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The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith Paperback – August 17, 2004

4.3 out of 5 stars 231 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Borg follows up two of his previous releases about the Bible and Jesus with a volume that could easily have played on those titles, because this highly readable book is essentially about looking at Christianity again for the first time. In that respect, it provides a valuable glimpse into the essence of Christianity for those who have left the faith because they no longer believe its doctrines and those who are trying to remain in the faith while questioning its doctrines. With those people in mind, Borg emphasizes the transformational aspect of Christianity by examining the "emerging paradigm" that is gradually replacing the belief-centered paradigm of the last several hundred years. The new paradigm, Borg writes, is about loving God and loving what God loves, rather than rigidly adhering to a specific set of beliefs. In exploring this new way of "being Christian," Borg offers a middle ground for conservative and liberal Christians, though it's unlikely conservatives will conclude, as he does, that Jesus was not really the Son of God, nor are liberals likely to begin using the term "born again," as he advocates. Still, there's much here that both sides can agree on, possibly helping to bring them a step closer to the unity that has eluded them for centuries. As always, Borg writes with clarity and precision, which should also help the ongoing conversation.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Christianity appears to be at a crossroads, and religious historian Borg draws a distinction between what he calls an emerging paradigm and an earlier paradigm. The distinction is important because Christianity, he says, still makes sense and is the most viable religious option for millions. He contends the earlier paradigm, based upon a punitive God and believing in Christianity now for the sake of salvation later, simply doesn't work for many people. It also doesn't take into account the sacramental nature of religious belief; that is, religion as a vessel wherein the sacred comes to the faithful. Borg's emerging paradigm is based upon the belief that one must be transformed in one's own lifetime, that salvation means one is healed and made whole with God. He feels the new paradigm allows more people to be and become Christians. In his compelling proposal Borg consistently aligns the emerging paradigm with God, Jesus, the Bible, tradition, and religious practice, which constitute the heart of Christianity. Donna Chavez
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 234 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; Reprint edition (July 21, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060730684
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060730680
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (231 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,144 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Stephen L. Smith on July 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I've read all of Marcus Borg's books and have recently read "The Heart of Christianity". From a conservative evangelical background, I have always strugged with his approach, yet I keep coming back for more. He has helped me grow in my faith, and be open to see things from other angles. Despite his orthodox/unorthodox theology, there is a spirituality in this book, that cuts to my heart. He is all about actually experienceing Christianity in this life, and I find his writing to have a spiritual quality that, for some reason, comes home to me. I may not ever agree with all he writes, but he lifts the faith beyond the factual to the experiential and to its root. I heartily recommend this book to everyone wishing to grow and struggle in faith.
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Format: Paperback
Our church, an evangelical congregation (Vineyard), had a Lenten book study with an Episcopal church in town this past spring. We studied three books: this one, "The Divine Conspiracy" by Dallas Willard, and "A Generous Orthodoxy" by Brian McLaren. Our pastor introduced the books to our congregation in this way: "'The Divine Conspiracy' goes right to the heart of our beliefs at this Vineyard church; 'The Heart Of Christianity' is something that our friends at the Episcopal church would feel at home with, and 'A Generous Orthodoxy' is somewhere inbetween the two."

This is the second book that I can remember reading by a liberal Christian. The first book, which I also read this year and read before this one, was "A New Christianity For A New World" by Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong. I found that book to be heretical, turning Christianity into something completely unrecognizable in light of the Bible. I feared that "The Heart Of Christianity" would get me worked up, too, especially coming from an author of The Jesus Seminar. I was surprised that I found some things in this book that I really liked, and overall, I got more out of this book than McLaren's "A Generous Orthodoxy," even though I was most excited about reading that book.

You know how some CDs you buy have some really great songs and some songs that you find either boring or you can't stand them, so you always skip them? Yet, overall the CD is worth buying because the good songs are so good. Well, that's how I feel about this book. Some chapters I was mesmerized by the incredibly enlightening message; other chapters I found to be way off the mark.

The first chapter that impressed me was chapter 2, "Faith: The Way Of The Heart.
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Format: Hardcover
I just finished reading Marcus Borg's new book "The Heart of Christianity" and it's the best book on contemporary Christianity that I've read in a long while.
Borg talks about the "earlier paradigm" of Christianity and an "emerging paradigm". He discusses the history of the "earlier paradigm" and provides useful insights such as the rather recent notions of Biblical infallibility (post-Enlightenment) and Papal infallibility (1870) which many may assume have ALWAYS been a big part of the Christian tradition.
Borg makes quite clear early on in the book that the "earlier paradigm" can and does WORK, insofar as bringing people into fuller communion with God and can certainly produce lives which work for compassion and justice. However, for various reasons (institutional, scientific, and cultural - for example), many in the modern Western world find the "earlier paradigm" to be uncompelling and "unbelievable".
Borg attempts to show throughout the book how much more deep and wonderful the Christian tradition is than merely "believing" certain doctrines or defending the literalness of certain events (creation, the flood, the Exodus, walking on water etc...) in order to "prove" the strength of our faith. Did the Exodus really happen? Maybe not. Is it a true story of the human need for liberation from bondage - certainly. Confusing "did it really happen - could I have videotaped it?" with "Is that story true?" is a big issue.
Borg argues that we diminish our faith stories by making them merely literal. He pushes for the "more-than-literal" meanings in the Christian scripture.
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Format: Hardcover
Evangelicals beware --- this is the same Marcus Borg of the Jesus Seminar, the one who has categorically stated that he does not believe that Christianity is the only path of salvation, that the Bible is the Word of God, that Jesus experienced a bodily resurrection, or that Jesus is, in fact, the Son of God. So why review this book? Why give him any cyber ink at all?

There are any number of reasons why evangelicals need to be aware of what Borg believes and what he has written, not the least of which is his tremendous influence on non-evangelicals, particularly those who have left mainstream denominations but still long for a way to express what faith they have left. Borg offers them a way of returning to the church that does not require them to adhere to a rigid set of beliefs that they have long considered suspect. And he's very good at what he does and how he does it; his books always sell well, and he is constantly in demand as a speaker. He has a knack for welcoming people "home" --- to mainline churches --- in a warm and compassionate way.

In THE HEART OF CHRISTIANITY, Borg lays down a welcome mat that has already proven attractive to those who have been disenchanted with what they perceive as an anti-intellectual faith. His welcome mat encourages people to give Christianity another chance because the times have changed, and from those changes a new, inclusive paradigm has emerged. Christianity, he holds, is no longer about a belief in a set of doctrines but about "loving God and loving what God loves."

That said, Borg never demeans those who do hold to a strong doctrinal stance and a literal interpretation of the Bible, much of which he considers to be metaphorical.
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