From USA Today:
Theologian urges a new way of looking at Jesus
(This fluff piece about Marcus J. Borg is clipped part-way through, along with my own commentary added)
Borg sees Jesus differently. TC: "Different" is always a red flag.
As a historian and biblical scholar, Borg was a member of the Jesus Seminar, a scholarly group that spent years evaluating historical evidence of Jesus' life and sayings. Borg emerged from the process with deeper faith in Jesus and a different understanding of Scripture. TC: "Jesus Seminar" is an even bigger flag. This group didn't evaluate the historical evidence in light of scripture, they evaluated scripture in light of evidence and their own opinions.
Borg interprets the Bible and its descriptions of Jesus as a mixture of memory and metaphor, better suited to preserving meaning than as a list of beliefs fashioned by Jesus' followers that Christians must believe. TC: Sounds like "goulash"
"For me, to believe a set of statements is impossible," Borg says. What is possible, he argues, is to "belove" Jesus and walk in his path. TC: Impossible because it would imply absolute truth, which is anathema to these postmodernist types (absolutely, of course!). Instead we get to hear all about this "belove" term, which is really just a new way of saying - works righteousness.
"For the past 300 years," Borg says, "faith was a matter of believing a list of beliefs about Jesus. The list varied among Christians — that Jesus was the son of God, that he was born of a virgin, that the tomb was empty on Easter morning. TC: You know, everything Scripture teaches.
"But in the pre-modern world, before about 1600, the object of belief was never a statement," he says. "It was always a person. To believe meant to 'belove' a person. To 'belove' Jesus means more than simply loving Jesus. It means to love what Jesus loved. That is at the heart of Christianity." TC: It's true, Jesus is the object of our faith. But this sounds more like a dressed up, "What Would Jesus Do?"
Faith, Borg says, is a matter of living in relationship with Jesus and working politically, first for justice and then for peace. TC: And here is the bottom line. Faith=leftist politics.
Borg has taught religion at Oregon State for 28 years. He'll retire this spring and continue his writing and speaking, but says he knows already that he'll miss his weekly encounters with undergraduates.
"There is something wonderful about their openness," he says in his cluttered office on the Corvallis campus. TC: Young people who are easily led astray being every wind of false teaching.
His fans, the ones who read his books and fill church halls as he travels the country talking about Jesus, express their admiration with a sense of humor. They wear T-shirts proclaiming themselves "Borg Again Christians" and, borrowing from Star Wars, "May the 'phors (as in "metaphors") be with you." TC: Ok. Funny. But since when do theologians have cult followings? Something's "funny" about that.
"There is a hunger for something other than a fundamentalist, literal understanding of the Bible," says the Rev. Tom Tate, pastor of Portland's Rose City Park United Methodist Church. He says he doesn't always buy traditional views, and "Borg has given me the courage to come out and say certain things." TC: Itching ears love to hear what they love to hear. The Old Adam wants the law - to be convinced he can save himself. Then we don't need the Jesus of the Bible because we have the Jesus of lefty politics.
Paul Metzger, a theology professor at Multnomah Biblical Seminary, is very clear about where he disagrees with Borg.
"I appreciate Professor Borg's emphasis on Jesus having been crucified for his identification with the poor and oppressed, a point often lost on many conservatives," Metzger says. "But there is more: Jesus' suffering was part and parcel of his dying for the sins of the world. Jesus was also raised bodily from the dead to bring new life." TC: That's not just bonus material, that's the main thing! Concern for the poor and oppressed flows out of a right understanding of what Jesus was about in the first place.
That said, Metzger appreciates the serious and civil debate that Borg encourages. The alternatives to that are dangerous, he says.
"If people don't dialogue because they think that only their ideas matter, or if we put all the ideas to the side and just go for some neutral frame of reference, neither is meaningful."
And meaning, Borg would say, is the point of the Bible, of Jesus and of Christianity. TC: I'm sure the serpent in the garden was quite civil when he beguiled Eve. Imagine if she dismissed his "new ideas"? WOw... that wouldn't be very meaningful would it?
Jesus "is for us the decisive revelation of God — of what can be seen of God's character and passion in human life," Borg says. "But for followers of Jesus, the unending conversation about Jesus is the conversation that matters most." TC: Jesus the example, and now Jesus the conversation. Pray that people will ignore these lies and see Jesus instead as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.