- Paperback: 343 pages
- Publisher: Christian Large Print; Lrg edition (20 April 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1594154120
- ISBN-13: 978-1594154126
- Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 14 x 21.6 cm
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,179,578 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Speaking Christian: Why Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning and Power--And How They Can Be Restored Paperback – Large Print, 20 Apr 2012
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More About the Author
This book could start a revolution. Borg cracks open the encrusted words of faith and pops them into fresh language that people can understand and trust. The last time this happened, we got the Reformation. --Anne Sutherland Howard, Executive Director of The Beatitudes Society
Speaking Christian correctly may seem like it s just a fuss over semantics, but it s ultimately about something bigger: defining Christianity... When Christians forget what their words mean, they forget what their faith means. --Cnn --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
About the Author
Marcus J. Borg is professor emeritus in the philosophy department at Oregon State University, where he held the Hundere Chair in Religion and Culture, and author of the New York Times bestselling Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, The Heart of Christianity, The Last Week, and Jesus. He was an active member of the Jesus Seminar when it focused on the historical Jesus and he has been chair of the historical Jesus section of the Society of Biblical Literature. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Although he covers similar ground to other books he has written, Borg provides useful insights into some commonly misunderstood terms like "salvation", "sin" "heaven". His stated aim is to reclaim "heaven and hell" christianity and re-define many basic concepts in ways which make emminently more sense in the 21st century. I found this book very helpful and find myself re-reading many of the chapters.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
There is no doubt that the revolution was already started in 1963, by former Anglican bishop of Woolwich, John Robinson, who was a major force in shaping Borg's liberal and progressive Christianity. His controversial million-copy bestseller, "Honest to God" was not so much an attempt to reshape Christianity, but a trial of concepts and modern language that conformed Christianity to a modern pro-scientific world view. There can be little question that Robinson wished to reduce Christianity's dependence on belief in legendary accounts and on the supernatural. Some conservative Christians were, and others are still terrified by the same 'Jesus Seminar' attitude. They see in this approach an appeal for a secularized Christianity or even worse, an appeal for secular humanism.
Acclaimed Bible scholar Marcus Borg, revisits same issues again after a half century. He argues that contemporary Christian language has become non inclusive, disconnected from and not representing the beliefs which once substantiated it. Defending his case with allusion to N. T. Wright's "Simply Christian," Borg calls for a radical change to the language Christians use to express their beliefs. For Borg, as was for Robinson, it is the primary remedy that will permit the Church's words to once again communicate Biblical truth, faith, and hope. Borg is addressing what he wrote earlier in, "Reading the Bible Again for the First Time." By taking the Bible Seriously, But Not Literally he shares Robinson's main perspective. He does not believe in miracles in a conventional sense, yet professes his belief in the paranormal, and offers a definition that accords well with Robinson's views.
While twenty five chapters may echo 'too many notes' to the average reader, it is not so. This book, is Borg's confession of faith "On Being a Christian", making an effort to interpret what it means to be a liberal and progressive Christian. In his Confession book, he discusses various Christian themes, exposing each in a chapter, such as Salvation and The only way, God and Jesus, Believing and Faith, Mercy and Righteousness, Sin, forgiveness and Repentance, To be Born Again, Ascension and Pentecost, Rapture and Second Coming, Heaven (without Hell), Creeds and Trinity, Lords Supper and Lords Prayer. Meanwhile he tries to weave personal anecdotes and vignettes along the way.
Dr. Marcus Borg is a professor of philosophy, and a respected Historical Jesus Scholar, who has enjoyed an illustrious career explains how can we benefit from a spiritual, metaphorical understanding of the gospels, without taking them literally. He also proposes to reconcile the results of New Testament and Historical Jesus scholarship with a modern, even redefined Christian faith. Borg clearly holds to the Metaphorical Gospel, but seems to be open to dialogue and change. It may be unfair just to cite his earlier books, or take this last one to describe his dynamic position on all issues. Speaking Christian is a serious book that has to be read critically, with an open mind and a mustard seed faith.
Honest to God
"A historical approach is greatly illuminating. Language comes alive in its context. ... Thus a historical approach makes Christian language relative and not absolute." Marcus Borg, Speaking Christian
The early Church Fathers followed primarily one of two methods of interpretation: Allegorical (spiritual) or literal. Going beyond literalism, Origen advanced allegorical Bible exegesis, early in the third century, claiming that it hides the truth from those blinded by sin and pride, while revealing it to the renewed eyes of believers. Up to the Reformation, the Bible was not usually interpreted in a strictly literal way.
Marcus Borg, who pursued the search for the real historical Jesus, with the Jesus Seminar for the first decade of its work, now exposits an alternative understanding by restoring authentic biblical meanings. Dr. Borg believes Christian language needs to be set free from its contemporary literalism. He wrote some of the most thought provoking books of which Speaking Christian is the most recent. His vision, as he stated, "I think we're living in a time of transition within Christianity that's been going on for half a century... where what I call the common Christianity that most Christians ...took for granted is no longer persuasive and compelling."
Some Biblical historians believe that Biblical literalism came about with Sola Scriptura, at the rise of Protestantism. So, Dr. Borg coaches the reader, with the book conclusion, asking if literal interpretation was part of the foundation he would like to shake, in the words of Paul Tillich, one of the century's most influential Christian thinkers. The author now persuades you into a discussion, helping you recover true belief. While the questions are his, some answers are expected from you, in the early Christian Catechetical school tradition. How important has the promise of heaven, or the threat of hell been influential to your Christian experience. How was your interpretation of the Bible, driven by the 'Framework of Heaven / Hell' concept within Christianity. How central were sin and forgiveness to adulthood faith, and how central are they for some forms of Christianity?
In a recent interview the Bible scholar revealed that the turning point of his search for God, confessing that was his most formative religious insight, came in a series of mystical experiences. "They changed my understanding of the meaning of the word 'God'-of what that word points to-and gave me an unshakable conviction that God (or the sacred) is real and can be experienced. These experiences also convinced me that mystical forms of Christianity are true, and that the mystical forms of all the enduring religions of the world are true."
Borg's liberation using a historical approach, which promotes a relative Christian language in understanding the creation, the flood, and the ten plagues goes beyond refuting literalism, to reconsider gender equality, same sex relations, and at its core to review the Christian doctrine of salvation as its only venue.
Speaking Christian: Why Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning and Power - And How They Can Be Restored
This book, for me, is the most readable of all Borg's books. He seems to have put aside the "professorial" tone of many of his other books that made them less readable for me. This is more like a conversation with Marcus Borg.
This will definitely become a major reference source in my own journey through life.
Early on, Borg explains that there are "two major causes shaping the way Christian language is heard. The first is the literalization of language in the modern period, affecting Christians and non-Christians alike. The second is the interpretation of Christian language within a common framework that [Borg calls] 'heaven and hell' Christianity." Borg spends the rest of the book giving his cures to these two problems. His remedies are clearly explained and supported by his extensive scholarship and tremendous expertise. I will treasure Speaking Christian as a valuable resource in that regard.
Unfortunately, Borg offers little to support his claim that he has correctly identified the "two major causes" of our problem understanding Christian language. Imagine the following. What if I claimed that the two major reasons that most Americans do not understand the language of computer science is that they take the computer/brain analogy too literally, and that computer science if filled with jargon that has no obvious meaning to them. That sounds somewhat believable, but it does not really ring true. Common sense tells us that the major reason most Americans do not understand computer science is that they have not studied computer science. Similarly, common sense tells us that the reason most people do not understand the language of Christianity is that they have not deeply studied Christianity. In fact, many may not even have the educational background to begin deeply studying a religion. (Our schools seem to be geared more towards producing skilled workers than people who are comfortable working with abstract ideas. A deep and solid liberal arts education must have little value in the marketplace.)
The problem of literalization and people's difficulty understanding the metaphoric nature of the heaven/hell framework are, to me, symptoms of this lack of serious study rather than root causes. Literalization naturally falls away as one progresses in study. For example, when first learning about electricity, students often use the water analogy as a stepping stone. Once their knowledge improves, they see how limited that analogy is. Thinking that electricity flows literally the same way water flows in a pipe is a sign that the student is a beginner, not that the incorrect analogy has been used.
Borg condemns the "heaven and hell" framework, but at what cost? Many find rich meaning in the symbolism of the heaven and hell framework. I am left wondering why Borg has done the work of interpreting some of the symbols of other religions to see where they intersect with Christianity, but is unwilling or unable to do this same type of work for some of his fellow Christians. In the end, this cheapens his work, tainting it with partisanship. Christians have a responsibility to embrace and understand others. Borg is too eager to shake his finger at those across the political aisle.
I would have been much more impressed if Borg, as a "liberal," also identified the common spiritual shortcomings of those who embrace historical-metaphorical hermeneutics. We all fall short, and often in stereotypical ways. If "conservatives" are more prone to being literal and militaristic, what are "liberals" prone to? Do we often take God less seriously than our conservative brothers and sisters? As "liberals," when we hear "conservatives" complain that liberals want to water down Christianity to the point that it is little more than something philosophy-based like secular humanism, we need to take that very seriously. After all, there is an important difference between philosophy and theology.
Philosophy is big-picture ideas (wisdom) about knowledge, while religion is big-picture ideas (wisdom) about the entire universe, which includes the known, unknown, and the unknowable. Although there are points where they touch, we cannot confuse philosophy with religion or religion with philosophy without damaging both. When Borg says, "ultimately, the central message of Christianity is simple," and then proceeds to demystify Christianity, it sounds as if we are getting dangerously close to confusing religion with philosophy. We cannot reduce Christianity to what is known. Since religion also deals with the unknown and unknowable, it must rely on symbols. Explaining the symbols can be a stepping stone to gaining understanding, but we must return to the symbols. Explaining away or discarding symbols sets off alarms for "conservative" Christians, and rightly so. By the way, I was also alarmed by Borg mentioning how seldom the issue of mercy comes up in his life. Some might see that as another red flag that Borg is feeding us "Christianity-lite" at times.
In conclusion, I wholeheartedly recommend reading the book, but watch out for the places where Borg goes beyond his depth, where he goes beyond the individual gems of his scholarship to offer his own, flawed, big-picture conclusions. Read it the same way you would read a book about mountain climbing written by someone who is the leading scholar on the facts and statistics of mountain climbing, but who has never climbed one of the great mountains himself.