Unbelievable: Why Neither Ancient Creeds Nor the Reformation Can Produce a Living Faith Today

Unbelievable: Why Neither Ancient Creeds Nor the Reformation Can Produce a Living Faith Today

by John Shelby Spong


$18.13 $18.99 Save 5% Current price is $18.13, Original price is $18.99. You Save 5%. View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Friday, October 25


Five hundred years after Martin Luther and his Ninety-Five Theses ushered in the Reformation, bestselling author and controversial bishop and teacher John Shelby Spong delivers twelve forward-thinking theses to spark a new reformation to reinvigorate Christianity and ensure its future.

At the beginning of the sixteenth century, Christianity was in crisis—a state of conflict that gave birth to the Reformation in 1517. Enduring for more than 200 years, Luther’s movement was then followed by a "revolutionary time of human knowledge." Yet these advances in our thinking had little impact on Christians’ adherence to doctrine—which has led the faith to a critical point once again.

Bible scholar and Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong contends that there is mounting pressure among Christians for a radically new kind of Christianity—a faith deeply connected to the human experience instead of outdated dogma. To keep Christianity vital, he urges modern Christians to update their faith in light of these advances in our knowledge, and to challenge the rigid and problematic Church teachings that emerged with the Reformation. There is a disconnect, he argues, between the language of traditional worship and the language of the twenty-first century. Bridging this divide requires us to rethink and reformulate our basic understanding of God.

With its revolutionary resistance to the authority of the Church in the sixteenth century, Spong sees in Luther’s movement a model for today’s discontented Christians. In fact, the questions they raise resonate with those contemplated by our ancestors. Does the idea of God still have meaning? Can we still follow historic creeds with integrity? Are not such claims as an infallible Pope or an inerrant Bible ridiculous in today’s world?

In Unbelievable, Spong outlines twelve "theses" to help today’s believers more deeply contemplate and reshape their faith. As an educator, clergyman, and writer who has devoted his life to his faith, Spong has enlightened Christians and challenged them to explore their beliefs in new and meaningful ways. In this, his final book, he continues that rigorous tradition, once again offering a revisionist approach that strengthens Christianity and secures its relevance for generations to come.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062641304
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 01/08/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 57,512
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

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.

Table of Contents

Preface xi

Part I Setting The Stage

1 Why Modern Men and Women Can No Longer Be Believers 3

Part II Stating The Problem

2 How the First Reformation Began 17

3 Differentiating the Experience from the Explanation 23

Part III Thesis 1: God

4 The Challenge of the Copernican Revolution 33

5 The Impact on Theism from Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin 41

6 Dealing with the Insights of Freud 49

7 A Place to Begin-Being Not a Being 55

8 The Quest for God: A New Form 61

9 Our Definition of God: Evolving, Never Fixed 69

Part IV Thesis 2: Jesus The Christ

10 Escaping the Idolatry of the Incarnation 77

11 The Collapse of the Salvation Story 83

Part V Thesis 3: Original Sin

12 The Garden of Eden 93

Part VI Thesis 4: The Virgin Birth

13 The Story of the Virgin Birth 103

14 The Actual Details Behind Jesus' Birth 111

Part VII Thesis 5: Miracles

15 When Miracles Entered the Bible 121

16 The Miracles in the Moses/Joshua Story 129

17 Elijah and Elisha-Miracles Expanded 135

18 The Miracles of Jesus 141

19 Messiah Miracles-The Final Clue 149

Part VIII Thesis 6: Atonement Theology

20 Renouncing "Jesus Died for My Sins" 155

21 Incomplete-Not Fallen 161

Part IX Thesis 7: Easter

22 The Resurrection 169

23 Paul's List of Resurrection Witnesses 177

24 The Gospels' Understanding of Easter 183

Part X Thesis 8: The Ascension

25 Elijah Magnified 191

Part XI Thesis 9: Ethics

26 Finding the Basis for Ethics 199

27 How the Ten Commandments Have Changed Through History 207

28 Meet Moses' Father-in-Law 215

29 The Questionable Relevance of the Ten Commandments Today 221

30 Modern Ethics 227

Part XII Thesis 10: Prayer

31 The Death of Prayer 237

32 Prayer: An Act of Being or of Doing? 243

33 Driving Prayer Toward a New Understanding 249

Part XIII Thesis 11: Life After Death

34 Life After Death-Still Believable? 257

35 A New Perspective on Eternity 263


36 The Marks of Tomorrow's Christianity 273

Part XV Epilogue

37 My Mantra: This I Do Believe 283

Bibliography 289

Scripture Index 299

Subject Index 303

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Unbelievable: Why Neither Ancient Creeds Nor the Reformation Can Produce a Living Faith Today 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This "final" book by Jack Spong is a summation of his early work. As such, it is clear, insightful and revolutionary. But Spong can be very frustrating. He is great at debunking standard belief systems, but not so great at offering any alternatives. I can agree with almost all he has to say about the need for reform. But I wait in vain for solutions. The ones he finally offers are very ethereal. He can be wonderfully inspiring in many ways, but left me saying to myself: "Is that all there is?" How do I carry out what he suggests when I get up Monday morning?...………..Bob L. FL