Sins of Scripture V: Child Abuse
Even though the next section of his book is about child abuse, there is very little argument in the next section of The Sins of Scripture that actually has to do with child abuse. Instead, Spong focuses on what he calls the ultimate act of divine child abuse: the Atonement. Of the Atonement, Bishop John Shelby Spong says the following:
Let me state this boldly and succinctly: Jesus did not die for your sins or my sins. That proclamation is theological nonsense. It only breeds more violence as we seek to justify the negativity that religious people dump on others because we can no longer carry its load. We must rid ourselves of it. One can hardly refrain from exhorting parents not to spare the rod lest they spoil their child if the portrait of God at the heart of the Christian story is that of an angry parent who punishes the divined Son because he can take it and we cannot. (173)
In this, Spong stands apart from every great thinker of Christian past, as well as from Scripture itself. There is much evidence from Scripture that the Atonement is how God intended us to interpret Christ’s death. But Spong uses those very same reasons to deny the vicarious Atonement. The Jewish feast of the Atonement prefigured Christ’s death; Spong simply asserts that this feast is where the imagery of Christ’s death is drawn from. Not that the feast prefigured the sacrifice on Calvary, rather the followers of Christ found meaning in his death by the feast of the Atonement.
No divine inspiration played a part in this, says Spong. This was grieved followers searching for a meaning in a tragedy. This would also be a veiled denial of the Resurrection, since the death of Christ was only temporary according to both the Bible and Christian tradition.
The assertion that the feast of the Atonement doesn’t prefigure Christ’s death directly contradicts the main thesis of the letter to the Hebrews. Since, however, Spong denies that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, it is no surprise that he completely re-thinks entire portions of Christian theology, no matter how essential to salvation that portion may be. And one’s Christology is central to Christianity, as the Bible teaches:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (Jn 3:16-18)