|The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith
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World-renowned Jesus scholar Marcus J. Borg shows how we can live passionately as Christians in today's world by practicing the vital elements of Christian faith.
For the millions of people who have turned away from many traditional beliefs about God, Jesus, and the Bible, but still long for a relevant, nourishing faith, Borg shows why the Christian life can remain a transforming relationship with God. Emphasizing the critical role of daily practice in living the Christian life, he explores how prayer, worship, Sabbath, pilgrimage, and more can be experienced as authentically life-giving practices.
Borg reclaims terms and ideas once thought to be the sole province of evangelicals and fundamentalists: he shows that terms such as "born again" have real meaning for all Christians; that the "Kingdom of God" is not a bulwark against secularism but is a means of transforming society into a world that values justice and love; and that the Christian life is essentially about opening one's heart to God and to others.
- Top 10 Christian Book of the Year
Everything Borg writes is worth reading. He is clean, non-dogmatice, challanging and opens your eyes to a new, elivened view of your Christian faith. If your faith is getting stale, routine, boring enough to consider leaving the church, read this book. This is not the Christianity of your parents, but a new paradigm that brings Jesus and Christianity back to life and followers back to the personal and political model that Jesus lived and left as his legacy.
If you want to see your faith in a new and fresh light and come to understand its political importance read Borg. This book presents a rich new meaning to the inordinately dry concepts of sin, salvation, being born again, the afterlife, and the kingdom of God.
Rediscover you faith and read The Heart of Christianity.
John Laughlin, PhD, author of Thomas Merton: His Life and Work...more info
- A Rational Faith
Marcus Borg has written the clearest exposition of the Christian faith that has come to my attention! On the first page of the Preface, Borg states: "The sacrifice that Christianity asks of us is not ultimately a sacrifice of the intellect."
Borg describes the critical importance of "metaphor" and "myth" in understanding the Bible. He quotes Thomas Mann in describing myths not as fanciful untruths, but as "stories about the way things never were, but always are. They are really true, even though not literally true."
He deals with "supernatural theism" versus panentheism and carefully deals with our tendency to create God in our image as over against that of God as a spirit who pervades all of life. When his students come to him (at the Univ. of Oregon) and say they can't believe in God, he asks them to describe the God they can't believe in. His response is "I don't believe in that God either."
The author makes and important and fascinating distinction between the human "pre-Easter Jesus" and the "post-Easter Jesus", pointing out that Jesus' death was "the consequence of what he was doing and not his purpose".
Borg discusses the meaning of "thin places", as he call them and a number of topics that are traditionally accepted as tenets of the Christian faith, to which he gives new interpretation, such as the terms, "born again", "faith", the nature of the "Kingdom of God", "Sin and Salvation" (a new insight!) and finally what it means to "practice" the Christian faith.
This, as Borg says, is a book for "lovers of the faith and those seeking a faith to love". And best of all it does not require a sacrifice of the intellect!
Ernest G. Barr...more info
- Great read
Borg's book should be required reading in all congregations and classrooms which value critical thought and deep faith....more info
- Borg, The Heart of Christianity
This book is a "hot" item in local book discussion groups/clubs, both church connected and not. I think its main attraction stems from the fact that Borg addresses questions critical thinkers are asking these days. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the content, it makes for an excellent primer for discussion about faith whether it be specifically Christian or not.
- Great overview
I bought this book to get a better idea about Christianity. I grew up in a house where the bible wasn't quite explained correctly and my Pastor at my church wasn't as great as he could of been. Before seeking a church and discipleship, I read this book. It really explained some of the questions about Christianity that I had and gave me a better foundation to the religion. I advocate this book for anyone seeking to learn about Christianity....more info
- Not About Christianity at All
Christianity without relying on the Bible is like basketball without the ball. Borg's book misnamed "The Heart of Christianity" is not about Christianity at all. To further the basketball analogy, Mr. Borg walked onto the court one day and decided to substitute the basketball for a ball that he made up. His ball looks like a somewhat larger golf ball. Because his ball is different and it is impossible to play basketball with it, he invents his own rules. He then continues to call his game "basketball" even though what he is doing has nothing to do with basketball except that he is using the same court. He has placed his ideas at a higher level than the Bible and 2000 years of church doctrine and truth. If God is eternal than his message is eternal. Nothing I say will change God and nothing Mr. Borg say will change God either. Christianity's core beliefs have remained constant over 2000 years(though there are always those in churches who reject them and still continue to call themselves believers)
The core belief of Christianity is that there is one God who has revealed himself to humanity through the Bible. He created the world by intelligent design (Genesis 1:1)http://www.evolution-facts.org/. He gave us free will and allowed us not to love him, which resulted in our choice that brought all pain and destruction into the world(Genesis 3). It broke our relationship with others and with him. Because he is perfectly loving he promised in Genesis(http://biblia.com/jesusbible/types.htm) and throughout the Old Testament to fix the broken relationship. The Bible writes that Around 2000 years ago, God came into the world in the form of a man Jesus Christ who lived the perfect life that Adam could not and died for all people, to make us right with him and allow us to know him personally(John 3:16). We are saved by faith apart from what we do(different from most religions who say you are saved by "being a good person"), but called to love God with all our heart soul and mind and to love others as we love ourselves(Mark 12:30-31).
Though religions have common ethical beliefs, they have irreconcilable differences in their picture of God. Ultimately Christianity is about "Jesus Christ". Roughly 2000 years ago a man lived in Israel and fulfilled promises that were made throughout the Old Testament. Jesus claimed to God and the only way. These are not my claims they are Jesus's. Christianity is based on faith in Jesus Christ and not just believing but responding to his gift by loving him and those around us as best as we can. In Christianity, the love of others that Borg talks about stems from God loving us.
Many people who call themselves Christians are not and many believers are hypocrites, and ignore God's call to love each other. As a Christian I fall short too, and I apologize if any Christian(or someone who's called themselves a Christian) has ever been arrogant, looked down on you, or worse treated you with cruelty. Those actions are the exact opposite of how we are called to live and it is very possible if someone calling themselves a Christian did that to you, they are not a believer at all. Only God knows peoples hearts.
In his book, Borg writes that religion is a creation of man and that the only reason why anyone would choose Christianity is because they are more comfortable with its hymns and traditions. I don't know what religion Mr. Borg is, but this book comes from a universalism, secular humanist, or atheistic background. If he believes man creates religion and there isn't a God he believes in atheism or secular humanism. If he believes there is a God and that all religions are the same its universalism. Reading the pages of his book, I got the feeling that his God was not the God of the Bible but man. Because he believes that man invents religion, why not invent one himself? This book is his invention of religion. It is no more basketball if someone uses their own ball and rules than it is Christianity of they make it up. In 100 years, both myself and Mr. Borg will be dead, but the Bible and its true message will continue on as it has for the last 2000 years. Christianity's message and core beliefs are the same they were 2000 years ago, regardless of how many books are written that try to change them.
It was very distressing for me to read this book and I was shocked by its misrepresentation of Christianity. However, despite the overwhelming negative impression I received, there were a few things he said that were good. He talks about loving one another which is a huge part of how we're called to live as believers. It is clear that Mr. Borg genuinely believes in love. This fact makes the heresy in his book even more heartbreaking. The message of his book is deceptive, inaccurate and once again is not about Christianity. Borgs version of Christianity doesn't look at all like Jesus disciples version, the Apostle Pauls, and it doesn't reflect Jesus words, or the views of Christians worldwide. There is unity in truth. The truth is that Mr. Borg, liked the idea of love, didn't want to give up singing Christian hymns, and has invented his own religion based on his ideas.
You can run around a basketball court without a ball, but its not basketball. You can sing all the Christian hymns you want and do the traditions but if your belief is based on Mr. Borg's ideas or any other persons ideas that contradict Jesus words and the Bible it's not Christianity. Accept nothing I've said or anyone else has said without checking it against the Bible. My words have no authority and neither do Mr. Borgs. I have found more than enough evidence to believe the message of Christianity is true mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. However, at its heart, it is not based on knowledge but on knowing Jesus. C.S. Lewis and many other brilliant minds, people much smarter than myself and Mr. Borg have accepted the Biblical message and have done immense good in the world. For all science has given us, it doesn't give life a meaning or explain our emotions and longing for perfect love. Only a relationship with Christ solves that longing and brings joy to a world that is covered with pain. There are genuine believers in every denomination of Christianity(though many individual churches have abandoned the faith)and all share a core set of beliefs. There are differences on some issues of lesser importance but the core beliefs remain the same. The Bible is clear that church, hymns, doing kind things will not save. Jesus said "whoever believes in me will not perish but have eternal life". One cannot know that gift of faith truly and not respond in love to everyone they see.
I have prayed for Mr. Borg and hope someday he becomes a Christian. I hope that day comes and that he writes another book about his experience. If he does I will be the first to buy it. As much as I disagree with Mr. Borg it is clear that he is a loving man and as other reviewers have wrote there is a spiritual hunger in him. I hope with everything in me that he becomes a Christian and begins writing truth that supports scripture and can change peoples hearts. I would like to see him in heaven. Though I don't know him I care about him and I know that Jesus desperately loves him more than a thousand books could describe.
check out www.bluelikejazz.com and read the first chapter...more info
- Fred Jappe Science-Humanities Mesa College , retired
My suggestion: New Age Christianity
Many reviews support Dr. Borg and his "metaphor" approach. There is much that is positive in his approach, and these points have been well covered in previous reviews.
The approach is fundamentally flawed, however, and I am afraid that the baby has been discarded with the bath water. The mostly mainline churches that have or will adopt this approach will decline at an even faster rate than they are now.
Perhaps the most damaging criticism of his metaphor approach is that once people see the bases for the metaphor is not true, that Jesus was not divine, and the scriptures don`t mean what an ordinary reader would think they mean, they will chuck the metaphorical meaning. And I believe that psychological studies prove this.
The first question one should ask as we read ancient documents is how did the hearers of the message understand it. Once we understand this we can ask ourselves what does it teach us? In the case of Scripture, Christians believe that the Holy Spirit enables us to understand how God might have us understand that message and apply it in today's situation.
Christianity is fortunate to have documents from the first century that are translated into modern languages so that we can read them . To do this properly requires a reasonable knowledge of the life situation of the writers of the New Testament. Many study bibles provide help in this process. Consequently, we can have a fair, but imperfect knowledge of their meaning to first century readers. When we do this, we part company with Borg.
As churches were established throughout the Roman Empire, a variety of beliefs about the meaning of Christianity naturally developed, as the culture and background of the converts differed. This baggage was carried with them into their new faith. A response to this phenomena was the development of statements of what it meant to be a Christian. This was an ongoing process occurring during the 2nd through the 5th centuries and even later. The product of this work resulted in the great statements of faith in creeds of Christendom.
These creeds have been accepted and assumed to be reasonable representations of the Christian message by both Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox as well as a majority of Protestants. I know of no historian who would assert that the people who wrote, and those who recited the creeds, thought that they were untrue in a literal sense. Borg now wishes to treat these as metaphorical and as " thin places " where we experience God. Yes, we do experience God , but the God we experience is the God of the Creeds.
Borg does not believe these statements, perhaps because as a 20th century person he is steeped in scientific rationalism,( which leads him to question the authenticity of much of scripture . But even if we accept the most skeptical of the new testament scholars, we are still left with at least 6-7 authentic letters of Paul ( from 50-65AD) and the gospel of Mark, written before 70 AD) Almost all the major ideas of the creeds can be found in these documents.
Perhaps another reason for rejecting the basic concepts of Christianity is the burden they place on us moderns. Who of us , after all, likes to claim exclusivity with respect to religious truth? Try that on a college campus today and you will , at the least, be shunned.
As a science -humanities teacher, now retired, I have fewer problems than most proclaiming truth. We in the sciences know that our ideas of motion are truer than Aristotle's and that our ideas of the universe are vastly superior to all others, as are our ideas of optics medicine etc. We know how many elements there are in the visible universe and how atoms form compounds. We know how a one celled organism could evolve into the multiplicity of life forms we observe today.
Are their areas where orthodox and evangelicals ( of which I am one) need to change? You bet, so we reinterpret the scriptures, but not at the loss of our core values.
Borg's out workings of the faith and suggestions of where our concerns should be are excellent, and I fully support them.
With intellectual, ethical, and spiritual integrity, Marcus Borg builds a case for a Christianity oriented to the transformation of this life. I found delight in his willingness to challenge the puffery in my faith tradition that equates devotion with assent to preposterous ideas while it ignores the call to compassion and justice which is rarely as convenient as we would wish. I read this invigorating book in just a few days (on vacation, no less) and it lingers with me now, several weeks later. I look forward to rereading and savoring the discoveries that I am sure await me in a second reading.
While Borg and Bishop John Shelby Spong share largely the same perspective, I consistently find Borg's work more energetic and less disdainful of conventional expressions of Christian faith and often, more deeply steeped in ancient expressions of the faith which are re-emerging in our day....more info
- Classic Borg...
In this book, Marcus Borg condenses the insights he's shared in his books on Jesus and the Bible, and presents a guide to what he sees as the core of Christian living. This is a quick read--as are most of Borg's books--I read it in a few sittings at my campus bookstore. He disusses having Christian faith in a pluralist world, and reinterprets certain scriptural passages that have all to often led to Christian exclusivism.
He re-emphasizes the importance of the Christian metaphor of being "born again" and tries to wrest it from the clutches of fundamentalists. He reminds us that our Christological titles (Son of God, messiah, Light of the World, etc.), in the end, are always metaphors pointing us to the truth of God in Christ. Borg sees the Bible and Jesus as sacraments of God, and reminds us that when we stop communicating with Scripture and struggling with God as disclosed in Jesus, we cease to be Christian.
I enjoyed his use of the Celtic concept of "thin places", but disagreed with his suggestion that the words of our hymns and creeds are unimportant--that we should say and sing them solely to create a "thin place". While I see this as an important part of worship, I think the words are also important, and often find deep meaning in them. I also might contest a few of his "de-literalizations", but as always, he has made me think, and his book is recommended!...more info
- A gracious and open faith
As usual Marcus Borg focuses on the graciousness of an 'open' Christian faith rather than 'beliefs' that define a Christian. Very helpful in understanding the 'truths' of Christian faith. ...more info
- What is Christianity
I Came from from a Hindu background. Reading this book gave me a wonderful perspective on Christ and Christianity. As I understood Prof Borg, Christ is heart thing and Christianity is mind thing. The last thing I wanted is another religion. As I understood God gave unlimited Grace (freedom) through Jesus. You Christians you keep your theology stuff and you are no different from Hindus or Muslims. All you talk about is going to heaven and cannot face the real issues of the world: the pain and the pleasure which lead us to understand the meaning of Love.. KT...more info
- Great Book
One of the best over all views of the emerging paradigm within the Christian Church. Good stuff about the progressive and conservative points of view, and what the mainline churches need to learn from each of them. The seeds to the future are here for everyone to see. A must read for the serious Christian....more info
- Living Christianity Out...
Borg's book is a fantastic and eye-opening look into what should be the characteristics of those who claim to follow Christ. While at times controversial, readers across the liberal/conservative lines can find extremely solid appeals to living a life of faith in Jesus Christ. Chapter Two is the best, without a doubt, writing on what constitutes "Faith" that I have ever read....more info
- Excellant for spiritual growth
Our Episcopal community is using this book to discuss our faith and how we live that faith each day. Borg has given us a great deal to consider and an understanding of how important it is to allow everyone to find a faith point that is comfortable. We do not work out our questions if others are critical....more info
- The Heart of Christianity
I've read all of Marcus Borg's books and have recently read "The Heart of Christianity". From a conservative evangelical background, I have always strugged with his approach, yet I keep coming back for more. He has helped me grow in my faith, and be open to see things from other angles. Despite his orthodox/unorthodox theology, there is a spirituality in this book, that cuts to my heart. He is all about actually experienceing Christianity in this life, and I find his writing to have a spiritual quality that, for some reason, comes home to me. I may not ever agree with all he writes, but he lifts the faith beyond the factual to the experiential and to its root. I heartily recommend this book to everyone wishing to grow and struggle in faith....more info
Easy-to-read. Part of the reason that Borg is so compelling is that he so clearly states his assumptions and leads the reader through the point he is trying to make in each section - whether it is to be descriptive, to make a comparison, etc. This book is very thoughtful, and struck such a chord with me. As a 29-year old who has struggled with how to find the "right" religious community for me, Borg's "emerging paradigm" was an epiphany! He articulates exactly what has always bothered me about traditional Christian churches, particularly those in the fundamentalist or conservative Christian traditions, but also including my mainline Lutheran church. Further, he offers an alternative, a paradigm shift, that offers room for action, rather than just criticism. This is a book that has got me thinking, and I'm going to share it with my friends and family, especially my husband and sister-in-law who are de facto agnostics, despite a Catholic upbringing. I encourage faithful and doubting Christians and just interested non-Christians to read this. It's a great book, even if you come to it from a cultural or sociological interest rather than a religious one. ...more info
- Why be a Christian?
One unhappy reviewer asks "if we won't be resurrected, why would we want to be Christians at all?"
A father had two sons. In his old age, the father became sick and lost everything, including his home. He went to the elder son and asked for a place to stay. The elder son said "I did everything you asked of me all my life and now you not only leave me with nothing, you want me to give you a place to stay? Go away." The father then went to the younger son and asked for a place to stay. The younger son simply welcomed him and and took care of him for the rest of his days. Which son truly loved his father?
As Borg's book so eloquently points out, being a Christian is about having a loving relationship with God, not following a set of rules in order to obtain a reward....more info
- Beautiful Spirituality
I'm an ex evangelical and in fact not a Christian of any sort now. I tried to give other expressions (including Borg's) a try, but the disappointment and disillusionment I experienced after fundamentalism has left too unpleasant a sense in my heart to really make any sort of Christianity "work". Still, I love this book and Borg's vision. Had I met this Christianity and practiced it instead of evangelicalism, I'd be a Christian now. He presents a nourishing spirituality grounded in love and being, and the deeper insights into who Jesus was, and how we can relate to and love Christ provide the foundation for a solid ethical and compassionate faith. ...more info
- Worth reading, but somewhat one-sided
In The Heart of Christianity Marcus Borg clearly describes two distinctly different, incompatible, and somewhat extreme visions of Christianity. His earlier (literal) paradigm and emerging (metaphorical) paradigm, while relying on the same sacred texts, have little else in common. In juxtaposing such contrasting beliefs, he doesn't acknowledge the great number of Christians whose beliefs fall somewhere in-between.
The idea that the heart cannot commit to belifs the mind doesn't accept is one of the most interesting issues Borg explores. For this reason, many people have trouble with the earlier paradigms literal interpretation of the Bible. Borg offers an alternative - an emerging paradigm, which considers extraordinary Biblical events to be metaphors.
How to interpret extraordinary Biblical events is a question that is older than Christianity. Borg heavily promotes the emerging paradigm's answer to this question. The earlier paradigm and other views of Christianity also have value that he doesn't give due credit. Literal interpretation is difficult for the mind to accept, but when we open ourselves to the possibility of the most unbelievable things happening we truly open ourselves to our own spiritual possibilities. Extraordinary Biblical events have metaphorical value, but limiting their value as metaphorical starts us down the path of setting boundaries on what we believe is possible through God. This might make Christianity more acceptable to some. However, it takes the spirituality out of it for others. While there is transformational power that can be derived from Biblical metaphors, it doesn't match the power of being open to extraordinary possibilities.
It's much like free speech. You might not like what someone says, but you can celebrate their right to say it. You might have trouble getting your mind around a virgin birth or a physical resurrection, but in some ways celebrating the birth and resurrection of Jesus as described by Biblical witnesses is celebrating that anything is possible through God. It's that "anything is possible" attitude that is behind all human advancement, spiritual or otherwise.
Borg also has some gaps in his understanding of the earlier paradigm, although he articulates the emerging paradigm exceptionally well. For example, he introduces the terms pre-Easter Jesus and post-Easter Jesus to differentiate between the human and divine Jesus. He does this as if Christian theology doesn't already have a concept of Jesus as fully human/fully divine. This is a gross oversight. Additionally, in Christian theology the divine Jesus has existed since the beginning where Borg's Jesus appears to come into existance with the birth of the human Jesus.
Borg misses another important point in his discussion of Jesus dieing for our sins. At the time of Jesus people believed disabilities, illness, accidents, and misfortune were retribution for sin - people were just getting what they deserved. In dieing for our sins, Jesus, in effect, wiped out the idea that sin and misfortune are necessarily coupled. Without this decoupling, it would be acceptable to discriminate against disabled and impoverished people. Unlike Borg, I believe Jesus thought he was dieing for our sins; he was telling us we should not think our misfortunes are retribution for sin - that is not the nature of God.
One final thought, our hearts and our minds don't agree when it comes to many things, especially human relationships. It seems perfectly natural that our hearts and minds would also disagree when it comes to a spiritual relationship. It's important to keep them both open, not to make them agree....more info
- Too much religious 'cultural-linguisticism' for me.
The sub-subtitle of "The Heart of Christianity" is "How We Can Be Passionate Believers Today." If there was an answer to that in the book, I didn't find it.
Perhaps it was obscured by too much "religious speak" - too much discussion of "metaphoric" meanings, or hidden behind such nebulous notions as "the more," "the isness," "the sacred," and "thin places." After thousands of years of our attempting to identify and explain "God," this is the best a noted scholar has to offer?
I'm sorry; that doesn't work for me. In my experience, a person who really knows what they're talking about has little trouble sharing that knowledge with others in a way that is easily understandable and reasonably credible.
The book has some interesting aspects. It begins with what seems like a promising discussion of change in the faith - the "early paradigm" vs. the "emerging paradigm." Unfortunately, that rather quickly becomes lost in discussions about such deep obscurities and irrelevancies as faith as "asssensus," "fiducia," "fidelitas," and "visio," in Chapter Two and is never mentioned again until Chapter 10.
The possibility of the "born again" philosophy being a very early implementation of what we have recently come to understand as cognitive behavior therapy also seemed like a concept well worth developing further. But, having been mentioned, that idea was never again revisited until Chapter 10, where we are encouraged to embrace "cultural-linguistic" cliquism and hang around mostly with those who walk the walk and talk the talk. No, thank you! I think tribalism is not a good thing.
A good opportunity talk about a logical connection between CBT and "born again" would have been in Chapter Nine's discussion of sin and salvation. Is our feeling of "sinfulness" perhaps a bulk perception of our low self-esteem and the self-defeating thinking and antisocial behavior it generates? Is salvation through the infinite grace of God an assurance that it is always possible to change for the better by erasing the feelings that produce such thought and behavior? But again, the original discussion meandered off into other areas, such as a discussion about whether or not there really is an afterlife - whether the concept of "heaven" is just a carrot offered in lieu of the hoped for rewards which are unlikely to accrue even to the virtuous in this life. Even that was also an interesting idea, but was developed no further than its original mention.
It is true that for many of us a new paradigm is emerging. We are no longer willing to invest what are essentially legends and fairy tails with unquestioned literal belief. We feel that passionate belief arises from knowledge of factual information and demonstrable truth, or at least from as close as we can come to that, given what we know so far. For us, it is no good trying to excuse everything in the Bible that is vaguely expressed, seemingly improbable or evidently quite wrong, as "metaphorical," by retranslating Greek or Aramaic words, or parsing expressions as needed to produce new meanings. In our "emerging paradigm," we insist on a theology that makes sense, rather than one based upon magical thinking and mindless acceptance of religious dogma.
Marcus Borg seems like a nice fellow raised in the early paradigm who is senses that a new paradigm is emerging, but is floundering with 'a mind that accepts, but a heart that rejects' - to paraphrase his words. Thus, he presents some new ways of thinking about old issues, but the discussion either stops there or, in spite of intentions to the contrary, doggedly finds its way back to familiar religious jargon.
Some of Borg's ideas and comments will give you reason to think about what you think; always a good thing, especially when it comes to religion. Indeed, by the end of the book I realized that it was more about religion than Christianity, per se. A more appropriate title might have been "The Heart of Religion." If you are specifically interested in cultivating your Christian faith, you probably won't feel your investment in this book was worthwhile. Moreover, Borg embraces religious pluralism and promotes "the emerging paradigm," so if fundamentalist Bible-believing is your cup of tea, don't upset yourself by reading this book.
There are very few books which have absolutely no redeeming value, and certain comments in this book, especially the final chapter, suggest that Borg's motives are honest and earnest, as opposed to professional ('publish or perish') or pecuniary. So I (generously) give his book two stars.
- What woud Jesus say?
I am a practicing Chistian and a lay member of a Christian Fellowship. In a second study of Marcus Borg's book I find it ever more enlightening. What would Jesus say about the book? I think he would say, " If you want to know the God that is within you, and better understand me, Mr. Borg can help you>"...more info
- A book also for non-believers
This is a great book for people who either don't believe in Christianity or lost their faith in the face of common fundamentalism and literalism. It is a book for faith not against somebody's faith. It makes a great birthday present for many. Every chapter is a kind summary of each of his other books on interpreting the bible, God and Jesus.
Borg addresses nagging doubts an intellectual would have about Christianity (apparent contradictions of the bible, prayer and holocaust). And he gives his view on the matters, which are often enlightened, because they reveal his own struggle. There are no shortcuts, no reprimands for not believing enough. Borg does a great job in depicting Christianity that makes sense to intellectuals who believe in science and rationality.
Borg is not charismatic, he just writes beautifully, reclusive but not romantic, reflective but not accusative, convincingly not persuasive.
The writings of Borg are good in a different way. I sometimes here that new revelations like the junk science a la `Da vinci code' would threaten the core of Christianity. The reaction is often agitation that backfires on believers on the edge of non-believing. Borg argues that the core of Christianity is a truth that cannot be easily refuted; the core is not a factual truth that can be rattled by archaeological discoveries but the truth of living together in justice and of personal nourishment that is revealed by the teaching and the live of Jesus.
Borg's style is that of contemplation not agitation or confrontation. He is not directly campaigning against a specific group of Christians, but he is offering an `interpretation' of Christianity that makes it possible for many others to believe and let others stick to their literalism or fundamentalism. Interpretation does not mean that it is the personal interpretation of Borg. He is not leading a new section of the church. It is profound and built on true scholarly attitude. And he is not in the minority. Coming from a European context, his `new paradigm' is not new to me. Most of his interpretations are what I learned in bible school 20 years ago. Yet, his more personal contribution is the very political interpretation of social justice. Though this complex topic requires more elaborate explanations than he presents in this book (he does so in one of his major works), it gives readers for whom the bible is not political enough a pause for thought and an access to faith. Although Borg primarily addresses Americans, it offers a couple of new insights for all others and above all it is basically addressing today's problems with the bible - as much as is possible to say for a scholar without stepping over the border to speculation. ...more info
- A New/Old Vision
The Heart of Christianity reads like a "greatest hits" album for its author, Marcus Borg. I don't mean that to sound belittling; the book is wonderful, but it gathers things which Borg has said in his previous books-things about Jesus, and other things entirely about the bible, and God-into a cohesive a reading of Christianity which attempts to answer the question: is there any point in being one? His answer is "yes; if by `Christianity' we mean a certain thing." For Borg, that thing is outlined in "the emerging tradition" which sees historical, metaphorical, and sacramental richness in the practices of Christianity and cares less for its salvific and exclusivistic functions. The book was written primarily for believers, or persons of faith who wouldn't probably feel comfortable using a term like that. Here is the Borg of the infamous "Jesus Seminars," which are decried in fundamentalist circles as meetings of blasphemers. I know him as a lecturer in churches with intellectual congregations and as a friend of Frederich Beuchner's. This book gives a kind of permission to believe again, after one has felt sure that "the faith" couldn't hold him any longer. For that, it is a saviour in its own right and a comforter of sorts. I say it is a life preserver; "in case of emergency, read Borg."...more info
- A Good but not Best Borg Book.
Professor Borg is reputed--and it seems to me, with good reason--for being one of the most insightful of modern theologians. In this, as in other of his books, he argues in favor of metaphorical--as opposed to literal--interpretations of scripture. This humanistic approach celebrates the power of Christianity as a force for correcting maldistribution of society's resources, for the benefit of those less privileged by circumstance, accident, and social predestination. As well, his approach fosters Christianity as a renewable--moment to moment--font of spiritual rejuvination. Together, these two positions, buttressed by his convincing argument and scholarly biblical documentation, inspire us to live each moment to the fullest beneficence not only for the benefit of our individual selves but for the commonweal as well. Accordingly, at the very least this is an important, provocative, respectful, informed spiritual guide.
My reason for assigning four stars rather than five is because it seems to me that although this is a well written book, it is nonetheless flawed by needless redundancy, both in terms of same or similar arguemnts repeated several times in this book, as well as reiteration of positions presented in several of his previous works. Thus,in my opinion, more attentive editing would have made The Heart of Christianity a more efficient read, but even with its redundancy it is an excellent reference.
Communication Studies Dept.
Ca. St. Univ., Chico...more info
- Thoughtful insight about Christianity
Interesting commentary on the thought processes of modern Christians, and a historical basis for the divergence between the Christian center and Christian right. I think I liked it in part because it resonates nicely against the background of radical, exclusive Christianity which seems to define itself by what it is against.
The book outlines what Jesus might have been promoting in his time and how it relates to our situation as skeptical but not cynical seekers.
His first book 'Discovering Jesus again for the first time' was more pragmatic and less didactic, probably an easier read for us non-theologians....more info
- "A Renewed Faith"
For much of my life I was taught that religious faith was rooted in an understanding that this book calls "an earlier paradigm." But another vision is described as "an emerging paradigm." In the "earlier paradigm" Jesus was portrayed as one who is for what we are for, against what we are against, goes where we go and stays away from people and places we stay away from, goes to a "seeker friendly" church when and where we go, blesses our business and makes us prosperous, flies our flag, waves our banners, fights our wars and cites our orthodox dogma. A domesticated Jesus. Borg, however, points me to an alternative and I am grateful for his book.
When I heard Marcus Borg give a lecture at Greencastle, IN, I was captivated by him as a person as well as by his presentation. He gives an articulate voice to much of what I have believed and thought for many years. In this book he draws a contrast between the "earlier paradigm" and an "emerging paradigm." A most helpful discussion in this book is at the point of distinguishing between fact and truth in his new vision of what Christianity is. He believes Jesus would say, "Faith is not about me" and would point beyond himself to God -- to God and that counter-world of unfailing justice, full inclusion, authentic freedom, incredible love, astounding forgiveness, sheer grace and unending peace.
This book has a provocatiave and helpful discussion of faith. Borg claims that faith, not belief, "is at the heart of Christianity" and has four primary meanings that he identifies with Latin terms (assensus, fiducia, fidelitas and visio)to demonstrate their antiquity. He points us the contribution each term makes to an understanding of faith. He argues that faith is misinterpreted when it is claimed to be "right belief" or "correct belief." "Believing," asserts Borg, "a set of claims to be true has very little transforming power." In concluding his discussion Borg seeks to demonstrate how the four primary meanings are subsumed under the original meaning of 'believing.' He writes, "In the modern period, we have suffered an extraordinary reduction in the meaning of 'believing' -- believing a particular set of statements or claims to be true. But, originally, believing included all of the dimensions of faith that I have described. The pre-modern meanings of 'faith' generate a relational understanding of the Christian life." Faith is our love for God and the way of the heart.
That's part of what he writes. "The Heart of Christianity" by Marcus Borg is one of the most helpful books I have read in this decade of my life. I can't recommend this book high enough. Read it and the heart of your Christian faith will beat with freshness and vitality! Mine is a "renewed faith" through his book and its challenge!...more info
- A highly readable book that will allow those who harbor doubts regarding their faith to look at Christianity in a new life
Borg starts the book with a call for a new way of thinking about Christianity. He states "there is no single right way of understanding Christianity and no single right way of being a Christian." If you disagree with his statement then you, in Borg's terms, are an "Absolutist"; and you probably will find the book, well, heretical. All others `doubting Thomasist' climb aboard.
The new paradigm, the new way to think, Borg writes, is about loving God and loving what God loves, rather than rigidly adhering to a specific set of beliefs. His new paradigm of Christianity rejects a God that is "out there", but rather Borge calls us to experience a God that is `in', `with' and `around' us. He wants us to understand that God is speaking to us daily via our life.
Thus Borg has jettisoned `Supernatural Theism' and adopts a `Panentheistic' view of God. Be aware that `panentheism' is not to be confused `pantheism'. For more on `panentheism' consider reading Sallie McFague's, `Life Abundant'.
Borg does crosses his wires and tangles himself up is when on one hand he professes that Jesus is: "the primary revelation of God", "the ultimate disclosure of God", and that, "God is defined by Jesus"; then, contradicts this in a latter section subtitled,"Age of Pluralism".
In "Age of Pluralism" he states that, "Each religion is a mediator of `the absolute'... and, the point is not to believe in Christianity (read Jesus Christ) as the only absolute and adequate revelation of God, but, to live within the Christian tradition as a sacrament of the sacred." Hum. To paraphrase the Old Testament in Job 1:22: "Borg gave, and Borg hath taken away".
Those who buy this book, hoping to understand the depth of Professor Borg's theology, will come away disappointed, this is not a serious theological work; but rather a remedial primer that is occassionally provocative and always informative. "The Heart of Christianity" is written in a very understandable layperson's language, and could be a very good text for a discussion group that wants to look anew at key Christian's doctrines (Faith, The Bible, God, Jesus, Sin, Salvation). Recommended. 3.5stars....more info
- Life Changing
For churches facing dwindling congregations and spiritual seekers who feared zeal and intellect could not coexist, Borg offers salvation.
Many Christians who accept his premise -"We cannot easily give our hearts to something our mind rejects" - abandon the faith simply because they can no longer pretend to believe propositions they find ludicrous or immoral.
Borg offers an alternative - a coherent and transformational vision for the Christian life that includes authentic individual recommitment and political zeal.
Drawing on the bible as a metaphor and a sacrament, he grounds his principles on the "emerging paradigm" that is thriving in response to religious diversity and other modern challenges.
He identifies faith, the bible and Jesus as the heart of the spiritual tradition and then sets out an alternative framework of devotion. Incompatible with bigotry and pettiness, it stems from a fresh, more profound understanding of concepts like being "born again", the "Kingdom of God", resurrection, sin and salvation.
Rather than flee from the faith, Borg reminds us that in the search for truth, it is wiser to raise the courage and creativity to go deep rather than wide, by investing afresh in the tradition to which we already belong. He gives an example: if serious about reaching water, "better to dig one well sixty feet deep than to dig six wells ten feet deep."
This excellent book is profoundly relevant for our time. It challenges us to return with renewed vigor to a spirit of true Christianity which calls us to a higher standard of service and morality than ever before.
- Great and insightful
his book was another interesting read. Borg is a heretic by conservative Christian standards. He denies some elements of Jesus and re-fashions the view of inspiration. So why read this un-orthodox book? First of all, he sees Christianity through a different paradigm. His style of reading the text of God opened my eyes to the historical-metaphorical method. This emphasis on discovering the great themes of the Bible will certainly improve my preaching. Also, his focus on bringing the kingdom of God on earth was exciting. One of my favorite thoughts was concerning "thin places." Places on earth, or events in life, that cause us to experience deeper the presence of God. Borg is a man I would like to sit down with at Starbucks to discuss Christianity with a cup of coffee, maybe a Mocha....more info
- removed barriers
This book helped removed barriers that I had to loving God as well as barriers that I had to loving and enjoying other people. It doesn't get much better than that!!...more info
- Heart of Christianity
Purchased this book for our morning men's church meeting. So far it has generated a very animated discussion on the author's view of christianity. The only negative so far is the amount of repetition and the use of numerous terms not used in daily discussion. Progressive/liberal christianity as described by the author is more or less accepted by our group of twenty. Will let you know after we finish the book regarding our recommendation. Don...more info
- Almost comprehensive
I liked this book. I am a liberal Christian and was glad to see a book describe a systematic theology I largely can agree with. Borg accomplishes his stated purpose, which is to give those who are discouraged with traditional Christianity a way of seeing Christianity positively through modern eyes. He deserves all the praise he gets in other reviews here for doing that.
He also accurately criticizes the "earlier paradigm" of fundamentalism, while saying that such a way has still been responsible for many authentically following Jesus. He explains the problems of focusing on beliefs over a faith that is a trust of and devotion to God. He relates that to a reactionary response to the new ideas of the Enlightenment, scientific or otherwise. He does this well.
It is odd, though, that he follows that with a book that is almost all about beliefs, about how liberals can see God, Jesus, the Bible, and how to live accordingly. Some of this is strangely restricted, such as the limited options he sees for who and what God is.
Borg seems to overstate the degree of consensus within his "emerging paradigm". He may be talking about a consensus within liberal theologians rather than what I have seen attending liberal churches, where many people feel torn between the secular and traditional in seeing such things as the Bible. Borg claims his paradigm sees the Bible as sacred, historical, metaphorical and sacramental. Again there are other ways to see it that he doesn't address.
I agree with Borg that at its heart, Christianity is about transforming us toward compassion, wisdom and a push toward social action, whether one sees that as the spirit defeating the flesh or just intellectual growth that is also spiritual growth. He is vague about why this should happen and about why it doesn't happen that often, Christianity for many being about fellowship and comfort, if that. Borg clearly believes in a powerful Spirit and perhaps leaves the details to Him, but I would need something more than this book to embrace Christianity, if I didn't already. Perhaps there's another book to write about role models that would facilitate Borg's transformation better than the hypocrisy which is so often the public face of Christianity today. ...more info
- Best Borg yet.
Marcus Borg has really done a good job of talking about the existing and emerging paradigms in Christianity. Without looking down on what most folks believe is traditional, Borg explains why the Christianity that most folks know from childhood doesn't adequately connect with many newcomers to the faith....more info
- The perfect gift...
This is one of the finest overviews of an emerging Christian theology. It allows continued participation in the Christian tradition for those who no longer find meaning in traditional interpretations of the Christian story. The move from a literal to a metaphorical perspective is a relief and offers a refreshing re-engagement with ancient but still meaningful truths. We've given copies of this book to all our relatives and many friends, and we've taught it in Sunday school -- don't miss reading this book!!!...more info
- Everyone, Christian or not, should read this book!
I have had so many of the thoughts shared by Marcus Borg, it was so gratifying to feel that I am not alone. Being an educated and scientific person does not preclude one from being a Christian. This book is very easy to read and understand and should be standard reading for everyone, Christians, progressive and conservative, and non-Christians. ...more info