My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Marcus Borg makes me uncomfortable, in a good way. His writing always challenges me, stretches me, and sometimes makes me want to throw my iPad across the room. Through that interaction with his writing, I solidify where I am on issues of faith, Jesus, theology, Church, and the like.
The core issue in Speaking Christian is a reclamation of Christian language from what Borg calls the “heaven-and-hell Christian framework.” Borg contends that Christianity is about so much more than what bin you go in when you die, and there is where I agree with him. From his broadening of the word salvation to include Israel’s salvation from slavery and many people’s hopes of salvation from poverty, to his conversation about The Lord’s Prayer being about God’s kingdom coming “on earth as it is in heaven” are refreshing, although nothing one wouldn’t get from reading N. T. Wright, one of my favorite authors.
My biggest problem with Speaking Christian is Borg’s utter dismissal of the resurrection – not only of Jesus’s resurrection, but of a general resurrection of the dead. For example, his discussions of Heaven and the Rapture never give even a nodding reference to the notion of a final resurrection. Also, while dismissing a “literal Easter” he never goes on to explain the then rise of Christianity or the early followers profession of Jesus having been raised from the dead.
At times, I believe Borg allows his faith affect his scholarship. For example, in his conversation about God he defends a version of panentheism using Acts 17:28, “the one in whom we lie and move and have our being” (68). That verse is Paul quoting a Greek poet. Thus Borg uses a Greek poet to support a Greek idea about who God is – not a Hebrew-based view that is more historically where the early Christians would have been.
Borg’s conclusion though is wonderful. He concludes the book with this summary of Christianity: “The Christian message reduced to its essentials is: love God (as known in Jesus) and change the world” (237). I’m not sure I could agree more. We need to make Christianity more about changing the world than escaping it.
I would not recommend this book to those without a fairly firm understanding of their faith. Borg’s reasoning is confusing, his assertions need to be checked out, and he rejects resurrection – a major tenet of Christian faith. For those who have a good background and want to get a little more, that is all you are going to get. There is nothing earth-shaking or ground-breaking here. At times it is even a bit pedantic – at one point even talking about the pre- and post-Easter Jesus. I would much more strongly recommend someone looking for similar conversation to see N. T. Wright’s Simply Christian, Simply Jesus, or Surprised By Hope.