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Posted December 29, 2003
Although Richard Rohr isn't one of the members of the Jesus Seminar, his book clearly fits into its canon, whose opuses belong to the 'How to create your very own Jesus' genre. Rohr's expositions of Jesus, Scripture, gospel and salvation share many of the Jesus Seminar's semantically nuanced, but day-versus-night departures from classic, orthodox Christology and Biblical exegesis.<p> At its heart, Rohr's book is primarily social gospel with a generous sprinkling of sociopolitical commentary (Hint: He's no fan of conservatives, whom he characterizes generally as top-dwellers wanting to preserve a status quo 'invariably built on those bottom lines of money, power, and God-talk.'[p. 54]) The book's most basic tenets are a mix of Eastern religions and Jesus Seminar deconstructionism. In his book, Rohr cites the works of two Jesus Seminarians: John Dominic Crossan, whose 'accurate picture of Jesus' culture' (in The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant) he praises while distancing himself from Crossan's conclusions; and Marcus Borg, whose Jesus: A New Vision he describes as a 'wonderful book.' [p. 119]<p> Anticipating flak for promulgating his 'richer understanding' of the gospel, Rohr tries in his book's introduction to launch a pre-emptive strike against 'fundamentalism,' which 'refuses to listen to what the Gospel authors are really saying to their communities.' [p. viii] What if fundamentalists listened? Well, they'd understand that 'one of the problems in reading the Bible is that most of us Christians perceive Jesus as 'the divine savior of our divine Church,' which . . . predisposition does not open us to enlightenment by Christ, but in fact, deadens and numbs our perceptions. . . [For unenlightened Christians like this reviewer] He's [Jesus] God of our saved Church, which means that our Church - and we -- are right. If we are honest enough to admit that bias, we may have a chance of letting go of it for a richer understanding of the gospel.'[p. viii]<p> Rohr's subjective departures from Christian orthodoxy, like the Jesus Seminar's, fall primarily into deconstructing the dating and inerrancy of Scripture (notably the Gospel of John); concocting a different, un-deified Jesus, whose death on the cross becomes an inspiring example to us, not a substitionary sacrifice for our sins; and postmodernizing salvation/conversion into the 'Cool Hand Luke' theological equivalent of 'getting your mind right.'<p> Rohr's book ultimately preaches a 'different' Jesus, a 'different' view of the Bible, and a 'different' gospel, against which the Apostle Paul inveighed in his letter to the Galatians. I don't have Rohr's guts, frankly. I couldn't write what he wrote without living in perpetual fear of the warning to Bible revisionists in Revelation 22:18-19.
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Posted November 25, 2012