The best book I ever read about Jesus was "Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus and the Heart of Contemporary Faith" by Marcus Borg (I have seen him speak as well. And the book did change my perception of Jesus and organized religion. Borg was a member of the Jesus Scholars at the Jesus Seminar (a group of 150 Critical scholars, founded in 1985). I was given the book by then Cannon Fred Masterman. It is a far cry form the OTHER Christian groups I have been reporting on. Borg and Masterman were all about compassion.
This is a review on Amazon of the Borg book by Peter A. Kindle:
Reconstructing the pre-Easter life of Jesus with historical criticism, Borg explains that Jesus was a spirit person (chapter two), a social prophet and movement founder (chapter three), and a teacher of wisdom (chapter four). In these chapters he does not heed the consensus opinion of the Jesus Seminar, but provides his personal conclusions with sensitivity to their implications for the Church and Christian life.
The concluding chapters (five and six) deal with the metaphorical use of language in Christology and the macro-stories of Scripture as imaginal material for contemporary living of the meaning of Scripture.
I recommend this book for anyone who feels the water leaking in. There is more to the experience of God than conformity to denominational patterns and the exaltation of obedience. Let Borg point the way for you, too.
|Marcus Borg and Rev. Frederick J. Masterman of the Episcopal Church|
"Believing in Jesus does not mean believing doctrines about him," Borg writes. "Rather, it means to give one's heart, one's self at its deepest level, to . . . the living Lord."And the review, I assume press release:
Drawing on his own journey from a naive, unquestioning belief in Christ through collegiate skepticism to a mature and contemporary Christian faith, Borg illustrates how an understanding of the historical Jesus can actually lead to a more authentic Christian life—one not rooted in creeds or dogma, but in a life of spiritual challenge, compassion, and community.An audio by Cannon Masterman, who gave me the Borg book, speaking on Easter. This is relevant to the gay struggle of today, he touches on civil rights in his sermon.
In straightforward, accessible prose, Borg looks at the major findings of modern Jesus scholarship from the perspective of faith, bringing alive the many levels of Jesus' character: spirit person, teacher of alternative wisdom, social prophet, and movement founder. He also reexamines the major stories of the Old Testament vital to an authentic understanding of Jesus, showing how an enriched understanding of these stories can uncover new truths and new pathways to faith."
For questioning believers, doubters, and reluctant unbelievers alike, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time frees our understanding of Jesus' life and message from popular misconceptions and outlines the way to a sound and contemporary faith: "For ultimately, Jesus is not simply a figure of the past, but a figure of the present. Meeting that Jesus—the living one who comes to us even now—will be like meeting Jesus again for the first time."
Another review of Borg's book:
By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time
The Historical Jesus and the Heart of Contemporary Faith
Marcus J. Borg
HarperSanFrancisco 04/95 Paperback $13.95
Read an excerpt about compassion.
Marcus J. Borg, Hundere Distinguished Professor of Religion at Oregon State University, challenges Christians to move beyond a fideistic image of Jesus as the divine savior and a moralistic image of Jesus as teacher. Instead he proclaims that Christian life is "ultimately not about believing or about being good." Rather, it is about "a relationship with God that involves us in a journey of transformation."
Borg, who was raised a Lutheran and is an influential leader of the group of Biblical scholars known as the Jesus Seminar, uses illustrative material from his own spiritual autobiography to show how an individual's faith can keep evolving. With four bold strokes, he describes his renewed vision of the the historical Jesus. He was a spirit person who saw himself as a mediator of the sacred. He was a subversive teacher of wisdom using parables and aphorisms to jolt individuals into a fresh awareness of God. He was a prophet who criticized the social elites of his day. And he was a movement founder "who invited his followers and hearers into a transforming relationship with the same Spirit that he himself knew."
These startling images of the pre-Easter Jesus have some profound implications for the life of the contemporary Christian church. Meeting Jesus as a spirit person should enable believers to easily share their experiences of God with spiritual seekers of other traditions. Borg's laser-sharp discussion of Jesus's understanding of compassion as "the central quality of God and the central moral quality of a life centered in God" opens the door for greater dialogue with Buddhists who have been especially attuned to this sacred dimension of life.
Borg also presents a lively assessment of what he calls the three macro-stories of Scripture — the Exodus story, the story of exile and return, and the priestly story. These were used by the early church to shed light on Jesus's ministry. They have ample fire power for our time as well. Borg suggests regarding them as a "pastoral 'tool kit,' each addressing a different dimension of the human condition."
The final image Borg dissects is seeing both the story of Jesus and the Christian life as a journey of transformation. There is no resting spot, only a relationship with God that becomes richer and fuller as one travels along life's pathways. Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time is a breath of fresh air in the musty halls of Christian scholarship. It offers salutary new options for discipleship and dialogue in this era of revved-up spirituality.
(SOUNDS A LOT LIKE JOSEPH CAMPBELL doesn't he?)