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

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  2,007 ratings  ·  85 reviews
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 t ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published April 21st 1999 by HarperOne (first published 1998)
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William James would say that the reason I like Bishop Spong so much is that because he reconfirms all of my already existing prejudices. But this book rang like a revelation to me. At a time when I continued to be disillusioned with the Christian church, yet was beginning to despair that I would find anything else spiritual that would be truly meaningful to me, Bishop Spong opened a door and told me that it was okay to go back inside. That the fundamentalists don't own Christianity. That I could ...more
Interesting book, but I couldn't buy the author's incredible premise, but I did finish the book. Seems to be a case of wanting one's cake and eating it, too. I prefer the argument that CS Lewis made in Mere Christianity, when he wrote about people who say: "'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.'" Lewis said: "That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral te ...more
Jul 15, 2011 Scotti rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Christians who are searching for better answers.
Recommended to Scotti by: God set it in front of me @ Barnes & Noble.
This book changed my life. I "searched" for it for years, stuck in the middle between my beliefs and the control and manipulation I felt from the fundamentalist church I was raised in. Determined not to "throw the baby out with the bathwater," I kept searching. I stumbled across this book at a bookstore. I had never heard of it or of John Spong. I have since read almost everything Spong has written and been privileged to meet him and hear him speak on several occasions. He is brilliant. He is th ...more
This is an amazing book! Yet, for the "traditional" Christian believer, it is probably too heretical, so be forewarned. For me, though, I appreciate Bishop Spong's careful parsing of theistic Christianity and his alternative espousal of the nontheistic view. Frankly, it's his willingness to be open and honest about the "cracks in the foundation" of traditional religion that is one of the most compelling features of the book. Its most moving one, though, is his passionate exposition of the nonthe ...more
Leslie ellis
Seek ethics. Review truer intention.

I was raised Episcopalian.
My Grandmother gave me her copy a couple years back when she came to visit me in Alabama. She insisted I read it to find comfort. We spent hours on the porch reading together in the mornings over Earl Grey tea, lightened with rice milk and raw sugar before work.

I am proud she introduced me to this radical mind, a bold read for a traditional, upper class Bermudian immigrant in her early 80's. I treasure her penciled underlines and do
This sounds like the handbook of an atheist, but it's not. Read this book if you've ever felt or wondered about the conflict between Christianity and science and how we might resolve it.[return][return]The book speaks to those who feel they are in exile from Christianity, but even if you don't identify with that (such is the case with me) or consider yourself a Christian, you will enjoy it. If nothing else, it helps to articulate the problems you might have noticed with today's version of Christ ...more
I was initially drawn to this book by Spong's use of exilic metaphor to describe the faith journey of Christians who no longer feel at home in institutional Christianity. He is a sincere and passionate thinker I appreciate much more now that I've read some of his work. I was particularly intrigued by the chapter "The Meaning of Prayer in a World with No External Deity."

The title is a little melodramatic. "Christianity" is very diverse, and forms of it are quite robust. These forms aren't threat
Like Crossan, this former Episcopal Bishop still considers himself Christian but doubts the fundamental creeds. His doubts are very well founded, but I can't understand why he remains Christian. OK, I actually get it -- he has a lot invested. That is why MOST remain Christian or never doubt.

I lost a girlfriend and all my guy friends from my Christian days after I deconverted. Then I had to eat crow with my family. And I have to tip-toe in my professional life in the nomimal Christian society whe
Stacy Heatherly
This book was wonderful. I had unanswered questions and felt guilty for questioning. I no longer question. Bishop Spong explains with love and devotion how one can have questions and still be a believer.
I've read it twice.
Going through the rest of his collection and rereading.
I reread to refresh my memory and instead it refreshed my soul. :)
Shane Wagoner
In this book, Bishop Spong has written what can be considered his comprehensive case for the reformulation of Christian beliefs. However, it's also the comprehensive showcase of his blind egotism. His ideas and reasoning is shabby and aggressive to say the least (and I say this as someone who loves Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan), his interaction with Christian history is an embarrassment (particularly when he called Galileo "not very courageous" for recanting), and his self righteous atti ...more
this was intersting. Bishop John Shelby Spong discusses how the concept of a personal God (theism) has become obsolete in our modern society. He describes how advances in science such as astronomy and evolution have proven that the Bible cannot be true. He describes himself as a "believer in exile" telling the story of the Jewish city of Jerusalem in ancient times. The Jewish people in Jerusalem had their faith centered on the city, they believe that God had blessed them and was maintaining thei ...more
If any book was going to turn me into a Christian, it would have been this one. Spong presents a Christianity that is scientifically tenable, does not raise disturbing questions about the morality of God, and is immune to the question of why evil exists in the world. He does this by treating God as an impersonal pan*theistic force and Jesus as one who was more in touch with this force than any other. All of us -- he says -- can be in touch with this God.

This all seems like mysticism light, which
Kimberly Cain
John Shelby Spong is a brave man, sharing the truth of his own journey in the world of Christianity. A retired Bishop of the Episcopal Church, he understands well how fearful & unmoving an institution can become. He understands that he treads in dangerous waters when dealing with deep-seated beliefs, dogmas & fears within the Church at large, yet he carves a path of forward thinking & does so with loving & visionary clarity.

Christianity, as with all the great sacred institutions,
I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I agree with much of Spong's thinking. On the other, I didn't think this was a great book.

The title points out one of the problems. "Why Christianity Must Change or Die" seems to address itself to the Church, as though it will point out issues for the Church to work on. "A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile" suggests that it will speak to those who already understand why Christianity must change.

The bulk of the book raises issues and que
Crazy Red-head
I LOVE THIS BOOK! Even after reading it the first time, I always keep it readily available to reread a chapter or two as a refresher. In this day & age, there is way to much UNSUPPORTED info about religion that people swallow up like candy without further thought or investigation (which REALLY bugs me). This is a scholarly approach by a very a christian bishop. Like everything else... even religions are heavy in politics & the TRUTH vanishes. Don't fall for that! USE YOUR BRAIN! This boo ...more
Jan 25, 2008 Patrick rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: All Christians
Spong is expert at pointing out much of what should be changed in Christianity and why. However, I can't buy his ultimate remedies. I also think Spong comes across as bitter at times that more of Christianity has not come closer to some of his views. I share his frustration but I don't think it's quite as tragic as he seems to make it in this book.

Spong serves well as a watchdog of some of the abuses and craziness in our faith, but I wouldn't look to him as being one to provide effective solutio
Junsoo Lee
This book may be hard to swallow for many literal or conservative Christians. It is possible that they can get mad. However, the book has a point. Literal and conservative Christians also may want to read this book and get ready to answer the questions that this book raises. The authors calls for critical thought rather than blind faith. Many young people leave church when these questions linger in their mind and they want good answers. This book does not offer good answers either, however.
Zack Golden
I thought that this book was a little hard to get through. Could have been where I am in life at the moment and where I am in spiritual opinion. I feel like some of the themes were repeated a few times too many. The core ideas were ones that I assent to, but I believe they could have been expressed more concisely and a little less sentimentally. Spong sounded very invested in what he was saying, which I believe is to be expected of a bishop writing to explain his views on his religion. But his o ...more
Oct 26, 2012 Rick rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: thinking Christians
Shelves: theology
First, Spong is not for everyone. Readers will find him an in-your-face radical who challenges traditional concepts of God and truth and even reality. Second, this is a brave book, worth reading for its thought provoking ideas. But if your mind is already made up you should avoid this book.
B Kevin
The Christianity formulated in a 1st century desert is totally inadequate
to life after two thousand years of progress in science and knowledge. Spong details the
inadequacies of Christianity and its traditions.
Jane Linker
Be prepared Christians to have your principals of belief brought into the 21st century. Really thought provoking and "real"!!! A heavy but great read
Evangelical Christians have to carry around copies of Spong in a brown paper bag...
I like this book, although I'm not sure it lives up to the title. I guess when I hear "why Christianity must change or die" I expect the author to try and convince me. Instead what I found was one man's account of why he thinks Christianity must change. Perhaps that is what the subtext was hinting at.

I found this book interesting because it provided a view of Christianity that I haven't heard much of. I found many of his points intriguing, but not completely convincing. It has however, made me
First the good: John Spong comes across as authentic and humble with no ulterior motives. He is seeking the truth for himself and does so with honesty and integrity. Anyone should be commended for doing precisely that. I don't fault him for trying to find a way to reconcile his faith in a way that doesn't violate his intellectual and other objections. So I find no fault in the author himself or in his attempts to chart a new path.

However, as much as I might want to, I cannot make as far a leap a
Brian Madigan
Not to ruin this book for anyone but if you don't believe or support Spongs 12 Thesis or Points (provide below from Wikapedia) then there is no sense reading this book; however if you do accept these points well then this and any of Spong's books are for you

1.Theism, as a way of defining God, is dead. So most theological God-talk is today meaningless. A new way to speak of God must be found.
2.Since God can no longer be conceived in theistic terms, it becomes nonsensical to seek to understand Jes
Spong is controversial and that's born out in this book. One thing it took me a while to clue into was that there are 2 definitions of theism. The more common lay one of general belief in God was the one I was using. That is not what Spong is talking about. He is using a more technical theological definition of the term as a particular kind of God--supernatural, interventionist creator being who controls everything down here. Before I figured out this disconnect, it was a little confusing.

Rowena Dela Rosa Yoon
Published in 1998, Bishop John Shelby Spong debunks the theistic view and relevance of the Bible. But reading Marcus Borg (in his more recent books), Borg can answer with clarity the issues being raised by Spong. Borg has comprehensively addressed the historical and metaphorical interpretations of the Scriptures and how the early Jewish religious traditions are represented in it. (I need to read Bishop Spong’s more recent books too. This book was written while he was in “exile” and he might have ...more
Jun 01, 2007 Dennis rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Patrick
Once people thought that heaven was literally just above the clouds, just above the earth. Now that we know about the cosmos, what does scripture mean when it talks about the physical ascension of Christ?

People once thought that God resided in the Temple. Quite literally, the people questioned, "How can we sing our songs in a strange land?" believing that God couldn't hear them because he was back in the City of God, in the Temple. Having now moved beyond such literal beliefs, what are we to mak
Robert Clay
Ugh. I hardly ever give one star, but I had to force myself to finish this one. It's not that I hate 'that heretic Spong'; I found in reading him that I could at least appreciate his forthright approach, and he certainly is a brave and unconventional thinker. And it wasn't so much that I found his style irksome and overly wordy, although there was that (for example, the frequency with which, about every page or so, he begins or ends a thought with wording to the effect of 'but I must stress that ...more
So many interesting points, but it makes one wonder why not just become a humanist or universal unitarian? I am curious as to why he still considers himself christian as from the start he tears down every part of the nicean creed- the very basis of christian faith as most know christianity.
In some ways he is very mystic oriented with bahai like leanings (God revealing himself throughout the ages in multiple ways)
But I suppose he still finds the traditions of christianity beautiful and meaningful
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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
More about John Shelby Spong...
Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism: A Bishop Rethinks the Meaning of Scripture The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible's Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love Jesus for the Non-Religious A New Christianity for a New World: Why Traditional Faith is Dying & How a New Faith is Being Born Eternal Life: A New Vision: Beyond Religion, Beyond Theism, Beyond Heaven and Hell

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