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

The Crucifixion is appearing on a leading Roman Catholic blog

Posted: Sunday, June 5, 2016

Roman Catholic bishop Robert Barron, master of media and founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries (Proclaiming Christ in the Culture), is devoting several installments to discussing it. He begins:

Fleming Rutledge’s The Crucifixion is one of the most stimulating and thought-provoking books of theology that I have read in the past ten years. Both an academic [thanks for the compliment, but not really] and a well-regarded preacher in the Episcopal tradition, Rutledge has an extraordinary knack of cutting to the heart of the matter. Her book on the central reality of the Christian faith is supremely illuminating, a delight for the inquiring mind—and man, will it ever preach. There is so much of value in this text that I have decided to dedicate a number of articles to analyzing it.

Here is Bishop Barron:

and here is the link to his opening installment on Word on Fire:

Bishop Barron on Fleming Rutledge's " The Crucifixion"

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.

Christianity Today features Fleming’s new book, The Crucifixion

Posted: Thursday, May 12, 2016

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 power of apology: Trump, Clinton, you, and me
Monday, October 17, 2016

This evening on CNN, three days after the second debate, Wolf Blitzer asked a top-level Clinton supporter if he thought the candidate hadn't missed an opportunity to apologize for the "deplorables" statement. The supporter, predictably, said he didn't think so and in the same breath changed the subject. But it got me thinking about the nature of apology and how rare it is to receive or see a genuine apology.

Actually, I've been thinking about this for years. I was struck by a story I read in the paper about King Hussein of Jordan. Not long before the onset of the cancer that ended his life, he undertook a small mission. He paid a personal visit to the families of some Israelis who had been killed in an Arab terrorist bombing. There was no talk of money or reparations; instead, the King quietly sat with the mourners and by his calm demeanor, unhurried manner, and undivided attention was able to convey a sense of solidarity with them across the Arab-Israeli divide. The reaction of the relatives was out of all proportion to the simplicity of the gesture. By all accounts, they were deeply moved by Hussein’s expressions of personal involvement in their loss. Their grief had been acknowledged. More memorably still, it had been acknowledged and shared by a King.

This is perhaps not quite the same thing as an apology, but the general idea is the same. He wasn't involved in the bombing, but not only did he assume a degree of responsibility for it, he invested himself in shouldering that responsibility by humbling himself before others. 

Another, more famous act of contrition was that of Willy Brandt, the chancellor of Germany, who in 1970 fell to his knees when visiting the Warsaw monument to the Jewish Ghetto Uprising of 1943. This powerful act is commemorated today with another monument on the site.

Well, eheu, we don't expect either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton to do anything so humbling or so dramatic. But I have been wondering if Mrs. Clinton would not be respected more if she would go on TV and, looking directly into the camera, make a live apology to the American people for being so reckless with her private email server. Over and over she has said, "I made a mistake and I take responsibility." That's not an apology, not even close.

The Japanese, I have read, have perfected the art of apology. I am not a fan of Japanese culture on the whole, but if what I read is correct, they have much to teach us in this regard. A true apology requires these actions: 1) Looking the offended person in the eye; 2) speaking the person's name; 3) describing the offense in clear, non-evasive terms (with the result, I'd observe, that the offended person can see that the offender understands what he did and why it was wrong). And then, of course, the deep Japanese bow.

Something along those lines  (obviously, it would have to be crafted according to our present cultural and political context) by Secretary Clinton would, I believe, result in greater respect for her. It would have to be authentic, however, and she has trouble communicating authenticity. That's exactly why it would be so striking if she were to offer a genuine, heartfelt apology and a resolve not to do anything like it again. Period. Without moving on to some other subject.

In the context of the Christian community, we should note, there would be one step more: "Will you forgive me?"  or, "I ask for your forgiveness." 


Addendum: Has the famously empathetic (whether real or faked I am not sure) Bill "I feel your pain" Clinton ever apologized for being a sexual predator? Has he ever shown any signs that he even knows that he is one? I would like to think that if he were running for President today, he could not be elected. We've learned a lot in the last few years, and we are still learning, thanks to the women who have courageously come forward. I really mean courageous. I do not publish my email address because I have received enough hate mail for one lifetime and do not want to receive any more. I keep an eye on my Twitter account because if it ever became a target, I would shut it down.  The things people are saying are so far out of the range of civilized behavior that I can't even find words for it. 


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Latest Tips From the Times

Did you think Asian-Americans have it easy?
Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Everyone will want to read these two pieces about prejudice against Asian-Americans (who knew?). The second one, especially, is really an eye-opener. And note that Michael Luo, a respected editor at the New York Times, was on his way from church on a Sunday morning! Possibly the only Timesman of whom that could be said!

There is a lot to be learned here, especially for those of us who think we are free from this kind of behavior.

Read All Tips from the Times >