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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.

Marcus Borg "What's Christianity All About on YouTube"

Marcus J Borg Bio

Marcus J. Borg (1942-2015) was an American theologian from Fergus Falls, Minnesota whose research focused on the historical Jesus. He was educated at the University of Oxford, Concordia College, Union Theological Seminary, and Mansfield College. He was associated with the Anglican communion and was a professor at Oregon State University until his retirement in 2007.

Author Bio

Geoffrey W. Sutton is a psychologist and Emeritus Professor of Psychology whose research focused on various topics in the psychology of religion. He earned his PhD in psychology from the University of Missouri. See below to find books and other publications.

Cite this review

Sutton, G. W. (2020, October 20). Speaking Christian: A book review. Sutton Reviews. Retrieved from

Book Reference

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

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  Related Posts

Reading the Bible Again (Borg, 2001)

Speaking Christian (Borg, 2014)

 Progressive Christianity - Book summaries and reviews




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