Friday, August 14, 2009

The Heart of Christianity ~ by Marcus J. Borg, 2003

The Heart of Christianity : Rediscovering a Life of Faith ~ by Marcus J. Borg, 2003, religion
"Listen to your life.  Listen to what happens to you because it is through what happens to you that God speaks.  It's in language that's not always easy to decipher, but it's there powerfully, memorably, unforgettably." — Frederick Buechner, quoted by Borg (page 73)

Emerging Paradigm

More and more people are beginning to understand Christianity in a noticeably different way.   Borg calls these two ways of seeing Christianity the "earlier" paradigm and the "emerging" paradigm.  A paradigm is a way of seeing the whole, a large framework for understanding reality.  The earlier paradigm is centered on belief, but the emerging paradigm revolves around the need for transformation:  (1) transforming the self through a dynamic experience of God, who is not separate from us but a part of us, and (2) transforming society.  Religions are "communities of transformation" (page 215).

Metaphorical Language

Literalism is the problem.  Borg says we need to move beyond literalism and see that religious language is mostly metaphorical language, which can be profoundly true.
When children ask about a biblical story, "Is that a true story?" they may be asking, "Did it happen?"   But they are likely to be satisfied with an answer like, "Well, I don't know if it happened or not, but I know it's a true and important story" (page 195).
Metaphorical language is MORE than historical or factual and has a surplus of meaning.  As Borg said in a lecture I attended on March 11, 2006, "The Bible is true, and some of it happened."


The really important issue is relationship and the transformation that flows out of it.  How do we experience God?  How are we supposed to "love" God?  We "grow" our relationships by paying attention to the beloved.
Loving God means paying attention to God and to what God loves.  The way we do this is through "practice" (page 187).
In other words, it is something we DO, not something we believe.  Modern Christianity, especially Protestant Christianity, has not made practice central.  Other religions do:  Judaism is primarily about following the way of Torah.  Buddhists follow the eightfold path.  Four of the five pillars of Islam are about practice, one of which is praying five times a day.  Borg says:
I have been told that the five prayers together take about forty minutes, and I have often wondered how we as Christians would be different if we spent forty minutes a day in prayer (page 188).
Practicing our relationship with God is all about "beloving" God.  Christianity is a way of life.  To love God and neighbor, we must love what God loves -- and that means not only loving the people (neighbor, self, enemy), but loving all of creation.  Have you practiced compassion today?  Have you done justice today?  Have you cared for the earth today?  Oops, now I've quit preaching and gone to meddling!  I'll end with something Borg said, when I heard him three years ago:  "Practice is how we actualize grace."

Rated:  10 of 10
I mentioned this book a couple of years ago, here:

Update:  On Sept. 2, 2009, I wrote about this book again, here:

1 comment:

Bonnie Jacobs said...

I wrote about this book and this author again, here: