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Renewal on the road of faith: a study group chews on Marcus Borg's emerging paradigms.

The Heart of Christianity By Marcus Borg Harper Collins

Approximately 25 of us at St. Giles', Sarnia, Ont., engaged ourselves in a study of Marcus Borg's The Heart of Christianity, over a period of 10 weeks. For some of us the going got a bit chewy partway through, especially when Borg got theological (which led us into broader philosophy). To help us along the way we followed the study guide, Experiencing the Heart of Christianity by Tim Scorer. Scorer's approach emphasizes the heart component of Borg's study in that the process was one of study, discovery, discussion and worship as a faith community. One of the highlights of Scorer's approach is the use of short video clips in which Borg presents various positions and offers his own personal story.

It is important to note that Borg is not about the business of dismantling traditional Christianity. He makes this point strongly several times, usefully, because some in our group asserted their preference for what he calls "the traditional paradigm." Nonetheless, a disturbing truth (for some) underlying both Borg's book and our experience in the larger church (if not life itself) is that human nature tends to draw us in the direction of certainty and security in what we believe. Never mind if what we believe isn't good for us; it may even be wrong for us! If we believe it, we cling to it.

It was Borg's emerging paradigm which captured the enthusiasm of others in the group. One participant expressed delight at being given a deeper appreciation of certain Bible stories and biblical premises, something akin to viewing an iceberg and suddenly realizing that there is much more than what appears on the surface. This paradigm, while affirming many traditional perspectives and understandings of Christianity, allows for new perspectives based on different models.

When I was studying theology in Knox College in the early '70s, many professors were suspicious of metaphorical interpretations; nonetheless, Borg's discussion is thoughtfully and gently couched, sensible and often convincing. While affirming the basic tenets of the Christian faith--the Bible, God, Jesus, being born again--he allows for freedom and exploration in how we embrace these foundational rocks. His intended audience is people who have long travelled the road of faith and who find themselves tired or disillusioned, doubtful, in need of renewal. He also speaks to younger people who long for more reasonable and meaningful ways to hold the ancient parables, stories and myths of holy scripture.

Again. Borg affirms strongly the gifts of traditional Christianity over the centuries: faith, hope, love and compassion. His vision in this book though is that there is more. Borg sees the Christian life as full of relationship and transformation at both the personal and social levels. His is an attempt at making our faith more accessible, more relevant, more enlivening.

Rev. Terry Samuel is minister at St. Giles', Sarnia, Ont.
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Title Annotation:summer book club
Author:Samuel, Terry
Publication:Presbyterian Record
Date:Jul 1, 2006
Words:481
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