In her blog article, she briefly mentioned an ad on page 13 for John Gibson's book In Defense of Religion. According to the ad copy, Gibson's book:
... makes a new case for religion at its best. It attacks head-on and in detail recent anti-religion books by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett, as well as the anti-faith theology of Bishop John Shelby Spong.I'm pretty sure from reading two of the three "anti-religion" authors described above that they do have objections with religion as it is practiced by most persons. They may disagree with the Gibson's words but they wouldn't be too upset with the "anti-religion" label being applied to them by Gibson.
However, I'm surprised to see Bishop Spong labeled as an "anti-faith" theologian.
He's a very provocative theologian and many who are more traditional in their theology don't agree with his works. And I'm pretty sure that Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett, et al would find his theology a pointless exercise.
However, I have personally found the liberal theological writings of Spong and others such as Crossan, Funk, Pagels, and Borg to give me better understanding of the faith tradition I was raised in, allow me to make peace with it, and to keep those parts of it that I find useful as a Unitarian Universalist who is a humanist and atheist today. Part of my journey can be found in a sermon I presented in 1997. And surprisingly enough, I tested as a "Bishop Spong Christian" in Beliefnet's "What Kind of Christian Are You?" quiz.
Spong's "12 Theses" or a "Call for a New Reformation" would make for an interesting starting point for a deeper Unitarian Universalist theological conversation grounded in our history from the Protestant Reformation:
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.None of these statements are "we all agree, let's sit around the campfire and sing 'Kum-bah-yah' statements." It looks like Spong framed his statements to be intentionally provocative and to provoke discussion within Christianity.
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'm thinking it would be very interesting to use Spong's theses for a values-voting continuum activity in an adult religious education setting. With the theological diversity in found in Unitarian Universalist congregations, it would be an interesting discussion to have.
Of course, it's interesting that an ad perceived as "attacking religion" generates multiple complaints to the UU World staff while an ad promoting a book that attacks the ideas of non-theist philosophers and a leading liberal Christian theologian's work goes unnoticed by our readership (see here and here for links to criticisms of the FFRF ad).
Although we Unitarian Universalists are officially non-creedal and covenental (although the idea of what "covenant" actually means isn't the same for all of us), does the acceptance of the ad for Gibson's book in UU World imply that some non-theist theological and philosophical ideas are being pushed out the door in current-day Unitarian Universalism?