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

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  2,614 Ratings  ·  107 Reviews
Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile
Paperback, 257 pages
Published April 21st 1999 by HarperOne (first published 1998)
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Jennifer
May 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Scotti
Jul 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Walter
Feb 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Kathleen
Apr 19, 2010 rated it did not like it
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
Leslie ellis
Feb 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Kelly
Jan 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Shane Wagoner
May 14, 2014 rated it did not like it
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
Sabio
Jul 15, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: christianity
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
...more
Stacy Heatherly
Jan 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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. :)
Melanie
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
...more
Kimberly Cain
Dec 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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,
...more
Sarah
Jun 16, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Ronny
Sep 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
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
...more
Crazy Red-head
Mar 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: rereadable
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
Rick
Oct 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Jennifer Scoggin
Feb 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book speaks directly to where I am after almost 60 years of active church membership as a Southern Baptist, United Methodist, and Episcopalian. For the first time in my life, I am not an active part of the church; I am, as Bishop Spong states, a "believer in exile." I have come to doubt the existence of a theistic God who resides "up there." I have been seeking a reinterpretation of the life of Jesus. And, most recently, as a person of almost constant prayer, I have wondered if praying make ...more
Margie
Sep 17, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
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
...more
Patrick
Jan 25, 2008 rated it liked it
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
...more
Junsoo Lee
Mar 07, 2013 rated it liked it
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.
B Kevin
Nov 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion
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
Aug 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Be prepared Christians to have your principals of belief brought into the 21st century. Really thought provoking and "real"!!! A heavy but great read
Brent
Dec 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
Evangelical Christians have to carry around copies of Spong in a brown paper bag...
Isaac Carpenter
Jan 30, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This will be the last Spong book I read. I just don 19t think I can take it anymore. This book is basically the same rehasing of Rescuing the Bible From Fundamentalism in terms of backward liberal apologetics.

The only positive note that I can think to mention (just to be nice) is in his reflections of heaven in the next to last chapter. He basically asserts there that in modern Christian thinking about heaven is a notion often goes unspoken. His conclusion of this is that to people 1CHeaven has
...more
Glen Engel-Cox
Sep 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
I was raised Baptist, dunked at the age of 10 or 11, and felt a “calling” around 13. But as I read more and more scholarship, I fell out with the “institualized” church because I could not believe the Bible as the literal word of God as promoted by the Southern Baptist Convention. (This change was mainly brought about by a bit of evangelical propaganda against the Mormon church, in which the writer pointed out all the difficulties with the Book of Mormon. I don’t think the writer anticipated tha ...more
Taylor Ramage
This book made me wonder if I'm not as theologically progressive as I thought I was. It's a challenging read–partially because of the author's writing style and partially because of his views–and one that requires patience and open-mindedness. Spong spends the first half of the book essentially deconstructing Christianity before making much of effort to reconstruct it. I can easily see why he's such a controversial figure. There were many times when even I became miffed at his arguments. Ultimat ...more
Evan Kostelka
May 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
Bishop Spong worked with John A. T. Robinson, who wrote a book in the 1960s called Honest to God. I've read that and loved the idea of non-theism. Bishop Spong takes that book and runs with it.
This book was published in 1998 and was something I would have easily dismissed a few years ago, but now it is putting language to my thoughts.
He continues the dismantling of a 3-tiered universe God and shows how that plays out in various activities: worship, prayer, communion, and the church calendar.
Bi
...more
Walter Rabon
Jul 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Excellent on deconstruction of tradition but I found myself wanting more on the reconstruction. This will likely be true for anyone who is not in the same "place" as author and should be noted as a problem for reconstruction - that non traditionalists can still have differing perspectives on reconstruction and should be church together to grow into the future in a big tent that allows much room for divergence. Spong is very open to otherness but doesn't specifically address how "open" reconstruc ...more
Zach Christensen
Mar 15, 2017 rated it liked it
It was not bad, just not my favorite Spong book. I'd still recommend A New Christianity For A New World if you are looking to understand Spong and really glean some help from him. He is an engaging writer on the whole, but some examples to make a point became too long-winded in this work. He also affiliates N.T. Wright with the Religious Right, which I did not like. This book is also relatively older in his span of writing, so it does not reflect his most current perspectives.
Robert Clay
May 22, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Bob Buice
Oct 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
“Seek the truth come whence it may, cost what it will.”

Over slightly more than two thousand years, Christianity has undergone numerous changes. Medieval heretics were burned at the stake or hanged as witches. A sect that once suppressed women now ordains women as clergy. Certain denominations have gone from condemning homosexuality to including openly gay people in their congregations, and even ordaining them as clergy. Racial segregation in the church has all but died. Unfortunately and despite
...more
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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
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“This point must be heard: the Gospels are first-century narrations based on first-century interpretations. Therefore they are a first-century filtering of the experience of Jesus. They have never been other than that. We must read them today not to discover the literal truth about Jesus, but rather to be led into the Jesus experience they were seeking to convey. That experience always lies behind the distortions, which are inevitable since words are limited. If the Gospels are to be for us revelations of truth, we must enter these texts, go beneath the words, discover the experience that made the words necessary, and in this manner seek the meaning to which the words point. One must never identify the text with the revelation or the messenger with the message. That has been the major error in our two thousand years of Christian history. It is an insight that today is still feared and resisted. But let it be clearly stated, the Gospels are not in any literal sense holy, they are not accurate, and they are not to be confused with reality. They are rather beautiful portraits painted by first-century Jewish artists, designed to point the reader toward that which is in fact holy, accurate, and real. The Gospels represent that stage in the development of the faith story in which ecstatic exclamation begins to be placed into narrative form.” 2 likes
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