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 Presbyterian Outlook reviews The Crucifixion

Posted: Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Read the review


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

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2016/march/why-did-jesus-choose-cross.html


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

George Washington's great letter to the Jews
Sunday, November 20, 2016

This is the introductory part of a presentation delivered on November 18. The whole thing will shortly appear in Discourses on this website. I wanted to get the George Washington letter out as soon as possible.

Trinity Presbyterian Church, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, November 18, 2016

One of the difficulties about the sort of preaching and teaching I do is that I don’t really know my audiences. I was in parish ministry for 21 years and I knew the parishioners in those three churches extremely well, as members of the clergy are privileged to do. It’s really hazardous to speak to strange audiences about delicate matters, and particularly in a time such as this when families are nervous about getting together for Thanksgiving. 

So… I am going to ask you to be charitable toward me this weekend, because I am going to make a really strenuous effort to speak to everyone, not just to one side or another. I have two choices tonight: I can ignore our present political upheaval and pretend that nothing has happened, or I can address it and try to put it into a biblical context. I’m going to attempt to do the latter. So is this going to be a political presentation? Yes and no. It is going to be political in this sense:  I am going to talk about the election tonight, to set the stage for tomorrow when I probably will not talk about it. I assume that there are people here who voted for Trump, and people who voted for Hillary, and maybe some who voted for neither one.

But my presentation tonight will notbe political in this very important sense: I am hoping to present a picture that transcends political differences. I am not here to speak as a Democrat or Republican or any other specific political identity, but as a biblical Christian, or as one who is always aiming at being a biblical Christian.

I have spent many hours these past ten days, trying to make some sense out of our current situation. I’ve read pretty much anything I can get my hands on or click on. I’m going to try to give a quick overview of my reading and listening, and then I’m going to turn to the biblical witness, with a reminder that the Lord Jesus warned his disciples, “There will be wars and rumors of wars, but the end is not yet.”

Here’s one piece of analysis, from Linda Greenhouse, who covered the Supreme Court for 30 years (she now teaches at Yale, which now unfortunately makes her an elitist). This past Monday, she commented that “the campaign revealed unexpectedly deep fissures in American society” including “the stereotyping of African-Americans” and the “demonizing of immigrants and Muslims” which has left many of our people “deeply uneasy.” We are looking at a great division between white people, on the one hand, and black and brown people on the other. Moreover, she observed, this includes white people of every class—working class, middle class, and upper class elites—who don’t have much contact with black and brown people because their lives are so cocooned and cushioned.[1] It is this division that I want to highlight in my offering to you tonight as we look toward the season of Advent.

I don’t know about you, but high on my list of most-admired people is George Washington. I would like to remind you of something he wrote in 1790, when he was the newly elected President. He was scheduled to visit Newport, Rhode Island. The warden of the Jewish congregation in Newport, whose name was Moses Seixas, wrote a letter on behalf of his people. He described them as “the children of the Stock of Abraham,” clearly hoping to identify the commonality among Christians and Jews. (I think we might pause at this point to recall that Muslims also consider themselves to be children of the stock of Abraham.)  Moses Seixas expressed the Jewish community’s esteem for President Washington, and its pleasure that the God of Israel, who had protected King David, had also protected General Washington. He observed that while the rest of world Jewry lived under the rule of monarchs, potentates and despots, the members of his congregation, as citizens of the new American nation, were part of a great experiment: a government “erected by the Majesty of the People,” to which they could look to ensure their “invaluable rights as free citizens.”

Washington wrote back, greeting the congregation and thanking them. He  borrowed ideas – and actual words – directly from Seixas’s letter, and then he concluded, :
…happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens.
May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way.
The letter is signed, simply, “G. Washington.” Every year to this day, the synagogue in  Newport re-reads Washington’s letter in a public ceremony.
“Every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and none shall make him afraid.” The vine and fig tree image is found in three places in the Old Testament, so we are already in the world of the Bible. “None shall make him afraid.”
I was walking along the street in midtown Manhattan on Tuesday and I was looking into the faces of the brown, black, Asian, and otherwise multicultural people that passed, and I wondered, “Are you afraid, now?”
Everybody knows, by now, about the escalation of overt ethnic, racial, and religious hostility that began in the summer and increased after the election. The Wall Street Journal listed incidents in colleges like San Diego State, Elon University in North Carolina, and the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania.[2] In New York, white men shouted “You’re next!” at a black policewoman, making shooting motions with their hands. An Arab boy has been called a “sand nigger” by his schoolmates. Jewish journalists all over the country are receiving messages saying that the ovens are waiting for them. A 12-year-old boy in Gainesville, Florida, the son of two American-born parents of Egyptian heritage,  came home greatly distressed because his classmates accused him of being part of the Islamic State. The antagonism is not only from the Trump side. In California, a Latino student told a female classmate, “You support Trump! You hate Mexicans!” and threw her to the ground. Extremist groups have been emboldened. One website declared that violence was not necessary, but called explicitly for “yelling at brown people so they would “feel that everything around them is against them. We want them to be afraid.”[3]

Two weeks ago, I read an article about hostility toward Asians. I didn’t realize that there was any hostility toward Asians to speak of…they are supposed to be the “model minority.” The article recounted the experience of a young Asian man, an associate editor at The New York Times, who was just getting out of church, mind you,  with his family on Sunday morning. A woman passing by became infuriated that his child’s stroller was in her way. She screamed, “Go back to China! Go back to your f-ing country!”  It was mournfully funny that he wasn’t even ethnically Chinese, but Korean; in any case, he was born in the United States. Since the election, Asians of all stripes have reported many more incidents of openly expressed prejudice.
Many graffiti have popped up that read, “Make America White Again,” often with a swastika added. What in the world is “white” anyway? I heard a discussion about this on NPR. One person said that Greeks were white. Another said, no they aren’t, not after 400 years of occupation by the Ottoman Turks. My thoughts went back 70 years, to my public school in Franklin, Virginia. Every single student was “white,” supposedly. (The invisible black children went to school “on the other side of the tracks,” quite literally.) However, there was one Jewish child, whose parents operated a dry goods store, and there was one boy whose parents had come from Lebanon, and two girls whose parents had immigrated from Greece. Were they “white”?  They were all completely assimilated, as far as I could tell; the boy with Lebanese parents was voted “best looking” and was wildly popular. The two girls with Greek parents were very pretty and very talented; one of them married the Lebanese boy. At our 50th high school reunion, I saw them again for the first time in decades. I discovered that they were actively involved in various causes in their community. I plucked up my courage and asked them if they had felt any prejudice in school. To my astonishment they both said, vigorously, yes indeed they had. What then, I wondered, was “white” anyway? Was my Lebanese classmate “brown”? What are their children and their grandchildren? I tried to imagine them being called “sand niggers.”

We seem to be losing touch with the spirit of our founding President, who wrote with such feeling, “And none shall make him afraid.”

The complete presentation will shortly appear in my Discourses. 






[1] The New York Times, 11/13/16.
[2] The article speculates about a drop-off in student applications from abroad, affecting the bottom line of US colleges. “Foreign Students Hit Record, The Wall Street Journal 11/14/16. 
[3] “Reports of Bias-Based Attacks,” The New York Times, 11/12/2016.


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Christiane Amanpour on telling the truth
Saturday, December 3, 2016

I do not really believe in heroes. One of my favorite quotations comes from a conversation I had about twenty years ago with a man who had served in the fabled 10th Mountain Division in World War II. He was a very modest, unassuming man, and few in the community knew that he had won the Silver Star. I mentioned this to him and he said, with unaccustomed vehemence, "Nobody knows who deserves what."

That is a fundamental underlying truth in the Christian worldview. "Use every man after his desert, and who shall 'scape whipping?" said Hamlet. ("desert," emphasis on the second syllable, means "what he deserves") Jesus Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5).

That's a long way round to what I want to say about heroes. We should be very careful about loosely designating people as heroes. Many people behave heroically over a period of years, quietly, without acclaim of any kind: for instance, the husband who cares for his wife who has Alzheimer's. And many people who perform heroic actions, such as rescuing someone in traffic or in the subway, have acted from a rush of adrenaline and are otherwise living ordinary, humdrum, flawed lives. That doesn't mean we should not honor them, but it does mean that we should be careful about throwing around the word "hero."

Having said that, I will just acknowledge that one of the women I most admire in the world is Christiane Amanpour. I have followed her work closely for twenty-five years, having been greatly moved by the passion with which she reported on gruesome massacres of defenceless people during the Algerian Civil War (1991). I am therefore very grateful that the speech she recently gave has "gone viral." Below is a  link to well-edited excerpts from the speech, so that you can get the idea in just a couple of minutes; and then there is a good short essay along with it.

I have just renewed my membership in the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Here's the link:

http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/02/opinions/america-and-the-boiling-frog-ghitis/index.html
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