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The God We Never Knew: Beyond Dogmatic Religion to a More Authentic Contemporary Faith

4.17  ·  Rating Details  ·  527 Ratings  ·  61 Reviews
How to have faith—or even think about God—without having to stifle modern rational thought is one of the most vital challenges facing many of us today. Marcus J. Borg, author of the bestselling Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, traces his personal spiritual journey to the discovery of an authentic yet fully contemporary understanding of God. In a compelling, readable ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published May 19th 2015 by HarperOne (first published 1997)
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Jun 23, 2008 Jim rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion, non-fiction
Marcus Borg makes the case for a panentheistic concept of God, panentheism being a way of conveiving God's relation to the material universe.

Borg contrasts his concept with other ways of thinking about God:

- Theism (or supernatural theism) assumes a God that is entirely separate from nature, but who occasionally intervenes in miraculous ways (the "old man in the sky").

- Pantheism assumes that God and nature are one, that God is not separate from the universe.

- Deism assumes God created the un
Apr 27, 2008 Amy rated it it was amazing
Thoughtful, informative, and accessible, this book was exactly what I was seeking as I'm exploring my Christian beliefs and questioning what I had been taught about Christianity starting in my childhood. The author, Marcus Borg, deconstructs Christianity as both he and I had first learned it (e.g., God as distant, "out there"; God as judge, "finger-shaker"; salvation as an outcome to motivate beliefs and behaviors). He then proposes a historically- and scripture-based framework for Christianity ...more
Jackie Hilaire
Nov 16, 2015 Jackie Hilaire rated it it was amazing
They'll know we are Christians by our love.

Liberation theology at it's finest and the exodus has to start with oneself, another follows and another and the world is being re-born. Here is where the author leaves us but not without discernment and guidance.

The God we never knew in our childhood, rises above tradition, does not come to destroy tradition but to enhance our relationship with God, our relationship with self, others and the world.

Who is this God of relationship? Where did he come from
Oct 19, 2014 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: want-to-reread
I'm grateful that someone recommended this book to me. I've been reading the Bible as The Message Remix translation the past year or so, and so much of what I've read just didn't fit with the traditional theology I'd been taught, nor did that theology fit with the world I saw around me. The God We Never Knew introduced me to entirely new ways of thinking about God and about Jesus that made far more sense to me than anything I'd previously been taught.

Using Scripture along with a historical persp
Dec 25, 2013 Andrew rated it liked it
By and large, I found this to be a nice approach to dogmatism. I feel like being averse to dogmatism is often one of those things we tend to say without necessarily internalizing or applying it. "Yeah. I've been trying to move away from all the biblical rules and have a deeper relationship with Christ..." as "yeah, I'm going to try and drop a few pounds next year..." It feels more authentic and meaningful coming from Borg.

I did take a slight issue with some of Borg's statements, although even th
George Mills
May 23, 2013 George Mills rated it liked it
Borg presents a God all would hope for (which is why we never knew him), but his vision simply wishes the terrible, vindictive, jealous, genocidal, and even infantile God portrayed in many books of the Old Testament away. Like all apologists, his vision of Jehovah does not include the blood thirsty tribal deity of the 1st 5 books of the Bible. There is much to wish for in Borg's portrayal, but one cannot take all of the good and positive traits of something and say the other traits are simply th ...more
Nov 02, 2012 John rated it really liked it
This book updates Paul Tillich for the twenty-first century. Borg speaks comprehensively to those who are attracted by religion, especially Christianity, but who don't know how to participate while maintaining their integrity. Borg uses Tillich's updating of traditional Christian terms in a sweeping way, showing how his "new" understanding of God impacts all areas of the Christian life, ending with some thoughts on the afterlife. I bought his The Heart of Christianity at a used book sale this we ...more
Mar 16, 2015 Greg rated it it was amazing
Marcus Borg is a distinguished scholar, and author of many books on the historical Jesus. His best writing, however, is saved for teaching lay readers his conception of God. This book in particular is very personal for him. “The story of my own Christian and spiritual journey thus involves the movement from supernatural theism through doubt and disbelief to panentheism. The God I have met as an adult is the God I never knew growing up in the church.” (12) John Robinson strongly influenced Borg. ...more
Feb 08, 2015 Eric rated it really liked it
I have already enjoying reading, and being challenged by, the writing and speaking of Marcus Borg. When I, sadly, learned of his death a few weeks ago, I decided to pull out one of his books that I had never got around to reading and to do so in his memory.

Classic Borg. A willingness to share out of his rich experience, but also a strength and ability to be honest about his questions and uncertainties about faith, God and what it means to live in the Spirit. In this text, Borg does a very nice j
Geoff Glenister
Feb 27, 2016 Geoff Glenister rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the things I love about Borg is his clarity - he is an excellent communicator. Another is that I feel so often like he's telling my story. Right away, in the introduction, Borg describes a view of God that got in the way of the one he is about to explore - and I felt like I could have written this section myself:
Because of my Christian upbringing, I thought I knew what the word God meant: a supernatural being “out there” who created the world a long time ago and had occasionally intervene
Jul 15, 2009 Jason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Christians, students of religion
Describes the Biblical basis for a panentheistic understanding of God. Explains clearly how our images of God influence how we relate to God, one another, and the natural world. Argues for a plurality of images of God and for a "new" understanding of Christianity that is less exclusivist and more focused on individual relationship with God, one another, and the world.
Thabu Pienaar
Let me start that there are things I agree with Marcus Borg, but also things I fundamentally don't agree with.

The things I agree with and wishes every Christian to experience, is the notions that:
1. God is not "out there", or like the popular song, "watching us from a distance". This concept of God makes Him in a sense irrelevant for day-to-day living
2. God wishes a personal relationship with Him, not a religious belief in doctrinal statements (although that is sometimes necessary to understand
Khup Mang
Dec 06, 2014 Khup Mang rated it really liked it
Marcus Borg and Religious Pluralism

Borg has no direct mention of religious pluralism in this book though he hints the idea in many ways. He seems to have at least two fundamental arguments for it. The first being, it might be termed, ‘an ethical concern’ and the second is ‘a metaphysical one’ or his interpretation of the Christian religion.

It is a simple fact that we live in an era where welcoming pluralistic of values is a necessity and a norm. We could not have a sense of community without re
Sep 07, 2014 Sharon rated it it was amazing
Having studied modern theology for some 40 years (as an amateur, of course), Borg's writing does not surprise me, but he does express very well my understanding of the Bible, the church, and the meaning of faith. I am surprised that so little of this understanding has permeated the understanding of American church-goers. Borg makes the point that the fundamental, literal reading so many embrace is only a couple of hundred years old and does not reflect the origins of the faith. I was grateful to ...more
Jordan Summers
Feb 05, 2015 Jordan Summers rated it it was amazing
This book is hard to describe. The man who wrote it was a religious scholar, so he knows of which he speaks. For people who have no questions about their faith or religion in general, then I'd say give this book a pass because it WILL upset you. But if you're like me and have a LOT of questions, then this book is well worth a read. I found the subject truly fascinating. It explained some of my many questions and gave me a lot to think about. It's not a fast read nor should it be. You have to thi ...more
May 13, 2008 Michael rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fivestars
Excellent for those who have outgrown the idea of the Old Feller in the Sky, but who still want "God".
Alex Houseknecht
Mar 19, 2016 Alex Houseknecht rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
I read this book at a transitional time in my spiritual life, when I was wondering if I should walk away from Christianity, or just ignore the growing dissonance between the Scriptures and my experiences in a postmodern society. Borg makes a compelling argument that we can move beyond dogmatism, and experience a rich spiritual life that remains rooted in the Scriptures, while affirming the reality that fundamentalism seeks to oppose.

Borg takes a fairly systematic approach to his introduction of
Jan 07, 2015 Andrew rated it liked it
This book explores Borg's idea of a "contemporary faith" that won't (might not?) appall reasonable people, backed by tons of scholarly notes that, I hate to admit, I never read. Even though the title does not mention Jesus Christ, the book focuses on a new vision of many core ideas of the New Testament, like "salvation" and grace, much like Borg's other books do.

To me, the message felt a little bloodless and repetitive. It's clear that Borg is a scholar, not a mystic, or at least if he experienc
Thurman Faison
Jun 22, 2010 Thurman Faison rated it really liked it
I would like to commend Marcus Borg for writing this book. In it he admits his struggles in coming into a concept of God, Christ, The Spirit and the scriptures that met his personal spiritual needs. The title "The God We Never Knew" is an attention getter. It certainly should be expected to get a response from many that would probably say "speak for yourself Mr Borg, we have known for some time the God that you have only recently discovered after many years of searching". I don't mean in any way ...more
Jul 26, 2013 Audrey rated it really liked it
An excellent book providing a most satisfying view of God. Borg says that "God has always been in relationship to us, journeying with us, and yearning to be known by us. Yet we commonly do not know this or experience this." The way we image God very definitely affects how we experience God. Borg provides quite a number of sacred images to show how we can be in contact with and experience meaningful relationship with God.

Borg continues his exploration of God by affirming Jesus as the revelation o
Jan 20, 2013 Salena rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion, mythology
I bought the book, but had been avoiding it for fear of being irritated at all the Christian theology. But I haven’t been at all. There have only been one or two times in this book where I’ve rolled my eyes internally.

No, this author gets it. He knows the point of faith, and that it has nothing to do with the afterlife. Sure, I find it a little annoying that he states that he uses the terms “God,” “Spirit” and “the Divine” interchageably, but the Christianity he proposes solves many of the same
Sep 07, 2008 Maria rated it it was amazing
This book introduces a new way of envisioning God that I had not thought about before. I don't know (theologically) if everything he has concluded is accurate or something I'm willing to believe, but it certainly gives me lots of thinking to do over the next few years. I like where he's taking my thinking about God as panentheistic (all around us and with us all the time instead of dwelling somewhere else far away in space or beyond; different from pantheism, which states that God is in everythi ...more
Kevin Summers
Nov 25, 2014 Kevin Summers rated it really liked it
Borg's theological approach is a breath of fresh air.

Sample quote: "The spiritual journey in Christian as well as non-Christian forms, is thus about the hatching of the heart, the opening of the self to the reality of the Spirit. This opening begins the process by which the self at its deepest level is reoriented and transformed."
Linda Owen
Jan 15, 2014 Linda Owen rated it really liked it
I had come to some of the same conclusions on my own (including the right pronoun to use for God!), but Professor Borg places these ideas in a theological and historical context that is extremely enlightening. The experience of the sacred is central to his argument, and frankly could use even more emphasis in this book. (One of my frustrations with progressive Christianity is its tendency to intellectualize faith and over-rely on words -- even in hymns.) Borg's understanding of salvation is part ...more
Jan 27, 2016 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Borg has done a fantastic job of talking about God, Jesus, Scripture, church, tradition, and terminology that often baffles Christians and repels those outside the Christian faith.

His story is not unique in the fact that many Christians need to come back to faith in a way very different than their childhood years. Nevertheless, the clarity in the way he speaks to this issue and the qualifications as a pastoral theologian makes Borg an excellent worthwhile read.

For anyone who is tired of Christi
Apr 24, 2015 Micah rated it it was amazing
Marcus Borg is one of the two most important authors (the other being Paul Tillich) in helping me understand Christianity on an intellectual level. (Actually, there are probably three, if you count my father the Lutheran pastor as an author. The man has written at least a few books' worth of sermons, I think). This is another fantastic book of his, which helps lay out a vision of Christianity that is about engaging life more deeply rather than retreating from it.

My dad and I went on a weekend r
Gordon Bowman iii
Enlightening and very meaningful

Borg's take on God and the Christian life are freeing and empowering. I wish more Christians were as open-minded and contemplative as he. My doubts and insecurities about my faith found a refuge in his wise and careful words. Definitely worth the enjoyable read.
Oct 17, 2013 Gary rated it liked it
Mr. Borg has an interesting modern synopsis of historical Christian beliefs that I found refreshing to be reminded of. // You do need to keep in mind however, that in addition to offering a historical Christian perspective, he also advocates a historical Jesus, which is a totally different use of the word. He uses reverse-engineering to achieve this goal. You start with the belief that Christ can't be divine, so you strip away everything in the Bible that indicates his Godhead. Then you read the ...more
Jan 24, 2008 Alicia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spirituality
Growing up, I never understood why some people don't like talking about their faith. I know people who grew up with church and don't go. I didn't put a lot of thought into why. Reading this book introduced me to some views of God that I didn't know about. It is now easier for me to understand why some people wouldn't want to go to church. I feel fortunate in the view of God that is taught at my church. For me, He is a loving and forgiving father and friend.
Jul 18, 2012 Jo rated it really liked it
Apparently this is the 2nd time I've tried reading this book and haven't managed to finish it before it was due back at the library. I think I need to buy my own copy. Even though it's not a very long book it requires slow, thoughtful reading.

Marcus Borg is one of my favorite writers on religious/spiritual topics even though his views are often a little more theologically liberal than mine.

1st try at reading: Jan 2009
2nd try at reading: Jul 2012
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Borg was born into a Lutheran family of Swedish and Norwegian descent, the youngest of four children. He grew up in the 1940s in North Dakota and attended Concordia College, Moorhead, a small liberal arts school in Moorhead, Minnesota. While at Moorhead he was a columnist for the school paper and held forth as a conservative. After a close reading of the Book of Amos and its overt message of socia ...more
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“The point is not that Jesus was a good guy who accepted everybody, and thus we should do the same (though that would be good). Rather, his teachings and behavior reflect an alternative social vision. Jesus was not talking about how to be good and how to behave within the framework of a domination system. He was a critic of the domination system itself.” 40 likes
“The Christian life is not about pleasing God the finger-shaker and judge. It is not about believing now or being good now for the sake of heaven later. It is about entering a relationship in the present that begins to change everything now. Spirituality is about this process: the opening of the heart to the God who is already here.” 25 likes
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