Eternal Life: A New Vision: Beyond Religion, Beyond Theism, Beyond Heaven and Hell

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Overview

Bishop John Shelby Spong, author of Jesus for the Non-Religious, Why Christianity Must Change or Die, Sins of Scripture, and many other books, is known for his controversial ideas and fighting for minority rights. In Eternal Life: A New Vision, a remarkable spiritual journey about his lifelong struggle with the questions of God and death, he reveals how he came to a new conviction about eternal life. God, says spong, is ultimately one, and each of us is part of that oneness. We do not live on after death as ...

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Eternal Life: A New Vision

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Overview

Bishop John Shelby Spong, author of Jesus for the Non-Religious, Why Christianity Must Change or Die, Sins of Scripture, and many other books, is known for his controversial ideas and fighting for minority rights. In Eternal Life: A New Vision, a remarkable spiritual journey about his lifelong struggle with the questions of God and death, he reveals how he came to a new conviction about eternal life. God, says spong, is ultimately one, and each of us is part of that oneness. We do not live on after death as children who have been rewarded with heaven or punished with hell but as part of the life and being of God, sharing in God’s eternity, which is beyond the barriers of time and space. spong argues that the discovery of the eternal can be found within each of us if we go deeply into ourselves, transcend our limits and become fully human. By seeking God within, by living each day to its fullest, we will come to understand how we live eternally.

Always compelling and controversial, Spong, the leading Christian liberal and pioneer for human rights, wrestles with the question that all of us will ultimately face. In his final book, Spong takes us beyond religion and even beyond Christianity until he arrives at the affirmation that the fully realized human life empties into and participates in the eternity of God. The pathway into God turns out to be both a pathway into ourselves and a doorway into eternal life. To Job’s question “If a man (or a woman) dies, will he (or she) live again?” he gives his answer as a ringing yes!

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this challenging, intellectually rigorous culmination of his body of theological work, retired Episcopal bishop Spong (Jesus for the Non-Religious) provides a lucid historical analysis of the development of human religious thought from the onset of self-conscious awareness to the present, and a compelling argument for the creation of a new religious paradigm. Offering deeply personal reflections on his own Christian journey and priestly career, Spong reviews a lifetime of passionate engagement with biblical study and with questions of faith, charting his growing discomfort with language that seemed “limited, falsifying and inadequate.” Arguing that modern scientific understanding necessitates dismissing outdated metaphors and assumptions by which faith seeks to calm human anxiety, Spong suggests an understanding of God “not as a person, but as the process that calls personhood into being.” Spong's examination of the gospel resurrection accounts includes an intriguing interpretation of John's portrayal of Jesus as “a being so courageously present that he was open to the ultimate reality of life, love and being.” This work, bound to be influential, offers new insights into religion's big questions about life and death, making an invaluable contribution to both religious scholarship and faithful exploration. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Spong, the controversial retired Episcopal Bishop of Newark, NJ, may rightly be considered the bellwether of the most advanced opinions in theology that still cling to a nominal Christian identity. With subtlety and complexity, Spong promotes an idea of an ongoing existence beyond our physicality, one that entirely supercedes "religious" notions of Heaven or Hell and even conventional notions of God. For conservative Christians, Spong's views are heretical; for many other readers, Christian and non-Christian, Spong's writing here as elsewhere is intelligent, engaged, comforting, and uplifting. VERDICT Spong's thought and theology are crucial stimulants for every thinking Christian; an important book.
Daniel H. Gregory
“In Spong’s perpetual quest for truth and knowledge, he has transformed the enigmatic cosmic energy of the ‘big bang’ into an afterglow of human hope for the ages.”
Deepak Chopra
“Fear of death is the most fundamental fear of human existence. The only way it can be conquered is through knowledge and experience of your eternal being. Eternal Life: A New Vision is elegant invitation to find this part of yourself and be liberated.”
Matthew Fox
“His courage, candor and intense awareness are unique gifts to people both inside and outside Christianity at this critical time in human and planetary history.”
Anglican and Episcopal History
“Spong invites us to engage the questions, to revel in the mystery, and finally to find our place within God’s place, our time within God’s time, and our life within God’s life.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Spong once again puts his intellectual money on common sense . . . Religion’s purpose, he claims, is “security, not Truth” - a key insight that demands, in turn, a set of wholly new visions. . . . Spong . . . [is] a unique visionary.”
Central Coast Express
“Eternal Life: A New Vision doesn’t actually give us a clear vision of eternal life at all. Spong would never do that.... Instead he frees us to dream a dream of what life, eternal or otherwise, might be.”
Booklist
“Spong has spent his life and work making sense of this most fundamental human issue . . . His fans will find this spiritual autobiography fascinating, but so, too, should anyone interested in the still uncomfortable topics of death and mortality.”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“John Shelby Spong, the reinterpreter of Christianity for the doubtful, retired as the Episcopal bishop of New Jersey in 2001 but not from his religious provocations. . . . People have to get beyond the idea of God as a heavenly judge who hands out rewards and punishment,.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060762063
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/1/2009
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

John Shelby Spong was the Episcopal (Anglican) bishop of Newark for twenty-four years. Since then he has taught at Harvard, Drew, the University of the Pacific, and the Berkeley Graduate Theological Union. Selling over a million copies, his books include The Sins of Scripture, Eternal Life: A New Vision, Jesus for the Non-Religious, Why Christianity Must Change or Die, and his autobiography, Here I Stand. His weekly online column reaches thousands of subscribers all over the world. He lives with his wife, Christine, in Morris Plains, New Jersey.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 18 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 18 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 26, 2009

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    Much Old Stuff With a Selfish Conclusion

    I have read all of Bishop Spongs books because they are brutally honest about his perception of the world. I have a deep respect for him and what he tries to offer the modern church. I do believe his books are starting to repeat themselves, which over all is how I experienced this book. It is a recounting of most of what he has written--for new readers that will be good, but for those of us long time readers it was disappointing. Over the years I have found that Spongs' though well researched very self oriented. This book is particularily so. It is somewhat biographical because he is sharing how he will arrive at his belief in eternal life. I am always amazed at how gracious he is when he writes of those who have influenced his thinking, in this book he opens the book by honoring those persons whose deaths have afftected his thinking and living. The last Chaper entitled "I Believe In Eternal Life" was the most disappointing. he basically spends an entire book stating how religion has failed and a delusion; then he chooses to beleive in eternal life basically as I READ him because he is getting old and can not see himself disapperaing from life, in other words he will live for ever because he is just too important in his own eyes to vanish! I was very much dispappointed how totally right brain this book and when he gets to the end he shrinks from following through on all his other rejections. He belives in eternal because HE WANTS TO BELIEVE it is true.
    The epilouge of the book was the most exciting and thoughtful for me to read and made the purchase of the book worth while for me. It is entitled "Defining the Choice To Die" This was the old Spong at his best! A powerful and very clear of where we are now as humans who have amazing power in our hands to determine the issue of quality of life. He writes a searing and honest look at the loaded word "Suicide". The choice of suffering persons is often not a "death decisons but a life decision". He wrestles with evil and abuse and writes a clear thoughful and moral spiritual argument for a life affirming possiblity to exit from this life with diginity and faith. Good Job Bushop!
    For all its faults--I would reccomend this book on the epilouge alone!

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 18, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Jack Spong is an informed genius.

    I had an opportunity to meet Jack(as he insists on being called) and his lovely wife Christine, over dinner after having sat transfixed in six of his lectures. His depth of knowledge is beyond what the average person can even comprehend. For anyone who questions what an organized religion proclaims to be "the absolute factual truth" as stated in "God's Holy scriptures", this book clarifies historical fact and circumstance according to historical documentation and through scientific and archeological discovery.Pure logic brings many questions to light through Spong's factual explanations. A must read for educational purposes if nothing else.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2010

    Eternal Life - A New Vision

    Thought provoking - especially as Spong outlines our development/continuance of religion as a defense against our fears.
    At times Spong's writing seems repetative and/or clumsy in description. Overall not as well done literarily as his previous works, perhaps because the topic is pretty radical. I continue to reflect upon his views.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 10, 2012

    Although I have much affection and admiration for retired Episco

    Although I have much affection and admiration for retired Episcopalian Bishop John Shelby Spong, I found this book disappointing. I was quite intrigued to learn his thoughts on what may await us after death, but these are old concepts for all but the most literal-minded fundamentalists. God, Spong tells us, is not a Santa Claus, punishing/rewarding Dad-in-the-sky, but rather a vast interconnected consciousness, which 'exists' beyond time or space and with which we can merge by living in the present moment.

    That, in a nutshell, is the thesis, padded with a lot of rehashing of why the old views of a Christian Heaven-above-us don't work, as well as some very superficial analysis of why one shouldn't take the Bible literally: conflicting resurrection stories and so forth.

    Alas, Spong's analysis of science, history and Christianity feels shallow and does not warrant his repeated insistence he has discovered some great new fact of the universe. He would have been better served, I think, by publishing an essay on his own experience with death and grieving.

    If one was a true literalist, perhaps this would begin a conversation, but then again, I can't imagine someone with a strict literalistic view of Christianity picking this book up in the first place.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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