Generous Orthodoxy  

The word ortho-doxy (Greek for "right doctrine") has both positive and negative connotations. In a culture that prizes what is iconoclastic and transgressive, orthodoxy has come to sound constricted and unimaginative at best, oppressive and tyrannical at worst.

The position taken on this website is that we cannot do without orthodoxy, for everything else must be tested against it, but that orthodox (traditional, classical) Christian faith should by definition always be generous as our God is generous; lavish in his creation, binding himself in an unconditional covenant, revealing himself in the calling of a people, self-sacrificing in the death of his Son, prodigal in the gifts of the Spirit, justifying the ungodly and indeed, offending the "righteous" by the indiscriminate nature of his favor. True Christian orthodoxy therefore cannot be narrow, pinched, or defensive but always spacious, adventurous and unafraid.
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Latest News

Fleming's new book is Advent: The Once and Future Coming of Jesus Christ. It will appear from Eerdmans in time for Advent 2018.

Posted: Friday, September 8, 2017

Fleming is a regular now on the very popular “Crackers and Grape Juice” podcast. Look for “Fridays with Fleming”

Posted: Monday, March 13, 2017


A very knowledgeable recommendation of The Crucifixion, from London

Posted: Monday, February 20, 2017

"I'm Fleming Rutledge, and I approve this synopsis, from London, of my book The Crucifixion."

Fleming's book The Crucifixion has been named the Book of the Year (2017) by Christianity Today

Posted: Friday, December 16, 2016

Here is a link to the webpage with the announcement.

The Crucifixion by Fleming Rutledge crosses the pond

Posted: Friday, May 27, 2016

The Church Times is a widely read publication of the Church of England. The May 27 issue contains a review of Fleming's book along with two others. Here is an excerpt from the review by Dr. Peter Forster, Bishop of Chester:

"The most substantial of these books is The Crucifixion, by the veteran US Episcopalian [sic] priest; Fleming Rutledge. A gifted preacher and spiritual writer, this is her theological magnum opus of 600 pages. Don’t let the length put you off: this is pure gold, reminiscent in style of Ken Leech at his best. The book is at once profound and preachable. A preacher will find material, and illustrations, for many sermons. Any Christian would find it uplifting, and academic theologians will see just how theology can best be put at the service of the wider Church. Her main dialogue partner is American Christianity, which evades the cross, as it comes packaged “as inspirational uplift — sunlit, backlit, or candlelit”. Not that the cross can ever be interpreted without reference to the resurrection, but this must be as a conjoined paradox rather than as a balance or neat sequence. If there is a central motif in this restless and multi-faceted book, it is that Jesus Christ represents, and enacts, God’s apocalyptic entry into creation in order to confront and destroy the powers and principalities of evil, supremely in the confrontation that the cross portrays. Hence the importance of its public dimension. The cross is not just an ugly death but a public ugly death."



The Crucifixion wins Best Reference Book award

Posted: Friday, May 13, 2016

Dick and Fleming Rutledge are shown with Professor Deborah Hunsinger and Professor George Hunsinger of Princeton Theological Seminary at the Episcopal Conference Center in Oviedo, Florida, where both women won Best Book awards from the Academy of Parish Clergy. Prof. Hunsinger's book, the Best Book of 2015, is Bearing the Unbearable, which puts trauma theory to work in the service of the gospel. Fleming Rutledge's book, The Crucifixion, won as Best Reference Book of 2015, so designated on account of its heft and comprehensiveness. George Hunsinger, who has won many awards himself, wrote an endorsement (aka "blurb") for Fleming's book. It was a wonderful reunion of colleagues.

The Episcopal New Yorker interviews Fleming Rutledge about The Crucifixion

Posted: Tuesday, May 10, 2016

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The Crucifixion was reviewed on the Reformed-ish blog by Derek Rishmawy, who calls it a “beautiful piece of theology”, ideal for pastor-theologians.

Posted: Monday, February 29, 2016

Commonweal, the highly respected Roman Catholic magazine, has given Fleming's The Crucifixion a prominent, positive review:

Posted: Sunday, February 28, 2016

The reviewer, Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, associate professor of theology at Boston College, calls the book a "remarkable" and "monumental" work, and closes by echoing "the chant Augustine heard in the Garden: tolle, lege: take up and read! Rutledge’s volume wonderfully celebrates the triumph of redeeming grace: the crucified Messiah, Jesus who is 'the wisdom and power of God.'"

The Christian Century featured a very positive review of The Crucifixion:

Posted: Saturday, February 27, 2016


Fleming presents her new book at the Ecumenical Institute in Baltimore:

Posted: Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The photo shows Michael Gorman, of the EI, responding to her presentation. The copy is by David Neff, retired editor-in-chief of Christianity Today.

Fleming's new book is published and available

Posted: Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ, is now officially in print. It can be ordered at a discount from Eerdmans directly, or from Amazon if you must. If you are a supporter of an independent bookstore, do ask them to order directly from Eerdmans. Eerdmans is superlative in speedy response and delivery, and they give substantial discounts to clergy.

This book about the cross of Christ is not like any other book presently on the market. It delves deeply into all the major images and motifs used in the Old and New Testaments to explain what is happening on the cross. That phrase, “what is happening,” is important. The crucifixion of Christ is not simply a spectacle to wonder at. God is doing something, something unique and cosmically effective, in historical time, at a specific geographical location intimately associated with his promises to the Jews. What is this thing that God is doing? This book attempts to answer that by reflecting in depth on what the Scriptures show us.

The book also attempts a close look at the problem of evil. There is no “answer” in this life to the problem of evil and suffering, but the suffering and excruciating public death of Jesus by torture is related to it in a way that is unique in religion and actually undercuts human religious ideas. The chapter called “The Descent into Hell” examines this matter in depth. Individual human frailty and sinfulness is addressed in the chapter called “The Substitution.” Social evil—war, violence, crime, oppression, racism, exploitation—is addressed particularly in “The Apocalyptic War: Christus Victor.” The entire volume is organized around the central proclamation of the gospel: the justification of the ungodly.

Several lay people have already testified that they are finding the book readable and engaging. To be sure, it is directed to pastors, preachers, and students, but it is also accessible to inquiring non-specialists. It can profitably be used by study groups, particularly by using the eight chapters in Part Two: The Biblical Motifs.

Recent Ruminations

The truthtellers of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School
Thursday, February 22, 2018

This blog is for preachers. It’s the first blog I’ve written in about eight months, having found Twitter a lot less taxing (there’s a lesson there, not entirely a good one!).

I am in a Starbucks by the side of the road. I have pulled off because I have been on my car radio listening to an hour and a half of speeches by the teenagers who survived the MSD school shooting and have gone to Tallahassee to confront their legislators. As I listened to their electrifying presentations, I kept thinking over and over about how much we preachers of the gospel have to learn from them.

(I will refer to them as “young people” rather than “children” out of respect for them, although they very strikingly refer to themselves as “children” to call attention to what they see as the failure of the “adults” to protect them.)

Not every speech was equally noteworthy. Two or three of the young women would benefit from voice lessons to lower their registers. I am writing about the most impressive of the speeches, which propelled me out of my car. What was particularly striking about them? What can preachers learn from them?

First and foremost was their urgency. It was not to be denied. They are infuriated by being patronized, by being told by legislators how wonderful and brave and powerful they are. They are not interested in being praised. They want to get something done. Like it or not, it cannot be denied that prophets have arisen in Israel. The time will soon come when recalcitrant lawmakers will begin to dread the appearance of young people in their offices and in the hallways, just as King Ahab dreaded the appearance of Elijah.

I have heard a great many sermons in a variety of churches all over this country and abroad. The majority of them lack urgency and passion. They lack courage and commitment. It seems that teachers these days must actually be prepared to take a bullet while protecting their students, but how many preachers give the impression that their message is a matter of life and death? I forget which one of the great preachers of history it was (Whitefield? Wesley?) who said that every sermon should be delivered as if it were the preacher’s last.

It is true that young people with a cause tend to be reckless in their certainty. It is a classic characteristic of youth. But were the apostles any less committed to preaching the gospel in circumstances that might well result in their imprisonment or death? Is maturity an excuse for pallid sermons?

Second and almost equally notable was the young speakers’ renunciation of all clichés, all platitudes, all used-to-death phrases continually trotted out by politicians and other public figures. With the exception of “never again,” which has had its day and probably should be permanently retired, these young people explicitlyrenounced standard phrases, telling the legislators that they were tired of hearing about “thoughts and prayers,” tired of being told “this is not the time for that conversation,” tired of hearing about how “our hearts are broken,” tired of “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” We have heard all this before, they said, and we are sick of it. We are sick of empty talk.

Note that they are not rejecting speech per se. They are making speeches. What they are rejecting is  empty, shallow speech without any heart in it, let alone truth. It was instructive to go back and forth between listening to them and changing channels to hear the concurrent speech at NASA by Vice-President Pence. His speech compared to theirs was robotic, predictable, flat. He talked about how our national heart was broken about the school shooting, but he sounded as it was simply an item to be checked off his list. It sounded inauthentic.

So third, the students’ speeches were authentic. It is shocking and preposterous that the Twittersphere is ricocheting with viral accusations that their speeches were written for them, that they are “crisis actors.” No one except the most hardened skeptic listening to them could mistake the immediacy of their recounting of their experiences hiding in closets, texting their last words to parents, hearing the shots killing their friends. Over time as they are asked to repeat their testimonies, the freshness will fade, but the immediate impact cannot be taken away. Preachers can learn from this, also. No story borrowed from a homiletical website can substitute for the preacher’s own personal investment in what she is saying. Over time, congregations learn to spot the difference between what is the preacher’s own, won through struggle, and what is second hand.

Fourth, the young peoples’ speeches for the most part were very artfully constructed. One young woman spoke about her determination to demonstrate that no adult had not written her speech for her. She hardly needed to say this because the gut-wrenching nature of her testimony was far too honest and immediate to be parroted. Given this, it was quite breathtaking the way she and others put their speeches together. What they lacked in Churchillian eloquence was compensated for by their skillful use of repetition and crescendo reminiscent of African-American preaching. They did not allow their speeches to flag in energy or forward movement. So many sermons that I hear tail off at the end, as if the preacher lacked the energy and conviction to make the sale, so to speak. The preacher preparing the sermon should always allow time to craft the ending. No matter how much effort is put into setting the stage, if the sermon loses strength at the end, the effort is lost and the opportunity for a breakthrough dribbles away.


Now, clearly, these young people are fired up because of what has just happened to them. It may be that they cannot muster up this level of passion month after month, which is what they will be required to do in order to overcome the timidity of the legislators. Preachers, similarly, will protest that they cannot produce high drama Sunday after Sunday, year after year. But as the doctrine of the Word of God attests (see Karl Barth), every authentic proclamation of the Word is in itself a high drama. Every time the preacher goes into the pulpit, the Powers of Sin and Death are lurking nearby to undermine the power of the voice of God. The Word of God—as William Stringfellow, for one, tirelessly proclaimed—is the weapon of Truth against falsehood. Over a preaching lifetime, a preacher should be able to attest that he or she has faithfully grappled with the Enemy so as to make room, Sunday by Sunday, for the Word to speak.


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Latest Tips From the Times

I am shifting to Twitter!
Monday, January 23, 2017

I have decided to stop writing for this "Tips from the Times" feature on my website. From now on, I will simply reTweet articles that I think are notable, trying to be selective and not send too many. I have really enjoyed doing Tips, and I think there are some good pieces in my Tips archives, but I am spending too much time on it and--as we all know by now--Twitter is easier and more efficient, if not exactly mind-stretching! I will be able to put more effort into Ruminations. Many thanks to all my readers.

Read All Tips from the Times >