Thanks Marcus Borg Feb 22, 2008
Borg is active in a church, in fact an Episcopalian layperson, yet his approach is mostly academic. He writes as a university professor who is a Christian. The book, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, is entertaining as well as informed. In it, Marcus J. Borg highlights four qualities of Jesus in an attempt to sway readers away from popular images of Jesus held by the majority of Americans in the 1980’s.
The historical Jesus was…one…with an experiential awareness of the reality of God…a teacher…who…used the classic forms of wisdom speech…to teach a subversive and alternative wisdom…was…similar to the classical prophets of ancient Israel…was a movement founder who…shattered the social boundaries of his day… (1)
According to Borg, Jesus of Nazareth invited others to see life differently, emphasized the blindness of the sighted, and expected that this radical change of viewpoint would transform those that he spoke with. But the Jesus that Borg portrays was not that unique. There were others in the history of the church that also did those things.
Much of what Borg includes in his book was generated in developing lectures for talks to church groups (about Jesus as a spiritual mentor) and through academic study and presentation of the historical Jesus to college students. For Borg, Christian life is about “entering into a relationship with that to which the Christian tradition points, which may be spoken of as God, the risen living Christ, or the Spirit,” calling a Christian “one who lives out his or her relationship to God within the framework of the Christian tradition.”
Marcus Borg describes his personal Christian relationship as beyond belief. A twelve year search led Borg to assess the historical Jesus as a person who used compassion to shape his community by “directly and repeatedly challeng(ing) the dominant (imitatio dei).” In fact, according to Borg, Jesus of Nazareth was “an advocate of the politics of compassion in a social world dominated by the politics of purity,” a politic that was to some extent “the ideology of the dominant elites – religious, political, and economic.” Borg sums up the purity system of Jesus’ day as “form(ing) the lens through which they saw sacred tradition and provid(ing) a map for ordering their world,” and as “creat(ing) … sharp social boundaries: between pure and impure, righteous and sinner, whole and not whole, male and female, rich and poor, Jew and Gentile.”
According to the early church’s presentation of Jesus in the New Testament, he lived a vision of compassionate inclusion; expressed in his actions of cleansing lepers, healing the infirm and in such statements to ‘love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’ Jesus found his family surrounding him wherever he went, indicating that ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.’ Borg called this a
way of being that moves beyond both secular and religious conventional wisdom…from a life of requirements…to relationship…from a life of anxiety to a life of peace and trust…from a life centered in culture to a life centered in God. (2)
Borg reminds us that God is conventionally thought of as lawgiver and judge, “seen as both the source and enforcer…the one we must satisfy…” For Borg, the way less traveled is one that was suggested by subversive sages as alternative to the cultural norm of their day. As a result, Borg only presents a Jesus that was an Israelite prophet that God knew and communicated with.
The Borg book is enabling. It reminds us to get out and help others.
(1) page 30
(2) page 88