Creating Sacred Space For Doubt: Remembering Marcus Borg

Last week the world lost one of the greatest and most important theologians of our time.  Marcus Borg was a professor, theologian, and a prolific author that really helped this generation rethink and recapture the true essence of the Christian faith. 

With books like The Heart of Christianity, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, and Speaking Christian he invited us to rethink what had Christianity had was meant to be, instead of what it had become.   As Disciples pastor Erin Wathen wrote last week, “he shook the dust off of the Church’s most deeply held beliefs, drug them out into the light of day, and was not afraid to say… Where did this come from? Who gave it to us? Is it true, and does it matter?” 

Though he questioned the Bible and many traditional beliefs and teachings of the Church, he never lost his passion for the spiritual life or his faith in God as “real and a mystery.”  As such, one of his most important gifts was modeling doubt.  He saw the act of asking big questions and challenging the traditional views not the opposite of faith, but a very important element of it.  In a wonderful tribute piece in the Christian Century this week, Katherine Willis Pershey wrote, “Borg modeled how to doubt faithfully, how to believe rationally, and—most importantly—how to move ‘beyond belief (and beyond doubt and disbelief) to an understanding of the Christian life as a relationship with the Spirit of God.’” 

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Though some saw his progressive take on scripture as an abomination, to many of us it was a revelation that gave us the permission, and the tools, to create a faith of our own that, well, made sense; one that we could own.  In so doing, he offered a lot of skeptical, struggling people a way back to faith and church.  By creating a sacred space for doubt at the heart of the Christian faith, he made room at the table for those who didn’t always fit the space that the traditional Church created for them.  To this day, many progressive Christians identify Borg as the person who made space for them to return to—or remain in—the Christian faith. 

In his book, Speaking Christian, he writes this, “So, is there an afterlife, and if so, what will it be like? I don't have a clue. But I am confident that the one who has buoyed us up in life will also buoy us up through death. We die into God. What more that means, I do not know. But that is all I need to know.”

Today I celebrate his life, knowing that he now fully knows what it means to live a life of faith and to die into God.