Bishop John Shelby Spong is a Progressive Christian. He willingly proclaims that much of the Bible is Myth and should not be taken literally. So why is he still a Christian ? That is a discussion for a different day. Today, I want to share his thoughts on Original Sin and why this concept should no longer exist in light of Evolution. Evolution proves that life is ever changing. If life is ever changing then there was never a time when it was perfect (not changing) Bingo !
Spong says, “Nothing, however, in this long evolutionary process pointed to an original perfection. No form of life is what it was originally, nor is it what it will always be. No part of life was born in a state of unchanging perfection, as the Bible suggests, and no form of life ever fell from perfection into what we came to call “sin.” Physical reality knows only an evolving world of trial and error. There was no original perfection; there was only an ever-changing evolutionary process. The theological ramifications from that insight alone are stunning for Christianity. If there was no “original perfection,” there could have been no fall from perfection into “original sin.” If there was no fall into sin, there was no need for a “savior” to rescue us. One cannot be rescued from a fall that never happened, nor can one ever be restored to a status that one has never possessed. The idea that Jesus on the cross paid the price of our fall in order to save us from sin, thus becomes an idea that no longer translates into a concept that makes any sense. This ancient form of telling the Christ story has thus collapsed before our eyes.”
Spong goes on to say, “We human beings were not made in a special act of creation, nor were we created in the image of God. Like every other form of life, we have journeyed over billions of years from a single cell into our various levels of complexity, consciousness and self-consciousness. As recently as the 1960’s we learned of our DNA relatedness to all living things. We now know that not only do we share a 99.9% identical DNA with the great apes, but we also share a DNA connection with the clams, the cabbages and even the plankton of the sea. Life is all one evolving whole. There was no original perfection followed by a fall into “original sin.” There was only the slow and gradual unfolding of life in an evolutionary process. There were howls of protest in religious circles as these realities began to be processed and established as truth. Darwin became, and in conservative religious circles, remains the primary enemy and threat to traditional Christianity, but no credible challenges to Darwin’s explanation of our origins have yet been found. Darwin was correct. The primary way we told the Christ story was not!”
In conclusion Spong says, “Human beings share the gift of life with every living thing, both plant and animal. Is there something common to all forms of life? I think there is. Studies reveal that every living thing, including human beings, is survival-oriented. Illustrations that support this premise are not difficult to find. Survival drives the evolutionary process.
Biology dictates that self-conscious human beings have installed survival as our highest value. That inevitably means that we are self-centered. We do not respond well to people who are different – those who look different, speak a different language or worship a different God- because we have judged them as a threat to our survival. So to be human is to be prejudiced, tribal and sectarian. Self-centeredness is rooted, not in our morality, as we once thought, but in our biology. It is a given, not a consequence! That is the universal human experience that our ancestors once called “original sin.” The experience was real, the interpretation was false. We are not “fallen sinners,” we are rather incomplete human beings. Atonement theology is dead. The door begins to open a new way to tell the old, old story.”