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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Progressive Christianity - Book Review List


Understanding Progressive Christianity

Book Reviews

One way to understand a movement is to read what the leaders have written. The progressive Christian movement, like any new movement, can be difficult to describe in detail because there is no one authoritative body or voice. Instead, there are many voices. I hesitate to offer too many descriptive statements because there are surely some who will disagree. Nevertheless, I will list a few trends then list some of the books by writers with progressive perspectives.

Progressive Christians emphasize:

A focus on the life and teachings of Jesus when considering scripture and current problems

An appreciation of what it means to love God and one’s neighbor as one’s self when it comes to ethics and justice for all

A commitment to meeting the immediate needs of people who are abused, neglected and treated unfairly as Jesus did

A commitment to changing aspects of society that oppress people and contribute to poverty and ill treatment

A belief in the importance of living a transformed life now rather than focus on what might happen after this life

An understanding that the Bible includes a variety of literary works (e.g., poems, stories, histories, gospels) by different writers

An interpretation of scripture reliant on an appreciation of metaphors and historical contexts rather than literal or near literal approaches


Book Reviews

I will add to this book list whenever I read and review a related book.

Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Heresy A Journey into a New Christianity Through the Doorway of Matthew's Gospel by J. S. Spong

Love Wins: A Book About Heaven,  Hell, And The Future Of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell

Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time by Marcus J. Borg

Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously but Not literally by Marcus J. Borg

 The Sin of Certainty: Why God Desires “Our” Trust More Than “Our” Correct Beliefs by Peter Enns.

Speaking Christian: Why Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning and Power by Marcus J. Borg

Unbelievable: Why Neither Ancient Creeds Nor the Reformation Can Produce a Living Faith Today by J.S. Spong


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Speaking Christian - A Book Review

 Speaking Christian:

Why Christian Words Have Lost Their          

 Meaning and Power―

And How They Can Be Restored

  by Marcus J. Borg

Reviewed by

 Geoffrey W. Sutton


In Speaking Christian, Marcus Borg offers a new way to experience Christianity free from the strange and often misunderstood phrases that hide the meaning of stories from thousands of years ago. It is the kind of book that can help contemporary Christians appreciate ancient wisdom in a new light. And SpeakingChristian can also help non-Christians understand the differences between Christian spirituality and more recent interpretations of old texts that ignore the metaphors of ancient texts.

Borg expresses concern about the misunderstandings conveyed by Christians who do not understand the historical texts. There are two languages spoken by Christians. One linguistic framework focuses on transforming people for the next world and the other focuses on transforming the world in which we live. Borg describes “heaven-and-hell” Christianity as having four components: the afterlife, sin and forgiveness, Jesus’ dying for sin, and the importance of belief. I think chapter two, “Beyond Literalism” helps understand what he is about. The “heaven-and-hell” linguistic framework rests on a foundation of literalism. In contrast, Borg presents the approach he has presented elsewhere—a historical-metaphorical understanding of biblical language and, by extension, the Christian concepts associated with that language.

In chapter 3, Salvation, Borg begins the process of analyzing the two ways of viewing Christian concepts. This continues through chapter 24 and includes concepts like God, Jesus, Easter, Believing and Faith, Sin, Born Again, and so forth. In his conclusion (chapter 25), Borg asserts that the language of Christianity is important to answering the question, “What is Christianity about?” He cites examples from history to show how Christians have been divided over beliefs. The varieties of these beliefs have created an unnecessary complexity. Instead of a focus on beliefs, Borg advocates a focus on loving God and what God loves. He sees God, as revealed in Jesus, as having a passion for transformed lives and a transformed world.


I recommend Speaking Christian to Christians struggling to understand how literal and near literal interpretations of the Bible make sense in the modern world. Some Christians seem to deny the findings of science and prefer to trust faith leaders when it comes to matters of biology, physics, psychology, and even their health. So, for Christians seeking to understand their faith in a way that does not deny science, Speaking Christian offers a path forward. But even more than that, Speaking Christian can help restore the credibility of Christianity marred by those who use the Bible in divisive ways.


Borg, M. J. (2014). Speaking Christian: Why Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning and Power. New York: HarperCollins.