The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith

( 25 )

Overview

World-renowned Jesus scholar Marcus J. Borg shows how we can live passionately as Christians in today's world by practicing the vital elements of Christian faith.

For the millions of people who have turned away from many traditional beliefs about God, Jesus, and the Bible, but still long for a relevant, nourishing faith, Borg shows why the Christian life can remain a transforming relationship with God. Emphasizing the critical role of daily practice in living the Christian life,...

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Overview

World-renowned Jesus scholar Marcus J. Borg shows how we can live passionately as Christians in today's world by practicing the vital elements of Christian faith.

For the millions of people who have turned away from many traditional beliefs about God, Jesus, and the Bible, but still long for a relevant, nourishing faith, Borg shows why the Christian life can remain a transforming relationship with God. Emphasizing the critical role of daily practice in living the Christian life, he explores how prayer, worship, Sabbath, pilgrimage, and more can be experienced as authentically life-giving practices.

Borg reclaims terms and ideas once thought to be the sole province of evangelicals and fundamentalists: he shows that terms such as "born again" have real meaning for all Christians; that the "Kingdom of God" is not a bulwark against secularism but is a means of transforming society into a world that values justice and love; and that the Christian life is essentially about opening one's heart to God and to others.

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Editorial Reviews

Thomas Moore
“Marcus Borg brings expert knowledge, insight, and warmth to this revisiting of Christianity’s heart and soul. He makes absolute sense.”
Walter Brueggemann
“A winsome, accessible, pastoral offering ... Borg provides a way for an important, positive, and serious rethinking of the gospel.”
Spirituality and Practice
“This ambitious, substantive, and boldly political resource establishes the terms for a conversation that will no doubt continue for years…. [A] watershed work.”
Publishers Weekly
Borg follows up two of his previous releases about the Bible and Jesus with a volume that could easily have played on those titles, because this highly readable book is essentially about looking at Christianity again for the first time. In that respect, it provides a valuable glimpse into the essence of Christianity for those who have left the faith because they no longer believe its doctrines and those who are trying to remain in the faith while questioning its doctrines. With those people in mind, Borg emphasizes the transformational aspect of Christianity by examining the "emerging paradigm" that is gradually replacing the belief-centered paradigm of the last several hundred years. The new paradigm, Borg writes, is about loving God and loving what God loves, rather than rigidly adhering to a specific set of beliefs. In exploring this new way of "being Christian," Borg offers a middle ground for conservative and liberal Christiansthough it's unlikely conservatives will conclude, as he does, that Jesus was not really the Son of God, nor are liberals likely to begin using the term "born again," as he advocates. Still, there's much here that both sides can agree on, possibly helping to bring them a step closer to the unity that has eluded them for centuries. As always, Borg writes with clarity and precision, which should also help the ongoing conversation. (Oct.) Forecast: Borg, whose popularizations of biblical scholarship have earned him quite a following, will do a nine-city author tour to promote this title, which has a 40,000-copy first printing. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060730680
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/17/2004
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 140,236
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.57 (d)

Meet the Author

Marcus J. Borg is canon theologian at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Portland, Oregon, and was Hundere Distinguished Professor of Religion and Culture at Oregon State University. Described by the New York Times as "a leading figure in his generation of Jesus scholars," he has appeared on NBC's The Today Show and Dateline, ABC's World News, and NPR's Fresh Air. He is the author of the bestselling books Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, The Heart of Christianity, Reading the Bible Again for the First Time, The God We Never Knew, Jesus, Speaking Christian, and The Evolution of the Word. His blog appears on the Progressive Christian Channel of Patheos.com.

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Table of Contents

Preface: What Does It Mean to Be Christian Today?
1 The Heart of Christianity in a Time of Change 1
2 Faith: The Way of the Heart 25
3 The Bible: The Heart of the Tradition 43
4 God: The Heart of Reality 61
5 Jesus: The Heart of God 80
6 Born Again: A New Heart 103
7 The Kingdom of God: The Heart of Justice 126
8 Thin Places: Opening the Heart 149
9 Sin and Salvation: Transforming the Heart 164
10 The Heart of the Matter: Practice 187
11 Heart and Home: Being Christian in an Age of Pluralism 207
Index 227
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First Chapter

The Heart of Christianity
Rediscovering a Life of Faith

Chapter One

The Heart of Christianity
in a Time of Change

What is the "heart" of Christianity? What is most central to Christianity and to being Christian?

The question arises in each new period of Christian history. It is especially important in our time. A new way of seeing Christianity and what it means to be Christian is emerging in the church in North America. Because this vision of Christianity is quite different from the dominant way of seeing Christianity over the past few hundred years, our time is also a time of con flict. In our context of change and con flict, what is Christianity's "heart"?

Like all good metaphors, heart has more than one nuance of meaning. To begin with, it suggests what is most central. What is the core of Christianity, the "heart of the matter"? What is the essence of Christianity and the Christian life?

If "core" and "essence" suggest something too abstract,too lifeless, heart is also an organic metaphor, suggesting something alive, pulsating, the source of life. What is the heart, the animating source or driving force, of Christianity without which it would cease to live?

Furthermore, as in the phrase "head and heart," heart suggests something deeper than the intellect and the world of ideas. What is it about Christianity that is deeper than any particular set of Christian ideas and beliefs? And what is it about Christianity that reaches us at our "heart" level -- at a level of ourselves deeper than the intellect? The heart, this deeper level of the self, is the "place" of transformation. What is it about Christianity that gives it power to transform people at the "heart" level?

A Time of Change and Conflict

Christians in North America today are deeply divided about the heart of Christianity. We live in a time of major conflict in the church. Millions of Christians are embracing an emerging way of seeing Christianity's heart. Millions of other Christians continue to embrace an earlier vision of Christianity, often insistently defending it as "traditional" Christianity and as the only legitimate way of being Christian.

I have struggled with what to call these two ways of being Christian and have settled on the "earlier" and "emerging" ways of being Christian. What I mean by these terms will become clear in this chapter.

The familiar labels of "conservative" and "liberal" do not work very well, because both are imprecise. "Conservative" covers a spectrum ranging from Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson to C.S. Lewis to (perhaps) Karl Barth. The latter two would find the first two to be strange bedfellows. "Liberal" can be applied to a range of Christians from those with a strong sense of the reality of God and a deep commitment to the Christian tradition to advocates of a nontheistic Christianity for whom "tradition" is a negative term. Thus "conservative" and "liberal" don't tell us very much.

Moreover, there is much about the emerging way of being Christian that is conservative and traditional:it conserves the tradition by recovering it and envisioning it afresh. And there is much about the earlier way of being Christian that is innovative: its most distinctive features are largely the product of the last few hundred years. Indeed, both are modern products, as we shall see later in this chapter. Neither can claim to be the Christian tradition. Both are ways of seeing the tradition.

The differences between the earlier and emerging ways of seeing Christianity and being Christian involve specific conflicts as well as more foundational issues. These include how to see the Bible, God, Jesus, faith, and the Christian life.

To begin with, examples of specific issues that divide the contemporary church:

  • Ordination of women: The earlier way of being Christian did not ordain women, and in many circles still does not. The emerging way does. Within mainline Protestant churches, the number of women clergy (including bishops) is rapidly increasing. Indeed, in many mainline seminaries, half or more of the students are women.
  • Gays and lesbians:The earlier form of Christianity continues to regard homosexual behavior as sinful. Within it, the only options for homosexual Christians are celibacy or conversion to heterosexuality. For the emerging form of Christianity, the question of whether sexually active gays and lesbians can be Christians is mostly settled. The debate now is whether gays and lesbians in committed relationships can be married (or the equivalent) and whether they can be ordained as clergy, a debate virtually unimaginable a few decades ago.
  • Christian exclusivism: Is there only one true religion, one path to salvation? Or are there several true religions, several paths to salvation? The earlier way of being Christian was (and is) confident that Christianity is the "only way." Now that is beginning to change. In a poll taken in 2002 in the United States, only 17 percent of the respondents af firmed the statement, "My religion is the only true religion." Most of these are in churches that af firm the earlier way of being Christian. But 78 percent did not, and this is typical of the emerging form of Christianity.

Beneath these specific differences is conflict about more foundational matters, including especially how to see the Bible and its authority. For the earlier way of being Christian, the Bible is seen as the revealed will of God, as "God's truth," and thus as absolute and unchangeable. The changes listed above challenge passages in the Bible that (1)teach the subordination of women and forbid them to have authority over men, (2)declare homosexual behavior to be sinful, and (3)proclaim Jesus as the only way to salvation. To regard these passages as not expressing God's will for all time implies a very different understanding of the Bible's authority and interpretation.

Here too there is statistical evidence of significant change ...

The Heart of Christianity
Rediscovering a Life of Faith
. Copyright © by Marcus J. Borg. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 25 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 25 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2006

    Borg at his best

    I've read several of Prof. Borg's books, and all of them are excellent. In his latest book, The Heart of Christianity, Borg summarizes a lifetime of reflection on the Christian faith. Borg claims that the 'traditional paradigm' is losing it's power over people. Here traditional paradigm refers to a Christianity where God is a being out there with a will and who has all the power in the world and who sent Jesus into the world to die for our sins--literally. Christianity is the only true religion, and if we don't get ourselves to believe in doctrines about God and Jesus (and perhaps eschatology) then we're in big trouble when Jesus returns to earth. While the TP is still nourishing for many in the church, others find it harder and harder to accept they just can't believe that the Bible is a biography of God, of Jesus, and of the end times. There are several reasons, the biggest one being that contemporary Biblical criticism gives us a different picture of the origin of the Bible instead of the Bible being God's words about humans, its the words of humans about God. This doesn't mean that the Bible is false and doesn't contain anything divine it just means that humans had a lot of say about what's in the Bible. Borg endorses the 'emerging paradigm'. Here there's no emphasis on giving intellectual assent to a body of doctrines or creeds in order to be saved, that is, go to heaven. For Borg, this isn't the heart of Christianity. Rather, Christian faith deals primarily with *this* life, and it's a life that emphasizes a *relationship* with God, the key elements being trust in God to provide for all our needs, as well as loving what God loves--in other words, compassion and justice. Thus, as we live a life in God, and take seriously what God takes seriously, which we see in the person of Jesus, we are transformed in this life, saved in this life, so that we bring about the Kindom of God on earth. That's what really matters, not believing in a set of propositions so that we can get to heaven. As I read Prof. Borg's book, I found myself believing in God again. It wasn't the God of the 'traditional paradigm', a supernatural being out there who has all the power and knowledge and intervenes and sometimes doesn't intervene who demands that we accept doctrines and creeds that the mind can't accept--this is just another 'requirement' or 'work'. Also, this God is not the best explanation for the world shown to us by physics and biology, world religions, biblical criticism, and theodicy. I found many of Borg's ideas compatible with process theology (Borg doesn't develop an in depth conception of God, although he says that God is not less than personal. As someone who's in exile from the church--mostly because the traditional paradigm died for me in undergraduate school and failed to re-convince me in divinity school--I found myself, after reading Borg's book, unwilling give up on God. I had a desire to pray, to go to church, and to keep on wrestling with divine matters. If there is a God, I felt close to God as I read Prof. Borg's book God seemed real again, and when I walked the streets of downtown Lincoln, the world looked different: I had a love for people and I knew what the compassion I felt was the way Jesus felt when he encountered people--and it wasn't belief in doctrines that brought about this transformation. There is another way of being Christian, a way centered in a radical trust in God, the one in whom we live and move and have our being. And it's about taking seriously what God takes seriously--that is, a life of compassion and justice. And when we live in the spirit, both in our private devotions and in the life of the church, God becomes real to us and empowers us to strive for the Kindom of God, where the way of God rules our world and not the Caesars or powers-that-be. Thank you, Marcus. Amen and amen.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    The Heart of Christianity

    In his book "The Heart of Christianity," biblical scholar Marcus Borg attempts to bring out the real meaning of Jesus and the Christian life. For Borg, being a Christian isn't about believing things *about* Jesus; it's about following the *way* of Jesus. What is this way? It's the way of love and forgiveness. For Borg, God doesn't so much care about what beliefs we have in our heads as God does about how we live our lives. This book will be a breath of fresh air for those looking to reenter the Christian fold but who find the traditional creeds of the church too unbelievable.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2006

    One of the Most Important Books about Christianity

    This is a MUST READ for anyone who wants to understand true faith about Jesus. 2000 years of harmful Christian (human) dogma still pervades the Christian culture, and Borg's book is one of the best works available to set the path straight - to get to the 'heart' of what Jesus intended in the first place. This will be a book you will buy many copies of to give to others. I would give it 6 Stars, if that were possible!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2005

    A Vision of Hope

    In THE HEART OF CHRISTIANITY Marcus Borg describes the challenges facing many people who are trying to remain Christians today. It is no longer possible for great numbers of the followers to believe that the Bible or the Creeds are literally or factually true. It is still possible, however, to find much that is true if one views them metaphorically.Borg explains why he chooses to be a Christian and he makes several practical suggestions on such topics as worship and meditation based on a metaphorical, historical and sacramental approach to Christianity. For me Borg is one of the most inspiring writers associated with the Jesus Seminar. This is especially true because of his ability to take the reader beyond the spiritually dry places one may encounter after deciding that Christianity no longer makes sense.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2009

    inspiring

    Marcus Borg speaks to the many Christians who can't accept a literal understanding of the Bible. He explains how to understand it in metaphorical terms, as written by people writing in specific cultures. He answered many questions I had been struggling with.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2004

    Everyone Brings a Point-of-View

    Each of us brings a point-of-view to interpretation. Borg writes in an engaging and helpful way about Christian experience. This is an excellent book for group study and personal exploration.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2009

    Guiding us to a new life in Christianity

    Borg removes the shackles that Fundamental Christianity has clasped on us and leads us to a new life and meaning in believing in Jesus Christ. He presents a very compelling argument that the Bible was not meant to be frozen in time but instead is the foundation for discovering God anew. He also affirms the validity of the enduring major world religions.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2004

    The question in my mind

    Whether it's the historical/critical method Borg and the other Jesus Seminar scholars employ... or the fundamentalist Christian's attempt to return to pre-enlightenment, they both impart their own points-of-view to the Bible and then draw conclusions. Isn't listening for what the Bible is communicating to us the main thing?

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 5, 2013

    This book was both inspirational and infuriating. Borg offered v

    This book was both inspirational and infuriating. Borg offered very little evidence for the conclusions he proffered and simply reinterpreted what he did not like. His attempt to explain away everything supernatural by the use of metaphors was less than convincing. Thomas Jefferson was more honest when he simply cut out the parts of the Bible he did not like. Borg was was much less forthright and simply changed the meaning. He states in several places that there are two views of Christianity: the old paradigm and the emerging paradigm and that mainline churches follow the emerging paradigm which is what he recommends. Is that why the mainline churches are losing members by the thousands and some of them are flocking to more conservative churches or giving up entirely? It always amazes me how people living two thousand years later know more than those who wrote the books and the centuries of those who have studied them - without producing evidence for the theories. There are no doubt many metaphors in the Bible, along with parables and allegories, but they are clearly marked as such, or one can readily identify them as such. Borg cites Jesus as the door as if some people believe that his reference is to a piece of wood or metal that has hinges and a knob. If this is the emerging paradigm all I can say is God help the church!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 27, 2012

    I learned so much from this book! I wrote down 31 pages of note

    I learned so much from this book! I wrote down 31 pages of notes from
    it in my spiritual journal, so that shows you how much good information
    can be found in this book. I was raised Baptist in the Southern U.S.,
    but over the last few years I've really struggled with doubts about
    Christianity and almost decided to walk away. There have been several
    books that have stopped me from giving up on Christianity, and The Heart
    of Christianity is the best of them. A lot of my doubts have been
    resolved as a result of embracing the emerging paradigm Marcus J Borg
    presents. I don't know if I agree with everything Borg says, but I
    can't think of anyone else with whom I wholly agree either. As I read
    this book, I kept thinking, "This makes so much sense!" and I
    found myself with a more open heart, more centered in God, and
    overflowing with love for others. I highly recommend this to anyone who
    struggles to live the christian life in a culture that has twisted and
    corrupted the gospel message.

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  • Posted May 27, 2012

    Thought Provoking

    I truly enjoyed this book. It challenged much of what I had been taught as a child and what I believed for decades. The challenges were thought provoking and faith stimulating.

    What I really appreciated was that not only was Marcus Borg a New Testament theologian,and wrote from his academic background, but Borg also wrote as a man of faith. He writes as a person who wants to help the faith of others, rather than destroy their faith or simply call into question long held beliefs.

    I heartily recommend this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2012

    Very insightful!

    Helped me to better understand what had heretofore been so hard to grasp.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2012

    Great explanation of Christianity for the modern educated person

    This was the book that we read and discussed as a class when i joined the Episcopal Church. I had already read some of Borg's books and knew him to be a fine writer and scholar. Unless one is literalist or fundamentalist; this book will be an informative joy to read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2010

    A readable and new look at Christianity

    Borg takes a look here at what he calls the "emerging view of Christianity." Particularly with "the Heart" of Christianity and its three basic areas. The Bible is the heart of the tradition; God as the heart of reality; and Jesus as the heart of God. A good informative read.

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  • Posted July 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent Resource

    Most popular books by Marcus Borg provide useful and thoughtful gateways into lay biblical study and spiritual formation. This is a terrific book for small group and Sunday school study. Many choices exist for small group biblical studies. I think leaders and members of such small groups greatly benefit from using Professor Borg's work.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2005

    Borgism

    Borg denies virtually every fundamental doctrine that Christianity (Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Protestents) had, until relatively recently, believed for nearly 2000 years and yet he still wants to call that Christianity! Call it Borgism if you like, but it is not Christianity.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted April 20, 2011

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    Posted January 6, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted May 24, 2011

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    Posted January 25, 2010

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