Category Archives: Book Excerpts

In Memoriam: Marcus Borg

It was back in 2008 that I discovered a book that would forever restore my faith in God: Marcus Borg’s The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith. I had recently made a rediscovery of my own: church. I had been absent from church for many, many years. I had most recently been in attendance at an evangelical mega church, which I stopped attending when I moved out of my parents’ house. The experiences at that church had left a bad taste in my mouth for organized religion (though, surprisingly, the people at that church reject the term “religion” and any sort of organization, even though it is all the same thing).

I had rediscovered church via my neighborhood Episcopal Church. The new rector (priest in charge) of the church had distributed friendly welcome letters to the neighbors, inviting all who sought a deeper relationship with God to join them for worship in a beautiful historic jewel of a chapel with a magnificent pipe organ and a diverse congregation that welcomed all seekers. It sounded perfect. My life has changed for the better since I walked in to that church.

Soon after I began attending the Episcopal Church, my visits to the local book store started to focus more on the Religion & Spirituality section. I remember finding Marcus Borg’s book, The Heart of Christianity, on one of the feature tables. The subtitle (Rediscovering a Life of Faith) stood out to me. I knew nothing of Marcus Borg, but thought I’d give the book a try.

I am forever grateful for the words Marcus wrote in this book. In the book, Marcus makes it quite clear that you can, indeed, be Christian and not believe in many of the things that made me doubt my faith for years. Things like biblical infallibility, and homosexuality as a sin, and not including women in the ministry. Those things just scratched the surface of so many things that made me lose my faith in God. I didn’t want to claim a faith that taught it laid claim to the ultimate truth, and that one had to believe those things in order to be in right relationship with God and to be a true Christian.

In thumbing through my cherished copy of his book, there is one statement that I underlined and noted on the inside cover as particularly meaningful to me. A statement straight from Marcus’s heart. On page 149, Marcus says:

Though of course I would like you to agree with me, I am less concerned with soliciting agreement than I am with provoking thoughtfulness about the way our life together is, and could be, structured.

I think this one sentence really sums up how Marcus Borg did theology. He did theology in a heartfelt, meaningful, genuine way that was concerned more with the dialogue and the questions and the seeking than with answers and certainty and agreement.

It is my hope that the legacy and spirit of Marcus Borg lives on forever in the lives of those of us whom his writings touch. I, for one, will always be grateful to Borg’s witness to his walk with God, and his unabashedly honest understanding of faith, which was never a certainty, and always a journey. Too many conservative Christians have dismissed Borg because of his radical honesty in living out his faith, his rejection of orthodox theology, and his embrace of doubt as an essential part of a healthy faith.

For my and for others’ benefit, I wanted to share a few other meaningful excerpts from The Heart of Christianity that stood out to me, and that I think show just where Marcus’s heart was. I hope that his understanding of God in these words speaks to you like it did to me.

And if [your vision of Christianity] works for you–if it hasn’t become an obstacle and if it genuinely nourishes your life with God and produces growth and compassion within you—there’s no reason for you to change. Being Christian isn’t about getting our beliefs (or our paradigm) “right.” –p. 18

When [the literal versus metaphorical] debate breaks out in my classroom, I say to my students, “Believe whatever you want about whether it happened this way; now let’s talk about what the story means.” The statement applies to the Genesis stories of creation, the gospel birth stories, and the stories of the Bible generally: a preoccupation with facts can obscure the metaphorical meanings and the truth of the stories as metaphor. –p. 54

The Christian life is not about believing or doing what we need to believe or do so that we can saved. Rather, it’s about seeing what is already true—that God loves us already—and then beginning to live in this relationship. It is about becoming conscious of and intentional about a deepening relationship with God. –p. 77

When the Christian path is seen as utterly unique, it is suspect. But when Jesus is seen as the incarnation of a path universally spoken about elsewhere, the path we see in him has great credibility. –p. 119

Marcus Borg, thank you for your honest and radical witness to faith in Jesus Christ. Your witness to honest faith saved my faith in God, and showed me that one’s faith is enriched with doubt and uncertainty. Thank you for your bold words that others shunned, and for your showing me that God and ultimate truth cannot be placed inside of any one religion or definition. Your legacy will live on forever in those of us whose lives you touched and whose faith you helped form. May light perpetual shine upon you.

marcus-borg-60336577422a3f27

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Book Excerpts, Reflections

Talking about grace…

If one must be a Christian in order to be in right relationship with God, then there is a requirement. By definition, then, even though we may use the language of grace, we are no longer talking about grace.

Excerpt from Reading the Bible Again for the First Time, by Marcus Borg

20140719-215048-78648868.jpg

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Excerpts

All the world seems a church…

20140529-194721-71241841.jpg

–by John Muir, excerpted from My First Summer in the Sierra

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Excerpts

The Song of My Beloved…

The song of my Beloved beside the stream.
The birds descanting in their clerestories.
His skies have sanctified my eyes, His woods are clearer than the King’s palace.
But the air and I will never tell our secret.

Christ has sanctified the desert and the wilderness shines with promise.
The land is first in simplicity and strength.
I had never before spoken freely or so intimately with woods, hills, buds, water and sky.
On this great day, however, they understood their position and they remained mute in the presence of the Beloved.
Only His light was obvious and eloquent.
My, brother and sister, the light and the water.
The stump and the stone. The tables of rock.
The blue, naked sky.

–Excerpt from Entering the Silence, by Thomas Merton.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Excerpts, Thomas Merton

You are the future…

You are the future,
The red sky before sunrise
Over the fields of time.

You are the cock’s crow when night is done,
You are the dew and the bells of matins,
Maiden, stranger, mother, death.

You create yourself in ever-changing shapes
That rise from the stuff of our days–
Unsung, unmourned, undescribed,
Like a forest we never knew.

You are the deep innerness of all things,
The last word that can never be spoken.
To each of us you reveal yourself differently:
To the ship as coastline, to the shore as a ship.

–From The Book of Pilgrimage by Rainer Maria Rilke; excerpted from Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, Anita Barrows and Joanna Marie Macy, trans. (New York: Riverhead Trade, 2005), page 17

Rainer Maria Rilke, c. 1900

Rainer Maria Rilke, c. 1900

1 Comment

Filed under Book Excerpts, My Favorites, Poems

Beyond Justice

What is it that Job has understood? That justice does not reign in the world God has created? No. The truth that he has grasped and that has lifted him to the level of contemplation is that justice alone does not have the final say about how we are to speak of God. Only when we have come to realize that God’s love is freely bestowed do we enter fully and definitively into the presence of the God of faith. Grace is not opposed to the quest of justice nor does it play it down; on the contrary, it gives it its full meaning. God’s love, like all true love, operates in a world not of cause and effect but of freedom and gratuitousness. That is how persons successfully encounter one another in a complete and unconditional way; without payment of any kind of charges and without externally imposed obligations that pressure them into meeting the expectations of the other.

–Excerpt from On Job: God-talk and the Suffering of the Innocent, by Gustavo Gutiérrez, pp. 87-88.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Excerpts

An Inexhaustible Sweetness

…but what sure rest is there save the Lord? Lush living likes to be taken for contented abundance, but you are the full and inexhaustible store of a sweetness that never grows stale. Extravagance is a bogus generosity, but you are the infinitely wealthy giver of all good things. Avarice strives to amass possessions, but you own everything. Envy is contentious over rank accorded to another, but what ranks higher than you? Anger seeks revenge, but who ever exacts revenge with greater justice than yourself? Timidity dreads any unforeseen or sudden threat to the things it loves, and takes precautions for their safety; but is anything sudden or unforeseen to you? Who can separate what you love from you? Where is ultimate security to be found, except with you? Sadness pines at the loss of the good things with which greed took its pleasure, because it wants to be like you, from whom nothing can be taken away.

–Excerpt from St. Augustine’s Confessions.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Excerpts, My Favorites