Book Review: ChristianityÆs Challenge
John Shelby Sprong is the Anglican (Episcopal) Bishop of Newark, New Jersey and a prolific writer whose books present an approach to Christianity that is unique and contemporary while remaining fully rooted in what could be characterized as the ôGospel of Love.ö In Why Christianity Must Change or Die, Sprong (ix) offers what he calls ôa work of faith and convictionö from a person ôwho desires to worship as a citizen of the modern world and to be able to think as I worship.ö The thesis to be examined in this book review is that Sprong (xix) does ôwrite out of my faith commitment as a Christianö in arguing that fundamentalism, whether Christian or not, is not in keeping with the message and meaning of ChristÆs life.
Sprong (198) argues throughout his text that ôthe theistic patterns of yesterday continue to decline and a non-theistic way of approaching the holy begins to beckon us to worship.ö What this means is that Sprong (118-119) believes in both the human and the divine nature of Jesus Christ and is calling upon Christians to abandon those biases, prejudices and stereotypes emerging from the Old Testament and to focus on the love that Christ called for among men. Religions that reject those who are different on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, or other attributes are seen by this Anglican bishop as religions that have failed to understand what Christ meant by His life and His sacrifice. Sprong (119) maintains that ôI am not prepared to conclude that the traditional way of interpreting Jesus has exhausted the possibilities.ö
Fundamentalist religions are religions that Sprong (23-26) sees as having exiled a substantial and growing number of Christians. He takes the position that ôin this postmodern world, those that still claim allegiance to the Christian religion find themselves, I believe, living in a similar kind of exile. Our God has been...