The Sins of Scripture

June 1, 2007

The most recent book that has been captivating my attention is Bishop John Shelby Spong’s The Sins of Scripture. With such a provocative and controversial title it is nearly impossible to have some preconceived notions about the intent of this book. Growing up in the Missionary Baptist tradition, I was taught that the Bible was the infallible, undeniable “Word of God.” It was not to be questioned and its teachings, or predetermined interpretation thereof, were not to be trumped by anyone’s opinions. So with a title that dares to accuse any part of this “divine word” of being sinful I was sure to be in for an interesting read! As I have grown more aware of my own relationship with the Divine, and grown out of the Baptist tradition, I have learned that their ideology is neither practical nor is it healthy. Bishop Spong supports this notion in this book as he exposes the mythological attributes of the Bible and shows that literal interpretations of the Bible are illogical. He also shows how this conservative approach to scripture has been detrimental to global society.

The Sins of Scripture shows how misuse of the words and phrases in the Bible have allowed so much sin to permeate through the hierarchies of Christianity, thusly permeating through society. The Bible has been used to justify overpopulation, pollution, sexism, homophobia, child abuse, and anti-Semitism all because of the idea that those writings are considered to be the perfect representation of God Almighty. I think the most important message of this book is that we should spend less time and energy justifying the myths and stories of the Bible and focus more on the fundamental teachings and principles of Christ. It doesn’t matter if Adam and Eve really did exist, or if there was a great flood, or even if Jesus rose on the third day. Ultimately all that matters is that we love unconditionally and live compassionate lives.

The Bible shouldn’t be used as an autonomous rule book. It should instead be viewed as a display of how God’s love has transcended the ages. We should focus on the awesome unconditional compassion Jesus expressed in the words and deeds recorded in the Gospels. We should allow the Bible to not direct or mandate, but support and inspire, our personal connections with God. We must realize that there is nothing that was written thousands, or even hundreds, of years ago that can supersede the Spirit that dwells within us.

I strongly encourage everyone with a passion, or even a curiosity, for scripture and spirituality to read Bishop John Shelby Spong’s The Sins of Scripture. You may not agree with everything in the book. There are lots of new and radical ideas expressed. But we are not required to agree with everything. We should, however, be able to openly engage different ideas and points-of-view. The Sins of Scripture will definitely open your mind to new ideas and possibilities and direct Christianity to a much more positive light.

God’s Peace…

Br. Ashton J. Reynolds, OPC

Over the last week, I have been reading Bishop Carlton Pearson’s The Gospel of Inclusion. He argues, quite eloquently, the fact that there is no need to “get saved” because the world has already been saved through the work of Jesus Christ in his crucifixion and resurrection. Needless to say, the majority of the Christian community (especially in the African American community) has labeled him a heretic and has shunned him.

As an African American, I am baffled. I would think that our community, whose ancestors knew not of freedom and salvation, would rejoice in this logic. Instead, we have refused it and have chosen this “woe is me, I’m a horrible sinner” theology. In my meditations, I asked why any African American Christian would not embrace this message of liberation. I began to think back on my days growing up in the Missionary Baptist Church and I realized why we don’t like Bishop Pearson’s message. It’s because we have been preaching the same “feel good” sermon since slavery. When Christianity was introduced to us as slaves, it was meant to keep us in line. We weren’t encouraged to study the history of Christianity or explore our individual spirituality. We were given a mind-numbing, watered-down version of the Christ Principle and it has changed very little in the last 400 years.

This deeply saddens me, brothers and sisters. In this day, we have more opportunities than any generation ever has. We MUST take advantage! We need to know the history of the religion we practice if we want to fully appreciate it. We must approach scripture with an opened mind and an opened heart. We must faithfully listen to God and openly accept God’s evolving creation. One of the most profound, yet saddening, points Bishop Pearson makes is that Christians would rather make a deal with God instead of simply accepting the free Gift of Salvation.

We are no longer slaves, beloved… we are FREE! Free to live eternally with the knowledge that the work of Christ is finished. There is no sign-up. There are no conditions. There is just salvation.

Now, people of God, take this Gospel of Freedom and rejoice! Embrace it and explore the benefits of God’s grace, such that you may be able to exhibit the same love and compassion to those that you encounter. God’s Peace…

Br. Ashton J. Reynolds, OPC