There is a fundamental difference between the three Abrahamic faiths; Jews, Christians and Muslims, that is the answer to Jesus’ question who do you say that I am. Of the three Abrahamic faiths only Christians believe that Jesus was both human and divine (setting aside various ‘heresies’ within Christianity which disagree with the divinity of Jesus). Jesus was both human and divine. What God was able to do Jesus was able to do, because Jesus was God. Why then is it difficult to accept that Jesus performed miracles; indeed that his life was in many respects ‘miraculous’ from his birth to his rising from the dead. Critics and modern ‘reformers’ of Christianity are so willing to renounce any ounce of the possibility that Jesus was anything more than simply a good guy, another prophet.
Darryl Ellwood commented in the October 2007 edition of Focus (the newspaper of the Anglican Church in Australia, Diocese of Brisbane)
I understand that Jesus was more than a good ‘man’ for us to emulate. If he didn’t miraculously come into the world. If he didn’t miraculously heal the sick, if he didn’t miraculously rise from the dead to show us that he and the Father (sic) are one, then where is the Good News of the gospel… Was the virgin birth too much for the creator God of the universe to organise? A ‘Spongified’ gospel doesn’t sound like good news to me.
I have to admit to not reading much of Spong’s material. I do think that he, as well as other more scholarly people have challenged contemporary interpretations of scripture that are used to divide and condemn the people of God. Listening to some podcasts of his work I am left wondering the same question as Ellwood. What is the Good News of the Gospel. Spong would have use believe that many of the NT scriptures used to support a divine Jesus are somehow made up or at least misrepresentations of the reality. He would have us conclude with him that the writers – redactors, authors – of the Gospels used well known Jewish stories of miraculous prophets to paint Jesus as ‘greater than our ancestors’ (I use a phrase here from the Samaritan woman to Jesus at the well who asks if Jesus is greater than their ancestor Jacob); in other words is Jesus somehow more than a prophet, or more correctly the woman wonders whether Jesus is not indeed the great Taheb of Samaritan belief who would deliver the people and restore true worship to the people of God.
The belief that Jesus was somehow more than a failed prophet-Messiah brought the disciples out of hiding after their dispersion after Jesus’ execution and caused them to risk life and ridicule and indeed expulsion from the Temple to preach Jesus’ Good News. This outcast group of Jews and Gentiles whose ‘deviant sect’ was tormented, killed and systematically sought out for destruction survived and from it’s Good News came what we call today Christianity; a faith centred on the belief that Jesus was more than a man, whose miraculous life pointed him to be more than a prophet, but a divine being, incarnate in the world, the word made flesh, God in humanity.
OK so for arguments sake if the disciples, writers of the Gospels, redactors or whoever got it all wrong, and drawn on ancient stories to make Jesus out to be more than he was then what… do we cancel Christianity, go back to the ‘faith of our ancestor’, do we become Jews, do we return to the religion of pre Jewish-Christian schism or what about before the schism between Jews and Samaritans. Where do we find God and God’s revelation of God’s message to us.