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February 1, 2013

Bishop John Shelby Spong in 2009 published Eternal Life: A New Vision. In his January 31, 2013, essay on his web site ( , he describes how he approached his study of the subject of eternity. Following is an excerpt from that essay which is a tribute to a long and close friend, Malcolm Warnock who recently died at 107.

“ First, the fact is that this subject, which might be called both “the unknown and the unknowable,” has never stopped human speculation. The greatest libraries of the world contain countless volumes in which learned men and women have sought to explore humanity’s ultimate limit and the source of humanity’s deepest anxiety. Some of those volumes have become classics in the literature of the western world. One thinks of Dante’s The Divine Comedy, John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained or Paul Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, for example. More important, however, . . . I did not in this project plan to engage in speculation into the unknown. I rather planned to approach life after death through the medium of life itself – about which a great deal can be known. Can I go deeply enough into the meaning of life that I can touch the limits? Can I discover the edge of humanity where it appears to enter the divine, where time ceases and eternity begins and where the barriers that surround life fade away and we discover that there is a universal consciousness in which we all participate? If I can do that, it will be through that means that I will approach the subject of life after death. . . . I was not on a mission to affirm the pious claims of traditional religion or to defend the popular ecclesiastical definitions of God, who seemed to use life after death as a method of behavior control or even to affirm the reality of those now empty realms that we have in the past called heaven and hell.”

“The only way I know how to approach the subject of eternity is to live fully in the present. The only way I know to discuss timelessness is to engage deeply and fully the gift of time that we now have. The only way I know how to approach the idea of divinity is to be fully human now, expanding all limits, transcending all barriers. I understand God as the Source of life empowering me to live fully; as the Source of love enabling me to love wastefully; as the Ground of Being giving me the courage to be everything I am capable of being. So it is in living fully, loving wastefully and being all that I can be that I experience the presence of God and it was, I am fully convinced, this same God experience that caused the followers of Jesus to view him as one in whom and through whom God was present. So they said of Jesus: ‘God was in Christ.’ What this phrase was seeking to communicate is that somehow, in someway, through some means, they saw the presence of God in the fully alive, wastefully-loving Jesus.

“This was the God that Malcolm also understood and this was the God with whom Malcolm lived. He worshiped this God of life, love and being by living fully, by loving wastefully and by being all that he could be. To Malcolm, God was not a being to be pleased, so much as God was a verb to be lived.

“He was a remarkable man. I am glad I knew him. I am confident that in his life he crossed the barrier where time enters eternity, where the human enters the divine and where the consciousness of the universe begins to include the consciousness of this incredible man.”

Loren Bullock
January 31, 2012

From → Beliefs

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