Customer Reviews: The God We Never Knew: Beyond Dogmatic Religion to a More Authentic Contemporary Faith
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on May 16, 2000
Marcus Borg, a distinguished scholar who has devoted himself to studies of the "historical Jesus," has written from his own experiences as a Christian, informed by a lifetime of scholarship, about our need to develop a personal relationship to God. In clear, precise, down-to-earth language, he manages to explain difficult concepts while outlining a reasoned, convincing approach to Christian faith. Every page conveys a sense of deep respect for, and faith in, a continuing and vital relationship to God. His theology can liberate us from magical thinking and narrow-minded literalism, and points the way to a continuing, ever-deepening relationship to God.
In a thoughtful, non-defensive manner, he describes a basis for deep religious faith fully consistent with our contemporary world view. I have never found a book on religious faith so helpful, so clear, and so inspiring for a modern reader. By liberating us from a "requirement-based" faith in a "monarchical" God, he has shown the way to a meaningful, day-to-day relationship to God as the foundation of our lives, the "ground of being" described by Paul Tillich.
His book is a gift to us that I am glad to have found, and I will follow the advice of William Wink, who wrote about another book of Borg's that we should read everything he writes. I wish everyone could read and reflect on the message of this book.
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on September 26, 2000
This book confims so much I first learned from An Encounter With A Prophet Spirituality is the answer.
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on August 3, 2000
This is possibly the best book on spirituality I have ever read. A must for anyone who has dismissed as "bunk" the beliefs they were taught as a child and found him or herself with nothing to replace the "bunk." Borg calls on his own experiences to suggest ways of viewing God and religion in general that make sense. Even if one doesn't agree with Borg's thoughts, at least he gives the reader something to consider. Marcus Borg has a unique ability to write about complex, scholarly issues in a simple, straightforward style that is easy to understand.
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on July 30, 2001
This is definitely a must-read book for open-minded people who have been brought up in the traditional Protestant Church setting. I for one, grew up that way and have been either a member of or have attended just about every denomination of Christian church at sometime in my life. This was because I was on a quest; a quest to find a Christian church that I, a strong follower and avid reader of the natural sciences could feel comfortable attending. It was in vain however, because of all my doubts, questions and alternate points of view to what the churches were traditionally teaching. Reading Borg's book was like looking into the mirror of my own life and my religious quest. We followed a very similar path (until he went to seminary). His 'new' view of God and of Jesus is revitalizing, unless you happen to be a Christian fundamentalist. In which case, you will probably find the book quite disturbing and perhaps even bordering on what you would consider sacrilege. However for the many 'liberal' Christians out there like me, Borg is a writer who is able to explain why we have the questions, the doubts and disbeliefs; from whence they originate and how we got ourselves into the 'dying faith' situation that many of us in main-line churches are now experiencing. With a vast amount of study and Bible scholarship at his command, Prof. Borg arrives at a very credible view of God and a faith 'system' that makes belief in God and the 'Christ' a real possibility for the 21st century faith seeker. I also highly recommend two other books by Borg; " Meeting Jesus Again For The First Time" and "Reading The Bible Again For The First Time". This trio of religious writings gives a fairly complete and comprehensive view of Borg's look at the fundamentals of Christian belief.
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on July 30, 2002
THE GOD WE NEVER KNEW introduces us to a God that we never met during childhood.
Most of us as Christians were taught about a supernatural being out there who created the world a long time ago and sometimes intervened - especially during biblical times. After death we might be with Him if we were good on earth and believed the right things.
Instead of believing in a supernatural being out there, Borg suggests we will find it more satisfying to be in relationship with a sacred reality right here. God is not the sum total of things. God is more than everything. He is all around us and within us and we are within God.
The Christian life is not about beliefs and requirements. It is not about believing in a God out there for the sake of an afterlife later. The Christian life is about entering into a relationship with God as known in Jesus Christ. This is the God who is out there but also right here. This God is real and is the God we never knew. A relationship with this God will prove to be a life-changing experience.
Borg shows how this God has really been in the Bible all along but has been largely ignored by mainline Christianity. For anyone struggling with Christian beliefs, THE GOD WE NEVER KNEW may well lead to the start of an unforgettable journey with the sacred.
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on May 18, 2001
Marcus Borg, as any of his readers know, is a religion professor at Oregon State who has been part of the "Jesus Seminar". What sets him apart from his compatriots, however, is that he knows how to synthesize scholarship with faith. In this book, a gem of a work, he unfolds his own heart for us to reveal his own deeply personal ideas about God, Jesus, life, the Bible, and many other relevant topics. He reveals to us the difference between "faith"--a relationship of trust, devotion, and submission in love to God/the Spirit/the Sacred--and "Theology"--a manmade system to try and understand how God works and what God is like. He offers his insights in compassion, not wishing to be judgmental or to shatter old illusions--indeed, his own story reveals that he's gone through those very things. This is not the story of God the omnipotent Father figure, the King and Judge who is our un-needed superego. This is the story of the Spirit; the still, small voice, the primordial pulse of the universe, the all-encompassing transcendent/immanent force of love which holds us all in the palm of its proverbial hand. This book revealed just as much about my own human reactions to faith as much as God's nature--the journey of faith is one of self-discovery as well as discovery of God. Borg is a scholar who can see through the attempts of smaller minds to cloud Truth, but he's also an awestruck believer who feels a hint of the mystical reality that is God, and he eagerly wants to know God more. Do not read his book, however, hoping to prove or disprove your own assumptions. Certainly don't read it hoping to find material to indict Borg as a heretic. Read it hoping to discover how little you really know, and how much you really feel. Take it as a precious gift, offered in love, and let your heart be opened.
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on August 1, 2002
THE GOD WE NEVER KNEW covers three broad subjects. In the first section Borg describes both the God he learned about in his youth and also the God he came to know later in life.
In the next section the author explains why our image of God is important and how it influences our entire concept of the sacred.
In the last part of the book Borg explains that God is all around us. The sacred is not somewhere else. God is always in relationship to us and journeying with us. God yearns to be known by us.
The closing chapters resemble an instruction manual on how to open up to God. Borg includes here a clear vision of what we can expect from our own pilgimage with Jesus. This is what sets the author apart from most of the other Jesus Seminar scholars. Borg goes beyond the reconstruction of the historical Jesus to emphasize the rewards of seeking a relationship with the living God.The author suggests that the Christian life is about opening the heart now to the God who is already here. It is about entering into a relationship with God in the present that begins to change everything now.
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on March 1, 2005
The God We Never Knew follows the success of Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time and carries Borg's reconstruction of theology further into the realm of the Doctrine of God. He begins on an autobiographical note by describing the conception of God he was taught as he was raised in the conservative wing of the Christian church. The emphasis was placed, he says, on a powerful God "out there" who shakes a chastising finger in part because he was modeled on a pastor who did likewise. Borg integrates the image of a transcendent and judging God with the theological scheme perpetuated by fundamentalists and evangelicals: the inerrant inspiration of Scripture, the way of salvation through Christ alone, judgment for heaven and hell, etc. After reviewing through his mind-opening seminary education, Borg then speaks of the need to reclaim the immanence of God alongside transcendence.

Thus he sets up a dichotomy between what he calls "supernatural theism," which he claims has been the historic emphasis throughout church history, and "panentheism," which notes that while God is more than everything, God is right here and everything is in God. However, as he himself admits, the balance of transcendence and immanence is not really an innovation but goes back to the panoply of Scriptural voices. "Supernatural theism" is thus not a necessary foundation for conservative theology, in my mind, but an unfortunate tilt to far to one end that conservative theology has more often than not embraced. This is not a God "we never knew" but more like a God whom we have obscured or distorted. Growing up in the conservative church I would speak from my own experience that we certainly believed in the immediate presence of God as well, thus nullifying any straight dichotomy in Borg's scheme - although I imagine he would deny attempting to fix such rigid boundaries.

Borg then moves on to a discussion of how we "image" God, based on the metaphors we choose to rely upon. He contrasts the "monarchical model" of God as lawgiver, judge, king and patriarchal father versus the "Spirit/relational model" of God as mother, companion, friend, and lover. The author affirms that both models are based in biblical witness but heavily criticizes the monarchical model, preferring to promote the latter. However, I do not think that a reinforcement of God's fatherhood or kingship necessitates the extremes of the monarchical model.

Very rarely is Borg original in this book. His promotion of "panentheism," as he himself tells us, is nothing new. He lifts the two-models approach of imaging God from elsewhere, he parrots current critical scholarship concerning the "Jesus of history" versus the "Christ of faith" (or, in his words, the Pre-Easter Jesus and the Post-Easter Jesus), and in the later part of the book he adopts as his own Verna Dozier's terminology for the biblical vision as the "dream of God." It appears to me, after having read a few of his books, that Borg's strength and popularity do not reside so much in providing something innovative but in writing so attractively and sincerely that he is fully capable of capturing the reader's imagination. He is particularly moving in the latter part of the book as he calls for opening the heart to God and embracing a politics of compassion.

I have an ambivalent relationship to Borg's work. He writes in an engaging and disarming manner and shows a definite passion. He is certainly more appealing than hardliners on the right. But Borg goes too far, in my mind, in his attempt to reform Christianity. One would think that his friendship with N.T. Wright would soften his stance on the difference between the Pre-Easter and Post-Easter Jesus, and I find his understanding of the resurrection to be pale and disappointing. Nevertheless I always enjoy the challenge and adventure of reading the liberal church's most charming author.
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on January 10, 2005
I am pleased to recommend this book to people who are hungry for God and interested in understanding bare bones Christianity. Borg's panentheistic (not pantheistic) understanding of God fits wonderfully with the understanding of God as Spirit (as taught in the gospel). Liberating God from the image of a supernatural being somewhere "out there" and showing God as being "right here" as Spirit presents God as available, knowable, and accessible. It seems to me to be the very God of Jesus. One does not have to agree with Borg on everything to have windows opened for greater spiritual understanding in the here and now of practical life, as well as an experiential relationship with God. The book is written with clarity, humility, and honesty, without putting anyone down who sees some things differently. There is a spiritual flavor here that can be useful to every open heart and mind.
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on July 5, 2005
That being said, it's an awesome book. For me, Borg put into words many things I'd been pondering and thinking on for quite some time. However, I never was really able to encapsulate it. There's also a lot of stuff that I'd never even contemplated, and it was an eye-opener. Some fundamentalists of the various sects will dismiss it as "New Age claptrap" or the other usual whatnot, but that's irrelevant.

Read it, pray, think, and see where it leads you. I'll wager you'll be glad you did.
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