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

RNS (Religion News Service), a respected independent site for journalism about religious matters, posted this about Fleming’s book The Crucifixion:

Posted: Thursday, May 18, 2017

http://religionnews.com/2017/05/17/fleming-rutledge-woman-crucifixion/

You can read about RNS here:
http://religionnews.com/about/


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

Posted: Monday, March 13, 2017

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/crackers-and-grape-juice/id1100507919

 


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."
https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/book-review-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. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2017/january-february/christianity-todays-2017-book-of-year.html


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

http://derekzrishmawy.com/2016/03/16/the-crucifixion-understanding-the-death-of-jesus-christ-by-fleming-rutledge/


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.'"

https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/crucifixion-0


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

Posted: Saturday, February 27, 2016

http://www.christiancentury.org/reviews/2015-09/crux-matter

 


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

Posted: Tuesday, December 15, 2015

http://www.stmarys.edu/the-crucifixion-according-to-fleming-rutledge/

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

Resistance: a biblical calling
Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Resistance is one of many new political mantras. Hillary Clinton, in a relatively unbuttoned recent interview with Christiane Amanpour, made a move to anoint herself as the new queen of resistance. That's not the direction I want to follow. The Wesleyan dictum that Mrs. Clinton frequently quotes ("Do all the good you can") depends upon what the Mockingbird people call a "high anthropology." As a Reformed theological thinker, I'm not in that camp. There are many figures beloved by those of us who like to try to think radically about biblical politics while still affirming the justification of the ungodly: William Stringfellow, Will Campbell, Vernard Eller, the Blumhardts père et fils, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jacques Ellul, Karl Barth, John Howard Yoder (more ethically tarnished than the others, but a herald of the resistance nevertheless), and many others. This theological stance requires, among other things, a suspicion of "victimology" and a full-throated affirmation of the universality of human bondage (hence, a "low anthropology").

The most familiar biblical text using the word resist (Greek root antistasis) is I Peter 5:8-9:

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist (imperative antistete, stand against) him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
The book I may or may not live to write is tentatively called The Cruciform Life, originally intended as Part Three of my book The Crucifixion. 200 pages exist in preliminary form but had to be split off when The Crucifixion grew to be 850 pagesOne of the chapters of this partially completed volume is called "Resistance." In this relatively brief blog post, I'd like to say something about how resistance, biblically understood, is a significant marker of Christian life in the world.  But first we need to rethink the way we read the Bible, and especially the New Testament, because very few 21st- century Christians have been taught to take the Devil seriously unless they worship in the backwoods (so to speak), or unless they have read Jeffrey Burton Russell's four-volume academic work on Satan. I'm not going into detail on that here (for more detail, read the first part of my chapter "The Descent into Hell" in The Crucifixion) but will just point to the cosmology of the New Testament, which presupposes the entrenched opposition of an occupying Enemy against which the human race is powerless without aid "from another quarter" (hinted at in Esther 4:14). And see also The Lord of the Rings, in which this scenario is superbly dramatized.

A brief look through several New Testament translations offers no alternative rendering of the Greek antistete other than resist. Literally, it means "to oppose," "to stand against." How are we to resist evil in our current situation without 1) becoming insufferably self-righteous; 2) linking our views to specific political figures; 3) alienating a significant percent of our congregations?

The most-read blog I've ever posted is this call to arms:
http://ruminations.generousorthodoxy.org/2016/07/words-to-church-in-out-present-crisis.html
This was written in July 2016. I can't say that I've seen much in the way of "resistance preaching" since the election. I've observed, however, that there have been some oblique messages from pulpits and in newsletters that, given time, may bear fruit. The interim pastor of a small rural church that I occasionally attend has not failed to speak out, Sunday after Sunday, about biblical mandates such as care for the poor, hospitality to the stranger, love of the "other." At the same time I don't hear the most radical call of all--to love our enemies and pray for those who curse us. There is a beautiful "Prayer for our Enemies" in the Book of Common Prayer, but I have yet to hear it used in any church unless I was reading it myself. It seems to me that praying for our enemies is a particularly powerful form of resistance. It marks out the unique character of Christian faith, which emerged out of the prayers of Jesus Christ for his enemies; and who were we if not his enemies?

People often protest that we should be for something, not against something. We should affirm something, they say, not protest something (as in "Protestant"). But sometimes--oftentimes--it is necessary to be unmistakably against that which destroys what we are for. When anthropological theology threatens to run away with the church, we need to resist it--by countering it with strong biblical theology. Simply offering the strong biblical message without a counterpunch, however, does not always do the job. I have learned that the hard way, as I have watched groups steeped in the genuine evangel quickly deteriorate when some "Galatian" or "Corinthian" teachers (Paul's opponents in two of his churches) moved in and began to offer a legalistic or gnostic "gospel"... and people did not even notice what was happening; no wonder Paul wrote in such impassioned terms. More than once, in the 1980s, I preached during a Lenten series in which Bishop Spong also preached. It was very apparent from frequent comments at the church door ("You and Bishop Spong are my favorite preachers!") that they could not tell the difference between my preaching and Spong's. Because of this lack of theological training among churchgoers, resistance needs to be explicit. It does not need to be nasty, but it needs to make itself known.

It seems to me that we in America are now observing a gradual settling-into the new geopolitical situation, a "normalizing" of it. The new tone is part of this--the deterioration of the language, the new tolerance of profanity and insult in public life, a new contempt for sober intellectual analysis, the celebration of ignorance, the widespread dissemination of untruth--all this is rapidly gaining acceptance. There is an unmistakeable uptick in attacks on Muslims, Jews, Hispanics, Arabs (or anyone mistaken for an Arab), and others who do not fit into the white spectrum.  Who would have thought that a displaying a picture of the Statue of Liberty would have become an act of political resistance?

It is showing up on all sides: increasing racial and ethnic tensions, contempt for the opposition, the hyper-frenetic pace of competition, the lack of humility, the crass and unashamed display of the pursuit of wealth, the focus on surfaces and consumption, the increasingly precarious lives of people on the margins and increasing indifference toward them. Any act, however small, of refusal to participate in these trends is an act of resistance. Acquiring less, giving more, seeking quiet pursuits, being neighborly, picking up trash, joining book clubs, writing letters to the editor, supporting charitable endeavors--such things are, in their way, forms of resistance.

However, for those who are called to public life, and for those of us who depend upon their leadership, there is an overwhelming need for open, even heroic, acts of resistance...and there are ways to support that. I'm thinking not only of the famous dissidents known to everyone, but of Sophie Scholl and her student friends against the Nazis, the Monday Demonstrations in East Germany that helped bring down the Berlin Wall, the "No" campaign in Chile by hip young people who designed media messages to help bring down Pinochet...the list is long, but not as long as it might be. Do you know about these movements?  The "No" campaign is portrayed in an excellent movie starring Gael Garcia Bernal. Sophie's movement is the subject of an even more powerful movie, The White Rose. Might we not look for something like this today in our own setting?  The Monday Demonstrations were started at St Nicholas Lutheran Church in Leipzig, each Monday after evening prayers. The pastor there, with the unlikely name of Christian Führer, was the catalyst.

A close friend once asked me why I spent so much time reading about and watching films about great atrocities. That was a challenging question. I gave it a lot of thought. I finally decided that I wanted to inform myself about the worst of the worst because it gives me a sense of mastery, a sense of agency, a sense that I might have a role to play. I have never been confronted with a life-or-death decision, but I would like to think that I was prepared. It's been said about the survivors of the Mother Emmanuel, the AME church in Charleston where Dylan Roof massacred the members of the Bible study group, that whereas they were not ready for such a horrific attack, they were prepared. The extension of forgiveness by some of them to the killer was not glib or superficial. They understood that forgiveness in such a situation was not from a position of victimization, but from a position of superior strength.

The kind of "resistance" we are now seeing on our college campuses is disgraceful. When left-wing students come out to protest with insults and violence, resistance is demeaned and co-opted by the very forces the demonstrators supposedly wish to contest. There is no more central ethic for Christians than the ethics of means. If the means do not mirror the mind of Christ, then resistance becomes corrupt and self-defeating, not to mention non-Christian.

A close friend once asked me why I spent so much time reading about and watching films about great atrocities. That was a challenging question. I gave it a lot of thought. I finally decided that the reason was that being aware of the worst of the worst gave me a sense of mastery, a sense of agency, a sense that I might have a role to play. I have never been confronted with a life-or-death decision, but I would like to think that I was prepared. Being prepared means looking without blinking at the presence and potency of radical evil in order to register the worst about human nature, to fortify ourselves to resist the worst, and to prepare for this resistance by acknowledging that there are submerged dark inclinations in all of us that under certain circumstances can come to the surface.

It's been said about the survivors of the Mother Emmanuel, the AME church in Charleston where Dylan Roof massacred the members of the Bible study group, that whereas they were not ready for such horrific attack, they were prepared. This is one of the callings of the Body of Christ, about which we hear especially just prior to the season of Advent in Mark 13:

...Take heed to yourselves; for they will deliver you up to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them...  And when they bring you to trial and deliver you up, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say; but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit...  and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.
And then if any one says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. False Christs and false prophets will arise and show signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But take heed; I have told you all things beforehand.
"I have told you all things beforehand..." As followers of Jesus, we are prepared and fortified with the Holy Spirit. We will recognize the difference between the speech that degrades and the speech that elevates. We will see that such things as ramping up the atmosphere of consumer excess, shaming poor children whose parents have not paid for their lunches, exploiting workers who have no defenses, continuing to enlarge our prisons without care for the inmates, allowing gun violence to continue unabated, and watching passively as environmental protections are dismantled require not just deploring from afar, but active resistance.

This is a subject requiring much more extensive discussion, but in the meantime it's meant simply as a contribution to the discussion. And when it comes to active resistance, there is a little (tiny, actually) primer that distills some of the great learning and wisdom of  public intellectual Timothy Snyder as a handbook and guide to resistance:
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/mar/20/on-tyranny-twenty-lessons-from-twentieth-century-timothy-snyder-review








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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.
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