Is this not, in fact, the precise goal of many theologians (e.g. Cupitt, Spong) – “to produce a version of Christianity so wishy-washy that nobody will be interested in being a Christian anymore”?The comments section of that post have made me realize just how much of a persona non grata Spong is to a big cross-section of evangelicals, who tend to brush him (and Cupitt) off as some wild-eyed radical bent on destroying Christianity.
I think this is most unfortunate. I've read some of the work of both of these gentlemen and I feel that whoever would say that their "precise goal" is to discourage people from becoming Christian has simply not read their work. Either that or maybe folks just find such honesty so unnerving that they reflex and react by charging it with heresy, throwing darts at it, so revolting they find it. Ad hominems fly.
When rhetoric becomes vitriolic, though, I am convinced that it invariably reveals much more about the speaker than it does about the object of the scorn.
Spong's work belongs in the tradition of people like Cupitt (who was actually formally tried for heresy—he was vindicated), or like Meister Eckhardt (who was formally charged with heresy as well—he was also vindicated—if you ever get a chance to read his response to the charges, do yourself a favor and read it, it is very good) or like Paul Tillich (who wasn't formally tried that I know of, but who Spong is clearly deeply influenced by).
I highlighted something of Spong's not too long ago which I think goes right to the heart of the matter:
" ... the inadequacy of the explanation does not invalidate the reality of the experience. Paul, like anyone who dares to speak of God, discovered that there is no such thing as a god language with which to process a God experience. The language we use is human, culturally conditioned, and incapable of doing more than pointing to that which it can never fully embrace. To attribute ultimate reality to the constructs of our language, to make religious claims for the human explanations for the God experience is to become idolatrous, and foolish. ...[...] ... The church must recognize that its first-century biblical explanations, its fourth and fifth-century creedal explanations and its later developing system of doctrines and dogmas are human creations, not divine revelations and none of them is either finally true or eternally valid ... [...] ... The ultimate heresy of Christianity lies not in its inability to explain adequately the Christ experience. It lies in the claim uttered through the ages that human words could not only define for all time something called orthodoxy, but that the ultimate and saving truth of the God experience could actually reside in the theological explanations."I happen to think that he's absolutely right on the mark there. If that makes me a liberal in the eyes of anyone, then, as my friend Drew says, "Flame On!" - :)
And I would add that anyone who would find the work of Spong or Cupitt "heretical" is probably that kind of "word-worshipper", the kind of "explanation-worshipper", that Spong is talking about.