John Shelby Spong is a retired American bishop of the Episcopal Church. He is a liberal Christian theologian, religion commentator, and author. (He was one of the many authors I referenced in my book.)
Here are just a few of his written works:
- Eternal Life: A New Vision (one of my favorites)
- Why Christianity Must Change or Die
- Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism (another good one!)
- The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic
- Resurrection: Myth or Reality
Recently (on another posting), archaeopteryx1 provided a link to a video in which Spong discussed the existence of “hell.” Arch commented that he (Spong) “makes some extremely bold statements for a Christian.”
“Hell” has been a topic of discussion for a long, long time. It’s covered in depth on innumerable blogs (mine included) and in writings too numerous to count (I even devoted a chapter to it in my own book). Many people insist it’s “confirmed” in the bible. Others have claimed they’ve had visions of it. And for some, it’s where they want to send someone who has “done them wrong.”
Of course, the jury is still out because we’ll never know for sure until after we’ve drawn our last breath. But speaking for myself, I agree with Spong that it’s an invention of the church to control people with fear.
In fact, in my opinion, fear is at the core of the gospel. Christians will claim it’s all about love, but when push comes to shove … I contend the real reason a person becomes and stays a Christian is because they want to avoid “eternal punishment,” “everlasting fire,” and the unceasing physical torture they believe is the final end for non-believers.
As for me? I am confident such a place does not exist. (Nor does “heaven,” for that matter, but that’s a topic for another posting.) 🙂
Check out the video that Arch has referenced. Do you agree with Bishop Spong?