The Universal Christ
By Richard Rohr Convergent Books, 2019
A book review by SOFiA member Margaret Gwynn of Napier
A good part of this book is concerned with the failure of churches to teach true Christianity. Rohr instances the creeds which sandwich Jesus’ whole life and teaching into a comma between birth and death. Not surprisingly, Christianity has often failed to imitate Jesus’ life and teachings.
There are other omissions in the creeds – no mention of love, forgiveness, hope or service. The emphasis is all on theology, not praxis, no hint of a simple life-style, no indication of a Jesus who shows us how to be fully human. “In Jesus, God became part of our small, homely world and entered into human limits and ordinary-nesses” p.110. Jesus is the guarantee that divinity can reside within humanity.
But worse than omissions in the creeds, says Rohr, was the limitation of Christ to one man, and the remainder of his book sets out to show an alternative interpretation. For Rohr, Jesus is the map for the time-bound and personal level of life. But Christ is the blueprint for all time, space and life itself. The unique insight of Christianity, he says, is Incarnation, God’s loving union with all of creation from the beginning.
For Rohr there have been three “comings” – the act of creating the universe, Jesus, and the beloved community (the whole of creation). Matter and spirit have never been separate. They reveal and manifest each other. You could call this an incarnational world view. Rohr’s code word for that is Christ. Resurrection then becomes, not a one-time miracle in Jesus’ life, but a pattern of creation a universal principle, incarnation taken to its logical conclusion.
Rohr offers some suggestions for meditative practices to ground our lives in the incarnation world view. His style is very readable, and I found the book a worthwhile read.