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Transformation & Justification By Faith


Javelin
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I have just begun to familiarize myself with Borg & Corssan’s writings. I know a few of you are quite familiar with their beliefs. I would appreciate some thoughts on Borg & Crossan’s position on:

 

(Personal views & interpretations on these two topics are also welcome)

 

Justification by Faith

 

Transformation

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Hi Javelin,

 

I am less familiar with Crossan than with Borg, though I am aware that they are very much on the same page with a lot of things. As far as 'justification by faith' is concerned, I'm not very sure how either of them would interpret that - aside from metaphorically.

 

But 'transformation' is a word that is pregnant with meaning. In his book 'The Heart of Christianity', Borg relates many ideas surrounding personal transformation. He draws on the rich biblical language of being 'born again'.

What I interpret to be the gist of it all, is that for Borg the Christian faith is about participation with/in Christ, thereby identifying with him and dying to an old identity. If 'justification by faith' has meaning for Borg, I would be willing to bet that it is in the context of this theme. This is, by the way, a very Pauline interpretation of Christianity, with his theology of the old man vs new man, old creation vs new creation. It all boils down to a fundamental shift in one's identity. 'If any man is in Christ he is a new creature', 'buried in the likeness of his death, raised again in newness of life', 'it is not I who live, but Christ in me'.

 

Borg also makes use of the Garden of Eden as a metaphor for the human condition. We feel 'estranged' from God, from paradise. We are exiled, etc. There is much in the biblical tradition to draw from. In this context I might understand 'sin' (not the individual act but the deeper condition of it) as this fundamental sense of disconnect from the Sacred, this sense of being isolated, autonomous, apart from the divine reality that is in our very being, and our inclination to act from and out of that paradigm, that false identity. Christianity, then, is a return to wholeness, to a paradise lost when perversely fixated on the tree of self which grows in the midst of paradise, to paraphrase Thomas Merton. This dichotomy of false and true self is very prominent in the contemplative tradition of Christianity. To put it very simply, the false self is the prideful ego-centered self which imagines itself to be its own possessor and ruler, and tends to stand between the true self and God, while the true self is the self as it actually is before God, radically dependent on him for its own identity.

 

Obviously this takes a lot of emphasis off the afterlife and such, but I'm sure you're already familiar enough with Borg to understand why that is so.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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I think I have somewhat of a handle on Borg’s view of the afterlife. I get Borg’s thinking that the afterlife has become overly prominent in conservative theology, but scripture has too much to say about it for me to discount it as irrelevant or mythological.

 

I believe there is an “awareness” beyond our present reality. Scripture says that spiritual existence is heaven. I can see Borg’s point though that conservative Christianity has become overly focused on “getting to heaven” to the exclusion of living in the moment and becoming absorbed in Christ.

 

Borg has provided me with a lot of new perspectives to explore. These new perspective are very different from the rule following traditions that have been ingrained into my psyche. These new concepts will require a lot of processing before I can reach any substantive conclusions. I sincerely appreciate your mentoring Mike.

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Borg deals with the faith issue in his book The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith

 

Borg discusses the various types of faith and the kind of things people have "faith" in. Googling the book’s title will bring up excerpts for those who might be interested.

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Hi Javelin,

 

Borg and others do present a very different point of view to consider. I think even if this view does not ultimately speak to you, it is nonetheless beneficial to explore it.

 

I am generally in agreement with Borg on his take on Christianity. Borg is a person of faith, that is, he 'robustly affirms' the reality of the Sacred, and with some philosophical reservations, seems open to miracles. But he is also a skeptic (these two need not be contradictory), and he does not seem to want to make any assertions which go beyond his own knowledge (or human knowledge in general), whether it be knowledge he has gained through experience or study. I agree with that. Therefore he presents a framework for a Christianity that turns inward to personal transformation, to a personal and intimate experience with God. Christianity moves from a belief system to a Way, a practice. Faith moves away from abstract beliefs and to commitment, to faithfulness or fidelity to Christ. Belief itself becomes a reflection of the Christian life as it is lived. The practice informs the theory and vice-verse. Some may confuse Borg's skepticism with outright denial, but I've gotten the impression that he is sensitive and open to the possibility of the supernatural. He just doesn't want to place all his theological eggs in that basket, you might say. At least, that's the way it is for me. Approaching Christianity like this frees me to explore things, ask questions, believe or doubt as my mind is so led, and not feel constrained or fettered by feelings of contradiction or guilt at being a 'skeptic' or a 'doubter' (which to me are not pejorative words but virtues).

 

As far as the afterlife and eschatological concerns go, I believe Borg has a good point. But I also believe you have a good point. I doubt there is any way reconcile the two views in a systematic way. But perhaps reality is not a system, perhaps there is room for ambiguity in the religious life.

 

When it comes afterlife, etc., I am inclined to like the teachings of the Catholic and Orthodox churches with regard to 'theosis' and 'divinization' respectively, as it speaks to the purpose of creation.

 

What follows is theosis as explained by a conservative Catholic theologian, Francis X. Cleary,:

 

The bible's most profound revelation of creation's ultimate destiny is found in 1 Corinthians 15:20-28. The scenario described there begins with Jesus' present, though hidden, reign as cosmic Lord. But the real hero is God the Father, who is already at work subjecting all evil forces to his son's authority. "Christ must reign until God has put all enemies under his feet and the last enemy to be destroyed is death." This ultimate victory takes place at the Second Coming of Jesus.

Christ's triumph will become occasion for his own selfless self-emptying. "When, finally, all has been subjected to the Son, [the Son] will then subject himself to the One [the Father] who has made all things subject to him." Then follows a statement as profound as it is simple, describing what eternity will be like: "...that God [Father] may be all in all," or "everything to everyone." Here in a few words Paul summarized the purpose and goal of creation and redemption. Universal salvation means God's generous sharing of what is his alone: fullness of life, eternal happiness. (How Different Religions View Death and Afterlife, 203).

 

God becoming 'all in all' is a very meaningful statement to me, though perhaps in an as-of-yet vague way. In my own point of view, God is already 'all in all'. Perhaps what speaks to me is this notion that God being 'all in all' is actually the finality of the meaning of all things. This can be understood in the eschatological sense, but also in an a-temporal, ontological sense. That God is 'before' all things and the 'finality' of all things (alpha and omega, first and last), does not refer to time and space but to what is prior, that is, deeper, fundamental.

 

Is it 1st or 2nd Peter that speaks of becoming partakers of the divine nature in Christ? To my understanding that is what it means for him to be 'all in all' - to be united with him, to share in his divinity. By becoming identified with Christ we are hid in heavenly places with him, our own self exists in union with him. Thus the purpose of creation is fulfilled in us, for 'the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof'. Thus we are 'a new creation' - or perhaps rather 'the new creation'. For the truth that God is all-in-all is without reference to any particular time or place. It is not something that happens only at the end of time, as if it weren't already and always true before that. As Cleary said, Jesus is already cosmic Lord. Perhaps the 'end' of time in this sense can be understood not as the termination of time but 'end' as in the 'purpose' or 'aim' of time.

 

Therefore 'whether living or dead we are the Lord's', 'for all live unto him.' The truth of the afterlife for me is that we are partakers of his life and identity, and that identity is something beyond ourselves and this particular physical life. If in participation and identification with Christ, his death becomes our own, and we assume his life, his resurrection then becomes our resurrection, for Jesus said 'I am the resurrection and the life.'

 

 

Peace to you,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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Hi Javelin,

 

Borg and others do present a very different point of view to consider. I think even if this view does not ultimately speak to you, it is nonetheless beneficial to explore it.

 

I am generally in agreement with Borg on his take on Christianity. Borg is a person of faith, that is, he 'robustly affirms' the reality of the Sacred, and with some philosophical reservations, seems open to miracles. But he is also a skeptic (these two need not be contradictory), and he does not seem to want to make any assertions which go beyond his own knowledge (or human knowledge in general), whether it be knowledge he has gained through experience or study. I agree with that. Therefore he presents a framework for a Christianity that turns inward to personal transformation, to a personal and intimate experience with God. Christianity moves from a belief system to a Way, a practice. Faith moves away from abstract beliefs and to commitment, to faithfulness or fidelity to Christ. Belief itself becomes a reflection of the Christian life as it is lived. The practice informs the theory and vice-verse. Some may confuse Borg's skepticism with outright denial, but I've gotten the impression that he is sensitive and open to the possibility of the supernatural. He just doesn't want to place all his theological eggs in that basket, you might say. At least, that's the way it is for me. Approaching Christianity like this frees me to explore things, ask questions, believe or doubt as my mind is so led, and not feel constrained or fettered by feelings of contradiction or guilt at being a 'skeptic' or a 'doubter' (which to me are not pejorative words but virtues).

 

As far as the afterlife and eschatological concerns go, I believe Borg has a good point. But I also believe you have a good point. I doubt there is any way reconcile the two views in a systematic way. But perhaps reality is not a system, perhaps there is room for ambiguity in the religious life.

 

When it comes afterlife, etc., I am inclined to like the teachings of the Catholic and Orthodox churches with regard to 'theosis' and 'divinization' respectively, as it speaks to the purpose of creation..........

 

Peace to you,

Mike

 

I picked up on thinking that I identified as agnostic when I first began reading Borg. That turned me off and resulted in me not reading the rest of his thoughts objectively. As I got deeper into his book I realized I had misinterpreted his position, so I went back to chapter one and started over.

 

Now I find that I am generally in agreement with Borg’s thinking and beliefs too. I’ve been reading excerpt’s from several of his books online the last few days. I have totally changed my original impression of his writings and beliefs.

 

I have to get past my conservative indoctrination that proclaims all liberal academics to be either agnostic or atheist humanist whose goal in life is to destroy the faith of gullible conservatives and lead them astray.

 

I’ve come to expect wisdom and enlightenment in your post Mike. I’m still processing your thoughts in the above post, but I initially see nothing of substance that I would disagree with.

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Javelin,

 

Im not familiar with Crossan, and maybe only repeating what youve been reading by Borg; but on justification by faith, he says its not about forgiveness; not a reward for achievement; its not about who goes to heaven or how; its not about replacing one requirement with another but the abolition of the whole system of requirements. Grace means feeling loved and accepted as children of God, reconciled with the ground of our being, freedom from enslavement to our old programming (always a challenge).

 

About transformation, I agree with Mike that Borg presents a framework for a Christianity that turns inward to a personal and intimate experience with God. But Borg also emphasizes social reform in every book of his Ive seen - he views Jesus as a radical prophet who extended compassion to outcasts, the oppressed and exploited. Its easy to stay focused on our own private need for uplifting, reassurance --that certainly applies to me as an esthetic introvert. But Borg, Spong and other PC authors never lose sight of the kingdom Gods dream of social justice and peace.

 

On the afterlife - in an earlier book Borg says I am an agnostic on the details of the afterlife; but he affirms there is something rather than nothing...We can be confident of one thing; when we die, we do not die into nothingness but we die into God.

Edited by rivanna
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Javelin,

 

I’m not familiar with Crossan, and maybe only repeating what you’ve been reading by Borg; but on justification by faith, he says “it’s not about forgiveness; not a reward for achievement; it’s not about who goes to heaven or how; it’s not about replacing one requirement with another but the abolition of the whole system of requirements.” Grace means feeling loved and accepted as children of God, reconciled with the ground of our being, freedom from enslavement to our old programming (always a challenge).

 

About transformation, I agree with Mike that Borg “presents a framework for a Christianity that turns inward to a personal and intimate experience with God.” But Borg also emphasizes social reform in every book of his I’ve seen - he views Jesus as a radical prophet who extended compassion to outcasts, the oppressed and exploited. It’s easy to stay focused on our own private need for uplifting, reassurance --that certainly applies to me as an esthetic introvert. But Borg, Spong and other PC authors never lose sight of the kingdom – God’s dream of social justice and peace.

 

On the afterlife - in an earlier book Borg says “I am an agnostic on the details of the afterlife;” but he affirms “there is something rather than nothing...We can be confident of one thing; when we die, we do not die into nothingness but we die into God.”

 

Excellenet observations rivana,

 

Using a different set of words ....

 

The intentional object of compassion is "the suffering of others". The "suffering of others" carries with it no exclusions. In order to distinguish compassion from it's roots in empathy, something must be added. Compassion is the combination of our innate capacity for empathy AND a willingness to do something about it. Since the intentional object of compassion is outside the person in "the other", practical reason takes the message of "feed the poor" to the level of taking action to remove obstructions, provide resources, and give a voice to those are marginalized (suffering). Emotion (empathy) and practical reason join rather than conflict and become compassion.

 

myron

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I have to get past my conservative indoctrination that proclaims all liberal academics to be either agnostic or atheist humanist whose goal in life is to destroy the faith of gullible conservatives and lead them astray.

 

I’ve come to expect wisdom and enlightenment in your post Mike. I’m still processing your thoughts in the above post, but I initially see nothing of substance that I would disagree with.

 

I am familiar with that kind of indoctrination, ever being warned to say away from 'liberal' scholarship whose only aim is to pick apart the authority of the bible. Fundamentalists in my experience are afraid to read the bible like any other book lest it not hold up to the infallibility test. Therefore any kind of critical analysis of the text is frowned upon at the least or banned entirely. Not that the bible, with its religious status, is just any other book, but we still need to be critical in the kinds of claims that can be made for it.

 

Anyway I appreciate your words my friend. But do feel free to disagree wherever you may. I'm only offering my thoughts and bits and pieces of things I've read from people wiser than I. I am somewhat disenfranchised with the whole enterprise of systematic theology, so I'm open to contradiction and difference.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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About transformation, I agree with Mike that Borg “presents a framework for a Christianity that turns inward to a personal and intimate experience with God.” But Borg also emphasizes social reform in every book of his I’ve seen - he views Jesus as a radical prophet who extended compassion to outcasts, the oppressed and exploited. It’s easy to stay focused on our own private need for uplifting, reassurance --that certainly applies to me as an esthetic introvert. But Borg, Spong and other PC authors never lose sight of the kingdom – God’s dream of social justice and peace.

 

You are right Karen. The social/political aspect of both Borg and Crossan's approach to Christianity plays a big role. I suppose I was trying to avoid that aspect of it though, since it seems to me that the 'metaphysics' of Christianity must be where the substance is, lest Christianity be conceived simply as a form of social activism couched in religious jargon. I know Borg and Crossan both see 'Jesus is Lord' as being a challenge to the empire system and an assertion of the reign of God and God's vision for humanity.

 

On the afterlife - in an earlier book Borg says “I am an agnostic on the details of the afterlife;” but he affirms “there is something rather than nothing...We can be confident of one thing; when we die, we do not die into nothingness but we die into God.”

 

Great quote. I think it rather beautifully and succinctly states what I was trying to say in my post.

 

 

Peace to you,

Mike

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