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Convictions – Marcus Borg

May 30, 2017

This author is very popular in my parish – we’ve done several of his books during Summer book groups.

This must have been his last book before he died at the start of 2015.

Although he says it isn’t any autobiography, he relates various conversions’ – from literalist to liberal – to stages in his life, e.g. from his days as ‘trailer trash’.

It’s not all intellectual – some if experiential.

The result is a manifesto for all progressive Christians who seek the best path for following Jesus today. With each chapter embodying a distinct conviction, Borg writes provocatively and compellingly on the beliefs that can deeply ground us and guide us:

• God Is Real and a Mystery
• Salvation Is More About This Life Than an Afterlife
• The Bible Can Be True Without Being Literally True
• Jesus’s Death on the Cross Matters—But Not Because He Paid for Our Sins
• God Is Passionate About Justice and the Poor
• To Love God Is to Love Like God

Marcus Borg was born in 1942 to a Lutheran family in North Dakota. After high school he went to Concordia College in Minnesota determined to become an astrophysicist but soon changed his major to math and physics, and then again to political science and philosophy. As a young man he experienced great doubts about his Christian faith and decided to pursue postgraduate studies at Union Seminary in New York City and here he was heavily influenced by W.D. Davies, a man who laid the groundwork for what has become known as the New Perspective on Paul. After graduating from Union he moved overseas to Mansfield College, Oxford University, where he earned his Doctorate of Philosophy.

In 1979 Borg became a member of the faculty at Oregon State University, a position he would hold until he retired in 2007 as Distinguished Professor in Religion and Culture and the Hundere Endowed Chair in Religious Studies. However, his career as a professor would be overshadowed by his career as a writer and public figure, and his leadership in what has become known as Progressive Christianity, an updated form of theological Liberalism.

There are much better examples of mistakes in the Bible, which shows that it isn’t inerrant, than the ones he lists. And he is wrong in stating that the fruit of two trees in the Garden of Eden was forbidden.

I wish his ideas about pacifism were true but the early Christians’ refusal to fight in the army were as much to do with a refusal to take an oath to the emperor as to anything in the teaching of Jesus.

It would make a good Lent group study book.


 “None of them has a monopoly on goodness

 “Even though we are only part of that unending conversation, only here for a while, our answers—or lack of answers—to the big questions matter. Our convictions—or lack of convictions—shape our lives”

“the richest minute of my life”

The great stories of religion can be seen as true even though not literally factual”

“Salvation in the Bible is seldom about an afterlife. . . . Jesus’s message was not about ‘how to get to heaven.’ It was about ‘the kingdom of God’”

when there is conflict between Jesus and the Bible, Jesus is the standard by which the Bible is understood

The Bible is a human product: it tells us how our religious ancestors saw things, not how God sees things

“Taking the Bible seriously is important. It is foundational to being Christian. It is our sacred scripture, essential to Christian understanding and identity. But taking the Bible literally is not the same as taking it seriously”

“a story about the way things never were but always are”

“The payment understanding of Jesus’s death has been a core element of common Christianity for a long time and is a defining feature of today’s conservative Christianity”

“Some (perhaps many) Christians are surprised that the heart of Jesus’s message was the coming of the kingdom of God”

The Bible from beginning to end is a sustained protest against the domination systems of the ancient world”

“Paul, like Jesus, was executed by imperial authority”

“Once I saw the political meaning of the Bible, I wondered how I ever could have missed it. It is so obviously there. Of course, the Bible is also religious; it is about God and God’s character and passion”

“We need Amos”

“imagine the courage it took to speak against the powerful and violent ruling elites. . . . Their courage came from their vocation as participants in God’s passion for a different kind of world”

“Following Jesus and taking seriously early Christian pacifism and subsequent teaching about justifiable war radically calls into question the widespread American Christian support of and acquiescence to our country’s preoccupation with military power. Those of us who are American and Christian need to ponder this in our hearts”

“I have become convinced that Christians who oppose war are more often right than wrong”

“Though believing in God and loving God can sometimes go together, they are not the same. One can believe all the right things and still not love God”

God’s passionate love for those victimized by the systems of ‘this world’”

Martin Luther said that “whatever we give our hearts to, whatever we treasure most, whatever we center in, that is our god”

There’s a study guide for small groups here

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From → Biblical, Biography

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