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Borg, Marcus:the Heart Of Christianity


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To All:

I am starting a discussion of the book,"The Heart of Christianity" by Marcus Borg. I would like to initiate the process on 1 April with suggestions of how we might proceed. Suggestions are welcome, of course.

Jeep

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  • 3 weeks later...
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To All:

 

My copy of "The Heart of Christianity" has arrived. I have perused the title page, the loc data, the Table of Contents, the Index, and the Preface.

 

I was immediately attracted to the issues and authors listed in the Index, and the paradigmatic approach chosen by the author. As a personality prone to thinking "In my Head", I am anticipating an experience "in my heart".

 

My first posting will be a commentary on Chapter 1; "The Heart of Christianity in a Time of Change"

 

Mzmolly: Have you completed the book of Borg's you were reading? How about pitching in on this one?

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To All:

 

Welcome, Bro. Rog.

 

Here are my comments on Chapter 1:

 

1 (pg 2) Yes, I am deeply divided about the heart of the Christian faith. As noted in footnote 3 for 2001, 27% believed in Bible-Literalism. That did not include me.

 

2 (pg 18) I have not read the references noted in footnote 4, but I have read Thos. Kuhn's seminal book,"The Structure of Scientific Revolutions", which popularised paradigmatic thinking.

 

3 (pg 19) The Western World was the subject of "The Great Conversation" of the 20th century, embodied in the "Great Books of the Western World, and its 102 "Great Ideas". The "unending conversation" referenced here became real to me as I fascilitated "Great Books Discussion Groups" over the years.

 

4 (pg 20) For me this is the task of the 21st Century, "the ongoing construction of what it means to be a Christian." Does the Bible define Christianity, or are there more modern forms of expression. The invention of writing seems to have triggered the first Axial Age, largely replacing the "Story Telling" of the earlier years in the evolution of man. Are we triggering a Second with the digital revolution and Cyberspace?

 

Jeep

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To All:

 

Here are my comments on Part 1, Chapter 2...

 

I Faith:the way to the heart. I heard Dr. Borg speak on "Faithing, not Believing" before a packed St. John's Cathedral here in Denver. I had gone there disillusioned with "I believe", and came away with "I Trust In God" as a mantra.I was tired of the arguments over beliefs,and concerned about the "Wars over Faith". I heard his views of faith as "fiducia", and came away trusting in God.

 

2 (pg 31) Here I found that earlier experience affirmed. Faith is trust. "Growth in faith as trust casts out anxiety"(pg 32).

 

3 (pg 33) Fidelius: A radical centering in God: No more centering on Jesus as God. I am no longer Trinitarian in the "Earlier" sense. In the emerging paradigm, Jesus is my brother and mentor in the "Way"to God, a "Categorical imperative" if you will to embrace in "Faithing".

 

4 (pg 34) "The Vision Thing: "Holy" becomes "Wholeness" for me! I trust there can be wholeness in life in time as Borg seems to affirm here.

 

Jeep

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  • 8 months later...

ToAll:

I have just reviewed the thread as to reading and discussing Marcus Borg's Book,"The Heart of Christianity". While many checked out the page, no replies were forthcoming.

How am I to translate this?

Did all of you find it of no import?

Did any of you get the book and begin reading it, as I did? if so, was it not challenging enough to comment?

If any of you have been reading it, what do you suggest we do at this point?

 

Jeep

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I'm not sure if it is even possible or credible to make this claim, but Borg's book is one of the best books I never read. My former pastor preached a sermon series on this book and I was deeply touched and stirred by the content that she presented.

 

I was particularly interested in the notion of the paradigm shift from holiness to wholeness. It seems that holiness (which still has meaning to me) has been used since before Jesus entered the scene as a way of keeping the world separated (this is holy, this is not).

 

I'm quite aware that it is absolutely ridiculous for me to comment on this book given that I have not read it (like high school english when I didn't read Madame Bovery!)

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Hi Jeep!

 

I'm just about through the book myself. Didn't even know this discussion existed.

I think I will start where you left off on p. 35. My sense of God/dess or the Whole (as a Process Theist I don't understand God to be "Wholly Other") gives me that cautiously optimistic view. God/dess's power is not all-controlling or coercive, so I have to face the fact that "s--t happens", that life does involve tragedy, that evil does really exist and it's not simply an appearance of evil based on our ignorance of God/dess's plan.

 

At the same time, I see the influence of God/dess in everything. The universe is literally filled with God/dess's love.

 

There is a real struggle for people to connect with God who seems to be hidden beneath all kinds of theological and cultural baggage. I talked to a friend recently whose view of reality was as Borg described - hostile and threatening. He had been brought up in a rigid Christian home and had projected onto God the image of his father. He now calls himself an atheist but I think that he may be still rebelling against his father even though he's more than 50 yrs. old. Anyway, we've been discussing different views of God but he can't grasp any other concepts. As long as the term God is used, he associates it with all the baggage. If I can avoid the use of the term and just talk about the Whole, maybe he can make a connection. I'm trying to get used to substituting the term God/dess just to perhaps shock some into taking another look.

 

I have to be careful also, not to mistake my theological baggage for Reality. I have to remember that my conscious mind will always use symbols to point to reality, but the symbols can become false idols if I don't recognize them for what they are.

Edited by PantaRhea
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I bought the book a couple of weeks ago and am really enjoying it. I'm about 2/3 the through.

 

I also highly recommend "The God You Never Knew" and "God at 2000". The first is by M. Borg, the second is a compilation and is edited by M. Borg.

 

Panta said:

He now calls himself an atheist but I think that he may be still rebelling against his father

 

I know when I left Jehovah's Witnesses, I was atheist for about a year. I so totally rejected supernatural theism with it's "God the record keeper" mentality that I couldn't conceive that God/dess could be any other way. It was Hinduism, Buddhism and Paganism that brought me back.

 

my conscious mind will always use symbols to point to reality

 

"The moon! Look at the moon dang it. Quit watching my finger!" - Buddha in a moment of frustration. :D

 

Aletheia

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  • 2 weeks later...

Great book - I heard Borg speak just after I read it and the defining idea that I came away with was that you can be a passionate christian without needing to take away from or denigrate any other faith. Somehow, for me, that took away my perceived hyprocrisy of going to church, believing, but not believing exclusively.

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Hi all:

 

I just got the book on interlibrary loan. I'm hoping to start reading it tonight.

 

I've read several books by Marcus Borg and found that all of them spoke to me. Perhaps this is because his experience of faith is similar to mine in that I grew up in a Christian faith, left due to being unable to reconcile what I was supposed to believe with reality, and then discovering the wonderful reality of Christianity without the silly stuff.

 

I'll comment once I have got into the book.

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Funny thing I ordered this book and didn't look at the date fo the discussion which was for April 2004!!! Wow I'm a year late. Anyway I am really glad I ordered (off the used books in Amazon). I have started it and I think it is wonderful.

 

I'd also recommend this one to conservative readers on this forum who want to know how we think. The reason is this is the least polarizing of any of the books I have read, validates the conservative position without taking it. And is much less liberal than, say, Spong. I like the way it itemizes the differences AND similarities.

 

This is also the most "spiritually oriented" book that I have read at the progressive wing (or new paradym) For those who don't like the word "paradym" don't get the book! :-)

Anyway I am going to really enjoy this and I just started.

 

I'm recommending this one to our church book club.

 

 

 

--des

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Hey we could try for a date of April 1 *2005*. It might give anyone else a chance to get this book if they haven't gotten it. I also bought "Reading the Bible Again for the First Time".

 

 

The way we do a book discussion in the Harry Potter for adults group is that someone summarizes the chapter, and then presents some questions for discussion. (of course someone could add questions). This has worked out very well for HP, not sure how well it would work out for Borg (a little different subject matter). Still it might be worth a go.

 

--des

Edited by des
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Gee only Des pounced on that idea?! ;)

 

Summarizing chapters and asking questions can get to be a lot of work. Unless we get a bunch of really enthusiastic responses, maybe just be more casual about it?

 

How about just mentioning some of the questions or issues that come up for people when reading Borgs books?

 

I think the implications of some of his ideas don't sink in sometimes. Like his panENtheism belief. That's huge. And I haven't found anybody that actually *uses* his metaphorical approach to scripture. It seems like people tend to stay stuck in the way they use the Bible. Practices don't seem to change.

 

One question for me is I just don't get his prayer requests when I know he doesn't believe in a God that actually does anything or actually responds. Yeah, he explains it somewhat in the book.

 

Anybody got thoughts on that one? Aletheia, I think you are a panENtheist. Do you believe that God responds to prayer requests or how does that work do you think?

 

I think Taoism and the energy/chi stuff makes more sense.

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I have read and studied Marcus Borg's "The Heart of Christianity" and found it affirming and refeshing. What I particularily like was the emphasis transformation: the idea that you could focus on changing and transform your life rather than focusing on guilt, punishment and reward.

 

For me the way of transformation has been the acceptance and working with suffering. One aquires the grace to do this when one lets go of preoccupation with one's own ego and focuses on Christ. Unlike the self-absorbtion that comes with guilt, I find this liberating.

 

mgf50

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MGF, but does Borg really state that "we" are the ones who make this transformation happen? Or, does he maintain traditional Christian thought that it is God Who initiates and provides the impetus and means for such transformations via Grace?

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I think the implications of some of his ideas don't sink in sometimes. Like his panENtheism belief. That's huge. And I haven't found anybody that actually *uses* his metaphorical approach to scripture. It seems like people tend to stay stuck in the way they use the Bible. Practices don't seem to change.

 

I'm moving more and more to a purely metaphorical approach to scripture, even towards those passages that were NOT meant to be taken metaphorically. :P Doing so is the only way I can stay connected to Christianity. Otherwise I find myself saying: "I don't agree with that ... That isn't true ... " Etc ...

 

One question for me is I just don't get his prayer requests when I know he doesn't believe in a God that actually does anything or actually responds. Yeah, he explains it somewhat in the book.

 

Anybody got thoughts on that one? Aletheia, I think you are a panENtheist. Do you believe that God responds to prayer requests or how does that work do you think?

 

Borg basically says that he still does intercessory prayer because it makes him feel better. That's it in a nutshell. And I appreciate that.

 

I've moved away from that form of prayer myself, except for one thing: I still pray for understanding. That is the only form of intercessory prayer I stll find myself doing: "Please help me understand you God. Please help me to see the meaning of life and the theory of everything." :P Then I read, read, read and contemplate, contemplate, contemplate.

 

I do not pray for parking spots or for God to bless the USA.

 

I don't believe God responds to prayer requests. For God to do so opens up a can of worms that many don't appreciate. As cliche as it seems, I think the movie "Bruce Almighty" touches upon the problems associated with intercessory prayer quite well.

 

(The subject of intercessory prayer fits quite well with BroRog's post on Apophatic Theology.)

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Oh gee, well summarizing chapters is what we do on a Harry Potter discussion group, I did express that I wasn't sure how well this would work for Borg's book. (And now that I have gotten past about chapter 1, I think it would not.) But in a more informal sense, as WDancer said, I think it would work.

 

As to your specific comments, I'd consider myself a panentheist. I have at least heard of this term before from Matt Fox, who goes into it in quite deeply. And I would consider that I at least have been thinking re the metaphorical aspects of the scripture. (Although I didn't even realize some of these descriptions existed.)

 

I'm moving more and more to a purely metaphorical approach to scripture, even towards those passages that were NOT meant to be taken metaphorically.    Doing so is the only way I can stay connected to Christianity. Otherwise I find myself saying: "I don't agree with that ... That isn't true ... " Etc ...

 

Hah, well Aletheia I think I do this quite a lot. I'm not sure what exactly is to be taken totally literally and totally nonmetaphorically. Borg talks about things would triple meanings, etc. Very interesting. And I never thought the Lord's Prayer could have a theo-political meaning. You know the UCC church has lately taken to saying "give us our debts..." I was thinking, oh gee you know sometimes we can be so political, as the rationale given had to do with Third world debt. Well accordign to Borg that could have been part of the original intent. (Though Jesus could not have predicted the concequences of actual debt of poor countries to rich ones.)

 

 

I've moved away from that form of prayer myself, except for one thing: I still pray for understanding. That is the only form of intercessory prayer I stll find myself doing: "Please help me understand you God. Please help me to see the meaning of life and the theory of everything."    Then I read, read, read and contemplate, contemplate, contemplate.

 

I do not pray for parking spots or for God to bless the USA.

 

I do not believe in intercessory prayer at all. One fo the traditions we had in my last church was to have individuals give prayers for specific people, and the congregation would say "Lord, hear our prayer". I would just never say that. The whole thing struck me as saying that 1. God only listens because you ask. 2. God will answer some people's prayers and not others. 3. God answers any intercessory prayers at all. (Of course you could interpret that as a way to get at those "thin places" as it is was repetitive enough. But I didn't know about that then. I don't know, I have prob. given them, just because "they make me feel better" as Borg says. I see prayer as more or less opening yourself to God versus God being tuned into you. So I feel the type of prayer you describe is about the only one I really feel comfortable with.

 

BTW, I just really hate this "God bless America" thing. Not because I am against God blessing America or that God hasn't already blessed her, but that I see the statement lately as being God bless *America* as opposed to those other nations.

I think I have already gone thru parking places. ;-)

 

The other problem with the whole intercessory prayer thing, si that well weren't there people who prayed for the end of the Holocaust? (And anything else this subject may cover.)

 

 

--des

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I do believe in intercessionary prayer but not in the sense that God will intervene. I do feel that intercessionary prayer gives me a spiritual connection to the person I am prayer about. It also gives me a sense of how to relate or respong to that person, especially when I am angry or working through conflict. Sometimes it helps me calm down and hadled the situation more graciously.

 

Marilyn

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I think transformation comes when we let go of our suffering and turn our attention towards Christ. It like the sun may be shining but a flower does not receive the sunshine unless it turns towards it.

 

MGF50

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I do feel that intercessionary prayer gives me a spiritual connection to the person I am prayer about.

 

That's a very good point.

 

I can pray to God for someone and at the same time realize that God won't necessarily do anything for that person, but I could.

 

And in the same way, prayer for myself can help me focus on changes I could make in my life.

 

The prayer is a connection to God, a way to tap into what some call Grace.

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Aletheia, Thanks for the reply.

 

I don't know, I'm always kinda dissatisfied with answers I get to the question of prayer. Somehow, it just doesn't seem right. I do believe prayer makes a difference and that we are all connected somehow, so I do prayer for others. But it is more a visualization type thing than word requests. Shakti Gawain style. Or even Taoism's chi/energy makes sense to me. Or anybody ever read Larry Dossey on prayer? Sometimes I think Christianity holds me back spiritually and I should just give it up.

 

Another thing about Marcus Borg's panENtheism is I don't understand how Marcus can believe God is nurturing supportive loving when God doesn't do anything. Just doesn't make any sense.

 

I also know there are different varieties of panENtheism. Non-process and process. Process Theology or Fox's Creation Spirituality are variations, but not exactly the same thing. Non-process flavors seem to include a God that acts.

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