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.
More about Generous Orthodoxy>

Latest News

Fleming's new book, Advent: the Once and Future Coming of Jesus Christ, has been a runaway best-seller

Posted: Tuesday, November 27, 2018

For a couple of weeks just before Advent there were no books to be had. Eerdmans rushed a second printing (or whatever they are calling it these days). The very best place to get Advent now is at where you will find a warm welcome, a good discount, and speedy shipping. Advent is upon us, and it is not a long season, so move fast on this if copies are needed. The book is already being read and taught in England and Canada as well as the United States.

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

Download PDF

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

Abortion: some ruminations
Saturday, May 25, 2019

Abortion: some ruminations

It will be obvious to readers that this is not a polished essay. I apologize for the paragraphs-by-number, but if I wait until I have put it into finished form, I may never get it done.(I'll undoubtedly be editing this a bit in days to come but am hastening to put it out now before I lose my nerve.)

Callling my blog posts “ruminations” suggests a loosely organized, penultimate product. At the same time, though, “ruminations,” for me, has a different connotation than “thoughts” or even “reflections.” Rumination suggests a longer, more deliberate, “ruminative” process, however incomplete it may be. 

I have been ruminating about abortion for many decades, but I don’t think that I have ever written anything about it until now. Since the election of Supreme Justice Brett Kavanaugh, however, the atmosphere has begun to change dramatically in a way I had not foreseen. The debate about the issues surrounding Roe vs. Wade has suddenly made repeal seem possible, and it seems increasingly irresponsible for Protestant Christians to remain silent. I am therefore going to try to organize the way I have been trying to think about this problem and explain why I have not come to any clear conclusion. I’d like to think that this will be dialectical. I don’t mean this as a “middle road” (the much-touted Episcopal via media has always seemed like wimping out to me). I mean living in the painful tension between conflicting views. John Keats coined the phrase “negative capability,” which, in my view, is necessary for Christian ethical reflection.

The Roman Catholic Church is profoundly wounded, these days, but they do have teaching—the magisterium—and there is something to be said about that. Living in dialectical tension means showing respect for that, however hypocritical it may seem. I have been influenced, over the years, by the thinking of the Roman Catholic Church on sexual and reproductive matters. This teaching is widely derided by the culture, but I have always been impressed with the way that their best thinkers have worked out comprehensive ethical positions at length. I still remember years ago reading a Catholic defense of the “rhythm method” of birth control that impressed me, even though I never tried to live by it. Ruminating about this sort of double-mindedness has not led me to any fixed position. By writing this down, however, I hope I might make a contribution toward a more forthright way of being Christian in the midst of the impending conflict.

Here are some of the factors as I see them:

1)      Speaking first for myself, I believe abortion in all cases (even the morning-after pill) is a form of violating and killing human life and is therefore deeply disordered and an offense to the Creator.

2)      We are presently seeing a change in the political landscape which appears to be encouraging many in public life, perhaps especially men, to move to the right on the issue of abortion.

3)      This seems to be particularly true in the matter of exceptions. When male politicians in danger of losing their seats take an extreme position against exceptions in the case of rape, incest, human trafficking (the life of the mother usually, but not always, escapes from this list), it invites deep skepticism about their motives.

4)      One must wonder why it is that so many (not all, but it seems a majority) people who are vehemently opposed to abortion are so indifferent to loss of life by guns, loss of life on the southern border, loss of life because of poor medical care, loss of life at the hands of the police. It is not necessary to be soft on crime in order to be concerned about abortions.

5)      With regard to the timing of abortions, most people probably feel more uneasy about an abortion the longer the pregnancy proceeds. I personally would have great difficulty continuing to support abortion after the first trimester, but who would be the judge of the exceptional circumstances in the second trimester? I think I would virtually always oppose third-trimester abortions except in the life-of-the-mother case—but the matter of what happens to those babies is of paramount importance and should always be part of the discussion.

6)      I have always been struck by the vacuity of proposals to care for mothers who are forced to carry babies to term against their will. This is often the case with men, I've noticed. Lip service is given (“we must be sensitive to these women’s needs,” “we must offer support to these women,” “we must have programs to carry them through and beyond delivery,” “we must provide for these babies”) but they seem to me to be empty rhetoric. We know now what happened to many unwanted children whose lot was to be housed in cheerless orphanages where they often became part of the nameless and dishonored dead. I have not seen any truly impressive proposals, let alone actual programs, for effectively addressing the problem of caring for reluctant mothers and unwanted babies.

7)      Abortion has become so widespread that there are very few American-born babies for childless parents to adopt.

8)      Women have always found ways to have abortions. We know this. This will always be the case, human nature being what it is.

9)      Because there will always be abortions, it will always be the poor, underprivileged women who will suffer. This has often been a decisive factor in the thinking of those who are against abortion but reluctant to make it illegal.

10)  Abortions undergone because of inconvenience are particularly hard to defend ethically.

11)  The role of men who have fathered children who will be aborted is deeply problematic. Suppose a man fathers a child and pressures, or forces, the woman into having an abortion (a frequent scenario). Suppose a man who fathers a child is deeply distressed that the child is to be aborted and seeks to prevent it (less frequent, in my experience, but significant nevertheless). Suppose a man offers to adopt such a child and is refused by the woman who goes ahead with the abortion (also infrequent but significant).

12)  For these and other reasons, it is wrong and deeply unChristian to speak simply of “a woman’s right to choose.” There are two other human beings in this equation, the father and the unborn (not to mention God). Situations in life differ drastically; ethical decisions should not be made with reference to the woman alone.

13)  The rhetoric of the “pro-choice” movement, including the ubiquitous “woman’s right to choose,” is notably silent about the fact that a nascent human being is involved in these disputes. One looks in vain for any concern about the fetus having the right to choose not to be born.

14)  No one knows when life begins. I’m not sure that science will ever yield a certain answer. Certainly the timing of viability is now earlier than was previously thought, given the advances in medical neonatal care. Personally, I have a hard time thinking of the embryo as a mere “blob of tissue.” There is no agreement about this, but it is hard not to suspect that “pro-choice” advocates of bending the data, such as it is, to their cause. Various signs of unmistakable human life have been identified as the indisputable moment, including of course the much-mentioned fetal heartbeat, but I am not convinced that this point can ever be satisfactorily made, since it is so closely linked to the abortion issue. Addendum: I've been paying attention to some answers I've received pointing out that the embryo has biological life from inception. That, surely, is true. But (to give an example) we just had an exterminator come and destroy an ant's nest under our house. That was a lot of biological life. Was that sinful (a serious question)? I don't think the category of biological life is enough to give us much  guidance about the timing of the development of a human being.     

15)  The mainline churches, I believe, have been seriously delinquent in teaching about what is involved—theologically and ethically—with regard to abortion. In contrast to Catholic ethicists with their long, carefully reasoned discussions about the foundation of the Roman church’s implacable position against abortion, liberal Protestants have just gone along with secular categories and conclusions. No genuinely theological treatment of the matter has emerged on the “pro-choice” side, to my knowledge, to equal the Roman Catholic position papers.

16)  Mario Cuomo, then governor of New York, delivered a famous speech at the University of Notre Dame in 1984 in which he declared “The Catholic Church is my spiritual home. My heart is there, and my hope.” He meant it, and he lived it. But in that speech, courageously delivered in the heart of American Catholic academia, he also declared that as politician he would not support making abortion illegal. As a resident of New York State since 1969, I admired Cuomo père for his powerful intellect, his searching mind, and his demonstrable conscientiousness. (I wish I could say the same for his son Andrew.) I remember being deeply impressed by that speech at the time. In some ways, Mario Cuomo did a far better job of arguing for legal abortion without relinquishing personal and religious opposition to it in practice than the Protestant churches have done since that time 35 years ago. His position is still fiercely debated today; the speech and the controversy can easily be perused online.

17)  Mario Cuomo also stood firmly and theologically against the death penalty. In my opinion, formed over decades, Christian faith requires opposition to the death penalty (contra John Calvin). I hold to a form of Joseph Cardinal Bernadin’s idea of the “seamless garment” (evoking the robe of Jesus). Here’s a quotation from Bernadin’s 1984 lecture, “A Consistent Ethic of Life: Continuing the Dialogue,” in which he attempts to respond to his critics: “Nuclear war threatens life on a previously unimaginable scale; abortion takes life daily on a horrendous scale; public executions are fast becoming weekly events in the most advanced technological society in history; and euthanasia is now openly discussed and even advocated. Each of these assaults on life has its own meaning and morality; they cannot be collapsed into one problem, but they must be confronted as pieces of a larger pattern.”


The Roman Catholic Church is profoundly wounded, these days, but they do continue to have teaching—the magisterium—and there is something to be said for that. My experience (extensive, but admittedly not exhaustive) of the mainline Protestant churches is that abortion is simply not discussed except privately in the pastor’s study or the small support group. Therefore the mantra of “a woman’s right to choose” is not challenged. We are looking at the possibility of the most serious conflict on this issue that we have ever seen in this country. We are already a grievously divided nation, and the thought that the Protestant churches will stand by silently, or continue to take a pro-abortion position with insufficient reflection, is morally compromising in an extreme degree. It would be better, it seems to me, to follow thinkers like Mario Cuomo into the depths of the difficulty and continue to live in the tension than to say nothing and take no position.

For myself, in this as in other ethical and moral dilemmas, I pray for clarity of vision but also for God’s forgiveness in the mess we human beings can always be depended upon to make of our lives and the lives of others. Lord, have mercy upon us.


Read All Ruminations>

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 >