There are few “religious” authors more favoured by atheists than Bishop Spong. A functional atheist himself, the Bishop has written,
“What does the cross mean? How is it to be understood? Clearly the old pattern of seeing the cross as the place where the price of the fall was paid is totally inappropriate. Aside from encouraging guilt, justifying the need for divine punishment and causing an incipient sadomasochism that has endured with a relentless tenacity through the centuries, the traditional understanding of the cross of Christ has become inoperative on every level. As I have noted previously, a rescuing deity results in gratitude, never in expanded humanity. Constant gratitude, which the story of the cross seems to encourage, creates only weakness, childishness and dependency.
Shelby Spong (italics mine)
Makes you blink doesn’t it? “A rescuing Deity results in gratitude.”
Is that a problem? Spong thinks so.
Mercy tends to induce gratitude where ever it is found.
You rescued me from hell?
You rescued me from selfishness?
You took this cold, cold heart and gave me the ability to love?
Spong thinks that it encourages “weakness.”
I have never been stronger than since I became a disciple of Jesus; not in my own strength but in the strength of God Himself. “My power is made perfect in weakness.” We are born weak and lost and helpless and without hope of ever attaining full humanity on our own. As a result Paul said, and I agree fully, “I rejoice in my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. . . for when I am weak, then I’m strong.”
Spong also says that my dependence on what Jesus accomplished at the cross / resurrection produces “childishness”
Being thankful, something rarely spontaneous in children (children are naturally takers), is a sign of maturity yet Spong sees it as a sign of childishness. Odd man, Spong.
C.S. Lewis in his atheist days also hated all the gratefulness that Christians displayed. He describes his surprise when he discovered that thankfulness and praise actually made Christians and later himself more generous, more open minded, more humble, more stable, more wise, more thoughtful. “The humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious, minds praised most while the cranks, misfits and malcontents praised least.”
The fact is, Bishop Spong, when we are ungrateful we are at our most selfish and immature. When the reality of what God has done for us has fully sunk in, gratitude is the right and proper outcome.
We cannot expect an atheist to ever understand that.