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46 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Promoting Biblical Literacy
At the outset of RESCUING THE BIBLE FROM FUNDAMENTALISM John Shelby Spong points out that the subject of Biblical inerrancy is a popular topic of debate among Bible scholars but goes largely unnoticed by the general public. The author is interested in taking this discussion to the people in the church pews. His particular target seems to be the mainline liberal Christian...
Published on 4 Sep 2003 by Peter Kenney

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a spoil sport
If you receiving a lot pleasure and from being a Fundamentalist don't read this book. Bishop Spong never provides adequate references to his books to support his facts.
Published 3 months ago by David R Freeman


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46 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Promoting Biblical Literacy, 4 Sep 2003
By 
Peter Kenney (Birmingham, Alabama, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture (Paperback)
At the outset of RESCUING THE BIBLE FROM FUNDAMENTALISM John Shelby Spong points out that the subject of Biblical inerrancy is a popular topic of debate among Bible scholars but goes largely unnoticed by the general public. The author is interested in taking this discussion to the people in the church pews. His particular target seems to be the mainline liberal Christian churches whose membership is shrinking due to the apparent apathy of many of its adherents. For the people who are turned off by what they see as an irrelevant message Spong wants to rework the Christ story so that it makes sense in terms of this century. At the present time the Bible remains a prisoner of fundamentalist Christians.
Believing in the inerrancy of the Bible has always presented special problems according to Spong. For instance, Biblical writers did not posses any idea of the grand sweep of history. They also had no knowledge of distant lands, oceans or continents. In addition, they were very dependent on oral tradition.
The Bible does contain much truth and it is our challenge now to lift that truthfulness out of the confining structure of the ancient world.
Beneath the literalistic framework of the Bible lie some powerful messages. In the Old Testament stories of the prophets we can see attempts to remedy human problems of injustice and the later influence of the prophets on secular social reforms in Western countries. The gospels of the New Testament tell about the love of God visible in the life of Jesus who is able to break all human barriers of race, sex and nationality. The main message of Christ seems to be in fact all about destroying the barriers of our prejudices and becoming truly inclusive Christians.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Highly readable book, 24 July 2013
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This review is from: Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture (Paperback)
Clear and direct to the point, as is typical of the style of John Shelby Spong. The one criticism I have is the lack of footnoting throughout the book. A wonderful Bibliography and a good book for any student interested in the Bible.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shelby Spong, 28 May 2013
This review is from: Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture (Paperback)
This book and its author will be hated and scorned by evangelicals and catholics alike. However it is very much needed to balance the one-sided debate on "inerrancy". Christians really shouldn't stay wilfully ignorant about the formation of the bible. If you feel the need to break out of the claustrophobic limitations of reformed doctrine, this is a good start.
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41 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Book, Terrible Title, 31 May 2000
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This review is from: Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture (Paperback)
This a fantastic, uplifting basic introduction to modern biblical scholarship. For the lay person in the pew, this book spells out current knowledge about biblical authorship and about what is known and not known about the environment in which the authors lived, worked and believed. Spong's book is engaging and easy to read while still providing good references and bibliography. Most importantly, Spong presents biblical scholarship in an uplifting faith-filled context.
Why the reference to fundamentalism in the title? The whole intent of Spong's book is to answer the question: "How can Christians have a relevant, faith-filled approach to the bible if they can no longer accept the bible as literally true?"
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5.0 out of 5 stars Facts will not bother fundamentalists, 23 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture (Paperback)
This is a brave and excellent book by a bishop who knows the Bible and who is worried about the distortion of the biblical myths by Christian and Jewish fundamentalists and are using those myths towards some base, political ends. At best, the Bible, the Koran and other religious texts can provide some moral lessons to the believers, but they contain very little historical or factual truths that can base the foundations of modern beliefs, let alone states formed on the basis of religions, such as Israel, Saudi Arabia and more and more the United States. Both believers and non-believers should read this book to see how the fundamentalists distort what they regard to be the word of God in order to serve their selfish purposes.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Controversially informative., 2 Oct 2013
By 
Peter Veness (Dorset) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture (Paperback)
While not agreeing with all Bishop Spong's thoughts, as an intelligent review of how the Bible books came to be written and the implications that has for our interpretation of them in the 21st century it is extremely valuable. It should be read by all thinking Christians to combat the rising tide of fundamentalism in many UK churches.
I'm sure that many of the Bishop's other books are more challenging of conventional Christian theology but don't let that put you off reading this one.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a spoil sport, 20 May 2014
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If you receiving a lot pleasure and from being a Fundamentalist don't read this book. Bishop Spong never provides adequate references to his books to support his facts.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Goes too far, 4 April 2014
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This book gets an extra star because John Shelby Spong writes well, and is thought-provoking even when you don't agree with him. It kept my attention, unlike books by conservative biblical scholars that are often tedious and stick to a prearranged script. Spong is right to point out the problems associated with taking the Bible too literally. Here are some choice quotes:

"My devotion to the Bible was so intense that it led me into a study that finally obliterated any possibility that the Bible could be related to on a literal basis."

"Those who insist on a biblical literalism thus become unwitting accomplices in bringing about the death of the Christianity they so deeply love."

"Fundamentalists will appeal to the need for emotional security by trafficking in religious certainty."

"Fundamentalism is so limited. This is surely why Paul wrote that the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life."

Spong writes to counter the "sterile choice between literalism and nothing". The problem is that the choice he presents in this book is between literalism and meaningless subjectivity. He's got nothing concrete! No virgin birth. No bodily resurrection. No miracles. There's no room for any of this in Spong's apparently closed worldview. His chronological snobbery toward the authors of Scripture is rife throughout. (We're far too educated to believe that sort of thing these days.) Additionally, speculation abounds. For example, he goes overboard in seeking to establish that the apostle Paul was a gay man. He seems obsessed with this sort of thing - I've read the same in at least one of his other books. It comes across as the product of an all too contemporary agenda, and somewhat trite. It seems far more likely that Paul's "thorn in the flesh" was not fleshly desire of a homosexual nature, as Spong suggests, but rather the ever-present 'Judaizers' who followed closely behind Paul in his missionary labours to inform new converts that they needed to be circumcised and follow the Law.

Yes, there are grave difficulties with fundamentalism and the notion of biblical inerrancy. I completely understand why anyone reading the Bible faithfully would want to be free of its shackles. Yet without adherence to the Scriptures as notwithstanding inspired and authoritative, nothing remains but empty speculation. Far safer guides are the likes of C. S. Lewis and N. T. Wright, who capture the imagination with their writings, and give the weary believer something concrete to hold on to without the straightjacket of literalism.

According to Spong, we can't be drawn to a Lord who would destroy a herd of pigs in order to exorcise a demon. Why not? Isn't each soul precious in God's sight? Would Spong feel differently if he was the demon-possessed man? (As for the pigs, Spong deals with midrash elsewhere in his writings. Consider this: the demons entered the swine and were drowned in the lake. Likewise, the devil will be cast into the lake of fire.) Spong also suggests that we should be less than impressed about Jesus cursing the fig tree. Why? It was an acted out parable. Christ looked for fruit, but there was none, and Israel as a nation rejected her Messiah. The New Testament writers were not anti-semitic, as Spong suggests, but simply describe how the Jews by and large rejected God's purposes for them in handing over Jesus to be crucified. The events of A.D. 70 showed that judgement did indeed come upon that generation, just as Jesus prophesied in the Olivet Discourse. Even Spong allows for the possibility of a mid-sixties dating of Mark's Gospel. That being the case, chapter thirteen alone is sufficient to demonstrate both the accuracy of Christ's prophecy and the inspiration of Scripture. Spong takes issue with Jesus's teaching on Gehenna (hell), but doesn't seem to consider the possibility that Jesus was speaking in hyperbole, as He often does elsewhere. This is ironic, as Spong seems to want to take Jesus literally when understanding Him figuratively seems a better approach. But clearly Spong has a problem with God judging nations and individuals.

You learn where you stand by reading someone who takes a more radical view, and reading Spong has helped me to realize just how conservative I am after all, despite no longer being a fundamentalist. I'm grateful to him for that. The most comical aspect of the book was where Spong lamented the perpetuating of myths in daily weather reports on television, where reporters talk about the sun setting and rising. I kid you not. Apparently, this is serious. Here's Spong: "The sun does not rise. The sun does not set. The earth turns on its axis. Our language, however, perpetuates our illusions." Call me backwoods, but surely this is acceptably anthropocentric even for the 21st Century. Spong is a bit too Spock here in his thinking.
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Proof that knowledge is not the same as wisdom, 13 Jan 2013
By 
Michael W. Phillips (West Sussex, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture (Paperback)
There's an irony that extremists almost inevitably become indistinguishable from those they seek to condemn. And there's no doubt that Spong is an extremist, a fundamentalist. In this book he condemns as ignorant the vast majority of Christians who have ever lived. But fear not, he has figured it all out. His obsession, driven by a colossal intellectual arrogance, is an insistence that nothing in the Bible should be read in a literal sense. He starts with the Old Testament, apparently refusing to even consider that which is self evident - some of the books record real historical accounts of actual events. Undoubtedly some are allegorical but the degree to which the ancient scriptures of the Old Testament should be taken literally is not the point. The Old Testament scriptures maintain the power to guide and inspire and, most importantly for Christians, lead us to Christ.

However, Spong's blinding ignorance only really gets going when he considers the New Testament. There can be no question that, with the sole exception of Revelation, all of the books of the New Testament were written with the intention that they should be taken literally. Just one example of many I could have chosen, Luke 1:1-4, "Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught." In this example, we even have the name of the person that the account was written for. This was never intended to be taken anything but literally and yet Spong loudly insists that the opposite is true.

Spong makes a great deal of the apparent contradictions between the four Gospels, yet seems unable to consider that this would have been apparent to the early Christians that collected them together. They were not stupid. They could have simply merged the accounts together to produce a single Gospel but they clearly decided that each Gospel brings out important difference aspects of the events. They were not afraid of the differences, clearly understanding what Spong doesn't, that four different accounts of the same events will inevitably have differences. We need to focus on what is the same rather than get hung up on what is different.

Spong plumbs new depths when he asserts, without a shred of evidence, that Paul was homosexual. It's quite possible, but by no means certain, that the personal struggles that Paul recounts in some of his letters were sexual but there's nothing to suggest that Paul was struggling with homosexual urges. Many pious men struggle with sexual urges. They are not by definition homosexual urges just because they are being resisted. This is, I'm afraid, simply a rather pathetic attempt to scandalise conservative Christians and sensationalise his book, no doubt in the hope gaining more attention and sales.

However, the most significant problem with Spong's book is a logical failing. Spong doesn't believe in the incarnation, the virgin birth, the resurrection, any of the Gospel miracles, the forgiveness of sins, the trinity etc, etc. I could go on. Spong appears to accept nothing of established Christian theology, with one exception - that Jesus had, in some sense known only to Spong, a special relationship to God. And yet the only source of information about Jesus we have is the Bible. If, as Spong asserts, the accounts in the Gospels were fabricated, then why should we accept anything in them? It's all a complete fraud. Spong saws off the branch he is sitting on. It is, frankly, idiotic and he should know better. When an atheist dismisses the miracles, he has at least some semblance of a logical argument because he does not accept the existence of God. However, Spong is a believer. God created the universe and everything in it, including the laws of nature. This creator, if he chose to, could interfere with the laws. The author of the play can change the words halfway through the run on Broadway. He's the author. It's his story.

A good book should illuminate and yet Spong sows only confusion. I have seen the result of Spong's illogical and confused thinking many times in people around me. People who struggle with challenging parts of the Bible and end up, like Spong, creating there own customised versions of the accounts. Inevitably, because this stance cannot be intellectually rationalised, defensive and insecure Christians are created. If you want illumination, go to wiser authors like C.S. Lewis or Timothy Keller.

The Bible accounts of Jesus are either true or they are false. You have to decide. If you decide they are true, your life will be transformed but there will still be many challenges in trying to understand what God is saying to us in scripture. However, you will certainly discover truth if you trust the author ....
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wisdom of Bishop Jack, 28 Mar 2013
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This review is from: Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture (Paperback)
A simple and straightforward guide helping people see that the word of God is not a book but a person.
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