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193 of 217 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and disturbing manifesto
In this, his latest theological work, Bishop John Spong systematically delves into contradictions and conflicts between biblical literalism and modern society. He spotlights the uneasy mix between traditional Christian faith and a modern world-view: contrasting the seven-day creation story with fossils dating back billions of years: the understanding of Earth as but...
Published on May 22, 2000 by Sophia

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very good, if a bit optimistic
Bishop Spong argues that much/most biblical theology/history cannot be bought by the honest modern believer. In this regard, the book is far from groundbreaking. What is rather revolutionary, however, is his prediction that there will be radical changes in mainline churches' conceptions of the divine (over an unspecified time scale), lest they lose their relevance to...
Published on January 1, 1999


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193 of 217 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and disturbing manifesto, May 22, 2000
By 
Sophia (the Pacific Northwest) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile (Paperback)
In this, his latest theological work, Bishop John Spong systematically delves into contradictions and conflicts between biblical literalism and modern society. He spotlights the uneasy mix between traditional Christian faith and a modern world-view: contrasting the seven-day creation story with fossils dating back billions of years: the understanding of Earth as but one planet in one galaxy of millions are just two examples of the major shifts in the world view that have taken place since the birth and death of Christ.
For those espousing Biblical literalism and fundamentalism, this book will read like utter heresy. For the true atheist, perhaps, it will seem like goody-goody wishful thinking. Yet, throughout it all, Spong clings to the notion that God is Love, God is Life, God as the ultimate Source of All, and urges people, Christians or not, to examine their beliefs and enter into discussion and dialogue about what Christianity and religion mean in the world today, and for the next millennium. Even when I disagree with Bishop Spong's conclusions, he makes me reevaluate my own faith, and thus both stimulates and refreshes it. I am grateful for this book, even as it disturbs me.
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79 of 94 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Faith without Reason = Superstition!, April 10, 2000
By 
Poniplaizy (Mount Joy, PA USA) - See all my reviews
This book is awesome! I had only gotten a few pages into it and already I felt like Spong must have somehow tapped directly into my brain! He speaks to the many, many people out there who feel disenfranchised by a Christianity that keeps serving up ancient fairy stories that are impossible for anyone with a critical (no, make that functioning) intellect to accept. He asks a lot of the questions we are asking; dares to speak the truth about the anger, defensiveness, and politicism that have characterized the Church; and liberates Jesus from the doctrinal straightjacket the Church has encased him in.

No, Spong doesn't really provide *answers*--but I think that's the point. So often people who question are told, basically, to shut up and believe because shutting up and believing is what faith is all about. Spong replies that questioning and reformulating is healthy. I agree with him wholeheartedly that unless Christianity wakes up and starts reexamining itself, it is going to die. Thinking people will dismiss it as a useless relic because it will be so inadequate for their everyday lives. It's happening that way now.

I highly recommend that anybody with any spiritual life whatsoever read this book! It is extremely thought-provoking (which is probably why the fundies can't stand it), and no matter what belief system you arrive at, you need to arrive there informed.
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71 of 85 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars QUESTIONS...not Answers!, January 5, 2000
This review is from: Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile (Paperback)
As one who has read Bishop Jack Spong's writings for years, I am continually amazed at the lack of understanding accorded his books. This latest work is a prime example.
If the critic goes back and READS the book, he or she will soon catch on that Spong is not attacking historic Christianity...but is questioning its cliches. He is, in a sense, nailing his own Theses on the Cathedral door for DISCUSSION, not slavish acceptance.
I have disagreed with Jack Spong on much, if not most of what he has written over the years. He has always made me think, often gets by blood pressure up a bit (but rarely as much as most of those Christian authors we find on the shelves in the local "Bible Bookstore" who haven't printed a new idea in decades, but still manage pump out their quick reading, simplistic, royalty grabbing tomes).
I have no doubt of Spong's individual and unique relationship with Christ. I have no doubt as to his compassion, and desire to work with the tough questions so that the Christian life NEVER fears to ask, and attempt to answer ANY question. Good man, good book. Read carefully, thoughtfully and prayerfully!
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36 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars reading my mind, December 31, 2001
By 
Jim (Hillsborough, NJ United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile (Paperback)
Spong must have been reading my mind. He clearly articulates all the doubts I have long felt and lets me know that I am not alone in this. Many churches seem to only reluctantly discard outdated doctrine - one example given is that it wasn't until 1991 that the Catholic church officially acknowledged that Galileo was right (and the Bible is clearly wrong) regarding the nature of the earth and solar system! (some fundamentalists still don't seem to accept that!) I have often thought - as Spong suggests - that most churches expect me to "check in my brain at the front door". I cannot do this, so I sit through church services thinking "are they for real?"
Spong encourages those of us just starting down the path to go to the next level. He lets us know that it ok to use our God given power of reason to question everything and anything that the church traditionally teaches. He provides historical context to show us where the current teachings came from, then presents alternative views. Some point out that his teachings are really not that new - and they may be right for those well read on liberal "theology" - but they were new and refreshing ideas to me.
An example of how he takes it to the next level: I have long ago dismissed the idea of a theistic God sitting like a king in heaven somewhere. But still the church teaches the doctrine of Trinity as a core concept that must not be questioned. But as Spong points out - of what good is the concept is God in "3 persons" once you have discarded the idea of God as a personal being.
What of virgin births and physical resurrections from the dead? Who hasn't sat in the pews at Christmastime and felt a little like the kid who still wants to believe in Santa Claus, but deep down knows its make believe! Spong assures us that these questions are not only ok, but are essential for healthy spiritual growth. He offers a useful alternative context in which to consider these biblical accounts.
He raises the same questions I have asked myself often about worship and prayer. Is God so vain that he sits around basking in the adulation of his "subjects". Of course not - but our hymns and prayers tend to do just this. He could do better to address the subject of prayer a little more deeply.
I believe Spong gets a little too skeptical when discussing miracles - he dismisses them all as implausible. I tend to believe that there is some power deep within us where the human and divine touch and mingle that has the power to bend the "rules" of nature and result in miracles. I believe there is some evidence of this in real life. But this is his book and his belief - I do not need to agree with him 100% to be able to learn and enjoy.
He does get a little bitter at times when describing the institution of the church - but his anger is not directed at any indivdual - just the institution itself.
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30 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Sentiments Exactly (or at least pretty close), January 24, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile (Paperback)
What I find in this book is a valid and well-supported argument to support the conclusions I have already come to in my own Christian experience. Spong explores most of the major concerns of Christian faith: the nature of God, the identity of Jesus Christ and the meaning of his cross and his resurrection, the purpose of prayer, the basis for morality, the existence of an after-life, and the role of the church. With thoughtful credibility Spong demythologizes each tenet yet provides a basis for their continued validity as a path (not necessarily the path) to God for modern seekers. Whether or not you agree with Spong's conclusions, it is difficult to read this book without recognizing him as a man of raw courage, profound spirituality, determined faith, and deep compassion.
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29 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Christian existentialism at its best., November 7, 2001
By A Customer
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This review is from: Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile (Paperback)
John Shelby Spong is an original thinker, a profound theologian and philosopher. His work is a brilliant defense of the value of a God and Christian mythology for the modern soul. Spong articulates a rationale for religion and why a belief in God has been so important historically and psychologically. His death of theism theology reflects the culmination of Christian existentialism advanced by his teacher and mentor Paul Tillich. Unlike Tillich, whose primary audience was his fellow theologians, Spong audience is his congregants and those he calls "believers in exile." While Spong proclaims the death of theism, he also proclaims that God is alive and well in the postmodern world.

My problem with Spong's theology, a criticism he acknowledges is valid, but with which he disagrees, is that the religion he has described is not Christianity. Spong has written a Gospel for Unitarianism or for Christian Humanists, but he has not described Christianity. Spong makes a valiant effort to demonstrate in this book, and apparently to an even fuller extent in his earlier writings, that his anti-theism theology is consistent with the earliest Christian witnesses and writings, but his attempt to exorcize the last 1900 years of Christian writings and dogma is simply not credible.

I've always believed that the Jesus of the Gospels bears little resemblance to the historic Jesus, in much the same way that the George Washington taught in elementary schools is not the same as the historical George Washington or that the Martin Luther King, Jr. we honor is an idealization of the actual man. I am prepared to say that a person may describe themselves as a Christian if they believe that the goodness and god-like example of Jesus represents the divine spirt of God, but I don't see how one can be an Episcopalian or a Catholic or a Baptist or a Methodist or a member of any other traditional Christian sect, without believing in the divine (although not necessarily virgin) birth of Jesus, his bodily resurrection, and the existence of an afterlife.

Consider the analogous situation of a Jew who believes in the Torah and takes pride in Jewish history, culture and religion, but does not keep the dietary laws or works on the Sabbath. Certainly this person is a Jew by any acceptable definition. But a synagogue may not describe itself as an Orthodox Jewish synagogue, nor may a Rabbi describe himself as an Orthodox Jew, unless it requires its congregants to obey the dietary laws and refrain from working on the Sabbath, or in the case of the Rabbi, he obeys these laws. So I am at a loss to understand how Bishop Spong can remain a ecclesiastic leader in the Episcopal Church or how he can preside at baptisms, funerals, lead worshipers in prayers from the book of Common Prayer, or administer Communion.

I also cannot join Spong in his leap of faith. A lot of what he says bridges a gap between modern knowledge and man's psychological needs. It explains why religion and a belief in God is important and it also explains why some of us who can?t get there feel a void. But for me the bottom line has not changed: The only rational alternative to theism is atheism or, at best, agnosticism. Both of which, I might add, appear to be more consistent with Spong's theology than the theology of the Church he serves. Nonetheless, both these alternatives and Christianity (as well as most other western and eastern religions) can and frequently do share the same conclusions as to what is morally right and wrong and what constitutes good and evil.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, Intelligent Perspective on Christian Spirituality, July 23, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile (Paperback)
I thought I was alone, but this book has given me hope. I thought religion had abandoned me, but this book has shown me that I can be both spiritual and thoughtful.
I don't need a Mommy or a Daddy for a God. I don't need to have the mysteries of life explained to me in simple, monosyllabic words. This book helps me accept the fact that I want to approach spirituality as though I'm a reasoning, intelligent person. That's a far cry from what fundamentalists want and like the author, that attitude made me an exile from religion.
I want to make this clear. I don't agree with everything the author says. However, I feel the ultimate goal of what the author is doing is not to suggest his thoughts are the right answer. Rather, what he's done is make religion a topic we can talk about and think about.
One fact of Christianity has always amused me. We were supposedly thrown out of the Garden of Eden because of our desire for knowledge. God, Adam, and Eve jointly made the bargain and traded paradise for the ability to think and reason. Yet fundamentalists want us to pretend that didn't happen and suggest that God would cause a book to be written (the Bible) that we had to interpret literally. That's nonsense.
This is a great book if you're open minded enough to think that religion isn't a stick designed to force you into submission. This is a great book if you're mature enough spiritually to want to examine the true meaning of religion. This is a great book if you're looking for spirituality, but the church you attend is giving you answers that your own heart and spirit are telling you are wrong.
If you'd like to approach spirituality and Christianity from a rational, mature, and thoughtful perspective, give this book a try.
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28 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing and necessary medicine, August 31, 2000
This review is from: Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile (Paperback)
I lived in his diocese for quite a few years, and when I first became a Christian--specifically a very conservative Roman Catholic--in 1998, I thought Bishop Spong was out of his mind: a lunatic and willing tool of the worst of the various PC agenda-ists running around the Northern New Jersey area. Yet the longer I hung around the Roman Catholic Church the more convinced I was that I belonged in the Episcopal Communion where the thought control wasn't and isn't quite as over-the-top as what I discovered in the RCC; and where there were indeed men and women like Bishop Spong attempting to blow off the cobwebs of antiquated modes of thinking and relating to a tradition sadly in need of renovation. When you buy an old house you cut through the layers of paint to get back to the brickwork. That, I think, has been part of Bishop Spong's project for the last few years: to return Christianity to its sense of spiritual beauty, and also to change its sense of the salvific from one demanding a worship of the omniscient and omnipotent Big Daddy with a carrot and stick into one inviting us into a community of sharing and love that embodies the love of Jesus who in his human life embodied the qualities of God that human life requires for spirituality. That kind of love has nothing to do with gender, sexual preference or privilege. It has everything to do with what is best in ourselves. Bishop Spong is a heretic if you have an entrenched stake in the system as it stands now, or if you are so wrapped up in your need for God the Big Daddy that you cannot imagine a life of responsibility. At times he goes a bit wild in his interpretations of Christian symbolism, as in how one receives Communion. But I would rather reject his interpretations after being provoked to consider them than to be told that This Is How It Is And You'd Better Do It This Way Or Else.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing Honesty, October 23, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile (Paperback)
Bishop Spong is not one to refrain from asking urgent religious questions in order to preserve feelings of security. Unafraid of wandering at times far outside the boundaries of traditional Christian thought, he takes his Christian readers on a spiritual journey at times so terrifying that one may desire at times to lapse back into the comfort of strict conservatism--but Spong's message is not without hope. While he does give a quite negative (and often accurate) assessment of "institutional" Christianity as we know it, his book is ultimately filled with a radiant optimism about the future of Christian faith. His greatest triumph is the ability to articulate the truth about God and Jesus while separating it from the "containers of truth" in which history has handed it down to us. I am convinced that his most ambitious speculations are correct: humanity is entering a "post-religious" era in which we must shed the framework of theism and search for a more mature spirituality. Let Spong guide us in that journey and show just how rewarding it will be.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read!, December 28, 1999
By 
Amy (Champaign, IL) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile (Paperback)
I truly enjoyed this book because it spoke to me as a person that cannot rationalize the religion of Christianity today. Bishop Spong is quite adept at tearing down the theistic interpretation of the Christian religion based on our knowledge in the postmodern age. What he leaves in its place, however, is somewhat underdeveloped and confusing for me as a reader. I found myself agreeing with him on why a theistic interpretation of the religion is quite silly, but it left me empty when I tried to fill the void that blind faith used to fill. I found myself questioning some of his arguments, but that is ok because the essence of this book is to question!
Please read this book. Even the most devout theist will find it useful because in order to believe, you must first question. I am impressed by Bishop Spong's ability to question the status quo and envision a religion better and more inclusive then the one that exists today...and I have already bought two more of his books!
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Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile
Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile by John Shelby Spong (Paperback - April 21, 1999)
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