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Publisher's Summary

Writing from his prison cell in Nazi Germany in 1945, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a young German theologian, sketched a vision of what he called "Religionless Christianity". In this book, John Shelby Spong puts flesh onto the bare bones of Bonhoeffer's radical thought. The result is a strikingly new and different portrait of Jesus of Nazareth, a Jesus for the non-religious. Spong challenges much of the traditional understanding, from the tale of Jesus' miraculous birth to the account of his cosmic ascension into the sky. He questions the historicity of the ideas that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, that he had 12 disciples, or that the miracle stories were ever meant to be descriptions of supernatural events. He also speaks directly to those critics of Christianity who call God a "delusion" and who describe Christianity as having become evil and destructive.
Spong invites listeners to examine Jesus in the context of both the Jewish scriptures and the liturgical life of the first-century synagogue. He proposes a new way of understanding the divinity of Christ as the ultimate dimension of a fulfilled humanity. Jesus for the Non-Religious may finally bring the pious and the secular into a meaningful dialogue, opening the door to a living Christianity in the post-Christian world.
©2007 John Shelby Spong (P)2007 HarperCollins Publishers
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
3 out of 5 stars
By Paula on 04-27-07

Exhilaratng and ultimately frustrating

I've read quite a bit of Bishop Spong's output over the past ten years or so. Most of his books function in this way: he spends a great deal of time debunking belief in reading the Bible in a literal way, going verse-by-verse and explaining its meaning in the context of a Jewish midrash reading. (metaphorical, not literal, and in many cases, NOT understanding the Hebrew Bible as prophesying the life of Jesus)
OK, I get that, and it IS really interesting.
But my frustration is this... I really don't see how Bishop Spong differs THAT much from, say, Richard Dawkins in his rejection of a personal god and his inability to cleave to "old time religion" in the face of the discoveries of modern science, especially evolutionary science. I get that, and I agree with him. But he keeps saying that, in spite of all this, he still sees Jesus Christ as his ultimate manifestation of the Divine, and is still able to call himself a Christian. I really would like to be able to take that final step with him, but he never explains how he does that. I was hoping that would be the subject of this new book, but he never does get there. It's yet another retread of the old de-bunking, not significantly different from his last book, "A New Christianity for a New World" (Where, incidentally, I also hoped he'd go there and didn't.)
In short, I've about had it with Bishop Spong because he's all about the negative (this is NOT true) and none about what shape that new kind of faith would take. I'm now hoping to find some writers that will help me figure that out.

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24 of 26 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By Robert on 04-10-09

Compelling but ultimately disappointing

Two foci for this review: the text itself, and the narration.

First, narration. God save us. Bishop Spong reads the preface and epilogue, and I found myself wishing he would have read the entire book. His true sincerity, humanity and humility come through in his voice when he reads.

The narrator, however . . . slow, portentous, with odd emphases and ill-timed pauses . . . a real chore to listen to this fellow. He manages to inject a note of contemptuous sarcasm into passages, which seems often at odds with Bishop Spong's words. The narration almost put me off finishing the book.

Now, the text. Bishop Spong makes a compelling case for his vision of Christian scripture as liturgical in nature, freighted with symbolic references to Jesus' Jewish context. I couldn't wait for the final chapters, in which Bishop Spong would tell us how he specifically engages Christ in the modern age; how worship can (or should) be done; what is the nature of God as revealed through Jesus and Jesus' relationship with God - is God truly personal? Is Christ a person to this day, or simply a memory, the acheivements of which we should aspire to?

In essence, Bishop Spong spends a great deal of time methodically deconstructing Christianity in the modern age, but then replaces it with nothing - not even a suggestion on which we can build. I came away with the strong impression that Jesus was just a "really good guy".

Oddly, the resurrection gets short shrift in the concluding chapters. It's as if Bishop Spong doesn't know what to make of it - so he chooses not to deal with it at any length. But the resurrection, arguably the linchpin of Christology, deserves a fair assessment, because it is our understanding of the resurrection that will inform whatever relationship we have with the person of Christ.

I am ultimately frustrated and disapointed; that said, this worthy effort is still worth the listen.

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10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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