For many disciples, eternal life is the great dangling carrot that's finally handed over to hungry believers at the end of a life well spent serving and living according to selected spiritual principles.
However, in Eternal Life: A New Vision, Bishop John Shelby Spong, a controversial figure in some closed circles, proposes a new idea of what eternal life actually means. According to Spong, eternal life goes, "beyond religion, beyond theism, beyond heaven and hell."
In other words, Spong doesn't imagine eternal life will be spent lounging on puffy clouds and spending pain-free days and nights worshiping and feeling great from the moment we die until forever...and ever....and ever. Whew.
Narrated with non-judgmental clarity by John Morgan.
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!
©2009 John Shelby Spong; (P)2009 HarperCollins Publishers
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"Excellent questions... wishy-washy answers"
J.S. Spong, a scholar who has held the seemingly contradictory titles of "Episcopal Bishop" and "Humanist of the Year", presents his final work: an examination of whether or not a modern, skeptical understanding of evolution, anthropology, and religion can permit a concept of eternal life after death.
This is an excellent, timely and probing question. Unfortunately, the answer offered is less than satisfying, and is certainly not the "resounding yes" promised in the first chapter.
Spong provides many autobiographical anecdotes as he relates how his own thought process led him to the conclusions drawn in this book. This is helpful, as his opinions are often quite caustic, and being able to see these opinions in the perspective of Spong's own personal experiences renders them at least understandable, if not agreed upon.
Spong identifies religion as the necessary crutch devised by humanity in order to cope with the separation anxiety caused by the evolutionary development of self-consciousness. He dismisses religion as "outdated", "spiritually immature", and "out of touch with modern scientific understanding". He calls for humanity to transcend our religious heritage and enter into new ways of thinking.
He concludes that the meaning of eternal life consists of living meaningfully in the here and now. He identifies God as "not supernatural, but in fact part of us", and argues that this is actually what the Gospel of John was trying to communicate. The path to eternal life: Live fully and love fully, because love is eternal.
Disappointingly, the conclusion stops short of discussing whether and how the individual consciousness is preserved beyond death. Also, Spong fails to subject his belief in Love and in God-as-part-of-us to the same "skeptical scientific scrutiny" used to tear apart traditional religious ideology.
"Eternal Life Is Right-On!"
This is a great read. John Shelby Spong is spot on with his views and revelations. This book is so enlightening and supports many of the views that I have come to support and believe as s result of my own spiritual evolution. I highly recommend this book.
I really liked the first Spong book that I read, "Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism". Each chronologically subsequent book got a bit less precise culminating in this one. What exactly does eternal life mean? He doesn't explain it.
"Fantastic Book! Spong knocks it out of the park."
One of the best.
The arguments are amazing.
I did listen all at one sitting.
I've already listened to it again.
Excellent, though very challenging work. It left me with a lot to think about. I am now yet sure how I will respond to it. I will probably reread it in a month or so.
"Ideas good, book slow and repetitive"
Much of the book is a careful and EXTREMELY thorough examination of problems with taking a literal/concrete approach to understanding the Bible and Christian religion. I enjoyed many of the sections in which Spong talked about his own spiritual journey from fundamentalism to where he is now. His discussion of the journey of humanity in understanding life, the world/universe, and God was interesting and good for provoking discussion, but also full of sweeping over-generalizations and interpretations presented as facts. His big conclusions were fine, but not anything new really, and not very well developed.
I liked the Start but it tailed off toward the end. The epilogue saved it.
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