"15 For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? 17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God. (2 Corinthians 2:15-17)"
Groan. The Christchurch Press this Easter weekend in its magazine has John Spong on the front cover, and a feature interview promoting his theology in general and his new book, Eternal Life: A New Vision, in particular. The editorial introduction (page 2) is weird, including this odd statement, "And within the broad umbrella of Christianity, the significance of Christ's death and Resurrection is less than absolute." Hmm. I think he might be trying to say, 'within the broad umbrella of Christianity the meaning of Christ's death and Resurrection varies'. Actually the journalistic standards in general in respect of this article are, well, let me diplomatically reserve praise for another occasion. Two photos are used, one of which was taken in front of Nelson Cathedral circa 2003, and the other, Spong inside Christchurch Cathedral, is likely from the same visit. In both photos Spong wears his episcopal purple shirt. Note to TEC readers: long into his retirement Anglicans down under continue to feel the blight of this bishop whom TEC refuses to depose.
As a matter of fact I have a copy of Spong's latest book. I have begun to read it but am unlikely to finish it. It is vintage Spong. Read that literally. It is all about him. Fine for the fans. But there is only so much 'and my next experience of death was when' a non-fan can take!
Spong's theology is indeed his very own theology. It is something he has discovered and fervently believes to be true. Good for him. But if it is true then the god discovered by Spong has played a cosmic joke on Christians for nearly 2000 years (and longer on Jews), permitting them to live with the happy delusion of a theistic God. Perhaps less surprising is that Jesus Christ in Spong's reprise of him is very like Spong. And, by happy coincidence, nearly everything Spong has discovered about his god and eternal life was also known by Jesus, though tragically misunderstood by even his closest disciples.
The other thing I notice about Spong's message is that while it is very popular with the secular media, especially at Have a Go At Christianity Time (Christmas and Easter in NZ), it has not significantly grown one church congregation here in NZ, no youth groups have been fostered by it, and no church plants in new housing areas have been established with the gospel according to Spong.
Yet the Christchurch Press loves him and features him in bold technicolour this weekend.
Meanwhile, in the churches in the circulation area of the Press, tens of thousands will gather to worship the risen Jesus according to the Gospel. This gospel recounted through Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul is the fragrance of life to those who believe in Jesus Christ, Son of the living God. May our praises to God this day be the aroma of Christ!