(Re)discovering Marcus Borg

I first came across the writings of Marcus J. Borg, the American New Testament scholar, theologian and author, a few years ago. I thought his books looked interesting and ordered one from Amazon. It was entitled “Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking The Bible Seriously But Not Literally”. This was a subject I was interested in, as I was attending a church where the Bible was considered 100% literally the Word of God. I thought there must be another approach to reading the Bible.

The church was an English-speaking Baptist church in Brussels, where I also held a position of responsibility. A few days after ordering the book, I found myself standing in front of the (temporary) Pastor of the church who bluntly asked me:

“Why are you recommending such a dangerous book?”

I was completely stunned by his question, for three reasons.

First, the idea of a theology book being dangerous in the apparently open-minded 21st Century seemed rather ridiculous. If I had ordered “Bombmaking For Dummies” he might have had a point, but a book about the Bible?

Second, I hadn’t recommended the book to anyone for the simple fact that I had not read it. Third, how did he know I had ordered this book?

To cut a long and painful discussion short, the Pastor said that Marcus Borg was a “false teacher” propagating unBiblical doctrines, and hence was deemed to be “dangerous”. The pastor had been told I was recommending this book to fellow church-members by someone in the church (unnamed; I never did find out who he was, although I have my suspicions). As to the third question, this same person had noticed on my Facebook profile that I had ticked the box on the Amazon site that said “Tell your friends on Facebook about your book”.

Time to leave

That was the last time I saw the pastor, and the last time my feet crossed the threshold of that church. Actually, my departure was not due to this difficult discussion about this book, but due to the extremely critical and hurtful remarks made to me by a number of men in the church when I admitted to believing in the evolutionary process rather than a literal six-day creation. (I may post more about that topic later!)

Anyway, so traumatic was that latter issue that after I had left the church, reading any kind of religious book was the last thing on my mind.

Time to rediscover

Now however, a few years down the line, it’s been good to rediscover Marcus Borg, not through his books but through his many excellent videos on YouTube.

The late Marcus Borg (he sadly died in 2015) had such interesting and insightful things to say about many aspects of the Christian faith. He speaks in a warm, friendly and honest manner. He is deeply respectful of those who hold alternative beliefs and opinions. He is an excellent communicator, able to explain complex thoughts as if he’s chatting with you about the weather or a football game. (He’s also helping me to read the Bible seriously but not literally).

I’ll write about what I have specifically learned from him later. But if you are at all interested in Christian teaching that is generous, inclusive, eye-opening, mind-broadening, based on love and compassion, and genuinely thrilling, I recommend you go to YouTube and type in “Marcus Borg”.

In the meantime, I leave you with one of his most insightful quotes:

“The requirement of faith divides the world up into those who have faith and those who don’t, with the implication that God is kindly disposed toward the first group and not so kindly disposed toward the second. This understanding is reflected in a popular Christian bumper sticker that reads: “Christians aren’t perfect — they’re just forgiven.” It implies that other people aren’t forgiven, and that Christians have done something (become Christian? Believed?) that merits forgiveness. There is a smugness and divisiveness in the statement …”

– Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, page 79

12 comments

  1. Very interesting. I myself try to be very careful due to the simple fact that I’m a very new believer. One thing that always comes to MY mind when people come across as condemning, or are arguing points of scripture- is that (and now that I say this I can’t be sure it’s in scripture but pretty sure it is) is “Never think you know it all”. Yes, I like your post very much! I could go on and on… you bring up things that are worth thinking about and talking about. I look forward to more of this!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that quote is a very good one, Janet, whether it appears in the Bible or not. Much of life is a mystery, and when we add the spiritual realm too, then there is even more mystery. Leaving the Evangelical mindset behind is liberating me to experience a richer world than ever before.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m reading one of Marcus Borg’s books at the moment – ‘Meeting Jesus for the First Time’. When I first encountered the writing of Marcus Borg, his views jarred very much with what I had been brought up to believe. Now, however, I am enjoying learning about the historical Jesus who revealed a loving God and who wasn’t afraid to speak out about the injustices towards people.

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  3. Thank you, Denzil. I’m now reading ‘Reading the Bible for the First Time Again’ by Marcus Borg. I’m not far into it yet, but I think it will help me, as many parts of the Bible troubled me, especially the Old Testament, as you can imagine. The only thing now is, I would love to meet up with other people with Panentheistic leanings, but I don’t know where to start to look. I expect something will crop up when I least expect it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve done a similar kind of search myself Ellem. I have met some interesting people through this blog and my other one, with some interesting spiritual insights. I too am troubled by many parts of the Bible, and for example have a lot of problems with Christians who are homophobic based on certain verses.

      Like

  4. Although not homophobic, I used to hold conventional Christian beliefs and took the bible literally. However, I’m beginning to see things differently now and very glad for it. I think it’s a case of allowing myself to consider concepts that are unlike those with which I was brought up. It’s an enlightening journey. There’s hope for me yet. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  5. p.s. I also wanted to say that I wish I had found Marcus Borg’s books before my father died. My mother was a Christian, but my father struggled terribly with it all, and the two of them used to have many heated discussions. I think my father could have understood things the way Marcus Borg explains it. I just have to leave it with God now.

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