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Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating Details ·  1,824 Ratings  ·  73 Reviews
Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture
Paperback, 288 pages
Published April 10th 1992 by Harper (San Francisco) (first published 1991)
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Lee Harmon
Nov 30, 2011 Lee Harmon rated it it was amazing
I’m sure there are hundreds of reviews by now of this book on Amazon and elsewhere, so I won’t repeat what everyone else is saying. I just want to call it to your attention.

If you’re new to Bishop Spong’s books and his liberal Christian bent, then pick this up. Published way back in 1991, it wasn’t Spong’s first book, but it’s where you want to start. In fact, this should be your starting point to understand liberal Christianity in general.

Current Biblical scholarship will shake your faith. Ther
Jul 13, 2012 Walter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bishop John Shelby Spong - scourge and heretic to some, prophet, seer and seeker to others - is a singular phenomenon. His insights into Scripture and into the meaning of spirituality and God are most often piercing. And his observations about our world and the role of the spirituality in it are usually poignant and trenchant (mainly in the sense of being forthright but also at times in the sense of being scathing). And yet the experience for me is always uplifting and faith-inspiring/-deepening ...more
Jul 24, 2007 Precious rated it it was amazing
Shelves: alreadyread
The saddest part of this book is that the people who really need to consider the subject are either unlikely to read it or are illiterate. The author has a Great point and a sound argument....And he's an Episcopalian bishop. I appreciate when someone who knows what they're talking about talks about it in an intelligent and approachable way.
Kimberly Cain
Dec 30, 2009 Kimberly Cain rated it it was amazing
John Shelby Spong is forever the brave voice in Christianity who will speak up & speak out for an evolving faith. He shares, with great clarity, the need to read more deeply into the meaning of Scripture (or any sacred text, for that matter) or risk losing its essence altogether.

Fundamentalism, in any area, is the place furthest from life (an ever-evolving, living, breathing state). It is a beginning, an entry level. If one does not change & grow from there, the only other option is deca
Fr. Matthew
May 24, 2011 Fr. Matthew rated it did not like it
Dreadful stuff. I don't even know where to start on how this book has very little to do with good biblical scholarship and more to do with Spong's self-promoting agenda to sell books and hawk the emaciated corpse of "liberal Christianity." Glad I read this as a new Christian almost two decades ago and moved on to many more decent books on the subject.
Mike Holmes
May 05, 2013 Mike Holmes rated it did not like it
an amateur bypasses both critical (left wing and moderate) and traditional scholarship to come up with his own "satisfying" version of Christianity. Does not take evidence and run with it, but comes up with his own story.
A bit confusing as to what exactly the bishop DOES believe! After I read this, I wasn't sure why the bishop was even a bishop.
Feb 04, 2011 Calnan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
In this book, Jack Spong, (he introduced himself to me as 'Jack'), takes his reader through the origins of the Bible explaining the time frames and context under which the Gospels (stories of Jesus) of The New Testament were written. He started with Paul of Tarsus and noted that his works which make up most of the New Testament was written first, at about 50-64 years after the death of Jesus. The Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John, all written after Paul's works, were then presented and aga ...more
Brian Reagan
Jul 28, 2011 Brian Reagan rated it it was ok
Bishop John Shelby Spong is an Episcopal Church USA pastor and leader. His text contains numerous thought-provoking issues but unfortunately many of the "proofs" which he bases his presuppositions upon are little more than a rehashing of failed liberal theology and the worst type of alleged "scientific" proofs. Spong asserts many points consistent with traditional evolution and cites them as fact, but provides no citations to support his points.
In discussing the various issues related to human
Nov 07, 2014 Tom rated it did not like it
Not even sure where to start. I read this book to do a critical analysis for my Christianity class in college. This book requires discernment. If you know your bible, you will see the problems with this book. It you don't know your bible, you could be led down a path of confusion in a theological quagmire. I gave this book one star because zero stars might suggest that I did not rate the book. This book lacks biblical scholarship and zero regard for exegetical interpretation. This book is a good ...more
Nov 23, 2007 Karin rated it really liked it
Our local newspaper calls Spong "the bad boy of christianity." I would call him the thoughtful explorer of christianity. It is always useful to reconsider what we think of as being true, and Spong's ideas loosen and soften and raise questions that may have no answers and just how interesting is that?!
Aug 01, 2007 Ruth rated it it was amazing
I first read this while living in Arkansas and it is simply a must-read if you live in the Bible Belt. Takes apart the fundamentalist mindset and provides a great progressive counter.
May 02, 2012 Jack rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People of faith and those that question self-righteous fundamentalism
I have to laugh, because you can tell which reviewers are fundamentalists just by looking at the star ratings. You can also tell that none of them bothered to read the book. In fact, one reviewer stated she quit reading the book "...because [she] didn't have time for it." Unfortunately, it is folks like her that need to read it the most.

In some ways, I could almost wish that I'd read this book when it was first published... or maybe 20 years earlier. Had I done so, I might never have left the Ch
Aug 28, 2010 John rated it it was amazing
Spong is an amazing man... a later day prophet, trying with scholarship and persuasive forcefulness to pull the church into accepting modern morality (primarily human rights and justice) and divest itself of superstition and destructive orthodoxy. He has been a tremendous educator over his long career bringing forth the history, context and Jewish heritage of the Bible to the general public. This history has been known to scholars for 150-200 years and taught in all scholarly divinity schools fo ...more
Mary Pellecchia
Aug 08, 2008 Mary Pellecchia rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Bible readers and non-readers
I would recommend this book to anyone who has read the Bible, or who might read the Bible, or is in the progress of reading the Bible. I would most especially recommend it to people who have become disillusioned with standard Christian religion, Protestant or Catholic, but who would still like to have a spiritual side to their lives.

Spong gives an overview of the whole Bible, section by section, telling what was going on historically and philosopically at the time each section was written. His m
Apr 19, 2015 Christina rated it really liked it
Even though the book was written in 1991, this bishop writes like he's in 2015 and the supreme court is deliberating over gay marriage. Sometimes his historical background can be boring because he doesn't sugar coat or add any flair, but his insights are much needed, especially in Christian society today. He points out why the Bible can't be inerrant and literal. One reason -- the authors contradict each other in storylines and cultural viewpoints. He gives examples of how a good thing can be us ...more
Dec 04, 2011 Charles rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfic-religion
An excellent work. Spong puts into words many of the things I've been thinking in the last ten years. He shows clearly how it is simply impossible to give the Bible a literal interpretation, but that doesn't mean the book is wrong or useless, only that it can't be taken simplistically, as the biblical literalists would want to claim.
Nov 28, 2007 Sam rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion
This is the book that started it all for me. I picked it up at a books-by-the-pound sale figured, why not. I guess I was already questioning my fundamentalist Christianity. This book made it all so obvious for me. I guess you could say it led me out of the darkness.
Margaret Clark
Dec 08, 2013 Margaret Clark rated it did not like it
Not a fan.
Carolyn Lind
Aug 01, 2012 Carolyn Lind rated it it was amazing
A few direct quotations may convey why I give this book a "5" better than any explanation of my own:

"Both the sacred Scriptures and the creeds of the Christian church can point to but they can never finally capture eternal truth." -169

"Truth is never finally found in words. Truth is always beyond words."

"Above all else, it has been my purpose to call people into a love of Scriipture for what it is--a Chronicle written by our ancestors in faith as they walked through history in the presence of th
Erik Graff
Jun 13, 2012 Erik Graff rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Christians
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: religion
I picked this up on the "Cheapest" shelf at the going-out-of business Bookman's Alley in Evanston, Illinois.
This book, written by a much-published Episcopal bishop, argues against biblical inerrancism, illustrating how the bible is internally inconsistent as well as substantially incompatible with more modern beliefs and scientific understandings of the way things work. This is not hard to do, though some of his illustrations were new to me and all were worth remembering.
What's left, hermeneut
Jan 23, 2014 Jenny rated it liked it
There are moments of real brilliance and insight in this, especially in Spong's analysis of the Gospels. I'd never heard his exact take on them and the reasoning for them to be written the way they are, but his commentary makes a lot of sense. However, there is a lot of repetition in this book and way too many rhetorical questions--whole paragraphs of them sometimes--all of which creates a tone that is often grating. Some of this might be a result of his intended audience, who I assume are funda ...more
Mar 05, 2015 Spencer rated it really liked it
The book was written in 1991 but remains as fresh and relevant as it was then.Spong's basic premise is that fundamentalists have taken over biblical interpretation in many churches, inserting an inerrancy clause in any interpretation. He feels this detracts from the beauty and accessibility of the Bible. He elaborates on the great breakthroughs in scientific, psychological and medical knowledge that places the inerrancy approach out of step with modern thought. He goes on to explain why it is be ...more
Nov 23, 2010 Laura rated it really liked it
This book is great for liberal Christians - it gives biblical scholarship back up to such views and can generally be assuring if your beliefs are along these lines. But this book is certainly not designed or written to convince people with fundamentalist/ literal viewpoints to change their minds. He throws phrases around like obviously that can't be true or no biblical scholar today still believes xxx, etc. That approach is fine if you don't believe whatever he is saying but if you do, he gives ...more
Apr 24, 2015 LJ rated it really liked it
Although Spong's "Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism" predates Marcus Borg's "Reading the Bible Again for the First Time" by a decade, Borg basically wrote the same book as Spong's, only better. I appreciated Spong's book as a whole, especially its phenomenal final chapter, but I don't recommend starting with Spong to introduce you to "liberal" or "progressive Christianity" (for lack of a better term). Spong comes off as more irritable than Borg. He's clearly fed up with how fundamentalist r ...more
Aug 25, 2010 Jane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read several books lately by Bart Ehrman. Spong's books shares the theme of rejecting a literal view of the Bible. In fact, Spong is even more adamant about the fallacy of taking the Bible literally. But while Ehrman eventually becomes agnostic, Spong retains a strong faith in Christianity. A quote from Spong, retired Episcopal bishop.."All human beings, men, women, homosexual persons, heterosexual persons, all races, nationalities, and persons of any ethnic background, all communists and c ...more
Jan 06, 2015 Rick rated it it was amazing
First, I want to say that I deeply respect and admire this man for his integrity and courage to speak his truth in face of possibly losing his position in the church, being excommunitcated, and branded as a "heretic". Bishop Spong has reached far above and beyond the constraints of literalism, captured the true essence or "spirit" of the scriptures and has brilliantly and eloquently expressed it to his readers. I rated this book five stars not because I agree with every one of Bishop Spong's ans ...more
Mar 19, 2016 Susan rated it liked it
This is a must-read for anyone that wants to have a relationship with the Bible and the ability to read it from an intellectual pov. Spong, although sounding like a curmudgeon at times, brings a different consciousness to the Bible and does, indeed, rescue it from fundamentalists who have used "the good book" to justify all manner of prejudice, hate and rhetoric that has made "Christian values" nothing more than an oxymoron. Like Borg's, "Reading the Bible Again for the First Time," Spong teachi ...more
Matthew Klippenstein
My introduction to progressive Christian thought, the book moved me with its passionate defence of the inclusive core of the Christian message -- and its rigorous, informed debunking of the fear-fueled literalist approach. Perhaps on account of my atheism, I had not previously encountered an intellectually rigorous approach to Christianity, and it was a soaring joy to see how one could take the Bible seriously... without taking it literally.

The book made me a lifelong reader of Rev Spong's writ
Jo Ann Hall
May 14, 2012 Jo Ann Hall rated it really liked it
Concurrent readings of Spong and N.T. Wright are provocative! While I don't agree with all of Spong's theses (and some make me very uncomfortable, frankly), there is bravery and expediency in what he has to say. He is at his inspirational best when he writes about the coming Kingdom--there's a remarkable change, uplift in tone when he shifts to this away from his discussion of current fundamentalist belief. I think N.T. Wright better manages to express concern re: literal biblical interpretation ...more
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Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism 5 24 Nov 30, 2012 08:35AM  
  • Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously but Not Literally
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  • In the Beginning: A New Interpretation of Genesis
  • Honest to God
  • What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality
  • The Unauthorized Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible
  • What Jesus Meant
  • Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas
  • If the Church Were Christian: Rediscovering the Values of Jesus
  • Peter, Paul & Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History & Legend
John Shelby Spong was the Episcopal bishop of Newark before his retirement in 2000. As a leading spokesperson for an open, scholarly, and progressive Christianity, Bishop Spong has taught at Harvard and at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. He has also lectured at universities, conference centers, and churches in North America, Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific. His books in ...more
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