Definition of False Teacher: One who presumes to teach in the Name of the Lord when God has not sent him.

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False Teacher – John Shelby Spong

Soaking Up Lies

Here is a popular teacher of men who is held up to us the true representation of Christianity. Yet as one who condemns the mindset of religious institutions, he also speaks on their authority, going by the title “The Right Reverend Bishop Spong.” A house divided does not stand.

We received the following letters from Monty, a defender of John Shelby Spong:

Bill Kaster writes to Spong:

“Belief Net is currently offering a self-administered theological inventory. You answer a series of theological questions and end with a score that places you in one of five categories along a spectrum ranging from atheism to fundamentalism. Each of the five categories is characterized by typical beliefs, plus the name of a prominent American churchman whose teaching and preaching are examples of that style of belief. You will be relieved to learn that you are the poster boy for the most liberal category, next to atheism at the end of the spectrum.”

Dear Bill Kaster,

With all due respect to my friends at BeliefNet, that chart is both misleading and profoundly inadequate to ascertain any data about anyone, primarily because they do not define any of their terms. For example, strictly speaking, atheism does not mean asserting that there is no God. It is rather an assertion that the theistic understanding of God has become unbelievable. That is a distinction that the people at BeliefNet do not understand.

We are in our world today in a period of intense theological upheaval. That upheaval is characterized by both a rise in fundamentalism and a corresponding increase in the number of people who reject all religious symbols as no longer meaningful. So we have religious fanaticism confronting an increasingly secular society. In this divisive atmosphere, there are the Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons on one side and the Richard Dawkins’ and Sam Harris’ on the other.

I find myself generally in agreement with the criticisms of organized religion, including Christianity, leveled by Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. Their biggest problem is not their criticism, which I find quite accurate, but that the Christianity they reject is a very poor representation of what Christianity was meant to be. It is because they know no other Christianity than this popular expression, they believe that atheism is the only viable alternative to the Christianity they have known and rejected. They have never explored the essence of Christianity because that essence lives in such tiny and hidden places. I think the theism of popular Christianity is dying and that is why many people think Christianity is dying. The idea that God is a supernatural being, who inhabits outer space somewhere and who occasionally intervenes in this world in miraculous ways, is not a credible concept to me. Since this is the only concept of God that many people can imagine, they see atheism as the only viable alternative. Nothing reveals better the bleakness of so much of contemporary Christianity.

I am a believer who is not a theist. Some people mistakenly assume that an atheist is the same thing as a non-theist. Nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, I am a god-intoxicated human being, perhaps even a mystic. I experience God as ‘Other,’ as ‘Transcendence,’ as ‘Depth,’ and as the ultimate meaning of life. I believe that humanity and divinity are not separate categories, but represent the eternal spectrum of human experience. Divinity is the depth dimension of humanity. I see this God presence lived out in the human life of Jesus of Nazareth. I search the Scriptures to find images of God that transcend the theistic images of the childhood of our humanity; the old man in the sky with the magic power that permeated primitive religious thought. I find it in the unwillingness of the ancient Jewish writers of our sacred story to have the name of God spoken by human lips since no human mind can embrace the reality of God sufficiently to speak the divine name. I see it in the Jewish commandment that we are never to make an image of God since nothing made with human hands or constructed by the human mind can finally be big enough to capture the Holy God. Yet religious people constantly think that the human creations of scripture, creeds and doctrines have somehow embraced the wonder of the holy. These are nothing more, however, than verbal “graven images.” I find the Bible in some places is reduced to defining God in impersonal images because the personal ones become so false when literalized. So God is defined in what I call the minority voices of the Bible as like unto the wind, the rock and even as the power and source of love.

When human beings talk about God, all they are really doing is talking about their human experience of God. When that truth is faced, certainty of expression disappears but the experience of God does not. I wish not only that the people at BeliefNet, but also most religious reporters in our newspapers and above all the radio preachers, were aware of and could embrace that human limitation.

— John Shelby Spong

Our replies:

Monty,

Mr. Spong asserts that “the theistic understanding of God has become unbelievable.” He is wrong; it has always been unbelievable. “Theistic understanding” implies man’s concept of God, which never attains Reality:

“My thoughts are not your thoughts, and My ways are not your ways, declares the LORD. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts are higher than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9 GW).

Only by revelation, which is a gift from God, can a person know Him. This gift comes only through Jesus Christ. He said:

“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but by Me”
(John 14:6 MKJV).

And:

“No one can come to Me unless the Father Who sent Me should draw him; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44 EMTV).

We know God through Jesus Christ. He has drawn us to God, and made us His own. That is how we can speak of Him, and that is why we speak of Him. Spong does not know Jesus Christ or God, and that is why he does not speak of Him, except in theory, history, or philosophy, but never firsthand and with authority.

Furthermore, the man is a class A hypocrite. He condemns other religious, while calling himself “The Right Reverend Bishop Spong.” Who, in his or her right mind, would listen to such a blithering idiot? He is obviously part of the problem, not the Solution. Spong has no viable or life-giving answers, which is why you do not either, Monty. You are listening to fools who tickle your ears, but leave you empty in your darkness, in your sin and death.

Spong writes:

The idea that God is a supernatural being, who inhabits outer space somewhere and who occasionally intervenes in this world in miraculous ways, is not a credible concept to me.

It is not a credible concept, period. Neither is it in the Bible, but Spong does not know that because he is blind and cannot see what is in the Bible. It is a closed book to him, because he has not come to Christ for eye salve, confessing his sins and repenting so that he might receive sight.

Here is what the Bible says about where God is found and the control He has over this world:

“Nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ –for the Kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21 WNT).

“The God Who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of Heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands, nor is served with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives life and breath and all things to all. And He has made all nations of men of one blood to dwell on all the face of the earth, ordaining fore-appointed seasons and boundaries of their dwelling, to seek the Lord, if perhaps they might feel after Him and find Him, though indeed He is not far from each one of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being, as also certain of your own poets have said, For we are also His offspring” (Acts 17:24-28 MKJV).

“Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them shall fall on the ground apart from the will of your Father” (Matthew 10:29 EMTV).

But here is what Jesus said about those such as Spong who teach their own concepts of God in lieu of His Presence and Reality:

“Leave them alone. They are blind guides of the blind. And if the blind guides the blind, both will fall into a ditch” (Matthew 15:14 EMTV).

More error from Spong:

Yet religious people constantly think that the human creations of scripture, creeds and doctrines have somehow embraced the wonder of the holy.

The Scriptures are not a human creation. That Spong thinks so is evidence that he has never heard from God or has had any revelation of the spiritual truth contained in the Bible:

“But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:14-16 EMTV).

And a bigger whopper yet, if that is possible:

When human beings talk about God, all they are really doing is talking about their human experience of God. When that truth is faced, certainty of expression disappears but the experience of God does not.

To which I say, “Speak for yourself, Spong.” When we talk about God, as with all His saints and those who wrote the Scriptures, we are speaking of what we know and have been given by Him. When we speak from God, it is not just our experience of Him, but of His in us:

“But, above all, remember that no prophecy in Scripture will be found to have come from the prophet’s own prompting; for never did any prophecy come by human will, but men sent by God spoke as they were impelled by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21 WNT).

“God revealed to these prophets that their work was not for their own benefit, but for yours, as they spoke about those things which you have now heard from the messengers who announced the Good News by the power of the Holy Spirit sent from Heaven. These are things which even the angels would like to understand” (1 Peter 1:12 GNB).

Spong’s experience and declaration of being “god-intoxicated” comes from another god, not the Holy Spirit. Spong is right that the gods of other men are impotent, but they are not less so than his own, which is what makes him particularly foolish in his criticisms of others, seeing he is no better off, and usually worse. At least some of those others give credence to God’s commandments, and as much as they honor those, they do well.

“For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life” (Proverbs 6:23 MKJV).

I will try to see to it that Mr. Spong gets a copy of this letter.

Paul

John Spong, Victor Hafichuk here,

If you had said that men have created false doctrines and impressions of that which is Scripture, you would have been right on, but, not knowing the truth, you have simply added your erroneous notions of what the Scriptures teach to that of all other ignorant men. Indeed, men’s doctrines and creeds are, as you say, verbal “graven images,” but we perceive that you are quick with your hammer, chisel, frock and title to join them while condemning them. Therefore, you have the greater sin.

Monty’s reply:

John Shelby Spong is that rare thing in American: a real Christian. He stands in sharp contrast to the fake Christianity espoused by you and your buddy Victor. If only there were more of him and less of the like of you two…

MONTY

Victor’s reply:

Here is the Bible’s definition of a true Christian, Monty:

“I have been crucified with Christ, and I live; yet no longer I, but Christ lives in me. And that life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith toward the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself on my behalf” (Galatians 2:20 MKJV).

Spong wouldn’t have a clue about that, and he couldn’t care less. Besides, by what qualifications or authority do you sit in judgment of what is a “real” Christian and what is fake? If you and Spong don’t believe the Bible, what will you believe? Your imaginations? What do you and Spong know about what is true or false, without knowing the True?

From Wikipedia: “John Shelby Spong (born 16 June 1931 in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S.) is the retired Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark (based in Newark, New Jersey). He is a liberal theologian, biblical scholar, religion commentator and author. He promotes traditionally liberal causes, such as racial equality. He also calls for a fundamental rethinking of Christian belief, away from theism and from the afterlife as reward or punishment for human behavior.”

The man is plainly a fool, and sinners love him because they can have their cake and eat it too. Is that the will of God? Hardly. He came to save us from sin; He did not save us to sin. That is the difference between the foundation, which is on the Rock, Jesus Christ, and that which is “Spongy,” at best.

Jude 1:3

Victor

Monty’s reply:

I say again, Bishop Spong is a real Christian. Unlike you and Paul, he is a seeker and does not arrogantly assume that he has all the answers. Nor does he piously quote the Bible and sit in judgment of others. Nor does he try and pass off his opinions as the gospel to which others must give their assent. In short, he is not a hypocrite. Come out of your denial and delusion. Read his books, learn from him.

MONTY

Paul’s reply:

Monty, your criteria for a “real Christian” are both meaningless and false. They are either vague and without distinction, or simply wrong. That is because you have no foundation in Scripture or the Lord Jesus Christ. But we do, as I will demonstrate once again.

You say a “real Christian,” such as Spong, is a seeker. Seeking what? There are many that seek after knowledge, even spiritual knowledge. Have you not heard that Satan comes as an angel of light? He gives spiritual knowledge to those who seek such “enlightenment” rather than turning to God and keeping His commandments. A true Christian seeks after God, which means obedience to His every Word. False Christians come to Satan for knowledge and self-justification in doing their own thing. Here is the kind of seeking you are talking about:

“ …always learning something new, and yet are never able to arrive at real knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7 WNT).

“Now all the Athenians and the foreigners living there used to spend their time in nothing else than repeating or listening to the latest ideas” (Acts 17:21 ISV).

“A foolish man has no pleasure in good sense, but only to let what is in his heart come to light” (Proverbs 18:2 BBE).

You say that a “real Christian” does not “arrogantly assume that he has all the answers.” And just how will you determine that one has “arrogantly assumed”; by what criteria? Are you not acting as if you have all the answers? We have stated where we stand, confirmed by Scripture, which proves we have not assumed and are not arrogant, because we have not given you our opinion. There is no credit coming to us for believing and stating the Truth. Yet you vehemently disagree with the Truth. Are you not assuming that you have all the answers, when you cannot back your denial of what is written in Scripture with anything factual or authoritative?

Contrary to what you say, the Scriptures do teach that a real Christian will have all the answers to the things that matter:

“But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is judged by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:15-16 MKJV).

“But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things” (1 John 2:20 EMTV).

It is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy One Who has anointed us, Whom you condemn, not us.

Can we agree that a real Christian will be as his Namesake, Jesus Christ? (If you disagree, then be honest and call yourself by the name of whoever it is you follow and leave Christ out of it. A “real Spongian”?) You say that a real Christian will not “piously quote the Bible and sit in judgment of others.” What did Christ do? Do you know anything at all about what He said and did?

Jesus often quoted Scriptures in order to righteously judge others. For example:

“But He answered and said to them, Well has Isaiah prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me’” (Mark 7:6 MKJV).

And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves’” (Matthew 21:13 EMTV).

By what yardstick are you judging us? You have none, other than your opinion, yet you condemn us in the Name of Christ. What could be more falsely pious and devout than that? It is not in your favor that you do not use the Scriptures, particularly that you do not rightly use them. It testifies against you.

You also tell a whopping lie. You say that Spong does not try to pass off his opinions as gospel truth. He most certainly does! What do you think that “Right Reverend” title he claims, and the collar he wears, is all about? It is telling people, “You should listen to me, I am a Bishop and know what I am talking about!” As one presuming to be a man of God, he should indeed know what he is talking about. But as I pointed out already, he is a not only a hypocrite, but a Class A one, condemning the very structure which has given him his title and platform, while refusing to relinquish those as he well should in light of his contrary opinion to them. If the structure is corrupt and in error, so is he as a product of it, while still attached to the root. Jesus said a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit. Spong is no exception.

But he is not the issue. You are. You keep arguing and firing blanks. Meanwhile, we are filling you, and your arguments, full of holes, that what might eventually fill them would be what comes from the Holy Seed of the Word of God that we speak to you, by His grace and doing, destroying what is evil and self-serving. Praise the Lord for His great mercy and work of reconciliation and salvation.

“Let everything which has breath give praise to the Lord. Let the Lord be praised” (Psalms 150:6 BBE).

Paul

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