UCC leaders celebrate the life and work of theologian Marcus Borg
One of the world’s most well-known biblical scholars and authors on Jesus Christ has died. Leaders of the United Church of Christ recognized the contributions of Marcus Borg, one of the first voices for progressive Christianity, and whose work brought renewed energy to the study of the Gospel.
Borg died on Wednesday, Jan. 21, at age 72 after a prolonged illness and battle with pulmonary fibrosis. He is credited for popularizing the debate of the historical accuracy of Jesus and the New Testament.
The theologian taught for a brief period at the Pacific School of Religion, in Berkley, Calif., and studied at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Pacific School of Religion is a seminary of the UCC and Union Theological Seminary is one of the UCC’s historically-related seminaries.
“Marcus Borg was one of those finest of teachers who shared not just knowledge but wisdom, too, and did so with humility and warmth,” said the Rev. Kate Huey, dean of the UCC’s Amistad Chapel. “He modeled a kind and respectful attitude toward those who disagreed with him, and a patient presence when responding to questions and concerns. Through the years, I’ve turned to his writings for help when writing Sermon Seeds, confident that he would provide just the right way to say the thing I was finding so hard to express. His life’s work has been a blessing to so many of us who seek to experience God’s love more deeply.”
Born in 1942 in Minnesota and raised in the Lutheran tradition, Borg attended Concordia College (Minnesota) and majored in philosophy and political science. His fascination with the New Testament led him to a graduate fellowship at Union Theological Seminary, where he was exposed to liberal theology and dove into his research of the Gospels and Jesus of Nazareth.
Borg was also a visiting professor of the New Testament at the Pacific School of Religion from 1989 to 1991. In 1979 he joined the faculty at Oregon State University and taught religion there until his retirement in 2007. Borg appeared on news programs on NBC, ABC, PBS, NPR and several National Geographic programs.
Kim Whitney, executive associate to the UCC national officers, expressed sadness for Borg’s passing, but reveled in the thought that so many will study his work for years to come.
“I’m sad this light has gone to be with other lights in the cloud of witnesses,” Whitney said, “and so enormously grateful for his enduring legacy of a progressive spiritual voice and lens in the world that has opened so many portals into faith for so many.”
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