Richard Rohr came into my life with his Enneagram book written about twenty years ago. It would be silly to call him an “early adopter” of the Enneagram considering it’s ancient (at least in some iterations of it), but he definitely is a key figure for Christian thought regarding the Enneagram. He’s also written a ton of contemplative-related books and other resources of interest for people interested in the mystical side of Christianity.
The Universal Christ is Rohr’s newest work. The best way I can describe it is that Rohr is making case for a more expansive and true definition of Christ than what western Christianity has traditionally allowed for. He believes the focus of those of us in the west is too much on Jesus’ temporal death and resurrection. He thinks we’re kind of missing the point of Christ. As he writes, if Jesus’ death as some sort of substitutionary atonement was the main thing, why bother with the rest of the Bible, or even the rest of the New Testament? Why bother writing down all of Jesus’ words and specific instructions about sacrificial love and inviting everyone to the table?
I think conservative Christians (in theology not politics, but there’s surely overlap) will be a little nervous about what Rohr is writing here, as they’ll take it for pantheism or at least universalism (it’s right there in the title). Rohr is aware of these objections and addresses them head on early in the book. He makes clear that the Christ in the Bible is always restoring – creation, relationships, spirits, etc. He also makes clear that resurrection, then, isn’t a one time thing, but an ongoing process of reconciliation and healing. In that way, using both the Old Testament and Paul, this is perhaps the most “conservative” view of Christ possible.
I appreciated the book, and it reminds me a bit of SMU Professor Schubert Ogden’s Is There Only One True Religion Or Are There Many? That book is also universal in the sense that God restores the world through Christ and is also more expansive in its view of what Christ is doing than what many evangelicals seem to be comfortable with.
Happy Christmas to all – I’m done with reviews for the year!