Christian faith versus Bishop Spong
During the month of July, we passed through an area in New
Zealand called Hawkes Bay and were handed a copy of an article written by a very
lovely Christian, Andrea Winiata, who wrote in the spirit of humility and yet
presented the truth very powerfully. We read in Hawkes Bay Today, 14 July
"Christian faith alive and well, despite Spong's message
-– I was treated to a night out with some friends last week.
We were off to hear Bishop Spong, the retired Episcopal
bishop of the Newark, New Jersey, diocese in the US.
It was with anticipation that we and many others took our
seats and waited to hear the message this man had written books about and spoken
to thousands about -– and yes, many in Hastings had arrived to fill the church
on a bitter July evening to hear this modern call to 'Christianity'.
Bishop Spong opened his address with an illustration from the
Hebrew 'myth' of creation -– Genesis I -– and continued with the story of
Adam and Eve and on to Noah. I was beginning to realise that the cold and wintry
night outside was nowhere near as chilling as the message I was now listening
Throughout the message he made countless attacks on the
validity of the Bible and spent a great deal of time labouring the evolution
theory and quoting Charles Darwin (who on his deathbed renounced his evolution
I found it interesting that Bishop Spong made sweeping
generalisations about the church dying. Admittedly some mainline churches
are in crisis, but true New Testament Christianity is thriving around the
world. Here are samples of that growth happening around the world -–
- A monthly newsletter, What in the World ... is God
doing? tells us that in Cameroon -– there is a 'wonderful church growth
and vigorous church planting'. Other similar reports came from China, India,
Central Asia, Iran, Macedonia, Nepal and many more countries.
- And as for New Zealand -– let's look at the Alpha course
-– a 10-week practical look at the Christian faith. It began in New Zealand
in 1994 and more than 900 churches are registered as running Alpha courses
(including courses in prisons, schools and universities). More than 100,000
people were involved in Alpha 2000, in New Zealand last year. The Alpha course
began in 1990 in the Holy Trinity Church Brompton, London, and has since
spread to more than 105 countries.
So where did this Bishop Spong arise from? What makes him worthy to challenge
the viability and growth of the Christian faith? I decided to do some research
of my own and what I found did not surprise me.
Spong has been the Episcopal Bishop in the Newark Diocese
since 1976. He has presided over the most rapid witherings of any diocese in the
The most charitable assessment shows that Newark's parish
membership rolls have evaporated by more than 42 percent during Spong's
tenure. Less charitable accounts put the rate at more than 50 percent. At least
17 parishes have been closed.
In his book, Why Christianity must Change or Die,
Spong avoids pointing to the corpse of Christianity in his own backyard. Why?
One thing is for certain ... he clearly knows he's the prime suspect in the
murder case. In one cryptic passage Spong states 'church attendance at
these regular Sunday morning services is declining in every tradition around the
Christian world today' (a demonstrably false statement).
Explanations of this decline tend to serve the vested
interest of the one explaining.
It appears as if Spong is carefully hiding his past failures
whilst making sweeping statements that serve to increase his followers -– he
says: 'Are those who are sitting on the fringe of the church, the silent
majority of believers who find it increasingly difficult to remain members of
the church and still be thinking people.' (Apparently droves thought it
impossible to remain a member of Spong's diocese and still be thinking
Bertrand Russell, famous atheist, mathematician and
philosopher, wrote in an essay entitled, Why I am not a Christian, that
his first order of business was to define what he meant by the term Christian.
He defined a Christian by three beliefs: a belief in the God of theism; a belief
in immortality; an elevated view of Jesus Christ.
By his definition, Russell would quickly declare that
Spongianity is not 'Christian'.
Apparently Spong has never met a thinking fundamentalist. His
writing career would be over if he did. He travels and thinks in limited
circles, and utterly fails to engage the best minds of orthodoxy, like say his
fellow Anglican layman CS Lewis. Is Lewis unthinking? Lobotomised?
Spong's suggestion that Christianity must change or die has
more to do with his own dismal belief system and does not at all reflect the
vibrant life-changing experience of millions of people worldwide.
I have real concerns that many people seem to be listening to
Spong's dissertation with such passive acceptance without critically weighing
things up in their own minds and undertaking their own research -– a most
critical process if one is to undertake a totally new belief system.
Finally in Why Christianity must Change or Die, Spong
tells us that his first book was prompted by his inability to communicate with
God ... and people still listen to him." (emphases added).