Marcus Borg – from a Charismatic Cuban Perspective

[This is a guest post by Jesse Richards, an MA graduate from Western Seminary, reposted from his blog Without Void.]

Marcus Borg….I actually think I cursed Him and asked God to strike down satan’s work when I first heard him interviewed with Dominic Crossan on NBC in 2006. They were talking about Jesus final week and Dom Crossan said Jesus’ body was probably thrown in a shallow grave and eaten by dogs…implication— the resurrection did not happen. You could see why as a young (22 years) hot-blooded cuban charismatic I called down imprecations.

What I did for the next 5 years was I naively lumped, Borg, Crossan, and all the other Jesus Seminar fellows into the demonic category, and relegated them to the dustbin when it came to my own thinking on Jesus. My simple thought was “These demonized guys had nothing to offer us in the church.”

It was my time at Western Seminary, combined with being on the mission of Jesus to high school students in Portland (who embrace conspiracy theories), that made me realize the importance of historical Jesus studies, and even most of the work that Borg and Crossan had done in their research and writing.

As I would simply share the message of Jesus with students, and other co-workers, I started realizing that most people on the ground in Portland are more skeptical about the Jesus tradition than Borg and Crossan. This was rather alarming! Yes, as I sought to engage people with this man from Nazareth, the conversation could quickly tailspin into religious pluralism, the Da Vinci Code, ethical hot button issues, politics, mayan prophecies, or aliens! At least Borg and Crossan could say things like, ‘Jesus was a man of the Spirit who opposed the corrupt temple establishment’ (Borg) or ‘It is bedrock that Jesus was crucified King of the Jews’ (Crossan). I found that common people, even the college educated, even public school history teachers, did not have much of anything to say when it came to Jesus of Nazareth. Why was this? How had the most towering figure in civilization been forgotten by the people of Portland?

As these frustrations ruminated in my mind I was working through a reading list on historical Jesus studies. One book I was reading edited by Dunn and Mcknight contained an article by Borg on Jesus and the Spirit. After reading the article I decided to digress from my reading list to dig a bit more on Borg. I picked up Borg’s doctoral dissertation from Oxford ‘Conflict, Politics, and Holiness in the teachings of Jesus’. After reading the work I was impressed by the rigorous social, political, and historical effort Borg had put into his reconstruction of Jesus’ life. I actually found myself saying at several points, “This is very helpful”. I then read Jesus; A new Vision and Jesus; two visions which I thought were both very helpful at many points.

From my reading, a basic outline of Borg’s thought on Jesus is:

  • Jesus was a man of the Spirit (like Honi or Hanina Ben Dosa).
  • Jesus vision at His baptism was a powerful experience.
  • Jesus was a very successful exorcist.
  • Jesus taught using parables and aphorisms.
  • Jesus broke all the purity regulations disrupting the boundaries set up by the aristocracy.
  • Jesus ministry was a petition against the temple elite, the power brokers.
  • Jesus was crucified for His perceived revolutionary activity.
  • Jesus tomb was probably not empty, but the community proclaimed him raised.

It is this basic historical sketch, that I find many people on the streets of Portland are not aware of. Evangelicals would nuance some of this basic outline, and disagree with some of the points, especially the empty tomb. By and large however, I came to discover that there is an agreed upon consensus even among ‘mainstream’ liberal, and conservative scholars on the outline of Jesus’ life.

After all this reading, I made an appointment to sit down for coffee with Marcus in the pearl (a trendy part of downtown Portland where Marcus lives). My conversation with him was chill. I simply asked questions to figure out what this man thought of Jesus. He had much evangelical bashing to do (and I almost wonder if he did this to test how I would react….pretty offensive stuff), but as we kept on the topic of Jesus life, and ministry, I found myself learning from most of what He said. Marcus and I have maintained email contact, and I enjoyed sitting with Him at ETS NW, as he scratched out his notes for how to respond to Craig Blomberg, I enjoyed getting a glimpse of how this man thought.

Since I have listened to Marcus first hand I now know the points at which we have similarities and differences.

Strong points of Disagreement:

1. Empty Tomb

2. His definition of religion as “a linguistic cultural phenomenon”

Strong points of agreement:

1. Jesus was a successful exorcist

2. Jesus broke all the purity regulations disrupting the boundaries set up by the aristocracy

3. Jesus ministry was a petition against the temple elite, the power brokers.

4. Jesus was crucified for His perceived revolutionary activities

Take aways:

Be sure to read first hand accounts of people you disagree with when you can make the time. You will learn!! Obviously no one has time to read stuff from everyone they disagree with on every issue (too many people, and too many issues).

Liberal Historical Jesus Scholarship can help us steer popular ‘conspiracy theorists’ back towards a more chastened historical approach to Jesus. An approach that agrees with much of the biblical portrait, even if it disregards inerrancy and inspiration. In this sense, liberal historical Jesus scholarship can aid in evangelism to a bewildered generation of people who can remember Dan Brown and Zeitgeist, but not Jesus of Nazareth.

About Marc Cortez

Theology Prof and Dean at Western Seminary, husband, father, & blogger, who loves theology, church history, ministry, pop culture, books, and life in general.

Posted on April 19, 2011, in New Testament and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 58 Comments.

  1. Half-true’s are never redemptive, nor will they stand in the day of trial and fire! (Heb. 12: 25-29)

  2. Great thoughts. It’s so easy to dismiss an other perspective without actually (1) understanding it or (2) being aware that not every aspect of one’s view need be dismissed.

    It would seem that some of those similarities could actually lead to further discussion that could, in turn, produce some fruit.

    Great post by Jesse. The final paragraph was golden and I’ve found similar experiences when interacting with students who are taking “liberal” NT classes utilizing the work of Bart Ehrman, etc.

  3. @ Irish Anglican

    I am sure you would agree that Borg is correct when He says ‘Jesus was a successful exorcist’ or when Crossan says it is ‘indisputable that Jesus was crucified’ – the cash value of these TRUTHS (and these are not half-truths) for me as an evangelist is they help me to bring ‘wild-eyed conspiracy theorists (and the youth they target) back on the ‘historical map’. You would say that Borg and Crossan have contributed something (however minimal) of value to the Jesus’ conversation right? Though the overall picture of Jesus the Cynic-Sage (Crossan) should be relegated to the dustbin, a good ‘sieve’ (rabbinic terms) should be able to extract the good and flush the bad from a teacher.

    What are we to do with a generation emerging that actually thinks it is historically tenable that Jesus never existed? I think we appeal to the historians they listen to, the most liberal (Borg, and Crossan) and show they corroborate a general sketch of the synoptic portrait.

    • Jesse,

      I would rather point our thinking youth to the works of a Bultmann, he too knew that the Death of Christ was both historical and also existential, at very least. For me anyway, Borg and Crossan wouldn’t know an existential Christian truth if it fell on them! Sorry, I am not a ‘historical Jesus’ guy, but a biblical theolog. 🙂

  4. Oh, okay, I was wondering who that tall dark-headed young guy was who was sitting with Borg at the ETS conf. was; I actually thought you (Jesse) were one of Borg’s young proteges or disciples 😉 . . . good to know that’s not the case!

    I think one of the things that bothers me about Jesus studies, is that if I want to be “critical” I have to weed through all the “higher-critical” reconstructions; and I don’t like that! It goes against my “Christian prolegomena.” 🙂 It seems to me that most of what counts as “critical” scholarship, in this field, esp., is just representative of the ongoing reality of “Fundy-Christianity” just on the reverse side of the coin that “we” are used to — it feels more like doing apologetic work than actual biblical studies (which really frustrates me, and is why I’ve kind’ve turned from bib studies as a critical discipline and gotten more into dogmatic/constructive theology).

    Anyway, Jesse, great post; I can definitely appreciate the Evangelistic impulses that motivate you, my background (and I think gifting), is also in the area of Evangelism. And I’ve found that having a grasp of the Jesus Seminar (which I once did a paper on), and all of the higher-critical scholarship that gets watered-down and trickled-down into the popular masses (thus making it twice-the-sons-of-hell) can be helpful when used as a springboard for turning the usual arguments on their head. I often like to inform folks where their views on Jesus came from (the history channel 😉 ), and then move them back into their real forebears (like The Jesus Seminar); and then work from there (by deconstructing some of the claims forwarded by the “Liberals”).

    • Great thoughts Bobby!

      You said

      “I think one of the things that bothers me about Jesus studies, is that if I want to be “critical” I have to weed through all the “higher-critical” reconstructions; and I don’t like that! It goes against my “Christian prolegomena.” ”

      I agree actually with what your saying! I have spent the last years really focusing on Jesus studies, and I would agree with you that to do critical Jesus studies is very non-confessional. But I wonder if what we do when we do this sifting, is what Paul did in Acts 17 when he quoted the Athenian poets? Did Paul read pagan poetry for Spirit inspired refreshment? He seems to have read it as part of his educational training, this helped him make the gospel known in Athens (unless of course you take the line Paul’s preaching was mistaken, and rethought in 1 cor 2).

      What do you think?

      • @Jesse,

        Don’t get me wrong, I too have (in some respects) even enjoyed some of the “Jesus studies” I did in the past; just to clarify. But when I did these studies it wasn’t to help me study the Bible, but know how to engage (apologetically) folks who I was consistently evangelizing (i.e. know how to engage their questions, and reframe them with some academic rigor . . . and understand the assumptions they were working from).

        On Paul: It is true that Paul was an intellectual giant of his age, and obviously well read and educated (beyond just Judaism). I wonder too “why” Paul would’ve read all of the stuff he did (I wonder if he did so prior to his “conversion” to Christ), and I wonder if he would’ve been motivated to read it for “apologetic” resource; I really don’t know the answer to that. It is clear that he knew the pagans of his day, and he used that to his communicative advantage (in that vein, I don’t think it wrong to know the pagans neo-Gnostics of our day either 🙂 ).

        On the I Cor 2 argument, I’ve thought about that too (and heard that argument made quite often); but then if this is the case Paul doesn’t get to far removed, since the very mode of communication he uses in I Cor 1–4 is grounded in the Graeco-Roman rhetoric of his day 🙂 (so I’m not sure I buy that argument).

  5. Nice article 🙂

    It was my privilege to have been taught by Marcus Borg while he was active at Oregon State University. I found him to be profound and his interpretations historically and theologically sound.

    Just to mention one thing: while you and Borg may differ over the issue of the empty tomb, I would like to point out that Borg is a firm believer in the resurrection. He believes that God vindicated Jesus by granting him resurrection, ascension, and exaltation-glorification. Borg’s entire work on “the Post-Easter Jesus” is bound up with his belief in Jesus as the “risen, living One”.

    I only mention this because many people mistake Borg’s agnosticism about the tomb’s emptiness as a rejection of Jesus’ resurrection. Such is not the case at all: for Borg, as for most mainstream Christians, Jesus was raised to Heaven, where he is coterminous with God the Father, and present everywhere, especially in the believer’s heart.

    • @Steve,

      What do you think? Do you follow Borg’s lead, in general (as you’ve described him)? I’m not seeking to debate or anything, just curious. 🙂

    • I have read Borg, but how can one not mistake “agnosticism” about the literal resurrection of Christ? Note, St. Paul’s literal statement.. 1 Cor. 15:13-14-15, etc. The power of Paul’s logic and argument here is for a literal resurrection! Anything else? Is just not the Gospel!

      • Borg’s agnosticism isn’t about the resurrection, it’s about the emptiness of the tomb. Let’s not confuse “literal” (by which we mean “real”) with “physical” (by which we mean “reanimation of a corpse”).

        BTW, are you always so flighty? Or is it angry? I can’t tell, but your tone is far more aggressive than called for. Just letting you know that I have no intention of continuing with this if you’re gonna be snippy.

        No, Paul does not argue for a physical resurrection; he never mentions the emptiness of the tomb, the so-called reports of Roman soldiers and Jewish officials who “knew'” that the tomb was empty, etc. Crucially, he explicitly states that “the Lord is a Spirit”, and that “resurrection bodies” have properties completely unlike their somatic “seed” bodies.

        The Pauline principle is that flesh can’t inherit the Kingdom. Accordingly, the resurrection “body” is not a physical body, but a “spiritual” body. It is “real” (literal), but it is not physical (a resuscitated corpse. To think that a real, literal resurrection must be physical is to collapse into the demans of a materialistic culture that mistakenly equates Real with Physical. Paul argues agains that error at many points, but especially in his treatment of Jesus’ resurrection and in the resurrection at the end of ages.

        Instead, Paul uses “ophthe”, “he appeared” to me, and Paul is consistent in never once saying that he saw Jesus’ **body** with his physical, anatomical, eyes. Rather, Paul says that God revealed his Son “in” or “to” me. And that Son is a Lord who is Spirit.

        But I leave these niceties to those Christians, who like Paul, believe that without Jesus’ resurrection their faith is in vain. Nothing could be further from the truth, as it is not really central to meeting God in Jesus. But that’s their problem, not mine.

      • I am a old man (61), and I just get to the chase! The idea that the resurrection for Paul does not mean the quite literal resurrection of the body, is just an ad hoc argument, and not historical (to Paul or the Pharisee’s). Note, Acts 24:15, and Acts 24: 21.

        You also failed to mention 1 Cor. 15:1-9. Paul’s view of the resurrection is the same as that of the other Apostles! Note the text says “buried”, not thrown in a ditch, and then somehow becoming later a visible phantom spirit. Note, Luke 24:39-43…and note too verse 44-50, etc.

    • Steve,

      Borg says with language that God ‘vindicated Jesus’ and ‘exalted him’ and ‘Jesus is Lord’ (You are right! In some ways Borg can express the early christian gospel better than most). However I think…if I am hearing (and reading) him rightly, that due to his understanding of religion as a ‘cultural linguistic phenomenon’, Borg would not say for example that if all people (from all times, cultures, and places) could have an objective vision into the throne room of GOD they would see Jesus of Nazareth exalted to the right hand of YHWH.

      Since he is unwilling to say this, as the early christians did (phil 2:9-11), He would not be a “firm believer in the resurrection” as the first christians understood it.

      • Well, to be fair to Borg, we should base our opinions not on what he “would” or “might” say (e.g., about Jesus enthroned next to God in Heaven), but on what he *has* in fact written.

        Why should we want or expect Borg to have a vision of Jesus that Paul did *not* have? Paul never reports SEEING Jesus physically (how would that work, anyway) ensconced in Heaven, but he derives this scenario from the experience of the risen living Jesus in his own heart – which is exactly what Borg himself affirms. phil 2:9-11 is not a literal description of a physical sight. Much less is it an account of a vision or a Heavenly Ascent. It’s just a logical conclusion from Paul’s immediate experience of Jesus’ Lordship. Note too that when Paul recounts his Heavenly Ascent “whether in or out of the body I do not know”, of all the things he describes, not once does he mention seeing Jesus seated at the right hand of the Father.

        Ditto the Book of Revelation’s throne room scenes. These are not physical sights. On the contrary, the entire book is an apocalypsis – a revealing based on its authors visions. The textual content and context is visionary/mystical, not physical.

  6. Yes, I follow his lead inasmuch as he salvages “Jesus as Spirit Person” from the debris of so much other critical scholarship, which imho misidentifies Jesus as a phantasm in James’ shadow (Eisenman), or merely an apocalyptic prophet (Ehrman), etc. When I think about the pre-and-post Easter Jesus, I frequently use Borg’s “lenses”. However, I am not a Christian – so Jesus is not my only or primary model of “godliness” or “Enlightenment”. Inasmuch as I am not a Christian, Borg and I part ways, so in this latter sense, I follow Borg’s lead … but only up to a point.

    • Thanks Steve, just curious. I wish you were a Christian, but I’ll resist my usual mo at the moment (which is to try and proselytize . . . I’ve found that threads on blogs usually don’t work so well for that 🙂 ).

  7. Yes, I agree that the discussion becomes ‘way too complex ‘way too fast if one or another party begins to proselytize. Thanks for sparing us both 😉

    • Yeah, to use one of Calvin’s thoughts no doubt, why are you (Steve) here anyway? Since you are not a Christian?

      • Btw, my question moves also about Borg..(2 Tim. 2: 18, etc.)

      • “why are you (Steve) here anyway? Since you are not a Christian?”

        Thanks for the warm welcome.

        Yes, my earlier impression seems vindicated, namely, that you are both flighty and angry.

        If you must know, I was referred here from:

        … in the Around the Blogs section toward the upper left of the display.

        As far as being here although not a Christian, consult Mark 9:40.

        Let me say that it is attitudes of people like you that make me rejoice that I am not a Christian.

      • Steve,

        I learned a long time ago that no man can keep the real seeker from either truth or Christ! Note I said, that was Calvin’s thinking. But then I am also a Calvinist!

        I am not impressed with Borg sorry! Nor those that press that kind of thinking and so-called logic. The burden is against this both historically and theologically. But true Christianity is always about faith and belief in both God and His revelation! (Jude 3)

    • @Steve,

      I’m still resisting the urge to proselytize 😉 (since I’m assuming you already know what Christians believe backwards/forwards); but, out of curiosity, do you have a Christian background (up-bringing)? Further, did your studies with Borg help contribute to your ability to maintain an intellectual non-Christianity?

      • Bobby hey sometimes the Reply buttons are not appearing over people’s avatars/icons so I’m doing my best to keep up with the Reply buttons that do appear so here goes –

        Again, thanks for not proseltytizing. Honestly, I don’t listen to Christian, or any other kind, of “witnessing” so “my heart soars like a hawk” to know that you won’t pull that behavior on me 🙂 Related to that, yes I have a thorough grounding in Christianity and used to study theology, christology, church history, etc., just for fun without any academics or clerics holding a gun to my head.

        I would say that IF I were a Christian, Borg’s “emerging Church”, the various “lenses” he offers through which to view God, Scripture, Jesus, and Spirit, his emphasis on compassion and “death to the old self” – etc. – would keep me joyously Christian. Borg has provided modern, educated, literate Christians with ways and means of simultaneously being fully enlightened and fully religious – no mean feat in this day of rank fundamentalism and so-called “new” atheism.

        Since I am not a Christian, Borg helps me to see Jesus from a cross-cultural POV, to see the profound value of Jesus’ mysticism and ethics.

      • So Steve,

        Enlighten us on your religious vision now? This poor old Anglican presbyter, who still believes in the ‘Old Paths’, would like to know. 🙂

      • @Steve,

        Yeah, these nested threads can get confusing to follow, IMO. People who know me, know that I’m chomping at the bit in not engaging you on “apologetic” terms; but I’ll continue to resist. 🙂

        Nevertheless, I will ask you, have you studied much on Gnositicism (per it’s 2nd century ce development)? The way I view Borg’s Christianity (and many others in his “tradition”) is as nothing new, and simply neo-Gnostic in its orientation and spirituality. So when I think this issue through, it’s not through the contemporary “modern” debates that usually ensue between Christians and Jesus Seminar types; but instead, I look at how someone like how Irenaeus: Against Heresies refuted such dualisms — and then the subsequent mystical spiritualities that flow from such thinking. In other words, I see Borg’s “Christianity” as an Gnosticized Christian heresy (metaphysically and theologically). And I’m not so much concerned with the details of his reconstructive work (which is second order stuff), as I am with his metaphysical and philosophical commitments (first order stuff) which inform his interpretive decisions.

        I think Jesse, below, underscores some of the problems with Borg’s moves, and the idea that anything can be said to be “non-religious” or “faith-based” in orientation. I will be interested to see how you respond to him 🙂 .

  8. Steve.

    Appreciate your words and thoughts! As a former student of Borg, what do you think of his “objective” definition of religion as a ‘linguistic cultural phenomenon’?

    Borg is such a good thinker in so many ways, so I was shocked to hear such a self-refuting argument. Thoughts?

    • Thanks Jesse. I think Borg’s definition of religion as a linguisitic cultural phenomenon is fine as far as it goes. It goes as far as scientific/anthropological parameters permit. It is not exhaustive, nor is it meant to be. It is only meant to satisfy the rigorous scholarly principle to explain without multiplying hypotheses. Above all, it is not meant to be a statement of faith. Here Borg is writing only as a member of the academic community, not a member of a faith community.

      • Steve,

        1. Can scientific/anthropological parameters include phenomena that are not on the ‘Kantian map’? If not, why not? As academics can we move past modernistic deism already? Cuban’s embrace mystical encounters with spirits, demons, and God (and so do the other 6.5 billion people who are not western academics)? Can they be included in the academic conversation?

        2. If one says religion is simply a ‘linguistic cultural phenomenon’ then to me that actually multiplies hypotheses about a great many things rather than simplifying…so an appeal to Occam’s razor on this score only seems to work if one assumes naturalism. If the scholarly community uses Occam’s razor in this way it becomes subjective, and even can devolve into western ideological imperialism (scientism is true, the other 3rd world cultures are out of touch!). You know what I mean??

        3. Borg was actually talking to a group of us when asked a question about the Resurrection of Jesus, He then mentioned that religion is a ‘linguistic cultural phenomenon’. In this way, He is making a faith statement, and not writing as a member of the academic community.

        4. I do not intend this to be snarky but being a member of an academic community is to be a member of a faith community that holds certain presuppositions and assumptions about metaphysics that cannot be proven. All people exercise some measure of faith, even academics, agnostics, and atheists.

  9. Jesse, I haven’t navigated very well around this site – some posts have Reply buttons “built in” but this one doesn’t, so I am assuming that “Leave a Reply” will work for this post –

    1. Some indeed have attempted to include the “shamanic” stuff in academia – C G Jung, Michael Harner, Mircea Eliade, Joseph Campbell, Felicitas Goodman, Stevan Davies, I M Lewis, Graham Hancock, and many others. But I guess it’s a matter of old prejudices dying before academia can look at these things seriously.

    2. “If the scholarly community uses Occam’s razor in this way it becomes subjective, and even can devolve into western ideological imperialism (scientism is true, the other 3rd world cultures are out of touch!). You know what I mean??”

    Yes, exactly. Michael Harner, in his study of shamanism, proposed a category of “Cognicentrism” to parallel the anthropological model of “Ethnocentrism”. Cognicentrism holds – imperialistically – that Western “rational” modes are inherently better than “aboriginal” modes which are inherently “superstitious, pre-rational”, etc.

    3. I don’t follow you here. Calling religion a linguistic phenomenon seems a perfect fit with the Western rational, “objective” view of religion. If Borg wanted to make a faith statement, he probably would have said something like, “the pre-Easter Jesus was a spirit-filled, enlightened, charismatic mediator, transformative sage… and the post-Easter Jesus is the very face of God and dwells in Christian hearts – including my own – as a real experience, a real person, and a real divinity”. THAT would be a faith statement, whereas the linguistic claim seems minimalist and totally conformed to academic expectiations of “objectivity”. Sure, it’s an academic faith statement, not a religious one.

    4. Yes, an academic community’s faith statements are its conscious and unconscious assumptions. In Borg’s case – as an academic – his assumption is to objectively define Christianity according to academic standards and expectations – hence his “linguistic” definition.

    • Steve said:

      Yes, an academic community’s faith statements are its conscious and unconscious assumptions. In Borg’s case – as an academic – his assumption is to objectively define Christianity according to academic standards and expectations – hence his “linguistic” definition.

      But this is to equivocate and shift the terms between academic faith statement/religious faith statement; there’s no functional difference, which is the (Jesse’s) point (I presume).

      So to use “linguistic” language is still a contexutalized/particularized usage of a concept, but with universal force (with the assumption being that “academic” equals “truth” relatively speaking). Either this is a gross category mistake, or subterfuge used for rhetorical purposes.

      • “But this is to equivocate and shift the terms between academic faith statement/religious faith statement; there’s no functional difference”

        I don’t know philosophy, so can’t comment much on the “functional” issue, other than to suggest that there is an important *psychological* and *epistemological* difference. The academic stance is objective, reductionist, materialist, whereas Borg’s extra-professional, personal religious stance is spiritual and mystical. That’s the best I can do in reply.

  10. @Steve: Thank you very much for engaging this discussion to carefully. I’m sorry that I’ve been too busy this morning to do more than just follow along, but it’s been a fascinating discussion.

    The issue with the “reply” button is that the site is currently set to only allow the threaded discussions to go 3 deep. So, after the third level, you have to reply to an earlier comment. Most often, though, it’s best to do exactly what you did and just offer a new comment at the bottom. I’ve actually been meaning to eliminate the threaded discussion option entirely, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

  11. irish anglican wrote:

    “steve – Enlighten us on your religious vision now? This poor old Anglican presbyter, who still believes in the ‘Old Paths’, would like to know”

    I will do so with the condition that my faith is not open to debate or proselytizing 🙂

    I blend theologies according to their beauty and value to me personally. Right now I am:

    1. Buddhist, in the Jodo Shinshu school of Shinran’s sect.

    Also known as “Shin Buddhism”, not to be confused with the Japanese religion, Shinto.

    My school is the refinement of Honen’s Amidism, not to be confused with Honen’s Jodo Shu.

    My school is Jodo SHINshu, and can be viewed @:

    … and …

    2. Neo-Ebionite, in the Keith Akers mode which can be found @:

    3. Panentheism, in the Biblical and religious sense generally: God is both “here” (immanent) and “more than here” (transcendent).
    Since Buddhists do not accept a creator deity, panenTHEISM is not the best term, so instead I sometimes use the terms,

    panenAMIDism (Amida Buddha is immanent/transcendent)

    … and …

    panenDHARMism (the Dharma is immanent/transcendent)

    I hope this gives you some idea.

    • Oops, I just saw that this one got caught by the spam filter because of the links. Sorry about that.

    • Steve,

      I lived in Japan for over two years back in the 80’s. So I am somewhat familiar with that version of Buddhism. But this helps me to understand where you are coming from. You obviously know mine. 🙂

      PS..And yes, I have read my share of Carl Jung also.

  12. Marc,

    Thanks for providing this explanation 🙂

  13. Bobby,

    I am not a huge fan of Gnosticism, and neither is Borg – he trashed it as “jabberwocky” or a similar phrase in his lecture, “The Pre-Easter Jesus” available on YouTube and on Polebridge CDs.

    I am not seeing how Borg’s views are Gnostic. Especially as a historian who affirms Jesus’ existence – as against Gnostics, Docetists, and modern mythicists such as Robert M. Price and Earl Doherty – I would think he keeps Jesus anchored in “spacetime” in a way that’s important especially for us moderns who are born into a culture that values history.

    Borg does not postulate a Gnostic universe of Alien-but-True God, Archons, the Demiurge, fallen souls, divine sparks, the Pleroma, a phantom Jesus, etc. Borg says Jesus really lived and really died on a Roman cross. He was not a projection from “Another Realm”.

    • @Steve,

      I don’t want to get into this any further, I’ve gotta run. But, my point with the Gnostic thing, is that historic Christianity holds to the Theanthropos as fundamental to our hope. It’s the physical/bodily resurrection of the God-Man (an/enhypostatic and homoousion as fundamental) that grounds our death and resurrection in the divine life particularized in the man from Nazareth — this is our salvation. To decouple the pre/post easter Jesus from this reality is to gut Christianity of what makes Christianity, Christianity; and also introduces a dualism between the divine and human that is actually unified in Christ (per historic Xtian understanding). So my appeal to Gnosticism in re. to Borg is simply one that notes some broad shared contours between Borg’s dualism and spirituality and that of the real Gnostics.

      Maybe Borg’s spirituality is actually more monistic and Eastern, I’d have to look more closely.

      Thanks, though, Steve, for the dialogue. 🙂

      God Bless, and I hope you’ll become a Christian (in the historic sense) someday soon!

      Pax Christi!

      • @Bobby,

        We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. Since Paul, whose testimony is the earliest in the NT, never describes or appeals to the risen Jesus as a body, the most “traditional” – earliest – Christian view was that the glorified Jesus was a spirit. Not only a spirit but a “vivifying” spirit. Only later, probably in response to nascent Docetism, do writers begin to describe a risen Jesus with physical attributes, and even then, his is a “body” that can appear and disappear at will, pass through solid objects, and levitate. To keep on calling it a “body” does the theme somewhat of a disservice.

        The Christian’s redemption does not depend on a relationship with anyone’s body, not even the risen body of God’s Son. Traditional Christianity always taught the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body only being frosting on the salvific cake. And the resurrection body, according to Paul, has nothng in common with the dead, biological body. It is Jesus, not Jesus’ body, who saves. And Paul’s early testimony is that the risen Jesus is a spirit, not a body.

        Moreover, even without Jesus, Yahweh had promised resurrection to his “Chosen” at the end of the age. All Yahweh believers, native Jews, converts to Judaism, sectarian Jesus movement Jews, and converts to the Jesus movement, were all heirs of Yahweh’s resurrection promise. Jesus’ resurrection does not guarantee anyone else’s resurrection – that was **already** guaranteed by membership in Israel. Jesus’ resurrection is important only because it signaled – at least for Paul – that the end of the age had begun, because Jesus was the first to be raised, the “first fruits” of the final resurrection.

        “It’s the physical/bodily resurrection of the God-Man (an/enhypostatic and homoousion as fundamental) that grounds our death and resurrection in the divine life particularized in the man from Nazareth — this is our salvation.”

        No, I would say that your salvation is in Yahweh’s work in the world, then in Israel. then in Jesus, and finally in the contiinuing activity of the Holy Spirit.

        Moreover, nothing about Jesus, his identity, or his message, depends on his resurrection, physical or spiritual. JESUS himself is the sole factor. If the resurrection had never happened, Jesus would still be Jesus. His healings, exorcisms, teachings, Sermon on the Mount/Plain, parables, and “divinity” would all be the same.

        To say that Christian salvation depends on an untimely-early resurrection of one person is simply innacurate. Christian salvation depends on everything that happened **before** the resurrection, and most importantly, on Jesus and who he was. And Jesus’ identity in no way depends on his resurrection.

        The most that can be said is that Jesus was raised because of **who** he was (God raised up his righteous Son, prophet and martyr); but Jesus was not who he was **because** of the resurrection.

        The resurrection was only the posthumous seal that Yahweh had placed upon Jesus from the moment of his baptism by John in the Jordan. The resurrection is only a generous gift and final sanction of a divine approval that had been granted all through Jesus’ earthly life.

      • Steve,

        I noted you said nothing to my few quotes to Luke’s Gospel and the resurrection of Christ! (Luke 24:39-43). That same St. Luke that was so close to St. Paul! (2 Tim. 4: 11). Indeed your suppositions are simply flawed and in serious error!

      • @Steve,

        You provide more than I really want to respond to. I work from an “analogy of faith” paradigm, which presupposes historic orthodox Christian suppositions; this is going to lead me in many different ways than you. I am of historic Christian belief though, and what you’re asserting is a reification of what Christians have believed through the centuries (just check our creeds, confessions, and catechisms).

        Jewish ideas on the resurrection have always been bodily/physical (before Jesus showed up, check Jn 11 etc.). Paul believed, as a Pharisee of the Pharisees in this bodily/physical resurrection (who Jesus claimed to embody in Himself) see Rom 10.9-10 cf. I Cor 15. 1-4ff Col 2 Gal. 2.20 Phil. 2.5-10 Rom 6.1ff etc etc. Christians believe in a fallen-body/glorified-resurrected-body (for Paul there is one-to-one correlation between the two); and to assert that because Jesus can walk through walls ascend etc makes his body less physical/fleshy is to make an argument of the beard (and fail to recognize nuance or distinction on a continuum of what constitutes bodily/physical humanity). But you’re imposing your 21st cent. rationalist/observationalist/empiricist modes of reasoning upon something/one that cannot be judged [Jesus is a novum] (this is a methodological category mistake, you’re using physical science principles to interpret theological reality — these are two distinct sciences and they operate under their own self-referential canons of interpretation determined by the object of consideration itself).

        You’re making many theological judgments that theologians still argue over (like what constitutes the divine life, Jesus’ resurrection [Barth]; His self-determining freedom in his inner-life [classic] etc.). I think you need to slow down a bit.

        Anyway, thanks again for the dialogue, Steve. We definitely disagree. I’ll be praying for you my friend (watch out, my prayers are quite effective 😉 ). Blessings, Bobby.

  14. Your suppositions are arcane and uninformed by critical scholarship.

    In understanding the resurrection, the appropriate method is to go by chronology.

    We must start with Paul, because his is the oldest NT resurrection testimony, the earliest, and for Paul Jesus is not a body, but a “life-giving” spirit. Paul never claims to have seen the risen Jesus as a body. Rather, he describes the experience as one of “God revealing his Son in me”.

    Luke’s Gospel was written much later than Paul’s letters. By that time proto-Docetism was compelling writers to describe Jesus’ resurrection in physical terms. The same occurs in GospJohn’s resurrection narratives.

    But even so, by no means do these late authors think of Jesus as having a human body. No human body can pass through solids, appear and vanish at will, and ascend to heaven on a cloud. In fact, the Lukan text you cite denies physicality as much as supports it, because it is here that Jesus appears out of nowhere – just as he has previously disappeared in 24:31. Therefore, to insist on bodily language for the risen Jesus is plainly erroneous, and distortive of what the text really says.

    Your unawareness of critical biblical scholarship causes you to regard 2 Tim as Pauline. It isn’t. It’s deuteroPauline at best, and is likely the work of an anonymous author compiling traditions about Paul sometime in the 100s CE.

    • Yeah, I am one of those “arcane” (few) believers in the NT Apostolic Deposit! And yes, I hold to the full Pauline authorship of the Letters of Paul. Perhaps outside of the Letter to the Hebrews? But even there, we see perhaps a Pauline authority, (Heb. 13:23-24).

      And btw, I hold both the D.Phil. and Th.D., the latter in Pauline studies, Romans, etc. But yes, I am most certainly a biblical conservative! Also, I am not an American, but a an Anglo-Irish Brit.

      Again, Luke 24:40-43 is very problematic for you to say the least! (Note too, Acts 1:3)

      I count you and this approach as simply outside of classic Christianity! But then of course, you are not a “Christian”, and “know” not the Lordship of Christ!

      • You’re far too judgmental and cranky for yours or anyone else’s good.

        “Again, Luke 24:40-43 is very problematic for you”

        Not nearly as problematic as all the NT testimony is for you, that Jesus is a spirit.

        And … I won’t be conversing with you in the future, just so you know.

      • PS..And ya might want to check out the work by John A.T. Robinson: Redating the New Testament. I would hold to many of his thoughts. The NT was written before 70 A.D. Oh yes, most radical toward today’s modern stuff!

      • Steve,

        That’s fine about no further conversation, but I ran you off the field it appears? I am an old Royal Marine, so run baby run! lol

      • Just a last friendly challenge, you might try reading Gordon Fee’s fine book: Pauline Christology, An Exegetical-Theological Study!

  15. Hmmm, it looks like this got a little cantankerous when I wasn’t looking. Let’s all remember to behave ourselves.

    And, Fr. Robert, remember that unlike the Royal Marines, we are not trying to run people off!

    • Marc,

      Sadly, people want to dish this kind of stuff up, and yet not expect some heavy fire in return? I was playing just some hardball.. ? 🙂 But, I am sorry if I hurt the lads feelings!

      • I definitely place a high value on the give-and-take of rigorous dialog. But, let’s just make sure we keep it respectful. Thanks.

      • Marc,

        Again, its rather funny that some people think we conservatives don’t have anything to say, then when we do they call it “judgmental”. But we call it simply belief in the Word of God! And this is Holy Week also. And we are nearing the Resurrection of our Lord!

        Christ is risen, bodily for us conservative minded Christians!

  16. Jesse, I’m not sure how this article reflects a Cuban perspective…or a charismatic for that matter. 😉 I do appreciate the point you make, even though, your conclusion strikes me as rather obvious. Both conservatives and liberals (I wonder what Jesus thinks about these categories) get it…and don’t get it.

    This issue is seemingly a both/and (as Jesse points out). Jesus did rise “bodily” from the dead, but he also set a great example (perhaps his whole life should be seen as atoning work).

    In other words, dialogue can’t hurt…

    PS. In 2004 I was present when a conservative minded Christian asked the rather liberal Swedish Arch bishop: “Do you believe that Jesus rose bodily from the dead?” The bishop’s answer was quite funny, “Not sure what you mean by that… He walked through walls for crying out loud!”

  17. Coming in late in the game with a couple of comments:

    1. “Jesus broke all the purity regulations disrupting the boundaries set up by the aristocracy.” I would agree that Jesus broke purity regulations set up by the aristocracy, particularly in his spending time with and possibly identifying with the yom haeretz (people of the land). But ALL the purity regulations? In reading the Gospels I don’t see Jesus breaking all the purity regulations that were interpretations of the Torah. Some of them of sure. All of them? Unless we make assumptions beyond the Biblical text I think “all” goes too far.

    2. Re: bodily resurrection. One of Paul’s problems with Greek (particularly Plato’s) thought was the division of everything into physical and spiritual. Nevertheless in 1 Cor. 15:50 Paul refers to “sarx kai haima.” This is a standard reference to the physical human body. It is NOT a reference to the sinful human. Paul would have only used the word “sarx” for that although one has to admit that in v 39 he uses sarx to refer to humans, animals, birds and fish having different kinds of sarx or bodies. But in v. 40 when he begins to talk about heavenly bodies (including the sun!) he switches to soma. In v. 44 the so called physical body is actually soma psychikon, a very curious translation as in much of Greek writing psyche refers to soul. In any case a spiritual body would only mean a non physical body in Platonic thought. Paul, as a Hebrew, would deny that one can separate a human into body, soul and spirit.

    Or maybe we should all be humble about the whole thing and admit that we don’t quite know what Paul was talking about.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: