It deeply troubles me that new Christians, and some long-time believers, who are weak in their faith or who are brand new to the faith read such preposterous books as Spong’s Living In Sin. In these believers eyes, the fact that Dr Spong is a retired Episcopalian Bishop carries weight. Without theological guidance, they will be led astray by the faulty doctrines put forth in Spong’s book. While it is unsettling that a career pastor would state the Bible is not infallible, and that people who believe in the stories within are intellectually inferior, insecure and prejudiced, it is not a total surprise. After all, we have been warned by God in Matthew 7:15 to “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”KJV
What is amazing to me is that Spong graduated from seminary. He has twisted biblical doctrine and stories in an attempt to assert the Bible cannot be believed. The majority of the book is spent detailing why the Bible is not inerrant and why it cannot be trusted. Permit me to address the following:
Jesus is born
Matthew 2:9, 10 gives a general statement about the shepherds visiting Jesus and then jumps forward by a few years. Look at Matthew 2:16, 17 and you will see that after the wise men left Herod, he gave the order for all male toddlers aged 2 and younger to be killed. Herod knew from the wise men that Jesus was around 2 years of age, hence the order. If Jesus was a newborn, as Spong would have you believe, Herod would not have needed to issue an order to kill toddlers.
Luke 2:7 starts with Jesus’ birth in the manger.
The two stories do not contradict one another, they provide views of different time periods.
Likewise, the book of Matthew tells the story of the flight to Egypt. In Luke, the story bypasses the flight and picks-up where Joseph, Mary and Jesus have already arrived in Jerusalem and have made the decision to head to Galilee.
Again, the two passages do not present contradictory stories of an alleged flight to Egypt. They present stories of different time periods in the journey.
Who was Joseph’s father
Another allegation made in Spong’s book was that the Bible made an error in the name of Joseph’s father. In Matthew 1:20, Joseph was listed as a son of David. This, however, refers to being of the lineage of David; not the direct parental name. The actual name of Joseph’s father is listed in Luke 3:23--38 which traces the lineage of Jesus from Joseph back to Adam.
If one is to believe Spong, Abraham might not have been a real person, the story of Jonah was contrived, the Hebrew religion came into prominent existence over the centuries old Asherah-Baal nature religion as a way to strengthen the power of King David and to promote a more patriarchal society.
After denigrating the Bible and Christianity, Spong then launches into his views on human sexuality. While upholding marriage as the ideal, he states celibacy is not for everyone. Surely God would not have created us as sexual beings to impose celibacy. He advocates church ceremonies to sanctify living together. Spong also advocates supporting homosexual relationships. Per his interpretation, the Bible does not specifically prohibit homosexuality. After all, the ultimate goal is to find stable, loving, monogamous relationships. God would not have created a person with homosexual tendencies only to punish them by forbidding them to ever have a sexual relationship.
Rest assured, God’s views are clearly stated in the Bible:
both of them have committed an abomination: they shall
surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."
Leviticus 20:13, KJV
My emphatic advice is to stay away from this book! Its doctrines are theologically incorrect and will lead you astray. Of course, in Spong’s reasoning, that would make me a sexually-prejudiced, unintelligent person who hides behind a literal interpretation of the Bible.
Living In Sin: A Bishop Rethinks Human Sexuality, John Shelby Spong, Harper Collins, San Francisco CA, 1988.