The Heart of Christianity

At Trinity United Church in Oakville, we have begun an experiment- a congregation-based study of the book “The Heart of Christianity”, written 10 years ago by Marcus Borg. Each week I am basing my “Teaching Time” on a chapter of the book, and then after the worship service, those interested in further discussion are invited to the choir room for a “talk back” session.

I have realized when I have offered other educational opportunities in the past, that not everyone who might be interested in the subject, is able to attend a mid-week class. I also believe it important to engage as many faithful people as we can in what Borg calls the “unending conversation”, a metaphor for the ongoing process of wrestling with, and sharing our faith. Borg actually borrowed the idea from an American intellectual who wrote about language and culture.

The Unending Conversation

(from the Philosophy of Literary Form, by Kenneth Burke)

Imagine that you enter a parlor. You come late. When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about. In fact, the discussion had already begun long before any of them got there, so that no one present is qualified to retrace for you all the steps that had gone before. You listen for a while, until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in your oar. Someone answers; you answer him; another comes to your defense; another aligns himself against you, to either the embarrassment or gratification of your opponent, depending upon the quality of your ally’s assistance. However, the discussion is interminable. The hour grows late, you must depart. And you do depart, with the discussion still vigorously in progress.

I think it is healthy to think about theology as a conversation, rather than as a collection of “truths” that we must accept and swallow without question, like a handful of foul tasting “pills” that someone says are good for us.

In a companion guide to “The Heart of Christianity’, my colleague Tim Scorer, a United Church educator from British Columbia describes three aspects of the “unending conversation” into which we are invited:

We receive what we have been given, what has been passed on to us. We
interpret our faith, in light of life in the world we live in. We allow the
faith we have been given to have its own voice in our current world.

On the companion site to this blog, I have posted my first two “teaching times” in this series. The introduction to the series is called “They grow up so quickly”. The second one is called “Old Paradigms and New Paradigms”. You can look at these by following the link below to “Sharing Bread Along the Way”.


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