Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Today's Gospel

At that time Jesus exclaimed:
"I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him." (Mt 11:25-27)

Reflecting upon this passage, I was reminded of a time a couple weeks ago, while perusing items in a bookstore, just out of curiosity I cracked open a copy of (retired Episcopalian) Bishop John Shelby Spong's book The Sins of Scripture : Exposing the Bible's Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love. Shocking title, I know. For those who might not be familiar with his personality, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Although he is a high ranking prelate in the Episcopalian church, his views are, well, a divergence from what can normally be considered Christian. (Can one really be a Christian without believing that Christ's resurrection actually took place?)

I wanted to get a quick snapshot of some of his thoughts, and, through my 2-minute foray into his work, that effort wasn't a failure. I happened to open to a page in his chapter on the environment. Without having the book available, I'll briefly paraphrase what I recall as his argument:
For too long Christians have behaved like children, simply believing what the Bible said without question. Now that we know better, it's time for Christians to get an adult faith - that is to say, recognize that the Scriptures are merely mythical devices which developed over human history, without any divine mandate. By doing this, people will free themselves from a false and constricted view of the world and will be open to the insights that the modern world has to offer.
Bishop Spong then goes on in the rest of the chapter to talk about the "ethics of overbreeding" and extol the virtues of using birth control to limit the number of offspring we humans create. Reading this, I was deeply saddened. Immediately I thought of Jesus' own words, such as "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 18:3) and "Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs" (Mt 19:14). There is clearly a discrepancy between the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the gospel of Bishop Spong.

Christ's words in today's Gospel, "you have revealed them to the childlike", reminded me of this incident. But it also illuminated another truth regarding the mystery of faith: "no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him." Faith is a gift. Like the sower's seed, some of which takes root and some of which doesn't, the Gospel finds a home in some hearts and not in others. When confronted with the views of someone like Bishop Spong, those of us who do believe in the authentic revelation of Scripture must keep this mystery in the forefront of our minds and be careful not to give ourselves over to the temptation to an attitude of condescention (a most certain path to an un-childlike heart). Rather, the proper response is humble gratitude that in His goodness God saw fit to include us in the company of those gifted with faith. And most definitely, heartfelt prayer that He might also see fit to more fully reveal Himself to our brother in humanity, Bishop Spong.

With God, all things are possible.


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