Why Christianity Must Change or Die

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My title is the name of a book by John Shelby Spong, an Anglican Bishop, which I discussed in a recent article. His whole career, including other books, has been a courageous attempt to deconstruct and challenge Christianity as it has come down to us, and to seek to create an acceptable alternative, to reinvent it.

It would be unlikely that any other freethinking Christian would agree with everything he says, and I have some disagreements. So in a new series of articles I want to move on to something closer to my own thoughts about what Christianity needs to do. (I’ll also discuss some of his ideas separately.)

Religions and mythologies in the past had the power to bring together and cohere whole nations. Now, with our global interconnectedness, we have the possibility of seeking a spiritual/religious perspective that could potentially unite the whole of humanity. There is a great need for this, since planet Earth seems to be heading towards disasters of various kinds, and I would suggest that the only solutions to these problems are spirituality-based, since politicians and scientists seem incapable of getting to grips with them. We also have to contend with the disturbing rise of New Atheism. People like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and the late Christopher Hitchens can get away with writing books like The God Delusion, The End of Faith, Breaking the Spell, and God is not Great, and people actually take them seriously. Despite their many flaws, they seem convincing to many, and thereby gain an influence which, I would argue, is not merited.

I am therefore going to attempt my own revision of Christianity, my ultimate aim being to try to find this new spiritual religion which would be acceptable to, and might unite, everyone on the planet.

Such a religion should:

  • not be based on faith or creeds, rather on evidence and experience
  • not be in conflict, but in agreement with science, which is to say the best, cutting-edge, new-paradigm science, not the outdated ideas of scientific materialism
  • not be afraid to challenge bad science, therefore not rush to reconcile itself with what the modern world claims to be scientific truth. (I’m thinking of Darwinian evolutionary theory, and the Big Bang, but there may be other examples.)
  • be an attempt to reunify science and religion. If something is true, it cannot be in conflict with either science or religion. As Spong says, the new religion “will dedicate itself to the search for truth, universal truth, rather than expending its energies in seeking to defend its narrow version of truth” (Why Christianity Must Change or Die, p187).
  • reexamine the nature of divinity, specifically include the Divine Feminine. (I’ve begun to discuss this in earlier articles, click here and here.)
  • not claim superiority over, nor be in conflict with, other religions, but rather be a synthesis of them, absorbing their best features¹. (I have addressed this issue briefly in this earlier article.)

There is no mention here of the Bible, Jesus, or Christianity. Having outlined such a spiritual religion, we would therefore have to decide to what extent Christianity, as we know it, fits in — there will probably have to be a lot of cherry-picking. My hope is nevertheless that this might be a candidate for a new Christianity, although it may not seem obvious to readers at the moment how this could be so.

For the record, I am not, and have never been, a member of any Christian church or group, but it is possible that I stand somewhere in the Protestant tradition, and its Priesthood of All Believers, “which is to say that protestants believe that all Christians have a direct connection with God… Every protestant believer is essentially expected to read scripture directly — not simply listen to teachings from scripture, presented by priests”². This presumably means that everyone can come up with his or her own interpretation, and therefore personal version, of Christianity, what that writer calls a “Lone Ranger Christian” approach.

A new Christianity will definitely require a new look at the Bible, but it should also mean that we can read, and seek guidance from, other books apart from Christian scripture. We have to give up on the idea that the Bible is in some way sacred, or the Word of God.

I am calling this new series, in honour of Spong, Why Christianity Must Change or Die. There is, however, a possible alternative title, Why Christianity Must Die in Order to be Resurrected.

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This article is a reworking and shortened version of an earlier one. Since then I have written a long series of articles on the search for this new religion, which I’ve called Search for a New Mythology. I’ve referred to some of the articles above, but a guide to the complete series can be found here. A summary of this prospective new religion can be found here. I have briefly discussed Christianity’s relationship to the new religion here. There were also specific articles on the Science of the New Mythology, and the Psychology part 1, and part 2.

For other articles about Christianity, please see this page of my website, about half way down.

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I hope you have enjoyed this article. I have written in the past about other topics, including spirituality, metaphysics, psychology, science, politics, and astrology. All these articles are on Medium, but the simplest way to see a guide to them is to visit my website (click here and here).

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Footnotes:

  1. Spong agrees: “Nor can this Christ ever be used again to denigrate or to judge the adequacy of any of the world’s other great religious traditions” (Why Christianity Must Change or Die, p189).
  2. https://christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/17289/in-protestant-churches-who-is-the-authority-in-interpreting-the-bible

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Graham Pemberton

I am a singer/songwriter interested in spirituality, politics, psychology, science, and their interrelationships. grahampemberton.com spiritualityinpolitics.com