Over a 40-year, culture-changing career, Matthew Fox has earned words of praise from theologians, artists, authors, scientists, and thought-leaders around the world. Those listed below represent a few of this number:
Father Bede Griffiths
“I have the greatest admiration for the work Fr. Matthew is doing. In our little ashram in India, we read his Original Blessing about two years ago and then we read his The Coming of the Cosmic Christ. When I met him last year, I said, ‘I think his creation spirituality is the spirituality of the future and his theology of the Cosmic Christ is the theology of the future,’ and I firmly hold that that is so.”
—Father Bede Griffiths, OSB
It is with a deep and profound pleasure for me to extend my best wishes to Matt on his 60th birthday. I met Matt as a graduate student in 1976 in Chicago. He opened up for me a new pathway to God with his school of Creation Spirituality.
I felt when I was in his classroom that I had entered into the natural personality of God – liberated, creative, loving, and non-suffering. My entire theology underwent a transformation, one that I desperately was seeking. I thrived in his classroom as I listened to this eccentric, brilliant theologian reshape the classic teachings of the mystics into contemporary inspiration and power.
I began my spiritual life because of having studied with Matt. I send so much love, gratitude, and prayers for God to watch over this much-needed prophet who has endured so much as a priest and as a human being on behalf of all of us. I , for one, will always adore him.
Jack, The Right Reverend, John S. Spong
Your book, Original Blessing, was the work that first brought you to my attention. It was in many ways a breathtaking book because it challenged the core of the primary interpretative Christian myth that proclaimed the basic fallen sinfulness of human life. That myth had been used historically primarily to enhance the power of the institutional church and its ordained hierarchy. In the service of that myth the church was destined first and foremost to be the dispenser of guilt. Someone has observed that the church “does guilt” more successfully does anything else, and guilt is, as one person noted. “ the gift that keeps on giving .”
To convince people of their on unworthiness is step one in creating a controlling mentality, especially when the church claims to be the only dispenser of forgiveness. It was also this definition of human life as fallen and hopeless that inspired the interpretation of the Christ as the Divine Rescuer. This, in turn, caused Christians to view the cross as a human sacrifice which would be pleasing to God who required a blood offering in order to restore the fallen world. It was and is a strange way to tell the story of the love of God found in Jesus Christ, but for centuries we Christians seemed to know no others. Finally, and in no small measure because of your work, we awakened to the reality that this way of proclaiming Christ presented us with a God more grotesque than worship worthy.
Once this ancient myth was broked open in your book, Original Blessing, you were then able to develop your vision of the Cosmic Christ. That, in turn, led you to place your emphasis on human wholeness instead of encouraging that passive, dependent, immature kind of Christianity that the church traditionally seems to encourage. This vision of wholeness in turn opened you to seeing holiness in all that God had made. So your love for God’s creation, our mother the earth, led you into being a theological environmentalist. Your discovery of holiness stretched on to include women whom the church had dismissed and gay and lesbian people whom the church had rejected. In each area you were a voive for something new, pointing the Christian Church to something it has never been but must surely become.
It is easy to see why you frightened the guardians of traditional orthodoxy. It is also easy to see that you were and are calling the Christian Church beyond the limits of antiquity, beyond its denominational structures in being the voice of a new creation. As one who shares with you a vision of this new Christianity, I have been pleased to learn from you, to walk beside you and be your colleague in helping to usher in this new day for the Christian church.
Prophets who see the future and who embrace it in their lives as living signs of that new truth are never appreciated by the leaders of those institutions which the prophet’s words inevitably challenge. In their desire to cling to the past they have attacked you. It is fascinating to note that as they sought to exclude you, they were also sounding their own death knell. That is the way it always is when institutions become closed to the new truth. But a generation from now, Matthew, people will look back at you and your work and give thanks that one like you lived in this critical moment and helped the Christian Church give birth to new possibilities. Being an ecclesiastical midwife is quite a vocation.
I salute you with affection and appreciation.
—Jack, The Right Reverend, John S. Spong, Bishop of NewarK, The Episcopal Church
Matthew Fox might well be the most creative, the most comprehensive, surely the most challenging religious-spiritual teacher in America . He has the scholarship, the imagination, the courage, the writing skill to fulfill this role at a time when the more official Christian theological traditions are having difficulty in establishing any vital contact with either the spiritual possibilities of the present or with their own most creative spiritual traditions of the past….He has, it seems, created a new mythic context for leading us out of our contemporary religious and spiritual confusion into a new clarity of mind and peace of soul, by affirming rather than abandoning any of our traditional beliefs.
—Thomas Berry, author of The Great Work, The Dream of the Earth, and The Universe Story
Fox is a prophet of our own times….His writing really sparkles, and is frequently reminiscent of the early works of Thomas Merton….Fox has made an outstanding contribution to spirituality, to environmentalism, and to tackling the major cultural and spiritual crises of our times. He is a brilliant writer—lucid, elegant in style, always highly readable and above all accessible. (This applies even to his more complex books such as Sheer Joy, the definitive conversations on creation spirituality with Thomas Aquinas, a scholarly triumph.) He is a profoundly original thinker, and is unafraid. I confess that I am an admirer—Original Blessing changed my life….The final chapter, on belief and holiness in a post-modern age, is Fox writing at his best. Confessions is worth buying for this chapter alone.
—Alan Jose, in The Tablet
Sister Joan Chittister
To talk about a person’s spirituality is to examine a great deal more than their theology. Theology is that system of belief that gives coherence to religion. It explains and relates and inquires and defines….Spirituality on the other hand is what shows when no one is asking academic questions. Spirituality is the very fabric and texture of the soul. It does not explain religion; it demonstrates the presence of the sacred in life. I have watched a Jain nun lift a ladybug out of harm’s way on a set of public stairs. I have seen a Buddhist monk drink tea. I have heard monastics chant. I have seen Indian peasants walk up a mountainside on their knees to honor the place of the mother of Jesus in their hearts….In the very act of crawling toward heaven, or gentling the bug out of the way, or caressing the tea bowl, or murmuring the endless round of chants, I saw the spirituality that impels them all. I saw awareness, I saw reverence for life, I saw globalism in miniature, I saw the shadow of the magnetized heart.
Matt Fox has that kind of consuming spirituality….Even at a distance I have seen his spirituality. It is light, heat, and search….When we live in a light that is darkness, in the kind of certainty that obscures what we don’t know and won’t ask by virtue of only those things we want to know and so refuse to ask, we do not have spirituality. We have only religion. In that world, power and authority substitute far too often for thought and understanding. In that kind of world, the light goes out long before people realize they are in darkness….
Those who illumine the questions of life walk a dangerous path. They hold up for examination the very pilasters of the systems that depend on them for its credibility. They threaten old paradigms and open new possibility where once only cocksure certitude had been. Galileo did such things and suffered for it. Luther did such tings and was exiled for it. Matt Fox did such things and cast a light into the recesses of the medieval mind that was a whole world wide. He brought to light again the notions of basic wholeness and the essential goodness of creation. He gives us all new light into the nature of God in the nature of the self….
People talk and struggle and wrestle with ideas in droves but the person who pursues them, lives them out, shakes the foundations of the world, and in the end pays the cost of them for the rest of us. It is people who live their ideas who give heat to the rest of the world, stir it up and boil it over, make it new and give it truth.
Light that glows but does not heat, Coleridge says, illumines nothing but itself. To be what you say you think, however, is a searing kind of elegance. It gives fiber to air. Matt Fox is not simply a teacher, he is a model of what he believes with heat enough to melt worn structures and set dry roots on fire….
All great ideas begin in a single seeking mind, inflame the hearts of those for whom the old answers of an earlier world to new questions have long since failed to satisfy, and are rejected by the keepers of arcane systems. But they eventually win the souls of a people who know the difference between spirit and structure. It is the seeker who leads until the leaders are finally forced to follow. Segregation didn’t work but until Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver and Martin Luther King shook the chains from their ankles in pursuit of equality, few saw the truth of it and most did nothing about it. Relics were good business until Martin Luther sought another kind of sanctity….
To those like Matt Fox whose spirituality is holy search, we owe a great deal. They ask the unspoken and unspeakable questions, they bite the forbidden fruit, they commit the happy fault of which the Easter Exultet speaks, they scan the stars of heaven for us all and, in the end, their search shows us the way to conscience, to commitment, to nothing but the Christ….The light, the heat and the model of holy search that is Matt Fox will shine for many ages to see what it is to live the pursuit of truth trusting on in the Truthfulness of God.
Excerpted from The Making of a Prophet: Matthew Fox at Sixty, Mary Ford-Grabowsky, editor, copyright (c) Mary Ford-Grabowsky 2000
—Sister Joan Chittister, The Making of a Prophet: Matthew Fox at Sixty
In his book, Christ & Empire: From Paul to Postcolonial Times, theologian Joerg Rieger (Fortress Press, 2007), examines the use and abuse of Christ and Christology in the name of empire or resisting empire for the past 2000 years. His last chapter, entitled “Resisting the Reframing the Cosmic Christ: Christology in a Postcolonial Empire,” (pp. 269-312) is devoted in great part to the work of Matthew Fox including but not limited to his book, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ. Below are a few observations by Professor Rieger.
“Like Bartolome de Las Casas, Fox might be perceived as one of the theologians struggling against empire from within. Like Las Casas, he is using stronger language than most of his contemporaries, comparing contemporary phenomena to the Holocaust, fascism, and other expressions of empires in the past….His work deserves serious attention because it has struck a nerve in our time and represents broad and forward-looking cultural and religious developments. (p. 270)
Fox’s notion of the cosmic Christ transcends some of the most common battles in contemporary theology that are waged in the so called culture wars between liberals and conservatives and thus he provides a breath of fresh air. The basic challenge of our times, according to Fox, is the survival of the earth, an issue that is today increasingly noticed again in light of global warming. Only the cosmic Christ can save us from the predicaments we have created that threaten our destruction (CCC 78)…Fox talks about the need for a ‘historical Christ’ who is a ‘living Christ who can change history once again and ground that change in a living cosmology’ (CCC 162; emphasis in original). Fox’s cosmic Christ is not a remote historical figure (concealed in the depths of history), nor is he a remote metaphysical figure (distantly sitting at the right hand of God). The cosmic Christ is present and at work.
Consequently, Fox rejects both conservative theology’s narrow focus on Christ as well as liberal Enlightenment theology’s narrow focus on the historical Jesus. (279f)
Fox is one of the few theologians writing in the North of the Americas who have made the suggestion that we need to think about the North and South of the Americas in relation. The fact that both Americas have experienced colonialism indeed provides a common bond—one more likely to be seen form the perspective of the colonized than the colonizers. Furthermore, Fox points out that “The United States colonized Latin America, often with the kind of cruelty thata wounded child effects on others when that child becomes a ‘killer adult’” (Creation Spirituality, 117) This is an interesting thought: What happens when the colonized become colonizers? (288f)
The grounding of the cosmic Christ in Bible, tradition, and solidarity with those who suffer is crucial. Fox’s call for a ‘historical Christ’ is key for the resistance to empire. The question is not primarily ‘What would Jesus do?’ but, to use the word of Frederick Herzog, “What is Jesus doing now?’ (296)
Fox also goes deeper than the culture wars paradigm when he develops a more complex understanding of the problems with conservative ideasRather than simply rejecting the notion of sin altogether, as liberals locked in battle with conservatives often do, Fox develops an awareness of the problems of an insufficient notion of sin in the conservative camp: ‘Very often a fall-redemption religious ideology trivializes sin just as it trivializes creation and grace and spirit’ (Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh, 157)….This insight goes hand in hand with a deepening of the notion of sin. Fox has never fallen into the trap of privatizing the notion of sin as if sin were only the problem of individuals. Sin includes the disruption of social relationships and social injustice as well as the disrupting of our relationship to world and cosmos. (296)
The two most important aspects that lead us beyond the limited scope of the culture wars are Fox’s critique of elitism and his concern for the margins….To the degree that Fox’s argument allow for the leadership of the margins, he offers a new paradigm. The concerns for the margins displayed by conservatives and liberals have no room for this aspect, as conservatives seek to teach personal responsibility and liberals seek to support the margins through social programs; in each case, the goal is to integrate those on the margins back into the system. Fox’s emphasis on the leadership of themargins leads beyond these two positions, but it would need to be developed more fully. (297)
Fox continues to hold what are often separated: mysticism and prophecy. The combination of those two components leads to a self-critical stance, which is perhaps the thing most lacking in the postcolonial empire.” (301f)
—JOERG RIEGER, from Christ & Empire