Jesus for the Non-Religious (2007)
Bishop John Shelby Spong has been on a life–long quest to rescue the church from irrelevancy. In freeing Jesus from religion’s prison, he takes aim at the church’s core belief: who is Jesus. He first strips the superstitious barnacles that have attached themselves to this incredible person: such as that Jesus was born of a virgin in Bethlehem, that his father was Joseph, that he did miracles, that he had twelve disciples, and especially that he physically rose from the dead. Next Spong explains how these traditions arose by the early disciples seeing all he did through the lens of the Hebrew Scriptures. With these new revelations, we are then able to see the true Jesus, a heroic figure who revealed divinity through his humanness and can still guide us today. In short, Spong breaks Jesus free from the idol religion has created and restores for us a revolutionary and life–giving figure we all need to meet.
From Publishers Weekly
Spong, the iconoclastic former Episcopal bishop of Newark, details in this impassioned work both his “deep commitment to Jesus of Nazareth” and his “deep alienation from the traditional symbols” that surround Jesus. For Spong, scholarship on the Bible and a modern scientific worldview demonstrate that traditional teachings like the Trinity and prayer for divine intervention must be debunked as the mythological trappings of a primitive worldview. These are so much “religion,” which was devised by our evolutionary forebears to head off existential anxiety in the face of death. What’s left? The power of the “Christ experience,” in which Jesus transcends tribal notions of the deity and reaches out to all people. Spong says Jesus had such great “energy” and “integrity” about him that his followers inflated to the point of describing him as a deity masquerading in human form; however, we can still get at the historical origin of these myths by returning to Jesus’ humanity, especially his Jewishness. Spong so often suggests the backwardness and insecurity of those who disagree with him that his rhetoric borders on the fundamentalist. His own historical and theological reconstructions would be more palatable if he seemed more aware that he too is engaged in mythmaking. (Feb. 27)
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