Jesus for the Non-Religious

I just listened to a pretty riveting interview on CBC’s Tapestry with John Shelby Spong, retired Episcopalian bishop and the author of over 20 books. The book he was promoting is called Jesus for the Non-Religious. From the book’s blurb:

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, Spong proposes a new way of understanding the divinity of Christ: as the ultimate dimension of a fulfilled humanity. 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.

I don’t know much about him, but he certainly has some provocative and heretical ideas about Christianity and the church. He was also an extremely eloquent and thoughtful speaker. He occupies some fascinating middle ground, I think, between traditional Christians and atheists. His Wikipedia entry refers to his call for a ‘new reformation’, which (among other things) calls into question all of the miracles–from virgin birth to cosmic ascension–of Jesus’s life.

I’d recommend the piece to believers and non-believers alike–the theological thinking felt very fresh to me. But, then, I’m no Bible scholar.

On a vaguely related note, this Reddit thread has some very civil discussion about growing up religious, and when it becomes indoctrination.


  1. This sounds like it is right up my ally. I was raised in a very religious family, but hold a very different view of Christianity and religion in general. I’ll have to pick this one up.

  2. I downloaded the podcast today to give it a listen. He’s a great speaker and had some good ideas. It’s well worth the 1/2hour it takes to listen to.

    I’m 2/3 of the way through Richard Dawkins “The God Delusion” and am thoroughly enjoying it.

    Spong’s ideas are very similar to Dawkins, although Spong seems to want to continue to use Jesus as a tool to bring everyone together, whereas I think Dawkins would probably like people to start from scratch.

    Having grown up non-religious, I’m of the opinion that way back someone made a typo; I choose to believe in Good.

    Thanks for pointing out the link Darren.

  3. I love Spong’s work! I’ve read three of his books (my favs are “Liberating the Gospels” and “Why Christianity Must Change or Die”). I hadn’t realised he had a new book out – thanks for the head’s up and the link!

  4. I finished this book several months ago (I bought it after the his interview on tapestry originally aired). I can honestly say and in no uncertain terms, that his ideas have radically changed may way of thinking and has finally introduced to me a Christianity with which I can be comfortable. I can’t recommend this book enough.

  5. Where was John Shelby Spong when I was searching and uncomfortable with everything I read and was taught since I was 15 – I am now 65. Well, he was probably also 15 now that I think about it! I am so happy to read his books, those by Marcus Borg are also very good and I have just joined a church here on Long Island that is open to all people regardless of differences and actually recommends these books! It took 50 years in my lifetime to reach this point. I will never forget the moment more than 10 years ago when my very best friend and partner said that my soul was in trouble because I had these ideas. Poor Bill.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: