Wednesday, October 14, 2009

“Eternal Life: A New Vision”

Metaphor and analogy are the only ways we can think and speak about the great questions of religion. Traditionally, the metaphor of God as the focus of religion is external and separate from us humans. We say that God is not us. God is in heaven, above us, other than us. Alternatively, Moltmann has written that God is ahead of us, leading us into the future. In any case, God is the word we use to try to express that which is beyond our experience bound always by time and space. In “Eternal Life: A New Vision” (New York HarperOne 2009), John Shelby Spong employs another metaphor, one often used by mystics. God is within us; the divine can be experienced as an aspect of the human if we look inward.
Thus it seems that Spong in “Eternal Life” and Cupitt in “Jesus & Philosophy” are aiming at much the same idea: true religion is motivated from within, not imposed from without. Further, true religion is transformative. The truly religious are in the process of being possessed by the Eternal, slowly leaving behind concerns for security and punishment that stories of heaven and hell encourage. God is ceasing to be the judge above, but rather becoming the light within that guides our thoughts and actions. Freed from concerns about our welfare, we are free to work to help bring the Kingdom on earth.