Borg, Marcus J. The Heart Of Christianity. How we can be passionate believers today. Harper San Francisco 2003.
M.B.- Professor of Religion and Culture at Oregon State University.
The endorsements of this book focus on Borg’s passion and inclusiveness regarding Christianity. It is seen as crucial to an effective understanding of how Christianity can be relevant in postmodernity. It seems that his vigorous rejection of any and all ‘exclusivism’ of Christianity comes at a price that doesn’t resonate with me. I am impressed by his acceptance of what is good about modernity and applying that to postmodernity. As I was reading my response vacillated between, ‘this is great- to- I’m not so sure about this’. Stimulating and thought-provoking.
There is a new way of seeing Christianity that is emerging in western postmodernity. (It has to do with history, metaphor and sacrament.) Compared to the harder exclusive view of modernity (which focuses on the literal and factual) this view is softer and more inclusive. Central to both views is faith, the afterlife and a Christian life of requirements and rewards. A concern of “bridging the differences” (16) is approached through a focus on the differences not on the conflicts of the two views.
Faith involves believing, trust, fidelity and vision (a way of seeing). To believe (correctly) means to love and implies a relationship. “To be a Christian is to be centred in the God of the Bible. This is a mark not of Christian exclusion but of Christian identity.” (43) It is suggested that an alternative to the infallibility and literalism of the modern paradigm would be a “historical, metaphorical and sacramental understanding of the Bible”. (44) The historical approach gives balance to the literal-factual interpretation. Metaphorical preaching is very much a part of today’s preaching and should also be a part of biblical interpretation. “The point is not to ‘believe’ in a metaphor- but to ‘see’ with it.” (57) e.g. The Bible is to be viewed as a sacrament.
The reality of God is viewed through two ‘lenses’, “supernatural theism and panentheism” (65) A distinction is made between a “pre-Easter Jesus and a post-Easter Jesus”. (83) A metaphorical reading of the gospels adds to the factual stories, e.g. wedding at Cana. “A historical-metaphorical approach (to understand Jesus) matters because it helps us to see the meaning of our Christological language”. (86)
“Born again, is a potential bridge metaphor between the old and the new Paradigms.” (104) Being born again is explained in the New Testament as dying and rising, a concept central to early Christianity. The cross, “the single most universal symbol of Christianity” (112) illustrates this dying and rising and is thus all about being born again. Being born again can be a dramatic event, e.g. Saul of Tarsus, or it can be a process. It is always the work of the Holy Spirit.
The Christian life is personal (being born again) but it is also polit6ical (the kingdom of God). The kingdom of God is a very common topic in both the Old and the New Testament. The heart is a common metaphor from scripture. It can be open or closed. Open hearts provide opportunities for “thin places” (149) i.e. spiritual encounters.
Sin has made forgiveness necessary. Sins that result in specific consequences require specific ‘remedies’. Bondage requires deliverance; blindness requires restoration of sight, etc. Salvation and repentance are part of a heart being transformed.
The Christian life comes down to practice. This practice arises out of the reality of being; “created by God, a child of God, beloved of God, and accepted by God”. (191) Formation and nourishment happens within the church community and through personal disciplines. When we practice compassion and justice we are paying attention to God. This is what the Lord requires, “to do justice, to love kindness, to walk humbly with your God”. Micah
The author addresses the challenge of “being a Christian in an age of pluralism’. (207) He rejects any exclusivism of Christianity. To him Christianity is home and this is where he belongs.