John Shelby Spong, the ex-Presbyterian Bishop of Newark, New Jersey, has been creating a new reformation of Christianity. He claims that the book Unbelievable is his last book because he is 87 years old and doesn’t expect to live forever. He is explicit in his revulsion for much of modern orthodox Christian belief.
“Indeed, if the truth were known, I am more repelled by those attracted to what people might call religion than I am drawn to them. No, the mission to which my mantra calls me is the task of building or transforming the world so that every person living will have a better opportunity to live fully, love wastefully and be all that each of them was created to be in the infinite variety of our humanity.” p.286
My personal understanding of Jesus’ message is in the opening of the New Testament in his only complete sermon, The Sermon on the Mount. To me his Beatitudes are a clear eight-step staircase to a worldly heaven. I have never encountered anyone ever developing that concept even though it is obvious.
Specifically, what one can do is to ascend the staircase to heaven as it is presented in Jesus’ opening words in the New Testament. The passage has been called the Beatitudes because each step begins with a blessing. It becomes obvious, when one is told, that each step is on a staircase to a better life. That better life is that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
Another obvious thing, once stated, is that when a person is capable of sustaining their life on a higher step of the Beatitudes then they are capable of helping more people.
Matthew 5:3-11 King James Version (KJV)
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”
When you are on a higher step of the Beatitude staircase you are capable of helping all of those below you, including your own self.”
But Spong doesn’t use the Beatitudes to develop his argument for reaching a fuller life that Jesus proposes here, and that is by “helping others to live and live more abundantly”(John 10:10), by ascending the staircase. Instead, Spong states on p. 285 of Unbelievable, “If God is the Source of Life, then the only way I can appropriately worship God is by living fully. In the process of embracing the fullness of life, I bear witness to the reality of the God who is the Source of Life.”
If that quote were slightly rewritten, it would attract more modern people to get behind his intention to reform Christianity:
If the Universe is the Source of Life, then the only way I can appropriately worship It is by living fully and helping to create the next step. In the process of embracing the potential fullness of life, I help create the reality of self-actualizing the Universe as the Source of the next level of Life.
Spong concludes this book and he claims his writing career with, “I bear witness to the faith that leads me and the whole world to live fully, love wastefully and be all that we can be.”
He concludes with helping humanity to be all that we can be, and I progress with my plans for helping the Universe to be all that we can be.