The dawn of the Third Millennium found in the American religious body a metastasis of the literal interpretation of the Divinely Inspired and inerrant Bible in the form of the ever burgeoning Christian evangelical movement. Affecting the social and political environment, this neo-Calvinist environment has made any thought contrary to it unfashionable (a deliberate understatement). Against this backdrop, Lutheran author and theologian Marcus J. Borg, introduces a vision completely antithetical to the current religious climate. In his 2001 book, Reading the Bible Again For the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally, Borg continues his thread of thought begun in Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus and the Heart of Contemporary Faith.
In spite of the aggressiveness of the evangelical movement, Borg reasons that Christianity as a philosophy and theology is in the greatest flux of its history. Borg first offers that he endorses a “historical-metaphorical” reading of Holy Scripture as opposed to the “literal-factual” reading favored by the emerging Christian right. Borg reasons that a “literal-factual” reading of the Bible is a misinterpretation responsible for disenfranchising a large portion of those who would be Christian as this reading is based on the concept of a wrathful God and the practice of Christianity in preparation for salvation later. Borg calls this the “earlier paradigm,” which is giving way to a new, emerging paradigm. This “emerging paradigm” promotes that spiritual change occurs during one’s life and that salvation is more broadly defined as being healed and made whole with God through this spiritual change.
Borg treats Scripture with reverence, but turns the interpretive lens around from a divine inspiration dictating laws and prophecies to man to a divine inspiration manifested as scripture as a reflection of man’s evolving interpretation of history. The Old Testament Prophets are viewed as sages demanding social justice and the New Testament as the personified way to that social justice. In Borg’s vision, Holy Scripture breathes, not stifled by the superstitious beliefs plaguing the current conventional “literal-factual” reading of scripture favored by the Religious right. It is a scriptural vision not characterized by the necessary exclusivity of the current thinking, focusing on the inclusively and egalitarianism that characterized Jesus. The image and meaning of Jesus sorely needs rehabilitation and that rehabilitation makes an evolution in Reading the Bible Again For the First Time
This review was first published in Blogcritics.org
© Copyright, C. Michael Bailey, 2006