Take One

Volume 2000, Number 1

Edition: 6/19/2000

A Critical Review: Why Christianity Must Change or Die by Bishop John Shelby Spong: Part 1

by SCRVPVLVS, revised 6/19/2000

Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord. Isa. 1:18

Why Bishop Spong wrote this book

According to his book, Bishop Spong wrote Why Christianity Must Change or Die out of fear. He is afraid God is dying or dead. His studies have forced him to doubt the Church's traditional statements of faith. Now he tries to shield himself against the resulting shock of his own mortality and meaninglessness and against an overwhelming sense of the loss of God. Unable to dismiss God, he struggles to preserve the Jesus experience by radical deconstruction of scripture. (He has become in the process a controversial figure in contemporary religious debate and a self-described spiritual exile).

According to his book, Bishop Spong wrote Why Christianity Must Change or Die out of hope. He is hopeful of a revival of worship. Emulating Jesus, he gives to others his experience of God, his knowledge of scripture, and his personal, often painful, journey of faith, and calls others to their own capacity to do the same. He teaches to live deeply and authentically, to love wastefully, to give ones' self to others, and to seek the truth come whence it may, cost what it will, because acting with ignorance leads to the diminishment of others. (Like Jesus, this has gotten him labeled a heretic by religious authorities and threatened with death by zealots).

The book's purpose

This book exposes two great errors. First, humanity has described God. Second, orthodox Christianity has made preservation of the ecclesiastical order more important than clarification of the truth of God. These errors are responsible for harm that ranges from feelings of despair to enslavement and murder of entire nations of people.

There is a traditional majority view which describes God as an individual (or individuals), having familiar human qualities writ large. But Spong holds the equally traditional minority view that any concrete description of God is inadequate. It substitutes myth for truth.

More to come in a future issue.


undoing the reading-in of implied meaning in a text

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