Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most

Marcus Borg, HarperCollins, 2014, reviewed by Vern Ratzlaff

        Raised Lutheran, Borg has been a professor theology both at the university level and as an Episcopalian theologian. Convictions reflects on the convictions that have shaped him, encouraging us to become more deeply rooted in the spiritual conviction that leads both us and our world to transformation and renewal.

        Borg sketches the church’s story, shaped both by Paul’s radical social insights, as well as an acquiescent approach to the dominant culture (patriarchy, slavery). He mentions the great schism, that in 1054 separated east from west (Orthodox from Catholic), and the changes in the 1500’s (the Reformation). Today the differences are not between denominations but between world views:  conservative, conventional, uncertain, former, progressive (p 8-14), world views held by groups that cross denominational lines.

        Borg identifies three kinds of changes (conversions) he has gone through (pp 31-35): intellectual, political and religious, and sketches the changes for him of different aspects of Christian faith: Easter (p 127), atonement (p 131), justice and violence (p 147), war (p 194).  A final chapter details what it means to love G-d (paying attention to G-d, loving what G-d loves, centering in G-d, compassion, freedom and courage, gratitude (p 209-231).

        Borg rejects biblical inerrancy (p 87), and the picture provided of a G-d of cruelty (eg Amalakites), slavery and accommodation for rape. The creation accounts (Genesis 1, 2) are parables (p 116).  But the bible remains central for Christians:  its’ status as sacred scripture, its function in Christian formation and its power to transform lives.

Vern Ratzlaff is a pastor and professor of historical theology at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.