Item description for Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture by John Shelby Spong...
Overview Drawing on recent scholarship and personal studies, an Episcopal bishop argues against interpretation of the Bible as literal truth and explains how to make it vital and relevant to twentieth-century life
Publishers Description Bishop Spong proposes a pastoral response based on scripture and history to the changing realities of the modern world. He calls for a moral vision to empower the church with inclusive teaching about equal, loving relationships.
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John Shelby Spong was the Episcopal Bishop of Newark before his retirement in 2000. As a visiting lecturer at Harvard and at universities and churches throughout the English-speaking world, he is one of the leading spokespersons for liberal Christianity. His books include Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World, Jesus for the Non-Religious, A New Christianity for a New World, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, Why Christianity Must Change or Die and his autobiography, Here I Stand. He has initiated landmark discussions of controversies within the church and has become an outspoken advocate for change.
John Shelby Spong currently resides in Newark, in the state of New Jersey. John Shelby Spong was born in 1931.
Reviews - What do customers think about Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture?
An excellent overview of biblical scholarship Oct 30, 2007
When I looked at this on this site, I KNEW that the reviews would be polarized. There are people who don't know anything about biblical scholarship who will give it five stars automatically, because it's all eye opening. There are devout Christians who don't want the scholarship to be true who will give it one star no matter how accurate the contents are.
On top of that, there were people who complained that the scholarship was poor, or that it was introductory only, or even some who complained that it was not relevant in the modern world (the bible is 1900 years old, how "modern" do you have to be?).
The book is exactly as advertised. The introduction says it clearly that it is introductory biblical scholarship and there any biblical scholar would find it boring or elementary. I can't fault the book for that and would dismiss any reviews that do.
The book is an overview of modern biblical scholarship (focusing more on the new testament than old) discussing when and where the particular book was written and what conditions were for the author. He also discusses the author's target audience.
While I have read more detailed analysis, few of them are more readable. It is a gentle introduction.
Even though it is introductory, it has details in it that I haven't read elsewhere that I found quite interesting.
No one would argue that it is a liberal view of Christianity, so if you aren't a liberal Christian, you may disagree with some of the statements. Most likely, those to do with the resurrection and the virgin birth would probably be offensive.
If you are looking for in-depth, authoritative analysis of the bible from a linguistics and historical point of view, look elsewhere. If you are looking for an easy introduction to the bible and know very little about it, it's one of the best books available.
Personally, I felt comforted that there are devout Christians out there as reasonable as Spong is.
From A Thinker Comes Words The Christian World Needs To Hear! Oct 8, 2007
Biblical literalists insisting that theirs is the only way to correctly understand/interpret the Bible turn many a would-be believer into one who runs in the opposite direction-quickly. Not to mention the fact that that those who believe in the complete inerrancy of the bible, usually act in less than gracious ways, i.e. "You don't believe like me, well then you're goin to hell, buddy." And what troubles me most is that they almost seem to like saying it.
But in this book, John Shelby Spong takes the Bible and reveals a living, breathing work. He speaks of the first century Christians as those who struggled with limited understanding of the laws of nature, and a theology in transition from law to grace. Spong eloquently and with great conviction reveals a God who wants to be involved with His creation, rather than a stern, demanding autocrat issuing edicts, requiring blood atonements, and self-hate.
As a Christian, I am not proud that through the centuries every bit of emotional, technological, and social progress was in spite of Christianity instead because of it. What did the church say when it was discovered that earth wasn't flat? Heresy! How did the church handle slavery? Not very well. How did the church handle women being eclesiastically involved? Terribly. When science sought discovery, instead of being enlightened, most Christians were threatened. The result? Thinking men and women of all times turned away from a wonderful, life-giving faith in God because religionists insisted it was their way or the highway.
Thankfully, that type of thinking seems to be waning. Or is it? Unfortunately, some politicians of the right-wing variety insist on marrying fundamentalism with politics for their own purposes. But the fact remains that no matter who says it or how large their number, you can't "scare" someone into a true relationship. If your primary fear is one of burning in a tormenting hell for eternity, then you have basically been manipulated. Nothing genuine then comes from the heart because your motivation is based on fear rather than love.
Jesus Christ brought a new concept of God and religion to the human race. He did not follow the accepted religious laws of His time. He took on the scribes and pharisees-constantly questioning, probing, teaching through parables, and loving the unlovable. It got him the cross. And many Christians have been crucifying him anew with ungracious theology in His name.
John Shelby Spong will challnege you to think of God and Jesus Christ in a whole new way. Past all the creeds, dogmas, and superstitions, God still waits with outstretched arms for a relationship with His children. This book is an excellent way of coming to understand a God of grace who bestows His love unconditionally and whose mercy endures forever.
Thank you, Bishop Spong.
Sometimes scholarly, sometimes atheistic Jan 10, 2007
Spong has some valid points in this book. He accurately notes discrepancies between what literalists of the bible quote and what they ignore. This part of the book is an eye opener and provides food for thought. After establishing himself as an expert at picking the bible apart, however, Spong makes some claims that have little or no scholarly basis. For example, after establishing inconsistencies in the written text of the bible, he then completely discounts all of the miracles of in the bible claiming that they are not "scientific" enough. The tendency for some people reading this (and the danger therein) is that once readers accept Spong as an authority on scripture, they will accept anything he says, including statements he makes in a blanket fashion without supporting evidence. I, personally, agree that his concerns with taking everything from the bible literally are valid, yet I see no reason to think that every single miracle listed in the bible is therefore a lie.
An Important Study. Aug 25, 2006
It is interesting that many Churches place much emphasis on the strict and literal interpretation of the Bible. Isaac Asimov pointed out that the whole reason Jesus clashed with the Jewish authorities was because while they placed strict emphasis on keeping with the strict letter of the law, Jesus' mentality was that it was alright to deviate from the written law if it meant doing a greater good. EXAMPLE: In the Gospel According to John, a woman is going to be stoned for adultery. "Levitivus" 20:10 and "Deuteronomy" 22:22 clearly state death as the punishment for adultery. And Jesus of course told them anyone who was without sin could begin the execution: "...He that is without sin amongst you, let him first cast a stone at her" (John 8:7). (None of them could.) Paul even warns us about taking the Bible too literally in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians: "...the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life" (2nd Corinthians 3:6). While Bishop Spong explains that the differences between the 4 Gospels often frustrate people, he explains that it shouldn't. The reason is that the 4 Gospels were written for different audiences. Mark basically wrote his Gospel based on the teachings of Peter. Matthew wrote his Gospel in a way that compared Jesus to Moses. He was writing for the Jewish populations, and he wanted to emphasize that Christianity was the fulfillment of Judaism. Matthew also liked to dramatize things. Luke wrote in a memorable and beautiful way. His goal was to make peace with the Jews who became followers of Christ and the Gentiles who became followers of Christ. John's Gospel is on the hostile side. This is because at the time John wrote, many of the followers of Christ were being expelled from the Jewish places of worship. And John wrote in a hostile manner to show the early Christians that God would not be angry at them for leaving their former places of worship. All in all, this is a great book that belongs in the library of any Christian.
Lots of truth in this little book Jul 23, 2006
Bishop Spong does a great job in this book leading the reader out of blind faith fundamentalism into a more educated and thoughtful truth. He discusses the impact the Apostle Paul had on the Christian Myth, how each of the 4 gospels was written for a a specific purpose and the the real origins of Easter and Christmas and how Chrisitianity was made to fit into them. This is one of the main books that finaly lead me out of 10 years of ignorant Christian Fundamentalism. I highly recommend reading this book if you would like to know the true value of the Bible with out the mythology.