Posts Tagged ‘Marcus J. Borg’

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God is a non-material layer of reality all around us, “right here” as well as “more than right here.” This way of thinking thus affirms that there are minimally two layers or dimensions of reality, the visible world of our ordinary experience and God, the sacred, Spirit.
One of my favorite quotations expressing this understanding of God is from Thomas Merton, a twentieth-century Trappist monk:

Life is this simple. We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent, and God is shining through it all the time. This is not just a fable or a nice story. It is true. If we abandon ourselves to God and forget ourselves, we see it sometimes, and we see it maybe frequently. God shows Himself everywhere, in everything—in people and in things and in nature and in events. It becomes very obvious that God is everywhere and in everything and we cannot be without Him. It’s impossible. The only thing is that we don’t see it.

Marcus J. Borg, The Heart of Christianity

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I conclude with a story. A year ago my wife and I spent a week in Assisi, a mountain town in Italy and the home of St. Francis and St. Clare. Francis (1182–1226) is commonly seen as the most Christlike of the church’s saints. In his early twenties, Francis had a vision of Jesus, renounced his wealth and all of his possessions, and began a life of devotion to God. By the time of his death twenty years later, a religious order numbering in the thousands had sprung up around him, as also around St. Clare, the most important of his women followers.
Francis found God everywhere—in the birds, the animals, the sun, the moon, death—and his life was marked by a contagious joy. He was known for his embrace of “Lady Poverty,” as he called her, and his radical identification with the poor. Shortly before his death, according to the stories about him, he received the stigmata, the wounds of Christ in his hands, feet, and side.
Within a few years of his death, a great church was erected in his honor in Assisi. The Basilica of St. Francis is a masterpiece of architecture filled with some of the world’s greatest art: not only Giotto’s frescoes of St. Francis’s life, but also magnificent frescoes by Cimabue, Lorenzetti, and others. To a lesser degree, Clare is also honored by an impressive church. Both would have protested and would have wanted the money to be used for the poor.
And as my wife and I spent hours in this extraordinary and extrav- agant basilica dedicated to Francis, visiting it again and again, I thought about Francis and his passion for the poor. He would not have wanted such wealth spent on honoring him. He would have said, “It’s not about me.”
And yet, even though Francis would have opposed its construction, I don’t think the basilica is a mistake, something that never should have been. It reminds us of Francis, draws us to Assisi, perhaps even draws us to Francis’s vision. And because Francis pointed beyond himself to God and Jesus, we may be drawn into an even larger vision.
To apply the story to the church’s adoration of Jesus in our Christology, creeds, worship, art, music, architecture, and so forth: I think Jesus would have said, “It’s not about me.” During his lifetime, he deflected attention from himself. In an illuminating passage in our earliest gospel, when a man addressed him as “Good Teacher,” Jesus responded with, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.”
Yet I do not think the church’s extravagant devotion to Jesus is a mistake, for the purpose of the church, of Christology, of the creed is to point us to Jesus. And then Jesus says, “It’s not about me.” He points beyond himself to God—to God’s character and passion. This is themeaning of our christological language and our credal affirmations about Jesus: in this person we see the revelation of God, the heart of God. He is both metaphor and sacrament of God.

Marcus J. Borg, The Heart of Christianity

I was quite „blown away” to read Marcus J. Borg’s wonderful statement on Mircea Eliade this morning as he was mentioning some names that described, in the past century, the not so common „mystical experiences”.

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Reading James (William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience) and other writers on mysticism was amazing. In colloquial language, I was blown away. I found my experiences described with great precision. Suddenly, I had a way of naming and understanding them. Moreover, they were linked to the experiences of many people. They are a mode of human consciousness. They happen. And they are noetic: something is known that one did not know before.
I also learned other ways they have been named. Rudolf Otto (1869–1937) called them experiences of “the numinous,” that which is behind and sometimes shines through our experience of phenomena. Abraham Heschel (1907–1972) called them moments of “radical amazement” when our domestication of reality with language falls away and we experience “what is.” Martin Buber (1878–1965) spoke of them as “I-Thou” or “I-You” moments in which we encounter “what is” as a “you” rather than as an “it,” or an object. Abraham Maslow (1908–1970) called them “peak experiences” that involve “cognition of being”—knowing the way things are. Mircea Eliade (1907–1986), one of the most influential twentieth-century scholars of comparative religions, called them experiences of “the golden world,” referring to their luminosity. Others have referred to them as moments of “unitive consciousness” and “cosmic consciousness.”

Marcus J. Borg, Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most

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There are subdivisions within conservative Protestant Christianity. These include especially “the prosperity gospel” and “the second coming is soon gospel, even as some conservative Christians resolutely reject both.
The former proclaims that being Christian leads to a prosperous life here on earth. A blatant form is inscribed over the door of a mega-church with more than twenty thousand members: “The Word of God is the Way to Wealth.”
The latter emphasizes that Jesus is coming again soon for the final judgment and thus it is important to be ready. Books proclaiming this have been bestsellers for decades; forty years ago, we had Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth and more recently the bestselling Left Behind novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. How many Christians believe that the second coming and last judgment are at hand? The one relevant poll I have heard of suggests that 20 percent of American Christians are certain that Jesus will come again in the next fifty years and that another 20 percent think it is likely.

Marcus J. Borg, Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most