In trying to explain what I believe, in terms of my faith, I found that the right words were not always available. Then I read the 2003 book The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith by Marcus Borg this past winter. My answer became: “Mostly what HE said.”
Borg was a “world-renowned Jesus scholar” who, as the book sleeve notes, is out to reclaim “terms and ideas once thought to be the sole province of evangelicals and fundamentalists.”
As the Amazon description of The Heart of Christianity notes: “Being born again… has nothing to do with fundamentalism, but is a call to radical personal transformation. Talking about the kingdom of God does not mean that you are fighting against secularism, but that you have committed your life to the divine values of justice and love. And living the true Christian way is essentially about opening one’s heart—to God, and to others.”
Borg writes about the “earlier paradigm” of literal Biblical interpretation and heaven-focused. Then there’s the “emerging paradigm” which is “the product of Christianity’s encounter with… science, historic scholarship, religious pluralism, and cultural diversity… it is [also] the product of our awareness of how Christianity has contributed to racism, sexism, nationalism, exclusivism and other harmful ideologies.”
The emerging paradigm sees the Bible metaphorically…its…’more-than-factual,’ meaning…It doesn’t worry that the stories… are metaphorical rather than literally factual accounts… ‘What is the story saying?'” He uses the term metaphor, not as a negative, “nonliteral,” but as a positive, “more-than-literal.”
He uses Garrison Keillor’s “News from Lake Wobegon” on the radio program Prairie Home Companion as an example. “We all know that Keillor is making them up, and yet we hear truth in these stories.” Borg acknowledges the comparison that the “analogy to the Bible is not exact,” since the latter is “the product of a thousand years of community experience.”
I was inclined to like Marcus Borg, especially when I realized that we had similar experiences: growing up in the “earlier paradigm” church, leaving in confusion for over a decade, and reframing to find our way back. I’m sorry that he died back on January 21, 2015, in a way that I was not before reading this book.