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 published and available

Posted: Sunday, November 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

Kenneth Leech 1939-2015
Wednesday, November 25, 2015

I just learned that Kenneth Leech died in September, of cancer. He was two years younger than I, so I did not expect this. I was just getting ready to send him my new book The Crucifixion, because he was very supportive of my work, always answered my emails, and wrote a "blurb" for my little book The Seven Last Words.  I met him only once, in London; I went out to the East End, to St Botolphs, Aldgate, to participate in some sort of gathering to honor him. It was rather loosely organized, to say the least -- which befitted his loosely organized ministry! Although he was a political radical, he was no theological liberal. He was a great friend and colleague of Rowan Williams, formerly Archbishop of Canterbury. I admired Ken Leech very much on the strength of the two of his many books that I read: The Eye of the Storm, and We Preach Christ Crucified.  I am saddened that he is gone, and sorry that I could not send him my book. because I quote him several times. Oh, well...he did not need to know that anyway, having been honored in so many other ways, and now joined with the saints in glory.

I was particularly interested in him because he combined fearlessness in social action with fearlessness in his critique of mushy "theology." His Anglo-Catholicism and attraction to contemplative spirituality interested me much less than his activism and his biblical orientation. Christians don't have to agree on everything as long as the essentials are in place. Anyone who could write the books I just mentioned is someone I would always want to be a partner with in all foundational respects.

This is a very good obituary from The Guardian, in England:


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Latest Tips From the Times

What to do about refugees? a sermon illustration
Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The International Rescue Committee gets a lot of good press (more about that in Ruminations shortly). In this time of fear (see my post about Marilynn Robinson's essay "Fear"), the easiest position to take is the Trumpian "kick 'em all out" and "build a wall." In the current climate, it's so easy to go that route.

A very different angle is offered in this account of a successful businessman, Sean Wankel of NYC's Wankel Hardware (I've shopped there), who makes a point of hiring refugees and has done so for years. Colored pins on a wall map in the store indicate all the countries they've come from. Two weeks ago Mr. Wankel hired a Nigerian fleeing from the Islamist sect Boko Haram which he (the refugee) says is worst than ISIS. Wankel does not hire at random, though: he trusts the International Rescue Committee and Catholic Charities to do the screening. Here's the link:


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