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on 31 January 2003
A NEW CHRISTIANITY FOR A NEW WORLD represents the latest stage in the author's rapidly evolving vision of the future of Christianity. Spong begins by stating that theism is dead. God is not a supernatural being who can or does periodically intervene in the world. Our modern view of the natural order suggests that this is not possible.
Spong explains that theism was born in the beginning of civilization when people first experienced feeling unsafe and alone. Theism developed as a coping mechanism against trauma.
The author asserts that the theistic interpretation of Jesus was only added in the later Christian writings. Spong does not believe in much of the traditional Christian story. He does not believe in the virgin birth of Jesus or the idea that Jesus founded either a church or its sacraments. He says he does not have a problem with the faith - only with the literal way it is interpreted and described by some others.
Spong sees a need for a new faith that is not subject to the death of theism. God is real even though theism is dead. Can Christianity still live after theism is dead? It will, according to the author, if we are willing to move beyond our traditional ideas of Jesus.
Spong sees God as the source of all life, love and being. He views the church of the future as a place where worshipers will still seek the Holy and the Realm of God. They will search for an environment which allows them to increase their capabilities to love and embrace life to the fullest.
God is real and Jesus is the doorway into this reality. Spong still considers himself to be a Christian and he remains optimistic about the future. He is not sure where his new reformation will ultimately lead us but he is convinced we have to take the first step. If we do nothing, Spong believes that Christianity will surely die anyway.
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on 19 February 2008
Writing 2 years after exploring a non-theistic Christianity in Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile, Bishop Spong seems to have little to add to that work. An opportunity, perhaps, to re-state where he had come to in his thinking. A good chapter on the role theism had played historically in helping humankind deal with the trauma of self-consciousness and a challenge to any emergent Christianity that it be able to help us counter the hysteria that seems to be emerging due to the dying of theism. But little theological advance in this book and one wonders if one would do better to turn to Tillich, however less accessible he might be, or to Bonhoeffer. Is knowing God as "the Ground of All Being" adequate to sustain one? Is meeting Jesus as the Gospel writers presented him adequate to inspire? Spong seems unsure just what form any "New Christianity" will take although he seems to know what forms it should not take. Although committed still to his image of Jesus, he does not even seem certain whether Christianity will survive as a viable religion for those believers in exile he has sought to reach. Given that, it seem s surprising that he has not ventured away even a little from Jesus. He does speak of conversations with Buddhists and others, but he seems unwilling to let go of Christianity for a while and try Buddhism or any other faith. Were he, for example, to at least study and practice some form of Buddhism, say Chan Buddhism, he might see how that religion evolved so as to let go almost entirely of the historical Buddha, instead turning to creating legends of new Chinese Buddhas based on such Chan Buddhist masters as Hui-Neng and Lin-Chi.

Spong's attachment to his image of Jesus may be preventing his spiritual growth. Not that the life and death of Jesus and the stories that emerged of it are not important but that Spong may not be able to really see Christianity until he lets go of all of it. As it is, he seems to be desperately holding fast to his image of Jesus and unable to see how Christianity over the centuries may be something much more than Jesus.
Certainly a pearl may start in response to a grain of sand but it is the pearl that is beautiful and not the no longer seen grain of sand. Why try so hard to speculate on who Jesus was, even after abandoning the bodily resurrection and even the theistic conception of God? Spong may do well to turn his attention more thoroughly to Paul and the implications of his Christ experience as presented in his own letters. Spong's Jesus may be too much a matter of speculation and the next to be rejected by those very believers in exile to whom Spong appeals. If not a literal resurrection and not a literal God, why then such a literalized Jesus?
How selective has Spong been in forming the Jesus he presents? Perhaps Spong should focus on how he is able to respond to God and live more fully rather than keep trying to interpret the New Testament in a way that suits him better when he seems unsure himself what that way would be. Is Spong ready to advise others or is he struggling to work out a path for himself, a path that may lead him, despite his protestations to the contrary, beyond Jesus and beyond Christ? One might do well to read Thomas Altizer's much bolder forays in The New Gospel of Christian Atheism and Living the Death of God: A Theological Memoir. Spong needs to be bolder or many "believers in exile" will find guidance in others leaving only the timid to read Spong and believe they are being progressive by doing so: at least for the latter it may be a start.
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on 27 October 2007
One of the commonest responses to a journey into Jack Spong's theological world is the question: "What is left, which we might recognise as a church, when we've removed all the mythology and wiped away all the dubious interpretation from the Christian tradition?"

I was privileged to attend a series of Spong's lectures a couple of years ago and, as the week progressed, I became aware of a growing 'twitch' among the audience who steadily began to realise that significant chunks of what they identified as their tradition were visibly crumbling in Spong's hands as he held them up to the scrutiny of his thesis. In that same way, this book can have a fascinating yet rather unnerving effect.

The book is Spong's attempt to address the question of what is left of 'the church' when Christianity is stripped of its mythology and its various historical and political accretions. Spong also makes a brave attempt to consider what can be offered in place of the beliefs, structures and liturgies which have emerged from the theistic concepts which he targets.

As with much of Spong's work, we are on a journey with him towards a destination which is not yet reached, probably not yet even fully constructed when you read how many aspects of Spong's post-theistic 'church' he acknowledges as unknown and unknowable. But it's a journey well worth starting and a territory well worth exploring - strange and unnerving though it may be for those of us prone to the odd 'twitch' when our familiar foundations start to crumble.

I would love to see a working model of a cohesive, post-theistic Christian 'ekklesia' which reflects some of Spong's core ideas. My suspicion is that his vision is something which is much easier to embrace as a private theology than it is to develop as a community-based faith - in effect, a personal journey rather than a shared pursuit. This is a critical factor for those who professionally manage those 'shared pursuits' which we presently call 'churches'.

I'm sure Spong will have more to say on this, and I do hope some inspiring models will emerge to show us a way forward.

Philip Jones
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on 1 August 2002
Having read several of Bishop Spong's books, I would commend this one as by far his best for those seeking a kind of overview of the current state of Christianity and why it must reform its theology of it is to survive in any relevant or useful form. Of particular importance is Bishop Spong's very clear discussion of theism and how we must transcend it in the contempoary world.
Bishop Spong is to be commended for offering us these fruits of his long ministry, culminating in his recent lectures at Harvard University.
Anyone who cares about Christianity and its future is urged to read this book.
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on 22 May 2002
Bishop Spong has a reputation for being the 'atheist bishop'. This book repudiates such simplistic labelling. It is a wonderfully humane and spiritual book that does not flinch from the key issues that face the Christian Church today. Whether you are a Christian, a member of another faith, or a Humanist, you will benefit from a thoughtul reading of this tome.
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on 9 April 2013
So much of what the Bishop writes makes sense to me - I found myself saying 'yes' so often, and thanking him for at last writing about the Christian faith realistically in the face of modern science - but I fear that his 'non-theistic' idea leaves me little reason for bothering. God's non-involvement with our affairs makes a living faith pretty untenable, as Jesus as a prophet is all I end up with.
Is this 'much ado about nothing?'
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on 27 March 2016
This book is not to be recommended. It is a travesty of biblical Chrictianity. I only bought it to be informed about the author.
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on 10 May 2008
I was disappointed with this book. From the title and the cover, I expected a positive book that seeks to restore Christianity to its roots, of mission and serving the community. While these themes are explored to some extent, the main part of the book is seeking to argue that there is no "theistic" God, that most of the Bible is untrue and unreliable, and that traditional Christians are wrong.

I think the problem with the book is that many of the criticisms he levels against traditional Christianity could be levelled at his own views. For example, he sails dangerously close to certainty, in a way that could be seen as fundamentalism, if for the liberal side of Christianity.

I can see that this book would be an interesting read for atheists or those seriously dissillusioned with Christianity. It also raises interesting questions for 'traditional' Christians. However it wasn't an argument that gripped me or convinced me.
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on 10 September 2015
Delighted to receive the above and in very good condition. Am enjoying reading it at present. nora maher
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on 6 January 2016
A challenging book which has made me think deeply about what I can honestly believe.
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