The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith
Evangelicals beware --- this is the same Marcus Borg of the Jesus Seminar, the one who has categorically stated that he does not believe that Christianity is the only path of salvation, that the Bible is the Word of God, that Jesus experienced a bodily resurrection, or that Jesus is, in fact, the Son of God. So why review this book? Why give him any cyber ink at all?
There are any number of reasons why evangelicals need to be aware of what Borg believes and what he has written, not the least of which is his tremendous influence on non-evangelicals, particularly those who have left mainstream denominations but still long for a way to express what faith they have left. Borg offers them a way of returning to the church that does not require them to adhere to a rigid set of beliefs that they have long considered suspect. And he's very good at what he does and how he does it; his books always sell well, and he is constantly in demand as a speaker. He has a knack for welcoming people "home" --- to mainline churches --- in a warm and compassionate way.
In THE HEART OF CHRISTIANITY, Borg lays down a welcome mat that has already proven attractive to those who have been disenchanted with what they perceive as an anti-intellectual faith. His welcome mat encourages people to give Christianity another chance because the times have changed, and from those changes a new, inclusive paradigm has emerged. Christianity, he holds, is no longer about a belief in a set of doctrines but about "loving God and loving what God loves."
That said, Borg never demeans those who do hold to a strong doctrinal stance and a literal interpretation of the Bible, much of which he considers to be metaphorical. But while many evangelicals dismiss him outright, Borg is obviously trying to build a bridge between the conservative and liberal factions in the church. It's hard for evangelicals to understand how someone who denies the deity of Jesus can be so passionate about Christianity, and yet this book shows Borg to be an evangelist for the faith. He loves Christianity, and he wants Christians to find the common ground that has eluded them for so long.
Even if you completely disagree with Borg's fundamental premise, THE HEART OF CHRISTIANITY is worthwhile reading for anyone who is unafraid to examine a perspective on faith that seemingly differs dramatically from their own. You may be surprised at some of his thoughts, like his suggestion that liberals begin using the term "born again" to describe their transformation from an old way to a new way of being Christian, or his emphasis on the importance of having an intimate relationship with God.
There's no question that some who read this book will conclude that Borg has cut the heart right out of Christianity. But likewise, there's no question that many lapsed churchgoers will return to the faith as a result of Borg's enormous influence. For that reason alone, evangelicals would do well to familiarize themselves with the work of this highly gifted thinker and communicator.
Reviewed by Marcia Ford on September 23, 2003