July 31st, 2011
01:00 AM ET

Do you speak Christian?

Editor's note: Kirby Ferguson is a New York-based writer, filmmaker and speaker who created the web video series Everything is a Remix. His videos, like the one above, can be found on Vimeo, an online community where artists share their films.

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) - Can you speak Christian?

Have you told anyone “I’m born again?” Have you “walked the aisle” to “pray the prayer?”

Did you ever “name and claim” something and, after getting it, announce, “I’m highly blessed and favored?”

Many Americans are bilingual. They speak a secular language of sports talk, celebrity gossip and current events. But mention religion and some become armchair preachers who pepper their conversations with popular Christian words and trendy theological phrases.

If this is you, some Christian pastors and scholars have some bad news: You may not know what you’re talking about. They say that many contemporary Christians have become pious parrots. They constantly repeat Christian phrases that they don’t understand or distort.

Marcus Borg, an Episcopal theologian, calls this practice “speaking Christian.” He says he heard so many people misusing terms such as “born again” and “salvation” that he wrote a book about the practice.

People who speak Christian aren’t just mangling religious terminology, he says. They’re also inventing counterfeit Christian terms such as “the rapture” as if they were a part of essential church teaching.

The rapture, a phrase used to describe the sudden transport of true Christians to heaven while the rest of humanity is left behind to suffer, actually contradicts historic Christian teaching, Borg says.

“The rapture is a recent invention. Nobody had thought of what is now known as the rapture until about 1850,” says Borg, canon theologian at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Portland, Oregon.

How politicians speak Christian

Speaking Christian isn’t confined to religion. It’s infiltrated politics.

Political candidates have to learn how to speak Christian to win elections, says Bill Leonard, a professor of church history at Wake Forest University’s School of Divinity in North Carolina.

One of our greatest presidents learned this early in his career. Abraham Lincoln was running for Congress when his opponent accused him of not being a Christian. Lincoln often referred to the Bible in his speeches, but he never joined a church or said he was born again like his congressional opponent, Leonard says.

"Lincoln was less specific about his own experience and, while he used biblical language, it was less distinctively Christian or conversionistic than many of the evangelical preachers thought it should be,” Leonard says.

Lincoln won that congressional election, but the accusation stuck with him until his death, Leonard says.

One recent president, though, knew how to speak Christian fluently.

During his 2003 State of the Union address, George W. Bush baffled some listeners when he declared that there was “wonder-working power” in the goodness of American people.

Evangelical ears, though, perked up at that phrase. It was an evangelical favorite, drawn from a popular 19th century revival hymn about the wonder-working power of Christ called “In the Precious Blood of the Lamb.”

Leonard says Bush was sending a coded message to evangelical voters: I’m one of you.

“The code says that one: I’m inside the community. And two: These are the linguistic ways that I show I believe what is required of me,” Leonard says.

Have you ‘named it and claimed it'?

Ordinary Christians do what Bush did all the time, Leonard says. They use coded Christian terms like verbal passports - flashing them gains you admittance to certain Christian communities.

Say you’ve met someone who is Pentecostal or charismatic, a group whose members believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as healing and speaking in tongues. If you want to signal to that person that you share their belief, you start talking about “receiving the baptism of the Holy Ghost” or getting the “second blessings,” Leonard says.

Translation: Getting a baptism by water or sprinkling isn’t enough for some Pentecostals and charismatics. A person needs a baptism “in the spirit” to validate their Christian credentials.

Or say you’ve been invited to a megachurch that proclaims the prosperity theology (God will bless the faithful with wealth and health). You may hear what sounds like a new language.

Prosperity Christians don’t say “I want that new Mercedes.” They say they are going to “believe for a new Mercedes.” They don’t say “I want a promotion.” They say I “name and claim” a promotion.

The rationale behind both phrases is that what one speaks aloud in faith will come to pass. The prosperity dialect has become so popular that Leonard has added his own wrinkle.

“I call it ‘name it, claim it, grab it and have it,’ ’’ he says with a chuckle.

Some forms of speaking Christian, though, can become obsolete through lack of use.

Few contemporary pastors use the language of damnation - “turn or burn,” converting “the pagans” or warning people they’re going to hit “hell wide open” - because it’s considered too polarizing, Leonard says. The language of “walking the aisle” is also fading, Leonard says.

Appalachian and Southern Christians often told stories about staggering into church and walking forward during the altar call to say the “sinner’s prayer” during revival services that would often last for several weeks.

“People ‘testified’ to holding on to the pew until their knuckles turned white, fighting salvation all the way,” Leonard says. “You were in the back of the church, and you fought being saved.”

Contemporary churchgoers, though, no longer have time to take that walk, Leonard says. They consider their lives too busy for long revival services and extended altar calls. Many churches are either jettisoning or streamlining the altar call, Leonard says.

“You got soccer, you got PTA, you got family responsibilities - the culture just won’t sustain it as it once did,” Leonard says.

Even some of the most basic religious words are in jeopardy because of overuse.

Calling yourself a Christian, for example, is no longer cool among evangelicals on college campuses, says Robert Crosby, a theology professor at Southeastern University in Florida.

“Fewer believers are referring to themselves these days as ‘Christian,’ ” Crosby says. “More are using terms such as ‘Christ follower.’ This is due to the fact that the more generic term, Christian, has come to be used within religious and even political ways to refer to a voting bloc.”

What’s at stake

Speaking Christian correctly may seem like it’s just a fuss over semantics, but it’s ultimately about something bigger: defining Christianity, says Borg, author of “Speaking Christian.”

Christians use common words and phrases in hymns, prayers and sermons “to connect their religion to their life in the world,” Borg says.

“Speaking Christian is an umbrella term for not only knowing the words, but understanding them,” Borg says. “It’s knowing the basic vocabulary, knowing the basic stories.”

When Christians forget what their words mean, they forget what their faith means, Borg says.

Consider the word “salvation.” Most Christians use the words "salvation" or "saved" to talk about being rescued from sin or going to heaven, Borg says.

Yet salvation in the Bible is seldom confined to an afterlife. Those characters in the Bible who invoked the word salvation used it to describe the passage from injustice to justice, like the Israelites’ liberation from Egyptian bondage, Borg says.

“The Bible knows that powerful and wealthy elites commonly structure the world in their own self-interest. Pharaoh and Herod and Caesar are still with us. From them we need to be saved,” Borg writes.

And when Christians forget what their faith means, they get duped by trendy terms such as the rapture that have little to do with historical Christianity, he says.

The rapture has become an accepted part of the Christian vocabulary with the publication of the megaselling “Left Behind” novels and a heavily publicized prediction earlier this year by a Christian radio broadcaster that the rapture would occur in May.

But the notion that Christians will abandon the Earth to meet Jesus in the clouds while others are left behind to suffer is not traditional Christian teaching, Borg says.

He says it was first proclaimed by John Nelson Darby, a 19th century British evangelist, who thought of it after reading a New Testament passage in the first book of Thessalonians that described true believers being “caught up in the clouds together” with Jesus.

Christianity’s focus has long been about ushering in God’s kingdom “on Earth, not just in heaven,” Borg says.

“Christianity’s goal is not to escape from this world. It loves this world and seeks to change it for the better,” he writes.

For now, though, Borg and others are also focusing on changing how Christians talk about their faith.

If you don’t want to speak Christian, they say, pay attention to how Christianity’s founder spoke. Jesus spoke in a way that drew people in, says Leonard, the Wake Forest professor.

“He used stories, parables and metaphors,” Leonard says. “He communicated in images that both the religious folks and nonreligious folks of his day understand.”

When Christians develop their own private language for one another, they forget how Jesus made faith accessible to ordinary people, he says.

“Speaking Christian can become a way of suggesting a kind of spiritual status that others don’t have,” he says. “It communicates a kind of spiritual elitism that holds the spiritually ‘unwashed’ at arm’s length."

By that time, they’ve reached the final stage of speaking Christian - they've become spiritual snobs.

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Baptist • Belief • Bible • Christianity • Church • Culture wars • Episcopal • Faith • Fundamentalism • Politics • Uncategorized

soundoff (3,878 Responses)
  1. Aubrey

    I wrote (and am updating) a post I wrote on this called "Christianese for Dummies" @ http://www.iBegYourPardon.ca. Hope it adds to the discussion.

    September 26, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  2. creeper

    This is a great piece. I had no idea i couldn't believe words. Wow that puts me in a bad situation not knowing who's words to believe literally. Should i challenge all words or just the Bible? So i guess there's no universal just unstable particulars that need interpreting from other particulars.I guess i need a linguist. I guess ill just have to guess right. Just guessing that the author doesn't like what the Bible says.

    September 26, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Covenant

      or just stop looking for proof and start searching for truth.

      September 28, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • Charles

      "....I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the father but by me." Jesus Christ in John 14:7.

      September 29, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
  3. Mary D.

    How can you speak christian when you are full of hate.

    September 26, 2011 at 11:59 am |
    • Ken C.

      Mary being full of hate isn't Christian, while they may claim to be. They are basically be religious or showing their religiosity. If your are Christian you can't base your actions of any kind on hate, nor can we as a people base every nut job who claims to be a christian and does ridiculous things as representative of what it really means to be Christian. I serve Christ and I work to be like him. I can't claim perfection because I can never obtain that. I work to make myself better each day and put away the sins that have controlled me, I still sin and usually everyday even though I try not to, which is where the saving grace comes from. Hate is born out of lack of knowledge and intolerance, anyone claiming to do that and not tolerant of others has an issue of even bveing saved much less being Chrisitan.I am to hate the sin but love the sinner no matter who or what the cost. Whether I agree or not I still try to love that individual and show a different view with my life.

      September 27, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • stacy

      Lol! Let me clarify something for you guys. Becoming a Christian/Follower of Christ/Lover of God doesn't in no way seperate us from our flesh. The bible clearly teaches we are at war with our flesh daily. Paul said I die daily. He also said that "the good I should do, that I do not. That that I shouldn't do I find myself doing". He called himself the "Chief of Sinners". See Paul realized and so do many Christians that it took God to take on the form of man (his name is Jesus) and live out the Christian language refered to here in this article. By doing this perfect thing, he took on the sins of the world and was sacraficed as was the custom to offer a scraficial lamb to God for sin. In other words, we aren't God. We are simply learning and growing after our birth. Our birth is spiritual and not of the flesh. We still have flesh and it is carnel and not spiritual. Its' very nature is to sin. Some days we will win, some days we will not. I guess that is why it is so easy to give reverance where it is due. Sure one can look at any Christian for a length of time and find fault. Heck, Peter walked on water with Jesus and still denied that he even knew him on the day of his crusificition. Eph. 2:8 It is by grace that we are saved, through faith, and that is not of us. It is the gift (Jesus) of God. See I believe Jesus was and is enough to save me from my sins. I may not walk perfect, but thank god for this gift of God. Thank God for his grace. I fill up with his spirit every time I slow down enough to listen to his word. Thank you for a blessing in this evening. May this same understanding of the holy spirit come to you and save you and your entire household. May the love that led Jesus to the cross to die innocentlly find you all. You will be much more concerned with your own life rather than those speaking christian. Heck I speak it every time I profess his name and then sin. I sin and feel guilty/convicted. Then I either repent or struggle for a period of time untill I give in. Seems like it's pretty universal with all christians I've spoken with. They all have their struggles. Some it's with lust, others greed still others have something different. No matter what the temptation, we can be sure that God's promise is true. If we go to him, he will in no case cast us out. If we confess our sins, he is faithfulll and just to forgive us our sins. He cast our sin as far from the east is from the west. The bible teaches us we become a new creation "Born Again" (that's christian lanaguage agian). We are arware of the sin that is in every man and that we can be forgiven and cleansed of all unrightousness. We associate with Christ after confession of this beliefe by asking him to forgive us and partake in baptism in water. We are baptised by choise and instruction as a symbole of the death burial and resurection of Christ. I personally will respond when he calls my name. If any see me as weak, I challange them to examine their own lives and see what strength and weakness really is. Strength took up a cross in innocence and accepted murder as his fate for you a sinner. May The holy spirit convict, lead and forgive you into this Christian Language. Then may satan be hindered by great teachers and brothers and sisters in faith in his attempt to convince you that Christians don't sin. There is only one difference. The Christian born of the blood of the lamb gets up, dust off and remembers where to find this forgiveness. It's such a wonderfull thing. We can conqure sin in our lives. It doesn't have to rule us. Sometimes it takes awhile of struggle before we are able to grow past our iniquities. I believe the day I die will be the first day of my perfection. Untill then, I'll have to work on it. As Paul stated "I die daily".

      September 28, 2011 at 1:50 am |
  4. Christopher


    September 26, 2011 at 7:23 am |
  5. dave

    Just another editorial by a person who has done his best to water down the scriptures like most of the main line churches. Very sad that millions of well intentioned ppl are sitting in pews under the preaching of so many priests/ministers etc who are more concerned about being Accepted by their parishioners rather then speaking what the holy scriputures say...so sad but they will be held accountable for their weakness.

    September 25, 2011 at 7:53 am |
  6. Militant Atheist

    Atheist here. Didn't read the article yet - just watched the video. I am confused as to why the words "believe" and "belove" in English have anything to do with how the word is portrayed in the Bible. Considering that the Bible's texts were written in Hebrew and Greek, it doesn't seem to have any significance... unless all the newer translations are now mistranslating the word on purpose. I don't really see that happening. At least they are right about the etymology of the word "believe" having its roots in a word that meant "hold dear." I just don't think it has any relevance here. Perhaps I'm wrong, though.

    September 25, 2011 at 4:32 am |
  7. rh

    It's kind of funny that the "authority" is the first to cast a stone. Every single bloody Protestant thinks that *they* know the exact answer like they heard it from JC's mouth. It is SO tiresome, and counterproductive.

    No wonder there are so many closet atheists.

    September 25, 2011 at 12:39 am |
  8. Hypatia

    What's at stake? Sounding like a cult-addled fool for starters.

    September 24, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  9. BK

    Every religion has their own little words they use, and many people that were raised around phrases are clueless that other people won't know what they are saying.

    September 23, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
  10. Freethinksman

    I think everyone should be aware of the code so that we can tell which of our publicly elected officials are pandering to the morons. If they'd just speak in tongues it would make more sense and we'd all understand exactly what it was they had to say- mumbo jumbo.

    September 23, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • Gloria

      Love this.

      September 25, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
  11. Jackarouu

    “Christianity’s goal is not to escape from this world. It loves this world and seeks to change it for the better,” he writes.?????
    The writers statement is contrary to 1st John, Ch2, verse 15:
    "Love not the world, neither the things in the world".
    The writer of this article must be a "hack", who never read the scriptures.

    September 22, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • Corey Wright

      I believe he's referring to the fact that we are supposed to love all people here my friend. We were studying 1 John yesterday, and I strongly believe that his call not to love the world is an urge not to be materialistic. It's about loving people and straying away from the things of this world i.e. materialism, selfishness, gluttony, etc.

      September 23, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • Rebecca

      Love not the world... this scripture is clearly about being too materialistic... and refers to the POG leaders and their corporate masters.

      September 24, 2011 at 12:16 am |
    • J.D.

      You call the author a "hack" who hasn't read the Bible. You ought read more carefully, yourself; that statement about Christianity loving this world isn't from the author but from the source Marcus Borg. I'm just sayin'...

      September 25, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  12. cuonfrontst

    Isn't it funny that Mr Borg condmens the use of false expressions but yet he is from "Trinity" Episcopal Cathedral. The word "trinity" or the doctrine of the "trininty" is not found in scripture. Paul warned us about "deceiving spirits and teachings of demons in the hypocrisy of false expressions" 1 Tim 4 CLNT. And these things only come from those professing the name of Christ, but follow the traditions of man and his religion. As believers we are to "present ourselves to God qualified, as unashamed workers, correctly cutting the word of truth". 2 Tim 2:15

    September 22, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • Hypatia

      So you will claim your Christianity is 'better' than his? That's not very Christian and you know it. Stop hiding behind semantics.

      September 24, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  13. Tokkit

    I like the idea that CNN dedicates a whole section to its site for anti-Christian hatred. It makes me feel closer to the Jews. Soon it will be illegal to be Christian.

    September 21, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • ModMn

      What exactly is anti-christian about this article?

      September 22, 2011 at 10:39 am |
  14. Dan W.

    Separation between church and state anyone? The first amendment says that there shall be no law made regarding religion. Both sides are showing just how intolerant they are. Hopefully G-d wipes you both from the map.

    September 20, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • Jeremy

      For the record, the word “rapture” comes from the Latin word rapturo, which is a translation of the Greek verb "caught up" that’s found in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. You can call it the “pre-trib rapture,” the “pre-trib rapturo,” or the “pre-trib caught up” – it's all the same thing.

      September 21, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  15. Brandy

    Apparently Mr. Blake, who wrote this article can't speak Christan either. Notice the words "caught up" in the bible in this verse : 1 Thessalonians 4:17: After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. The words "caught up" come from the latin word "rapturo" which is a greek translation of the words "caught up, which rapturo in English means "rapture." Our Lord will save us from the wrath to come and it says it over and over again. Blessings....:)

    September 20, 2011 at 1:15 am |
    • John

      Taking a word or a phrase and translating it from english to another language and back again.....keep cross tanslating it and see what happens.

      September 23, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Hopefully...ppl will go back to the original language for reference.

      September 23, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
  16. Matthew

    I love Jesus forever!

    September 19, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
  17. Cody

    Has anyone thought of god as a "childrens tale"?As children we are told about Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy the Easter Bunny and all that good sense.But as we get older we realise"wait...a chubby old jolly man makes toys for all the boys and girls in the world and delivers them all to them at night....That cant be true because first off you cant possibly do that in one night an reindeer cant fly."than it goes like this.Either you catch your parent taking your tooth and putting money under you or you realise"wait....a magical fairy takes my tooth and gives me money....no way"and of course our old pal the easter bunny.If you really think about it you see what im getting at.We are raised to believe in an all powerfull creator that loves us but never reveals himself and gives us everything we see around us...THINK just THINK how is that possible...Why do you think flying reindeer are impossible but and invisible ruler is all too real?Just use your head and reason with yourself.If you are intelligent and stop blindly running in the dark with bull-headed faith you will realise...there is no god.... Thank you for reading Cheers

    September 19, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
    • Dave

      Nope, Cody, I'd never thought about that before. And in all my reading of Pascal, Doestoevsky, Irenaus, Boethieus, Thomas Aquinas, C.S. Lewis, Annie Dilliard, Walker Percy, Wendell Berry, Issac Newton, Solzhenitsyn and Charles Schultz, it appears they had never arrived at that notion either. Next time I see them I'll direct them here to your brilliant post, a nugget of wisdom for the ages lurking here in the humble depths of the CNN comments section. Genius, Cody. Simply Genius.

      September 19, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
    • John

      Proverbs 3:5.
      Trust in the LORD with all your heart
      and lean not on your own understanding;

      September 20, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
    • ANG

      Actually Cody, I know exactly what you are talking about. I was brought up in the Roman Catholic faith. And upon entering into my teenage years, I said to myself, does my mom and the rest of these old guys really expect me to believe all these fantacies. Forget that! I know right from wrong and lies from truth and I can figure this our myself. Now, I was really sure of myself until.....and I know your getting the (oh here we go... look and the eye rolling) but in your words THINK just THINK for a moment. Because of certain situations in my life, I became extremely depressed and adventually when nothing helped I decided to attempt suicide, why not its my life right? Well, it was a failed attempt and as I sunk so low, I literally called out for help...and because I really never believed....I said HELP...who ever is out there....GOD JESSUS I don't know your name..and I don't know if you are there......but I do know that I do not have the answers and no one else seems to be able to help mef. And He answered me....a non believing, non conforming person.... and all I can say to you...is when he called my name and took away my pain, it was like I had always known him and I realized then that he was always with me, patiently, even though I abandoned him as a fairy tale. Too good to be true.... I'm not here to make you believe, that is His job, but I only am here as an example. Believe or not that is exactly your choice.....but THINK just THINK outside your carefully constructed box of ideas, beliefs and preconceived notions.

      September 21, 2011 at 9:22 am |
    • Sara

      Actually God does reveal himself. It's referred to by the term revelation and comes though the world, scripture and personal experience. But let's just say God does not exist. What are we left with to explain ourselves and our world? We're left with something coming from nothing and unliving, amoral matter somehow producing living, moral beings though undirected chance. Does it not make more sense to believe that an intelligence produced us and our world? After all, we can emperically prove that intelligence can produce complex, specific information and systems. But there is no emperical evidence that something can come from nothing. Which is a more rational belief?

      September 21, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • Tokkit

      Europeans and Brits think this. You are welcome to your childish beliefs.

      September 21, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
    • Hoovervilles


      " John
      Proverbs 3:5.
      Trust in the LORD with all your heart
      and lean not on your own understanding; "

      Good advice for the nuclear reactor controller. Just push the controls the way you believe they need to be. Don't worry what your understanding of nuclear physics is and what the gauges are telling you. Just believe your are doing the right thing and all will be OK.

      Education will be easier. On the tests all you have to do is answer it is irreducibly complex.
      Get you degree.
      Apply at the nearest nuclear power plant and believe you will do a good job.

      September 21, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
    • John

      "Proverbs 3:5.
      Trust in the LORD with all your heart
      and lean not on your own understanding"


      Do what the church tells you to do, and dont think for yourself.

      September 23, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Considering there was no "church" at the time..I doubt it meant that.

      September 23, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • Gloria

      I read your post three times. It made me laugh. I also read the replies to your post. They are quite insightful. I love this article. I actually think they know my neighbour who is blessed and speaks Christianity. As for me Cody, I choose to have faith in the concept of Christ and God. I try my best to be good and respectful to my fellow man and wish everyone well. Others say I have been of great help to them. Cody, if my faith helps just a bit in being a caring individual, does it matter if it is real or not?

      September 25, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
    • Muskegon

      Sara: But why is that a problem? You said: "What are we left with to explain ourselves and our world? We're left with something coming from nothing and unliving, amoral matter somehow producing living, moral beings though undirected chance. "

      I don't see that as a difficult thing to believe or explain, I guess. Sure, let's say humanity formed by chance. How is that a problem?

      As for "coming from nothing" there aren't many people who say that. There's a huge gulf between saying "we don't know the origins of the universe" and saying "some all knowing being made it!" Though the Norse get points for originality with their old story that the universe was pooped out by a cow.

      While I disagree with the spirit of Cody's post that seems to suggest people of strong religious belief aren't thinking, I also disagree with the notion that people who are not of strong religious belief aren't thinking.

      Those who are not religious and those who are atheists are as likely to be soundly moral individuals as those who believe.

      September 26, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  18. Wow

    Why pray to God?

    Why pray to God for a Mercedes or a promotion or to heal a loved one?

    If God is all-knowing and all-powerful and has everything pre-ordained then what is the point? He knows what is to come (or what has happened) and has planned it. If someone is sick or injured then He knows it and has allowed it to happen. Why lobby Him with prayers and ask Him to change His grand plan?

    So why pray to God?

    September 19, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Esteban


      People who believe in the Lord do not pray for material things. They pray for His will in all things. Prayers for the well-being of a friend or relative in a difficult situation are really prayers to see what His will is in the trial.

      Being a Me-first society, this is difficult to comprehend. "Why do bad things happen to good people" is a common thought among non-believers. The reality is, none of us are "good people". Christians sin just as non-Christians do. The difference is desire. Christians genuinely wan to do better, even though they make bone-headed mistakes.

      On the contrary, the typical world view is, if you screw up...oh well. I know many non-Christians who do not fall into this category too. So it really is not a fair thing to say of people, but is fair to say of the world.

      In short, praying is not done to change things or advance in one's life. It is done our of reverence and is an admittance to not being God.

      September 19, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
    • Mary Hillsbrough

      The bible states that whatever you ask for, you shall receive. Ask for it from your heart, and it will be yours. There are no limits. Have faith in Jesus Christ our Lord and savior.

      September 19, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
    • Francis Carmody

      The problem with actively praying to GOD is...God likes to give answers. As in instructions. As in INSTRUCTION SETS, Men and women seldom like to read directions. We are even more frightened when those instructions become explicit. The reason I believe most people would rather popularize the George Lucas style idea of God as an impersonal FORCE is that it makes the Godhead more controlled, like GOD=djinni=Genie...

      I think C.S. Lewis had it right when he said of God (through the Christology of Aslan) "Safe? Of course He isn't SAFE! But...He's GOOD." I also think he had it right in the Great Divorce when he said that we "could never understand the true relationships between choice and time, until we were beyond both..."

      Of course, unfortunately for the rest of the world...that is not going to prevent me from TRYING...(LOL!)

      September 20, 2011 at 8:47 am |
    • Matthew

      You are correct on all accounts except when you accused God of pre-ordaining everything. There are equal amounts of verses in the Bible that talk about God's foreknowlege/forordaining and free will. We have to have a concept of both in order to understand why we pray. Prayer is not your issue, but it is faith. Just because you have gone through difficult times with your Mother and the Lord has not healed her or answered your prayers has nothing to do with His existence, but the fact that we live in a world damaged by sin. God will not take away all suffering while here on earth. Suffering is a reminder to the Righteous that they are still alive and await the Promise of Heaven and is a reminder to the Unrighteous of their future.

      September 21, 2011 at 12:19 am |
    • JP

      IYes God is all knowing and knows what will happen. He also gives us freewill. "All things will work together for good..." Since He is all knowing maybe He has better plans that maybe we dont understand. So I just want to say God wants us to ask but when He says no or wait we must remember that is just as legitimate a reply as yes.

      September 21, 2011 at 10:14 am |
    • John

      "The difference is desire. Christians genuinely wan to do better"
      Oh and us non-christian want to do worse. WOW what a pompous statement.
      And your answer to the question of why pray to God makes no sense.
      The OP was right, if God is all powerful, all knowing, and has a plan he has put into motion, then anything bad that happens is not only something he allowed, it is his doing. And as far as praying that Gods will be done......
      WTH?? He is supposedly all powerful, All knowing ect ect His will is going to be done if you pray for it to happen or not.

      September 23, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
  19. Mustafa

    Christ did not found Christianity. He never told anyone to worship him or any other human being. People after him who never met him, such as Paul, founded it. Dead people cannot help us; they're worried about saving themselves first!

    September 19, 2011 at 9:23 am |
    • Tom

      That's what your Qur'an teaches you, but you need to read the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John), Mustafa, to know the facts. The Qur'an was written 600 years after Christ by a prophet that never met him. Wouldn't anyone put more emphasis on a first-hand account rather than an account that was revised later? Sure they would, and so should you. The Gospels declare that Jesus is Lord and God (doubting Thomas declared this as he bowed and, yes, worshipped Jesus). The Gospels also declare that Christ rose from the dead, and ascended to the right hand of the Heavenly Father. Please check it out, for your own sake! Peace.

      September 19, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
  20. Doris

    The "rapture" is merely a term used to name an event that is described in the Bible.

    September 18, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • Clay

      I thought the exact same thing. All the Atheists, agnostics, and whoever else is out there are starting to annoy me with this habit. Please, actually research biblical beliefs before you write about them, you'll avoid the most repeated mistake in America.

      September 19, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • Tom

      @Doris, you are correct. But I think what Marcus Borg objects to is the part about leaving the un-raptured behind to suffer. Episcopalians, Catholics, Orthodoxy and Lutherans don't ascribe to a "secret" rapture. The event described by Christ in the Gospel of Matthew and by Paul in his first letter to the Thessalonians is indeed considered a rapture, but one that marks the end of this age: Time as we know it is believed to not continue beyond it. I know many evangelicals, including the late Tomothy LaHaye, disagree, and that's fine... one day we will find out for certain! Sooner than later, I would say. 🙂

      September 19, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • Kyle

      Jesus claimed he would come again shortly after his death in the lifetime of his followers... 2,000 years ago.

      I assure you, there is no rapture, no end of time according to some mythological religion.

      We won't find out soon enough. There's nothing left to find out. The bible is equal to Greek mythology and every other religion. No god. No religion. None of it is real. Just fabricated over time through evolution as a means for humans to cope with existence.

      September 19, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
    • Brian

      Jesus never gave a timeline for His return. Actually it was made very clear that no man, no angel in Heaven, not even Jesus Himself knows when He will return...Only the Father...

      September 23, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.