 1:30-35) or a young woman (Isaiah 7:14) possibly out of wedlock (Mark 6:3 - where he is called son of Mary rather than Joseph), I don't think bothers me all that much. His arguments around miracles was so so and the arguments about the resurrection were least persuasive. I just couldn't see why the disciples would invent something that so quickly became the central part of their faith.
Part of Spong's central thrust around dismissing the supernatural stuff in the gospels is that different gospels have different slants and use different events or different takes on the same event to paint a slightly different theological point. For Example: There is no passover in John's gospel that's because Jesus is the passover. The turning of the tables in the temple is the climatic final event in Mark, Mathew and Luke but the very first event in John. On the cross Jesus three different last words "it is finished", "father in your hands I place my spirit" and "Father forgive them they know not what they do" depending on what Gospel you are reading. The Birth Narratives in Luke and Matthew are also good examples of these differences.
A more fundamentalist person would argue that everything in the two birth accounts happened and the gospel writers just picked and chose which events to put in their gospel. The problem is that there a many bits of the gospels that you just can't harmonize without some seriously difficult logical gymnastics. Spong on the other hand says almost everything is a literary device used to illustrate a point. The problem with with this is that almost every event in the gospels becomes a literary device to illustrate a point.
The Truth, about what is history and myth in the gospels, I think, lies somewhere in between Spong and a more literalistic reading of the text.
The Second part of the book Spong looks Jesus in a Jewish context. No matter what you think of Spong's conclusions in part one I thoroughly recommend this part of the book, to any regular evangelical. If you can set aside the argument over whether the events (like the miracles) were invented to give colour to the theology or whether the theology came to describe the miracles, it is still worth reading. Spong's analysis of the Jewish overtones and illusions throughout the gospels is excellent and I'd challenge any evangelical to find fault with that. It is certainly something that I will re read again with a copy of the Bible, pen and paper in hand.
In part three Spong describes what it means for him to be Xn. I wish that this part of the book had been longer and more in depth. I think almost all of what Spong said about the essence of Xy is I agree with, this part of the book is really about how we live. He describes Jesus as a human portrait of the love of God. When it comes down to it this is really what is most important. I read this book because I when I hear Jack Spong say that the church is dying, it is sexist and and doesn't have a decent grasp of Xys Jewish roots I agree with him. His resolutions I may not agree but no matter what you think the third part of the book has a beautiful resonance to it and his writing style is almost poetic reminding of the writing style of Sister Joan Chitster.
So I recommend that you read the book it won't hurt it's just words on a page. Even if like me you don't agree with everything that Jacks says their is still plenty to learn even for a hard line evangelical.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Again I'm forced to find the show elsewhere. The easiest probably being to watch it on you tube, on a tiny screen having to find the next part of the program every five minutes. painful to say the least. The internet isn't killing TV, TV is killing TV.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Saturday, November 10, 2007
What is your vision for how government can best benefit the poor?
- Poverty History Report Card (pdf) (compares policies of four major parties)
- AusAID Intro to Australian government aid program
- CARAD Frequently Asked Questions
- Amnesty International Australia – refugees – Q&A
- Immigration Department detention statistics (Oct 2007) (pdf)
- A Just Australia comparison of party policies
- A Just Australia score sheet
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Homeless People in SAAP: SAAP National Data Collection Annual Report 2004–05 (pdf)
- Real Estate Institute Australia 2007 market outlook (pdf)
- Shelter WA 2004 paper ‘State of Affordable Housing in WA’ (pdf)
- Youth Facts & Stats – Homelessness
- Tenants Advice Service WA
- Issue information: Anti-Poverty Strategy (pdf - 29KB)
- Collated response: Anti-Poverty Strategy (pdf - 36KB)
- Queensland Industrial Relations Commission Final Report: Inquiry into the Impact of Work Choices on Queensland Workplaces, Employees and Employers, 29 January 2007 (pdf) (report in full 2MB). An Executive Summary is available here (pdf - 87KB).
- Australian Medical Association Key Health Issues for 2007 Election (pdf)
- Australian Bureau of Statistics Health Care Delivery & Funding 2006
- Australian Nursing Journal Federal Election articles
- Doctors Reform Society Policy Statements
- March 2007 article about HECS in The Age
- Australian Bureau of Statistics report ‘Education and Work 2006’
- Australian Bureau of Statistics report ‘Schools 2006’
- Issue information: Civil rights and Anti-terrorism (pdf - 28KB)
- Collated response: Civil Rights and Anti-Terrorism (pdf - 29KB)
- Study on Human Rights Compliance while Countering Terrorism, by UN Special Rapporteur Martin Scheinin (Summary) (pdf)
- Issue information: Peace in our Region (pdf - 24KB)
- Collated response: Peace in our Region (pdf - 46KB)
- Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade: ‘Advancing the National Interest’ White Paper on Foreign Affairs & Trade Feb 2003 (pdf)
- Australian Democrats (pdf - 69KB)
- Christian Democrats (pdf - 51KB)
- Coalition (pdf - 572KB)
- Family First (pdf - 7KB)
- Greens (pdf - 55KB)
- Socialist Alliance (pdf - 38KB)
- Socialist Equality (pdf - 38KB)
- Family First
- Socialist Equality Party
- Socialist Alliance
- Christian Democrats
- Uniting Church
- Centre for Ethical Studies - they are also collating responses from parties on justice issues
- Young Christian Workers (pdf)
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Perhaps one of the unspoken limits of the debate is that the debate is always going to be about someones dentition of God rather than just God. Never the less they are still worthwhile especially given the kind of things people will do in the name of their definition of God. This is why I often find myself cheering on the atheist, thinking "that definition of God is not my idea of God", or cringing at the Xn because I feel like my definition of God or what God is like is very different to theirs.
I wonder if it would be helpful to concede that the big problems with Religion and God believers is not that they believe in God, but what they subsequently believe and what that belief gives them a right to or, instructs them to do. Most people don't have a problem with people who believe that aliens landed in area 51 or that the moon landing was staged because it doesn't actually impact on the way they treat other people. The big problems with religious people, as I see it, is when religous people do evil things because they believe it is what God wants. That evil stretches the spectrum from genocide to indoctrinating children in their own faith with out giving them a choice about it or denying the rights of scientists to do science.
I also think it is worth Xns conceding that science has more to say to faith than faith has to say to science. Faith is about a general whole of life perspective, science is about specific measurable things. Faith is like a big blanket and Science is like a knife, hitting only specific areas of the blanket. It may cut a hole in the creationism part of the blanket, but the blanket is still there, it may cut so many holes that many people consider the blanket is no longer a blanket.
I can remember hearing someone say that Atheism or Faith might be genetically determined. To me, often the debate seems to be trying to work out who is blessed and who is cursed. Are the believers blessed because they can experience something other or are they cursed because they are deluded. Are atheists blessed because they can see the world rationally and clearly with out the distortion of faith or are they cursed because they are missing out on a connection with something other. Too often it has felt like two sides yelling at each other telling the other that they are the blessed ones and the other is cursed. As a Xn I would like to say that I do not know whether I am blessed or cursed by my faith. It has certainly been important to me and it is something that has been shaped not only by other Xns but more recently by atheists too.
Richard Dawkins says that on a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 is absolutely sure that God exists and 7 is absolutely sure God doesn't exists, that he would be a 6. Personally I think I waver between 2 and 3. As much as it is easy to get caught up arguing about what is the "right belief" I'm convinced that what is important is how we live and I will always feel like I have more in common with an atheist who cares for the poor and their fellow human being than an Xn who is protesting against the teaching of science or protesting about someones private sexual ethics.