Saturday, May 8, 2010

Putting Away Childish things: Marcus Borg turns to fiction

Putting Away Childish Things: A Tale of Modern Faith Putting Away Childish Things: A Tale of Modern Faith by Marcus J. Borg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Borg is a very fine New Testament scholar and a good popularizer of liberal theology. I've never been dissappointed by his books.

I am happy to report that Borg's first work of fiction is no exception to this rule. The story is solid and engaging, the plot has an intrinic interest, and - like his non-fiction - the prose is just plain enjoyable. Borg is candid that he is not writing to produce masterpiece fiction here. And indeed, as a work of fiction there are some plot holes, and worse some underdeveloped characters and unresolved conflicts, one quite major! But the fiction, as fiction, is decent and enjoyable despite these flaws.

The heart of the book, however, is not the storyline. Borg uses the form of a story to show how the theological struggles he has long written about play out in the lives of genuine individuals from all manner of perspectives. Basic Liberal theology is well described by Borg's characters, as are the various reactions to it, ranging from fear and confusion to curiosity and excitement.

Most interestingly, Borg presents his liberal christians as passionate about their faith. God is central to their lives. There is a tendancy to think of Christians who embrace liberal theology as lukewarm about their faith. This is false, and Borg brilliantly creates characters who prove that a more progressive theology can, or rather should, go hand in and with passionate faith.

Borg's book is not merely a primer in liberal theology, not simply pop evangelism in fictional wrapping. This is a book about true spirituality, about real faith.

By the end of the novel we have come to learn something very important about faith. We have learned to let go of anxiety and give ourselves over to the divine in an act of trust.

Unless you are an anti-religous atheist or a religous fundamentalist, I highly recommend sitting down and letting Dr. Borg tell you a story this summer.

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