The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe by Richard Rohr

The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe by Richard Rohr
| |

Richard Rohr’s The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe is an intriguing read. It will be seen as heresy by many and a quenching spring by others. The book begins with a story told about an experience in the London subway.  English mystic Caryll Houselander has a transforming vision in which she sees Christ in everyone on the train and everything in her world as being filled with Christ. From this, Rohr suggests Christ is far more than Jesus’ last name, but rather an all-encompassing other, expanding beyond but including Jesus, the third person of the Triune God.

Rohr writes, “Christ is the light that allows people to see things in their fullness. The precise and intended effect of such a light is to see Christ everywhere else. In fact, that is my only definition of a true Christian. A mature Christian sees Christ in everything and everyone else. That is a definition that will never fail you, always demand more of you, and give you no reasons to fight, exclude, or reject anyone.”

Father Richard Rohr, 76, is the Franciscan founder of The Center for Action and Contemplation in New Mexico. This book, along with some of his writings, calls us to a pathway of radical life alongside the marginalized in our world through a contemplative life. Rohr seems to particularly take hold of Paul’s writings in order to solidify his position, especially the “in all things” passages from Colossians. Rohr takes particular note of how we have failed to heed what Paul means by ‘in Christ,’ and how he uses that phrase more than 200 times to mean something more expansive than is traditionally understood.

Rohr argues his ideas are not new but rather date back to pre-split Christendom, and says it is a Westernised and much shallower gospel that we are hearing today.

“I suspect that Western individualism has done more than any other single factor to anesthetize and even euthanize the power of the Gospel. Salvation, heaven, hell, worthiness, grace, and eternal life all came to be read through the lens of the separate ego, crowding God’s transformative power out of history and society.”

No doubt for many, this book will be more fodder to dismiss Rohr. For other readers, it will cement Rohr’s role as one of the most-read and followed contemporary contemplatives of our time. Regardless, readers of Rohr’s latest book will be challenged to once again consider the Christ. (Convergent)

About the Author

Jenny deGroot is a freelance media review and news writer for The Banner. She lives on Swallowfield Farm near Fort Langley B.C. with her husband, Dennis. Before retirement she worked as a teacher librarian and assistant principal. 

See comments (3)


After reading the Preview to this book, in comparison to Rohr’s other works and devotionals, I am amazed that your review contains no preface for believing Christians. The Univesal Christ is anti-Christian devotional literature, and Christ’s people should know this before reading it. Sure, read the book – but the reader will certainly be “challenged” to consider Christ because the Biblical Jesus is not there. Rohr’s concept of a universalist god is in this book. Rohr’s own vision of a panentheistic ‘love-source’ is in this book, but not the Savior, Jesus. 

For Christians: if you want to read a book that openly leads you away from what God has said about His Son as our Savior, have fun. This book (as much of Rohr’s other writings) is a great example of a non-Biblical faith claiming Jesus in its image. You may learn a lot about how other people believe things about God, and how some people use language and scripture in ways that sound “Christianish” but ignore the context – and in some cases, the actual text – of the Bible. But please read it with that in mind. Please discuss this with someone you look to as mature in their faith. Please come back to the Bible and confirm your faith in who Jesus really is and what his work of atonement actually does.

I think much caution needs to be heeded by any Christian who is introduced to Rorh’s teaching.  I have been following his devotional blog for a couple of years to stay up to date with what’s happening in the Progressive Christian movement.  My strongest critique of Rohr is that he does believe in the substitutionary atonement of Christ.  He says Jesus died “because” of sin, but not “for” sin.  I have other concerns as well, but don’t want this response too long.  Read with a discerning mind!

Correction: "My strongest critique of Rohr is that he does NOT believe in the substitutionary atonement of Christ.