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Publisher's Summary

Bishop John Shelby Spong, author of Jesus for the Non-Religious, Why Christianity Must Change or Die, Sins of Scripture, and many other books, is known for his controversial ideas and fighting for minority rights.

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

What listeners say about Eternal Life

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

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.

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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.

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Fuzzy conclusion

What did you like about this audiobook?

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.

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Eternal life

As an old Christian man of seven decades, I have come to very similar conclusions in my Christian belief and walk. However, this book pushes my perceptions even further into what I had begun to realize through meditation. This book provides increased focus and biblical rationality. I wish I had arrived at these truths earlier in my life but perhaps we do need to walk through our life stages to knowingly and lovingly transcend them. Our learning never stops if we are open to God within us.
I think the book is written with almost painful honesty and certainly with considerable study and contemplative thought.
I agree with Bishop Spong that Christian understanding is changing and must transcend doctrinal, hierarchical, and historical understandings to be relevant to intelligent, educated, thinking people in the twenty first century. I hope this book is shared with the people I love most and with all People of faith who are not afraid.

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Ideas good, book slow and repetitive

What disappointed you about Eternal Life?

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.

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A Joy to Read

I am quite familiar with the Bible. Have known John Shelby Spong by meeting him personally, and reading probably most of what he’s written, and listened to many of his lectures and debates. This book sums up his thinking, and beliefs, quite well, PLUS his thoughts regarding End-of-Life issues - which I thoroughly enjoyed, and agree with.

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Fantastic Book! Spong knocks it out of the park.

Where does Eternal Life rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

One of the best.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Eternal Life?

The arguments are amazing.

Have you listened to any of John Morgan’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

N/A

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I did listen all at one sitting.

Any additional comments?

I've already listened to it again.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Eternal Life

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.

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thoughtful perspective

not as theologically hard hitting as his other books but an insightful look into death

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  • Neilbo
  • 10-07-21

Constrained view on religion and perception of God

First of all the author has clearly done a huge amount of research and it is written well.
The problemm comes when he (previously a Bishop) gets theological, scientific and philosophical facts wrong, sometimes slightly and sometimes some great whoppers.
Atheists will lap this all up because it is stated so matter of factly however, all of it is "in his opinion" is he states several times and his arrogance of his "new self" starts shining through with exclamations such as "we almost know everything there is to know (reference to scientific knowledge)".
It's all very one sided and honestly just starts reading either as propoganda for atheism or the lamentations of an old man who has swallowed the bitter pill of misunderstanding, possibly belief, and has been found wanting.

He then goes on to concluding that God is not an outward deity of which to look for but for looking within oneself; something that has been readily practiced and encouraged for millenia through meditation and prayer (what did he think prayer was for).

This is a story of a sad old man lamenting on his fundamentalist and conformative beginnings to come to a conclusion that most of us find in our thirties. Yes, God is obviously not a person in the sky - no need to go on about it for 6 hours of the audio book.