Who Will Save Us?

Who Will Save Us?

The “end times” have always been with us it seems. Early Christianity anticipated an apocalyptic end. They were sure it was close at hand. But “believers” were confident that what would follow would be “a new heaven and a new earth” sent from above by the power and will of God who would make all things new.

We are confronting our own “end time” scenarios. And it has us worried. The bad news: God is not going to “come down” and save us. The good news: we are right here and can make a difference.

The human role in saving the planet

I am interested to get a sense from you, readers of Marcus Borg and people who have been influenced by him, what you think of our role and responsibilities in our present and future knowing that ‘God’ is not going to come down and clean up the mess. I appreciate that at one time it may have been considered hopeful and even faithful to trust that our guidance and ultimate solutions would come from ‘God’ who was “somewhere, out there.” But it is high time to relinquish our attachment to the God of Supernatural Theism, “putting away childish things” to borrow a phrase from St. Paul and the title of Marc’s novel, and take seriously our work in this arguably critical juncture in human history. The stakes are high. For us and our planet. And some would even say for the future of God.

There are many who are thoughtfully reflecting on the human role in the development of God. For some this tolls the death of God. I think it is rather a call to re-imagine ‘God.’ And that is a good and healthy thing. Necessary. Essential. Part of growing up.

Who to Turn to

“The old made spirit the parent of matter, the new makes matter the parent of spirit,” wrote 19th century philosophy and theologian Ludwig Feuerbach. 19th century! Lloyd Geering, in his book From the Big Bang to God, puts it this way: “…whereas the old world said that God had made humankind, the truth is that humans have made ‘God’.” Before you dismiss this, consider what he goes on to say: “…the attributes that comprise ‘God’ represent the projection of our highest moral qualities, such as love, justice, compassion and forgiveness onto a cosmic backdrop. Even when the imaged divine ‘being’ disappears, these values remain. Though they are human values, it is to them that we must respond as our forbears responded to God… we must accept the fact that we have no one else to turn to but one another in seeking answers to our questions.

Geering is not disparaging about humanity or our future. (Nor naively optimistic.) He sees religion as having an important role in our historical lives and ‘God’ a unifying point to which everything else can be oriented. God has symbolic meaning. And this is not trivial.

God Enfleshed

For theists, Geering might seem too dismissive and stark. But I suggest he is inviting us to look a bit differently at God and us while taking the person of Jesus seriously. Very seriously. The great doctrine of incarnation claims that God is enfleshed in the human being. How far do we take this? How do we interpret and understand “incarnation?” Was Jesus a one-off or an embodiment of our capacities as well?

We humans are capable of a range of perceptions and actions. Some are awful. Some are remarkable. We have the power to choose. Jesus is our hope. Humanity’s hope. He is a human example of “our highest moral qualities” and capacities in the midst of oppression, injustice, war, violence, “end time” angst. He did not fall to any dark and fearful “strategies.” What about us? I find it ironic that many “believers” are often suspect of anything that smacks of humanism when our tradition so inextricably links ‘God’ and us, ‘God’ in our mortal flesh.

Fully human world

If we think or believe that God “up there” is going to save us, now or in the future, I fear we are making a critical if not fatal category mistake. I suggest we think through carefully and anew the quote attributed to Augustine: Without God, we cannot. Without us, God will not.

Perhaps this comment from Gordon Kaufman from his book In Face of Mystery can help us:

To believe in God is to commit oneself to a particular way of ordering one’s life and action. It is to devote oneself to working towards a fully human world within the ecological restraints here on planet Earth, while standing in piety and awe before the profound mysteries of existence.

What do you think of this? I will tip my hand: I like it.

Help me think through all this… What are your thoughts, concerns??

15 Comment(s)
  • Ken Sandine Posted February 21, 2018 3:11 pm

    The arena within which we live in the USA is one in which the “theological center of gravity” discounts the value of “being human,” with scriptural texts to support “out of the womb” sinfulness. Mainline orthodoxy aids and abets, without any meaningful “on the other hand…”. I am indebted to Marcus, whose life and scholarly “workmanship” placed value on humanity being fashioned imagining a loving Creator. Fashioning began before the womb, then in the womb, then beyond the womb. In my word arena, the medium of expression that resonates is Christian. Christianity embraces but one of God’s mediums of expression: Jesus. IT is not an “out there” medium. IT is “in, out, and of” with us humans responsible for playing the most important and expressive role.

  • Gary Roth Posted February 20, 2018 3:46 am

    What we say, when we say Jesus is “son of God” is that he reveals the priorities and life of God and, in that, reveals also what it means to be “truly human” in its best sense. Beyond that, he invites us into the life of God, “who so loved the world.” This life in God, is what the Kingdom of God consists in. It is not other-worldly, but this worldly. God does not come at the last moment to save us from ourselves; we are called to participate, rather, in the Kingdom of God by loving as God loves – “being for others and for the world.” Jesus’ life and teachings showed us what this looks like in human terms; his death showed us the costliness of owning this vision; the resurrection declarated that this is the only way to be truly human.. To die to self, brings life to self, the community and the world. So this is both a spiritual an ethical challenge – to give up our own security, desires, etc. for the sake of the world, so that the world may have life;, and a future in God.

  • Raymond Watchman Posted February 19, 2018 10:40 pm

    For me, God is not so much a deity in which I believe as a reality in which I abide.

  • Lilias Darcy-Fox Posted February 19, 2018 11:36 am

    There has been a shift in consciousness to understanding we are all one but it will take its usual evolutionary time to to gain popular assent, I feel we are only just beginning of the next leap, it needs time to assimilate, but it is so exiting and such a relief to have ones innate beliefs conf

  • Jim High Posted February 17, 2018 9:19 pm

    My comments were too long for this format, so I emailed them thru your contact page.

  • Christoph Schonenberger Posted February 15, 2018 1:41 am

    I have just finished a two-week course from Avatar – teachings by Harry Palmer – and he says pretty much the same as Feuerbach one hundred years ago. Avatar’s motto is ‘Love Precious Humanity’, and he presents his findings in an exciting and encouraging way.

    • Marianne Borg
      Marianne Borg Posted February 16, 2018 4:21 am

      Christoph. I don’t know much about Harry Palmer but my understanding is that he is influenced by Scientology, which arguably is related to mind control, suggests distancing from creation and remaking it,….and that Avatar risks being a bit cultish. If my cursory understanding of Palmer is such, I would discern carefully at what point his teachings actually create an us and them..”Love precious humanity”sounds like a familiar commandment. Do you care to offer any particulars or take aways from your course that you value? If I am completely misinformed I apologize for my cautionary note. Checking in on this website you must be familiar with Marcus Borg. I can confidentally say with him you are in Good Hands !

  • JoAnn Fabie Posted February 13, 2018 9:27 pm

    Feuerbach was ahead of his time. Even now he would be pushing boundaries. Because I won’t, cannot deny that no amount of love or goodness will make me God. God’s servant- God’s slave- God’s worshiper and thanksgiver but as humane as I can be — I am still The Ego driven me needing the acceptance, forgiveness and love only God can freely give.

    • Marianne Borg
      Marianne Borg Posted February 15, 2018 3:24 am

      JoAnn. I am still the ego driven me needing acceptance , forgiveness, love too. So, greetings fellow human being. Your experience of knowing the love of God is indisputable. And being as humane as you can be is the task…and “to love what is lovely and will not last,” as poet Mary Oliver writes. Perhaps what Feuerbach and Kaufman are getting at is that for many belief in God has been a response to a divine authority which has actually been the voice of other humans suggesting what is the divine imperative. They both are viewing the long arc of the history of God and it is a very mixed bag. I think they are urging us to take full responsibility for our choices in thought and action and become more morally responsible persons. And it sounds like that is exactly what you are doing. Press on. And thanks for your reflection.

  • John Russell-Curry Posted February 13, 2018 8:52 pm

    I read Reza Azlan’s latest book, “God: A Human History” (or something close to it). The book allows the reader to travel through time and through consciousness to arrive at a point that appears to “mirror” that of the Feuerbach quote. One might not need to read the whole of the book – but, peruse the final chapter that comes to a concise conclusion. (I will be re-reading that last chapter tonight to see if I’m somewhere near…)

    • Marianne Borg
      Marianne Borg Posted February 14, 2018 3:00 am

      John. Do give me a recap of that last chapter. I heard Azlan interviewed. Haven’t read the book. Based on the interview alone I prefer Lloyd Geering’s 2013 book From the Big Bang to God: Our Awe- Inspiring Journey of Evolution. The chapter titles might be a little off putting. This is a wonderful survey of not only the genesis of our planet but of the human thought world and the development of our understanding of ‘God’. It was from this book, near its end, that I took the Feuerbach quote. If you like Azlan’s book I think Geering’s will be more satisfying and edifying. If you get to it, let me know what you think and how they compare. Thanks so much for being part of this Conversation!

  • Forrest Curo Posted February 13, 2018 8:50 pm

    ‘Thinking through’ is okay, but won’t do the job:

    “You don’t do it through intellectual processes. What you do is you telepathically tap in to the one great world religion,
    which is only one,
    which has no name,
    and all of the other religions are merely maps of that.”

    [Stephen Gaskin]
    God is not anybody’s idea of God. Through our ideals do embody something truly spiritual, do dimly reflect what God is like — They aren’t the NonThing Itself.

    If you truly want to know about That, It will teach you through everything you find in the course of your life.

    • Marianne Borg
      Marianne Borg Posted February 14, 2018 3:32 am

      Forrest. Good to hear from you again. Maybe “reason” isn’t our best tool… but if it doesn’t get in our way it sometimes helps to clear the muddle. Is the Stephen Gaskin you quote of The Farm?? Is he getting at The Tao that is named is not The Tao?? And that if we are to apprehend “it” it is through another way than “thought”… ? The longer I live the more simple this is becoming… And to the one great world religion… I am all for an underlying unity… but that one great world religion probably looks a lot like ours!!! I see the truth of your last sentence “That” will teach you through everything you find in the course of your life. Ah that we be students of life and not work so hard to be its master. Stay in touch, Forrest. And share your view. I appreciate it.

  • Kathryn Van der Heiden Posted February 13, 2018 8:05 pm

    What a relief. My personal theological ideas affirmed.
    Thank you

    • Marianne Borg
      Marianne Borg Posted February 14, 2018 3:41 am

      Kathryn. There is something elegant and responsible and grown up in what Kaufman says….the importance of taking responsibility for this “one wild and precious life “ as poet Mary Oliver calls it. And Kaufman affirms that there is Wonder….and mystery…and awe…here and now. And isn’t it remarkable that we are here at all. The absence of a Supernatural Savior is actually good news for us I think. This is our home, earth, and we are its steward and how we see it and live it matters. It’s up to us. But we are hardly left comfortless. Or without hope. Thanks for being part of this conversation.

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