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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An account of spirituality by a Christian realist
Eternal Life: A New Vision, beyond religion, beyond theism, beyond heaven and hell by John Shelby Spong, HarperCollins, 2009, 288 ff.

An account of spirituality by a Christian realist
By Howard Jones

John Shelby Spong was formerly the Bishop of the Episcopal Church Diocese of Newark, New Jersey. In a country in which we hear much from...
Published on 25 Jun 2011 by Dr. H. A. Jones

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bishop Spong's Debunking of the Christian Faith
Bishop Spong is a man with a mission - to disabuse Christians and non-Christians of old-fashioned theological ideas and replace them with something modern. This leads him in the case of this book to attempt a very ambitious ground-level up debunking of just about every doctrine of traditional theology. 'Debunking' may seem a harsh judgement considering how ambitious his...
Published on 6 Mar 2012 by Rev. C. V. Smith


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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An account of spirituality by a Christian realist, 25 Jun 2011
By 
Dr. H. A. Jones "Howard Jones" (Wales, UK) - See all my reviews
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Eternal Life: A New Vision, beyond religion, beyond theism, beyond heaven and hell by John Shelby Spong, HarperCollins, 2009, 288 ff.

An account of spirituality by a Christian realist
By Howard Jones

John Shelby Spong was formerly the Bishop of the Episcopal Church Diocese of Newark, New Jersey. In a country in which we hear much from Creationist, fundamentalist and born-again Christians, Bishop Spong is that relative rarity - a liberal Christian. This book was written when he was nearly an octogenarian, so he has a whole lifetime's experience of the Church to reflect on. He had already written over twenty books on religious themes.

Unlike many mediums who claim to have knowledge of the afterlife from their spirit guides, Spong believes such knowledge is impossible - until we get there ourselves. His aim is to reshape Christianity in such a way that it has full regard for the developments in science over the last few centuries, because that is the only form in which it can survive. He wraps his ideas into a story that is essentially autobiographical. He does not attempt to moderate the fundamentalist or convert the atheist: he is concerned with addressing those Christians whose faith has been shaken by the claims of the extremists and scientists alike.

Bishop Spong is obviously trying to find an interpretation of the Christian religion that is more rational, without destroying the essential elements of the faith. In keeping with much New Age philosophy he realises that the God of western religion is no longer tenable: `There is no supernatural God who lives above the sky or beyond the universe.' This is the God of western religion. This statement also implies that talk of Jesus as the Son of God incarnate is equally specious. Spong sees religion as performing the vital human task of protecting us against the emotional traumas of our existence, but accepts that it does so through myth. While Darwin's theory of evolution is not verifiable in the way that Newton's laws of motion are, it is still the most likely and comprehensive story of the development of living species - certainly more rational than the account in Genesis. Surprisingly for a cleric, Spong endorses the contemporary biological view of the origin of life as accidental. He therefore also dismisses any idea of the conditions on Earth being shaped by a deity to promote human development - the anthropic principle as it is called.

Ideas of the virgin birth and God-wrought miracles were never more than myths, he says. He believes that scripture was created for specific peoples at particular times and places in human history and was never intended as incontestable God-given truth: `Truth is not religion's ultimate agenda; security is. That insight alone makes sense out of the many rationally absurd claims that religions and religious people make.' Indeed, Spong talks of the bankruptcy of religion: `Secularism is on the rise everywhere', not because the West is morally bankrupt but because it has the intelligence to embrace the rationalism of science.

The afterlife is not a realm of reward and punishment but is a state of further spiritual development: `heaven' and `hell' are merely `religion's weapons of choice in this life' as reward and punishment. The book explores many more of the fundamental questions of human existence. For example, Spong asks: ` can God really be anything other than a figment of our imagination, created in our own image . . .?' Spong wonders if our fear of death, which we inflict on animals and plants constantly to provide us with food and shelter, or for the advancement of medicine, is a major reason why religious people reject the idea of our evolution as part of the animal world - to provide some distance between us and them. Does religion encourage us to hide from reality with its fantasies?

How refreshing and uplifting it is to read the views of a man clearly devoted to his faith but who sees no need for the antagonism between his religion and science or rational thought. This is a highly recommendable book to the open-minded reader interested in the science and religion, or faith and reason debate. Spong continues where the English former bishop, John Robinson, left off.

Dr Howard A. Jones is the author of The Thoughtful Guide to God (2006) and The Tao of Holism (2008), both published by O Books of Winchester, U.K.; and The World as Spirit published by Fairhill Publishing, Whitland, West Wales, 2011.

What the Bible Really Teaches: About Crucifixion, Resurrection, Salvation, the Second Coming and Eternal Life, by Keith Ward
Honest to God, by John A.T. Robinson (SCM Classics)
The Perennial Philosophy, by Aldous Huxley
God in Us: A Case for Christian Humanism, by John Shelby Spong
God in Us: A Case for Christian Humanism, by Anthony Freeman
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Journey to a 21st Century Christianity, 15 Nov 2009
By 
Jean Newbold - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Eternal Life: A New Vision: Beyond Religion, Beyond Theism, Beyond Heaven and Hell (Paperback)
In my opinion this is Bishop Spong's best book which,unfortunately,he says will be his last.As a searcher for a more relevant spirituality,I have not been disappointed.I have read it twice straight through mainly on the bus going to work,which isn't an easy thing to do but I found it so gripping I didn't hear other people's mobile phones or loud conversations.Briefly,it is the story of Bishop Spong's lifelong faith journey.This journey has taken him through and beyond religion to a much more meaningful understanding of human life with its unique self conscious awareness. He explains so clearly the role religion has played so far in shaping human belief in God,death and the afterlife and shows how so much religious language and out of date thinking about these deep mysteries makes little sense in our contemporary scientific world and must be re-articulated in a more time relevant way.Spong strives to do exactly this in the final chapters of this book.He gives me hope.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting criticism of traditional Christian beliefs., 12 Aug 2011
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C. J. Green - See all my reviews
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I found his criticism of traditional Christian beliefs and church rituals interesting, particularly as I am a non-church goer but someone seeking a sensible meaning. But his "new vision" is rather uncertain - which I suppose makes sense in that really no-one can know what comes after death. Worth reading but don't expect a really new illuminating viewpoint.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing and ahead of its time, 17 April 2012
By 
CJ Craig (UK) - See all my reviews
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John Shelby Spong has been ahead of his time in his thinking and reflecting on Christianity today and the future this faith may need to take if it is to survive. I saw recently that N.T Wright has also written that perhaps there is no "heaven out there" and that heaven is overlayed earth so we had better do more during our earthly lives to establish heaven on earth rather than waiting for entrance through the pearly gates (which may not exist at all). Spong is certainly more positive than Jack Mahoney in his new book Christianity in Evolution: An Exploration whereby he posits that some folk don't get an afterlife at all. He sees them as simply going into non-existence. This may be the case, although I thought it was a fact that no energy is ever lost, but that's a whole other subject.
Spong sort of sets the path that others are now picking up. Not to say that I agree with everything he writes but he gets you thinking. He challenges all the easy beliefs one may hold onto without ever really thinking about them. And even if you decide he is dead wrong, at least you have firmed up your reasons as to why he is wrong.
He writes easily so your reading is effortless. This makes the reflection part smoother since you are drawn into thinking about various topics without having to struggle with what the author is trying to say.
All in all, a good book and definitely one to stimulate thought and discussion. Great for church reading groups or bible study groups. But also good if you don't really believe anything and just need more information for your discussions with believers.
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5.0 out of 5 stars a wonderful new vision, 30 Oct 2013
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JSS writes what I already know and think many others do to. Religion has to go and God has to be rediscovered in a new way. Thank you JSS for your honesty and integrity may your words spread far and wide and help us all to achieve the transformation we need to know God.
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5.0 out of 5 stars John Shelby Spong's Brilliant Mind Again!, 26 Sep 2013
By 
J. Malecki "Jurek" (Poland) - See all my reviews
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I love to listen to John Shelby Spong's talks... we are fortunate now to have access to lots of them through YouTube. Also, I think that the author's writing skills are equally exquisite, and have no problem confessing I have all his books. I gave the book a maximum rating... and please note that my evaluation is probably skewed by the fact that I just find the author and his mind really fascinating and getting better with each work.

In this context, my criticism is directed specifically against what seems to be a redundant use of Christian or Biblical vocabulary. I think John Shelby Spong has as much in common with traditional mainstream Christianity as Christian Science or Course in Miracles.

Author's brilliant imagination combined with delightful reframing skills generate truly fascinating story which does not need to be linked to any tradition - I think it deserves attention and recognition on its own rights.

Although I did not find this time that much of the fresh and new patterns as advertised, those less familiar with more advanced aspects of Vedanta or even Buddhism, would find here some refreshing rehashing of the elements of those traditions presented here in a more western way.

So, while I have not found too much new things under the Sun in this book (in fact, I do not agree there is any really new vision presented there), I still believe it is another brilliant example of John Shelby Spong mind operating at full speed, which makes it a read worthy book again!!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Eternal Life, 22 Dec 2011
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J. CURTIS - See all my reviews
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Bishop Spong - for an ex-Protestant Bishop has at last seen the way to go (and I've read most of his books)- Yes - to the mystical interpretation of the Fourth Gospel (and a non-historical interpretation of the others) - that's it - he points the way and says others can take it forward. This is music to mine ears. It's worth buying for page 165-171 - rest good too.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars provocative opinion, 29 July 2010
This review is from: Eternal Life: A New Vision: Beyond Religion, Beyond Theism, Beyond Heaven and Hell (Paperback)
If you ever wonder why we are here and what life is all about I recommend reading this book. It poses questions about you and what you think at the same time as giving you some substance to work on. An interesting read for all I think, no matter what your age or belief.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bishop Spong's Debunking of the Christian Faith, 6 Mar 2012
By 
Rev. C. V. Smith (Merseyside) - See all my reviews
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Bishop Spong is a man with a mission - to disabuse Christians and non-Christians of old-fashioned theological ideas and replace them with something modern. This leads him in the case of this book to attempt a very ambitious ground-level up debunking of just about every doctrine of traditional theology. 'Debunking' may seem a harsh judgement considering how ambitious his objectives are and how good his intentions, but I was constantly irritated by simplistic arguments adduced to caricature, discredit and misinterpret aspects of the faith, arguments which were familiar from the works of Richard Dawkins. At times I had to check the top of the page, expecting it to say 'The God Delusion'. In particular Bishop Spong's elevated view of the supposedly devastating effect of 'modern science' on Christian belief is something not easily understood by those of us who have no great problems in that area. The conclusion - what we may expect by way of eternal life re-interpreted - was no more able to put the ineffable into words than the familiar metaphors of the New Testament. This is not to say it was not worth trying if only to get away from the prospect of heaven as an interminable church service, but I don't think a new vision can stand comfortably on such a negative platform as the preceding chapters furnish.
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