Sunday, January 29, 2017


Marcus J. Borg’s Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most is a well-written, concise summary of the tenants of one form of Progressive Christianity.

Borg wrote the book for his seventieth birthday.

“The central conviction of this book are that God is real and that the Bible and Christianity are the Christian story of our relationship with God....”

Then later, he adds, “The Bible from beginning to end is a sustained protest against the domination systems of the ancient world.”

Borg’s is not the traditional theology many of us grew up with. He sees the Bible as sacred literature written by human beings. Its books have all the errors and disagreements any human documents would have.

Even Borg’s way of viewing God has changed. As he grew older, he came to a “nonverbal, nonlinguistic way of knowing [God] marked by a strong sense of seeing more clearly and certainly than one ever has.”

He cites William James’ analysis in The Varieties of Religious Experience. Borg’s experience of God is now more than rational. “What is known is ‘the way things are’ when all of our language falls away and we see ‘what is’ without the domestication created by our words and categories.”

To put it in a way Borg doesn’t, we can feel God as Wordsworth felt a strong spiritual presence when he looked down on Tintern Abbey or when he stood on Westminster Bridge.

We do not command these experiences, Borg says. They come to us unbidden in their own way, time, and place.

One other aspect of the book impressed me greatly. In his chapter entitled “God Is Passionate About Justice and the Poor,” Borg does a fairly extensive analysis of The Book of Amos. Then in a later chapter, “The Bible Is Political,” he concludes, “The kingdom of God was about the end of the exploitation and violence of the domination system.”

For Borg, much of the point of the Bible is summed up in Micha’s words, “and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. (6.8)”

Borg’s book says the Bible contains a strong condemnation of much of the way we live today.

I chose Marcus Borg’s book because when he wrote it he was at the same stage of life as I am. I have had a similar growth in faith, though his is much better articulated and fully understood than mine is.

I see a lot to like in Marcus Borg.

I hope to read one religious book each month this year. We’ll see if I can make it.

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