Book review: Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time

by Marcus J. Borg

★★★★★

I read this little book several years back, and wanted to make sure it isn’t forgotten. Marcus Borg is one of my favorite writers, and this is what I’ve always considered his “coming out” book. The one that lays bare Borg’s understanding of the historical Jesus, and Borg’s journey from blind belief into a more complete, contemporary appreciation for Jesus and what his message means for mankind today. In this book is a Christianity for the 21st century and a Jesus who can be embraced by everyone.

One quote sums up the book well: Borg describes Jesus as a “spirit person, subversive sage, social prophet, and movement founder who invited his followers and hearers into a transforming relationship with the same Spirit that he himself knew, and into a community whose social vision was shaped by the core value of compassion.” I’m uncertain if Borg would use precisely the same words today, sixteen years later, because the wheels of Jesus scholarship continue to turn, but I’ll bet he wouldn’t change much … he has found the core Jesus. Meeting Jesus again for the first time, we are invited to appreciate Jesus’ beauty against a backdrop of dominating religion, and share in Jesus’ struggle to help compassion overcome purity. It was this very purity system of the Jews which led to social injustice, and which Jesus found most constricting.

This is one of those books everyone should read before giving up on Christianity.

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3 Comments

  1. This book was a breath of fresh air for me when I read it. Though I was disappointed by how skeletal I found it. I thought that he spent too much time conceptually chewing the same points over and over rather than fleshing them out with more concrete examples, or introducing new points.

    What most disappointed me, however, was that he spends 99% of the book discussing who Jesus is and who Jesus is not, what he believes and what he doesn’t (which is appropriate for a ‘coming out’ book, I suppose), but the question of “what does any of this actually mean for the Christian life” is relegated to little more than a couple of paragraphs in the final chapter.

    Can you recommend a Borg book that delves more deeply into what how a theology like Borg’s might best manifest itself in one’s life and spirituality?

    Obviously, since Borg shies away from fundamentalism, he’s not going to write a didactic book that’s all about “Christianity is a + b + c = x”. But since he’s so passionate about not doing ‘business as usual’ theology, I’m sure some of his books must spend more time contemplating what a ‘not business as usual’ Christian life would actually look like, in practical and spiritual (and not just conceptual) terms.

  2. :) I don’t think any of Borg’s books will be precisely what you want; somehow, liberal Christians shy away from precise explanations of their theology. I can understand.

    Here’s one for you though:

    http://www.dubiousdisciple.com/2011/06/book-review-putting-away-childish.html

  3. Great, thanks. I’m not very academic by nature, and so I haven’t always felt satiated by the Borg non-fiction I’ve read, which seems to very much come from the academic world, even though it aims to speak to laypeople. The fiction book you linked to does sound like it spends more time exploring the sort of angles I’m interested in. Cheers.

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