I’ve been scrambling since before Christmas, putting out fires and starting some, so my blogging has been spotty. But today is my birthday, so I thought I’d better say something. I spent the morning at Brian Algie’s ordination council (which he passed easily), and at lunch met a pastor whose church is a few blocks down from where I used to live. When I told him about my former home, he said he already knew that, and that the house brings me to mind whenever he passes, and he says a prayer for me. I was deeply moved, and told him that I also used to live in a Speedway and McDonald’s. Now I’m going to get even more prayers!
Last week I finished Apologetics class with a stellar group of students who filled me with hope for the future. We’ve got some fine leaders on the way. During the class we read an essay from Marcus Borg that pulled a trick I’ve seen a lot lately and wanted to warn you about. Some theologians aren’t completely honest, and they use the term “more” when they really mean “less.” Consider these quotes from Borg’s “The Gospels Are Reliable as Memory and Testimony,” in Debating Christian Theism.
“The Gospels as a developing tradition that combine memory and testimony frequently use the language of metaphor. ‘Metaphor’ refers to the more-than-literal, more-than-factual, more-than-historical meaning of words” (p. 436).
But “more-than-factual” turns out to mean “less-than-factual,” for Borg doesn’t believe many of the events in the gospels actually happened. He writes, “Did Jesus heal this particular blind man? Understanding the story as a metaphorical narrative means that this question hardly matters, and perhaps doesn’t matter at all. The affirmation is clear: Jesus is the light of the world, the light in our darkness, the one who gives sight to the blind. For Christians, the affirmation is true, independent of the historical basis of this story” (p. 437).
Borg turns his “more means less” hermeneutic on the resurrection. “Within this way of seeing the Gospels as a combination of memory and testimony, it does not matter whether Easter involved something spectacular happening to the physical body of Jesus. It does not need to defend the historical factuality of an empty tomb and a physical resurrection” (p. 441).
“Within this way of seeing the Easter stories, their truth does not depend upon whether something spectacular happened to the corpse of Jesus…For Christians, is anything lost by seeing the birth stories and Easter stories and the Gospels as a whole as a combination of memory and testimony? If something is lost, what is it?” (p. 442).
Paul would surely respond, “What is lost? Everything!” (1 Cor. 15:17, 32).
Don’t fall for the more means less head fake. The author may say “more,” but if the context screams “less,” then that is what he means. The resurrection of Jesus is more than a historical fact, but it is not less.