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Speaking Christian: Why Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning and PowerAnd How They Can Be Restored Hardcover – April 12, 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 173 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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“This book could start a revolution. Borg cracks open the encrusted words of faith and pops them into fresh language that people can understand and trust. The last time this happened, we got the Reformation.” (Anne Sutherland Howard, Executive Director of The Beatitudes Society)

Speaking Christian correctly may seem like it’s just a fuss over semantics, but it’s ultimately about something bigger: defining Christianity… When Christians forget what their words mean, they forget what their faith means. (CNN)

“Ranks with his earlier volumes as efforts to renew and rebuild Christianity by healing long-standing wounds and welcoming millions of alienated men and women.” (Read the Spirit)

“A primer to help correct misunderstandings and help those unfamiliar with Christian language become fluent. . . . An important figure on topics from the historical Jesus to religion and culture, he challenges Christians to live for God’s justice in the world and not just focus on the next world.” (Englewood Review of Books)

From the Back Cover

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, Jesus dying for our sins, and the afterlife. Here, Borg employs the “historical-metaphorical” method for understanding Christian language that can restore for us these words of power and transformation. For example,

  • Redemption: now narrowly understood as Jesus saving us from sins so we can go to heaven, but in the Bible it refers to being set free from slavery.
  • Savior: now refers to Jesus as the one who saves us from our sins, but in the Bible it has a rich and wonderful variety of meanings having nothing to do with the afterlife.
  • Sacrifice: now refers to Jesus’s death on the cross as payment for our sins, but in the Bible it is never about substitutionary payment for sin.

In Speaking Christian, Borg delivers a language for twenty-first-century Christians that grounds the faith in its deep and rich original roots and allows it once again to transform our lives.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne (April 12, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061976555
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061976551
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (173 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #297,789 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"This book could start a revolution. Borg cracks open the encrusted words of faith and pops them into fresh language that people can understand... " Anne S. Howard

There is no doubt that the revolution was already started in 1963, by former Anglican bishop of Woolwich, John Robinson, who was a major force in shaping Borg's liberal and progressive Christianity. His controversial million-copy bestseller, "Honest to God" was not so much an attempt to reshape Christianity, but a trial of concepts and modern language that conformed Christianity to a modern pro-scientific world view. There can be little question that Robinson wished to reduce Christianity's dependence on belief in legendary accounts and on the supernatural. Some conservative Christians were, and others are still terrified by the same 'Jesus Seminar' attitude. They see in this approach an appeal for a secularized Christianity or even worse, an appeal for secular humanism.

Acclaimed Bible scholar Marcus Borg, revisits same issues again after a half century. He argues that contemporary Christian language has become non inclusive, disconnected from and not representing the beliefs which once substantiated it. Defending his case with allusion to N. T. Wright's "Simply Christian," Borg calls for a radical change to the language Christians use to express their beliefs. For Borg, as was for Robinson, it is the primary remedy that will permit the Church's words to once again communicate Biblical truth, faith, and hope. Borg is addressing what he wrote earlier in, "Reading the Bible Again for the First Time." By taking the Bible Seriously, But Not Literally he shares Robinson's main perspective.
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Format: Hardcover
*****
"A historical approach is greatly illuminating. Language comes alive in its context. ... Thus a historical approach makes Christian language relative and not absolute." Marcus Borg, Speaking Christian

The early Church Fathers followed primarily one of two methods of interpretation: Allegorical (spiritual) or literal. Going beyond literalism, Origen advanced allegorical Bible exegesis, early in the third century, claiming that it hides the truth from those blinded by sin and pride, while revealing it to the renewed eyes of believers. Up to the Reformation, the Bible was not usually interpreted in a strictly literal way.
Marcus Borg, who pursued the search for the real historical Jesus, with the Jesus Seminar for the first decade of its work, now exposits an alternative understanding by restoring authentic biblical meanings. Dr. Borg believes Christian language needs to be set free from its contemporary literalism. He wrote some of the most thought provoking books of which Speaking Christian is the most recent. His vision, as he stated, "I think we're living in a time of transition within Christianity that's been going on for half a century... where what I call the common Christianity that most Christians ...took for granted is no longer persuasive and compelling."

Some Biblical historians believe that Biblical literalism came about with Sola Scriptura, at the rise of Protestantism. So, Dr. Borg coaches the reader, with the book conclusion, asking if literal interpretation was part of the foundation he would like to shake, in the words of Paul Tillich, one of the century's most influential Christian thinkers. The author now persuades you into a discussion, helping you recover true belief.
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This is a brilliant book and will be much appreciated by Christians who are serious about their faith but have misgivings about the literalism of many evangelical Christians. The author digs back to the original meaning of many key concepts in Christianity such as "salvation" and he points out how the meaning of that term has changed in the relatively recent past to mean "being saved is having our sins forgiven because of Jesus' death and we are now saved from hell and assured of eternal life in heaven." Originally it did not mean this at all. Salvation was initially being saved from slavery such as the Israelites in bondage in Egypt. Then it referred to being freed from bondage of the exile in Babylon. And now it refers to believers being released from the bondage to whatever is trapping them in this life - anger, alienation, guilt, or a suffocating relationship. Borg explains very clearly how more than a dozen key notions like this have been corrupted over time...much of this corruption due to the recent trend toward literalism which is a sad and recent phenomenon.
Speaking Christian: Why Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning and Power - And How They Can Be Restored
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This is the best of some really good books by Marcus Borg. He introduces some new thoughts specific to the differences in language and meaning of some key Christian words and phrases, while providing a brilliant synthesis of some of his other major works like "The Meaning of Jesus," "The Last Week," "The Heart of Christianity," and, "Reading the Bible Again for the First Time."

This book, for me, is the most readable of all Borg's books. He seems to have put aside the "professorial" tone of many of his other books that made them less readable for me. This is more like a conversation with Marcus Borg.

This will definitely become a major reference source in my own journey through life.
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