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Meditation 223
Bishop Spong's 12 Theses

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John Shelby Spong is the former Episcopal Bishop of Newark, NJ. Now retired, he keeps active in promoting the idea that the church must change to reflect reality. He has called for a New Reformation.

He has identified 12 theses[1][2] which he feels the modern Christian church should accept and adapt to. These are:

  1. Theism, as a way of defining God, is dead. So most theological God-talk is today meaningless. A new way to speak of God must be found.

  2. Since God can no longer be conceived in theistic terms, it becomes nonsensical to seek to understand Jesus as the incarnation of the theistic deity. So the Christology of the ages is bankrupt.

  3. The biblical story of the perfect and finished creation from which human beings fell into sin is pre-Darwinian mythology and post-Darwinian nonsense.

  4. The virgin birth, understood as literal biology, makes Christ's divinity, as traditionally understood, impossible.

  5. The miracle stories of the New Testament can no longer be interpreted in a post-Newtonian world as supernatural events performed by an incarnate deity.

  6. The view of the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world is a barbarian idea based on primitive concepts of God and must be dismissed.

  7. Resurrection is an action of God. Jesus was raised into the meaning of God. It therefore cannot be a physical resuscitation occurring inside human history.

  8. The story of the Ascension assumed a three-tiered universe and is therefore not capable of being translated into the concepts of a post-Copernican space age.

  9. There is no external, objective, revealed standard writ in scripture or on tablets of stone that will govern our ethical behavior for all time.

  10. Prayer cannot be a request made to a theistic deity to act in human history in a particular way.

  11. The hope for life after death must be separated forever from the behavior control mentality of reward and punishment. The Church must abandon, therefore, its reliance on guilt as a motivator of behavior.

  12. All human beings bear God's image and must be respected for what each person is. Therefore, no external description of one's being, whether based on race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, can properly be used as the basis for either rejection or discrimination.

I find these 12 theses a refreshing change from the unthinking dogma proclaimed by so many other church leaders.



  1. From an article by Joe Woodward in the Calgary Herald of 23 May 2004
  2. Originally, the 12 points listed in this article were from Woodward's newspaper article based on a speech by Bishop Spong. Subsequently, the list has been amended to the version as published by Spong himself.