Speaking Christian: Why Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning and Power - and How They Can Be Restored

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Speaking Christian: Why Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning and Power - And How They Can Be Restored. By Marcus J. Borg. (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2011, Pp. viii, 248. $25.99.)

From the first page, scholar and teacher Marcus Borg engages the reader. He correcdy notes at the outset that this book can be seen as "a Christian primer," with its purpose being "to help us to read, hear, and inwardly digest Christian language without preconceived understandings getting in the way" (3). In the clear, direct style that has marked his previous works, Borg tackles the misreadings and misunderstandings of Christian language of our day - salvation, God, believing, faith, "born again," the rapture, the afterlife, and more. For the person in the pew, or a person who might want to be in a pew but is alienated by the seeming irrational and archaic nature of Christian concepts, Borg takes us to the roots of the church, and of the terms, to guide us to what is truly valuable for seekers in our modern world.

Borg immediately confronts the heaven-and-hell framework of much of Christianity. This emphasis on heaven, sin and forgiveness, Jesus' dying for our sins, and belief, is dismanded systematically and replaced by life-affirming and near-mystical concepts. On "salvation" and its cognates, which appear in the Bible nearly five hundred times, Borg explains that the term is almost never used in conjunction with the afterlife. Rather, in both testaments, salvation is liberation from bondage (economic, political, religious) and "the twofold transformation of ourselves and the world" (54). Salvation is a movement, in this world that God loves, from injustice to justice, from infirmity to health, from death to life, and from fear to trust.

It is a courageous writer that tackles the definition of God, but Borg does it sensitively and clearly in nineteen pages. He demolishes the character of God as indifferent, threatening and dangerous, and presents us instead with a God who is gracious and life-giving. …