Why Christianity Must Change Or Die: A Bishop Speaks To
Believers In Exile
jagbir singh <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Fri Aug 6, 2004 7:43 pm
Subject: 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
"So it needs to be
clearly said that the God presence of this Jesus will lead
us ultimately beyond every religious definition. Indeed, it
will lead beyond Jesus himself. That becomes essential to
human development whenever our idolatrous convictions
identify the messenger of God with God. So the Ground of
Being will finally be worshipped apart from any system of
religious thought. It is a startling but real insight into
the future of worship.
I believe in that gift of the Spirit who was called "the
life." Once we located God only externally, and called this
Father Almighty. Next, we located this God in Jesus, and we
him the Son Incarnate. Now we locate God in every person,
call this God the Holy Spirit. I believe that this Spirit
creates a community of faith that will come, in time, to
world to God as the very Ground of its life and Being....
Religion is, therefore, not what we have always thought it
Religion is not a system of belief. It is not a catalogue of
revealed truth. It is not an activity designed to control
to reward virtue, and to punish vice. Religion is, rather, a
attempt to process the God experience, which breaks forth
own depths and wells up constantly within us. We must lay
therefore, the primitive claims we have made for our
traditions. None of them is drawn from outworldly
of them is inerrant or infallible. None of them represents
way to God. None of them can be used legitimately to coerce
compel another to belief. All evangelical and missionary
designed to convert the heathen are base born. They are
of our sense of superiority and our hostility toward those
different. The only divine mission in life that the Church
future could possibly have is to open people to the
the ground of their very being is holy and that when they
touch with that holy Ground of Being, they can share in
creation by giving life, love, and being to others. That is
of those who claim to be God bearers. The Christians of the
are not here to build institutions, to convert other people,
to claim that we can speak for God. Those aspects of our
heritage must be sacrificed as the premodern
our primitive history. We are now exile people."
John Shelby Spong
Why Christianity Must Change Or Die: A Bishop Speaks To
by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
The spiritual tone for this book is
set when John Shelby Spong, the bestselling author and
Episcopal bishop of Newark, New Jersey, thanks his
fundamentalist critics for identifying him as "a resource
for the religious seekers of our world who yearn to believe
in God but who are also repelled by the premodern
literalizations that so frequently masquerade as
Christianity." He speaks to those who thirst for a church
that is not fearful of inquiry, freedom, and knowledge.
In place of theism's emphasis on an
external, personal, supernatural, and invasive God, Bishop
Spong suggests recognizing the reality of God through images
such as the Ground of All Being and the Source of Love.
Instead of Jesus the rescuer, he prefers Christ the spirit
person. Instead of praying to a faraway God, Spong posits
the radical idea that praying and living fully, richly, and
deeply are the same thing. Instead of traditional worship,
the author envisions activity marked by "the self-conscious
awareness that all of us are or can be God bearers and life
givers." And instead of the thirteenth century
understandings of heaven and hell, he unspools his own
beliefs about eternity. While Bishop Spong says he is
addressing "believers in exile," he actually asks all the
right questions of the Christian establishment.
Comments from people who have read this book:
Rating: 5/5 -
The true "silent majority"
will delight in the honesty.
Even a reader who
disagreed with Bishop Spong would acknowledge that Spong's
documentation and conclusions as presented in this book are
well conceived. As usual for this author, in this book he
gives straightforward and honest commentary on subjects that
often receive tongue-in-cheek treatment. Spong is a person
of great vision and promotes an understanding of
Christianity that enlightened people can use as a template
for modern and post-modern eras. As revolutionary in his
concepts as Luther or Calvin, Spong calls us into an
understanding of Christian love as a subset of all human
love, discarding the fictional legends of Christianity,
while recognizing the genesis of these legends. Refreshingly
different from Luther or Calvin, however, Spong makes this
call in an effort to unite, rather than to encourage a
schism. His efforts are universal rather than tribal. Every
one of Spong's books has been astonishingly consistent with
my own personal beliefs and, I strongly suspect, those of
many others. If this book is his best, it is only because it
is his latest. Invariably, Spong's points are clearly
documented. Most importantly, they are correct. The world is
blessed that Bishop Spong is willing to share his visions
with us, and to explicate them so convincingly.
Rating: 5/5 - Great references
Nice book for
its host of theological references. He has a huge library of
books in his bibliography and lots of bible verses next to
what he says to back up his arguments. This makes it a
wonderful book for stickies!
Some of his interrogative sentences
can be confusing at times, but you just need to reread them
one or two more times before you get it.
I don't think his books can rescue
people from fundamentalism. My mom is a fundamentalist and I
know that when I argued with her in the past and got her to
a vulnerable point she started using subconscious
psychological defenses, such as semantic literalism, bogus
questions, absolute truths, and questioning the reality of
the five senses. The Freudian analysis he talks about I've
witnessed through my mom and others as being quite real.
If you are aware of the damage
caused by theistic belief systems, then you know how much
this matters. The challenge is to temper our anger with
compassion, somehow. If we really do believe in something
that transcends pain and pleasure, then love, after all, is
all that we have. Plus we need psychologists to help us find
ways to free people from these traps, because they really
are traps. It's heartbreaking that so many Christian
fundamentalists don't know who they are in life and that
causes them to be so destructive towards others.
Read this book, but be careful. The
facts stated here will be more hazardous to some
fundamentalists than drinking hemlock.
Rating: 5/5 -
It's time to give up "childish things."
This is a very moving and wise book. It is strong spiritual
meat for those who are ready to give up "childish things,"
as St. Paul said. Bishop Spong refreshingly realizes that
Christianity has a credibility problem. The Church has to
start over again. It must stop thinking in terms of an old
man in the sky, a supernatural Santa Claus who will swoop
down to save us from natural disasters, illness, death, and
the consequences of our own stupidity. It has to stop trying
to impose moral prohibitions that have nothing to do with
the truths of human biology and psychology, or with true
justice and compassion. Freedom, knowledge, and wisdom must
be our new commandments; our knowledge of God will based
upon the truths revealed in our humanity, in which God truly
exists. His style is powerful, clear, and sometimes lyrical.
This is a great book by someone who speaks compassionately
in a language we non-Christians can understand. I hoped to
find in it some common ground from which believers and
non-believers could begin a dialogue, and I was not
Rating: 5/5 - Spong Builds His Messages.
I made the mistake of reading this book before reading
"Rescuing the Bible From Fundamentalism." Now this book
makes much more sense. Bp. Spong does his homework, builds
his themes carefully and provides references as one reads
along. I suggest that his books be read in order of their
publication date for the full impact.
Some may argue that Bp. Spong is no
longer Christian. I would argue that he demonstrates in his
every thought and action that he is a true Christ-follower
and it is integrated into his very being. He is a thinker
who encourages others to do the same.