Convictions; How I Learned What Matters Most

By Dan Clendenin

Marcus J. Borg, Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most (New York: HarperCollins, 2015), 241pp.

When Marcus Borg died in January 2015 at the age of 72 from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, the church lost an eloquent spokesman for a vibrant Christian faith. Borg was one of a very few prominent New Testament scholars who wrote simple books for a general audience, who was not embarrassed to declare his passion for a life of faith, who shared his own journey from a conservative Lutheran upbringing to a “progressive” Christianity, and who was both unapologetic but irenic in presenting his views.

Borg acknowledges that those who are familiar with his other books won’t find anything new in this one. In some ways he wrote the same book a dozen times. In his simple typology, there are five divisions in contemporary American Christianity — conservative, conventional, uncertain Christians, former Christians, and progressives.

“This book,” writes Borg, “is the story of my journey across the theological and political divides between the conventional Christianity of my childhood (a soft form of today’s conservative Christianity) and progressive Christianity. It includes memories of growing up Christian more than half a century ago, the conversions (intellectual, political, and religious) that have changed how I see Christianity and indeed life itself, and the convictions that have flowed out of those conversions that now shape my vision of what it means to be Christian and American today.”

I take issue with Borg on any number of points, but I always like to remember a friend who said that if she had read Borg when she was in college instead of much later, she wouldn’t have floundered in the wastelands of atheism for ten years. After I finished this last book of his, I wished he was still here so that I could thank him.

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