It is like the first time I sang a Psalm that I had read and spoken for many years. Singing it was “the same, but different.” The words were the same, the meaning was mostly the same, but the music gave the words a new emphasis. So it is for me with this first work of fiction by one of my favorite authors, Marcus Borg.
Putting Away Childish Things: A Tale of Modern Faith, by Marcus Borg, HarperOne, 2010, hardcover, 342 pages, $25.99.
Kate Riley is the main character of the book. In many ways she reminds me of who the author may be in real life. We can only truly write about ourselves and our own lives, even when we write what appears to be a fictional story. Kate Riley is a college professor of religious studies, as is the author. I wonder how many of the events described by the author in Kate Riley’s life have been a part of Borg’s life.
I have enjoyed Borg’s books about Jesus, Christianity, and our views on religion for many years. The Heart of Christianity, The Meaning of Jesus, The God We Never Knew, The Last Week, The First Christmas, The First Paul, Jesus, and his very popular Reading the Bible Again for the First Time. They are all works of non-fiction. Borg’s writing in them reminds me of an excellent college instructor. He states what he will tell you, then lays down the thoughts in a very orderly manner, and concludes with a summary of the main points. Clearly written, well researched, and organized.
In Putting Away Childish Things, Borg weaves the same information that I have read in his previous books into a gripping, page-turning story. My best test for his fiction writing occurred last night. Reading before bedtime nearly always puts me to sleep quickly. Last evening I was so engrossed in the events in Kate Riley’s life that I read longer than I had planned and was not ready to stop for the night. Borg has passed my test for engaging reading by keeping me engaged in the story line late last evening.
Kate’s life has encountered the two different ways of interpreting the stories in the Bible. The more conservative Christians, the ones who, in my humble opinion, have kidnapped the term Christian and defined it in their own narrow meaning, view the Bible as being the inerrant word of God. They believe that every word in the Bible is literally true and historically factual. The other group of more liberal minded Christians view and read Scripture as the story of human’s interactions with God as written in poetry, metaphor, parable, and as Borg writes in this book, as “overture.” In a symphonic piece of music the overture presents all of the major themes of the work in a condensed form and gives the listener a glimpse of the larger work of music that is to follow. Marcus Borg works through the lives of characters in his book to show the dynamics and theology of each view of the same Scripture.
For me, this work of fiction is the best way to read, learn, and think about theology, Christ’s life, and where we are in Christianity today.