Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Will Spotts on the Theology of John Shuck

First Presby, Bill, wrote me an e-mail in response to my post earlier today Is Christmas Political? In response to Will Spotts summary of my theology, Bill wrote:

I thoroughly enjoyed Supplement A. I think your theological views are extremely refreshing and germane for the 21st century. Maybe we can finally get out of the Dark Ages we have been stuck in for centuries. Have you considered hiring this guy as your PR front man? He is really good at picking out the meaty, thought provoking points. The collection of points is good for hours of contemplation for people who are not afraid of free thought, free will, enlightenment. This stage of my life is the ONLY time I ever wanted to go to church and it is because I finally have validation for the religious perspective that I developed myself in a vacuum. I finally have a community!
Thanks, Bill! Glad you have found us and we you! I have to say that I am flattered that Mr. Spotts took the time to outline my theology, complete with footnotes! Maybe someday he'll write a book about me.

Here is the Spott on Shuck:

Rev. John A. Shuck: The pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton (TN) and member of Holston Presbytery. In both published sermons and on his blog – which he describes as a part of his teaching ministry – Rev. Shuck has proclaimed doctrines that are completely at odds with Christianity. Holston Presbytery (from which Rev. Shuck derives his authority as a minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA)) is aware of Rev. Shuck’s writings and is apparently content with its endorsement.

Rev. Shuck on a variety of doctrines:

· Christianity –

o “You may have heard that there is one way to be a Christian, and that is to be a literalist Christian. The virgin birth, the empty tomb, an error-free Bible, Jesus dying for our sins and returning in the clouds is a package deal … I don’t believe that we have to make that black and white either/or choice.”[10]

o “What happens to those folks when they realize that the Bible is not error-free or that Christianity isn’t the only or even the best religion?”[11]

o “As humanity continues to grow, we begin to realize that we have created the god who has created us. We just forgot. We have developed the stories, the doctrines, the beliefs in response to dissatisfaction and fear.”[12]

o “When we become conscious that humanity is the creator of the gods and of the stories of the gods, we can begin to evaluate these stories. Which of them are still worth telling?”[13]

· The nature of God –

o “Conceiving of God as a personal being has become increasingly problematic. We may imagine God in personal terms in prayer, worship, or poetry, but even there the language we use does not fit the reality we see.”[14]

o “A theology for the 21st century, in my view, may very well begin with God, not as a personal Creator, a human writ large, but Creativity itself.”[15]

o “Mystery was called by different names in different languages in different places— / The Great Spirit, Marduk, the Goddess, Brahman, The Holy One of / Israel, God, Sophia, Christ, Allah, The No-Thing, the Ground of Being. / But Mystery is elusive, not allowing a name to tame it, / Allowing no human to claim it for a possession.”[16]

· Jesus Christ –

o “Jesus was a human being. Let the man rest in peace.”[17]

o “When I think of Jesus or the Buddha or Mohammed or Hildegaard of Bingen I think of individuals who have achieved a higher level of consciousness than I have achieved… Jesus like the Buddha and other enlightened mystics had a heightened level of consciousness … They are, I think, the first fruits of a higher evolutionary stage for humanity.”[18]

o “Jesus is one of the great light-bearers”.[19] [This is a very peculiar phrase – I wonder where Rev. Shuck gleaned it; another way of saying this would be “Jesus is one of the great luciferi.”]

· The Resurrection –

o “Number 1: I believe fully in the Resurrection of Jesus. I don’t simply believe it. I trust it. I try to live by it. Number 2: I believe the remains of the historical Jesus decayed like all human remains decay.”[20]

o “Resurrection is not something that happened but it is something that happens. It is about new and authentic life in the present and opening oneself to that experience. It is what a good story does for us.”[21]

o “The resurrection of Christ to me is not about heaven in the sky when you die. It is not about believing in a resuscitated corpse. It is also not merely a metaphor, symbol, or subjective vision. To see the resurrected Jesus or the cosmic Christ is to glimpse in a person the summit of consciousness to which we are ascending.”[22]

· Hell – “The idea that God would send people to hell doesn’t make sense to me at all. It is a cruel doctrine.”[23]

· Evangelism – “If we let go of hell, we may need to let go of evangelism. What is the point of trying to save people if they don’t need to be saved? Imagine if all religion gave up that one.”[24]

· Heaven –

o “The idea that heaven is a better place, when this life seems unbearable can be a great comfort. If that belief works for you, then keep it.”[25]

o “My concern with beliefs about an afterlife is that they can (not necessarily so, but they can) lead one to devalue this life.”[26]

· The Bible –

o “[Paul] wrote some wonderful things. But not everything is a keeper.”[27]

o “I love the stories of the Bible, the stories about Jesus and the stories about a new heaven and a new earth. I love them because they are imaginative stories of hope that can help us, if we understand them as stories, to enjoy what we can in this life and to work so that others can enjoy it as well.”[28]

o “The preacher can no longer assume that just because a text is in the Bible that it is from God or is even valuable.”[29]

o “The dogma of the divine inspiration of the Bible is nothing more than channeling God. It is unbelievable and unnecessary.”

Thanks, Mr. Spotts! I couldn't have said it better myself! Oh, wait, I did say it!

15 comments:

TN420 said...

I have a question for this Spotts person. Why does he fear John Shuck?
If his faith is strong, he shouldn't be bothered by your views.
Why do these people who claim to be all about God and Jesus feel threatened enough to lash out at people like you, or me, or the secular world in general?

Why do they fear the concept of evolution or free will? Didn't Jesus say not to fear but take courage in his name?

So Spotts is obsessed with the lies of the Catholic Church and is afraid to open his eyes because he will then have to begin using the brain God gave him.
Par for the fundi course.

It doesn't disprove the existence of a "Holy" spirit to see the absurdity in virgin birth and physical resurrection. Once again we see the fundi absorbed with the flesh and blind to the spirit. It doesn't diminish the guidelines Jesus gave us to live by if we accept that there has always been some form of evolution.

I believe in the spiritual realm and I believe in the wisdom of the words of Jesus. I fear none of these things.
Fear is for the weak of faith. I shall pray that Mr. Spotts' finds the courage of his convictions.

John Shuck said...

Spotts and other self-proclaimed heresy hunters join a long line of control freaks throughout history.

The thing is that these guys are a bunch of weak-kneed whiners. They attempt through intimidation to silence free thought.

I have found that the best way to deal with them is to stand up to them. One spoof shall fell them.

Grace said...

John, I don't know anything about Spotts, or his motives. But, I have to agree with tn420. Jesus promised to build His church, and that ultimately even the gates of Hell would never prevail against it.

I don't think followers of Jesus need to feel at all threatened by anything. God expects us to use our minds, and trust Him to reveal truth.

We should be loving, and open to everyone. But, my personal view, is that a Christian minister should honor his/her ordination vows, and teach and preach the faith of the Christian church.

For me, it also would be a matter of integrity. Otherwise, I would not choose to work in and for the Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists, etc.

On the other hand, I can't discount how God's spirit may be working in someone's life, either. I would not want to risk doing anything by my spirit or attitude that might drive a seeker away from the Lord. We should not conduct orthodox, litmus tests at the church door.

So, even though, I feel so strongly, and my whole heart is wrapped around the gospel, I would just as soon have those heretics sitting right next to me in the pew, and even preaching from the pulpit than out the door forever.

(But, I"m going to be honest, and not pretend that these differences don't matter, and we are all on the same page with the "good news." We need to keep talkin.)

God loves every false teacher, and earnest seeker. Jesus died for those "wolves in sheeps clothing," for all of us sinners.

Thank the Lord for His amazing love, and grace.

All of God's peace and wisdom to you, friends.

Sara said...

While I don't agree with all of your theology, the important thing is, I don't have to. I had about given up on the PCUSA based on my local experiences. However, in the last 6 months, I have discovered a growing community of people within the church who are willing to take the risks involved with being a follower of Jesus Christ in today's world. Thank you so much for your blog, it always makes me think.

Flycandler said...

The full-on cynical answer to tn420's question is I think the correct one.

Basically, Will needs a boogeyman to justify his departure from the PC(USA)--and to get a refund check for all his offerings over the years.

There are churches in my Presbytery that, if I had the slightest desire to do so, I could call out on abandoning Reformed theology in favor of weird Baptist conservative evangelicalism that borders on Pentecostal. Perhaps that's the problem. People on "our side" should have been fulminating about the right-wing whackjobs all this time instead of accepting them as brothers and sisters in Christ with whom we don't agree.

Mystical Seeker said...

I think that John has it right that these witch hunters are control freaks. But I also think that, at some level, there is a degree of fear that lies underneath it, because their whole belief structure is really just a house of cards. They cling so tightly to their dogma and try to suppress free thinkers because their fragile, carefully constructed house of cards is always under threat of collapse.

Grace said...

Mystical,

It's true that some do speak out from wrong motives, and may have an unloving spirit. But, there are many Christian people who are grieved by this whole situation in the churches out of a love for Jesus Christ, and His gospel.


They are concerned for people to know Him, and for that reason care about the content of the faith that is preached from our pulpits, and taught to the young people in catechism or S.S. programs.

Everyone cannot be judged, and painted with the same tar brush.

Mystical Seeker said...

Grace, my experience has been that it is almost universal among those who adhere to a certain brand of theology that they believe that their entire theological edifice would come crashing down if they were to accept the legitimacy of the theologies that they attack. So regardless of the ostensibly "altruistic" motives that lie behind their intolerance, there is a subtext of fear.

Grace said...

Mystical,

I think we have to trust God, and seek truth. I personally would not want to base my whole life in a delusion, no matter what.

But, have you felt afraid sometimes, dear Mystical? What if your theological and philosophical edifice came crashing down? Are your truly open and tolerant toward the beliefs of the orthodox Christians? :)

OneSmallStep said...

**What if your theological and philosophical edifice came crashing down? Are your truly open and tolerant toward the beliefs of the orthodox Christians? :)**

I don't think that's a possiblity. Mystical's point seems to be, and I've seen this as well, is that there is not one valid path only to God, in terms of accepting certain things about Jesus or Allah or another religion. It's like those who say that if universalism is true, then what was the point of Jesus dying? Or those who say that if everyone gets to heaven, then the whole system is worthless.

But those who say that the paths to God are found in more than one belief system, or we're all climbing up the same mountain, only some fly up there, and others crawl underneath -- there's no threat to a theological system. You don't have the one and only ultimate truth, and if you learn something differently, you aren't suddenly skyrocketing to hell (is that an oxymoron?)

It may be that there are some who are simply concerned that people know Jesus properly. But in looking against the backlash that John gets frequently, that's not the impression. The impression is that the dogmatics are concerned about being right, first and foremost.

John Shuck said...

Sara--thank you and exactly! Glad you visited. The whole point is to think and to make your own decision. Hey, you have pooh on your blog...

Fly-- you wrote:

"People on "our side" should have been fulminating about the right-wing whackjobs all this time instead of accepting them as brothers and sisters in Christ with whom we don't agree."

What you wrote does not sound very pc nor nice nor like how a guilt-ridden liberal would sound. I like it!

Mystical--you wrote:

"They cling so tightly to their dogma and try to suppress free thinkers because their fragile, carefully constructed house of cards is always under threat of collapse."

It already has collapsed. Don Cupitt's latest book, "Impossible Loves" is a good one for where we are headed.

Grace--I am glad you are here! I am glad all of you are here, but I am pleased you keep hanging in there with me. You bring up good points that need to be addressed. You wrote:

"They are concerned for people to know Him, and for that reason care about the content of the faith that is preached from our pulpits, and taught to the young people in catechism or S.S. programs."

That's fine. I am concerned too. The content I like to teach and preach is the recognition that all content is temporal and contingent. Nothing stays the same. We need to be encouraged to question everything (including of course everything teachers and preachers, including me of course, say).

Onesmallstep--Thanks. I should say that some backlash against me is because I bring it on and I don't roll over. I don't apologize for that. I can give it as well as take it. I am no victim.

For everyone:

This isn't about me. Many folks are discouraged from expressing dissenting views, "heretical" views, "unpatriotic" views, or whatever because of fear of backlash. I believe that no one should be afraid to say or write what is on their minds, to openly question any self-proclaimed orthodoxy, and to be wrong.

In my fifteen years of ministry, I have found that people have largely been conditioned to accept authority and not to question it (at least openly). I am probably wrong on most everything I write. But I defend my freedom to be wrong, and yours as well.

Grace said...

One, it's possible for someone to be an orthodox, evangelical Christian, and be a universalist. My own husband has this conviction, and trust me, oh, does he feel strongly about this. :)

But, he does feel that all "salvation," so to speak ,is through the cross of Christ, just that eventually everyone will be "saved."

I think it's possible for people to feel threatened by the concept of truth not being pluriform as well. For some, the gospel can be an offense, and the cross of Christ, a scandal.

Or, some may have become so hurt and wounded in the past by Christians, that they want nothing to do with a faith that sounds remotely orthodox, or evangelical. It can be an almost unconcious emotional response, I think.

I'm not saying, One, this is where I think Mystical is at. But, just speaking in a general sense.

OneSmallStep said...

John,

So ... you deserve it, then? ;)

Grace,

**it's possible for someone to be an orthodox, evangelical Christian, and be a universalist. **
I know. I have a few books written by Christian universalists.

**For some, the gospel can be an offense, and the cross of Christ, a scandal.**

That really is going to depend on how one defines the gospel. For some, it can offend because it says those in power are not superior. For others, its offensive because the savior wasn't a warrior, conquering everything with a sword. I do find the gospel offensive in saying that everyone deserves to go to hell, because that is essentially saying that not one person on this planet deserves to be loved, or deserves to be in the light, no one deserves justice or anything like that. It's like saying someone deserves to be mutilated, or someone deserves to be raped. And when you look at history, those who believe that another group deserves a horrific death tend to be cruel people.

**It can be an almost unconcious emotional response, I think.**

The problem with this is that it has the potential to reduce reactions to a purely emotional scale, rather than saying the people are behaving from a rational basis. A lot of people do reject evangelical Christianity based on rational, rather than emotion.

John Shuck said...

Onesmallstep--

Ha! I am but a worm. I deserve the condemnation of the Righteous One who hath given the keys and whips to Fundamentalists. Thank you sir, may I have another?

It is not that I deserve it as much as I expect it.

OneSmallStep said...

John,

You could make it your new slogan: "I'm the whipping boy, so you don't have to be."