Friday, February 9, 2007

Believing in the creeds

I am uncomfortable with some of the doctrines professed in organized religion. Is believing certain creeds really what Christianity is all about?

By Marcus Borg

As I see it, being Christian is not primarily about believing a set of statements to be true. I think that's one of the distortions introduced into the Christian tradition over the last 300 years or so because of the conflict between traditional Christianity and the enlightenment of the 17th Century. [That conflict] called many traditional Christian teachings into question and had an unfortunate transforming effect on the meaning of faith. Faith began to mean believing difficult things to be true, which puts the emphasis in the wrong place.

I don't think God is concerned primarily about the beliefs in our heads, but about something much deeper within us. If one understands the beliefs of the tradition and the scriptures of the tradition not as what is to be believed, but as pointers beyond themselves that use the language of metaphor and poetry and symbol and so forth, then one can begin to see that the Christian life is about a relationship to the sacred. Christianity, like all the religions of the world, is a human construction. It uses human language, culturally conditioned relative language, and to absolutize that language is a profound mistake.

To be Christian, I would say, is to live within the Christian tradition as a metaphor of the sacred, and also as a sacrament of the sacred. The tradition as a whole has as one of its main purposes mediating the reality of the spirit or the reality of the sacred—that is, entering into a relationship with the sacred. It's about entering into a relationship with suchness, with is-ness. I think of God, to use very abstract language, as is-ness without limits. Our relationship to is-ness matters profoundly. It will shape our whole way of being in the world. If we see is-ness as indifferent, we will be concerned with our own self-protection. If we see is-ness as threatening, we'll be even more paranoid about life. But if we see is-ness as giving us life, it creates the possibility of relating to life in a non-threatened kind of way. That makes possible the lives of the saints.

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