Menu Universal Christ 4021.03

Jesus and Christ are not just the same thing

In his book the Universal Christ, Richard Rohr draws on scripture, history and spiritual practice, and articulates a transformative view of Jesus Christ as a portrait of God’s constant, unfolding work in the world. ‘God loves things by becoming them,' he writes, and Jesus’ life was meant to declare that humanity has never been separate from God – except by its own negative choice. When we recover this fundamental truth, faith becomes less about proving Jesus was God, and more about learning to recognize the Creator’s presence all around us and in everyone we meet.

Rohr’s overarching project in his new book is to distinguish “Jesus” from “Christ.” Near the beginning he asks: “How is Christ’s function or role different from Jesus’s?” . His answer is that “Jesus” is limited, particular, and earthbound, while “Christ” is unlimited, universal, and cosmic. Rohr writes: “Christ . . . was clearly not just Jesus of Nazareth, but something much more immense” . Rohr’s “Jesus” is puny compared with “Christ.” In his account of Jesus’s resurrection, Rohr not only distinguishes “Jesus” from “Christ,” but opposes them. He holds that “Jesus” must vanish that “Christ” may come forth. Rohr conspicuously doesn’t assert that “Jesus is Christ” or that “Jesus is God.” Instead he says that “Christ is God,” and that “Jesus is the . . . manifestation [of God] in time” .
Rohr writes: “We spent a great deal of time worshiping the messenger and trying to get other people to do the same. . . . [Jesus] did ask us several times to follow him, and never once to worship him”
Review by Laura Coe:
I don't have the same theological outlook as Rohr - I do not subscribe to the doctrine of the trinity or believe that Jesus was God incarnate. Even so, this book can make perfect sense to the less doctrinal Christians among us. Reading The Universal Christ caused me to look at what we call the Christ in an entirely new way - separate from the person of Jesus.

I got through the book very quickly and found it hard to put down. Rohr knows how to write in a way that captivates and challenges. In fact, reading this book was the first time in my life that the idea of the trinity did not seem totally absurd - it was not enough to sway me, but I now have a greater appreciation for and understanding of those who do subscribe to this doctrine.

I give this book four stars because for the most part it's a stunning and very spiritual experience regardless of whether you agree with all of Rohr's conclusions. Personally there were parts that for me were a bit too dogmatic, but all in all well worth a read if you're a compassionate person of faith who is longing for a deeper exploration of their spiritual journey.