Original Blessing

From the Bottom Up: Introduction

Original Blessing
Wednesday, January 4, 2017

As we rebuild Christianity from the bottom up, let’s start “in the beginning” with the very first chapter of the Bible, Genesis 1. The first image in the Judeo-Christian Bible reveals a creative, compassionate God: “God’s Spirit hovered over the water” (Genesis 1:2). The word “hovered” is the same word used to describe a brood hen, lovingly watching over her young, warming the eggs and protecting the hatchlings. The Bible begins with clear hints of growth, development, and evolution. God is a dynamic creator, a verb more than a noun.

Looking at Creation in progress, “God saw that it was good” five times and “found it very good” after the sixth day (Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). We all need to know that this wonderful thing called life is going somewhere and somewhere good. It is going someplace good because it came from goodness—a beginning of “original blessing” instead of “original sin.” Matthew Fox illustrated this rather well in his groundbreaking book, Original Blessing. [1]

For some reason, most Christian theology seems to start with Genesis 3—which features Adam and Eve—what Augustine would centuries later call “original sin.” When you start with the negative or with a problem, it’s not surprising that you end with Armageddon and Apocalypse. When you start with a punitive, critical, exclusionary God, it’s not surprising that you see the crucifixion as “substitutionary atonement” where Jesus takes the punishment that this angry God intended for us.

That is not what Franciscans and many other Christians believe. And this is not something the loving Abba of Jesus would do. Because the belief in substitutionary atonement is so common and so problematic, we will explore its alternative—at-one-ment—in depth later this year.

Why did Jesus come? Jesus did not come to change the mind of God about humanity. It didn’t need changing. God has organically, inherently loved what God created from the moment God created it. Jesus came to change the mind of humanity about God.

As our image of God changes, our image of God’s creation, including ourselves, changes as well. Jesus shows us what it looks like for God to be incarnate in humanity. He holds together the human and the divine so that we might follow him and do the same.

Jesus shows us that the pattern of everything is death and resurrection. Jesus is the archetypal pattern for every life, including yours and mine. There will be suffering and death along with love, joy, and resurrection. Most of us are so resistant to accepting suffering that Jesus walked through it himself and said, “Follow me.” He showed us that on the other side of suffering is transformation. Love is stronger than death. The full, vibrant life that Jesus offers is big enough to include even its opposite: death. Unless a religion directly faces the issues of suffering and death, it is rather useless religion. Jesus holds these big questions front and center.

Gateway to Silence:
Create in me a new heart, O God.

References:
[1] Matthew Fox, Original Blessing (New York: Tarcher, 2000).

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self (Jossey-Bass: 2013), 87-88, 222;
Returning to Essentials: Teaching an Alternative Orthodoxy, disc 2 (CAC: 2015), CD, MP3 download; and
an unpublished talk, Canossian Spirituality Center, Albuquerque, New Mexico, December 3, 2016.

Image credit: Galapagos Before Sunset (detail) by Iris Diensthuber, summer 2007.
Numbers only; no punctuation

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