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

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  423 ratings  ·  79 reviews
Modern Christians are steeped in a language so distorted that it has become a stumbling block to the religion, says internationally renowned Bible scholar Marcus J. Borg. Borg argues that Christianity's important words, and the sacred texts and stories in which those words are embedded, have been narrowed by a modern framework for the faith that emphasizes sin, forgiveness...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published April 1st 2011 by HarperOne (first published March 23rd 2011)
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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 is a thoughtful and thought-provoking work. It addresses two of my biggest passions: language and faith.

As a Catholic, I found myself feeling extremely nervous at some of Borg's positions. At the same time, I resonated with what he holds up as the "essentials" of faith and the metaphorical meanings of Christian language and tenets. Many of the dilemmas I sometimes confront a...more
Lee Harmon

What is meant by our Christian language? How do we understand words like “redemption”? Borg reflects on the difference in meaning between liberal and conservative Christian thinking, even though the language is identical. Borg is quite liberal, and he refuses to turn the meaning of words that are special and meaningful to him over to a Christianity that he feels has strayed from the original, radical, this-worldly message of the first Christians.

Early Christianity was not focused on heaven or he...more
Borg's text is required and appealing reading for religious teachers moderate to progressive, and anyone concerned with Biblical theology interpreted without context. The christianity explained in this volume isn't the religion of empire, but a religion of compassion, equity and justice. It isn't an introductory theological text - but it is a splendid one for launching faith exploration discussions based on certain key theological terms, how they're used in public discourse, what they mean to us...more
Darin Stewart
This is a very nice exposition of the Progressive Christian worldview to which I am finding myself increasingly drawn. Borg argues for a Christianity that moves away from the Heaven/Hell Punishment/Reward structure that dominates most Christian Theology. This approach has always resonated with me (I blogged about it several months ago )http://www.faithwithinreason.com/?p=32 Borg's approach equates salvation with transformation of the individual and society in the here and now rather than deferin...more
As a person who has not read many Christian or theology books, I found this book very engaging and readable, even if there are parts which I struggle with and I did not agree with all Marcus Borg says.
Being a “cradle Catholic” I am like many who recite prayers and go through the motions of Mass and liturgy very often without thinking about real meanings of the words I am reciting, but recently have yearned for a deeper understanding of what it is I am doing/saying. This book is a good place to...more
Joe Iovino
May 31, 2012 Joe Iovino rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Borg fans only
Recommended to Joe by: Found it browsing.
Marcus Borg makes me uncomfortable, in a good way. His writing always challenges me, stretches me, and sometimes makes me want to throw my iPad across the room. Through that interaction with his writing, I solidify where I am on issues of faith, Jesus, theology, Church, and the like.
The core issue in Speaking Christian is a reclamation of Christian language from what Borg calls the "heaven-and-hell Christian framework." Borg contends that Christianity is about so much more than what bin you go...more
Teri Peterson
As one who works hard to reclaim language, I liked this book a lot.
As one who teaches in a church and is constantly working against the cultural understandings of many of our important church words, I liked this book a lot.
As one who's read plenty of Marcus Borg before, this book was fine. There's not a lot new here--it's just organized differently and is more concise.

I appreciate the format--with a big word or concept per chapter. I appreciate the short chapters. I appreciate the simple langua...more
Matt Hill
knowing who borg was before reading, i had certain expectations . . and they were pretty much confirmed .. honestly, i don't see how he can be considered a "christian" in any nominal sense of the word . . sure, he'd argue that our understanding of "christian," nominally, is informed by what he's calling "heaven-and-hell christianity" . . the framework of that language . . and he'd be right . . the problem is, despite what he says, i think an honest reading of the NT gets you something *way* clos...more
Reading this book confirms for me that Marcus Borg is possibly my favorite heretic. Don't get me wrong, I don't think he says anything particularly new; his theology is a blend of Schleiermacher subjectivity and Bultmann's de-mythologizing. He denies that Jesus was God pre-Easter (though there is a certain vagueness which makes me unsure if he is an Adoptionist), any substitutionary understanding of Christ's death, the Resurrection, the Ascension, the Second Coming, the Trinity. And yet, he feel...more
marcus miller
In what many will think is a provocative book, Borg examines and explains words commonly used by Christians. He does this against the backdrop of what he calls "heaven and hell Christians" who read the the Bible literally (or at least claim they do.) Borg writes for those who struggle with the way much of American Christianity uses terminology, or as he suggests, he free's the words from the restrictive, or even wrong, meanings and power they have come to have in American culture.

One of the thin...more
This book makes some very interesting points about how strongly the definitions of some words can affect meaning. For example, what does it mean if our use of "believe" in a religious context is wrong or has drifted away from the true meaning? This book offers this and other thought-provoking insights. Further, it encourages understanding the Bible as having deeper meanings than just the superficial, literal understanding of the stories. This is a viewpoint that I strongly identify with, being c...more
Marcus Borg's "Speaking Christian" is a great collection of thoughts that help explain the language we use in church, and why it may not mean what we think it means many times. Part of growing up in a churched society is we take for granted some of these terms....I wonder how many are really aware that some of the concepts of salvation, righteousness, sin, being born again, the Crucifixion, and many others are very modern concepts, and the definitions we understand are often radically different...more
Dr. Borg shows convincingly that many central Christian terms are no longer commonly interpreted according to their original or traditional meanings. He makes the case for a Christianity that's not centered on the afterlife and personal salvation from sin through a substitutionary sacrifice, which are relatively modern priorities, but on bringing about a transformed life and a just world that exemplifies God's will as expressed through the example of Jesus as well as the prophets and elsewhere i...more
I read this book for a class at church. It is definitely controversial. Borg takes common terms in Christianity and investigates their meaning historically and culturally. His writing is very clear and easy to understand, but his interpretation probably would not be acceptable to some Christians. He points out the language that has made such a division in the Christian denominations today, but he is definitely on the progressive Christian side of the division. He appeals to readers with open mi...more
This is a very thought provoking book. Borg takes us back to the historical language and context at the time the Bible was written, to understand what it meant at that time... not the nuances it has picked up as modern language has morphed in its meaning of certain key words.

He challenged a lot of my thinking and I appreciate him for that. The only area I disagree on is one where he is subconsciously in conflict within himself. He believes that Christ is part of the triune Godhead, but he does n...more
Sherman Bishop
Borg is stimulating. Agree with him or not he gets you to think about issues of importance. In tracing back Christian words and language to their meaning in earlier times he offers a refreshing counterpoint to the drone of Christian speak that so dominates popular American culture. His is a useful tool to move Christians beyond literalism, a move which must be made lest our faith drift even farther toward irrelevancy in this "post-modern" age.
Katherine Willis Pershey
Marcus Borg is extremely helpful at particular junctures in the Christian faith. I'm not at one of those junctures right now.

This book also confirmed what I've long suspected, that I am not a modernist but a post-modernist. Marcus Borg is super-duper modernist with modernist sprinkles on top.
Martha Meyer
Stunning biblical and early Christian analysis is presented as Markus Borg reclaims the meaning of the words that convey Christianity itself. It is a light run through of the major vocabulary of the faith (sin, salvation, the way of the Lord, believe, righteousness, faith, mercy, and shockingly even eternal life) giving back the ancient hebrew or early Christian sense of the word. One main theme of the book is that "believe" does not mean to twist your intellect to confess the impossible, but it...more
Justin Banger
I owe ol' Marcus a big high five for this one. Makes christian language not only palatable but down right delicious.
Mike  Davis
This book has languished on my bookshelf for a long time and finally found its day in the sun. It should be required reading for anyone even remotely interested in Christianity.

Borg is not afraid to look at tradition as a humanly determined set of practices, doctrines, interpretations, understandings and hence beliefs. His "liberal" view of Christian practices gives a practical and logical reason for those who cannot accept literal accounts of biblical historical writings to continue to be Chri...more
Scott Cole
This is a really solid book, but it did seem to run out of gas a little towards the end. If you do not accept his premise that people are affected by the literalization of language and that Christianity has been reduced to a heaven/hell framework, then you will not appreciate his musings as much as those that do.

I found his critique helpful however and the first half of the book to be extraordinarily efficient at not only deconstructing big ideas such as salvation, God, the Bible, Jesus, etc. b...more
If you've read Borg before, you can skip ahead to chapter three. Unlike other works, this book seems intentionally written for students, or the young, or novices. There is much repetition and a slow pace to start. But, like all of Borg's stuff, there are still large, transformative ideas to come.

The premise of the book is to take Christian language, what many of us call "Christian-ese" and deconstruct the terrible theology that's been applied to it. It seems that postmodern Christians get a gli...more
Christianity has changed over the last millennia, and unfortunately so has its vocabulary. //Speaking Christian// looks at how that vocabulary has changed, usually as a response to events of the times. The history of those meanings is fully explored, from its original meaning and context to how it has changed, with its modern meaning and context. As so much of religion is based on translation, this makes for an interesting look at the history of religion through the lens of its language and its...more
Lynn Green
May 08, 2012 Lynn Green rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Christians, all faith communities, anyone interested in spiritual living
Recommended to Lynn by: Rev. Robin Meyers
Marcus Borg's excellent book seeks to recapture the truly radical nature of Christian faith by redeeming Christian language including words like "salvation," "the Bible," "God", "Jesus", "Easter," "Mercy," "Righteousness," "Sin" and so forth. In doing so, he opened the eyes of this Christian who has struggled for many years with the fact that I can no longer have much faith in the "heaven and hell framework" (Borg's words) of the Christianity in which I was raised.

His discussion of what faith an...more
Lauren Ann
Talk about redeeming the word "redeeming," for one. Many common(-ly misunderstood) Christian words can be "owned" once more, no matter how skeptical or jaded you have become with them -- or perhaps Christianity in general. I had already took a more symbolic and mystical approach to my faith some years ago, but now I feel even more able to use the language, more intimately revisit the Bible's stories, and better participate in the prayers and creeds. I had a feeling that most misconceptions (abou...more
Very good book, over all. Falls prey, sometimes, to the etymological fallacy--that is, the view that if you can explain a word's history, you have explained its meaning. Still, his reframing of key words like repentance, righteousness, sin is very helpful and will lead many readers back to their Bibles. I like his description of most of Evangelicalism as "Heaven and Hell Christianity." I sometimes get a little tired of his use of "metaphorical" interpretation to cover up Biblical difficulties. F...more
Probably in the top 5 of books that I've read on the topic of progressive Christianity and why it is important to rescue the words, creeds and rituals from the plunge into extremist, right wing Christian fundamentalism that has hijacked the true message of Christianity: love, compassion and justice.

Christianity is not a heaven and hell, fire and brimstone theology that has, and is, dominated by the rich and powerful. (the 1% vs. the 99% that Jesus hung out with, loved and served) It is not a sp...more
This book by Borg was a great read. It really takes you back to the "roots" of Christianity and how things have been diluted and changed over time from their original meanings to a now scewed perception.

He addresses many different words and their meanings in "today's" Christianity, but then he takes you on a journey back to what the true meaning was intended to be. He let's you know what "Faith" means in great detail, or "Salvation," and also addresses what it means to be "Christian." Not just t...more
Mar 29, 2014 Amy added it
This is a great explanation of progressive vs. traditional theology. He goes back to the original meanings of Christian words, and how they have changed over the centuries, how we can reclaim them.
Anna L. Peak
Some (very little) interesting historical / linguistic background. Otherwise an extended exercise in wish-fulfillment. I sympathize with the wishes, but that is what they are.
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Borg was born into a Lutheran family of Swedish and Norwegian descent, the youngest of four children. He grew up in the 1940s in North Dakota and attended Concordia College, Moorhead, a small liberal arts school in Moorhead, Minnesota. While at Moorhead he was a columnist for the school paper and held forth as a conservative. After a close reading of the Book of Amos and its overt message of socia...more
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Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus and the Heart of Contemporary Faith The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously but Not Literally Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus's Final Days in Jerusalem

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“Christianity's goal is not escape from this world. It loves this world and seeks to change it for the better.” 10 likes
“So, is there an afterlife, and if so, what will it be like? I don't have a clue. But I am confident that the one who has buoyed us up in life will also buoy us up through death. We die into God. What more that means, I do not know. But that is all I need to know.” 6 likes
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