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Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile [Paperback]

By John Shelby Spong (Author)
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Item description for Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile by John Shelby Spong...

A spokesman for liberal Christianity argues that the Christian religion must move to a spirituality based on thought and love, and away from blind faith and damnation, discussing the dangers of fundamentalism, the role of women, and more. Reprint. Tour.

Publishers Description

An important and respected voice for liberal American Christianity for the past twenty years, Bishop John Shelby Spong integrates his often controversial stands on the Bible, Jesus, theism, and morality into an intelligible creed that speaks to today's thinking Christian. In this compelling and heartfelt book, he sounds a rousing call for a Christianity based on critical thought rather than blind faith, on love rather than judgment, and that focuses on life more than religion.

Citations And Professional Reviews
Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile by John Shelby Spong has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -

  • Publishers Weekly Best Books - 01/01/1998 page 48

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Item Specifications...

Studio: HarperOne
Pages   258
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8" Width: 5.44" Height: 0.98"
Weight:   0.5 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   May 1, 1999
Publisher   HarperOne
ISBN  0060675365  
ISBN13  9780060675363  
UPC  099455014007  

Availability  0 units.

More About John Shelby Spong

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! 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.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Authors, A-Z > ( S ) > Spong, John Shelby
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History > General
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Protestantism > Episcopalian > General
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Bible > General

Christian Product Categories
Books > Theology > Theology & Doctrine > General

Reviews - What do customers think about Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile?

Courageous critique of theism  Mar 28, 2008
Bishop Spong has undertaken an almost impossible task: he seeks to remain Christian while systematically dismantling the entire foundation of Christianity. He finds historical precedence for this enormous conceptual shift in the Exile of the Jews to Babylon. The foundations of Jewish faith were destroyed by the Exile and the Jews had to give up the core of their beliefs or else lose their faith entirely. And so Bishop Spong calls himself, and others who no longer hold to the Christian Creed, "Believers in Exile".

The Christian Creed is examined phrase by phrase and nearly each one is demolished by our modern scientific knowledge, and by simple logic. Is God "the Father"? Is God "Almighty"? This man who has spent his adult life in service to the Episcopal Church rejects these ideas as sexist, paternal, and observably wrong. The age-old Problem of Evil refutes the assertion that God is Almighty. I cannot possibly do justice to Spong's careful and powerful arguments, so I recommend to all those interested to simply read what he has to say. It's quite well written and approachable.

This book is not written for sincere believers, comfortable in their faith. Instead it is written for every thoughtful person who is having trouble reconciling the detailed knowledge mankind now has of the natural world with Christian faith as practiced in the modern world. Bishop Spong has found a Christianity that is beyond theism, as strange as that may sound. Yet his beautifully organized and detailed arguments make this choice quite reasonable, at least as reasonable as any other belief based on faith.
Can Christianity make sense and yet retain its power?   Feb 18, 2008
Having jettisoned the need for a bodily resurrection of Jesus in Resurrection: Myth or Reality? : A Bishop's Search for the Origins of Christianity, Spong is now ready to jettison the theistic conception of God. Why the Christianity he want to leave behind must die he is not clear about: he may underestimate the desperation of those whose reactionary beliefs mask hysteria. What Christianity will change into he seems to be still struggling with ... and it is not up to him alone, of course, to determine what the new Christianity will be, as he is aware. It is to "believers in exile", those who have similarly rejected supernaturalism, that he turns to enlist the help of.

As earlier in Resurrection: Myth or Reality? : A Bishop's Search for the Origins of Christianity and later in A New Christianity for a New World: Why Traditional Faith is Dying & How a New Faith is Being Born, Spong continues to hold tightly to his image of Jesus. Although he appeals to Paul, his image of Christ also derives closely from his reading of the Gospels, such that he does not in this book dive deeply into Paul's theology. Indeed, in Resurrection: Myth or Reality? : A Bishop's Search for the Origins of Christianity most of his discussion related to Paul's letters is confined to one ten page chapter and in this book the two chapters with "Christ" in their titles mostly cover Christ as implied by the Jesus found in the Gospels. Although Spong points out that Paul "wrote that he was not concerned to know Christ from a human point of view (2 Cor 5:16)", it seems quite important to Spong to speculate, using the Gospels and his assumptions about the impact Jesus had on those who knew him, just who that personal Jesus was.

So anchored in the Jesus he believes he has met, Spong is ready to let go of the bodily resurrection and now the theistic conception of God and of the supernatural heaven and hell, requiring a new understanding of prayer, the basis of ethics and what eternal life might mean.

Spong is searching and inviting you to join his search so that what seems sacred can remain alive. He seems to be struggling but it seems a worthwhile struggle and one that his long role within the church, his long love of Christianity and his integrity equips him well to be a guide for.

Must Read!  Jan 7, 2008
Whether or not you agree with Spong's views on religion, every Christian should at least read this book for an enlightening perspective on their faith. It's very well written and easy to read.
First half is a must for beginner atheists  May 18, 2007
I've seen detailed reviews by Frank Mobbs and Brent Hardaway and looked over many here, so I realize no further opinions need to be expressed except from a bona fide atheist.

The author does a great job in the first half of the book making the case that atheists will see as brilliant and obviously true. And, unlike atheists, the author is polite and respectful of religion while doing it. Too many atheistic works are disrespectful of the believers at best and filthy-language rages at worst. Here then is an excellent work.

But then he spends the second half talking mumbo-jumbo nonsense, trying to set himself up as a messiah of sorts, bringing in a new view of Jesus and God.

I am certain that deep down, his logical self believes the first half but his superstitious half refuses to accept the logical end-conclusion: life on earth (or anywhere) is a process which occurs naturally and has no meaning or significance. Period. There is no purpose and there is no afterlife.

As a result, he tries to make a weird version of Jesus so he can still say he still worships Him and is thus still a Christian.

Poor deluded sole. I feel more sorry for him than I do for the people who find fault with the first half of the book.

I would give the book 5 stars for the first half (good reading for beginner atheists) and zero stars for the second (not good even for mystics). He should have published a smaller book entitled "Why Judeo/Christian Religions are False".

And his final conclusion: If you don't do things his way, Christianity will die, is completely wrong. Ignorant and superstitious people will exist forever and thus no religion will ever die unless replaced by one with even more fanatic zealots who kill all those who disagree. That's why we don't worship Zeus.

An inexcusably illiterate book with an overt political agenda  Mar 28, 2007
Bishop Spong is a retired Episcopal bishop has a simple point of view. Christianity, to him, is defined by the most aggressively illiterate and anti-modern types of Fundamentalist Protestantism. It is anti-science. It is anti-evolution. It takes a rigidly literalist view of the Bible. Christianity, in short, is against reason and it is against the modern world. Thus, it is dying. The only way to fix it is to radically change it, to make it into a religion of love, instead of one of judgment.

With all due respect, Bishop Spong is simply wrong, about every single aspect of this.

First, as Spong should know, there are many kinds of Christianity. Yes, there are churches which arguably fit his description, particularly if viewed in an uncharitable way. However, as an Episcopalian he should have at least basic familiarity with Catholic teaching. The Catholic Church is not, and never has been, anti-reason, anti-evolution or anti-science. It has never taken a literal view of the Bible. The Episcopal Church once upon a time considered itself very close to Rome, in theological terms. While the Episcopal Church has recently had a long series of very public fights with the Catholic Church, and with the world Anglican Church, over, first, the ordination of women, and, second, the ordination of gay priests and bishops, most Episcopal priests and congregations still pride themselves on being well-educated. It is, frankly, bewildering to have an Episcopal Bishop say that he can not see any difference between his own Church and the most illiterate form of hardshell fundamentalist. I honestly do not know what he thinks he is talking about. One can criticize the Episcopal Church for many things, but excessive Fundamentalism and overly-strict Biblical literalism are not features that any sane, competent observer thinks characterize the Episcopalians.

Second, as a practical matter, it is the liberal churches which are dying not the fundamentalist ones. Every liberal church has shrunk dramatically in the last genertion. Every staunchly conservative church has grown in members. One can like this or not like this, but it is simply a fact that it is the liberal churches which are dying, not the other way around. It takes willful blindness, a stubborn refusal to face basic facts, to deny this. (One can see this, among other places, in the differing fortunes of the Episcopal and the Catholic Churches in America. The two were quite close, in many ways, fifty years ago. The Episcopal Church, however, has gone from being "the Republican Party at prayer", as it was a century ago, to being perhaps the most liberal Church in America today. The Catholic Church, while it has flirted with liberalism, has basically stood fast to its historic teachings. The Episcopal Church has lost nearly half its members and has far more priests -- gay, straight and female -- then can possibly find pulpits. The Catholic Church has grown steadily and faces a severe priest shortage, so pressing is the call for them.)

Third, when Spong says that the Church must be transformed, he advocates nothing new. He wants a Church based on reason and love. Here is an idea for you, Bishop. Go read St. Augustine. Read St. Thomas Aquinas. Read Luther. For that matter, go read Cardinal Ratzinger's Introduction to Christianity. Read John Paul II's Theology of the Body. Read some Edith Stein. Acquaint yourself with the classics of the literate Church, both historically and in the our era. You will find tht the "new" church you want is not new. You will find that all of the values you advocate have always been in the Church. What we need is not radical newness, but leaders who actually read and understand the tradition.

Is Bishop Spong truly ignorant of the Theology 101 reading list which I just ticked off? It is possible, in which case it is truly appalling that the Episcopal Church made such an illiterate a priest, never mind a bishop. But I do not think so. Something tells me that Spong has heard of Augustine and Aquinas. I think he ignores the classics of the literate Church, deliberately, because he has a different agenda. He basically wants to turn his back on the Bible, and make Jesus Christ into a pitchman for the extreme left wing of the Democratic Party instead. It is certainly his right to believe as he wishes. LIke so many other Episcopal leaders, however, he is not unable to draw any firm line between where religion ends and politics begins. As a result, what he teaches is basically a muddled form of left-wing political ideology. The voice of the Gospels, the voice of the Apostle Paul, the voice of Moses, these are voices that Bishop Spong is not listening to any more.

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