Jesus for the Non Religious

John Shelby Spong, Author
John Shelby Spong, Author . Harper San Francisco $24.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-076207-0
Reviewed on: 01/15/2007
Release date: 02/01/2007
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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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