Our Thursday study group (Thursdays with Jesus) finished reading John Shelby Spong's, Eternal Life: A New Vision, Beyond Religion, Beyond Theism, Beyond Heaven and Hell. His thoughts were well-received by most of the group. Some hadn't read him previously. We watched a few on-line videos of his speeches and interviews when we discussed his book.
I have great admiration for him, so much so, that I even named my dog for him, "Shelby." He takes seriously modern scholarship, challenges outdated dogmas, and is a strong advocate for equality. The church could use more like him in my opinion.
In this book he takes on the issue of whether or not there is an afterlife. Most of the book is a fun deconstruction of religious claims. He rejects supernaturalism, theism, eternal rewards and punishments and much more. He advocates living fully in this life. At the end of the book he embraces something he calls "universal consciousness." With this concept he says he believes in life after death. He writes:
The goal of all religion is not to prepare us to enter the next life; it is a call to live now, to love now, to be now and in that way to taste what it means to be part of a life that is eternal, a love that is barrier-free and the being of a fully self-conscious humanity. That is the door way into a universal consciousness that is part of what the word "God" now means to me. This then becomes my pathway and, I now believe, the universal pathway into the meaning of life that is eternal. p. 204
I agree with most of what Spong writes especially his deconstruction of religious supernaturalism. I do find myself befuddled regarding this universal consciousness business. If I had him in the room with me I would ask him to explain to me what the difference is between universal consciousness and no consciousness.
Beginning January 5th we will be reading, Deepak Chopra's The Third Jesus. I have never read anything by him so I am looking forward to the adventure.
If you are interested in stimulating conversations, order the Chopra book and join us Thursdays from 10:30 to noon at FPC Elizabethton.