The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Response: Borg misses mark on fundamental Lutheran theology

Editor's note: This response to Jesus & the kingdom of God was posted July 18, 2007.

I think The Lutheran did us a disservice with Marcus Borg’s piece “Jesus & the kingdom of God” (June 2007). Worse still, Borg does the kingdom of God a disservice, even though he is speaking the party line of much of today’s biblical scholarly crowd.

As always for Lutherans the issue is: What is the gospel? So here, what is the good news called the kingdom of God that arrives in Jesus? Borg’s answer is the mantra that is the current shibboleth among theologians and churches, the ELCA often included—“peace and justice,” a pair of terms never predicated to the kingdom anywhere in the New Testament. Borg wants us to believe “the kingdom of God is what life would be like on earth if God were king and the rulers of this world were not. Kingdom of God is God’s dream for the earth.” There is no New Testament support for that claim. It’s Borg’s fabrication—and that of dozens (hundreds?) of others. It’s fiction.

Craig A. Satterlee’s article ("'The kingdom of God is like…'") now and then gets a little closer to a Lutheran Reformation reading of New Testament kingdom texts—but not clearly enough, I’d say. Best of all, though it seems he doesn’t know he’s contradicting Borg big time, is Robert C. Blezard’s study guide. In it he goes—of all things—to the Book of Concord to quote Phillip Melanchthon and Martin Luther on the topic. Hallelujah! They do not say what Borg says as they spec out the kingdom of God.

Melanchthon and Luther say perfectly clearly that the kingdom of God is what Jesus goes through so faith can happen, so folks may trust God, where previously they didn’t do so. In contemporary lingo the kingdom is always an event on the God-human interface, not the human-to-human interface. It’s an event in our relationship to God (forgiveness of sins), not our relationship to fellow humans in the world (a society of peace and justice). Jesus is sine qua non for the first, not the second. God operates in the second, not “needing” Jesus to get his work done there.

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