Live like you imagine there's no heaven

There is no God, there is no heaven and there is no afterlife. At least, not in the way we have traditionally thought of such things.

These days, with atheist arguments topping bestseller lists, such statements might not seem all that contentious.

But when a retired bishop says it, it’s worth noting.

“My audience is not the people who go to church on Sunday morning,” John Shelby Spong, the retired Episcopal bishop of Newark, N.J., said on a recent visit to Toronto.

“It’s the people who have given up on going to church.”

Instead of the traditional concepts of heaven and hell, he takes a fresh reading of the Christian gospels – particularly John – and concludes our eventual demise makes it more important to think about this life than the next.

“The goal of religion is not to prepare us for the next life,” he writes. “It is a call to live now, to love now, to be now and in a way to taste what it means to be part of a life that is eternal. … It is the presence of death that actually makes my life precious.”

I have read all of John Shelby’s books. Most of them I have enjoyed immensely. One of my favorite is “Rescuing the Bible from Fundametalists”…another was “This Hebrew Lord”.

The Kingdom of God is present among us now…it is not some far off event. Christ came so that we may have life…and have it more abundantly…in the here and now. Eternity begins at this very moment…Paul wrote that we are “translated into the Kingdom of His dear Son…” as a present event…not some future one.

Our work is to make this world a better place…a place of peace…a place where a hopeful future abounds…in the here and now. I have no idea what the “afterlife” entails…no one has ever gone there and returned with any proof. “Eye has not seen nor ear heard nor entered into the heart of man what God has in store …”

I have found some of Bishop Shelby’s books dry and did not speak to me…but when he spoke of his faith and the vision of what this faith would mean to our world…I caught a glimpse of what he was trying to convey…words are such a fragile thing at times…sometimes words leave us lacking…“words which no man could utter…”

When a Meeting is “Gathered” and the Spirit moves among us…the Silence is profound and deep and His Voice is “still and small”…and Deafening.

We should live in a way that reflects reality, not “like” something. If there’s a Heaven, we should live like there is. If not, then who cares? Just live in the way that makes you happy until you die and don’t worry about what some dude says because it makes him feel good.

Yes, let’s all live like we imagine things to be. Let us reject reality. I believe I can fly, so I’ll just go on top of a building and jump off. I believe the Earth is made of pie, so I’ll eat some rocks and not get sick or die. Imagination is so wonderful! Reality is dull and bland and stupid! (end sarcasm)

The pastor is actually taking a stale, dead reading of the Gospels when he concludes we should ignore Heaven. Believing in Heaven and acting as if our reward is not in this life - that’s fresh and refreshing every time someone realizes it.

I can’t see how this man explains what reason there is to be a christian believer given his view. Certainly, he seems to be tossing the ancient creeds out the window if I am understanding him correctly and in context.:shrug:

Maybe it is my personality, but I don’t find loosey goosey theology comforting at all. Perhaps this is why I like the catholic faith, because even with the most liberal catholic theologian, I have not encountered hearing this type of thing. Though, it may be out there.:o

It’s funny. When I read the line “But when a retired bishop says it, it’s worth noting”, I knew it was talking about Spong before I even looked at the next paragraph. It just sounds like something he would say.

“The goal of religion is not to prepare us for the next life,” he writes. "It is a call to live now, to love now, to be now and in a way to taste what it means to be part of a life that is eternal. … It is the presence of death that actually makes my life precious."

I don’t know if I’m just way off base in my thinking here, but at least the part in red is not far off. We are called to live now, and to love now, to act in imitation of Christ to others. To live our faith so others may see the Glory of God and have eternal life with all believers. I was listening to a cd from the Mary Foundation about the Mass, by Father Larry Richards I believe, and he echoed part of that line as well… that the Mass elevates us and shows us a glimpse of what eternal life will be like. Every Sunday we taste what it is to be a part of eternal life with our Savior. That said… I don’t agree with anything else. :wink: Which is why I’m proud to be (soon) Catholic. We have purpose in this life for the next life, and purpose in the next life. :amen:

The thing is, Spong sets up a false dichotomy. Our faith certainly is supposed to prepare us for our heavenly home where we will spend eternity with our Beloved. But that starts now.

We need to be very careful. Statements like Spong’s have been used to justify all sorts of things that are opposed to the faith in the name of “peace” and “love” here on earth. Of course we “love now.” That’s basic Christianity 101. That doesn’t mean heaven does not matter. Quite the opposite.

Live without Hope? Nope!

I choose to live with Faith, Hope and Love just as Jesus taught.

Been there, done that. Sucks big time.

We should live in accordance with truth, beauty, and goodness, whatever we may or may not get out of it. Only virtue makes us truly happy. That should be our reason for living virtuously.

Rightly understood, the Christian understanding of eternal life is not a bribe to get us to behave virtuously, but the culmination of the story that began when God created the universe.


I really struggle to maintain even a small bit of charity with regard to Spong and his ilk. I certainly don’t agree with his ideas, and the way that his status as a “bishop” is paraded around so as to sell gullible universalist types on his heretical ideas makes me sick.

Why not live with the reality of both heaven and hell in mind, as well as in the knowledge that the way you live now plays a definitive role in determining which you will experience in the hereafter? Or is that too “old style” Christianity (which is to say, in short, Christianity) for the likes of Spong? Too bad. It’s not passed out of favor according to Almighty God, who is still the number one author of all time!

And why does Spong continue to peddle the silly idea that Galileo has somehow discredited traditional Christian belief?

I find it hard to be charitable with the man’s ideas because they are so incredibly shallow.

Don Cupitt makes some of the same kinds of points but in much more interesting ways, IMHO. He’s still a heretic, but he’s a heretic who can be read with profit.


His science thing is a complete non-squitor. Galileo, Darwin. Therefore, no Heaven (no God, really).

What he should say is: Galileo, therfore heliocentrism. Darwin, therefore old earth.

This is very sloppy thinking and an obvious rationalization on his part.

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