The Heart of Christianity

Marcus Borg, HarperCollins, 2004

Reviewed by Vern Ratzlaff

        What does it mean to be Christian today?  For Borg, there is a way of seeing Christianity that makes persuasive and compelling sense of life—a way of seeing reality, a way of seeing G-d.  An earlier understanding of Christianity makes belief difficult.  This earlier way of being Christian views the Bible as the unique revelation of G-d, emphasizes its literal meaning and sees the Christian life as centred in believing now for the sake of salvation later.

        The second way of seeing Christianity has been developing over the past century, but the two ways share central convictions: the reality of G-d, the centrality of the bible, the importance of a relationship with G-d as known in Jesus, and our need (the world’s need) for transformation.  Both ways emphasize the importance of a personal relationship with G-d.

        Borg calls us to an ‘unending conversation’ between these two ways (what the Apostles’ Creed calls ‘the communion of saints’)—the awareness that we are neither the first nor the only ones.  Borg advances three affirmations as foundational for being Christian:  the reality of G-d, the utter centrality of the Jesus, the centrality of the Bible.

Borg writes compellingly about each of these affirmations.  E.g., we see the bible as sacred as the result of a historical process, not as the consequence of its divine origin.  ‘To be Christian means to be in a primary continuing conversation with the Bible as foundational for our identity and vision’ (p 47).

        He uses the concept of metaphorical language as truth (eg the stories of Noah, Tower of Babel).  Borg does a good treatment of atonement theory (p 92 ff), identifying five interpretations of the cross as found in the New Testament.

Vern Ratzlaff is a pastor and professor of historical theology at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.