The Heart of Christianity : Rediscovering a Life of Faith, Paperback Book

The Heart of Christianity : Rediscovering a Life of Faith Paperback

4 out of 5 (8 ratings)


Now in paperback, renowned and beloved author Marcus Borg presents a renewed way of being Christian for the twenty-first century.

Borg reveals that, when properly understood, the vital elements of Christian faith are more compelling than ever.

Borg offers a practical guide to thinking about God, Jesus, the Bible, faith, and Christian practice.

He shows how faith in God and Jesus has never really been about believing certain propositions but rather about a dynamic relationship.

He shows that being "born again" is at the center of Christian life and that the "kingdom of God" is a matter of transforming society into real world values of justice and love. And that the Christian life is essentially about opening one's heart - to God and to others.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 256 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Inc
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Christian life & practice
  • ISBN: 9780060730680

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Showing 1 - 5 of 8 reviews.

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In April 2007, I attended a weekend lecture series by Marcus Borg, PhD - Christian author, historical Jesus scholar, and professor - called "Intentional Christianity: Sharing God's Dream.” On Friday night he spoke on “A Tale of Two Christianities,” which included information from his book "The Heart of Christianity." He provided notes as handouts and encouraged us to spread them about freely, so I will include them here as an introduction to his book.The two Christianities referenced in the title are what he calls the earlier Christian paradigm, or belief-centered Christianity, and the emerging Christian paradigm, or transformation-centered Christianity. The earlier paradigm has been prevalent in the past 300-400 years and is most embodied today in the conservative and evangelical faith. The emerging paradigm has been in existence at least 200 years, taught in mainline seminaries for the last 100 years, and the grassroots movement is much more recent. Borg doesn’t say one paradigm is right and one is wrong but offers a comparison of the two as follows:Earlier Paradigm – Being Christian is about believing; faith as believing.Emerging Paradigm – Being Christian is about a way, a path; faith as centering in God.Earlier Paradigm – Afterlife centeredEmerging Paradigm – "This life" centeredEarlier Paradigm – Requirements and rewardsEmerging Paradigm – Relationship and transformationEarlier Paradigm – Christianity is the only wayEmerging Paradigm – Affirms religious pluralismEarlier Paradigm – Literalist or semi-literalist understanding of biblical and Christian languageEmerging Paradigm – Beyond literalism: much of Christian/biblical language understood metaphoricallyEarlier Paradigm – In conflict with Enlightenment, for example, creation vs. evolutionEmerging Paradigm – Integration of Enlightenment, no conflict, and some mutualityEarlier Paradigm – Tends to be apolitical or politically conservativeEmerging Paradigm – Tends to be apolitical or moderate/progressive/radicalEarlier Paradigm – Centered in one’s own well-being, in this world or the nextEmerging Paradigm – Centered in GodFollowers of the two paradigms differ sharply in ways of seeing the origin, authority, and interpretation of the Bible.Earlier Paradigm – Origin: a divine product. Comes from God as no other text does.Emerging Paradigm – Origin: A human product. The product of two ancient communities.Earlier Paradigm – Authority: grounded in originEmerging Paradigm – Authority: grounded in canonizationEarlier Paradigm – Interpretation: literal, factual, absolute (selectively)Emerging Paradigm – Interpretation: historical (text in ancient context) and metaphorical (the more-than-literal meaning)Regarding the emerging paradigm interpretation of the Bible, Borg quoted someone as saying, “The Bible is true, and some of it even happened.” Borg says that literal interpretation of the Bible may be the greatest factor in people leaving the church. Concluding comments:1. The Spirit of God can and does work through the earlier paradigm, and has for millions of people. But there’s a lot of static in it. For millions, it has become an obstacle, a stumbling block.2. The emerging paradigm is not primarily an accommodation to modern thought, not a reduction or abandonment of the Christian tradition. Rather, it is “neo-traditional.” Neo: it is new – we haven’t seen exactly this form of Christianity before. It is traditional: it is a recovery, a retrieval, of what was most central to Christianity–God, Jesus, the Bible, “the way”–before the distortions created by the collision with modernity.We’ve looked at the differences between the earlier and emerging paradigms. So what do they have in common? Borg outlined three areas of shared thinking.1. At the heart of Christianity is God/The SacredGod: Christianity without a robust affirmation of God makes no important sense. Christianity shares this in common with the world's enduring religions.2. At the heart of Chrisitianity are the Bible and Jesus. They are the two primary sources of revelation for Christians. This is what distinguished Christianity from the world's other religions.The Bible is the Word of God expressed in human words.Jesus is the Word of God embodied in a human person.For Christians, Jesus is the decisive revelation of God, of what can be seen of God in a human life. When Jesus and the Bible conflict, Jesus is decisive.3. At the heart of Christianity is following Jesus: The Way. Christiantiy is a way, a path of transformation. The Christian life is about a relationship with God as known decisively in Jesus that transforms us “into the likeness of Christ.” The way, the transformation, is both personal ("born again" through "dying and rising with Christ") and political ("the kingdom of God" and "Jesus is Lord").The way is lived within Christian community and tradition.So if we’re in conversation with someone who subscribes to the opposite paradigm from our own, Borg suggests one way to make an overture to a productive dialog is to ask, “Would you agree with me that at the center of the Christian life is a relationship with God as known in Jesus?” And if the answer is yes, “This might provide a starting point for talking about our differences, if you wish.”

Review by

This is the best of the books we have read and discussed in our small group. What Borg says makes sense. It's thought-provoking and well written.

Review by

Marcus Borg articulates so well what I suspect is felt by most participative Christians who don't identify themselves with the fundamentalist religious right. I see why this book was given to each of the new member participants at St. Andrew. Borg thoughtfully conveys the "emerging" paradigm for Christianity (and supports that definition by comparing it, diplomatically, against the "earlier" paradigm). A lot of his concepts resonated with me.

Review by

I keep going back and going back to this book and I'm using a great deal of what Marcus Borg says in relation to how be can do something in a sacramental way.

Review by

I enjoyed Borg's thoughts on religious pluralism and his discussion about metaphorical truths in Biblical stories. I got a little tired of Borg constantly pushing the ideas of emerging Christian thought. It was interesting to compare and contrast emerging Christian and traditional Christian beliefs, to be sure, but Borg tended to repeat himself on the subject and that got a little old. While I can appreciate the fact that some can get hung up on taking certain Biblical texts literally, he belabored his point. The question I had after reading the book was 'whether you take some of these stories literally or not, does it really matter'? This book fell short of answering that question.

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