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Theologian/Oregon State Professor Marcus Borg has written a fascinating, insightful and challenging book titled “Jesus.” It has taken me weeks to write these few paragraphs for the Rabbit Room, possibly because of the uniqueness of the whole experience. Maybe I need to read more books, or maybe I need more friends like the one who sent this book to me. As a whole, reading this book was a joy. I found myself at times comforted, challenged, educated, shocked and disappointed, in total disagreement, and in total agreement with the author.
I read “Jesus” like a devoted fan rooting for the home team, (and to wring dry a baseball metaphor), I grimaced at the wild pitches and infield mishaps, but rejoiced at every triple play – and the occasional home run. While dissecting the Gospels through the lens of his understanding, Borg questions (and in many cases, rejects) the traditional understanding of foundational issues ranging from the virgin birth to the origin of John 3:16. And somehow, the overall impact was more encouraging than frightening. Maybe it is this – for all his academic machismo and occasionally flagrant scriptural malpractice, Borg’s version of Christianity still preaches Christ as Lord. Sometimes, I don’t understand how that could be, and it seems certain that confusion will inevitably plague younger believers who read his book. At the same time, confusion is often the doorway to deeper understanding. It is the Spirit, after all, who teaches.
Borg seriously doubts many of Jesus’ miracles. He attributes much of Jesus’ language in the Gospel of John to people other than Jesus. He calls Jesus ignorant of his transcendent role as Son of God. But, Borg’s insightful commentary on Jesus’ experience of his Father brought tears to my eyes. He smartly captures the experiential nature of Spiritual relationship, and for those unfamiliar with that kind of language, those passages may be worth the whole read. His call to political reform is fascinating for both its potency and its vast overreaches. And he consistently regards many of his most controversial assertions as from the “mainline” stream of thought. As you can imagine, this has been a difficult book to review.
Marcus Borg has written a book that will make many Christ-followers very nervous, and possibly very angry. And, I expect that most families are well acquainted with those emotions, especially around the holidays. However, I know from my own family experience that the only way to truly experience community together is to pray. We plead with Jesus for abundant measures of His grace so that we may live together, teach and learn together and be the love of Christ for one another. We must agree to disagree, and hold righteousness at a value greater than rightness. As a theological primer, I would not recommend this book. But as a testimony to the breadth and depth of the family of God, I could not recommend it more.