You’ll be hooked on this new approach to Bible study with best-selling author Marcus Borg the minute you hear the young fellow (at right) tell the class: “I want deep transformation—and whatever the life looks like in order to get there. … Sign me up for that! The Kingdom of God! Hell yes! I want to live in that. I want to sustain in that. But my gosh, that’s lost today in the church.”
With Borg opening each class from the DVD—and Borg’s circle of students chiming in—you’ll have no trobule sparking spirited discussion in your own small group. Tomorrow, we’ll welcome Borg himself to ReadTheSpirit to talk about this new curriculum. Today, here’s a short sample from one of the talks Marcus Borg gives to the group in the course of this series:
Marcus Borg Talks about Community in His New Series
The new small-group series is called “Embracing an Adult Faith.” Each class opens with best-selling author and Bible scholar Marcus Borg giving an off-the-cuff talk to a class that purposely was organized with a mix of both younger-adult and older-adult members. Tomorrow, Borg will explain this concept for the class. Today, you can get a feel for the series by reading a few of Borg’s words from the DVD in a session called “Community” …
The United States is perhaps the most individualistic culture in the history of the world … Yet community is utterly central in the biblical tradition. The Christian Old Testament, that is the Jewish Bible, is the story of Israel’s relationship to God. It’s not as much the story of individuals’ relationships to God as it is the history of this community’s relationship to God—about their life together as a community and their relationships to each other. … The Old Testament is a story of a community’s relationship to God.
The same thing is basically true in the New Testament. Take one of Paul’s most frequently used expressions, the short phrase: “in Christ.” Paul uses that phrase over 100 times in his seven genuine letters—and if you include the six letters sometimes attributed to Paul but probably not written by him, then he uses it over 160 times. For him, it’s the central image for life in community that is centered in Christ. The church is the body of Christ. So community, and not individual spirituality, is utterly central to our tradition.
Now, having said that, what’s the role of Christian community for the lives of Christians today—or what should it be? The first thing is that Christian community is about a community of worship, which we spoke about in our last session together—a group of people coming together to sing their hearts out in praise of God and be nourished by that experience. And secondly, Christian community is also to be a community of Christian formation, that is, a community in which we are re-socialized into a Christian vision of life.
We all need this, all of us who have grown up in modern Western culture have grown up in a culture with a way of seeing reality and a vision of what life is about that is radically different than the vision in the Bible. … We need re-formation as Christians to be re-socialized into this other way of seeing community. That happens through Christian education and hearing the stories of our tradition but it also happens in what we do in our Sunday-morning worship experiences.
Then, there is another primary purpose of Christian community: faithfulness to God. That sounds pretty abstract. I’m thinking of the purpose of Christian community as participation in God’s passion. What is God passionate about? …
God is passionate about the world. Think of that most famous New Testament passage with the phrase: “for God so loved the world.” That’s the whole of creation. It doesn’t say: for God so loved me as an individual. Or: for God so loved Christians. Or: for God so loved people. It says: for God so loved the world. God’s passion is the wellbeing of the world.
Christian community as a community of faithfulness to God means participating in that passion. That means passions like the yearning for a better political order that is more just and less violent, I think this is part of God’s passion for the world. This is part of what it means to be a Christian today where we can shape the texture of our society. And it grows right out of our Christian being to take seriously the wellbeing of the non-human part of our world. A whole ethic comes out of this that is both political and ecological as well as individual. Christians have been pretty good historically in talking about individual ethics. … We’ve always understood it’s all about loving our neighbor and about faithfulness in relationships. But what we have less frequently understood is that it’s really all about the wellbeing of all of creation—humans as well as the world around us. All of this is part of God’s creation and what God loves.
What You Need to Lead This Class with Marcus Borg
- Paperback Guidebook to the Study (1 for each person in the group; everyone gets the same paperback): Embracing an Adult Faith: Marcus Borg on What It Means to Be Christian is available now in PAPERBACK from Amazon.
- Five-session DVD to show at the start of each class: Embracing an Adult Faith: Marcus Borg on What It Means to Be Christian: a 5-session Study, is available now in DVD from Amazon.
We want our international conversation to continue
Conversation is far better than the dangerous shouting matches we’ve been witnessing in our global culture. So, please, email us at [email protected] and tell us what you think of our stories—and, please tell a friend to start reading along with you!
We welcome your Emails! . We’re also reachable on Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Huffington Post, YouTube and other social-networking sites. You also can Subscribe to our articles via Email or RSS feed. Plus, there’s a free Monday-morning “Planner” newsletter you may enjoy.
(Originally published at readthespirit.com)