Renee's Reviews > A New Christianity for a New World: Why Traditional Faith is Dying & How a New Faith is Being Born

A New Christianity for a New World by John Shelby Spong
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May 17, 12

bookshelves: non-fiction
Read from April 15 to May 17, 2012

First the superficial: I don't like Spong's writing style. He's obviously passionate about his subject, but by the middle of the book this results in paragraphs of high-emotion concluding sentences instead of supporting information. (Dare I call a bishop too preachy?) Also, I don't appreciate an author telling me how I will hear and respond to his book in the first chapter. This comes off as arrogant and defensive.
As for the substantial: I read in Spong's book, not a critique of Christianity as a whole, but of his specific "brand" of Episcopal Christianity. Several of his rallying cries are moot in other denominations. As a member of a non-creedal anabaptist denomination, I don't see Christianity limited by the definition of a creed, and I don't associate baptism with original sin because it is postponed until an age of knowledgable consent. As a woman who has been extended the priviledges of a seminary education and a voice from the pulpit, the patriarchal history of the church (though still an issue) has not limited my participation in the church leadership roles to which I've been called and gifted.
I don't believe that Spong's chorus of God as life, love, and being are mutually exclusive of God being an actual...Being. And I don't believe that his complaints against the church, as humanly flawed as it is, are a reason to kill off God.
His arguements for a non-theistic God are shaky at best. While I am convinced of the existance of the Q document, I don't believe that the commonality of the material in Matthew and Luke prove that they contain the entire of the more ancient document. Couldn't Matthew have borrowed some of the Q document's material that speaks of Christ's divinity, and Luke have plucked other pieces? His other major argument seems to be that non-believers don't believe. This is evidence of freewill, not of God's lack of existance. Another piece of this argument saddens me for Spong's sake. He harps on the seemingly barbaric need for God to kill His Son. However, if the 3 persons of the Trinity are more tightly woven than Spong believes, God didn't kill his Son for humamity's sins; God sacrificed God's own Self in an act of unconditional love for humanity's betterment. That seems to better define God as life, love and the Ground of Being than any of Spong's postulations.
My 2 star rating comes from what I see as the possible value of Spong's work. Instead of removing selfhood from God and divinity from Jesus, I think Spong's arguements are useful in reverse. If non-believers can come to respect Spong's perception of God as important enough to invite into their life and thought processes, this could be a first step toward accepting God as a loving Being, worthy of the trust of a personal relationship.
A small soapbox issue: It takes a brave (or clueless) man to argue on the same page (209) that 1) people who have too many children are immoral and should be condemned by the church and/or the law and 2)that new life should continue to be celebrated by the church through liturgical ritual. What does this "celebration" look like for a couple who has just been condemned by the church as immoral for creating the very same life that's being celebrated? Who determines which child tips the scales from ritual-worthy to an immoral act of the parents? (Disclaimer: I'm currently pregnant with our 3rd child, which seems to be the child of debate in our society.)
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