The Universal Christ
(SPCK, 272 PP, £9.99)
Tablet bookshop price £9 • Tel 020 7799 4064
This latest book from the popular theologian and Franciscan friar Richard Rohr has been denounced as heretical and praised as life-changing.
Christ is not Jesus’ last name, Rohr insists. Christ is shorthand for God’s movement into being, so that “everything visible is the outpouring of God”, and the divine exists in everything and everyone. Jesus emerges out of this “Christ-soaked world”, the historical manifestation of the Christ in time, like dew condensing. In this beguiling vision, all of Creation – all of the body of Christ – moves forward together in an ongoing process of transformation and redemption. Nothing – not a blade of grass, not an adder, not a jihadist or a Nazi – is left behind. The created world doesn’t “point” to God: it is actually part of God. Thus Christianity becomes, as Rohr says, “a very natural religion that includes everybody”.
This book is a sequel of sorts to Rohr’s acclaimed book about the Trinity, The Divine Dance. Rohr, 76 and undergoing treatment for cancer for a second time, suspects it will be his last. I hope it is not; but if it is, The Universal Christ will stand as a fitting conclusion to a career spanning more than 30 years. Rohr is perhaps the most prominent modern author on Christian mysticism, a kind of Thomas Merton for millennials.