Saturday, December 04, 2004

Possibly the Most Laughable Thing Spong Ever Wrote

Over in Ponty's blog the question of Spong's intellectual achievements. For my contribution, I offer a passage from Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism which is so profoundly stupid that it has brought laughter to those to whom I have read it.

Not surprisingly, Spong invests heavily in the "three-story universe" theory. Naturally, he equates this "prescientific" theory with ignorance and, well, stupidity. He doesn't say "stupid", but ultimately the ultimate cause of not being able to understand must be insufficient intelligence.

So we come to chapter 3: "The Pre-Scientific Assumptions of the Bible", and we have this choice passage on the top of p. 31:

Luke did not comprehend the vastness of space. No one in his day did. He could not have imagined space travel. Under the popularizing influence of astrophysicist Carl Sagan, we can now put the ascension into a new physiological context that reveals the inadequacy of biblical literalism. If Jesus ascended physically into the sky, and if he rose as rapidly as the speed of light (186,000 miles per second) he would not yet hav ereached the edges of our own galaxy. (emphasis mine)

Now, it isn't true that people in the period didn't understand the vastness of space. Ptolemaic astronomy, the standard theory of the time, held the earth to be essentually point-like with respect to the universe as a whole. But we do not need to lay upon apostles and evangelists the study of astronomy. Likewise, it's presumptuous to theorize about their ability to understand space travel, at least to the extent that the average viewer of Star Wars understands it. But besides the rediculous picture of Jesus jetting across the cosmos, there's the problem that Spong has the scriptural text wrong! Here's what Acts 1:9 actually says (RSV):

And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

Jesus didn't appear to rise out of sight indefinitely; he only had to get as far as a passing cloud-- maybe 30,000 feet up. Even at a much more leisurely rate than an ICBM, that's not hard to achieve.

3 comments:

The young fogey said...

Yes, obviously Spong is trying to destroy belief in the Ascension and the argument he's using is stupid. Our Lord used the symbolism of going 'up' into a cloud as something His audience would understand; once He disappeared He went into another dimension, not into outer space!

Josh S said...

No the most laughable thing is the Twelve Theses, in which he serious posits that Christians should renounce their belief in God and yet continue to call themselves "Christian!"

C. Wingate said...

I would say that the theses represent his ultimate Oolon Colluphid moment, but in practice I find that Christian, Jew, and unbeliever alike are wont to laugh out loud when they hear Spong's "refutation" of the cosmologyof the ascension.

And actually, I think this laughter gets right to the root of what's wrong with the three story universe argument. Real sensible people are simply more adaptable than the theory lets on.

I don't think the theses are as much laughable as they are proof that there's no point in interacting with Spong at all anymore.