Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Eternal Life: A New Vision

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Eternal Life: A New Vision

Article excerpt

Eternal Life: A New Vision. Byjohn Shelby Spong. (New York: HarperOne, 2009, Pp. xx, 268. $24.99.)

In the wider Christian Church today, and certainly within the smaller circle of the Episcopal Church, there are few people who can compete with John Shelby Spong for the title of "ultimate insider iconoclast." As a practicing Christian for almost his entire life (he turned eighty in 2011), as an Episcopalian for nearly seventy years, as an ordained priest for over fifty-five years, and as a bishop of the Church for almost thirty-five years, Spong has all the necessary credentials to be standing near the front of the line of the "old guard" parade. At the same time, Spong has spent much of his adult life (including writing over twenty books in the past forty years), challenging the very precepts and foundations of the faith around which he has centered his life.

In his latest offering, Spong offers his reflections on the question of what happens after we die. In a sweeping survey of history, where his reach sometimes exceeds his grasp, Spong attempts to tie together accounts of the demise of his goldfish when he was only three years old, the origins of the universe fourteen billion years ago, Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica (1265-1274), the unique characteristics of mangrove trees, the death of his first wife, and his introduction into the Episcopal Church at the age of twelve (plus a variety of other images as well), to weave together an understanding of life hereafter which will undoubtedly prove to be reassuring to some and unsettling to others.

Spong responds critically to many of the old axioms related to death which are often meant to be pastoral responses, but ultimately prove to be shallow and unsatisfying. …

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