St. Mark’s Adult Education Meeting Summary
Session Eight: The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions
By Marcus Borg and N.T. Wright
Sunday, February 29, 2004
The final session, part eight, entitled “Jesus and the Christian Life,” dealt with the application of what we have learned about Jesus and how it applies to our daily lives. Some participants thought that this last section might have been written first, with the rest of the book patterned around it. It was first noted about Wright that he tended to tie worship and mission together. He seemed to have everything very organized, but the individual explanations tended to be long and drawn out. He also seemed to be very intense and passionate in his writings with the main inward focus on Christianity proclaiming Christ as “the way, the truth, and the light.” He notes, “Christ rules,” but does not mention other possible ways to experience “The Holy.” Borg, on the other hand, tends to be more clear and objective in his approaches to understanding Christ, and also more inclusive of others.
Wright tends to be quite rigid in one area in that rules out historical metaphors while Borg discusses the differences between truth and facts. There is also discussion by Wright on symbolism and what it truly means. One may be able to understand Jesus in a different light if you move away from strict historicity. The birth narratives, for example, are wonderfully written pieces of literature that give great insight into some of the images captured in the old Hebrew scriptures.
Inner conflict can arise, however, with some individuals who are comfortable and confident in their own faith. When Borg asks the reader to step outside of any pre-conceived ideas about Christianity, the alternate thinking he suggests may be quite disturbing for some while others find it most challenging. Wright further notes that it is not so much the belief that is important, but the relationship with God.
It was noted that throughout the book, there was not much mention of salvation. Some believe that salvation is paid for in advance by Jesus’ dying on the cross and that you will be saved irrespective of your behavior. An opposing thought was that this approach to salvation was too easy and that the greater need is to concentrate on one’s relationship with God. Some would question as to how Jesus’ death really saves us inasmuch as there is still war and plague in the world today. Instead, we should concentrate on using the Bible as a “lens” to focus on what we should be doing and how we should be behaving here on earth as Christians. Borg carried this concept one step further in noting that image of the Bible was connected with sacrament and a means of God’s grace.
Finally discussion turned towards some of the Gospel writings where it was noted that some of the text seems to have been inserted at a later date, perhaps to suit the conditions at the time. For example, passages which deal with women as being subservient to men or the separation of races from each other. Some of the more fundamentalist churches have really struggled with modern day interpretations of these passages. Borg also noted in the late 1990’s that he was seeing changes happening in North America that could result in a loss of church membership. The mixing of church and politics has also always been problematic from time to time. The bishop of Rwanda, for example, was one of the conservatives criticizing what has been happening to the Episcopal Church of America while some 800,000 of his own people have been killed or slaughtered for certain religious or political beliefs. On the other hand, Bishop Desmond Tutu was instrumental in the abolition of Apartheid in South Africa. Mike thanked all of the participants for their contributions. Everyone agreed that this was one of the most interesting adult education sessions we have ever had at St. Mark’s.