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Monday, August 28, 2006

Borg Exposed

“For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for dishonest gain’s sake. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; not giving heed to fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth. Unto the pure all things are pure; but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.” (Titus 1: 10-11 & 13a-16)

Recently we criticized a book by Marcus Borg which was recommended to someone looking into Christianity. After reviewing the publishers’ reviews on, we called Marcus Borg a non-Christian and his book heresy. After doing so, we were told not to judge a book by its cover- so instead we will now judge it by its complete contents. It is important to note that heresy isn’t merely disagreeing with current church doctrine, but is a denial of the core truths of Christianity: divine creation, inspiration of Scripture, both the divinity and humanity of Christ, the Trinity, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, salvation through Christ alone, and the future second coming of Christ. Borg denies all of these, making him a heretic in every sense of the word.

It was hard to narrow down which quotes from Marcus Borg’s two books to use, since each book was entirely drenched with heresy, but here are some examples to summarize his “fantastic” works. I was not able to obtain a copy of ‘The Heart of Christianity’, since neither the Southern Baptist nor the Presbyterian seminary carried them, but I did check out “Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time”, and “Reading the Bible Again for the First Time”, which says it all about Borg’s version of the “Heart of Christianity”.

(all quotes are from “Meeting Jesus again for the First Time”, unless otherwise noted.)

Borg does not believe that Jesus is God:

“The image of Jesus sketched in this chapter (Borg’s chapter) suggests that Jesus was not God.” (pg. 37)

“the sketch of Jesus as a spirit person suggests that Jesus was not simply a person who believed strongly in God, but one who knew God.” (pg. 37)

“We have no way of knowing whether Jesus thought of himself as the Son of God in some special sense.” (pg. 29)

Borg does not believe that Jesus is the Son of God:

“it is not the case that Jesus is literally “the Son of God,” though he can also be spoken of metaphorically…” (in feminist terms) (pg. 109)

Borg does not believe the Bible is the divinely inspired word of God:

“I learned that the gospels are neither divine documents nor straightforward historical records. They are not divine products inspired directly by God, whose contents therefore are to be believed. (pg. 9)

and from Borg’s book, ‘Reading the Bible again for the first time’:

“[The Bible] is an all human product, though generated in response to God.” (pg. 27)

“The Ten Commandments are also a human product. Divine genius is not required to come up with rules like these.” (pg. 27)

It is also clear, especially in “Reading the Bible,” that Borg doesn’t believe that any supernatural miracle in the Bible actually occurred- they are only symbolic and metaphoric to teach a moral lesson.

Borg does not believe the Genesis account of creation:

“It is Israel’s story of creation, not God’s story of creation.” (page 68)

“It is important to realize that the Genesis stories of creation are myths.”(pg. 71)

Borg denies the Virgin Birth:

“The stories of his birth and childhood are not historical.” (pg. 23)

“To hear the birth stories again in a state of postcritical naivete [which Borg defines as a state in which one can hear these stories as “true stories,” even while knowing that they are not literally true- where have I heard that nonsense before?…] is to be able to hear their rich symbolic affirmations without needing to believe them as historical records.”

Borg denies the Second Coming of Christ:

“I do not think that it makes sense to expect a visible future second coming of Christ.” (pg. 279- ‘Reading the Bible’)

Borg’s warped view of the character of God:

“Compassion, not holiness, is the dominant quality of God, and is therefore to be the ethos of the community that mirrors God.” (page 54)

He claims to be a Christian, yet says:

“The popular Christian bumper sticker that reads: “Christians aren’t perfect- they’re just forgiven” implies that other people aren’t forgiven, and that Christians have done something (become Christian? Believed?) that merits forgiveness.”

“Believing in Jesus does not mean believing doctrines about him.” (page 137)

“Jesus is unique, which most commonly is linked to the notion that Christianity is exclusively true and that Jesus is “the only way.” (pg. 37)

Borg denies the true gospel message:

“The notion that God’s only son came to this planet to offer his life as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, and that God could not forgive us without that having happened, and that we are saved by believing this story, is simply incredible. Taken literally, it is a profound obstacle to accepting the Christian message.

Borg and his followers reduce the “Heart of Christianity’s” message to this:

“’Be compassionate as God is compassionate’ is the defining mark of the follower of Jesus. Compassion is the fruit of life in the Spirit and the ethos of the community of Jesus.”

While compassion is a trait that Christians should possess, this characteristic does not distinguish Christianity from any other religion or moral person. It is a Christians’ godliness, holiness, and righteousness that can only come through Jesus Christ that is so repulsive to the world that sets Christianity apart from any other religion. We worship a risen Lord, which no other religion can boast of. The heart of Christianity is truly this: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We can be made right with God only through forsaking our sins and trusting in Jesus for salvation.

It is also worth noting that it is not compassionate to affirm sinners and tell them that God will accept them just as they are, and that they won’t have to turn from their sinful ways. That is selfishness- loving the praise of men more than the praise of God. But true Christian compassion grieves for the souls of lost sinners, begging them to repent and come to Christ, wanting to see them saved more than wanting them to like you.

Borg’s heresy began here:

“There are parts of the Bible that we will decide need not or should not be honored, either because we discern that they were relevant to ancient times but not to our own, or because we discern that they were never the will of God.” (‘Reading the Bible…page 29)

Borg and his followers have created a god in their mind, an idol of their own making, which does not reflect the God of the Bible.

This is what the Biblical inerrancy series is all about!

[speaking of the epistles in the NT] "In which some things are hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures. Since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the widked; but grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." 2 Peter 3:16-17


  • Hi Mrs Hammer.

    I'm not doing very well am? I said I was going to refrain from commenting and give myself space to contemplate my faith. But if you WILL keep posting such compulsive reading!

    May I take just one statement of Borg's, at random, from the quotes you've provided:

    "Borg does not believe that Jesus is the Son of God:

    “it is not the case that Jesus is literally “the Son of God,” though he can also be spoken of metaphorically…” (in feminist terms) (pg. 109)"

    Can you explain to me, then, how Jesus is literaly 'the Son of God'?

    By Blogger Ruth, at 8/29/2006 03:46:00 AM  

  • Hi, Ruth!
    In the sense I think you are speaking of, Jesus is literally the Son of God because God impregnated, through the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary (a virgin), who gave birth to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. However, this statement by Borg was also meant to show his denial of the Trinity, since he doesn't believe that Jesus is the divine second person of the godhead: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

    Now, if you are asking me to explain the Trinity in a way that will make complete sense to you, I cannot. No human being can. It doesn't fully make sense to any human mind how God can be three-in-one, but the best description I know how to give is to think of an egg. It consists of three distinct parts (the shell, the yolk and the whites) each in perfect harmony functioning as one unit. Each has a distinct function of its own, but they cannot be separated and still be called an egg. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit each have a distinct purpose and function, and leaving any part out of the unit is an incomplete picture of God. I have no idea if that made it any clearer, or if it answered your question, but I hope it helped.

    Of course I don't know your heart, but it seems your comment was rather cold toward me. I don't know what you meant by this: But if you WILL keep posting such compulsive reading!. I post rarely because I put a lot of time, effort and prayer into what I write about, and nothing about it is compulsive. Maybe I just got the wrong impression.

    Ruth, if you are waiting to understand everything in "contemplating your faith", you never will. All God asks is that we have a mustard seed of faith, and He will help us to believe more and more, and understand more and more. But, there will be things about God that will never make sense in this lifetime. God's thoughts are so far above ours that we cannot even begin to comprehend His complexity and greatness.

    I have a question for you. After reading this post about Borg, do you still think it is possible for him to be a Christian, given his beliefs? If so, what kind of person is this verse referring to, then?:

    "Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: but he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also. These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you." (1 John 2:22-23 & 26)

    By Blogger mrshammer, at 8/29/2006 01:08:00 PM  

  • Re

    Of course I don't know your heart, but it seems your comment was rather cold toward me. I don't know what you meant by this: But if you WILL keep posting such compulsive reading!. I post rarely because I put a lot of time, effort and prayer into what I write about, and nothing about it is compulsive. Maybe I just got the wrong impression.

    You did get the wrong impression. I was being genuine, not sarcastic. Your posts make really good, compulsive reading!!

    I'll be back...if I have questions about your comment - I've not yet read and digested it, but I had to clear this one up. Sorry for giving the wrong impression - it's one of the problems with e-mail - no 'tone of voice' or 'body language'!

    By Blogger Ruth, at 8/29/2006 02:30:00 PM  

  • Mrshammer,

    I have also heard the egg analogy for at least some possible way to attempt to humanly explain the Trinity...

    I am in agreement with you that there aren't always explanations that we can fully grasp. If we could, we would have the mind of God! Are we able to be God? Think like God, as well as shoulder the burdens, and endure the suffering? No, I think not.

    It is interesting you mentioned about how to approach the gospel. If it approached in a manner to disprove the contents, it is likely it can be done because of the mind of humans, and the hardened heart. If it approached to deepen the understanding of an already present faith, belief and walk, there is this ever present peace with being truly OK with not having all the answers...

    This reminds me of my 4 year old coming home with his Bible verse to learn and study for the week. Hebrews 11:3-"By faith we understand that the universe was formed at Gods command.." That speaks volumes. To have the faith of a little child!

    By Blogger Rightthinker, at 8/29/2006 02:46:00 PM  

  • Ruth,
    Just so you know, I "heard" your tone right away - and I think is was just a Yank/Brit communication challenge! I grew up with an aunt from Glasgow, and read lots of quality books such as "The Beano" :), and hung out with her other friends from the UK. That's probably why I heard you right, and Mrs. Hammer heard you, well, otherwise.

    Pass the mince and tatties, please!

    On a more serious note, the Son is the Son of God from a relational perspective, and Jesus the man we know who walked the earth (who was also the same God) from the perspective Mrs. Hammer describes. What I'm trying to say is that He was the Son before he came to earth as a man, even though he is one being with the Father.

    The Trinity is truly beyond our comprehension - after all, what is a God we completely understand except man-made?

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 8/29/2006 03:51:00 PM  

  • While I've had many problems with Christianity, I have never had any problems with the Trinity. In fact, it is one of the few things that really made sense to me and tended to strengthen my belief.

    By Blogger Mark, at 8/29/2006 06:39:00 PM  

  • Thank you for all of the above comments and explanations. I have one question for Mr Hammer and I would like to request a 'yes or no' answer.

    In your opinion, was Jesus LITERALLY the Son of God?

    By Blogger Ruth, at 8/30/2006 04:34:00 AM  

  • Actually, I've just re-read your comment, Mr H. and I understand it better now. I'd be very surprised if your answer the question "is Jesus literally the son of God" isn't 'yes'.

    That's fine then. I can see why you frown upon Borg

    By Blogger Ruth, at 8/30/2006 08:46:00 AM  

  • Ruth,
    Jesus is God, period. He is the Son of God LITERALLY (both before time and on Earth as a man) as the second person of the Trinity. Instead of focusing on this one aspect that Borg denies, what about the rest of what he says in his book that I quoted from him. You still haven't answered my questions from my previous comment.

    By Blogger mrshammer, at 8/30/2006 12:48:00 PM  

  • Hi

    This could be a long comment (so I'll break it into two). You've invited me to comment on lots of things.

    Here's what I believe in relation to the question 'was Jesus literally the son of God?' Admittedly, I've nicked it from somewhere so these are not my own words (but they accord with my beliefs):

    Jesus is not God’s Son in the sense of how we think of a father and a son. God did not get married and have a son. Jesus is God’s Son in the sense that He is God made manifest in human form (John 1:1,14). Jesus is God's Son in that He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Luke 1:35 declares, "The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.'" In Bible times, the phrase “son of man” was used to describe a human being. The son of a man is a man.

    Another example can be found in John 17:12 where Judas is described as the "son of perdition." John 6:71 tells us that Judas was the son of Simon. What does John 17:12 mean by describing Judas as the "son of perdition"? The word "perdition" means "destruction, ruin, waste." Judas was not the literal son of "ruin, destruction, and waste" - but those things were the identity of Judas' life. Judas was a manifestation of perdition. In this same aspect, Jesus is the Son of God. The Son of God is God. Jesus is God made manifest (John 1:1,14).

    So, do I believe that Jesus was literally the Son of God? It depends what you mean by literally and what you mean by son. I do not interpret the bible as saying that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary in the way that we understand impregnation: sperm enters egg. For me, that's the process that makes someone literally a father.

    But I COULD be persuaded otherwise.

    If someone were to demonstrate or prove or persuade me that Jesus was or was not the actual, literal, son of God courtesy of one egg being impreganted with one sperm of the Holy Spirt, then it wouldn't rock my beliefs either way. To me, it doesn't matter whether he was or was not literally the Son of God. To me, he was simply the Son of God; God's only Son. In fact, to me that relationship between (God) and Son (God / Jesus) might be even stronger than the earthly father/son relationship. To say that he is literaly the Son go God might be to demean it.

    I hadn't intended to pick up on each of your quotes from Borg - I really did pick this one at random. You see, when I read them they didn't alarm or perturb me. I can not find anything terribly troubling about them. Some surprised me at first glance, but when I re-read them and examined them, I was left thinking - and here's where you will disagree with me enormously - I think that a Christian can hold with these views.

    I've not read him yet, though.

    Because I don't think that he denies that Jesus is the Son of God, just that Jesus is literally the Son of God, I don't think that we can infer that he doesn't believe in the trinity.

    By Blogger Ruth, at 8/30/2006 05:37:00 PM  

  • With reference to your previous post, I wanted to point you and your readers to a web-page I recently discovered that examined the very subject of how Jesus responded to questions and why. It was very interesting (and I didn't THINK it was controversial - literally and merely interesting -all about the language and style of reaction to questions typical of Jesus' time 2000 years ago). Sadly, I've bookmarked it on my other computer which I can't access at the moment. I'll let you see it some other time).

    When I first read the passage that you refer to (and I should really have posted this comment under it, but never mind),I found it reassuring to be reminded of the fact that Jesus often adopted an approach that I would describe as 'compassionate' and 'gentle' when people asked him questions (of course I know he KNEW the answers the all of the questions that he faced). I like that approach in my priests. That was all really.

    By Blogger Ruth, at 8/30/2006 05:48:00 PM  

  • I shall close with one final comment. This is not addressed to any one person.

    I am coming down on the side of 'the liberals' - I know that. You will consider me not to be a Christian. I know that. You will be offended and angry if I present my views as being those of a Christian. I know that - and I understand your feelings (as I must admit to feeling angry when people oppose homosexuality in public, as Christians).

    I have lifted something from somewhere - so again, not my words, but I couldn't agree more with this statement:

    I believe that many of the mysteries of Christ and the Bible have never been fully understood.

    I believe in the non-judgment of the religious beliefs of others, and in the open sharing of our beliefs, and in the universal self evident rights of freedom of speech and freedom of religion for all humankind.

    I have welcomed the chance to share faith-related views on this blog. I am not sure of how much longer I will feel happy doing this (and after all, blogging is a hobby, not a chore) given that my beliefs are turning out to be so different to those of the 'fundamentalist Christian'.

    By Blogger Ruth, at 8/30/2006 06:01:00 PM  

  • Hi, Ruth,
    I think you very much misunderstood what I meant when I said that God "impregnated" Mary. My husband also told me it was a poor choice of wording on my part. Of course, I don't mean in a human sense of sperm and egg reproduction. I never said that Jesus was the son of God in an earthly father/son type human relationship, either. I'm sorry I wasn't so clear. I do think some things can be taken to an extreme when using the term "literally" as much as it is being used here. The trinity is truly beyond human comprehension, and God's ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts.

    When further reading the pages following Borg's comments about Jesus not "literally being the Son of God", it is clear that he does not believe Jesus to be the Son of God in any divine sense. He believes Jesus to be a son of God, just as we are all God's children, but allowing that Jesus was a special type of "spirit person" who had a close relationship with God. If you think someone can hold this view and the other views that Borg holds and still be a Christian (while anyone can call themselves a Christian, I am referring to salvation), then you are truly deceived, I am sorry to say.
    I'm still praying for you, and hope you will read the Bible for your guidance, and not Borg or anyone else, for that matter.

    By Blogger mrshammer, at 8/30/2006 08:20:00 PM  

  • I think the word you are looking for is "begotten", the translation of the Greek "monogenes". Jesus isn't the only son of God, David was, Adam was, and you can make the case we are all sons and daughters of God, but Jesus was God's "only begotten son."

    (And yes, that was partially another Google for knowledge substitute, but I pretty much knew what I was looking for.)

    By Blogger Mark, at 8/31/2006 02:03:00 AM  

  • Ruth wrote: ”I believe in the non-judgment of the religious beliefs of others, and in the open sharing of our beliefs, and in the universal self evident rights of freedom of speech and freedom of religion for all humankind.”

    As an “independent” Christian, as well as a classical liberal (libertarian), I appreciate the second and third parts of your statement, but the first part begs for…judgment.

    Consider the following: belief and faith are not synonymous, despite the popular misconception that suggests otherwise. As it happens, belief is but one aspect of faith. In other words, belief is simply mental assent, whereas faith is knowledge (albeit imputed rather than learned). While that might seem like a distinction without a difference, I contend that it is not. In other words: belief is to third-hand information, as faith is to first-hand information. Faith is imputed to individuals by God; and unlike belief, faith is not a volitional act (i.e. God alone determines who will be the recipients of regenerative faith, while belief ebbs and flows, as it is subject to ever-changing thought processes.

    If the label "Christian" is to have any meaning, it simply must be objectively definable and quantifiable, which it certainly is. Therefore, merely declaring a belief in God, the Bible or even Christ does not necessarily equate to a genuine faith (the last bit is not directed at Ruth or anyone else in particular; it’s just a general truth).

    By Blogger Robert, at 9/01/2006 08:42:00 AM  

  • Robert,

    Your explanation is thoughtful, intelligent, and completely true.

    I appreciate your comment that Christianity certainly does require objective definition and quantification. You are correct that belief is but a small part of faith.

    This is why ones approach to Christ, the Bible and what the definition of Christianity is, becomes so important. Faith could never disprove Christianity or the purpose of Christ, yet an intelligent belief in some part of Christ absolutely could disprove Christianity in a dissenting mind.

    Thanks for this important addition to these comments! I appreciated reading it.

    By Blogger Rightthinker, at 9/01/2006 10:59:00 AM  

  • Ruth,
    Allow me to encourage you a bit:

    When we first "met" three months ago, a lot of our discussion were your questions and differing answers from John and me. I thought it was pleasant for all three of us in that forum. I would wager that the discussions became less pleasant for you when you began to feel the need to 'defend' a particular view - and of course, that view is nearly identical to what you had expressed you believed and wanted to believe!

    I would like to invite you to continue to read the inerrancy series and ensuing comments, and to ask questions. When you throw out challenges to inerrancy before I have even defined it, you have already chosen a side when you don't understand why there are sides at all, or how those particular sides got where they are! Be patient - I believe that, at the end of the series, you will have a full understanding of how inerrancy fits into the Christian faith and the choice will be more clear.

    Clearly John and I see many things differently. The Inerrancy Series is my very best attempt to lay out why. I am not certain that you will change any position you have at all - but what you can possibly take away is a better knowledge of why you have chosen what you have.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 9/01/2006 11:55:00 AM  

  • Hammer


    "When we first "met" three months ago, a lot of our discussion were your questions and differing answers from John and me. I thought it was pleasant for all three of us in that forum. I would wager that the discussions became less pleasant for you when you began to feel the need to 'defend' a particular view - and of course, that view is nearly identical to what you had expressed you believed and wanted to believe!"

    You're absolutely right. (I love it when I can agree with you on something, I really do. I hate confrontation - it's a big problem that I have).

    I have every intention of continuing to read your series - can't wait for the next chapter!

    Thanks for this comment Hammer. I think that it was very kind of you to make it.

    By Blogger Ruth, at 9/01/2006 01:07:00 PM  

  • Mrshammer,

    What I find most interesting about Borg's commentary is that this is really what inerrancy is all about.

    Those who regard the Bible in any other manner than the inerrant, God-breathed Word, can interpret it in any manner that they believe is true. (Even if they say that isn't so, what limits DO they have, and what is their authority if not the Bible?)

    This makes someone like Borg quite appealing. He has designed a God to fit the times. A less "oppressive", less "judgemental" and more "accepting" God of partnership and understanding, rather than a father-child relationship.

    This God and Jesus fits nicely into our current world, and presents little to offend all of us sinners!

    By Blogger Rightthinker, at 9/04/2006 12:12:00 PM  

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