similarities between Robinson's radical message and today's
postmodern or purpose-driven social service church of today:
The Death of God: An Introduction:
"In 'Honest to God', Robinson presented God as that which is 'the Ground of our Being' (coining Paul Tillich's
phrase).... Whereas traditional theistic concepts placed God above the world (so that we have to look up in awe to God) Robinson places God deep in the human person (so that we have to look within to find God).
By understanding God as the 'Ground of our Being' he is seeking
to place God on the same plane as ethics, morality and
compassion, each grounded in love....
"Whenever we act ethically, loving and compassionate towards an-other we are reaching towards God. Our moral 'ought' is the 'Ground of our Being', who is God. Whenever we pray we are not speaking words into the heavens (which can exonerate us from action) but are
allowing our prayers to change us so that we will act. This also is an expression of love and compassion, the 'Ground of our Being'.
"Thus Robinson accepts the reality of the God of the theists but has challenged our perceptions of who that God is (or where that God dwells)....
"The close marrying of God with ethics, morality and compassion leads one to
emphasise this world rather than anything beyond this
world. From here it is only a short step to advocating that this
world is all there is.... For example, instead of discussing Jesus as the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity we now understand Jesus as the teacher of ethics. Jesus' death, instead of being something that changed the relationship between God and humanity, is rather an example of self-giving love in the face of adversity."
Remembered (scroll down to title) (By
the Rt. Rev. John Shelby Spong, Bishop of Newark):
"One of the great mentors of my life was an English bishop and New Testament scholar named John Albert Thomas Robinson. He burst into public awareness in the United Kingdom in the late fifties when he testified before a commission seeking to ban the novel Lady Chatterley's Lover. For a bishop to favor Lady Chatterley titillated the English media....
"In 1962... he wrote a little book called
Honest to God that appeared on the bookstands in 1963. It made the controversy about Lady Chatterley's Lover look pale by comparison. This book forced people to recognize that the
language of traditional religion was not a language that people believed today whether they continued to use it or not.... Every would-be theologian rushed into print to denounce this book. Calls were issued for Bishop Robinson's resignation or for him to be
deposed for heresy....
"John Robinson ... forced me to face the fact that the words of both the Bible and the Creeds sound strange to post-modern people and that
my faith had to grow or it had to be abandoned."
Being 'Honest to God' 40 years on:
"Perhaps more than anything else, Honest to God was a product of its time: traditions were questioned, orthodoxy was challenged and norms of behaviour disregarded. 1963 marked the beginning of declining church attendance and widespread religious indifference. It was this trend to which Robinson and like-minded theologians sought to respond. They launched what was dubbed the
"Death of God" movement with the popular success of Honest to God
elevating Robinson to its leadership.
"This movement sought to reinterpret fundamental Christian doctrines
and to 'make God real for the modern, scientific and secular age'.
"As for the notion of heaven, he believed it was the
'greatest obstacle to an intelligent faith - and indeed will progressively be so to all except the 'religious' few'.
Whenever we acted ethically, lovingly and compassionately towards another, according to Robinson, we were reaching towards God and
embracing eternal values....
"God was, for them, represented in society as "The Good" or "The Ideal". Although frequently accused of atheism, these theologians were really non-theists....
"The Church Times was even more direct: "It's not every day that a bishop goes on public record as apparently
denying almost every Christian doctrine of the Church in which he holds office."
John A.T. Robinson:
"Although Robinson was firmly within the camp of liberal theology, he did challenge the work of colleagues in the field of exegetical criticism.
... Concluding his research, he wrote in his work, Redating the New Testament that past scholarship was based on a
'tyranny of unexamined assumptions' and an 'almost willful blindness.'
Robinson concluded that New Testament was written before AD 64, partly based on his judgement there is little textual evidence that the New Testament reflects knowledge of the Temple's AD 70 destruction.