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July,1998

At a Loss for Words
by Cloff Walker

On July 4, I suffered a monumental loss, perhaps the most devastating to me in the past ten years. I'll eventually recover from the grief, but right now it's still as fresh as the day it happened. The disjointed thinking impairs my ability to function and especially to do creative work, such as producing the Critical Thinker.

Fortunately, I had completed much of the work by the 3rd, and had only to tie together a few loose ends and to write this column. I do not seek sympathy, only an opportunity to explain.

This said, I shall try something different and use this space to explain the contents of this issue. I suspect some readers will be taken aback by this month's features.

Last month, I picked up some books that had been on my list, including Gerd Lüdemann's "The Unholy in Holy Scripture: The Dark Side of the Bible." I knew this would be a hard-hitting criticism of the Bible, particularly its ethical and moral stands, but the surprise came when I saw that the book was written by a Christian who wishes to remain Christian.

I brought the book to a Tuesday night meeting of United States Atheists, and someone pointed out that a similar book, "Why Christianity Must Change or Die" by Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong, had been prominently featured in the previous day's "Oregonian." Lanny read sections of the review to us and we all wondered why this prominent church leader has not abandoned his faith and become an Atheist.

With Lüdemann's book under my belt, I bought a copy of Spong's book the next day. In it, Bishop Spong pronounces the death of theism, but his position is not easy to grasp. The "Oregonian" piece did not do the book justice at all. At all.

Spong and Lüdemann reject all known bases for Christian faith. Lüdemann goes so far as to say that "Jesus decayed and did not rise bodily." So whence cometh faith? Still, they refuse to become Atheists.*

Yet.

Spong said: "I ... still could not dismiss what seemed to me to be an experience of something other, transcendent, and beyond all of my limits that I knew I had to find another God language. Theism was no more."

Unlike many, though, Spong says he is perfectly willing to reject the "God" idea altogether if he finds no way to behold what he seeks: "If there is no other possible understanding of God, then surely God has died."

I must respect the sincerity of these potential allies. I offer their informative and compelling words as food for thought.

Graphic Rule

    • Notes:

    • See also: In Search of God: Is Atheism the Only Alternative to Theism?
                        by Bishop John Shelby Spong
    • See also: A Criticism of My Church by Gerd Lüdemann
    • See also: Ideologies, Text and Tradition by John Bowden

    • Footnote: * Gerd Lüdemann renounced his faith and became an atheist a few months after this writing.

Graphic Rule
Copyright ©1998 Cliff Walker; Portland, Oregon
(Lüdemann's name, misspelled in the original, has been corrected here.)