Thursday, March 22, 2012

Marcus Borg, The Heart of Christianity, Sin and Salvation

I continue my jaunt through Marcus Borg's 'The Heart of Christianity"; the next chapter is 'Sin and Salvation'.

This is an interesting chapter as I am under the belief that we all have within us the potential to do wrong. Sin if you like. You just have to look at corrupted nations where ordinary soldiers without thinking where complicit in extermination, torture and other horrid things to people. The other thing which I can apply to myself; I can have a tendency to take the easy way even if it hurts other people, even if I don't know it. Now what does Borg say, a few thoughts


  • Sin and the language of forgiveness dominates Christian 'imagination' it is 'central'. See this in the service and liturgy. Borg writes that basically you could some up that 'Something is wrong'
  • Borg takes three definitions of root sin:
  1. Niebuhr: "hubris" or "pride"
  2. Tillich: "estrangement"
  3. Unfaithfulness

(I could relate to 1 and 3 but I've never had that feeling that 'God' has left me or vice versa)


  • Borg believes Christinity would be beter off to use lots of biblical images for the 'human condition' other than just 'Sin'. Eg 'in exile, blind, lost, self-centered, wounded, sick, paralyzed. In using multiple images it also expands the remedy instead of just 'forgiveness'.
  • One of the other reasons that Borg preferes using multiple images for the human condition is that. The use of sin emphasises 'individual sin' as opposed to 'social sin' (In college the term I herd was 'structural')



  • "Salvation" like "Sin" is loaded and has multi-layers
  • Salvation is overly emphasised with the afterlife:: As such a requirement of who is in and who is out. (Borg is not keen on this)
  • Salvation is emphasised in the Bible for this life. OT there was no clear affirmation of an afterlife until Daniel. Previously Israel didn't believe in an OT (I wonder what Borg thinks of the term Sheol?)
  • By the time of Jesus the Jewish majority believed in and afterlife
  • Jesus belived in the afterlife but didn't talk about it much
  • Borg writes that 'Salvation' is primariy a 'this world' experience. Broadly it is about "Wholeness" to be healed. Borg also gives a list of images of salvation found in the bible eg "Light in our darkness", "Liberation for captives", "food and drink" etc.
  • There are also "Macro stories" of salvation eg the exodus from Egypt, exile in Babylon.

"Strikingly, but not suprisingly, the New Testament understanding of Jesus correlates with the macro-stories of the Hebrew Bible. Thus the storie of Jesus beocmes a story of salvation."

  • Salvation is personal as well as Social. Salvation is often presented for the individual but there is also of the social a "peace and justice within the community." (I'm suprised there isn't even hinted at an 'Environmental element to all of this)

Salvation and reponse:: quoting Desond Tutu "God without us will not, as we without God Cannot" As Christians we need to be an active part of the transformation.


Sin, Salvation and Repentance.


  • repentence, sin and salvation are usually all clumped together
  • Repent is mainly 'resolve' not primarily "contrition". A returning to God.
  • Repentence in the New and Hebrew Bible are esentially the same.

The Afterlife


  • I found it interesting " I don't have a clue about what happens after death";(An amazing admission. I have had a friend who read this book and this section absolutely spooked him!)
  • Borg writes of the history belief what happens wtih life after death for Christians, it has been varied.
  • Borg ends the Chapter with an admoinismnet of 'hope', even if he is unsure of an afterlife.









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