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Marcus J. Borg Quotes

“The point is not that Jesus was a good guy who accepted everybody, and thus we should do the same (though that would be good). Rather, his teachings and behavior reflect an alternative social vision. Jesus was not talking about how to be good and how to behave within the framework of a domination system. He was a critic of the domination system itself.”
― Marcus J. Borg, The God We Never Knew: Beyond Dogmatic Religion To A More Authenthic Contemporary Faith

 

“Christianity’s goal is not escape from this world. It loves this world and seeks to change it for the better.”
― Marcus J. Borg, Speaking Christian: Why Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning and Power – And How They Can Be Restored

 

“So, is there an afterlife, and if so, what will it be like? I don’t have a clue. But I am confident that the one who has buoyed us up in life will also buoy us up through death. We die into God. What more that means, I do not know. But that is all I need to know.”
― Marcus J. Borg, Speaking Christian: Why Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning and Power – And How They Can Be Restored

 

“When we read Paul, we are reading somebody else’s mail—and unless we know the situation being addressed, his letters can be quite opaque…It is wise to remember that when we are reading letters never intended for us, any problems of understanding are ours and not theirs.”
― Marcus J. Borg, The First Paul: Reclaiming the Radical Visionary Behind the Church’s Conservative Icon

Marcus Borg

“The Christian life is not about pleasing God the finger-shaker and judge. It is not about believing now or being good now for the sake of heaven later. It is about entering a relationship in the present that begins to change everything now. Spirituality is about this process: the opening of the heart to the God who is already here.”
― Marcus J. Borg, The God We Never Knew: Beyond Dogmatic Religion To A More Authenthic Contemporary Faith

 

“The spoken word has come to dominate many Protestant forms of worship: the words of prayers, responsive readings, Scripture, the sermon, and so forth. Yet the spoken word is perhaps the least effective way of reaching the heart; one must constantly pay attention with one’s mind. The spoken word tends to go to our heads, not our hearts.”
― Marcus J. Borg, The God We Never Knew: Beyond Dogmatic Religion To A More Authenthic Contemporary Faith

 

“God wills our liberation, our exodus from Egypt. God wills our reconciliation, our return from exile. God wills our enlightenment, our seeing. God wills our forgiveness, our release from sin and guilt. God wills that we see ourselves as God’s beloved. God wills our resurrection, our passage from death to life. God wills for us food and drink that satisfy our hunger and thirst. God wills, comprehensively, our well-being—not just my well-being as an individual but the well-being of all of us and of the whole of creation. In short, God wills our salvation, our healing, here on earth. The Christian life is about participating in the salvation of God.”
― Marcus J. Borg, The God We Never Knew: Beyond Dogmatic Religion To A More Authenthic Contemporary Faith

 

“How can women be in the image of God if God cannot be imaged in female form?”
― Marcus J. Borg, The God We Never Knew: Beyond Dogmatic Religion To A More Authenthic Contemporary Faith

 

“More than half described Christians as literalistic, anti-intellectual, judgmental, self-righteous, and bigoted.”
― Marcus J. Borg, Speaking Christian: Why Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning and Power – And How They Can Be Restored

 

“But believing something to be true has nothing to do with whether it is true.”
― Marcus J. Borg, Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most

“Our images of God matter. Just as how we conceptualize God affects what we think the Christian life is about, so do our images of God.”
― Marcus J. Borg, The God We Never Knew: Beyond Dogmatic Religion To A More Authenthic Contemporary Faith

 

“the Bible is a human product: it tells us how our religious ancestors saw things, not how God sees things.”
― Marcus J. Borg, Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most

“But Christian illiteracy is only the first part of the crisis. Even more seriously, even for those who think they speak “Christian” fluently, the faith itself is often misunderstood and distorted by many to whom it is seemingly very familiar. They think they are speaking the language as it has always been understood, but what they mean by the words and concepts is so different from what these things have meant historically, that they would have trouble communicating with the very authors of the past they honor.”
― Marcus J. Borg, Speaking Christian: Why Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning and Power – And How They Can Be Restored

 

“Salvation Is More About This Life than an Afterlife”
― Marcus J. Borg, Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most

“In a number of workshops, I have asked people whether they have had one or more experiences that they would identify as an experience of God and, if so, to share them in small groups. On average, 80 percent of the participants identify one or more and are eager to talk about them. They also frequently report that they had never before been asked that question in a church setting or given an opportunity to talk about it.”
― Marcus J. Borg, The God We Never Knew: Beyond Dogmatic Religion To A More Authenthic Contemporary Faith

 

“When tradition is thought to state the way things really are, it becomes the director and judge of our lives; we are, in effect, imprisoned by it. On the other hand, tradition can be understood as a pointer to that which is beyond tradition: the sacred. Then it functions not as a prison but as a lens.”
― Marcus J. Borg, The God We Never Knew: Beyond Dogmatic Religion To A More Authenthic Contemporary Faith

 

“This book might also be seen as “a Christian primer.” A primer teaches us how to read. Reading is not just about learning to recognize and pronounce words, but also about how to hear and understand them. This book’s purpose is to help us to read, hear, and inwardly digest Christian language without preconceived understandings getting in the way.”
― Marcus J. Borg, Speaking Christian: Why Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning and Power – And How They Can Be Restored

 

“Myth is stories about the way things never were, but always are.”
― Marcus J. Borg

 

“Part of the scandal of American Christianity is that statistically the U.S. is the most Christian country in the world, and yet as a country we have the greatest income inequality in the world. And as a country we are uncritically committed, not simply to being the most powerful nation in the world militarily, but to being as militarily powerful as the rest of the world combined.

 

We Christians live in a tradition that is passionate about issues of economic justice and peace and yet at least half of American Christians, probably even more, think it’s really important that we be as powerful as the rest of the world put together.”
― Marcus J. Borg

 

“How we think about God matters. It affects the credibility of religion in general and of Christianity in particular. Our concept of God can make God seem real or unreal, just as it can also make God seem remote or near.”
― Marcus J. Borg, The God We Never Knew: Beyond Dogmatic Religion To A More Authenthic Contemporary Faith

 

“Our central problem is not sin and guilt, as it is within the monarchical model. For the Spirit model, our central problem is “estrangement,” whose specific meaning of “separated from that to which one belongs” is most appropriate. … For the monarchical model, sin is primarily disloyalty to the king, seen especially as disobedience to his laws. The metaphors used to express the Spirit model suggest something else. For the metaphor of God as lover, sin is unfaithfulness—that is, sin is going after other lovers.”
― Marcus J. Borg, The God We Never Knew: Beyond Dogmatic Religion To A More Authenthic Contemporary Faith

 

“The political vision of the religious right is for the most part an individualistic politics of righteousness, not a communal politics of compassion.”
― Marcus J. Borg, The God We Never Knew: Beyond Dogmatic Religion To A More Authenthic Contemporary Faith

 

“To see Paul positively does not mean endorsing everything he ever wrote.”
― Marcus J. Borg, The First Paul: Reclaiming the Radical Visionary Behind the Church’s Conservative Icon

 

“When somebody says to me, “I don’t believe in God,” my first response is, “Tell me about the God you don’t believe in.” Almost always, it’s the God of supernatural theism.”
― Marcus J. Borg, Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary

 

“Jesus died for our sins” has been understood. Among some Christians, it is seen as an essential doctrinal element in the Christian belief system. Seen this way, it becomes a doctrinal requirement: we are made right with God by believing that Jesus is the sacrifice. The system of requirements remains, and believing in Jesus is the new requirement. Seeing it as a metaphorical proclamation of the radical grace of God leads to a very different understanding. “Jesus died for our sins” means the abolition of the system of requirements, not the establishment of a new system of requirements.”
― Marcus J. Borg, The Meaning of Jesus

 

“But “having dominion over” meant something very different from what it has often been understood to mean. It refers to the relationship between shepherd and sheep.”
― Marcus J. Borg, Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most

 

“The way of Jesus is thus not a set of beliefs about Jesus. That people ever thought it was is strange, when we think about it — as if one entered new life by believing certain things to be true, or as if the only people who can be saved are those who know the word “Jesus”. Thinking that way virtually amounts to salvation by syllables.

 

Rather, the way of Jesus is the way of death and resurrection — the path of transition and transformation from an old way of being to a new way of being. To use the language of incarnation that is so central to John, Jesus incarnates the way. Incarnation means embodiment. Jesus is what the way embodied in a human life looks like.”
― Marcus J. Borg, Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously but Not Literally

 

“Other prophets, other messiahs, came and went in Jesus’ day. Routinely, they died violently at the hands of the pagan enemy. Their movements either died with them, sometimes literally, or transformed themselves into a new movement around a new leader. Jesus’ movement did neither. Within days of his execution it found a new lease of life; within weeks it was announcing that he was indeed the messiah; within a year or two it was proclaiming him to pagans as their rightful Lord. How can a historian explain this astonishing transformation?”
― Marcus J. Borg, The Meaning of Jesus

 

“The heaven-and-hell framework has four central elements: the afterlife, sin and forgiveness, Jesus’s dying for our sins, and believing.”
― Marcus J. Borg, Speaking Christian: Why Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning and Power – And How They Can Be Restored

 

“By the time I began college, anxiety about hell had disappeared—not because I was confident that I was “saved,” but because the whole package had become sufficiently uncertain that I didn’t worry about it.”
― Marcus J. Borg, Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most

“The word “sacrament” also has a broader meaning. In the study of religion, a sacrament is commonly defined as a mediator of the sacred, a vehicle by which God becomes present, a means through which the Spirit is experienced.”
― Marcus J. Borg, Reading the Bible Again For the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally

 

“To believe in a person is quite different from believing that a series of statements about the person are true.”
― Marcus J. Borg, Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary

 

“God’s dream for us is not simply peace of mind, but peace on earth.”
― Marcus J. Borg, The First Christmas

 

“One scenario begins by imagining that Jesus heals somebody in a village. What is the likely response, beyond amazement and gratitude? He (and those with him) would be invited to a meal. It is the classic ancient way of expressing gratitude and hospitality.”
― Marcus J. Borg, Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary

 

“Even more striking and revealing is how he interweaves “sons of God” twice in Romans 8:14, 19 with “children of God” twice in Romans 8:16, 21—and again in Romans 9:8. It is, for Paul, all about family values—but divine family values, and that is what makes him very, very radical.”
― Marcus J. Borg, The First Paul: Reclaiming the Radical Visionary Behind the Church’s Conservative Icon

 

“When I was a young college teacher in my mid-twenties, an older colleague delighted in characterizing post-Enlightenment theology as “flat-tire theology”—“All the pneuma has gone out of it.”
― Marcus J. Borg, Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary

 

“The book of Proverbs makes the same point: Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but those who are kind to the needy honor him. (14.31)”
― Marcus J. Borg, Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most

 

“As an epiphany of God, Jesus discloses that at the center of everything is a reality that is in love with us and wills our well-being, both as individuals and as individuals within society. As an image of God, Jesus challenges the most widespread image of reality in both the ancient and modern world, countering conventional wisdom’s understanding of God as one with demands that must be met by the anxious self in search of its own security. In its place is an image of God as the compassionate one who invites people into a relationship which is the source of transformation of human life in both its individual and social aspects.”
― Marcus J. Borg, Jesus: A New Vision: Spirit, Culture, and the Life of Discipleship

 

“Humanity’s universal sin is far, far worse than those traditional vice lists cited for Greeks and Jews by Paul in Romans 1–3. It is this: we have accepted violence as civilization’s drug of choice, and our addiction now threatens creation itself.”
― Marcus J. Borg, The First Paul: Reclaiming the Radical Visionary Behind the Church’s Conservative Icon

 

“Finally, then, I conclude with an iconic image of that foundational reconciliation from the later fourth century. It is a bronze hanging lamp from the villa of the aristocratic Valerii on the Celian Hill in Rome, now preserved in the National Archaeological Museum in Florence. The lamp is shaped like a boat. Peter is seated in the stern at the tiller. Paul is standing in the prow looking forward. Peter steers. Paul guides. And the boat sails full before the wind.”
― Marcus J. Borg, The First Paul: Reclaiming the Radical Visionary Behind the Church’s Conservative Icon

 

“Because modern critical thinking is corrosive of conventional religious beliefs, some Christians reject applying it to the Bible and Christianity. The result is fundamentalism and much of conservative Christianity, which holds that regardless of the claims of modern knowledge, the Bible and Christianity are true—and not just true, but factually true.”
― Marcus J. Borg, Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most

 

“The notion that there was one “right” way of seeing things disappeared. This was enormously liberating, even if a bit alarming. But my curiosity was greater than my fear.”
― Marcus J. Borg, Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most

 

“a worldwide flood destroyed all life on earth about five thousand years ago requires denying an immense amount of generally accepted knowledge—from astronomy, physics, geology, paleontology, anthropology, archaeology, biology, cave paintings, and more.”
― Marcus J. Borg, Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most

 

“We learned, in the opening words of the Lord’s Prayer, that God is “in heaven.” But we also learned that God is everywhere—that is, omnipresent. When one combines the two, the result is panentheism. It is orthodox Christian theology.”
― Marcus J. Borg, Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most

 

“But “redemption” in the Bible and in Paul is not about the forgiveness of sins. Rather, it is a metaphor of liberation from bondage—from life in Egypt, from a life of slavery. “The redemption that is in Christ Jesus” would be better translated “the liberation that is in Christ Jesus.” We are liberated through him.”
― Marcus J. Borg, The First Paul: Reclaiming the Radical Visionary Behind the Church’s Conservative Icon

 

“Rather, the language of divine agency here emphasizes the theme of God’s grace: God provided the sacrifice.”
― Marcus J. Borg, The First Paul: Reclaiming the Radical Visionary Behind the Church’s Conservative Icon

 

“These questions can be used by individual readers and also in reading groups in which participants are invited to share their memories and thoughts. Many of them invite reflection on previous or current understandings and are best used before treating the content of the relevant chapter. Some invite reflection about material in a particular chapter.”
― Marcus J. Borg, Speaking Christian: Why Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning and Power – And How They Can Be Restored

 

“Images of Jesus give content to what loyalty to him means. The popular picture of Jesus as one whose purpose was to proclaim truths about himself most often construes loyalty to him as insistence on the truth of those claims. Loyalty becomes belief in the historical truthfulness of all the statements in the gospels. Discipleship is then easily confused with dogmatism or doctrinal orthodoxy.

 

The absence of an image – the most common fruit of biblical scholarship in this century – leaves us with no clear notion of what it means to take Jesus seriously, no notion of what loyalty might entail, no direction for the life of discipleship. But the vision of Jesus as a person of Spirit, deeply involved in the historical crisis of his own time, can shape the church’s discipleship today. For us, as for the world in which he lived, he can be the light in our darkness.”
― Marcus J. Borg, Jesus: A New Vision: Spirit, Culture, and the Life of Discipleship

“In function, Jesus’s aphorisms are very much like his parables—provocative and invitational forms of speech. They provoke thought, lead people to reconsider their taken-for-granted assumptions, and invite them to see life differently.”
― Marcus J. Borg, Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary

 

“I conclude this section with a possibly puzzling postscript on the meaning of the word “literal.” What is the literal meaning of a parable? Its literal meaning is its parabolic meaning. What is the literal meaning of a poem? Its literal meaning is its poetic meaning. What is the literal meaning of a symbolic or metaphorical narrative? Its literal meaning is its symbolic or metaphorical meaning. But in modern Western culture over the last few centuries, “literal” has most often been confused with “factual,” and factuality has been elevated over the metaphorical. Hence when people say they take stories in the Bible and the gospels “literally,” they most often mean “factually.” Thus the difference is not ultimately a literal versus a metaphorical reading, but a factual versus a metaphorical reading. And to read a story factually rather than metaphorically often involves a misjudgment about the literary genre of a story. When the metaphorical is understood factually, the result is a story hard to believe. But when a metaphorical narrative is understood metaphorically, it may indeed be powerfully and challengingly true.”
― Marcus J. Borg, Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary

 

“Its meanings include: The risen Christ journeys with us, is with us, whether we know it or not. Sometimes there are moments when we do recognize this.”
― Marcus J. Borg, Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most

 

“When one of the Jewish Sibylline Oracles imagines what God’s perfect world will look like on its arrival, it claims: “The earth will belong equally to all, undivided by walls or fences…. Lives will be in common and wealth will have no division. For there will be no poor man there, no rich, and no tyrant, no slave. Further, no one will be either great or small anymore. No kings, no leaders. All will be on a par together” (2:313–38). So we moderns should not think we invented everything.”
― Marcus J. Borg, The First Paul: Reclaiming the Radical Visionary Behind the Church’s Conservative Icon

Review & Commentary

  • David Todd

    I am not a Christian, but I look for wisdom wherever it may be found. This man was a genius and his wisdom will be mined from the vast amount of work he has left with us.

  • unkameat

    Yea he was a genius alright,he got alot of foolish people with itching ears to go along with this pseudo holy garbage…..all the while taking the focus off Christ Jesus….somebody is lying here….GOD himself said that ….I CHANGETH NOT.and HE also said that heaven and earth shall pass away but my WORDS shall remain forever….JESUS also said that I AM THE WAY,THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE,NO MAN CAN COME TO THE FATHER BUT BY ME….so how can there be many faiths to one God….one of ya’ll is lying…..basically progressive christianity is this…..I will follow you Jesus,my way…tisk,tisk better do it His way,that is why He Is YAHWEH!!!

  • Darren Goble

    Liberating the sacred text from literalism and infallibility frees the Spirit to breathe and move among us.