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Customer Review

VINE VOICEon April 14, 2011
*****
"A historical approach is greatly illuminating. Language comes alive in its context. ... Thus a historical approach makes Christian language relative and not absolute." Marcus Borg, Speaking Christian

The early Church Fathers followed primarily one of two methods of interpretation: Allegorical (spiritual) or literal. Going beyond literalism, Origen advanced allegorical Bible exegesis, early in the third century, claiming that it hides the truth from those blinded by sin and pride, while revealing it to the renewed eyes of believers. Up to the Reformation, the Bible was not usually interpreted in a strictly literal way.
Marcus Borg, who pursued the search for the real historical Jesus, with the Jesus Seminar for the first decade of its work, now exposits an alternative understanding by restoring authentic biblical meanings. Dr. Borg believes Christian language needs to be set free from its contemporary literalism. He wrote some of the most thought provoking books of which Speaking Christian is the most recent. His vision, as he stated, "I think we're living in a time of transition within Christianity that's been going on for half a century... where what I call the common Christianity that most Christians ...took for granted is no longer persuasive and compelling."

Some Biblical historians believe that Biblical literalism came about with Sola Scriptura, at the rise of Protestantism. So, Dr. Borg coaches the reader, with the book conclusion, asking if literal interpretation was part of the foundation he would like to shake, in the words of Paul Tillich, one of the century's most influential Christian thinkers. The author now persuades you into a discussion, helping you recover true belief. While the questions are his, some answers are expected from you, in the early Christian Catechetical school tradition. How important has the promise of heaven, or the threat of hell been influential to your Christian experience. How was your interpretation of the Bible, driven by the 'Framework of Heaven / Hell' concept within Christianity. How central were sin and forgiveness to adulthood faith, and how central are they for some forms of Christianity?

In a recent interview the Bible scholar revealed that the turning point of his search for God, confessing that was his most formative religious insight, came in a series of mystical experiences. "They changed my understanding of the meaning of the word 'God'-of what that word points to-and gave me an unshakable conviction that God (or the sacred) is real and can be experienced. These experiences also convinced me that mystical forms of Christianity are true, and that the mystical forms of all the enduring religions of the world are true."
Borg's liberation using a historical approach, which promotes a relative Christian language in understanding the creation, the flood, and the ten plagues goes beyond refuting literalism, to reconsider gender equality, same sex relations, and at its core to review the Christian doctrine of salvation as its only venue.
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