World-renowned Jesus scholar Marcus J. Borg shows how we can live passionately as Christians in today's world by practicing the vital elements of Christian faith. For the millions of people who have turned away from many traditional beliefs about God, Jesus, and the Bible, but still long for a relevant, nourishing faith, Borg shows why the Christian life can remain a transforming relationship with God. Emphasizing the critical role of daily practice in living the Christian life, he explores how prayer, worship, Sabbath, pilgrimage, and more can be experienced as authentically life-giving practices. Borg reclaims terms and ideas once thought to be the sole province of evangelicals and fundamentalists: he shows that terms such as "born again" have real meaning for all Christians; that the "Kingdom of God" is not a bulwark against secularism but is a means of transforming society into a world that values justice and love; and that the Christian life is essentially about opening one's heart to God and to others.
The two Christianities referenced in the title are what he calls the earlier Christian paradigm, or belief-centered Christianity, and the emerging Christian paradigm, or transformation-centered Christianity.
The earlier paradigm has been prevalent in the past 300-400 years and is most embodied today in the conservative and evangelical faith. The emerging paradigm has been in existence at least 200 years, taught in mainline seminaries for the last 100 years, and the grassroots movement is much more recent. Borg doesn’t say one paradigm is right and one is wrong but offers a comparison of the two as follows:
Earlier Paradigm – Being Christian is about believing; faith as believing.
Emerging Paradigm – Being Christian is about a way, a path; faith as centering in God.
Earlier Paradigm – Afterlife centered
Emerging Paradigm – "This life" centered
Earlier Paradigm – Requirements and rewards
Emerging Paradigm – Relationship and transformation
Earlier Paradigm – Christianity is the only way
Emerging Paradigm – Affirms religious pluralism
Earlier Paradigm – Literalist or semi-literalist understanding of biblical and Christian language
Emerging Paradigm – Beyond literalism: much of Christian/biblical language understood metaphorically
Earlier Paradigm – In conflict with Enlightenment, for example, creation vs. evolution
Emerging Paradigm – Integration of Enlightenment, no conflict, and some mutuality
Earlier Paradigm – Tends to be apolitical or politically conservative
Emerging Paradigm – Tends to be apolitical or moderate/progressive/radical
Earlier Paradigm – Centered in one’s own well-being, in this world or the next
Emerging Paradigm – Centered in God
Followers of the two paradigms differ sharply in ways of seeing the origin, authority, and interpretation of the Bible.
Earlier Paradigm – Origin: a divine product. Comes from God as no other text does.
Emerging Paradigm – Origin: A human product. The product of two ancient communities.
Earlier Paradigm – Authority: grounded in origin
Emerging Paradigm – Authority: grounded in canonization
Earlier Paradigm – Interpretation: literal, factual, absolute (selectively)
Emerging Paradigm – Interpretation: historical (text in ancient context) and metaphorical (the more-than-literal meaning)
Regarding the emerging paradigm interpretation of the Bible, Borg quoted someone as saying, “The Bible is true, and some of it even happened.” Borg says that literal interpretation of the Bible may be the greatest factor in people leaving the church.
1. The Spirit of God can and does work through the earlier paradigm, and has for millions of people. But there’s a lot of static in it. For millions, it has become an obstacle, a stumbling block.
2. The emerging paradigm is not primarily an accommodation to modern thought, not a reduction or abandonment of the Christian tradition. Rather, it is “neo-traditional.” Neo: it is new – we haven’t seen exactly this form of Christianity before. It is traditional: it is a recovery, a retrieval, of what was most central to Christianity–God, Jesus, the Bible, “the way”–before the distortions created by the collision with modernity.
We’ve looked at the differences between the earlier and emerging paradigms. So what do they have in common? Borg outlined three areas of shared thinking.
1. At the heart of Christianity is God/The SacredGod: Christianity without a robust affirmation of God makes no important sense. Christianity shares this in common with the world's enduring religions.
2. At the heart of Chrisitianity are the Bible and Jesus. They are the two primary sources of revelation for Christians. This is what distinguished Christianity from the world's other religions.
The Bible is the Word of God expressed in human words.
Jesus is the Word of God embodied in a human person.
For Christians, Jesus is the decisive revelation of God, of what can be seen of God in a human life. When Jesus and the Bible conflict, Jesus is decisive.
3. At the heart of Christianity is following Jesus: The Way. Christiantiy is a way, a path of transformation. The Christian life is about a relationship with God as known decisively in Jesus that transforms us “into the likeness of Christ.”
The way, the transformation, is both personal ("born again" through "dying and rising with Christ") and political ("the kingdom of God" and "Jesus is Lord").
The way is lived within Christian community and tradition.
So if we’re in conversation with someone who subscribes to the opposite paradigm from our own, Borg suggests one way to make an overture to a productive dialog is to ask, “Would you agree with me that at the center of the Christian life is a relationship with God as known in Jesus?” And if the answer is yes, “This might provide a starting point for talking about our differences, if you wish.”
Most of all, reading this made me realize that I do "fit," and that belief is not mutually exclusive with partaking in a modern, rational, scientifically expanding, pluralistic world.