In the early 90’s, I was still practicing law in St Cloud, Mn, but I was also taking graduate classes at the School of Theology of St John’s University in Collegeville. Located in a hardwood forest of the residual “Big Woods” and nestled amongst lakes and hills fifteen miles up the freeway from St Cloud, the campus was invigorating and study with the Benedictines enlightening. It was a time of intellectual awakening for me, a realization that I didn’t need to leave my brain at home when I went to church. My fascination with Scripture, theology, and church history burned hot.
That process took a significant step forward one day as I perused the cluttered bookshelves of the campus book store when I happened upon a paperback entitled, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, a Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture, by John Shelby Spong. Spong was the Episcopal Bishop of Newark who penned his book following a series of televised debates – first with Jerry Falwell (“Jerry [was] not well equipped for such a debate”] and then with other evangelicals. Spong suggested his motivation was “to place the biblical and theological debates that are commonplace among scholars at the disposal of the typical churchgoer.” Spong’s book became a national bestseller.