As I have read Bishop Spong over the past few years, he has challenged me to rethink some basic beliefs and assumptions. My own exploration of science and astronomy led me to conclude that God cannot be up there and out there in a universe with billions of galaxies each with billions of stars. Immediately, I heard, “The kin-dom of God is among you. Teilhard de Chardin and others have helped me understand that Christ is the deepest reality within me and that the Cosmic Christ is drawing creation to completion.
This brief excerpt from Spong fills in some more of the details:
If human life, as Darwin suggested and as modern science keeps verifying, is the product of millions of years of evolutionary history, then none of these theological formulas [paradise, the fall, redemption] remain valid. Without an original, perfect and complete creation, there could never have been a fall from perfection, not even metaphorically. Original sin has thus got to go. Without that fall from perfection there was no need for God’s rescue and no reason for Jesus to come to our aid. The idea of God as the punishing parent organizes religious life on the basis of the childlike and primitive motifs of reward and punishment. The cross understood as the place where Jesus paid our debt to this vengeful God becomes not just nonsensical, but it also serves to twist human life with guilt in order to make this system of thought believable. That is why Christian worship seems to require the constant denigration of human life. Christian liturgies constantly beg God “to have mercy.” Our hymns sing of God’s amazing grace, but the only reason God’s grace is amazing is that it “saved a wretch like me.” This theology assumes that God is an external being, living somewhere above the sky, whose chief occupations are two: first to keep the record books up to date on our behavior, thus serving as the basis on which we will be judged; and second to be ready to come to our aid in miraculous ways either to establish the divine order or in answer to our prayers. Darwin was only one part of the explosion of knowledge that rendered these ideas not only irrelevant, but unbelievable. Copernicus and Galileo had destroyed God’s dwelling place above the sky by introducing us to the vastness of space, suddenly but not coincidentally rendering this God homeless. Then Isaac Newton discovered the mathematically precise and immutable laws by which the universe is governed, leaving little room in it for either miracle or magic, which rendered the miracle-working deity unemployed. (http://johnshelbyspong.com/2009/09/03/the-study-of-life-part-6rethinking-basic-christian-concepts-in-the-light-of-charles-darwin/#respond)
As I read these words and today’s scripture passages from Isaiah and Matthew, I think of my involvement in healing ministry. Spong and others will tells us with great assurance that the healing miracles in the New testament are the direct result of the early church looking back to the Old Testament to show that Jesus was the Messiah. What better way to demonstrate this than to take Isaiah’s vision of the deaf hearing and the blind seeing and to incorporate it into a story about Jesus’s healing of two blind men. He is the Messiah is the interpretive message.
It would seem that the miracles are fiction or interpretative narrative. Maybe they never happened; however, I cannot ignore the evidence that when we “pray” for one another and lay on hands for healing “miracles” have happened.
I have long since abandoned a concept of God as being up there and out there (old Jewish worldview) and coming down to intervene via miracles; however, my experience tells me that I cannot just abandon healing ministry. [I have addressed this question to Bishop Spong via email and hope to have an answer.]
How then do I understand healing ministry? The Creator flares forth into the cosmos even today. God, the Holy One, the Creator, lives in the cosmos and in each one of us. We are the Divine stardust. There is an energy (force, ruah, a Spirit) in the universe which is the deepest reality in creation. The Creator energy of the Living One flows in the cosmos and in you and me.” Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there.” The Christ is still present in us and to us. “I live, now not I, but the Christ lives in me.”
Some ancient traditions focus on energy—the energy of the universe, the Spirit—that flows within us. Energy flow is vital to acupunctures, tai chi, and chakras. By working on chakras, for example, energy flows anew and healing occurs. The acupuncture needles increase the flow of energy within us. Tai chi aligns and balances us thus increasing energy flow.
In the same manner, prayer expresses concerns and care which releases energy and promotes healing. When I feel heat in the hands of the person praying over me or when I experience energy flowing from the hands, I know that healing is occurring.
This is not New Age pabulum. (BTW I am not wary of many so-called New Age practice because I am Irish/Celtic. We accepted Roman spirituality but kept our sacred wells and holy streams as places of healing.) My understanding at this point recognizes a re-defined God—the Living Creator—as flowing forth into the cosmos. It recognizes the Risen Christ living within us and bringing us to completion. John 10:10 says that the Christ came so that we might have life to the fullest. The Creator wants us to have shalom—health, wholeness and fullness. Healing brings life in abundance and is part of the Divine Plan.