Thursday, November 7, 2013

"DIVINITY BELONGS TO THE POST-EASTER JESUS, NOT THE PRE-EASTER JESUS" - MARCUS BORG

"Divinity belongs to the post-Easter Jesus, not the pre-Easter Jesus. To think of Jesus as divine actually diminishes him. If he was divine and had the power of God, then what he did wan’t all that remarkable. He could’ve done so much more.  But the classic Christian affirmation about the pre-
Easter Jesus is not that he was God, but that he was the decisive revelation of God.  This is the cumulative meaning of the exalted language that Christians use for Jesus: in him, we see what can be seen of God in human life.”— Speaking Christian by Marcus Borg

If the classic affirmation about Jesus is that he was not God before the Resurrection, why have I not heard this before now?  What do you think?

19 comments:

it's margaret said...

--unless, of course, you read the Gospel of John, because in that Gospel, Jesus is the Word spoken at creation which became flesh.

This view doesn't do justice to all the Gospels nor the Epistles. It seems to be the view of the Gospel of Mark in which the story begin with a full grown Jesus getting baptized.

It's a limited discourse, at best. And, not one which I think is historically accurate.

Grandmère Mimi said...

margaret, I know about the variations in scripture, but I thought, all variations considered, the present consensus was that Jesus was always God. When I read Borg's words I was surprised. Also, there is a whiff of spirit-killing about Borg's words.

Of course, the paragraph is one of many in a chapter of a book of many chapters, so it is taken out of context, but I don't see Borg backing away from what I read as his plain words about the pre-Easter Jesus in the rest of the chapter or the rest of the book.

I posted the quote on Facebook, it received 155 comments.

Tim Chesterton said...

Unless I'm much mistaken, that sounds very similar to adoptionism (the view that Jesus was adopted as the son of God at his baptism), which was I believe decisively rejected by the early Church.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Tim, adoptionism is a new theory for me. I've not heard that one before.

You brought the total of comments to my post on FB to 156. :-) I liked Tobias' comments very much, too. Some of us who would not call ourselves evangelicals have quite traditional beliefs.

JCF said...

Big Theological Questions like this, are ones about which I like to maintain some epistemological humility. Shorter version: I Just Don't Know. [Per Good Queen Bess, "And what his words did make it, That I believe and take it."]

Grandmère Mimi said...

If you don't know, it's best to say just that, JCF.

Rmj said...

Especially because of the Gospel of John, there is a strong tendency to all but deny the incarnation of Christ in upholding the divinity of Christ. Borg is trying to restore some of the balance by referring to older understandings of Christ's nature, understandings which go back to Paul.

Paul did not mention anything about the life of Jesus except for the communion meal. He never mentioned his birth, the Magi, the shepherds, none of it. He called Christ divine because of his faithfulness unto death, faithfulness proven by his resurrection, in which all believers could participate because, like Jesus, we were flesh. Incarnate. Carne.

So (sorry, out of room) Borg is not promoting an ancient heresy, but an ancient understanding. There are many such understandings we think either heretical or impossible, even as we accept many ideas as historical which would be very strange even to Luther and Calvin, much less Augustine or even further back in church history.

Rmj said...

As for why this is such news to people: 150 or so years after "historical criticism" first entered the lexicon of Biblical scholars, churches are still riven over whether or not to even recognize it as valid.

So much goes unsaid because someone somewhere is so afraid of it being said.

Grandmère Mimi said...

It seems I've managed to avoiding the pitfall of denying the incarnation in that I believe Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. If Jesus was "the decisive revelation of God", he was God and not simply a symbol or a pale copy.

As was said in the comments at Facebook, (not by me, but I agree) Jesus' life on earth was not about power but rather about love. That Borg emphasizes the power (or lack thereof) of Jesus to advance his argument that the pre-Easter Jesus was not divine misses the mark.

I tend not to read the Gospels through the lens of Paul, which does not mean that I dismiss Paul.

In fairness, I did not mention heresy or impossible, and I am aware that historical evidence about Jesus is slim.

Grandmère Mimi said...

My Facebook friends were surely not afraid to talk, and, although the discussion included a diversity of views, everyone remained civil throughout.

Rmj said...

Not trying to argue, but Borg's argument is not remarkable in discussions of Christology.

And I think Borg is emphasizing Jesus as human, not power v love. But the question of how human God could be is the oldest issue of Christology.

Rmj said...

Sorry, I wasn't referring to your Facebook post (I'm not even on Facebook) but to the general lack of discussion of Christological issues outside very small groups of very specific people.

Hence the reference to historical criticism, which still gets many congregations (and seminaries) in trouble, 150+ years after it originated in Germany. That which people are afraid of discussing meant church officials fearful of upsetting their congregations, i.e., the people who pay the bills (in many cases).

Rmj said...

I tried to reply on my phone, and I don't know if it went through or got lost.

But I won't repeat myself. Let me just say I was speaking to the general topic, not to anyone individually. The issue of the humanity/divinity of Christ is the bedrock issue of Christology, and it's always difficult to balance the competing ideas raised by the Incarnation.

And I was just trying to provide the context for Borg's assertion. It's an old (centuries) chestnut in Christology.

Russ Manley said...

I suppose this has to do with the Nicene formula that Christ is "true God from true God" and then there's the Chalcedonian formula that Christ is "truly God and truly man" and then there's the concept of the Hypostatic Union which is a bone of contention between Eastern and Western churches, I think. Of course, the real truth is that nobody knows and theologians have discovered the answers that suited them at a given time and place. All of which has been argued about for centuries: cf. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divinity_of_Christ .

None of which is particularly helpful to me. My thinking is down the road that JCF pointed to.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Of course, I have heard of discussions and disagreements about Christology throughout the history of the church. Perhaps I did not make myself clear, but it was Borg's reference to his view that Jesus was not divine pre-Easter as the "classic affirmation", in which I believe he overreaches by a large margin.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Rmj, I knew you weren't referring specifically to my Facebook friends, but I wanted to make the point that a good many people, church people, seemed eager to have the discussion. One of the virtues of Anglican/Episcopal churches is that in most cases, not all certainly, the members have wide leeway to believe what they like and give voice to their beliefs without suffering consequences.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Russ, "I don't know" is a perfectly acceptable position. When it comes down to the nitty-gritty, what matters if we call ourselves followers of Christ is what we do to build the Kingdom of God on earth whatever our beliefs about exactly who Jesus is. That thought ran through my mind throughout the entire long discussion on Facebook and comes to mind here, too.

JCF said...

Is that a critique? Hey, I hocked myself $100K+ to learn Big Phrases like "epistemological humility": on those (rare) occasion I can haul 'em out, I will! ;-p~~~

Grandmère Mimi said...

Not at all a critique, JCF, but say the big words if you feel so inclined. :-)