Marcus Borg, an elder of today’s progressive Christian movement, has commemorated his 70 birthday with the publication of Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most. Convictions is destined to become a primer for all those who seek a succinct articulation of the faith progressives hold in common. In Convictions, Borg constructs a permeable framework within which those who are “living the questions” can explore the contours of the God “in which we live and move and have our being.” As a pastor serving a progressive congregation, I am delighted to have this new resource to share with those who are ReThinking Christianity.
I first encountered Marcus Borg during the summer of 1994, when a friend who was concerned that my preparations for seminary would lead me to a career in a church bereft of intellectual inquiry, gave me a copy of Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time. What a gift it was to meet in Borg a scholar who so simply and authoritatively articulated so much of what I’d been learning in the academy as an under-grad in Religious Studies. Borg’s books quickly became allies in my own quest for ways to express my growing frustration with institutional Christianity which seemed hell-bent on keeping its members ignorant of the exciting and enlightening work of New Testament scholars.
While sections of Borg’s memoir slip into reactions to the monolithic interpretations of the Jesus story that plague the United States and have served to bolster American Imperialism, those of us who live in the shadows of this Empire will appreciate Borg’s deconstruction of right-wing-christianity. Like his earlier work, Convictions is a must read for professional preachers and teachers who will find in it a review of progressive Christianity that is written in a manner that will inspire us to move beyond merely deconstructing conservative christianity and begin to articulate what it is that “progressives” hold in common.
As a “bit of a memoir” Convictions will engage readers from all walks of life, many of whom will discover in Borg a fellow traveller on an all too familiar journey. As always, Borg manages to express the Christian narrative in ways which embrace the riches of the tradition while opening his readers to current insights from academia into Christianity’s history. Rather than approaching the future with fear, Borg remains open to the ever-expanding knowledge of reality being generated in other fields of human endeavour and points to a way of being in God that does not rely on oversimplified personifications of a deity Borg knows as Mystery.
As an academic, Borg bravely revels his own mystical experiences. I have always suspected that Borg might be a closet mystic and his tentative accounts of his mystical experiences provide welcome insights into the bedrock of Borg’s being.
I am convinced that Borg’s Convictions will quickly achieve the status of text-book for those of us who seek ways of being Christian in the 21st century.