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Eternal Life: A New Vision: Beyond Religion, Beyond Theism, Beyond Heaven and Hell Paperback – 1 Oct 2010

4.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; Reprint edition (1 Oct. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060778423
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060778422
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.7 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 72,452 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

“In Spong’s perpetual quest for truth and knowledge, he has transformed the enigmatic cosmic energy of the ‘big bang’ into an afterglow of human hope for the ages.” (Daniel H. Gregory, M.D., Senior Attending Physician, Bassett Healthcare)

“Fear of death is the most fundamental fear of human existence. The only way it can be conquered is through knowledge and experience of your eternal being. Eternal Life: A New Vision is elegant invitation to find this part of yourself and be liberated.” (Deepak Chopra, author of The Third Jesus)

“His courage, candor and intense awareness are unique gifts to people both inside and outside Christianity at this critical time in human and planetary history.” (Matthew Fox, author of Original Blessing)

“This work, bound to be influential, offers new insights into religion’s big questions about life and death, making an invaluable contribution to both religious scholarship and faithful exploration.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Spong has spent his life and work making sense of this most fundamental human issue . . . His fans will find this spiritual autobiography fascinating, but so, too, should anyone interested in the still uncomfortable topics of death and mortality.” (Booklist)

“With subtlety and complexity, Spong promotes an idea of an ongoing existence beyond our physicality, one that entirely supercedes “religious” notions of Heaven or Hell and even conventional notions of God . . . Spong’s writing here as elsewhere is intelligent, engaged, comforting, and uplifting. ” (Library Journal)

“Spong once again puts his intellectual money on common sense . . . Religion’s purpose, he claims, is “security, not Truth” - a key insight that demands, in turn, a set of wholly new visions. . . . Spong . . . [is] a unique visionary.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

“John Shelby Spong, the reinterpreter of Christianity for the doubtful, retired as the Episcopal bishop of New Jersey in 2001 but not from his religious provocations. . . . People have to get beyond the idea of God as a heavenly judge who hands out rewards and punishment,.” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

“Eternal Life: A New Vision doesn’t actually give us a clear vision of eternal life at all. Spong would never do that.... Instead he frees us to dream a dream of what life, eternal or otherwise, might be.” (Central Coast Express)

“Spong invites us to engage the questions, to revel in the mystery, and finally to find our place within God’s place, our time within God’s time, and our life within God’s life.” (Anglican and Episcopal History)

From the Back Cover

Bishop John Shelby Spong, author of Jesus for the Non-Religious, Why Christianity Must Change or Die, Sins of Scripture, and many other books, is known for his controversial ideas and fighting for minority rights. In Eternal Life: A New Vision, a remarkable spiritual journey about his lifelong struggle with the questions of God and death, he reveals how he came to a new conviction about eternal life. God, says spong, is ultimately one, and each of us is part of that oneness. We do not live on after death as children who have been rewarded with heaven or punished with hell but as part of the life and being of God, sharing in God’s eternity, which is beyond the barriers of time and space. spong argues that the discovery of the eternal can be found within each of us if we go deeply into ourselves, transcend our limits and become fully human. By seeking God within, by living each day to its fullest, we will come to understand how we live eternally.

Always compelling and controversial, Spong, the leading Christian liberal and pioneer for human rights, wrestles with the question that all of us will ultimately face. In his final book, Spong takes us beyond religion and even beyond Christianity until he arrives at the affirmation that the fully realized human life empties into and participates in the eternity of God. The pathway into God turns out to be both a pathway into ourselves and a doorway into eternal life. To Job’s question “If a man (or a woman) dies, will he (or she) live again?” he gives his answer as a ringing yes!

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Customer 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.
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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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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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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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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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