National Lutheran News

Competing paradigms divide U.S.Christians, theologian says

Speaking in Wayzata, Minnesota, Marcus Borg said future belongs to less rigid forms of Christianity.

Conservative Christians in the U.S. believe the Bible is a divine product. Some believe it is “inerrant,” while others believe it has “no serious errors.” They believe its message is primarily about personal morality and how to get to heaven.

That’s according to New Testament scholar Marcus Borg, Professor of Religion and Culture at Oregon State University. He calls this view “the earlier Christian paradigm,” contrasting it to one championed by an increasing number of mainline church members.

“Mainline seminaries have, for at least the last 50 years, embraced an ‘emerging Christian paradigm’,” he said, which believes God speaks through the Bible, which is essentially a human document pointing readers to divine truth. In this paradigm, salvation happens first in this life, only secondarily “somewhere else.” And, morality goes well beyond personal behavior to concerns about peace, poverty, justice and care of the earth. Both paradigms, Borg said, emerged after religion’s collision with modernity 300 years ago.

Speaking at Wayzata Community Church on Nov-ember 6, Borg, an Episcopalian who grew up Lutheran, said the religion students he teaches tend to reject Christianity because they assume all of it to be rigid, arrogant, self-righteous and judgmental.

He said he believes the U.S. religious right is now at its high water mark and will recede in coming years. Said Borg, “The children of these biblical literalists will simply find it takes too much energy to continue defending an unbending theology against the advances of science.”