That is the question which opens Marcus Borg’s book The Heart of Christianity. And it is a question that tends to excite a lot of discussion.
One of the recurring themes in the Discussion Lounge of WonderCafe is whether or not there is one, and only one, “right” way to be a Christian. Some claim that you have to believe what the ancient creeds say, that you have to accept the 5 fundamentals of faith (that Scripture is the inerrant Word of God, that Jesus was born of a Virgin, that the Resurrection was a physical and bodily event, the Blood Sacrifice for payment of sins, and that Christ will come again), in order to be a “true” Christian. Others find that the language and imagery of the ancient creeds is nonsensical to them and that there are other ways of expressing Christian faith. Often the latter say that to accept the faith of fundamentalism would mean turning off their intellect and common sense. And of course many of us find ourselves somewhere in the middle between the two extremes.
But really, what does it mean to be Christian in 2007? I strongly believe that it means we respect the faith of those who have gone before but not that we have to copy it. In one of my favourite quotes church historian Jaroslav Pelikan says: Tradition is the living faith of the dead. Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. The United Church of Canada has, since its formation over 80 years ago, believed that each generation needs to re-state the faith in its own language and imagery. There is room for those who have a more traditional faith. There also needs to be room for those of us who see the faith moving away from traditional language.
In The Heart of Christianity Marcus Borg invites the reader to explore that opening question. He invites us to look at the tradition with new eyes, to look at Christian life from the view of the heart. He writes from the point of view of a person who was raised in a very traditional faith, who rejected that faith as anti-intellectual, and who has come back to faith in a new understanding. Borg describes 2 visions, or paradigms, of Christian faith and challenges the reader to explore what gets to the heart of faithfulness.
Faith is meant to be questioned and explored. Faith grows only when subjected to questioning. In the end, there is room in the Christian family for people at varying points between traditional and “emergent”. But we all have to determine what works for us. Starting Thursday March 1 Riverview will be holding a 12-week study of Marcus Borg’s book. If you are interested in exploring these sorts of questions call Gord at 597-6129 or e-mail the church at firstname.lastname@example.org. All are welcome whether you grew up in the church or have never walked through the door.