In the January 2012 issue [The Bible…to be continued, p. 9], we were told how Bishop John Spong, in his most recent book, offers a new kind of Christianity. Its Bible eschews reference to history in favour of ongoing sacred allegory. Its central character is not a divine redeemer but rather human consciousness, which has broken through to a new level of understanding. The name for this perennial option is gnosticism and it was the spiritual new wave of the first and second centuries A.D.
A heretical substitute for the Christian gospel, gnostic interpretation has nothing to do with serious New Testament scholarship, which Spong snidely calls twisting our brains into a 1st-century pretzel. Its elitism is thoroughly consistent with Spong’s ill-informed prejudice about majority-world Christians.
Gnosticism has always had a certain ego-flattering appeal. But this should not be mistaken for good news. Spong’s rejection of the Redeemer, whom he calls the divine invader, is also a rejection of what He offered: grace. His alternatives-the life force, our own consciousness and our own achievement-all depend on…us. If we look honestly around us, or within us, we can see how well that works out.