Considering The Universal Christ—Michael McClymond and Ian Paul on Richard Rohr

Ten years ago, a friend handed me The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective by Franciscan friar Richard Rohr. I was riveted. How did this author seem to know exactly who I was, the light and dark side of my personality, my gifts and my pet sins? I passed the book along, trusting that others would benefit as much from Rohr’s insight as I did.

While in grad school, I picked up another Rohr book entitled Falling Upward. His two halves of life paradigm was compelling, but I found Rohr's relentless use of decontextualized Bible verses troubling, and his casual dismissal of key Christian beliefs rather confusing for a Catholic priest. I concluded that Rohr was a man of keen psychological insight, but not a trustworthy guide to the Bible or Christian tradition.

Rohr's popularity has exploded since our first encounter. His most recent book, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe, is his most theological title to date. Given how revered Rohr is as a spiritual guide, as well his undeniable wisdom as a counselor, I’ve been looking for a substantive theological engagement with the book.

Enter Ian Paul and Michael McClymond, the former a British New Testament scholar and the latter a leading expert on Christian universalism. These two reviews unpack Rohr’s appeal, his theology, and how his attempt to distinguish the earthbound Jesus from the cosmic Christ diverges with Christianity at key points. Paul's review focuses on Rohr's "happiness with inaccuracy" in both theology and science, and McClymond explains the inability of Rohr's theological constructs to distinguish good from evil.

Click each scholar's name above for their reviews. For more on the roots of Christian universalism, read this utterly fascinating interview with McClymond. The brave among us can refer to his recent (1,376 page) two-volume work The Devil's Redemption: A New History and Interpretation of Christian Universalism.

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