by David Storey
from Signs of the Times No. 57 - Apr 2015
Marcus Borg has been for me a lifeline in my religious pilgrimage.
I came late to him, thanks to the Centre for Radical Christianity in Sheffield, to which I travelled from the south coast with my wife in order to hear him. Another year we heard him in London. I also obtained tapes of him speaking at Edinburgh in order to play them in my car whilst travelling.
I was not afraid to mention him to my bishop as a theological scholar who brought a fresh perspective and understanding of the gospel. You might say that he walked humbly with his God. As a theological professor he was known to say to students who said that they did not believe in God, the God that they did not believe in was also a God that he did not believe in. I regularly commend his book The Heart of Christianity as a foundational theological book. From there you can go on to read many of his other longer books which spell out the Jesus Christ and God that he did believe in.
Jesus (2011 SPCK), subtitled 'Uncovering the life, teachings, and relevance of a religious revolutionary' is remarkable in that he started to revise a book written twenty years earlier. Two years later it became a 'replacement' book: the first Jesus: A New Vision had been written when one might think he was a mature scholar of fifty, but he was ever maturing.
He had been a member of the Jesus Seminar and I view him as one of its best. He was a passionate believer in the reality and importance of the Gospel of God and Jesus for us today. But he knew that it needed representing with today's insights. I value his Speaking Christian, which is very useful in clarifying where Christian words have become misleading for too many people. I hope it will help Christians mean what they say and say what they mean. With John Dominic Crossan he provided study books on the birth and death of Jesus: The First Christmas and The Last Week. The two major festivals in the year deserve to be properly understood. These books should help.
Marcus obviously had an ability to reach out to other scholars, particularly shown in his relationship to Tom Wright which resulted in the joint book The Meaning of Jesus. Sadly I did not feel convinced by Tom Wright, though I found Marcus good at answering the challenges presented by Tom. Scholars of other persuasions have come on record as appreciating Marcus's ability to listen and respond constructively. He will be sorely missed. Do make use of his books and recordings. You should be well rewarded.