Sunday, May 08, 2005: “The Heart of Christianity… Chapters 10 and 11”

St. Mark’s Adult Education Meeting Summary
The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith, by Marcus Borg
Preface and Chapters 10 and 11:
“The Heart of the Matter: Practice” and
“Heart and Home: Being Christian in an Age of Pluralism”
>  Learn more about Marcus Borg:  click HERE

Discussion Led By Mike Kreutzer
Sunday, May 08, 2005



The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith by Marcus Borg
(San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2004)

Session 6, May 8-11, 2005

Chapter Ten — The Heart of the Matter: Practice

187-188 “Loving God means paying attention to God and to what God loves. The way we do this is through ‘practice’… Christianity is a ‘way,’ a path, a way of life… But the point of practice is not to earn one’s salvation by accumulating merit by ‘works.’ Rather, practice is about paying attention to God… But Christian practice historically is about our relationship to both God and neighbor, about both Spirit and behavior, about both God and the world.’

189 “By practice, I mean all the things that Christians do together and individually as a way of paying attention to God. They include being part of a Christian community, a church, and taking part in its life together as community. They include worship, Christian formation, collective deeds of hospitality and compassion, and being nourished by Christian community. They include devotional disciplines, especially prayer and spending time with the Bible. And they include loving what God loves through the practice of compassion and justice in the world.”

189-193 The Purposes of Practice
· Practice is paying attention to God; life with God; “It involves attending to the relationship, spending time in it, being intentional and thoughtful about it, valuing it, and, ideally, enjoying it.”
· Practice is about the formation of Christian identity; “The formation of Christian identity will thus always involves a transformation of identity – from an identity given by the ‘world’ to an identity in God, in Christ… it is a continuing process that goes on throughout the course of the Christian life.”; ‘to be Christen means to live within a Christian cultural-linguistic world, a Christian ethos, and to be increasingly shaped by it.”
· Practice is about the formation of Christian character; ‘the internalization of a deeper Christian identity shapes character. The shaping of character also happens through deeds of compassion. .. We become what we do.”
· Practice is about nourishment; “Practice is not simply something we do. Rather, it nourishes us.”
· Practice is about compassion and justice; “loving that which God loves and becoming passionate about that which God is passionate about”
“In short, practice is about living ‘the way.'”

193-200 Practice: Formation and Nourishment
“In my judgment, the single most important practice is to be part of a congregation that nourishes you even as it stretches you.”

200-205 Practicing Compassion and Justice
“God’s passion is not the redemption and salvation… of individuals from the world, but the redemption and salvation of the world. God loves the world, not just you and me and us.”

Chapter Eleven — Heart and Home: Being Christian in an Age of Pluralism

207 “In this chapter, I move from ‘what’ to ‘why’: from what it means to be Christian to why be Christian.”

208 “A central claim in this concluding chapter is that we understand Christianity most clearly when we see it in the context of religious pluralism.”

211-215 Three Ways of Seeing Religions

1) The Absolutist Understanding of Religion (“one’s own religion is the absolute and only truth”

2) The Reductionist Understanding of Religion (“all religions as human constructions, as human projections”)

3) The Sacramental Understanding of Religion (“religions as sacraments of the sacred”)
a) “religions as human creations”
b) “religions are human constructions in response to experiences of the sacred”
c) “religions are ‘cultural-linguistic traditions” (“it refers to both the origin and function of religions”)
d) “the enduring religions of the world are “wisdom traditions”
e) “religions are aesthetic traditions”
f) “religions are communities of practice”
g) “religions are communities of transformation”

“Religion’s purpose is to mediate the sacred and, by doing so, to inform, engender, and nourish a transforming relationship to ‘the More’… Christianity is not absolute, but points to and mediates the absolute.”

217-219 “the religions of the world are most similar in the experiences they report, the path they teach, the practices they commend, and the behavior they produce, the ‘fruit’ of compassion… They are most different, in their beliefs and doctrines.”

“The primordial tradition is a set of core understandings underlying all the enduring religions. These core understandings are twofold. The first is a multi-layered understanding of reality: what is real includes more than just the space-time world of matter and energy. The second is a multi-layered understanding of the self: we are more than our bodies and brains, and open out in our depths into the sea of being that we name God, Spirit, Allah, and so forth. The enduring religions are all different expressions of this primordial wisdom; it is the core underlying their different forms.”

“the external forms matter because they are sacraments of the sacred. They mediate the sacred, and they mediate the path. In a primary sense, they are the path: practical means for living life with and in God.”

224-225 “Religions are homes, and Christianity is home for me… To be Christian means living ‘the path’ within this tradition.”