Embracing an Alternative Orthodoxy – Richard Rohr

Greetings to anyone who logs in on kiwianglo in this New Year of Our Lord,2018.

I am so excited by this video presentation of Richard Ruhr, an American R.C. Franciscan  teacher and theologian, whose writings about the Christian Faith are currently circulating around the blogosphere, that I have decided to advertise his presentation of a compelling dramatic turnaround on the subject of The Atonement by Jesus – as ‘At-one-ment’ – rather than the ‘quid-pro-quo’ classical understanding.

I have cause to thank my colleague, fellow commentator Bowman Walton, on Dr.Peter Carrell’s website ADU – ‘Anglican Down under’ –  for his link to this video, which so precisely and clearly gets to grips with the problem I (and many others) have with what I call the classical ‘Wrath of God’ paradigm, in Richard Rohr’s compelling exposition of an ‘alternative orthodoxy’ embracing a more eirenic understanding of the Mercy of God.

In this video, Ruhr explores the idea that the traditional understanding of ‘Retributive Justice’ – which required the sacrifice of Jesus to be viewed in the light of God as Father ‘requiring’ the sacrifice of Jesus in order to balance the scales – is grossly misinterpreted; ‘selling God short’ on God’s determination to, Himself (in Christ), fulfil the need to ‘pay the price of sin’ -a paradigm of ‘Restorative Justice’, rather than exacting that price from the sinner, himself.

This ‘amazing grace’ is the free will action of a God of Love – rather than a God of Wrath – who, in the words of the Liturgy; “desires not the death of a sinner, but rather that the sinner should repent of his wickedness and live”. The paradigm of ‘Retributive Justice’, through God’s own positive action, thus became translated into ‘Restorative Justice’ – not wrought by the action of the sinner, but of the sinned against – God’s-self.

Those of you who are interested in hearing Richard Ruhr’s persuasive arguments in the vein will no doubt also be interested in the remarks of his, mostly Evangelical, audience in this presentation. They are clearly interested if taken aback by the sheer simplicity of this very Franciscan view of what is often seen as a ‘transactional’ dispensation – rather than the Gospel view of the great MERCY of God as presented through the Incarnation, Life, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ.

Comparing the theories of St.Anselm and Dun Scotus (a Franciscan scholar) on the subject of Atonement, Richard Rohr is challenging the former ‘scape-goat’ theory of understanding, in order to espouse the later New Testament idea of God’s provision of salvation out of pure Love and Mercy, without requiring us sinners to try to ‘pull ourselves up by our own boot-straps’. In Christ’s example of self-emptying, we are encouraged to let go of any false understanding of our own capability to achieve our own redemption – by good works or any other humanly-generated artifice.

This is where Luther’s ‘Justification by Faith’ (and Grace) has a very real application in our understanding of the message of the Gospel: God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten son Son, that all who believe in Him should have eternal life. Deo Gratias!

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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