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Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile Paperback – 26 Apr 2001

3.7 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; New Ed edition (26 April 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060675365
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060675363
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.7 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 305,879 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


"This is an important contribution to the Christian dilemma of our time. With reverence, courage, and compassion, Bishop Spong helps his readers to articulate their difficulties with the conception of God and, in so doing, to take the first step toward a creative resolution." -- Karen Armstrong, author of "A History of God""Bishop Spong is a passionate, illuminating original. His knowledgeable concern for the future of Christianity offers strength, hope, and theological solutions." -- Clarissa Pinkola Est?s, Ph.D., author of "Women Who Run with the Wolves, The Gift of Story, " and "The Faithful Gardener""Should be required reading for everyone concerned with facing head-on the intellectual and spiritual challenges of late-twentieth-century religious life." -- Karen L. King, Harvard Divinity School "Spong demolishes the stifling dogma of traditional Christianity in search of the inner core of truth. This book is a courageous, passionate attempt to build a credible theology for a skeptical, scientific age." -- Paul Davies, author of "The Mind of God""This is Spong's manifesto, offering his vision for the institution he made his career serving." -- "Library Journal"

About the Author

John Shelby Spong, the Episcopal Bishop of Newark before his retirement in 2000, has been a visiting lecturer at Harvard and at more than 500 other universities all over the world. His books, which have sold well over a million copies, include Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Heresy; The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic; Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World; Eternal Life: A New Vision; Jesus for the Non-Religious, The Sins of Scripture, Resurrection: Myth or Reality?; Why Christianity Must Change or Die; and his autobiography, Here I Stand. He writes a weekly column on the web that reaches thousands of people all over the world. To join his online audience, go to He lives with his wife, Christine, in New Jersey.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on 16 Aug. 1999
Format: 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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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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