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A New Christianity for a New World: Why Traditional Faith Is Dying and How a New Faith Is Being Born Hardcover – September 18, 2001

3.5 out of 5 stars 148 customer reviews

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Christianity will not be a viable belief system for honest people in the contemporary world, writes John Shelby Spong, until it drops a few outmoded ideas--for instance, belief in a supernatural God who reveals Himself from outside creation. A New Christianity for a New World continues the work begun in Spong's bestselling Why Christianity Must Change or Die, in which the former Episcopalian bishop diagnosed Christianity's major problems. Here, he offers a vision of what authentic Christian belief might look like today, stripped of theism and all its corollaries (doctrines such as the Trinity, the Incarnation, and Atonement). Christians may come to believe that "God is beyond Jesus, but Jesus participated in the Being of God and Jesus is my way into God." Readers inspired by Dietrich Bonhoeffer's tantalizing writings on "religionless Christianity" in Letters and Papers from Prison and by John A.T. Robinson's Honest to God will find much challenge and comfort in Spong's New Christianity, his most mature and most radical book. --Michael Joseph Gross

From Publishers Weekly

Religious reformer Spong builds upon the program he initiated in Why Christianity Must Change or Die as he outlines what he believes is an authentic faith for a new millennium. Taking cues from the works of John A.T. Robinson, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Rudolf Bultmann, Spong proclaims that theism the view that a supernatural deity creates and provides for humanity is merely a "human coping device, created by traumatized self-conscious creatures to enable them to deal with the anxiety of self-awareness." The theistic God, for Spong as for Freud and Feuerbach before him, is nothing but a projection of our own desires and wishes. Since the theistic God was a construct that helped humans cope with their anxieties, the hysteria and trauma rampant in our society today is proof, says Spong, that the theistic God has died. But once theism is extinct, many of the central ideas of conventional Christianity, such as original sin, the incarnation and the Resurrection, tumble into uselessness. Spong's "new Christianity" is rather old, though. Just as in 19th-century theological liberalism, Jesus is god-presence and god is the ground of all being. Moreover, Spong recycles the central ideas of his previous nine books. At worst, this is an uninspiring and unoriginal tract for a formless and meandering quasi-spiritual life. At best, however, Spong openly reveals his honest struggles to fashion a living faith that transcends what he sees as the sterility of the Christianity in which he was formed.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 276 pages
  • Publisher: HarperSanFrancisco; 1st edition (September 18, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060670843
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060670849
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (148 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #138,922 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
It's easy to see why Bishop Spong remains not only one of the most articulate and controversial theologians of the day, but the bane of orthodox Christianity the world over. Within the first three chapters of this book he manages to dispel almost every tenant of the faith from the Virgin Birth to the Resurrection to the Ascension, all the while vigorously insisting he is still a Christian, a claim which seems tantamount to claiming to be a great lumberjack while living in a land devoid of forests. I know he believes he is a Christian and in the respect he considers himself a follower of Christ, he probably is. What he espouses in this book, however, has absolutely no resemblance to any Christianity I've ever encountered.
What he does provide, however, is a refreshing breath of air into a world of stagnate faith. Unlike most liberal theologians, instead of merely demonstrating why the old stories no longer have any relevance in our modern age, he provides a viable blueprint to understanding Christ (and, by default, God) in a newer, fuller way. No longer seeing God in purely theistic terms (by which, I assume, he means transcendent) he outlines a theology that has more in common with New Age thought or eastern philosophy than western religion. Though nothing in his book is entirely new or particularly revolutionary in and of itself, his effort to merge an eastern concept of God within the framework of Christianity is nothing if not unique. While I found myself agreeing with much of what he had to say, however, I wasn't convinced his efforts to "reform" Christianity had any chance of being successful. The traditions are too deeply imbedded in the western psyche to respond to his message; the dogmas too entrenched to be moved by even his most reasoned and passionate pleas for reform.
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Format: Paperback
John Shelby Spong does not believe in a Theistic God and he states so forcefully; "Theism is dead, I joyfully proclaim." THEISM as Bishop Spong defines it, is "a being, supernatural in power, dwelling outside this world and invading the world periodically to accomplish the divine will".
Yet, Spong admits, "Christianity postulates a theistic God who does supernatural things". Christianity is about God invading the world through Jesus Christ. Christianity is, and has been for 2000 years (give or take), "Emmanuel" - God with us, visibly and dramatically. "Christianity is a THEISTIC religion" said Dr. Sally McFague (Professor of Theology -Vanderbilt Divinity School - author of the pensive and provocative book, 'Life Abundant' - envisioning Christianity for the new century - see my review).
Therein lies the rub. Allow me to digress. A man had a Honda Civic that needed the engine overhauled. He decided to 'radically' change the car and make it a quarter-mile race car. He pulled out the engine and transmission, threw out the brakes, replaced the tires and the suspension. He gutted the interior completely (graciously keeping the windshield and wipers). He then cut away parts of the body to accommodate the new parts and welded the doors shut. He put in a high performance, 400 horsepower engine and modified what was left of the car so that it could reach speeds in excess of 110 mph in 9 seconds. Now, with a great stretch of the imagination you could say this man still had a Honda Civic, but, in reality, he had created a new vehicle.
This book is not a "radically, reformed" car, so to speak, it is a completely different car.
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Format: Hardcover
This review reflects the point of view of one who was raised in the Roman Catholic tradition and is now a Unitarian Universalist minister.
I appreciate the insights that John Spong has shared in this latest book -- no surprise there, I suppose. In the course of my studies & a lifetime of wrestling with "meaning", I am one who has come to appreciate "god" as a description of an ongoing process at work in the universe.
Bishop Spong's views remind me of some of the early 19th century "Unitarian" representatives -- William E. Channing, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Theodore Parker in particular. Like those individuals, he understood that the truth and beauty of Christianity is not tied to "transient" facts & understandings which are more indicative of one generation's perceptions. There is much that has been added to Christianity that is not essential to it. One can remove the transient and still regard oneself as a good, albeit "liberal" Christian. Sure, literalists will fume, but righteous indignation is not a convincing response for a faith rooted in intelligence and reverence.
I liked this book. Spong writes sensible, reverent prose. I share his faith that Christians will respond to the challenges of the present in a mature manner. Theism is passe. Those who profess to love and honor Jesus would do well to heed John Spong's insights.
By the way, I read some of the other responses. Don't worry - this kind of sparring has been going on for several centuries in this country ... I salute a fellow traveller on the path; we subscribe to the view that one must understand to have faith; others require faith first, that they might understand.
Let one give witness to one's faith -- by either path -- with a dose of charity & humor.
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