Spong’s statement that we should strive to be all that we can be sounds wonderful until you read the constrictions he places on that idea. Once again I turn to what he says are the concluding pages of his life’s work. I quote a whole paragraph so there is no cherry picking by me to prove my point. On page 286 we can read what Spong writes …
“Finally, I believe I experience God, in the words of my greatest theological mentor, reformed German theologian Paul Tillich (1886-1965), as the Ground of Being. That is a difficult phrase to embrace. It was borrowed and refined by Tillich from the philosopher Plotinus, (c, 205-270) an early-third-century-CE Greek philosopher, who was himself not a Christian. If God is the ground of being, then the only way I can worship God is by having the courage to be all that I can be; and the more deeply I can be all that I can be, the more I can and do make God visible. So the reality of God to me is discovered in the experience which compels me to “live fully, to love wastefully and to have the courage to be all that I can be.” My bolding leads to Spong’s goal, and that is to make God visible.
However, to make God visible is to make the creation we now call the Big Bang visible because God in Spong’s own terms has been present in every moment of Time and Space. Spong contends that God was in Jesus, at least what might be called the Spirit of God was within Jesus, but that can no longer be experienced. The only experience of that Jesus-God-spirit that we can access is from secondhand stories, by authors who have been gone for nearly two thousand years, and whose works have been moved through many translations and a great many interpretations. Those sources can not give us an accurate representation of the Jesus-God-spirit because which of the 150 current translations of the Bible is the right one, if any?
My personal understanding is that the Sermon on the Mount is the most likely to be what Jesus thought and taught. It holds together like a story that was created by one person and not like that created by a committee or a very long chain of interpreters. It appears, to me at least, that The Sermon on the Mount was memorized accurately by the people who heard it. That was done in traditional verbal societies, and that technique brought us to those even earlier storytellers such as Homer. What was written at the opening of the New Testament, after the fantastical genealogies, was the purest of Jesus’ thoughts.
Being all that we can be, in the terms that Spong seeks to find, is to ascend the staircase that Jesus presented in the first words of his Sermon on the Mount.
Presently we have more powerful options because we have the technology to transition into a new form of being.