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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Who knows the truth?
As a non-Christian reading this book, I felt as though Bishop Spong came as close as anyone in my past to making me understand Christ and Christianity. Had he been influential earlier in my life, I may even have chosen Christianity!
Bishop Spong has "Rattled a Few Cages" in his most recent book, cages that needed rattling. No one knows "the...
Published on 16 Aug 1999

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I must say I was disappointed with this book. I had hoped that Bishop Spong would give more direction to what he sees as the future of Christianity but I found this sorely missing from these pages. There is much personal experience of his own journey and what he finds hard about Christianity today, but there is precious little definite as to how he sees Christianity...
Published on 4 Mar 2012 by CJ Craig


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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Who knows the truth?, 16 Aug 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile (Paperback)
As a non-Christian reading this book, I felt as though Bishop Spong came as close as anyone in my past to making me understand Christ and Christianity. Had he been influential earlier in my life, I may even have chosen Christianity!
Bishop Spong has "Rattled a Few Cages" in his most recent book, cages that needed rattling. No one knows "the truth" of whatever god/gods there be, yet one that is accepting and loving and is within us rather than "out in space" somewhere is certainly an appealing thought to consider.
Don't read this book unless you can handle a challenging read.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An engaging look into the future of the Christian faith, 24 July 1998
By A Customer
Why do you believe what you believe? This is a question that many people are ill-equipped to answer because they've been taught that it should never be asked. Faith is sufficient for some. Experience is the authority to which many appeal. Tradition makes sure that we don't stray far from the thoughts of the past. Often, our most cherished beliefs are grounded in little more than a desire to hold them or our fear of the consequences of the contrary. Into such a mix of certainty and uncertainly has ventured Bishop John Shelby Spong of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark. To some, he is the epitome of everything that is wrong with the "modern" church. Over the past 20 years, and more publically over the past 10, he has sought to skewer every sacred cow in the belief-system of "orthodox" Christianity, of which he says, "To be called an orthodox Christian does not mean that one's point of view is right. It only means that this point of view w! on out in the ancient debate."
Although Bishop Spong's conclusions are not original with his own thinking, he has systematically examined the nature of human sexuality, the Bible, the ideas of virgin birth and resurrection, and the nature of Jesus with the lens of rationality, scholarship, and a concern that the church is perpetuating ideas that make it less possible for people to have a serious commitment to the Christian faith in a modern, technological world. Bishop Spong has asked believers to take seriously the question of why they believe what they believe and to not be cowed when they find that some of what they have taken "for granted" has little else upon which to stand.
With his latest book Bishop Spong has moved beyond the realm of talking to seekers in church and directly addresses those who have left the church behind, even if they're still physically present. Although his critics dispute the claim, Bishop Spong says that the book is, "! ...a work of faith and conviction...as one who desires to w! orship as a citizen of the modern world and to be able to think as I worship." Throughout the 250 pages which follow, Bishop Spong identifies those Christian concepts which he claims are rooted in the "tribal identity" of an earlier time, not in any external or eternal reality. He identifies the ways in which the maintenance of those claims has strained under the history of human thought and scientific discovery. He goes ahead, then, to assert that a living, powerful Christian faith is possible, without the literal acceptance of the ideas that many people would consider to be essential to any religion.
Bishop Spong claims that such deconstruction is necessary because within and without the church there are those who use language which they "know" no longer speaks truth but for which there are few alternatives. Of such believers, he writes, "They refuse to abandon the reality of God, yet they have been driven by forces over which they have ! no control to sacrifice much of the content of that God reality. So they are left with an almost contentless concept, which must be allowed to find a new meaning or it will die."
Bishop Spong's book is not for the "weak of heart!" He consistently overstates his case, in often dramatic terms, leaving himself open to critics who want to literalize the extremity of his views. He also makes sweeping conclusions based on appeals to scholarship that can even leave sympathetic readers scratching their heads at some of his lines of thought. But what Bishop Spong does well, in an engaging and easy to read fashion, is state the case for a "post-Christian" Christian faith that seeks to integrate many of the common understandings of theological and Biblical scholarship with the "facts of life" as we enter the 21st century. What he stops short of doing is providing easy answers for what comes next.
This book is part of a larger effort by Bishop S! pong to engage his church and other concerned persons in a ! new dialogue about what the church is and how Christian faith should be expressed. Coinciding with the release of this book, Bishop Spong also released a "Call for a New Reformation" in which he challenges the church to a new debate over it's fundamental doctrines
Those who are certain of what they believe and feel that "orthodox" Christian tradition has expressed eternal truths for all time and all people will be enraged by this book. Those who find themselves bothered by blanket appeals to "tradition" and "scripture," when those appeals take precedence over rationality and common sense, will likely find Bishop Spong's book an interesting excursion into an "alternative" future for Christianity that they might never have thought possible. Those who have dismissed Christianity as anachronistic may be pleasantly surprised by the future that Bishop Spong envisions. Bishop Spong's own assessment is that, "...the world ca! n judge my contribution as to whether it destroyed the old or created the new...I am content to let the passage of time make that determination."
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very thought provoking account, 15 Mar 2004
By 
Amazon Customer (New Malden, Surrey United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile (Paperback)
What a brave and challenging book. I can see Spong's honesty in trying to strip away years of built up doctrine and belief that seems at odds with human logic and reason. He does not spend long amounts of time dealing with scholarly issues, but accepts things such as changes to the Bible over time and the issues related to the council of Nicea. Instead of bickering and debating Spong acknowledges issues and then deals provides solutions. He discusses things such as the church's objection to all sceintific discoveries that oppose its view of the world.
After reading this book i felt Christianity could perhaps evolve using a blueprint similar to this, and i felt forces within it were moving towards this more logical approach. My recent experience with Christians,however, has shown to me the problems they face without Spong's foward thinking.
Some of Spong's writings related to Jesus dying for the sins of the world, and also the idea of him being God incarnate are very bold and presented in a no-nonsense style. He rejects all these ideas and in very plain terms. His viewpoint on other religions is also very healthy to see and read. His views may annoy and offend the orthodox clergy, but for the people of this world what he says is a relief to hear.
Spong writes towards the end that history may show later that this book of his does not go far enough, to me the book goes a bit too far in places. During his demolition act of Christianity he also does away with a God that influences things in this world, and also does away with heaven and hell. This is my personal view, others may feel his vision should have gone further.
I hope this voice being raised in the Christian world will be listened to.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's time to give up "childish things.", 31 May 1998
By A Customer
This is a very moving and wise book. It is strong spiritual meat for those who are ready to give up "childish things," as St. Paul said. Bishop Spong refreshingly realizes that Christianity has a credibility problem. The Church has to start over again. It must stop thinking in terms of an old man in the sky, a supernatural Santa Claus who will swoop down to save us from natural disasters, illness, death, and the consequences of our own stupidity. It has to stop trying to impose moral prohibitions that have nothing to do with the truths of human biology and psychology, or with true justice and compassion. Freedom, knowledge, and wisdom must be our new commandments; our knowledge of God will based upon the truths revealed in our humanity, in which God truly exists. His style is powerful, clear, and sometimes lyrical. This is a great book by someone who speaks compassionately in a language we non-Christians can understand. I hoped to find in it some common ground from which believers and non-believers could begin a dialogue, and I was not disappointed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent thought piece, 30 Aug 1998
By A Customer
I'm retired military, and part of our ethic has been to "train as you fight, fight as you train." This is the best preparation for the troops. Otherwise, what you prepare for may not match the reality of what you confront.
Bishop Spong is essentially arguing the same point with regard to the fate of Christianity. (OK, I'm stretching the analogy.) The Gospels and Paul's letters, which he reviews quite well, were written when the metaphors and images told a story relevant to the world view of the time. The Christian message -- with (I agree) a powerful spirit experience behind it -- communicated well and spread. People understood and benefited from it. It made sense.
Now, the "training" offered in those images doesn't work. Our world view is different, more expansive and comprehensive. So, Christianity is dying, despite the strident defenses of our traditionalist friends. 100 years from now, the point will be even more clear.
Yet, the spirit (as Spong adroitly and in my judgment correctly defines it) remains as vital as at the beginning. How then do we make it relevant? Spong's answer: let's wade through the flotsam and get back to basics. Focus on the message behind the myth. Train ourselves in the spirit as we live today, not as we lived 200 years ago. After all, we no longer wear togas (at least routinely).
Although he waxes into polemics in a few places (notably the first chapter), Spong poses some vary compelling and good questions. All thinking Christians, whether they consider themselves in exile or not, should read this book.
For those interested in learning more on the same topic, I have found authors of comparable intelligence (though perhaps slightly differing views), include E.P. Sanders, John P. Meier, and John Dominic Crossan.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At Last!! HOPE!!!! An awesomely inspiring book!, 20 Oct 1998
By A Customer
This was the most inspiring book I've ever read concerning Christianity. I have read the bible from cover to cover, more than once. I was raised in the Roman Catholic church and converted to Pentacostal when I was a teenager. In recent years I began to question the teachings of organized religion and as a result developed an interest in religion, philosophy and history. I then identified as an atheist, but more recently have begun to understand myself as a "seeker of truth". As I was reading Bishop Spong's book, I kept thinking, "this is my thought exactly", and "wow, I didn't think there was anyone who would understand where I'm at in my own spiritual journey", and "I have to meet this man".
I'm still not quite sure I will ever believe in "God" again; Christianity just does not make any sense at all to me. However, I feel that Bishop Spong is inspiring Hope where there was none. I hope that many people will embrace Bishop Spong and his new insight with a sense of awestruck inspiration and hope.
Thank you, Bishop Spong! If a godly man ever lived, you are he. Please continue to write. I intend to read every word you have written thus far.
I found this book to be quite readable. Bishop Spong's ideas were presented in a very understandable way, asking very legitimate questions and providing reasonable answers which, at the very least, were thought provoking.
Anyone capable of truly thinking for her/himself will find this book a gold mine.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Can Christianity make sense and yet retain its power?, 18 Feb 2008
This review is from: Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile (Paperback)
Having jettisoned the need for a bodily resurrection of Jesus in Resurrection: Myth or Reality? : A Bishop's Search for the Origins of Christianity, Spong is now ready to jettison the theistic conception of God. Why the Christianity he want to leave behind must die he is not clear about: he may underestimate the desperation of those whose reactionary beliefs mask hysteria. What Christianity will change into he seems to be still struggling with ... and it is not up to him alone, of course, to determine what the new Christianity will be, as he is aware. It is to "believers in exile", those who have similarly rejected supernaturalism, that he turns to enlist the help of.

As earlier in Resurrection: Myth or Reality? : A Bishop's Search for the Origins of Christianity and later in A New Christianity for a New World: Why Traditional Faith is Dying & How a New Faith is Being Born, Spong continues to hold tightly to his image of Jesus. Although he appeals to Paul, his image of Christ also derives closely from his reading of the Gospels, such that he does not in this book dive deeply into Paul's theology. Indeed, in Resurrection: Myth or Reality? : A Bishop's Search for the Origins of Christianity most of his discussion related to Paul's letters is confined to one ten page chapter and in this book the two chapters with "Christ" in their titles mostly cover Christ as implied by the Jesus found in the Gospels. Although Spong points out that Paul "wrote that he was not concerned to know Christ from a human point of view (2 Cor 5:16)", it seems quite important to Spong to speculate, using the Gospels and his assumptions about the impact Jesus had on those who knew him, just who that personal Jesus was.

So anchored in the Jesus he believes he has met, Spong is ready to let go of the bodily resurrection and now the theistic conception of God and of the supernatural heaven and hell, requiring a new understanding of prayer, the basis of ethics and what eternal life might mean.

Spong is searching and inviting you to join his search so that what seems sacred can remain alive. He seems to be struggling but it seems a worthwhile struggle and one that his long role within the church, his long love of Christianity and his integrity equips him well to be a guide for.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There Is Still Hope, 14 July 2003
By 
Peter Kenney (Birmingham, Alabama, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile (Paperback)
John Shelby Spong has pointed out in WHY CHRISTIANITY MUST CHANGE OR DIE that the early church creeds were not completed until the last few decades of the third century and this was accomplished only after an intense theological debate among church leaders. Because of all that we have learned through science during the following seventeen centuries, many of the words of these antiquated creeds have become meaningless to us.
Countless Christians are now left without a supernatural parent figure in the sky able to intervene in their behalf. Some of these opt for the secular city while others try to carry on the struggle to maintain an increasingly weakened faith. It is the latter group in particular that Spong identifies as believers in exile whom he wishes to reach with a new message of hope.
Spong looks upon himself as a believer who is now living in exile. When he dies he expects to enter into another existence. Meanwhile he wants to invite other believers in exile to explore with him new possibilities of Christian worship and faith.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 4 Mar 2012
By 
CJ Craig (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
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This review is from: Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile (Paperback)
I must say I was disappointed with this book. I had hoped that Bishop Spong would give more direction to what he sees as the future of Christianity but I found this sorely missing from these pages. There is much personal experience of his own journey and what he finds hard about Christianity today, but there is precious little definite as to how he sees Christianity moving forward into the twenty-first century. The areas he covers are skirted over with little solid framework given. I would have thought a bishop who, even with his doubts and difficulties, has stayed in the mainstream church would offer more.
When I looked at his website I realized that perhaps one of the reasons he remains a bishop is because of the pulling power with the media this guarantees. And a heretical bishop is going to pull in more buyers than someone who resigns because he/she just doesn't believe anymore in the traditional line. Of course, if you want to read his latest offerings on his website you have to pay $10 USD a month. This, for me, was a dead giveaway that perhaps the bishop is more interested in cash flow than the future of christianity.
His earlier books are more honest; more real. Jesus for the Non-Religious is a much better book for those grappling with doubts about faith and christianity. It's probably better because it is concentrating on the faith that is inspired by Jesus (whether you believe him to be god or not doesn't really matter)rather than the institution that is Christianity.
This book though was not all that great for me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars not yet dead, 21 Sep 2007
This review is from: Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile (Paperback)
I have just re-read "Why Christianity must change or die" after an interval of years. The many questions the book asks still remain largely unanswered by the churches at which they are directed. The reconciliation of faith and reason that Spong seeks is still unresolved. The book remains a formidable challenge to Christian belief even though the author is better at questioning than answering his questions convincingly.
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