'Hell' as an invention of the church
Beyond Theism -- John Shelby Spong
For two hundred years, scholars have been analyzing one of the most important books ever written--the Bible--and overturning much of what we once thought we knew. Everyday Christians, however, are not privy to this deeper conversation. It is for these people that renowned bishop and author John Shelby Spong presents "Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World," a book designed to take readers into the contemporary academic debate about the Bible.
A definitive voice for progressive Christianity, Spong frees readers from a literal view of the Bible. He opens the possibility that some of the characters in the New Testament are imaginary composites or even literary creations--such as Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus; Judas Iscariot; Nicodemus; the Samaritan woman by the well; and Lazarus who was raised from the dead. He presents the Bible as an ever-changing and always growing story. He demonstrates that it is possible to be both a deeply committed Christian and an informed twenty-first-century citizen.
In this thorough, substantive guide, Spong explores the origin and essential meaning of each of the individual books in the Bible, examining the background, the context, the level of authenticity and even the trustworthiness of the messages found there. He explains why these particular books, written between two and three thousand years ago, came to be regarded as authoritative and preserved as sacred; he traces the pathway that biblical religion has traveled as it evolved through the centuries, and he shows how people have misused many of these texts in the service of their prejudices.
Reaching far beyond the familiar Sunday-school stories that have provided the content of most people's biblical knowledge, Spong's journey into the heart of the Bible is his attempt to call his readers into their own journeys into the mystery of God. "One does not," he asserts, "have to twist one's brain into a first-century pretzel in order to take the Bible seriously in this increasingly non-religious world."