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JOHN A T ROBINSON Part 1

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  • Mark Tindall
    John Robinson was a mentor to John Shelby Spong. The following from John A T Robinson, Bishop of Woolwich, Honest To God (SCM, London: 1963)
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 24, 2003
      John Robinson was a mentor to John Shelby Spong.

      The following from John A T Robinson, Bishop of Woolwich, 'Honest To God' (SCM, London: 1963)

      ********************

      For in place of a God who is literally or physically 'up there' we have accepted, as part of our mental furniture, a GHod who is spirtitually or metaphysically 'out there'. p. 13 [Robinson argues against this theistic concept.]

      After it had been discredited scientifically, it continued to serve theologically as an acceptable frame of reference. p. 16

      But suppose such a super-Being 'out there' is really only a sophisticated version of the Old Man in the sky? Suppose belief in God does not, indeed cannot, mean being persuaded of the 'existence' of some entity, even a supreme entity, even a superior entity, which might or might not be there, like life on Mars? p. 17

      God, [Paul] Tillich was saying, is not a projection 'out there', an Other beyond the skies, of whose existence we have to convince ourselcves, but the Ground of our very Being. pp. 22

      ... the impact of the now famous passgaes about 'Christianity without religion' in Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Letters and Papers From Prison ... the church was not yet ready for what Bonhoeffer was giving us as his last will and testimony. pp 22-23

      Rudolph Bultmann ... 'New testament and Mythology' ... when he spoke of the 'mythological element in the New Testament he was really referring to all the language which seeks to characterise the Gospel history as mopre than bare history like any other history. ... unintelligible jargon ... the mythological language of pre-existence, incarnation, ascent and descent, miraculous intervention, cosmic catastrophe, and so on ... make sense only on a now completely antiquated world view. ... the entire conception of a supernatural order which invades and 'perforates' this one must be abandoned. But if so, what do we mean by God .... and what becomes of Christianity? p. 24

      God is, by definition, ultimate reality. And one cannot argue whether ultimate reality really exists. One can only ask what ultimate reality is like ... Thus, the fundamental theological question is not in establishing the 'existence' of God as a separate entity but in pressing through in ultimate concern to what Tillich calls 'the ground of our being'.. p. 29

      In Tillich's words: The phrase deus sive natura, used by poeople like Scotus Eriggena and Spinoza, does not say that God is identical with nature but that he is identical with the natura naturans, the creative nature, the creative ground of all natural objects. p. 31

      God is not 'out there'. He is in Bonhoeffer's words ' the "beyond" in the miudst of our life', a depth of reality reached ' not on the borders of life but at its centre', not by any flight of the alone to the alone, but, in Kierkegaard's fine phrase, by ' a deeper immersion in existence'. For thw ord 'God' denotes the ultimate depth of all our being, the creative ground and m,eaning of all our existence. ...Tillich warns us that to make the necessary transposition, 'you must forget everything traditional that you have learned about God, perhaps even that word itself.' p. 47

      Belief in God is the trust, the well nigh incredible trust, that to give ourselves to the uttermost in love is not to be confounded but to bve 'accepted', that Love is the ground of our being, to which we ultimately 'come home'. ... And the specifically Christian view of the world is asserting that the final definition of thgis reality, from which 'nothing can separate us', since it is the very ground of our being, is 'the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord'. p. 49

      ... Bonhoeffer insists ... 'The transcendent is not infinitely remote but close at hand.' p.53

      The question of God is the question whether this depth of being is a reality or an illusion, not whether a Being exists beyond the bright, blue sky, or anywhere else. Belief in God is a matter of 'what you take seriously without any reservation', of what for you is ultimate reality. p. 55

      The New Testament says that Jesus was the Word of God, it says that God was in Christ, it says that Jesus is the Son of God; but it does not say that Jesus was God, simply like that. p. 70

      Bonhoeffer .. [wrote] ... To be a Christian does not mean to be religious in a particular way, to cultivate some particular form of asceticism (as a sinner, penitent or a saint), but to be a man. It is not some religious act which makes a Christian what he is, but participation in the suffering of God in the life of the world.' pp. 82-83

      ... asked by the crowds of Jesus when he began his public ministry: 'What is this new teaching?' And so it has always been.. Paul was dismissed as a setter forth of strange gods, Socrates was condemned as an 'atheist'. Every new religious truth comes as a destroyer of some other god, as an attack upon that which men hold most sacred. p. 125

      ... the beginning is to try to be honest - and to go on from there. p. 141

      **************


      Mark







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