Sunday, May 02, 2010

Borg: I am a committed Christian and a complete agnostic about the afterlife

Marcus Borgisms have been floating around the ECOOS e-mail lists the past couple of weeks and provide an endless source of amusement to this simple pewster.

The latest emanations included his famous "I am a committed Christian and a complete agnostic about the afterlife." Of course if he really meant it he would have said "an" afterlife (note to Marcus, you might want to update that page).

He continues,
"I use 'agnostic' in its precise sense: one who does not know."

That might be a good stopping point. After all if you don't know, then what is there to say?

For those interested in the term agnostic, I think we should look back to its origins. A-gnosis is the opposite of knowing, or the opposite of gnosis. A quick web search always leads back to Huxley:

"When Huxley first coined the term agnosticism, he had in mind a methodology which limited our claims to knowledge to only those ideas which are adequately supported by evidence and logic." (Austin Cline @

As I said earlier, if you define agnostic as one who does not know, then one should not say anything more, and one really does not need to hold the job of Canon Theologian of the Episcopal church of Washington, does one? Agnosis does not stop Borg from pontificating about others gnosis,
"There is more to say. I think that conventional Christianity’s emphasis on the afterlife for many centuries is one of its negative features. I have often said that if I were to make a list of Christianity’s ten worst contributions to religion, it would be its emphasis on an afterlife, for more than one reason.

When the afterlife is emphasized, it almost inevitable that Christianity becomes a religion of requirements and rewards. If there is a blessed afterlife, it seems unfair to most people that everyone gets one, regardless of how they have lived. So there must be something that differentiates those who get to go to heaven from those who don’t – and that something must be something we do, either believing or behaving or some combination of both. And this counters the central Christian claim that salvation is by grace, not by meeting requirements."

It is not enough to say that I don't know if there is an afterlife, Borg has to create his own structured afterlife building in "unfairness" into his construct. Who could therefore believe in that?
"Another problem: the division between those who 'measure up' and those who don’t leads to further distinctions: between the righteous and the unrighteous, the saved and the unsaved."

And you thought life was unfair. Borg's afterlife is doubly so.
"Another problem: an emphasis on the afterlife focuses our attention on the next world rather than on this world. Most of the Bible, on the other hand, focuses our attention on our lives in this world and the transformation of this world. At the heart of the Lord’s Prayer is the petition for the coming of God’s kingdom on earth: your kingdom come on earth, as it already is in heaven. There is nothing in the Lord’s Prayer asking that God take us to heaven when we die."

Oh dear, so he is using the Lord's prayer in his argument and the prayer comes from where? Oh yeah, the Bible, that illogical, unscientific, and unverifiable compilation that no one could possibly use as a foundation of faith.

As long as he has it open, he might want to turn to Luke 23:42-3 (verse 42, by the way, was sung by the children's choir today during communion),

Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

I may not know what paradise will be like, but that promise is something that most of those "common Christians" that Borg disdains hold onto.
"As yet another reason for my agnosticism about an afterlife: does it involve the survival of personal identity and reunion with those we have known in this life? Are family reunions part of the afterlife? For some people, this is much to be desired, for family has been the primary source of love and joy in this life. But for perhaps an equally large number of people, family has been the primary source of pain and unhappiness. So, are we going to be with those people forever?"

This reminds me of the Saducee's question for Jesus about the widow with seven husbands. (See Mark 12:18-27, Matthew 22:23-33, Luke 20:27-40 )Didn't Jesus drop a little hint about the afterlife there?
"At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven."

If only we could have one of those angels to dissect. If only we had an example of someone who came back from the afterlife.

Borg concludes,
"What I do affirm about what happens after death is very simple: when we die, we do not die into nothingness, but we die into God. In the words of the apostle Paul, we live unto the Lord and we die unto the Lord. So whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s."

Wait just one second, I thought he was agnostic about the afterlife! Isn't an affirmation based on scripture closer to gnosis than agnosis?
"For me, that is enough. My not knowing anything more does not bother me at all."

But "not knowing anything more" means Borg does know something. He is not completely agnostic about the afterlife after all.

So what has he got against the afterlife as believed in by common Christians?
"And I am very wary when the Christian gospel becomes a message about the afterlife. I am convinced that it invariably leads to distortion. This is not the Christian gospel."

Here he goes again creating a straw man gospel, and it is not worth getting dragged into that type of argument.

This page from Borg's site reminds me of the common Christian woman who told me that this kind of stuff ain't bad preachin, it's just wrong preachin!

From what I have read, Borg's approach is the one that invariably leads to distortion. Oh well, I guess it does sell books.


  1. Enjoy the blog!
    My question is why Borg, Crossan, and well half the Episcopal priests are so interested in being titled "Christians," when they neither believe or profess the faith passed down from the Apostle's, the importance of Scripture, or in Christ except as a moral teacher from the past.

    Keep up the good work!

  2. It would appear that Borg is pulling our legs with his claim of agnosticism. In truth, the just doesn't believe the Gospel as it's written, and feels compelled to pervert those institutions which perpetuate it. Were the end results not so tragic, it would be mildly amusing to see him disabused of his unbelief.