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"Catholicism for the New Age: Matthew Fox and Creation-

Centered Spirituality" (an article from the Christian Research

Journal, Fall 1992, page 14) by Mitchell Pacwa, S.J.

The Editor-in-Chief of the Christian Research Journal is

Elliot Miller.



Matthew Fox, a Catholic priest, has begun a movement of

"creation-centered spirituality" to turn people away from

emphasizing man's fall into sin and Christ's redemption. Instead,

he proposes that God's "original blessing" of creation is greater

than the effects of sin. Therefore, everyone should center on

finding God in creation. This will bring about the increased

creativity and love of the world that are needed to take the

human race into the 21st century.

Fox proposes these ideas, however, at the expense of

orthodox Christian doctrine. He ignores or rejects the central

scriptural themes of the need for redemption and the centrality

of Christ's death. Though Fox is bright and well educated, his

scholarship can often be shoddy and even deceptive, as long as it

makes his point. The Vatican has rejected his teaching and all

Christians should be alert to its dangers.


Father Matthew Timothy Fox O.P. (Order of Preachers,

commonly known as the Dominicans), has placed himself at the

center of a storm inside the Catholic church. What gave rise to

the conflict between Fox and Catholic leadership? Is Fox a

danger to the Christian church? These are questions we shall

seek to answer in this article.

Matthew Fox was born on December 21, 1940, entered the

Dominicans in 1960, and was ordained a priest in 1967. In 1970 he

received a doctorate, summa cum laude, from the Institut

Catholique (Paris) in Medieval theology.

His first popular book on prayer, _On Becoming a Musical,

Mystical Bear_ (1972), created the impetus which eventually led

to his establishing the Institute for Culture and Creation

Spirituality (ICCS) in 1977 at Mundelein College, a small

Catholic women's college in Chicago. He moved the ICCS to Holy

Names College, another small Catholic college in Oakland,

California in 1983, where it has remained to the present day.

The ICCS teaching staff includes Starhawk the witch (alias

Miriam Simos); Buck Ghost Horse, a shaman (mystic guide healer);

Luish Teish, a Yoruba (West African) voodoo priestess; and Robert

Frager, representing Sufism (Islamic mysticism). Typical of New

Age approaches to spirituality, some psychology is thrown in:

John Giannini, a Jungian analyst, and Jean Lanier, a Gestalt

therapist. Brian Swimme is the resident cosmologist, and

"geologian" (i.e., exponent of environmental wisdom) Fr. (Father)

Thomas Berry teaches on occasion.

Fox established Bear and Company to publish creation

spirituality books, such as _Earth Ascending,_ by Jose Arguelles,

originator of the 1987 "Harmonic Convergence," and _Medicine

Cards: The Discovery of Power through the Ways of Animals,_

complete with book and "medicine shield" cards. Later he founded

_Creation,_ a magazine sponsored by the Friends of Creation

Spirituality, Inc., whose president and editor-in-chief is Fox.

_Creation_ describes itself as "deeply ecumenical, deeply

cosmological, deeply practical and deeply alternative." A recent

issue portrays a nude Jesus Christ, seated in the yoga lotus

position, with antlers on His head (July/August, 1991). Another

shows the "Qetzalcoatl Christ," with the Lord's face in a picture

of Qetzalcoatl, the Aztec Plumed Serpent deity (May/June, 1992).

Fox's problems with the Catholic hierarchy began in 1984

when Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the head of the Vatican's

department for protecting orthodoxy, asked the Dominican Order to

investigate Fox's writings. Three Dominican theologians examined

his books in 1985 and concluded they were not heretical. One of

them, Fr. Benedict Ashley, O.P., reported at a 1991 lecture that

Fox's work did not seem worth condemning because it was too

superficial and did not appear to be a danger to the faithful. He

was wrong, as he now admits.

The Vatican continued to object to Fox's teachings, such as

his diminishing or even denial of original sin, refusal to deny

belief in pantheism (the belief that God is all and all is God),

endorsing homosexual unions in the church, identifying humans as

"mothers of God," and calling God "our Mother." The presence of

the witch, Starhawk, on the ICCS staff caused another scandal.

For these and other reasons, the Vatican in 1986 asked the

Dominican Master General to stop Fox. But the Chicago Dominican

superior, Fr. Donald Goergen, O.P., wrote a detailed defense on

Fox's behalf and let him go on.

In September, 1987 Ratzinger's Vatican office began its own

investigation of Fox and his teachings. Fr. Goergen received

charges against Fox in April, 1988, but claimed that Fox's

theological views had not been disproven. At this point the

Vatican insisted that the Dominicans prevent Fox from further

teaching and writing. Accordingly, the Master General asked Fox

to take a one year sabbatical to calm the situation. In a

"Pastoral Letter to Cardinal Ratzinger and the Whole Church," Fox

responded by publicly calling the Catholic church a dysfunctional

family because "power, not theology, is the real issue." Still,

he began a year-long silence on December 15, 1988.

On December 15, 1989, Fox resumed his busy teaching,

lecturing, and writing schedule -- including appearances at John

Denver's (New Age) Windstar Foundation and an Easter retreat at

Findhorn, Scotland (a prototype New Age community). In 1991 Fr.

Goergen ordered Fox to leave the ICCS in California and return to

Chicago or face dismissal from the Dominican order. Fox refused,

and at the time of this writing his dismissal awaits only the

Vatican's formal approval. If dismissed, Fox would remain a

priest, but would be forbidden to perform the sacraments.

Fox continues to have tremendous influence -- both within

and outside the Catholic church. Recently CNN International

featured him as a theologian speaking for the environment. His

books are used by nuns, are found at Catholic retreat houses, and

are distributed in bookstores -- religious and New Age alike.

Influenced by Fox, some nuns include wicca (witchcraft)

ceremonies in their rituals and celebrations, breaking the hearts

of believing Catholics who witness it. Creation spirituality (see

glossary) is taught to young children, neglecting the doctrines

of sin and redemption, but starting classes with a "Pledge of

Allegiance to the Earth."



*Carl Jung:* (1875-1961) A Swiss psychologist and one-time

associate of Sigmund Freud who founded a school of "depth

psychology." He was interested in myth and religion, but

personally believed in alchemy, the occult, and pantheism.

*creation spirituality:* Matthew Fox's name for his

religious approach. Its starting point and focus is on creation,

which is identified with God and the Cosmic Christ. He sets it in

opposition to belief in man's fall into sin and Christ's


*panentheism:* The belief that God is in everything and

everything is in God.

*cosmic:* Fox uses this to mean the whole universe, with its

laws of harmony and wholeness and its beauty.

*Cosmic Christ:* Though Fox affirms belief in the historical

Jesus, he considers the Cosmic Christ to be a "third nature" in

addition to the divine and human natures. By saying it is the "I

AM" in every creature, the Cosmic Christ is identified with

creation. The earth is called the Cosmic Christ.

*cosmology:* For Fox, the study of the cosmos or universe,

with a focus on a new paradigm based on Einstein's physics rather

than Newton's. It brings together science, mysticism, and art,

and tries to do away with all dualism.


In 1989, Reverend Lawrence Krause -- a graduate of the

American Baptist Seminary in Covina, California, and ordained by

the Covenant Church -- started the New Creation Fellowship and

Renewal Center in La Mesa, California. This appears to be a New

Age denomination inspired by Fox's ideas.

In this article, I shall examine Fox's teachings in some

detail, focusing primarily on his world view and his view of God

and Christ. I shall then examine Fox's reliability as a scholar,

for if his scholarship can be shown to be faulty, then everything

he teaches and writes becomes suspect.



Two questions in the introduction to Fox's book _Original

Blessing_ provide an important insight into his world view:

1. In our quest for wisdom and survival, does the

human race require a new religious paradigm [model]?

2. Does the creation-centered spiritual tradition

offer such a paradigm?

As the reader may guess, my answer to both these

questions is: yes.[1]


A New Paradigm

Like many New Agers, Fox borrows the idea of a "paradigm

shift" from Dr. Thomas Kuhn, a historian of science. Kuhn

describes how people make models or paradigms of the universe to

direct their interpretation of its events. Science often shapes

the basic paradigms by which people view reality. Sometimes

scientific discoveries so severely affect the old paradigms that

they are abandoned for new and more useful ones.

Such a paradigm shift occurred when science changed from the

mechanistic idea of the universe, which is associated with Sir

Isaac Newton, to Albert Einstein's world of relativity. Newton

interpreted the universe as a huge mechanical system that

operates according to predictable, immutable laws (such as the

_law of gravity_). His paradigm compartmentalized the world into

discrete entities -- distinct constituent parts of the larger


Buckminster Fuller, Matthew Fox, and many others claim that

the new _Einsteinian_ paradigm has not yet been accepted in place

of the _Newtonian_ paradigm. Once it is, they say, a completely

new way of viewing the world will dominate. This new paradigm is

one that will link humanity with all creation, and will emphasize

the interconnectedness of all things. In other words, a

"wholeness" paradigm will replace Newton's mechanistic paradigm.

Fox is an evangelist of the inevitable new scientific,

religious, and philosophical paradigm. Evidently, he wants to

incorporate Christian theology and spiritual traditions into this

new paradigm. For Fox, it is important to note, Christian ideas

do not have priority over the new paradigm. Rather, Christianity

must change to fit the new ideas. If the church does not adapt

and lead the new way of thinking, "Mother Earth" will die, taking

everyone down with her. How, then, must the church change,

according to Fox?

To recover the wisdom that is lurking in religious traditions

we have to let go of more recent religious traditions....

Specifically,...an exclusively fall/redemption model of

spirituality....It [the fall/redemption model] is a dualistic

model [separating the sacred and profane] and a patriarchal

[father oriented, male dominated] one; it begins its theology

with sin and original sin, and it generally ends with

redemption. Fall/redemption spirituality does not teach

believers about the New Creation or creativity, about

justice-making and social transformation, or about Eros,

play, pleasure and the God of delight.[2]

Fox identifies St. Augustine and his theology of humanity's

fall into sin and need for redemption as the prime culprit behind

today's problems. Wars (especially the threat of nuclear war),

ecological crises, boredom, unemployment, and the rest of modern

woes go back to St. Augustine's idea that people are born with

original sin in their souls. Fall/redemption theology leads to

"sentimentalism and fundamentalism," focusing on personal

salvation and a personal savior.[3] As a result, Fox says, people

have "no ego, no self-respect, no tolerance for diversity, no

love of creation, no sense of humor, [and] no sense of sexual

identity or joy."[4]

Frequently, as is typical with New Agers, Fox's books decry

society's and the church's emphasis on the brain's _left_

hemisphere, with its analytic, verbal, logical processes. Fox

wants people to incorporate the _right_ hemisphere of the brain,

with its emotion, connection making, mysticism, cosmic delight,

and orientation toward the maternal, silence, and darkness.

Fox believes his new paradigm will awaken the world to the

cosmic. Instead of Christ redeeming us from sin, Christ Himself

becomes cosmic, liberating everyone from the "bondage and

pessimistic news of a Newtonian, mechanistic universe so ripe

with competition ... dualisms, anthropocentrism, and ...

boredom."[5] Fox's translation of Meister Eckhart (a thirteenth

century German mystic) says that all persons are "meant to be

mothers of God" and everyone is called to give birth to the

Cosmic Christ within themselves and society.[6] Then, with St.

Hildegard of Bingen (a twelfth century Benedictine abbess),

Eckhart, and psychologist Carl Jung, everyone will know

themselves to be "divine and human, animal and demon. We are

Cosmic Christs."[7]

Fox also identifies Christ with Mother Earth. For him,

Christ's redemption takes on new meaning and power in the Cosmic

Christ context if people see it as the "passion, resurrection,

and ascension of Mother Earth conceived as Jesus Christ

crucified, resurrected, and ascended."[8] Holy Communion is

"intimate," "local," and "erotic" when it becomes "the eating and

drinking of the wounded earth."[9]

A key aspect of the new paradigm is Fox's idealization of

feminist theology and rejection of patriarchal (father oriented)

religion. He advocates a return to maternal (mother oriented)

religion, like that of native peoples throughout the world. Their

"matrifocal [mother-centered] religion" helps them reverence God

as a mother, the earth as our mother, the universe as our

grandmother. They care for earth, he declares, and seek justice,

compassion, creativity, and harmony among people and within the

ecology. He preaches this religious ideal as the new paradigm of

"deep ecumenism," which will allow people of all religions to

come together at a mystical level.


Is Fox a New Ager?

Is Fox a New Ager? On the one hand, he freely employs New

Age ideas -- for example, he sets Newton against Einstein, the

right brain against the left, and mysticism as the basis of

religion, not dogma. He quotes New Age thinkers such as Fritjof

Capra, Buckminster Fuller, and Gregory Bateson. He suggests that

the "contemporary mystical movement known as 'new age' can

dialogue and create with creation spiritual tradition."[10]

On the other hand, Fox criticizes New Age "pseudo-

mysticisms" such as interpreting "'past life experiences' in an

excessively literal way without considering the possible

metaphorical meanings." Dealing with "past lives," he allows, is

an acceptable technique of "working out -- often in a very

commendable and creative way -- the deep suffering and pain from

[people's] present life."[11] While Fox's interpretation of past

life reading is not New Age, his _endorsement_ of the practice,

probably from a Jungian point of view, is unacceptable to

Scripture and Catholic teaching.

Fox criticizes other New Age trends which are: "all space

and no time; all consciousness and no conscience; all mysticism

and no prophecy; all past life experiences, angelic encounters,

untold bliss, and no critique of injustice or acknowledgment of

the suffering and death that the toll of time takes. In short, no

body. To these movements the Cosmic Christ says, 'Enter time.

Behold my wounds. Love your neighbor. Set the captives


Again, Fox does not reject New Age practices; he simply

wants them balanced by social justice, conscience, and concern

for the physical world. He prophesies in the name of the Cosmic

Christ that New Agers should love their neighbors and do justice.

New Agers would probably agree (many New Age thinkers and

activists, such as Capra, have raised the same concerns) and

merrily go to a conference on saving the environment, crystals,

or channeling.

Fox's analysis, however, is inadequate because he does not

reject the _occult_ practices of the New Age movement. Commending

witchcraft and shamanism (primitive spiritism) in his Institute

encourages disciples to investigate the occult in the guise of

learning the ways of "matrifocal" (mother-centered) primitive

religions in order to awaken the compassionate and creative

mother in everyone.

In Scripture, God calls us to be compassionate, loving, and

thirsty for justice. At the same time, however, He condemns the

occult practices of native Canaanite religion, its mother

goddesses Anath and Ashtarte, and its demand for human sacrifices

(Deut. 18:9-14). Furthermore, Starhawk's wiccan religion of the

goddess is explicitly pantheistic (all is _God_) and monistic

(all is _one_).[13] This causes one to wonder whether Fox's

frequent commendations of Starhawk's work in reawakening the

goddess religion mean that he accepts pantheism after all.

Honesty requires him to state his true relationship to Starhawk's

wiccan theology: is he pantheistic or not?

Fox even affirms a qualified belief in the astrological

ages, as affirmed by Jung and New Agers. Fox calls astrology a

"tradition that offers us a glimpse into our own futures," but in

the same section he emphatically states, "What I present here is

not my personal belief in astrology (I do not _believe_ in

astrology) but a method of seeing the human consciousness

historically, where historical means both past and future."[14]

For Fox, astrology is a "symbolic method of seeing our

futures" that "might have a valuable insight." Jung defends this

view "by arguing that astrological wisdom is significant for what

it tells us of the contents of our spiritual unconscious and, as

such, needs to be taken very seriously."[15] Then Fox recounts

Jung's description of 2,000 year-long stages in human history:

the _bull_ (Taurus), from 4,000 to 2,000 B.C. -- representing

"primitive, instinctual civilizations"; the _ram_ (Aries), from

2,000 B.C. to A.D. 1 -- characterized by Judaism, conscience, and

awareness of evil; the age of the _fishes_ (Pisces), from A.D. 1

to 1997 -- "dominated religiously by the figure of Christ." The

symbol of the two fish swimming in opposite directions "implies a

dualistic spirituality that has so characterized Christian

thinking and, in particular, Christian mysticism. It implies a

Christ vs. anti-Christ tension."[16]

Fox claims that the Piscean Age ends at the end of the

twentieth century "according to this theory, and if there is some

truth to it," the Age of Aquarius is opening soon. It will be

characterized by the symbol of water and "the deep," but he does

not explain the significance of this further. In the New Age,

"evil will be made conscious to every individual who may in turn

be made truly spiritual and responsible." Individuals will have

experiences of "the living spirit" in this spiritual age "where

both the spirits of ugliness (evil) and of beauty (God) will be

available to every person to choose in his own way."[17] He says

it will also be an age of "reincarnation," not in the sense of

transmigration of souls, which he rejects, but of restoring the

_sensual_ and _incarnate_ sense again (i.e., people will have a

positive experience of getting back in touch with their

bodies).[18] Fox foresees a changed church in the Age of

Aquarius, too: "Sensual sacraments and liturgies, church leaders

and schools, life-styles and working conditions -- there lies the

re-incarnational church for a post-Piscean Age."[19]

The New Age movement gets its name from its belief that

society will soon be transformed (many expect this around the

turn of the millennium). This belief motivates many people to

support the movement because the changes are proclaimed as

inevitable and irreversible. Since no one can stop the inexorable

advance into the Age of Aquarius, it is reasoned, it makes more

sense to join it than fight it. Fox too is convinced that the old

Piscean Age, with its dualistic, Augustinian, Newtonian world

view, is dead.[20]

I suspect that, like New Agers, Fox motivates himself and

others to change their ideology and theology because he is

convinced that a new, Aquarian Age is upon the world and the

church. However, what if he is wrong? What if 1997 does not usher

in the Age of Aquarius as he claims? Christianity has weathered

many dramatic upheavals in society -- from the destruction of

Israel in A.D. 70, through the collapse of the Roman Empire, the

French Revolution, and the atheistic persecutions of the Marxists

and Nazis. The church, the beloved Bride of Jesus Christ, will

survive _until He returns for her,_ through the period New Agers

call the Age of Aquarius and beyond.

Fox does the world and the church a disservice by not

teaching the whole Scripture and by accepting only parts. The

Greek word for heresy means taking parts out of the whole. While

Fox's love of creation and its God-given goodness is commendable,

his new paradigm is not. It becomes a vehicle by which Christians

are ushered into the New Age movement.



A central element in the New Age movement is belief in

pantheism, the idea that God is everything and everything is God.

Where does Fox's doctrine of God and Christ place him? Although

he seeks to avoid this conclusion, his views on these

all-important subjects belong in the New Age category.

Fox explicitly rejects pantheism as a heresy that removes

God's transcendence and makes the sacraments impossible.[21]

Instead, he holds to panentheism, which teaches that "everything

is in God and God is in everything." This idea has its home in

the late Neo-Platonism (a mystical philosophy which combined

ideas from Plato with Oriental, Jewish, and Christian beliefs) of

the Middle Ages, especially as represented by John Erigena,

Nicholas of Cusa, and Meister Eckhart. Because Fox does not like

Platonism, he dubs these Neo-Platonists "creation-centered


All three philosophers came under church scrutiny and

condemnation because their explicit claims of panentheism (which

is bad enough, since it holds that the creation is inherently

divine) masked an implicit pantheism. Fox has the same problem.

His quotation of Nicholas of Cusa sounds like pantheism, though

he calls it panentheism:

The absolute, Divine Mind, is all that is in everything that

is....Divinity is the enfolding and unfolding of everything

that is. Divinity is in all things in such a way that all

things are in divinity....

We are, as it were, a human deity. Humans are also the

universe, but not absolutely since we are human. Humanity is

therefore a microcosm, or in truth, a human universe. Thus

humanity itself encloses both God and the universe in its

human power.[22]

Fox frequently quotes his version of Meister Eckhart:

The seed of God is in us....Now the seed of a pear tree

grows into a pear tree, a hazel seed into a hazel tree, the

seed of God into God.[23]

I discover that God and I are one. There I am what I was, and

I grow neither smaller nor bigger, for there I am an

immovable cause that moves all things.[24]

These and similar passages throughout Fox's books manifest

an understanding of Christ and divinity rooted in Fox's

translations and imagination rather than Scripture or church

teaching. Sounding remarkably like New Agers Mark and Elizabeth

Clare Prophet of the Church Universal and Triumphant, Fox wants

people to "birth" their own "I am," which is the experience of

the divine "I am." The reason for our existence, Fox tells us, is

to "birth the Cosmic Christ in our being and doing."[25] Fox

believes that everyone can and should give birth to the Cosmic

Christ, which he believes will awaken the maternal within us.

Fox's Cosmic Christ sounds pantheistic and not at all like

Jesus, the only begotten Son of God. He writes, "The divine name

from Exodus 3:14, 'I Am who I Am,' is appropriated by Jesus who

shows us how to embrace our own divinity. The Cosmic Christ is

the I am in every creature."[26] Again Fox sounds like the Church

Universal and Triumphant, claiming that Jesus appropriated His

divinity and we can do the same. This makes Jesus no more divine

than we are, as New Agers teach.

Fox tells us to "let go of the quest for the historical

Jesus and embark on a quest for the Cosmic Christ."[27] Yet he

does not want Cosmic Christ theology to be believed or lived _"at

the expense of the historical Jesus"_ (emphasis in original).[28]

Fox seeks a dialectic or interchange of ideas between the

historical and the cosmic so as to incorporate the prophetic and

the mystical. This requires a conversion from a "personal Savior"

Christianity, which is "anthropocentric and antimystical," to a

"Cosmic Christ" Christianity.[29]

Which of Fox's statements do we believe? He is confusing and

contradictory. Perhaps he emphasizes the need for using the right

side of the brain (with its intuition, mysticism, and freedom

from dualistic, either/or thinking and the limitations of logic)

_because of his own illogic._ For many New Agers, the emphasis on

right brain nonthinking is the perfect defense against logic,

communication of ideas, the expertise of other people, and common

sense. Fox's thinking mixes New Age ideas and cliches with his

own faulty translations of old treatises from the fringes of

Christianity, as I will now demonstrate.



While Fox's extensive interests and background include late

Neo-Platonist philosophy, Medieval spirituality, and ecology, his

scholarship is sloppy and embarrassing. He betrays the trust

placed by nonspecialists that scholars do their homework.

I first noticed difficulties with Fox's use of Scripture, my

own area of expertise. He mistranslates texts and misrepresents

linguistic findings to support his theological bias. For

instance, he writes: "The word for 'mountain' in Hebrew also

means 'the Almighty' and it comes from the word for breast.

Mountains are the breasts of Mother Earth, thus 'Come! Play on my

mountain of myrrh.'"[30]

This is a confused batch of misinformation. "Mountain" in

Hebrew is _har_; the name "God Almighty" comes from the Akkadian

word, _El Shaddai_; "breast" in Hebrew is _shad,_ from the root

_shadah,_ which is not the root of _Shaddai (shadad is)._ While a

slight error if it were alone, Fox is mixing and matching

etymologies irresponsibly to make a feminist point, though one

that is nonexistent in Hebrew.

Another example occurs in his comments on the Song of Songs

(or Song of Solomon):

[The male lover in Song of Solomon] invokes the earth

goddesses in this charge; this man is not out of touch with

the pre-patriarchal spirituality:

I tell you O young ones of the holy city:

Do not arouse my lover before her time.

I charge you by the "spirits and the goddesses of the


by the gazelles and the hinds: Do not disturb my love

while she is at rest. (2:7; 3:5; 8:4)[31]

Fox's translation and comments are faulty. The Hebrew has no

reference to spirits and goddesses but rather reads:

I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem:

by the gazelles and by the hinds of the field:

Do not awaken, do not stir up love until she pleases. (2:7)

The Hebrew word "gazelles" is _sebaoth,_ similar to "hosts"

in the name "Lord of Hosts" (Lord _Sabaoth_). The Greek

Septuagint translates this word in Song of Songs 2:7 as "by the

powers and forces of the field." The Aramaic Targum has "by the

Lord of Hosts and by the Strength of the land of Israel." Paul

Jouon, S.J., a French Hebraist, considered this an allusion to

the armies of angels and their leaders, but the majority of

scholars see them as words for gazelles and deer,[32] not as

references to earth goddesses.

Fox also abuses Hebrew etymology in claiming "the Hebrew

word for blessing, _berakah,_ is closely related to the word for

create, _bara_....The word for covenant, _beriyth,_ is also

directly related to the words for 'create' and for

'blessing.'"[33] This is utter nonsense, on a par with claiming

that "carpet" originally meant dogs driving automobiles. _No

etymological connection exists among these Hebrew words._

Covenants and creation may be blessings, but Fox bases his point

on a false premise.

In another place Fox makes an erroneous claim about the

Hebrew language to support an equally erroneous statement about

God: "The with-ness of God is especially significant because,

while Greeks focus on nouns in their literature, Jews focus on

prepositions such as with, against, from, etc. The Covenant is a

sign of God's withness. To be without covenant would be

unbearable for the Jewish believer. God, then, is a preposition

for the Jew. And the preposition is basically one of presence, of


In fact, the Hebrew language does _not_ focus on

prepositions but on verbs, usually in the form of what Hebrew

grammarians call triliteral roots. The prepositions are

substantives derived from verbs. The words meaning "God" are not

prepositions, nor are they derived from prepositions. It is

absurd to call God a preposition.

Elsewhere Fox mistranslates Greek words that are not even in

the New Testament! He writes of "the counsel of Jesus to his

friends (substituting the word 'culture' for _kenosis_) when he

declared that they be 'in the culture but not of it.'"[35] First,

the Greek word _kenosis_ (meaning "emptying") does not appear

anywhere in the New Testament. Why does Fox bother to

mistranslate it? Second, the saying of Jesus which he

reinterprets here is apparently John 17:16, "They [the disciples]

are not of the world [_ek tou kosmou_] as I am not of the world

[_ek tou kosmou_]." Perhaps Fox did not want to inform his

readers that neither Jesus nor His friends were "of the cosmos,"

a key word in Foxian thought.

Serious problems arise from Fox's translation of John 1:1-5,

9, 10, 12, and 14, where he uses the impersonal sounding words

"Creative Energy" to translate the Greek word _logos_ (usually

translated as "word"). The word "energy" is simply unacceptable

as a translation of _logos_. Further, instead of the personal

pronoun "he" (present in Greek), Fox uses "it" to refer to the

Word eleven times, though he calls "it" the "Child of the

Creator." Fox's depersonalization of the Word made flesh makes

Christ an impersonal energy. More evidence of a depersonalizing

tendency appears in a quote of thirteenth century saint and

mystic Mechtild of Magdeburg: "From the very beginning God loved

us. The Holy Trinity gave _itself_ in the creation of all things

and made us, body and soul, in infinite love" (emphasis


Fox also misrepresents the way Christians have allegorized

the Song of Songs, saying that they read "into the Jewish

tradition a dualism between body and soul and an alien original

sin mentality that are not there."[37] However, it was the

rabbinic tradition that first allegorized the Song of Songs. Had

Rabbi Aqiba not insisted on an allegorical interpretation of the

Song, the rabbis would not have kept it in their Scripture canon.

Christians simply continued the Jewish tradition of allegorizing

the Song, though they adapted it to their understanding of Christ

and the church.

Training in Hebrew and Greek helped me catch all the above

errors, but I am not an expert in Medieval literature. When I

asked Medievalists about Fox's work, they noted its defective and

dishonest qualities.

Dr. Barbara Newman, an expert on St. Hildegard of Bingen at

Northwestern University, is skeptical of Fox's work on St.

Hildegard. In a footnote she says of Gabrielle Uhlein's

_Meditations with Hildegard of Bingen_ and Fox's _Illuminations

of Hildegard of Bingen_ that the "so-called translations in these

volumes are not to be trusted."[38] Newman's review of Fox's

edition of _Hildegard of Bingen's Book of Divine Works, with

Letters and Songs_ says: "The present book, like earlier

Hildegard volumes from this press [Bear & Company], raises

serious questions about the editor's integrity. "[39] It is not a

translation from Hildegard's original Latin version but is from a

German abridgment, which Fox erroneously calls "a critical text."

One wonders why Fox did not use the original texts.

Newman says the introductions in Fox's volume are "rife with

errors about Hildegard's work," such as the false idea that she

founded monasteries for men or administered a small kingdom.

Instead of the feminist portrayed by Fox and company, Hildegard

"firmly defended social hierarchies, and believed in divinely

ordained gender roles," called God _Father and Son,_ and used

masculine pronouns for God.[40] Neither was Hildegard a creation-

centered theologian, as Fox claims: "Hildegard's teaching is not

creation centered at all; it centers on the Incarnation...."[41]

Newman concludes her review by saying, "the wholesale

misrepresentations that Bear & Company engage in cannot, in the

long run, serve the cause of human integrity by purveying

historical fallacies." [42]

Another critic is Simon Tugwell, O.P., who reviewed Matthew

Fox's _Breakthrough: Meister Eckhart's Creation Spirituality in

New Translation_ in the Dominican journal, _New Blackfriars._

Tugwell, proficient in Eckhart's thought and in Middle High

German language, thoroughly exposes Fox's poor scholarship.

First, Tugwell says Fox's translation is poor quality.

Instead of using the Middle High German of Eckhart's original,

Fox chose Quint's modern German translation of the original. _Why

did Fox not use the original language?_ Tugwell goes on to say

that Fox inaccurately translates Quint's text with "an

extraordinary number of mistakes." At times Fox does not

understand the syntax; at times he does not know the meanings of

words. But, Tugwell says, "sometimes it is difficult to avoid the

feeling that the mistranslation is deliberate, intended to

minimize anything that would interfere with the alleged

'creation-centeredness' of Eckhart's spirituality."[43]

Tugwell says the historical introduction in this book "is so

dominated by wishful thinking and sheer fantasy that the reviewer

hardly knows how to begin criticizing it."[44] When Fox alleged

Celtic influence on Eckhart, Tugwell found himself reduced to

"helpless, gibbering fury." He accuses Fox of "tendentious half-

truths, or...downright falsehood." For instance, Fox claims

Eckhart was a feminist influenced by the beguine movement

(semi-monastic sisterhoods going back to twelfth century

Holland), but in fact _no reliable evidence exists for either

assertion._ Also, Fox calls Eckhart, a Dominican, "the most

Franciscan spiritual theologian of the church" because he

rejected the dualist thoughts of Platonist philosophers. In fact,

St. Francis was _clearly_ dualistic because he said that the soul

lives in the body "like a hermit in a hermitage" and called the

body and soul "both men" inside the person. Fox ignores this

dualism in St. Francis, whom Fox has dubbed "creationcentered."

In short, then, Tugwell caught Fox committing significant errors.

Unfortunately, the appeal and use of Fox's

pseudotranslations are widespread. An American scholar visiting

Norwich, England stopped at a gift shop, and the racks displayed

all the Bear & Company translations. When the visitor explained

how faulty and inaccurate these translations were, the clerk

gushed, "That all may be true, but Fr. Fox has been such a help

to my spiritual life."

Why are the above criticisms significant for understanding

Fox and creation-centered spirituality? First, they throw the

rest of his scholarship into question. I certainly do not trust

his biblical scholarship; neither do a Hildegard of Bingen

scholar and a Meister Eckhart scholar trust his translations and

commentaries. Experts find Fox committing so many dumb mistakes

that he is either full of malarkey or, as some (including myself)

suspect, is deliberately deceitful. Since Fox has repeatedly

betrayed his trust as a scholar, why should he be trusted as an

authority on religious matters?

Second, Fox constructs much of his creation-centered

theology from _his own_ translations of Hildegard and Eckhart.

His faulty translations support a crumbly theological edifice.

Scholars can show that neither Sacred Scripture, St. Hildegard,

St. Francis, nor even Meister Eckhart are to blame for Fox's

peculiar theology. He must bear full responsibility (and

culpability) for this abominable approach to "spirituality."



Not all of Fox's concerns are wrong headed. Christians need

to show more love for creation and the environment. Growth in

compassion and creativity (in the analogous sense by which we

creatures _can_ be creative) is a laudable goal. As well, passion

for justice and concern for the poor are biblical

characteristics. Yet none of these requires us to abandon the

faith handed on to us by the apostles. We need not accept Fox's

view that "the Church as we have known it is dying,"[45] or that

"Christianity as we know it will _not_ survive for we know it now

in wineskins that are brittle, old and leaking."[46] Christ

Jesus, truth incarnate, will renew the church and bring many

people to salvation through union with Him. We can depend on


Matthew Fox has invented a creation-centered theology that

tries to see everything in God and God in everything. His Cosmic

Christ is especially in the earth, and he would have us all learn

to find this Christ in ourselves and in the world. Clearly, Fox's

theology distorts historic Christianity into a crypto-New Age

system that leads people away from the real Christ of Scripture.

The warning of St. Paul is well-suited for this modern-day wolf

in clerical clothing: "See to it that no one makes a prey of you

by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition,

according to the elemental spirits of the universe [Greek:

_kosmos_], and not according to Christ. For in him the whole

fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness of

life in him, who is the head of all rule and authority" (Col.

2:8-10, RSV).



Father Mitchell Pacwa, S.J., is a Scripture scholar from Loyola

University at Chicago.



1 Matthew Fox, O.P., _Original Blessing_ (Santa Fe, NM: Bear and

Company, 1983), 9.

2 Ibid., 10-11.

3 Matthew Fox, O.P., _The Coming of the Cosmic Christ_ (San

Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988), 151.

4 Ibid., 182.

5 Ibid., 135.

6 Ibid., 137.

7 Ibid., 138.

8 Ibid., 149.

9 Ibid., 214.

10 Fox, _Original Blessing_, 16.

11 Fox, _Cosmic Christ_, 45-46.

12 Ibid., 141.

13 Starhawk, _The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion

of the Goddess_, 10th Anniversary Edition, Revised and Updated

(San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1989), 10-11, 22, 23, 27.

14 Matthew Fox, _WHEE! We, wee All the Way Home: A Guide to the

New Sensual Spirituality_ (Wilmington, NC: A Consortium Book,

1976), ii.

15 Ibid. Unfortunately, though Randy England's _Unicorn in the

Sanctuary_ (Manassas, VA: Trinity Communications, 1990), 122,

quotes Fox's statement about astrological ages rather

extensively, he omits Fox's denial of belief in astrology.

England should have been more fair and directed the criticism

more pointedly.

16 Fox, _WHEE!_, ii-iii.

17 Ibid., iii.

18 Ibid., 183.

19 Ibid., 196.

20 Matthew Fox, _A Spirituality Named Compassion and the Healing

of the Global Village, Humpty Dumpty and Us_ (San Francisco:

Harper and Row, 1979), 256.

21 Fox, _Original Blessing_, 90.

22 Fox, _Cosmic Christ_, 126.

23 Ibid., 121.

24 Ibid., 154.

25 Ibid., 155.

26 Ibid., 154.

27 Ibid., 8.

28 Ibid., 79.

29 Ibid.

30 Ibid., 169.

31 Ibid., 170.

32 Marvin H. Pope, _Song of Songs: A New Translation with

Introduction and Commentary_, Anchor Bible (Garden City, NY:

Doubleday and Company, 1977), 385-86.

33 Fox, _Original Blessing_, 46.

34 Ibid. Here Fox cites a lecture by Dr. Ron Miller at ICCS,

Mundelein College, Chicago, 18 January 1982.

35 Matthew Fox, O.P., _On Becoming a Musical, Mystical Bear_ (New

York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1972), 66.

36 Fox, _Original Blessing_, 48.

37 Ibid., 62.

38 Barbara Newman, _Sister of Wisdom: St. Hildegard's Theology of

the Feminine_ (Berkeley: University of California Press,

1987), 250n.

39 Barbara Newman, review of Matthew Fox, ed., _Hildegard of

Bingen's Book of Divine Works, with Letters and Songs," Church

History_ 54 (1985), 190.

40 Ibid., 191.

41 Newman, _Sister_, 250.

42 Newman, review, 192.

43 Simon Tugwell, O.P., review of _Breakthrough: Meister

Eckhart's Creation Spirituality in New Translation_,

Introduction and Commentaries by Matthew Fox, _New

Blackfriars_ 63 (1982), 197.

44 Ibid.

45 Fox, _Cosmic Christ_, 31.

46 Ibid., 149.

End of document, CRJ0001B.TXT (original CRI file name),

"Catholicism for the New Age: Matthew Fox and Creation-Centered


This file was first made available as CR001J11.TXT, release 1.1,

February 19, 1993. Later it was given the name CRJ0001A.TXT

after an early revision of CRI's file name convention.

Update B, March 26, 1993, R. Poll, CRI

The preceding article was adapted from a chapter in Pacwa's

book _Catholics And The New Age_ available from Servant Press,

Ann Arbor, Michigan.

In a phone conversation yesterday Pacwa suggested that I

pass on the news that Fox has been "kicked out of his order"

since this article was first published.

(A special note of thanks to Bob and Pat Hunter for their help

in the preparation of this ASCII file for BBS circulation.)



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