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Why Christianity must Change or Die, by Bishop John Selby Spong

I cannot forsake or even modify my deepest convictions about the one I call Lord and Christ, but I can respect and treasure the tradition in which my Lord was born and from which he and the entire Christian movement have sprung.

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I can also learn from Judaism past and present and find my Christian life enlightened, enriched and deepened by Jewish insights. It is the reality, of this conviction that creates for me the only possible basis for true dialogue between Christians and Jews. Dialogue can never be an attempt at conversion, nor can it occur if one party assumes an objective ultimacy or a superiority for his or her point of view. Dialogue must be an interaction in which each participant stands with full integrity in his or her own tradition and is open to the depths of the truth that is in the other.

In this dialogue I as a Christian want first to acknowledge, then to express my gratitude for, and finally to bear witness to the continuing insights of Judaism that challenge, stimulate and enrich Christianity. If Judaism were to cease to be, if Christianity were to lose that peculiar Jewish witness and these insights were to lose their power or have their distinctiveness blunted, then Christianity would be poorer, more open to distortion.

I as a Christian need Judaism to be Judaism lest the ultimate truth of God be compromised or even lost in the shallowness of a rootless Christianity. At the very heart of Judaism is the understanding of a God who is rooted in history. God for the Hebrew is not an idea to be contemplated but rather a living force to be engaged. The mystery of God is revealed in the ongoing events of life, and any people who would know, serve or worship this God must be willing to plunge into life.

There can be no escape into otherworldly piety if one is to worship Yahweh, for this is the God who brought his people out of Egypt and for whom bondage and slavery are an abomination. This is the God who parted the waters, who led his people by cloud and fire, who covenanted with them at Mt. Sinai, who guided them in their homeless wanderings in the wilderness, who established them beyond the Jordan. This God the Hebrews encountered even when their nation was destroyed and they were exiled. The same God, said Jeremiah, who brought you out of Egypt will also bring you out of the north country.

When the Hebrews told the story of their God, they also told the story of their history, for the history of Israel was the history of their meeting with the holy. They looked at their history not as a museum in which God was encased but as a chronicle of their experiences that empowered and enabled them to press on into the unknown future, for the God who had met this people in the events of yesterday would also meet them in the events of tomorrow.

Holding this conviction, one will always appreciate the past but will never worship it.

One will always treasure history but will not be immobilized by it. The God who constantly is doing new things in history can always be trusted to be consistent. Faith emunah in Hebrew was not understood to be intellectual assent to propositional statements. Moss and implying that all revelation has been concluded, was not a concept that the Hebrew mind could embrace.

Rather, faith meant an attitude of expectancy in history. Faith was the call to step boldly into tomorrow, to embrace the new -- with confidence that every new day would prove to be a meeting place with the holy and eternal God. The opposite of faith was to cling desperately to yesterday, fearing that if one ever left it, one would leave God.


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It was because of this conviction about the meaning of faith and history that the Hebrew tradition could produce prophets. Prophets were not predictors of future events. They were those who had the eyes to discern the presence of the holy God in the living moments of history, and they spoke to that insight, opening the eyes of the people of their generation to the realization that God was active in their lives. Security for the Hebrews did not reside in an unchanging tradition.

It resided only in the holy God who was always in front of his people calling them to step boldly into the future. No insight into the nature of God is more vitally needed by our generation of Christians. We have moved from a horse-and-buggy mentality to space travel; from a pony-express communication system to instant satellite communication; from thousands of separated, independent, local communities to one deeply interdependent society; from enormous distances and the resulting security-fostering provincial prejudices to a globe so small that I have had breakfast in Tel Aviv, lunch in Paris and dinner in New York all in the same day.

This attitude, so prevalent in the Christian church today, is not to be attacked or condemned; rather, it desperately needs to be understood. These people are looking for God, but faith, as the Hebrew mind understood it, has died. The living God of history is our true security, not some reflection of this God or some unchanging tradition. This biblical God was and is and is to come. This God of history enables us to lay down our false religious security blankets and plunge into life.

We engage history, we risk, we venture, we live.

By faith, Abraham could leave the security of Ur of the Chaldees. OK, I actually get it -- he has a lot invested. 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 Like Crossan, this former Episcopal Bishop still considers himself Christian but doubts the fundamental creeds.

And I have to tip-toe in my professional life in the nomimal Christian society where it is considered undesirable even by nominal Chrisitans to say you are not Christian. I had nothing to gain by leaving my faith. Oh yeah, I guess I had one little thing to gain -- integrity. View 2 comments. May 14, Shane Wagoner 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 In this book, Bishop Spong has written what can be considered his comprehensive case for the reformulation of Christian beliefs.

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 attitude that pervades every page is absolutely nauseating. Any good that may have come from this book has been said more skillfully elsewhere. Any Jesus scholarship that could add to how we interpret Christ in the Christian tradition is poor and in need of massive corrections.

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Any hope to be found in this man as a leader of Liberal Christianity is nonexistent. Read Borg for a replacement theologically and read Crossan for a replacement historically if you want legitimate Liberal Christian thinking but be sure to balance it out with some Wright ;p. Jan 07, Stacy Heatherly rated it it was amazing. This book was wonderful. I had unanswered questions and felt guilty for questioning.

Christian Book Review: Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile...

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. Jun 23, Einzige rated it it was ok Shelves: religion.

The Continuing Christian Need for Judaism

Not just the manifesto of Susan from the Parish Council. Of course it does seem like that initially but it quickly transforms into an argument for a "non theistic" form of Christianity which is instead based on an understanding of the human "centre of Being" with Jesus becoming a great example of being a loving person who had a fully actualised humanity.

He comes to this conclusion based on the belief that with modern scientific, historical and psychological understandings God being understood Not just the manifesto of Susan from the Parish Council. He comes to this conclusion based on the belief that with modern scientific, historical and psychological understandings God being understood as something distinct, all powerful, all knowing creator who intervenes in human affairs is no longer justifiable and that just as understandings of God have developed in the past so too will it now.