4.21.2006

If I become a Christian, you can blame these books

Both of these were recommended to me by Chris M. because he read them and said I might like them. But even he didn't know they would make such an impact.

First was The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith by Marcus Borg

This book helped me, more than any theology class I ever took, to see Christianity and intelligent thought as fully compatible. Here is the table of contents. I finally had to take it back to the library after renewing it the maximum number of times, but I will probably buy it to keep sometime this year.


Second is The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millenium by Walter Wink

Yeah, he has this great explanation of the intertwining nature of the material and spiritual world. Yeah, he has a great explanation of what is wrong with our government.

But he changed my life with his explanation of how intercessory prayer is not only beneficial, but necessary.

"A space opens in the praying person, permitting God to act without violating human freedom."

And how to understand bad things happening.

"We may pray for justice and liberation, as indeed we must, and God hears us on the very first day. But God's ability to intervene against the freedom of these rebellious creatures is sometimes tragically restricted in ways we cannot pretend to understand. It takes considerable spiritual maturity to live in the tension between these two facts: God has heard our prayer and the Powers are blocking God's response."

So I'm still a little flustered by this little matter of God speaking to me whether through seemingly innocuous books or more dramatic ways. But I'm working on a coherent response.

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11 Comments:

Anonymous Barbara said...

Yes, wonderful books! I credit The Heart of Christianity with helping me celebrate Christmas in my heart (to paraphrase a certain fictional character!) this past year.

I was having a lot of trouble as my understanding and beliefs concerning Jesus have been evolving, and I really felt ...well, to use a hackneyed term .. alienated on the traditional Christian holy days. But Borg's book helped me find a way to integrate my current beliefs with the traditional holy days.

What a talented Christian writer!!

And I think it was Walter Wink that introduced me to the French Protestant pastor André Trocmé. He got his little village in France to hide Jews during the Occupation and to help smuggle them out of the country. He was a pacifist as well.

Have a great weekend!
--Barbara
Schuylkill Friends
Phoenixville, PA

4/21/2006 7:32 PM  
Anonymous wess said...

Robin, Great books you mention - Wink is a powerhouse down here at Fuller, all the Anabaptists scholars here love him. Anyways, have you read anything by N.T. Wright? He's freaking brilliant, try one of his smaller books, "The Last Word," "The Challenge of Jesus," or his some of the other ones, I think you'd really like them. Also I know he did one with Borg, I can't remember the title at the moment but I know I have it at the bookstore. Oh yeah, and you have to read something by Brueggeman if you haven't yet -- simply amazing.

4/21/2006 11:31 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Thanks Barbara! But I am failing the pop culture quiz, and don't know which fictional character you mean.

Wess, ALL the Anabaptist scholars? How many of them can there be? I realize I know very little about Fuller. Except that I now know a couple of cool Quakers who went there. I haven't read anything by Wright or Brueggeman. I will look around SF and see if I can find anything in our local libraries or Friends' bookshelves. If not, I'll come to you for more help.

4/22/2006 11:01 AM  
Blogger Kody Gabriel said...

I had the same experience with Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, also by Marcus Borg. My life was so deeply changed and enriched. I now (with varying degrees of comfort) DO call myself a Christian, and I feel like my relationship with God was just deepened in a lot of ways. I've recommended it to many people since.

The Heart of Christianity is sitting on my shelf waiting to be read when finals are over. I will add The Powers That Be to my summer reading list as well!

4/22/2006 12:58 PM  
Blogger Larry said...

Re your statement "So I'm still a little flustered by this little matter of God speaking to me whether through seemingly innocuous books or more dramatic ways."

I'd like to tell you what happened to me in 1956: I knew only that my life was without enough meaning to make it worthwhile. I had never found help in any religious gathering. I asked God to send me something to read that might put me on a better track.

Couple of days later I'm sitting in a barber chair, and a RC barber cutting my hair is raving about a book called The Power of Positive Thinking.

I got the book and it convinced me that God loves me personally. That changed my life dramatically for the next 50 years-- until today.

God does speak when you want it and ask. But 'he's' a gentleman and won't intrude if you prefer not.

4/22/2006 9:59 PM  
Blogger Simon said...

Hi Robin,

A Friend has recently recommended the Borg book to me and the Explore Faith website which Borg also contributes to, and now having read your post, I've just ordered a copy, and can't wait to read it! I've not long subscribed to the Explore Faith weekly newsletter, which I'm finding really helpful, as I begin to find my way round these issues and ideas.

All the best,

Simon

4/23/2006 3:57 PM  
Blogger Johan Maurer said...

I have to give credit to M Borg because of his evangelistic influence. The sentiments I've seen here are consistent with many other testimonials I've read over the years.

Another good thing about him: he seems always willing to engage in a courteous public discussion with people who disagree with him.

I fundamentally disagree with one of his principles: Christian orthodoxy has to change because modern people can't swallow some of the conventional stuff (and, he adds, the truth is that many Christian intellectuals have long since discarded those dogmas anyway). It would be more accurate to say that a segment of Christian intellectuals in Europe and North America, who may be less central to global Christianity than they think, find it hard to accommodate themselves to some classic beliefs, and assume that what is not palatable to them should not be normative for anyone. I find no basis for concluding that Borg and other skeptics are more intelligent than those who still believe the stuff Borg finds unbelievable.

Some of Borg's critique of traditional Christianity, and Quaker scholar Paul Anderson's responses to him, are a major part of Quaker Religious Thought No. 98.

4/23/2006 8:11 PM  
Blogger Linda said...

I love the quotes you include about prayer.

4/24/2006 8:33 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

My lovingly crafted comment from last night? Gone!

Kody, Simon and Linda, thanks! Glad you liked this.

Larry, every time I have given away a little bit of myself on this blog, I have received stories that have made me feel less alone in my spiritual journey. Thank you for telling your story.

Johan, I hope I have not implied that you or other traditional Christians are not intelligent. I respect you far too much for that. What I found in the Borg book was a way to understand some of the basic points of traditional Christianity in a way that makes sense to me, North American intellectual that I am, for better or worse. In fact, I think that Borg helps me to accept that the Christian story doesn't have to change, but that my interpretation of it can change as my knowledge grows deeper and richer. I don't agree with everything he says either, but if one measure of an evangelist is how well one brings people to pay attention to how Christ speaks to and in them, Borg is doing a pretty good job.

My reading list grows ever longer. Thank you.

4/25/2006 3:44 PM  
Anonymous Barbara said...

Hi Robin,


"Scrooge exclaimed: 'I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.' "

...just in case the question has been...haunting you! :-)

--Barbara

4/26/2006 6:22 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Ah yes. Thank you Barbara.

4/27/2006 12:15 AM  

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