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Christians who have come to expect stiff opposition from outsiders may be surprised when criticism comes from within—unless, of course, it originates in the study of John Shelby Spong. The author of the highly provocative Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism (1992) attempts once again to expose the errors of orthodoxy in his latest and heavily publicized book, The Sins of Scripture.

Spong contends not simply that conservative interpretations of the Bible have produced patriarchy and homophobia. He insists that the Bible itself contains "terrible texts" and "horror stories," employing contemporary ethics and popular conceptions of God as yardsticks to measure the moral worthiness of various biblical passages. He thus exchanges one ultimate authority (the Bible) for another (the modern consciousness).

Spong writes that "the new consciousness of today collides with the old and dying definitions of the past. There is no doubt about how this debate will come out: The new consciousness will not be defeated." Here and elsewhere, Spong assumes that the modern consciousness is superior simply because it is modern.

Moreover, because his moral vision reflects modern Western values, Spong falls prey to vices he reprehends in others: cultural imperialism and Eurocentrism.

Spong quickly becomes one of the most committed Marcionists in church history. (Marcion, A.D. ca. 110-160, rejected all of the Old Testament and large portions of the New as crude and a stumbling block to unbelievers.)

If a text lines up with Spong's worldview, it merits commendation. If not, it must be scrapped or reinterpreted. For example, "The biblical texts that we Christians have used for centuries to justify our hostility toward the Jews need to be banished ...

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March 2006

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