Yesterday I went to a clergy workshop with Marcus Borg and it was really good. Thoughtful and illuminating. And reminded me of how glad I am to be a Christian and a Disciple of Christ.
He started with having us do an exercise of remembering how expressed the gospel when we were 12 years old. And then how we would express it today.
And, of course, we all have changed our understandings. For many people their descriptions were about Jesus who loves us and when we follow we go to heaven. For me, raised as a Presbyterian it was more about the church as a place of belonging and acceptance and where you came together to do good works.
Now - even though I work in the church - my understanding of the gospel has to do with connecting to the source of life and new life and allowing God to change us and through us to change the world. it is all about transformation.
He expressed what "Progressive Christianity" is. The fact is that too often culturally we hear primarity an evangelical and conservative Christian voice. And with more people who are "unchurched" this understanding of the life of faith is often not understood. From my notes on what is progressive Christianity?
1. Focus on this life more than the next life. With the focus on transformation of this life. No denial of the next life - but that is not the focus. (note: i remember entering seminary and wondering if I belonged because I did not believe in heaven and hell? I did)
2. Intentional rather than Conventional. I grew up in the era when it was expected that you went to church. This started to change in 1963. Now, more than ever we have people who choose to be there rather than come out of some expectation from others. (I hope!) Intentionality leads to an emphasis on Christian practices,(see my previous blog on Lent) because they help lead to transformation. I loved the quote from Harvey Cox's book when someone said, "I'm a practicing Christian, but not always a believing one."
3. Progressive theologically
a. It approaches the Bible and theological language with a historical and metaphorical approach. (and reading the Bible with an eye to metaphor and image is so rich and deep!)
b. It sees no fundamental conflict between Christianity and science and considerable complimentarity
c. It affirms religious pluralism - that the God of the universe has been known not just in one religion but in all of the enduring religions of the world. Each is a specific cultural response to the sacred.
4. Progressive socially and politically
Socially - it moves to inclusiveness in its own life
Politically - the Bible emphasizes God's passion for a different kind of world. We work together to make that happen
5. Believing as Beloving - before the year 1600 the meaning of the word "believing" in the Bible was "beloving." "Being Christian is bout beloving God and beloving what God loves - and what does God love? The world ....and God has a "lover's quarrel" with the world."
What I like about being a Disciple of Christ is that even though these statements reflect my beliefs and my theology - they may not express everyone's who is part of our church. We believe in freedom of opinion - "No Creed but Christ." And we are all on a journey of transformation to love more, become more, learn more.
A book that was really important to me 15 years ago was Reading the Bible Again for the First Time by Martin Borg. His thoughts and writings are so helpful in just helping us to think through what we believe and who God.
So, I recommend his writings and am so happy that I have had this opportunity to revisit his theology which has greatly informed my own.