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Borg And Post-critical Naivete


fatherman
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Some thoughts from Marcus Borg that sparked some valuable discussion in my Sunday School class this Sunday. Marcus Borg, whom many of you know through books like "The Heart of Christianity" introduces an idea that is worth some consideration...especially in how we relate to the Bible. He defines three states (or stages) of relating to the scriptures.

 

A. a pre-critical naivete (childhood, accepting the stories of the Bible as true is effortless...requires no faith)

 

B. Critical thinking (How much do I take with me into adult life)

 

C. Post-critical naivete: that is, able to hear as "true" events not factual, or

--"Now I don't know for sure whether it happened this way or not, but this story is true...."

 

He says that we all experience A and B naturally. C is not a given. We can easily spend our entire adult life in a stage of critical thinking and find plenty of value in it; however, it is ultimately corrosive to religion.

 

He uses the example of how we relate to the Nativity story over the course of our spiritual journey. In childhood naivete, the angels, the star, the virgin birth, the magi, Bethlehem, Herod's savagery...no problem. In critical stage....this story does not jive with reality and history as we know it. In post-critical naivete, whether it happened this way or not, it is true. It says something about what kind of effect Jesus has on those who encounter him. It says something about what what Jesus represented to his disciples. The symbols and metaphors are rich and have application for our life even today. Maybe it didn't happen exactly like this, but I KNOW that it is TRUE!

 

After thought - this makes me think something I wrote a few years ago. It seems relevant to this topic and to this season.

 

Thoughts on the birth of Christ

 

We must make our hearts like the manger.

Humble in stature

Filled with Love like Mary’s and Mercy like Joseph’s

We must be like the Wise men.

Following the star

Leaving our land of comfort

Bearing our precious gift

We must be like the Servant shepherds.

Listening to the angel song

Hearing the invitation

 

When Wisdom meets Service in a Humble Heart that is filled with Love and Mercy,

Christ is born. Offer your gift. Kneel before him. Receive Peace on Earth.

Edited by fatherman
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Some thoughts from Marcus Borg that sparked some valuable discussion in my Sunday School class this Sunday. Marcus Borg, whom many of you know through books like "The Heart of Christianity" introduces an idea that is worth some consideration...especially in how we relate to the Bible. He defines three states (or stages) of relating to the scriptures.

 

A. a pre-critical naivete (childhood, accepting the stories of the Bible as true is effortless...requires no faith)

 

B. Critical thinking (How much do I take with me into adult life)

 

C. Post-critical naivete: that is, able to hear as "true" events not factual, or

--"Now I don't know for sure whether it happened this way or not, but this story is true...."

 

He says that we all experience A and B naturally. C is not a given. We can easily spend our entire adult life in a stage of critical thinking and find plenty of value in it; however, it is ultimately corrosive to religion.

 

He uses the example of how we relate to the Nativity story over the course of our spiritual journey. In childhood naivete, the angels, the star, the virgin birth, the magi, Bethlehem, Herod's savagery...no problem. In critical stage....this story does not jive with reality and history as we know it. In post-critical naivete, whether it happened this way or not, it is true. It says something about what kind of effect Jesus has on those who encounter him. It says something about what what Jesus represented to his disciples. The symbols and metaphors are rich and have application for our life even today. Maybe it didn't happen exactly like this, but I KNOW that it is TRUE!

 

After thought - this makes me think something I wrote a few years ago. It seems relevant to this topic and to this season.

 

I love this idea of Borg's. I think it's an important idea and I'm always grateful when I find interpretations of biblical stories that express the kind of critical-thinking-impacted faith that Borg is describing. Thanks for the beautiful poem!

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Thoughts on the birth of Christ

 

We must make our hearts like the manger.

Humble in stature

Filled with Love like Mary’s and Mercy like Joseph’s

We must be like the Wise men.

Following the star

Leaving our land of comfort

Bearing our precious gift

We must be like the Servant shepherds.

Listening to the angel song

Hearing the invitation

 

When Wisdom meets Service in a Humble Heart that is filled with Love and Mercy,

Christ is born. Offer your gift. Kneel before him. Receive Peace on Earth.

 

Wow!

 

Can I put this poem on my blog?

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  • 2 months later...
Some thoughts from Marcus Borg... C. Post-critical naivete: that is, able to hear as "true" events not factual, or

--"Now I don't know for sure whether it happened this way or not, but this story is true...."

You have got to be kidding! Is this really what he aspires to?

 

In the early 1900's this sort of theology began through the philosophy of Karl Barth, called existential theology, neo-orthodoxy, or transcendental theology. By which a statement in the Bible can be historically false and yet religiously true. Furthermore he said two mutually contradictory statements may very well both be true. This paradox ridden new liberal theology makes statements seeming to be profound while actually being only vague. There developed a concept of non-reason, a semantic mysticism with no facts!

 

Mr. Borg changed the name to post-critical naivete, but it is still the same irrationality.

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Mr. Borg changed the name to post-critical naivete, but it is still the same irrationality.

 

I have to agree.

 

While it is important that he recognizes that certain things didn't actually happen there isn't a whole lot of point, imo, in trying to make them fit. I personally think it is more respectful of the scripture to try and understand why it is written the way it is written than trying to necessarily make it somehow relevant or "true" today. It may have been helpful to tell a truth at that time but our society is scientific in our mindset and for us truth is truth and facts are facts. This has been my biggest disappointment with Borg & Crossan. I much prefer Spong as I feel like he is honest.

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  • 2 weeks later...
I have to agree.

 

While it is important that he recognizes that certain things didn't actually happen there isn't a whole lot of point, imo, in trying to make them fit. I personally think it is more respectful of the scripture to try and understand why it is written the way it is written than trying to necessarily make it somehow relevant or "true" today. It may have been helpful to tell a truth at that time but our society is scientific in our mindset and for us truth is truth and facts are facts. This has been my biggest disappointment with Borg & Crossan. I much prefer Spong as I feel like he is honest.

 

I'm not sure I follow - are you saying Borg and Crossan are not being 'honest'? What do you mean about 'trying to make them fit'? Is it necessary that they 'fit'?

 

Personally, I think Spong, Borg and Crossan are saying essentially the same thing - what we have in the Bible is capable of being historically challenged.

My own view is that the institutionalise Church has continually treated us like Sunday School children - we have never been allowed to grow up. Parents who do not allow their children to grow up and assume responsibility for their own lives cause emotional and psychological dependency which is anything but healthy. We all recognise this. Yet, we are expected to accept what amounts to fables being forced onto us as 'truth' by the Church without so much as a whimper.

 

Well, the cover's been blown. The result is we now have to spiritually grow up. That we will probably get it wrong to begin with is to be expected - but the cage door is open and we are free to try out our wings. That some will cringe to the cage bars terrified of the opportunity presented is, again, to be expected. That there will be mid air collisions for those who venture beyond the prison - expected, injuries - perhaps. The result is we will look at the Bible with different eyes and inevitably read different messages. Well, that maturity for you.

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Borg's observation as it relates to the three phases of acceptance also needs to be understood along with another one of his ideas. According to Borg, something doesn't need to be 'factually true to be actually true'. It's as if there is evidence in front of us, but we haven't yet been able to connect the dots leading to it. Personally, my own Faith dosen't center itself on the Bible. If the Bible didn't exist, I would still have the same Faith that I have today. Religious constructions have their uses, such a the transmission of legends and myths, wisdom and morality, etc., but God is not created by these things nor is God proven by these things. God can be experienced by any one of us, here and now, without books, churches, hymns, creeds, clergy, or even the Bible for that matter. The Light of the Divine shines through us, a light within us and outside of us. This Reality can be touched and known, directly experienced by us, through prayer and meditation and the resulting Connection will define us and God without the need for second-hand spiritual writings or church doctrines that are frozen in centuries past. By connecting with the Spirit of God in the here and now, we can come to know God here and now, we can come to feel the Depth of the Spirit Within...and be guided by that experience. Know always that God is with you and that you are truely blessed today and forever.

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Borg's observation as it relates to the three phases of acceptance also needs to be understood along with another one of his ideas. According to Borg, something doesn't need to be 'factually true to be actually true'. It's as if there is evidence in front of us, but we haven't yet been able to connect the dots leading to it. Personally, my own Faith dosen't center itself on the Bible. If the Bible didn't exist, I would still have the same Faith that I have today. Religious constructions have their uses, such a the transmission of legends and myths, wisdom and morality, etc., but God is not created by these things nor is God proven by these things. God can be experienced by any one of us, here and now, without books, churches, hymns, creeds, clergy, or even the Bible for that matter. The Light of the Divine shines through us, a light within us and outside of us. This Reality can be touched and known, directly experienced by us, through prayer and meditation and the resulting Connection will define us and God without the need for second-hand spiritual writings or church doctrines that are frozen in centuries past. By connecting with the Spirit of God in the here and now, we can come to know God here and now, we can come to feel the Depth of the Spirit Within...and be guided by that experience. Know always that God is with you and that you are truely blessed today and forever.

 

 

Wow! I whole heartedly agree, what a message, I am humbled and thankful...

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I'm not sure I follow - are you saying Borg and Crossan are not being 'honest'? What do you mean about 'trying to make them fit'? Is it necessary that they 'fit'?

 

 

No, I'm saying that Borg & Crossan won't completely let go. They remind me of a professor I had in Seminary who knew that the prophecies in Isaiah about a "virgin" birth were really about a woman who was already pregnant in the king's court and was about to give birth. Yet knowing this he still maintained that Mary was a virgin. Knowing where the belief comes from (The Greek translation of Isaiah which was being read by the writer of Matthew) and that it was an incorrect translation he maintained his belief.

 

I've seen others do with trying to spiritualize the resurrection. It is really not necessary. When we understand why it was important then for these things to be "true" and why it is not important now there is no reason to try and spiritualize them.

 

They don't need to fit. It is Borg & Crossan (and others) who seem to want to make them fit. IE make the true for today even if all they really hold is literary value and value for understand the mind set of people long ago.

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Borg's observation as it relates to the three phases of acceptance also needs to be understood along with another one of his ideas. According to Borg, something doesn't need to be 'factually true to be actually true'. It's as if there is evidence in front of us, but we haven't yet been able to connect the dots leading to it. Personally, my own Faith dosen't center itself on the Bible. If the Bible didn't exist, I would still have the same Faith that I have today. Religious constructions have their uses, such a the transmission of legends and myths, wisdom and morality, etc., but God is not created by these things nor is God proven by these things. God can be experienced by any one of us, here and now, without books, churches, hymns, creeds, clergy, or even the Bible for that matter.

 

 

Exactly! Knowing God is, imo, experiential. It was quite freeing when I realized that my relationship to God did not hinge on Mary being a virgin, Jesus being resurrected from the dead, the earth being flat, a 7 day creation, etc.

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