Marcus Borg: False teacher

This is an oldie from my other blog.  If anyone takes Borg seriously you can be pretty sure you have a false teacher on your hands.


I am disappointed that false teachers have so much influence on the church today.  I realize that Jesus said it would happen so I shouldn’t be surprised.  But that doesn’t mean we should stop identifying and removing these teachers.

I have no problem with people asking questions about the faith.  In fact, I strongly encourage it.  Getting answers to tough questions was a major part of my path to being a believer.  The Bible encourages critical thinking and examination of the evidence.  You don’t have to be a Bible expert to be saved (the criminal on the cross probably hadn’t led too many Bible studies).

But the church often gives the microphone to false teachers who harm people with their lies. Here is an example.  It is a Q&A by Dr. Marcus Borg, liberal theologian, from

How can I know the truth about Christianity if I question the Bible’s status as the literal Word of God?

For people who are literalists and see the Bible as a divine product, having a divine guarantee to be true, if that set of beliefs isn’t getting in their way, if it’s not causing them intellectual problems, and if they’re not using those beliefs to judge other people and beat up on other people, then I have no need to try to change them.

The question is a good and fair one.  It is the answer that is the problem.  Notice the sleight of hand where Borg assumes that the Bible is not divinely inspired and that it is OK to believe it is as long as that false “set of beliefs isn’t getting in their way” and “if they’re not using those beliefs to judge other people.”  Looks to me like Borg is judging people quite a bit here.  He doesn’t “need” to change you from your wrong beliefs as long as you follow his rules – i.e., believe whatever you want as long as you don’t act as if it is true.  Where did he get his notion that judging was wrong?

The spirit can work through Biblical literalism.

Really?  It can?  Which spirit?  I wonder what his source of information is for that?  It can’t be the Bible, as he has already eliminated that as a source of truth.

Most often, of course, it does lead to a division of the world into the “saved” and the “unsaved .” But basically, if a literalistic way of seeing the Bible is leading to a life that is more and more filled with the spirit and filled with compassion, I have no problem with people staying in that place.

He dogmatically assumes that the world isn’t split into “saved” and “unsaved” people.  Again, what is his source of truth for that grandiose claim?  That immediately puts him at odds with nearly all religions, including his professed religion of Christianity.   Again, what “spirit” is he referring to?  Isn’t that nice that he doesn’t mind you staying “in that place” (a belief in the authority of scripture) as long as you meet his definition of compassion?  What is his source of truth that compassion trumps all other virtues?

But for people who can’t be literalists and for people who are literalists and are fearful if they let go of [their literalism] then the whole thing falls into ruin, I would say that in one sense of the word know, we can’t know that Christianity, or any of the religions, is true in the sense of being able to demonstrate it. One use of the word “know” in the modern period is something you can verify. In that sense, we can’t know.

Christianity is an evidential and historical religion.  The Bible contains information about real people in real places at real times.  Archeology is the Bible’s best friend.  The manuscript evidence for the Bible is far better than for any other work of antiquity.  The fulfilled prophecies had to have come from God.  Perhaps we can’t prove every item to Borg’s satisfaction, but there is much evidence to point to the literal life, death and resurrection of Christ.

But we can take seriously a different kind of knowing. It’s a very ancient kind of knowing. The ancients called it intuition. And, unfortunately, in our world, intuition is seen as kind of a weak thing. It’s associated with women’s intuition, a vague hunching or something like that. But the ancient meaning of the word “intuition” or “intuitive knowing” is direct knowing, a knowing that’s not dependent upon verification. A synonym for intuitive knowing would be mystical knowing. There are people in every culture who have had what they regard as direct knowing experiences of God or the sacred. That kind of knowing is possible, and for me personally, it’s that direct knowing, that intuitive knowing, that is the most persuasive soft data for affirming that God or the sacred is real.

OK, this is where it gets even more foolish.  He now explains the source of his spiritual information: intuition.  Read the items in bold carefully [emphasis in original].  Borg is claiming that his intuitive knowing trumps all other evidence that God or the sacred is real.  Presumably this intuitive knowing says that the Bible isn’t God’s inspired Word.  But what if my intuitive knowing says it is?  I’m pretty sure that Osama B. would claim his intuitive knowing is valid regarding spiritual matters.  When your intuition is the opposite of Borg’s, can you both be right?  No, because we are talking about facts, not opinions.

If he wants to appeal to intuition, here’s a much better argument: Intuition tells us that something can’t be “A” and “not A” at the same time.  For example, Jesus either died on the cross (Christianity and secular historians) or a body double did (Islam).  Jesus was the Messiah (Christianity) or He wasn’t (Judaism).  We live one life and after that we face judgment (Christianity, Hebrews 9:7) or we are reincarnated (Hinduism, New Age).  It works with non-spiritual examples as well.  Two plus two either equals four or it doesn’t; the answer can’t be four and “not four” at the same time.

Folks, nonsense like letting your intuition trump all other evidence and logic is the worst kind of postmodern reasoning.  It leads to all sorts of bad thinking.  This guy has a Phd, yet he says these illogical things . . . and people believe him and buy his books.  A group at my church studied a book Borg wrote with N.T. Wright (a conservative theologian) and they actually took Borg seriously and thought he was an authentic Christian.  I sat in on part of the class.  It was pretty painful.  It reminds me of this verse:

2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

The Bible claims to speak for God many hundreds of times and there are one hundred specific passages saying that Jesus is the only way to salvation.  If Borg and other liberal theologians don’t believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, they are entitled to their opinions.  No one can force them to change.  If they are right then the Bible is hopelessly flawed and useless for any purpose, spiritual or otherwise (name one book you would bother to read if you knew it had that many errors).  But to call themselves “Christians” is to trash the 2,000 year old meaning of the word and replace it with a new definition, and to look to them for spiritual guidance is foolishness.

Also see Biblical literalists? and Doctrine counts.

2 thoughts on “Marcus Borg: False teacher”

  1. Wow… the quotes you provided made my jaw drop. But he does very well in playing the slight of hand that is becoming increasingly common in these more “open” lines of thought within our faith (or, rather, supposedly within our faith). And, unfortunately, wolves travel in packs, so he’s not alone

    Thanks for the reminder that not all those claiming to be Christians are preaching the truth, and so we have to give a critical eye to anyone expounding on our faith.

    Thanks for sharing!

    – Amanda


    1. Hi Amanda,

      Thanks for visiting and commenting! Good point about traveling in packs. They all masquerade as angels of light.

      Sent from my iPhone


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