Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Reading the Bible Again for the First Time....

I love to read and I read a lot. I just finished a book by Marcus Borg with the title (above). I should say that I thought it was a great book - though much of it was a review of things that were covered in seminary. To a large extent it was an introduction to Literary and Form criticism. The core of the book was to look at the Genesis creation stories, the Pentateuch, the prophets and wisdom literature in the Hebrew scriptures. And in the New Testament he looked at the Gospels, Paul and Revelation. I particularly enjoyed his chapters on wisdom literature and Paul.
***By way of introduction he uses the analogy of the "Finger Pointing At the Moon." The bible is like this - the question is do we see the moon, or do we focus on the finger. Too often Christians focus on the finger and not the moon. Too often we look at the bible as the focus rather than at the God to whom the bible points.
***In the epilogue he sums up much of what he has discussed through the book. There are many voices from a wide variety of times and cultural environments represented in the bible. But the major voices in the bible come together and share three primary convictions in common.
1. “There is a deep sense of the reality of the sacred. God is not only real, but knowable.” At the same time God is beyond human comprehension and experience. God is a mystery that transcends all of human endeavors and cultures. Also, importantly, “God also transcends empires and emperors, nations and kings.” Even our own. God is Lord.
2. “There is a strong conviction that our lives are made “whole” and “right” by living in a conscious relationship with the Mystery who is alone Lord.. Life with God is not about believing certain teachings about God. It is about a covenant – a relationship! More specifically, it is about becoming conscious of a relationship that already exists, for the God of the Bible has been in relationship with us from our beginning, whether we know it or not, believe it or not. And we are not simply to become conscious of it; we are to become intentional about deepening the relationship. Christian faith is not about believing, but about faithfulness – fidelity – to the relationship.
3. “God is a God of justice and compassion.” “God’s passion for justice flows out of the very character of God. God cares about suffering, and the single greatest source of unnecessary human misery is unjust and oppressive cultural systems.” God’s passion is the ground of a biblical ethic centered on justice and compassion.” (We are not talking about criminal justice here – but rather, systemic justice.)
***Too often we comfortable American Christians focus so intently on the “finger” that we miss the magnificence of the Mystery of God; we replace covenant relationship with rules and standards. One of the things that reading Borg reminded me is that the gifts of God’s grace and the call to discipleship are a calling to which we are to respond. It isn’t up to us to “find” or earn our place in God’s Grace – God has found us and there is nothing to earn. We are called to respond, to follow, to open our hearts to God’s love and be “open vessels.” Let me end this entry with one final quote from Borg:
What God gives us through the bible is a "vision of life with God: a sacred Mystery at the center of life, with whom we are to be in a conscious relationship and who is passionate about the well-being of the whole creation. We are called to participate in the passion of God. This is what I perceive when I use the bible as a lens for seeing life with God… and when I listen to it as a sacrament of the sacred.”

1 comment:

  1. Hi Fr. Blake. Thanks for your review of Borg's book. I'm going to read it.

    In our adult Sunday school class, we're watching part of the series "Living the Questions", in which Borg is one of the participants. It's an excellent discussion and study series. After watching, we have the most interesting discussions that I've ever participated in as part of a Sunday school class.