Book Review: Putting Away Childish Things by Marcus Borg

Putting Away Childish Things: A Novel of Modern Faith

Marcus J. Borg: $16.99 trade paperback,
ISBN 978-0-06-188816-8, 338 pp.,
HarperOne, 2011

Does faith have a place in our modern society? Can religion evolve to keep pace with knowledge? Should it?

Marcus Borg thinks so, and for the first time he puts his insights into the form of a novel. Borg is a leading New Testament scholar well-known for his many non-fiction books on theology. (Read about him at

Readers of his non-fiction work anticipated this novel with interest, curious about how he would apply his take on theology to characters in real-life situations. Could Borg’s fictional story enrich our real lives?

Borg approaches fiction with some trepidation.

His preface, where he admits to lacking a novelist’s imagination or gifts and writing a “didactic” novel, reminds me of a cook standing in the kitchen door saying, “Thank you for coming to dinner, but it’s my first stab at pot roast, and I’m sure it’s not very good.”

The novel is, in the end, both fiction and non-fiction. The fictional part of the book involves the main character, Kate Riley, a professor of religious studies at an American college. Kate faces the conflicts that arise in such a situation and ponders her challenges over glasses of perfectly poured Guinness. The university setting provides the perfect opportunity for Borg to showcase his non-fiction expertise. Kate’s lectures and interactions with students are summarized versions of Borg’s non-fiction work. The overall effect is that of fictional openings created into which to plunk non-fiction writing.

Those who have read Borg’s non-fiction works might be disappointed in this book. They will be familiar with the themes, and the supporting fictional framework is not strong enough to create a page-turning reading experience.

But Borg wrote Putting Away Childish Things for readers who would not normally pick up his non-fiction books. Newcomers to a spiritual quest will find this book enlightening and thought-provoking. They will enjoy the read and come away richer for the theological insights.


About Arlene Somerton Smith

Writer, laughing thinker, miner of inspirational insights, sports fan, and community volunteer

Posted on May 2, 2012, in Book reviews, Books I bought, Fiction, HarperOne and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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