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. Spong questions the historicity of the ideas that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, that he had twelve disciples, and that the miracle stories were meant to be descriptions of supernatural events. He also speaks directly to those contemporary critics of Christianity who call God a 'delusion' and who write letters to a 'Christian nation' and describe how Christianity has become evil and destructive. Spong invites his readers to look at Jesus through the lens of both the Jewish scriptures and the liturgical life of the first-century synagogue, dismissing the dispute about Jesus' nature that consumed the church's leadership for the first 500 years of Christian history as irrelevant. Traditional Christians who still cling to dated concepts of the past will not be comfortable with this book; however, skeptics of the twenty-first century will not be quite so certain that dismissing Jesus is the correct pathway to walk.
John Shelby Spong, the Episcopal Bishop of Newark before his retirement in 2000, has been a visiting lecturer at Harvard and at more than 500 other universities all over the world. His books, which have sold well over a million copies, include Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Heresy; The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic; Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World; Eternal Life: A New Vision; Jesus for the Non-Religious, The Sins of Scripture, Resurrection: Myth or Reality?; Why Christianity Must Change or Die; and his autobiography, Here I Stand. He writes a weekly column on the web that reaches thousands of people all over the world. To join his online audience, go to www.JohnShelbySpong.com. He lives with his wife, Christine, in New Jersey.
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