“Farewell, Divine Dance”? An Open Letter to The Gospel Coalition.


wondered if the Reformed blogosphere was going to issue a ‘strong warning’ against The Divine Dance. Mark Driscoll told his then-congregation “Have you read The Shack? Don’t,” and John Piper infamously tweeted “Farewell, Rob Bell” when Rob dared question the eternal-conscious torment party line in Love Wins, so I was curious if my former tribe of more conservative-leaning Calvinists (along with their conservative Evangelical fellow-travelers) was going to circle the wagons and warn their perceived flock against Fr. Richard’s and my ode to love.

Then last night, I saw it:

Always wanting to believe the best about people (I am opti-mystic after all!), I replied with a friendly tweet:

…to which Fred – a theologian at Biola who also writes about the Trinity – made his intentions clear:

Fred and I then had a brief, relatively-pleasant email exchange. He let me know that, as an art-student-turned-theologian, he created a series of underground-comixstyled graphic novels illuminating his favorite dogmatics. So, y’know, he can’t be that bad. (I hope he sends these to me, to show me the error of my ways.)

Still, this morning, The Gospel Coalition – a contrarian Calvinist consortium known for critiquing contemplatives – posted Why I Don’t Flow with Richard Rohr.

(And, update, I’ve been told by several today that the Good Doctor is not himself Reformed, but is in fact Wesleyan Arminian. So let his name be cleared of the TULIP-strewn path, but let the alliterative record stand on The Gospel Coalition.)

You can read it if you want.

Calvin burning Servetus at the stake over Trinitarian disagreement - artist's depiction.

John Calvin burning Michael Servetus at the stake over Trinitarian disagreement – artist’s depiction.

In it, Dr. Sanders says things like “The Divine Dance is not about the Trinity,” and “Rohr aggressively misappropriates Trinitarian language in order to commend his own eclectic spiritual teaching,” and “[Morrell’s] transition of this material from speech to print is not, stylistically, a happy one.” (Ouch!)

By and large, I find this ‘review’ to be a bit of a hit piece, full of theological caricature, character assassination, under-appreciation for metaphor, and disdain for divergent perspectives. There’s also some substantial critique.

I’ve left a comment on the post, which is currently under moderation. Since so many of my friends have been banned from commenting on TGC’s site (did I mention their disdain for divergent views?), I’m not holding my breath that my comment will be approved, so I’m sharing it here with you, dear reader. It’s a kind of open letter to The Gospel Coalition, Dr. Fred, and their readers. Here you go…

Hi all. Fr. Richard’s thoroughly-Protestant collaborator on The Divine Dance here.

Well, Fred, you told me on Twitter last night that you’d be posting a “very negative” review, and you did not disappoint! I feel like it would read better without what occurs to me as a level of personal invective, but I’m still able to see the substance of your critique beneath this.

What’s obvious to me is how much you really care about the Trinity – it shows up here loud and clear. I resonate with your care and concern. I won’t spend time on a point-by-point rebuttal – I’ll only name that it’s equally obvious to me that it makes total sense that a kataphatic, hierarchical, substance-oriented Calvinist approach to Trinity would be at odds with an apophatic, social, process-oriented Franciscan approach. While we both believe in revelation, we see God not only as God is, right, but as we are!

Life is such an ongoing process of discernment being held in love, isn’t it?

And so, I appreciate how much you care about this, Fred. You want to get God right. Oddly, I’m right here with you. It’s why I watched with interest this summer when some friends from the Reformed camp seemed to be engaging in heterodox Trinitarian redefinition, which one of my Missional friends wrote about so eloquently here.

You care. I care. And so here we are, having this conversation.

I will say that we saw what little conversation was taking place about the life of God expressed in Trinity focused on the individual persons traditionally named Father, Son, and Spirit, and precious little on their relationship. We get why this is the case, but there are already so many engaging treatises on Theology, Christology, and Pneumatology, that we – like our friend Paul Young, whose novel The Shack I helped launch nearly a decade ago – wanted to say something about the divine relations, the process of divinity-in-friendship, the Space Between.

Writing about one does not negate the other.

And when so many of our best teachers, poets, and sages have put heart to paper about their experience of being caught up in this divine fellowship – not to mention Jesus’ own high priestly prayer in John 17 – it seems like such a neglect not to give contemporary voice to this rich, neglected stream of Christian spirituality.

It’s why I love what Tim Keller writes about in The Reason for God:

The life of the Trinity is characterized not by self-centeredness but by mutually self-giving love. When we delight and serve someone else, we enter into a dynamic orbit around him or her, we center on the interests and desires of the other. That creates a dance, particularly if there are three persons, each of whom moves around the other two. So it is, the Bible tells us. Each of the divine persons centers upon the others. None demands that the others revolve around him. Each voluntarily circles the other two, pouring love, delight, and adoration into them. Each person of the Trinity loves, adores, defers to, and rejoices in the others. That creates a dynamic pulsating dance of joy and love. The early leaders of the Greek church had a word for this—perichoresis. Notice the root of our word ‘choreography’ is within it. It means literally to “dance or flow around.

open-handed-embraceI’ll close with something that surely a Calvinist and a mystic can appreciate: Being pursued by God. There was a time in my life, about four years ago, that I was at a major life crossroads. Facing an agonizing decision; feeling desperately lonely. Truly, it felt like no one got me. No one was for me. In this space, I approached God in prayer. The opening words from Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing began to sing their way through me:

Tune My Heart to Sing Thy Grace.

And suddenly, my heart was opened: To the Father, Son, and Spirit.To the divine dance, weaving its indelible grace through my life. Trinity showed up for me in such an undeniable way, revealing just how love and pursued and (yes) chosen I was. Life goes on with its ups and downs, but this Trinitarian encounter was a game-changer. I write about this holy moment more in-depth in a special Divine Dance bonus chapter that I give away on my blog.

At the end of the day, what I’m left with is that we’re all in this together. Being formed in the Imago Dei means that we’re wired for ‘Imago Tres’ – we thrive living into our vital connection with God, self, others, and world. When we forget that we’re all connected, we wither. While we might see ‘the curse’ and ‘the cure’ differently, I appreciate that you’re asking these questions and are on this path.

Grace and peace to you.

Other Divine Dance Reviews

I want to name here that I’m not upset that The Gospel Coalition has posted their ‘very negative’ review of The Divine Dance. Because I really do believe that everything belongs, I think that such jolting exclamations – unfair though they may be – serve a real purpose: to continue the conversation in all its messiness, and help even more people discover this beautiful Mystery (not unknowable, but endlessly knowable) that Fr. Richard and I are so passionate about.

Thankfully, all of the other reviews I’ve seen thus far are far more generous – even critical ones like my friend Byron Borger’s from Hearts & Minds Books. If you’re curious to see what others are saying about The Divine Dance, what follows (in no particular order) are other reviews that have crossed my desk:

Richard Rohr – The Divine Dance [Feature Review] | The Englewood Review of Books (see also Video Introduction)

Richard Rohr wants Christians to see the Trinity as a divine dance – CRUX

Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation – Goodreads

Review: Richard Rohr and Mike Morrell’s The Divine Dance | ordinary-mystic

The Divine Dance: A Review | The Imperfect Pastor

The Divine Dance, by Richard Rohr and Mike Morrell – Micah Tillman

The Divine Dance by Richard Rohr and Michael Morrell – Jim Erwin

Rohr’s Magical Metaphors Breathe Life into the Old Tradition

Richard Rohr: An Invitation to the Divine Dance | Gloria Gaither, Homecoming Magazine

The Divine Dance: Cross-Sex Friends Can Dance! – Dan J. Brennan

35 Years into the Divine Dance! – Dan J. Brennan

The Divine Dance: An interview with Mike Morrell | ordinary-mystic

New Becoming: Book Review: The Divine Dance by Richard Rohr

Book Review: The Divine Dance by Richard Rohr with Mike Morrell

The Divine Dance by Richard Rohr and Mike Morrell|Red-Letter Christians

The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation [book review]

A Brighter Tomorrow – A Review

Experiencing a Relationship with the Trinity

Book Review: The Divine Dance – Prayer Bench

Book Report – The Divine Dance by Rohr and Morrell 2016

Divine Dance – Review

Book review: ‘The Divine Dance’ by Richard Rohr w/ Mike Morrell

The Divine Dance: A Book Review – The Little Friar 

Richard Rohr wants Christians to see the Trinity as a divine dance | Religion News Service


39 Responses to “Farewell, Divine Dance”? An Open Letter to The Gospel Coalition.

  1. RR December 2, 2016 at 5:12 pm #

    This “open letter” does not engage any of the substantive points made against Rohr’s book in the original TGC post aside from a vague reference to some kind of distinction between substance vs process approaches. Such a distinction, if it is meant to be a dichotomy, is a false one to begin with, as substance theologies clearly make room for a difference between substances and their activities. Part of the critique of TGC was of course that Rohr ignores substance for process talk only, and given that substance has been a core feature of most catholic and protestant theological circles throughout history, why should this point not be raised against rhor as a mark of his unorthodoxy.

    TGC’s post basically accuses Rohr of a book full of nice poetry thinly veiling some novel (i.e. unorthodox) theological doctrines. While it did not contain personal attack or invective, the author’s annoyance was palpable. But then why shouldn’t he be annoyed? Rohr routinely coyly poeticizes novel theological doctrine as though it were not novel but positively patristic! It’s not. And it doesn’t take an mdiv to spot the fact. If you desire less annoyance on the part of TGC types, then start engaging their substantive theological critiques. Until then, expect them to deal harshly with the more Kaufmanesque failures to directly engage doctrine retreating to the tricks of the muses.

  2. RR December 2, 2016 at 5:18 pm #

    On the other hand, why care what TGC thinks? Poetry beats scholasticism in the hearts of all but a few, so their somewhat hostile review will likely not win as many hearts as rhor’s prose style. TGC is way more TLDRable than rhor!

  3. Jonathan Roberts December 2, 2016 at 7:08 pm #

    Michael Morrel,

    Any chance that you or Fr. Rohr will write something engaging with the arguments Fred Sanders articulated? Or are you going to content yourself by simply insinuating that he is one angry Calvinist looking for a heretic to burn?

    P.S: Sanders is not a Calvinist.

    – Jonathan

    • RR December 2, 2016 at 7:53 pm #

      Hey! That’s what I said!

      • Jonathan December 2, 2016 at 8:17 pm #

        Your comment had not been approved yet.

  4. Dan McGregor December 3, 2016 at 12:54 pm #

    “Nothing is falser than the idea that mockery is necessarily hostile.” – CS Lewis

    • Laura December 31, 2016 at 11:09 am #

      I can think of many falser ideas.

  5. Jeff December 4, 2016 at 3:52 pm #

    I’ll take Lewis’s recommended approach, then. It is amazing to me how some evangelicals, who think that they are hopelessly broken without God, can muster enough chutzpah to throw intellectual stones at others when they attempt to approach the Mystery. They’re basically saying, “I am utterly without commendation, but all these other people who don’t think like me… now they’re REALLY off the track.” Seriously, how do they know (messed up as they are)? And why should I take them seriously? They pose as their own authority (claiming divine authority for themselves), and seek to impose their authority on others. Yawn.

    Bravo, Mr. Morrell, for taking the loving and inclusive approach. And I hope I can be forgiven for showing the problematic nature of CS Lewis’ statement. I would prefer to live and let live.

    • Dan McGregor December 5, 2016 at 1:38 am #

      Yawn, live and let live? Thank God that Luther didn’t toss his 95 Theses into the fireplace, mutter “live and let live,” yawn and go to bed. Witness John the Baptist, Jesus of Nazareth and Paul the Apostle—all called out equivocators and prevaricators.

      • Jeff December 5, 2016 at 6:47 am #

        Dan, if you want to help people, starting with the basic assumption that you’re going to “fix” them may not be the best approach. The approach that so many feel is “the bible-based” approach to sharing good news breeds its own return contempt. If Christian discipleship took the line of eastern gurus, who wait for students to come to them with a problem, and then who try to get rid of aspirants until they know that the student has defined them as teacher and thus it is the student’s fault for asking!), then Christian teaching would be undoubtedly held in better public opinion. Know your spiritual system, but don’t be a jerk about it.

        Besides, I have already called you out, Dan, for your ridiculous quote purportedly from CS Lewis. So I guess, by your admission, that I am standing in the line of St. Paul (though I would never claim this for myself. I am simply me.) I have no need to assume the mantle of authority to exhort people to “not be a jerk”. People just seem to accept that as the way (until they start to feel that, somehow, they are better than someone else. Now we can see the real problem.)

  6. Jeannine Buntrock December 4, 2016 at 3:59 pm #

    I have not yet read The Divine Dance, but it is on order at my local library and I am first in line. I have read Richard Rohr’s books Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life and also Breathing Underwater. The first particularly helped me mature greatly as a person and as a Christian. I saw that I longed to more fully inhabit the second half of my life – to leave behind my ego-driven need to find fault with others, and to try to prove my worth and to prove myself as right and others wrong – instead just to bask in the glow of being loved by God for my true self. It helped me to more often glimpse the equally beloved true selves of others, so often buried beneath fear and hurt, anger and doubt. Richard Rohr’s advice was to remember always, when interacting with another individual – especially one we find difficult or unlovable – (that they are a) Child of God, Child of God.

    There is no such thing as perfect theology – why must we tear down another, especially when that other has been the conduit through which disappointed and deadened hearts have awakened again? (So many attest to this.) Why must we insist on what amounts to so much separation between God and us? Thanks to Rohr, I have been able to perceive the nearness of God in ways I never did before. His recent work on the Cosmic Christ being so much broader and older and vastly more present today (and always) than I ever legitimately grasped my concept of Jesus to be has filled my heart with the greatest joy, and deep recognition of truth. Deep down, I wasn’t sure that I honestly loved the NT Jesus – but the Cosmic Christ who touches me every second of every day through all of Creation – through my children, through the wonder and beauty of Nature – I love him with all of of my heart because indeed he is in all things that are precious to me, and they in him, and treasured by him – and because of what he has done for all of humanity. I have only to open my eyes to see the evidence of his presence and care.

    I will never view Richard Rohr as dangerous or misled. Indeed, he is just a man – but he says this about himself repeatedly in his writings. He never sets himself up as right and others wrong – while he has been critical of the church at large, it has been mostly affectionate and he has never been one to throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. In fact, he was the one who opened my mind and heart again to resuming our own church attendance – to see the great good that was there despite the many imperfections. He has never pointed me to anyone else but Christ – certainly never to himself.

    I do not believe that God will ever judge us for having hoped for too much.

  7. Jeannine Buntrock December 4, 2016 at 4:00 pm #

    Also – perceiving the nearness of God to us through Christ as expressed through Creation has only elevated my wonder and increased my humility in relation to God. I don’t believe that anyone is saying that God can be fully understood through Creation – but that Creation is a mere but wondrous, incredibly encouraging, hint and expression of who he is.

    Consider the way that a baby is formed in its mother’s womb. Millions of things have to take place in perfect precision in order that a healthy baby develops and is born. Aside from our obvious physicality, what is “fallen” or imperfect about that? A flower emerging from a seed in the earth. Our planet orbiting the sun at precisely the right distance. Aside from the fact that all things physical pass away, these things are utter perfection. (Thanks be to God that he has placed something eternal, something of himself, in us so that our souls do not pass away – or that is our great hope at least.) How marvelous that in a fallen, imperfect world, there is so very much perfection.

    As for relying on human experience to learn about God – I learned from the Bible that God exists and that Jesus died for me – but my heart was not truly pierced and changed until I became a mother and began to experience what it has meant to love my children unconditionally for over a decade now. I believe that God has reached me and taught me about himself through this experience in ways the Bible never could. Indeed, having been a mother and experienced the love I bear my children, I rest in the love and acceptance of God in far greater ways than I ever did before.

    If Richard Rohr is “panentheistic,” then so am I. But I am here to say that it has not diminished God in my estimation in the slightest, but awoken my true, deep love, respect and appreciation for him – my trust in him and my hope for us all.

  8. Patrick Watters December 4, 2016 at 5:32 pm #

    John 15:18-25
    The World Hates the Disciples
    18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen youout of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’

    Jesus issued this warning as encouragement as well, and he knew that persecution would come from even those who called him “Lord”. Perhaps the most hurtful and vitriolic persecution is poured out by Christians on each other in the Name of Jesus?!

    Matthew 5:10-12
    Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
    11 “Blessed are you when people insult you,persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

  9. Johnboy December 4, 2016 at 5:38 pm #

    There might be an honest misunderstanding in play, especially since Sanders was not familiar with Rohr’s body of work. There’s no reason, in principle, that a Wesleyan-Arminian approach cannot be reconciled with your and Rohr’s views.

    First of all, if Sanders’ charge — that Rohr ignores certain ontological distinctions — would stick, then Rohr would have contradicted essential Roman Catholic teaching. That ain’t gonna happen. He’s a self-described panentheist.

    Mostly, though, it’s a category error to take an apophatic, theopoetic concept regarding perichoresis (whether dance, flow, energy or such) and then employ it as a metaphysical root metaphor in a kataphatic, ontotheology (as we do with being, substance, process, experience and such).

    More simply, when perichoretic references are invoked in an apophatic theopoetics, it’s in no way replacing anyone’s root metaphor du jour, ontologically or metaphysically. It’s just keeping our language limitations front and center and inviting us, whenever metaphors are involved, to keep ’em coming!

    It may be that some will say that, if what I say is true and that you and Rohr are indeed not godforsaken pantheists, then, perhaps your panentheism was inartfully expressed and Sanders et al are not to blame. It’s hard to write a generally accessible book, I’d imagine, sufficiently nuancing one’s specific version of panentheism. I can’t really say. I had the advantage of already being immersed in Rohr’s nuances for four decades.

    I so thoroughly enjoyed and positively resonated with The Divine Dance! Thanks, so much, for this labor of love about Love.

    I updated my reflections to incorporate Sander’s criticisms.


    • Johnboy December 4, 2016 at 10:40 pm #

      In the East, apophasis can refer to an ineffable realization, a transrational experience. Perichoresis as an apophatic predication then refers to a type of interpersonal experience, a robustly relational reality. Concepts such as perichoretic divine energies, for example, then, very vaguely refer to ineffable God-experiences and not to metaphysical God-descriptions. They are accessed via a transrational contemplative stance, (e.g. hesychastic mysticism) not through philosophical speculation (e.g. substance or process ontologies). They refer to theopoetic existential realizations, not essentialistic ontotheological formulations. Dance and flow and energy aren’t metaphysical root metaphors; they’re psalmody.


      • Mike Morrell December 5, 2016 at 2:46 am #

        Hi John – thank you so much for these contributions. When I try to look at your Perichoresis as Vehicle Negativa essay, I get this notice:

        “Sorry! This document is not publicly available.

        The owner has set this document to private.

        You will not be able to read it unless the owner changes it to public on their uploads page, or sends you a direct link.”

        Can you make this public? Release the Kraken! 🙂

        • Johnboy December 5, 2016 at 10:39 am #

          Thanks, Mike. I don’t write for general audiences, so, I don’t have suitable cyber-vehicles to distribute my thoughts. I’ll just try to post my current reflections below.

          Because Rohr has been the foremost formative influence in my spiritual life, I just always refer family and friends to his teachings. (Amos Yong has been my primary theological influence.) I have, however, for my own satisfaction set upon a project over many years, now, of explicitly articulating the implicit systematic theology of Rohr’s body of work, which means so much to me. A skeletal outline is included below. It’s geekishly called an holonic pentametric and desperately needs a ghostwriter. Ha ha!

          I purposefully used vehicle negativa as distinct from via negativa, as the latter refers to a rational mode and a form of kataphasis, while the former refers to a transrational experience or participation, a form of apophasis, which does not proceed through essentialist negations but, instead, through ineffable existential experiences or REALizations. The latter are robustly relational in an interpersonal sense, experiences beyond words. Such is the reality to which perichoresis vaguely refers without robustly describing.

          A vehicle negativa transports and trans-forms us, while a via negativa in-forms us, such as the distinction between knowledge of and knowledge about, the former a problem to be solved, the latter a lover to be loved. Both are necessary but one is a means, the other an end.

          In a review, “Why I Don’t Flow with Richard Rohr,” Fred Sanders critiques Rohr & Morrell’s __Divine Dance___:

          1)The flow is divine and cosmic and human all at once, always together. For Rohr, that’s the point. 2) The important thing is he gets himself into a position to teach his metaphysic of flow, under the banner of teaching a Christian doctrine. 3) [Rohr] channeled the entire experience into his pre-existing metaphysic of Flow 4) And my long—forgive me—review has one main point: it’s that The Divine Dance isn’t about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It’s a book about an alternative spirituality of Flow, committed to a metaphysic that refuses to recognize a distinction between God and the world. <<<<<

          For Rohr, onto-theology would be descriptive but not pejorative. After all, one could argue that his fellow Franciscan, the medieval Scotus, was among the first, great onto-theologians! That said, still, that's not what he's doing in this book.

          The Divine Dance does not amend classical ad intra, ontological accounts of the immanent, essential Trinity (vis a vis questions of who and what). Arguably, neither does it amend the traditional ad extra, divine communication accounts of the revealed, economic Trinity (vis a vis when, where and how). Instead, it addends these approaches, supplementing them with a perichoretic critique.

          Some have invoked perichoresis — not as a kataphatic, root metaphor of onto-theology, but — as an apophatic, theopoetic critique. Such theologians, while very much affirming the indispensable noetic trajectory of logos in every theo-logos, employ perichoresis as a vehicle negativa, which serves to remind us that all symbols, whether sacramentals or metaphors — not only reveal, but — conceal the realities, which they reference.
          Accordingly, a perichoretic critique, evoking the poetry of dance, doesn't at all deny ontological root metaphors, much less substituting its own (e.g. flow) but, instead, invites us to keep 'em coming!

          Assuming such a theopoetic critique, then, one must avoid the category error of employing perichoretic references (e.g. dance, flow or relating) as kataphatic and onto-theological root metaphors, when, indeed, they are precisely otherwise intended to serve as conceptual placeholders. This is to say that such placeholders, apophatically and phenomenologically, deliberately bracket such metaphysics. They much less so deny old models, interpretations and metaphors and much more so encourage ever new, always deeper, understandings!

          Bottomline, I knew Rohr wasn't doing onto-theology or metaphysics precisely because, as a Roman Catholic and panentheist, he's manifestly not committed to a metaphysic that refuses to recognize a distinction between God and the world. Also, when reading Rohr and Morrell's references to divine energies, I relexively put on the Orthodox lens and thought of Greogory of Palamas and, in turn, interpreted their perichoretic references as apophatic, theopoetic critiques, for example, consistent with Vladimir Lossky's approach.

          I offer what's immediately below as prologue for my engagement of The Divine Dance, which I anticipate will resonate with my holonic pentametric, set forth below, because I rather precisely fashioned it in extensive dialogue with Fr. Rohr's teachings over four decades, especially as fashioned by others whose writings have profoundly influenced me.

          Older influences include Thomas Merton, Don Gelpi, the American Pragmatists: Peirce, James and Dewey (as recently appropriated by Terry Deacon and Ursula Goodenough), Charles Hartshorne, Jack Haught and their ilk.

          More recently, I've been influenced by the approach of those who inhabit communities nurtured by the likes of Mike Morrell and Tripp Fuller, by the thinking of Brian McLaren, Thomas Oord, Catherine Keller, John Thatamanil and Philip Clayton. No one's influenced me more, though, than Amos Yong, the preeminent authority on the Spirit, Holy.

          This is all to point out that I know before reading the Divine Dance that Rohr's approach to the Trinity with Morrell will be neither some ad hoc poetic musing nor some fanciful flight of a superficial theological imagination. Rather, I am poised, here, to harvest the fruits that will have emerged organically from a theological crop that's been long cultivated in the ground of

          Scotistic intuitions (in continuity with Peirce),

          Franciscan sensibilities (often a minority account within larger traditions),

          Patristic outlooks (apokatastasis and practical universalism, oh my!),

          polydoxic sophiologies (others are on efficacious wisdom trajectories?!),

          a generous ecclesiology (preferential option for the marginalized, even),

          a pluralistic pneumatology (the Spirit 's also over there?! in her?!),

          a Goldilocks anthropology — neither too pessimistic (e.g. total depravity) nor optimistic (ergo, no facile syncretism, no insidious indifferentism, no false irenicism) and, paramount,

          a contemplative stance that affirms a most robust, participatory relationality, beyond a mere propositional, problem-solving preoccupation.

          The late Don Gelpi, SJ had a saying: "orthopraxy authenticates orthodoxy."

          Gelpi had Lonergan's conception of authenticity in mind as he so related "right practice" to "right belief. " And Gelpi expanded Lonergan's authenticity to include what he called five "conversions." Those conversions refer to intellectual , affective, moral, social and religious transformations. We might, then, think of them, respectively, in terms of

          right believing,

          right desiring,

          right behaving,

          right belonging and

          right relating.

          Rohr and Morrell address these in spades! more appropriately, HEARTS!

          Following Lonergan and immersed in the pragmatism of Charles Sanders Peirce, Gelpi would offer that any authentication of the various dogma, practices, liturgies, rituals and doctrines — not just of Christianity, but — of any of the world's great traditions, as well as indigenous religions, could be cashed out in terms of how well they foster ongoing human transformation.

          Now, this doesn't invoke that vulgar pragmatism of "if it's useful, then it's true," but it does suggest that, wherever, whenever and in whomever we witness

          right belonging ,
          right desiring,
          right behaving and/or
          right relating, then we will more likely also encounter
          right believing.

          It's no accident, then, that systematic theology will typically address five integral human value-realizations:

          1) truth via creed, as articulated in beliefs about reality's first and last things, in what we call an eschatology, which orients us;

          2) beauty via cult-ivation, as celebrated in life's liturgies, rituals and devotions, in what we call a soteriology, which sanctifies us;

          3) goodness via code, as preserved in codifications and norms, in an incarnational or sacramental economy, which nurtures and heals us;

          4) unity via community, as enjoyed in familial and faith fellowships, in what we call an ecclesiology, which empowers and unites us; and

          5) freedom via contemplation, as realized through radical self-transcendence, in a given sophiology, which will ultimately save and liberate us.

          One can authenticate a given systematic theology, whether its implicit or explicit expression, in orthodoxic, orthopathic, orthopraxic, orthocommunal and orthorelational terms, discerning how well this or that creed, cult, code, community or contemplation fosters intellectual, affective, moral, social and religious conversions, respectively

          orienting a people's beliefs to logos and for truth,

          sanctifying their desires in pathos and for beauty,

          engendering nurturing and healing behaviors in ethos and for goodness,

          empowering and uniting them in cosmos and for unity, and

          saving and liberating them in mythos and for freedom.

          A proper theological critique thus will address eschatology, soteriology, sacramentology, ecclesiology and sophiology, as well as a theological anthropology. Christian approaches will add a paterology, pneumatology, Christology, missiology and distinct apologetics.

          Reality thus presents a fivefold donative or "giving" nature as reflected in what I call an holonic pentametric, which includes

          1) a pentalectical axiology of the gifts: truth, beauty, goodness, unity and freedom, which when integrally converged gift love, itself;

          2) a pentapartite anthropology of the gifted: intellectual, affective, moral, social and religious as reflected in logos, pathos, ethos, cosmos and mythos;

          3) a pentalogical epistemology of receiving: descriptive (e.g. sciences), evaluative (e.g. cultures), normative (e.g. philosophies), interpretive (e.g. religions) and contemplative (e.g. the robustly relational);

          4) a pentadic phenomenology of givens: intraobjective identity of unitary being, intrasubjective integrity of the unified self, intersubjective intimacy of our unitive strivings, interobjective indeterminacy of an ultimate unicity and transjective necessity of the ens necessarium; and

          5) a pentatarian theology of givers: the eschatologically omniscient, soteriologically omnipathic, sacramentally omnibenevolent, ecclesiologically omnipresent and sophiologically omnipotent.

          Rohr and Morrell, right up front, ask:
          "If Trinity is supposed to describe the very heart of the nature of God, and yet it has almost no practical or pastoral implications in most of our lives… if it’s even possible that we could drop it tomorrow and it would be a forgettable, throwaway doctrine… then either it can’t be true or we don’t understand it!"

          As prologue, they introduce the pragmatic critique, inquiring whether orthopraxy has authenticated Trinitarian orthodoxy!

          They make the point: "Remember, mystery isn’t something that you cannot understand— it is something that you can endlessly understand!"
          They don't confuse a lack of comprehensibilty with a lack of intelligibility. Thomas Oord similarly resists a retreat into theological skepticism when it comes to our God concepts vis a vis the problem of evil and thereby has articulated a theology of love (considering putative God-constraints, such as essential, metaphysical or kenotic). Similarly eschewing a radical skepticism regarding Trinitarian doctrine, Rohr and Morrell are on their way to articulating — spoiler alert — a theology of love!

          Here comes the leit motif of Rohr's lifelong emphasis on the fruit of the contemplative stance: "Whatever is going on in God is a flow, a radical relatedness, a perfect communion between Three— a circle dance of love."

          They ask: "Instead of God watching life happen from afar and judging it… How about God being inherent in life itself? How about God being the Life Force of everything? Instead of God being an Object like any other object… How about God being the Life Energy between each and every object (which we would usually call Love or Spirit)?"

          This reminds me of the Orthodox hesychastic conception of Divine Energies as well as Joe Bracken's process notion of the Divine Matrix. In some ways, it speaks to Scotus' univocity of being.

          Whether one employs a root metaphor like substance, process, experience, energy or flow, mystics and philosophers have long intuited some type of unitary being, some type of interconnectedness that allows objective interactivity across what may otherwise be ontological gulfs, which would be logically necessary to account also for the intrasubjective integrity of each unified self, who then participates in those glorious unitive strivings of all loving intersubjective intimacies.

          I'm willing to bet, though, that those above references to life forces and energies will have many exclaiming a heterodoxic: "Game! Set! Match!" That is, they will filter the rest of the book through the cloudy lens of their facile, hence errant, metaphysical presuppositions. So few traffic in the nuances required to distinguish between pan-en-theism, pan-entheism , panen-theism or cosmotheandrism, between an objective unitary identity and a subjective unitive intimacy or between epistemic, ontic and interpersonal nondualities. I won't tease out all the relevant nuances, here, but I can only suggest from a rather long acquaintance with both Rohr and Morrell that they aren't playing theology without a suitable philosophical net! Keep reading!

          Here comes another minority opinion grounded in a long established Scotistic Franciscan sensibility – that the Incarnation was not occasioned by some human felix culpa but was in the Divine pneumatological cards from the cosmic get-go: "This God is the very one whom we have named 'Trinity'— the flow who flows through everything, without exception, and who has done so since the beginning."

          Yes, indeed, for God so loved the world!

          "But divine things can never be objectified in this way; they can only be 'subjectified' by becoming one with them! When neither yourself nor the other is treated as a mere object, but both rest in an I-Thou of mutual admiration, you have spiritual knowing. Some of us call this contemplative knowing."

          There it is – — the distinction between the objective and subjective, the merely propositional and the robustly relational!

          Ultimately, beyond the truth, beauty, goodness and unity, in which all creation participates, there emerged a freedom gifted by that contemplative faculty found in the human imago Dei: "But we have to be taught how to 'gaze steadily into this law of perfect freedom, and make this our habit,' as James so brilliantly intuits it."

          Love and freedom remain integrally related to the extent that in addition to any essential and metaphysical constraints God may even kenotically self-constrain toward the end of augmenting our freedom, amplifying our love!

          The following is so poignantly put:
          "Did you ever imagine that what we call 'vulnerability' might just be the key to ongoing growth? In my experience, healthily vulnerable people use every occasion to expand, change, and grow. Yet it is a risky position to live undefended, in a kind of constant openness to the other—because it would mean others could sometimes actually wound you (from vulnus, 'wound'). But only if we choose to take this risk antie also allow the exact opposite possibility: the other might also gift you, free you, and even love you. But it is a felt risk every time. Every time."

          Did you ever imagine that God might take risks? Felt risks? Precisely to free you? That beyond any omniscience, omnibenevolence, omnipotence, omnipresence — all suitably (apophatically) nuanced as capacities greater than which could not otherwise be conceived without falling into either metaphysical incoherence or theo-logical contradictions — God passionately experiences, also, a divine omnipathy? precisely through the Incarnation!

          How does one merit this type of love?

          "Jesus never has any such checklist test before he heals anybody. He just says, as it were, 'Are you going to allow yourself to be touched? If so, let’s go!' The touchable ones are the healed ones; it’s pretty much that simple. There’s no doctrinal test. There’s no moral test. There is no checking out if they are Jewish, gay, baptized, or in their first marriage. There’s only the one question: Do you want to be healed? If the answer is a vulnerable, trusting, or confident one, the flow always happens, and the person is healed. Try to disprove me on that!"

          Here we encounter the wisdom of an authentic formative spirituality, where right relating precedes right belonging which fosters right desiring which encourages right behaving and sees right believing much more so as a participatory orthocommunal, orthopathic and orthopraxic response, much less so as an orthodoxic proposition, which, truth be told, more often presents in polydoxic sophiologies, which entail the wisdom of love (beyond our philosophical love of wisdom).

          While the Dance perichoretically circles around truth, beauty, goodness, unity and freedom, each of these divine imperatives integrally intertwined with and leading to the others, because of our radical human finitude we will ordinarily follow a transformative path conveyed first in community and gifting us, even, our deepest desires. The pro-positional, apart from the participational and relational, will lack normative impetus unless those norms derive, first, from some energizing evaluative dis-positions.

          It's beyond the scope of this consideration but modern semiotic science with roots in medieval Scotism very much resonates with this emphasis on relationality, which need rely on no robust metaphysic, no particular root metaphor, only a vague phenomenology (Christianity can remain in search of a metaphysic!):

          "What physicists and contemplatives alike are confirming is that the foundational nature of reality is relational; everything is in relationship with everything else. As a central Christian mystery, we’ve been saying this from the very beginning while still utterly failing to grasp its meaning."

          My favorite quite from the Divine Dance:

          "God does not love you because you are good. God loves you because God is good. I should just stop writing right here. There’s nothing more to say, and it’ll take the rest of your life to internalize this."

          Merton once lamented that our churches do a great job helping socialize people but a terrible job transforming them. He was not using my broadly conceived notion of transformation, which includes Lonergan's conversions, like the social. Instead, he was talking about that growth in intimacy with God, self, others and cosmos that lays in store for those who properly relate, contemplatively. Rohr and Morrell touch on this: "Most Christians have not been taught contemplation. Contemplation is learning how to abide in and with the Witnessing Presence planted within you, which of course is the Holy Spirit, almost perfectly symbolized by the ark of the covenant. If you keep 'guard,' like two cherubim, over the dangerous, open-ended space of your transient feelings and thoughts, you will indeed be seated on the mercy seat, where God dwells in the Spirit. The passing flotsam and jetsam on your stream of consciousness will then have little power to trap or imprison you. The only difference between people that matters is the difference between those who allow this space to fill iith flow— and those who don’t, or won’t, allow it. Like Mary, the model for contemplatives, 'it is done unto you,' and you can only allow. Always."

          If the kind reader can grasp these fundamental distinctions from Part I of the Divine Dance and thereby realize that Rohr and Morrell are supplementing not rewriting Trinitarian doctrine, they 'll be readily disposed to receive the gifts of the book's remainder, which are participational, contemplative, pastoral or, in other words, distinctions that can make a transformational difference in one's life!

        • Johnboy December 5, 2016 at 12:27 pm #

          To be more clear, some Orthodox theologians point out that both the via positiva and via negativa are RATIONAL approaches, both sharing the same trajectory of increasing descriptive accuracy, whether through affirmation of what something is, ontologically, or is like, analogically, or through negation of what something is not or is not like. That’s how kataphasis and apophasis are largely conceived in the West, often through radically logo-centric lenses.

          When Lossky employed an apophatic, perichoretic strategy, though, he referenced a transrational mystical experience moreso in terms of ineffability. He aspires merely to a successful relational reference but does not ambition a successful metaphysical description. (This distinction applies, by the way, to so much of nondual teaching in Buddhist & Hindu traditions, as they aren’t doing metaphysics as much as they are leading us into experiences or real-izations).

          The Orthodox priest, Dumitru Staniloae, according to some, was more rigorous and nuanced than Lossky. He would refer to our ineffable experiences as transrational and trans-apophatic. That’s why I prefer to refer to
          trinito-logy vs trinito-phany. I would even call my own writings regarding Rohr’s ouvre a systematic theophany and not systematic theology.

        • Johnboy December 10, 2016 at 4:56 pm #

          Mike, I’ve remedied the situation regarding sharing those reflections by resorting to a blog platform, which can be accessed here:


          It might better foster future dialogue on this thread if you remove or at least prune my overly long contributions. I apologize for that distraction.

          Finally, truth be known, while Fr Richard received my and Amos’ article re: contemplative phenomenology kindly and enthusiastically, I do not mean to suggest that my interpretations of The Dance are entirely exegetical rather than largely eisogetical of his true positions. I believe I’m close to that mark but that’s for him to say, obviously.

          Thanks, again, so much for that labor of love about love!

          • Johnboy December 10, 2016 at 4:58 pm #

            eisegetical, rather

  10. Peter Bell December 4, 2016 at 6:09 pm #

    Michael’s reply is perfect, and illustrates the difference between the views of this book’s authors and those of its critics. Michael’s response is relational, whereas his critics pose what they call “substantive points.” By not responding point-by-point, Michael is not showing intellectual dishonesty or laziness — I know him well enough to know that he is quite capable of sharp, rational debate — but rather is making a statement that this kind of approach is not appropriate for a relational approach.

  11. fernando December 5, 2016 at 4:28 am #

    ?…most of what I read above bring me saying: it sucks to be a christian…

  12. Johnboy December 5, 2016 at 10:15 am #

    From ontotheological (trinito-logical) is-ness to theopoetic (trinito-phanic) dance-ness? YES!!!

    Regarding perichoresis, Rohr has spoken and written rather extensively regarding divine interpenetration and indwelling, all in fidelity to its patristic etymological roots. Of course its not uncontroversial to univocally predicate such a perichoretic dynamism of persons, both divine and imago Dei, but its eminently defensible.

    What’s not defensible, though, is the presupposition that Rohr’s use of dance imagery was grounded in philological warrant, though, rather than metaphorical effectiveness, which was precisely LaCugna’s position.

    As it is, again, the apophatic and theopoetic evocation of perichoresis refers to a relational reality and not an ontotheological modeling attempt. The dance metaphor thus belongs to Rohr’s trinito-phany and is not over against classical trinito-logy. As such, it doesn’t tell us how to think about the immanent Trinity in terms of essence, but how to experience the economic Trinity in terms of divine energies (or other psalmodic not philosophic metaphors). Rohr’s inviting us into a robustly relational, contemplative, mystical experience and not rewriting classical trinitarian formulae.

  13. Johnboy December 6, 2016 at 8:28 pm #

    RE: And my long—forgive me—review has one main point: it’s that The Divine Dance isn’t about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It’s a book about an alternative spirituality of Flow, committed to a metaphysic that refuses to recognize a distinction between God and the world. <<<<<

    Human perichoretic participation refers to neither the Trinity's essence (ousia) nor its persons (hypostaseis) but to the uncreated energies (energeiai), which are loving, saving and deifying. Thus our human union with God is neither substantial nor hypostatic.

    Classical ontological distinctions between creatures and Creator are maintained, as humans don't participate in God's essence!

    These distinctions pertain even to eucharistic theology. Apophatic theology doesn't convey objective knowledge (episteme) but leads, trans-apophatically and trans-rationally, to subjective experience (gnosis) of God as its goal.

    These understandings of theotic (deifying) sanctification and glorification are wholly compatible, soteriologically, with notions of justification, many would contend, even those of reformed traditions.

  14. Derrick Peterson December 6, 2016 at 9:57 pm #

    Hi all,

    I want to say up front that I feel a tad out of place here. I primarily do work on historiography, i.e. the interface between contemporary and historical theology (to summarize it inadequately) especially in the realms of trintarian theology and science and Christianity (more related as topics than that might initially sound!). Mike Morrell graciously invited a few of us participating in a lengthy facebook discussion on a thread started by Father Kenneth Tanner and initially stimulated by both Fred Sander’s and Derek Rishmawy’s review of Father Rohr’s book to repost our comments here. I agreed to do so. I’m saying this because I am just reposting what I wrote which will undoubtedly seem out of place. I don’t really have time to edit my comments to make them sound more appropriate for this blog, so I am just hoping they are somewhat useful as is. Though, by way of quick context I was primarily participating by commenting on various aspects of the historical tradition. Cards on the table I myself to tend more toward “classical” doctrine, though I use the scare quotes there advisedly as what is or is not classical is often not well understood, at least in my opinion.

    An essay of mine dealing heavily with 20th century trinitarian theology’s use of the Fathers (being published this month) that several of the commentators including Sanders and Rishmawy had read earlier in draft form was mentioned, so I posted a link to the draft for those interested:


    There was a question in the thread regarding panentheism (which Rohr was accused of) and a reference to John Cooper’s book on the subject. I responded:

    “Hartshorne’s helpful distinction (which Cooper picks up in his book) between “classical” and “modern” forms of panentheism works here as well: classical forms like variations of neo-Platonism spoke of God as also some sense “in” the world without affirming the possibility of the world having “feedback” into God. “Modern” forms of panentheism in Hartshorne’s taxonomy differ precisely in terms of “process” or worldly feedback into God.

    The ambiguity of some of our categories like “classical theism” vs. “panentheism” (in the classical sense) are difficult to navigate as generalities. In fact in my humble opinion that is one of the primary weaknesses in Cooper’s otherwise excellent volume. Namely, his working definition(s) of “classical theism” typically exclude how “theism” (to continue to use that term) shows up in the fathers. Instead he occasionally glosses with analytic terms like “Classical theism believes in a maximally great being” which is already to slant one’s reading to something more familiar to the palette of the Plantinga/Swinburne/Craig crowd (whatever their other differences).

    Even someone as “classically theistic” as Aquinas for example has been argued by some like Rudi Te Velde, Fergus Kerr, and others to be something other than a “classical theist” in the sense of some of Cooper’s definitions. It really often comes down to the individual thinker and the way one defines the categories being used.

    For example “classical theism” so called understood God as fully immanent precisely by being transcendent:

    “Those who uphold immanence often deny transcendence whereas those who believe in transcendence do not deny immanence. Indeed, they grasp the idea of transcendence sufficiently to understand that it necessarily
    implies immanence. If God is transcendent then nothing is opposed to him, nothing can limit him or be compared to him: He is Wholly Other and precisely therefore penetrates the world.”

    –Henri de Lubac, The Discovery of God p.94

    Or, more Christologically like von Balthasar says the entire mystery of God and world “flickers between the two natures of the incarnate Christ.” We can never know in advance the border of nature/supernature until God shows us the line – and God shows us the “line” only ever by having always already crossed it by grace.

    At that point a question was raised regarding the development across the tradition of God as “Being Itself’ and the development of “perichoresis.” This will undoubtedly sound out of place without much more context, but I responded:

    “Perichoresis went through an equal but opposite tendency that later neo-Thomists (for example) did to Augustine. Where Augustine’s more parenetic and doxological use of idipsum as “the self same” was transformed into “Being itself” with certain philosophical specificity tied to it, perichoresis in some sense started with a more precise (or at least delimited) technical meaning in pseudo-Cyril and Gregory of Nazianzus borrowed/modified from Stoic mixture theory to help describe the interpenetration of the two natures of Christ (Harry Wolfson has a lengthy discussion of this in his first volume of The Philosophy of the Church Fathers). Later like you rightly say this Christological and Trinitarian control context is traded in for a more loose and rhapsodic uses where people like Miroslav Volf explicitly turn perichoresis against unity of substance, whereas in the logic often developed among the Fathers the two (substance and perichoresis) went hand in glove.

    What I think is needed (I want to write something on the topic this week, but I hope Fred Sanders and Derek Rishmawy can be tempted to weigh in in the future on their blogs as well) is a discussion on what exactly should be expected *methodologically* in Trinitarian theology. This is a division that crops up time and again and I think is precisely what lies behind some of the disagreements. What are the limits of trinitarian theology and method? What are the ranges of implications one might be expected to draw from trinitarian theology? Rohr is merely the latest in a long pedigree of people who want to run with the Trinity (or dance, as it were) to draw conclusions that are outside the purview of what we might call the “formations contexts” of the Trinity within the pro-Nicene polemical and exegetical environment.

    Or perhaps better put: I am not against “development” or novel uses of Trinitarian doctrine, but to me using dance as a model rather than a metaphor or image (in Derek’s helpful distinction) is not just a development, but undermines the original formation contexts of Pro-Nicene exegetical theology, and so in fact saws off the branch it is outstretched upon. The recent scuffles over evangelical uses of the Trinity in gender are other pristine recent examples of how not just content but method seems to control why many see the Trinity in this or that way. This is something I think that needs to be clarified so all “sides” are explicit with their expectations on what work trinitarian theology can/cannot do, and exactly how it does/does not do so. WIthout this there is just a lot of talking past one another.

    To my mind this is one of the most pressing topics currently in trinitarian theology. It is precisely the difference, for example, that undergirds many with more Hegelian sympathies (which actually has lengthy precedent in the Christian tradition, Hegel’s novelty notwithstanding, including Hegel’s own more proximate pietism as Christine Helmer argues) from those (myself included) who tend more toward “classic” formations.

    Kevin Vanhoozer humorously (and helpfully) speaks of “illegitimate Trinitarian transfer” in his book Remythologizing Theology where things like perichoresis run amok in the theological landscape with no clear sense of what it means or why/how it can be applied to other situations. But even this cannot be a blanket prohibition on Trinitarian thinking applied to other areas (and Vanhoozer is quite aware of this). Historically speaking for example, the complaint of using theological categories illegitimately on other areas was actually an argument Pyrrhus used against Maximus the Confessor’s reasoning for two wills in Christ, as there was precedent at that point to argue will is a function of nature not hypostasis, ergo Christ must have two wills because of two natures. Pyrrhus argued that the nature/hypostasis argument was legitimate only in theology, not Christology!

    As such historically speaking theology does tend to “spill out” into other areas. I suppose what I am most interested in is: can we understand and elaborate on how and when this happens, and why it is or isn’t legitimate?”

    Anyway, hopefully all of this is more than just gibberish.

  15. Johnboy December 8, 2016 at 1:34 am #

    RE: essence (ousia) vs (hypostaseis) vs uncreated energies (energeiai)

    One way of interpreting these distinctions would be to consider the first two metaphysically and the last mystically. That’s been partly my thrust in distinguishing trinoto-logy from trinoto-phany, rational from trans-rational, kata/apo-phatic from trans-apophatic, speculative from relational, philosophical from contemplative, ontotheology from theopoetic, episteme from gnosis, science from art.

    My case in favor of Rohr’s project has been to emphasize it as an exercise in post-experiential effabling about ineffable contemplative encounters, drawing on reflections of our contemplative community and tradition.

    Clearly, though, Rohr has never advocated an arational contemplative stance, as if mysticism gifted a gnosis unconstrained by doctrine, tradition, philosophy or science. The contemplative, relational, mystical approach goes beyond these other epistemic approaches but clearly never without them.

    So, too, the distinctions between essence (ousia) vs (hypostaseis) vs uncreated energies (energeiai) are much more subtle than I’ve let on for fear of going too deep into the metaphysical weeds. But, I’ll set those fears aside.

    Distinguishing the divine energies from the divine essence does, of course, have a philosophical and doctrinal angle in addition to the mystical, all which must be expressed in continuity. There’s a question of how much continuity vs how much free rein to be answered. It’s hard to put this succinctly without coming across too bluntly, but the old essentialism vs nominalism, Thomism vs Scotism, analogy vs univocity of being, tensions come into play. This problem cannot be satisfactorily addressed using essentialistic approaches.

    One must honor Fr Rohr’s Franciscan sensibilities and contemplative approach and turn to Scotus, placing him in dialogue with Gregory Palamas regarding divine energies in the Orthodox tradition. The distinction between the divine essence is neither what Scotus would call real nor merely conceptual but is, instead, a formal distinction, not wholly unrelated to what Peirce came to call thirdness in his modal ontology. There is a great deal of continuity between Scotus and Palamas, Peirce and Hartshorne, and panentheism (broadly conceived).

    Just for the record, my point is that Rohr did not elaborate a trinito-phanic interpretation wholly apart from an eminently defensible Scotistic-Palamic metaphysic-theology. He went theo-poetic-ally beyond but not without an onto-theo-logic.

    Some my have confused his not being sufficiently Thomist with his not being doctrinally sound. Those are two wholly different considerations. There is great promise for bridging East and West, Catholic and Orthodox, divine essence and divine energies, if we pay more attention to real vs conceptual vs formal vs modal distinctions, if we open our hearts and minds to both Scotus and Palamas.

    I cannot do this discussion justice in a combox, but, please, any who are unfamiliar, Google words like Scotus, Palamas, formal distinction, divine energies, panentheism and Peirce in various combinations.

    Thanks for your consideration and forbearance.

  16. Johnboy December 8, 2016 at 5:52 am #

    The difference between an image and a model does not lie in how exhaustively it is employed in different contexts as a basic metaphor. An image does symbolic and metaphorical work, poetically and aesthetically. A model, though, is based on a root metaphor, which serves as an heuristic device, metaphysically, employed systematically, ordinarily, in terms of classical Aristotelian causes — material, efficient, formal and final, setting forth putative relationships to bridge emergent phenomena such as natural theologies, quantum interpretations, cosmogonies, biopoietics, philosophies of mind and symbolic language origins. While exhaustively applied, Rohr’s images aren’t doing the work of models, metaphysically or onto-theologically, only the work of metaphors, theo-poetically, aesthetically. Rohr’s images already presuppose a classical Scotistic metaphysical frame of distinctions, a model of divine essence, hypostatic persons and divine energies, panentheistically interpreted.

    There is another method in play here, theopoetically, at the intersection between theology and spirituality.

    Once we define the applicable methodological contours of the development of doctrine from historical exegetical and polemical environments, through what additional methods might we authenticate their spiritually transformative efficacies?


    We abide with the paradox, tolerate the ambiguity, nurture the creative tensions, seek out the antinomies, resist rushes to closure and admonish the voices of certitude but move forward, anyway, in humility, with hospitality, doing what we’ve discerned we must and saying what we believe we should, dialogically, boldly and imaginatively!

    As Scott Holland suggests: Good theology is a kind of transgression, a kind of excess, a kind of gift. It is not a smooth systematics, a dogmatics, or a metaphysics; as a theopoetics it is a kind of writing. It is a kind of writing that invites more writing. Its narratives lead to other narratives, its metaphors encourages new metaphors, its confessions more confessions . . .

    If all too certain theological understandings get undermined and theopolitical modes of historical discourse challenged, theo-poetics will have a chance to successful advance the spiritual efficacies of otherwise sterile abstract doctrines, bringing them alive in the concrete lives of the faithful through fruitful ortho-relational, orthocommunal, orthopathic and orthopraxic realizations.

    As Roland Faber puts it: One moves into an “undefined land” in which one experiences differently, begins to think differently, and is encouraged nor just to adopt to, but to create new theological language. Today, I think that not only can we not control this field or region in fact, but that it is of the essence of process theology to be an uncontrollable undertaking in the infinite adventure of God-talk, and consciously so, in modes that I came to name “theopoetics.”

    Rohr is merely the latest in a long pedigree of people who want to run with the Trinity (or dance, as it were) to — not draw conclusions, but — to create new theological language, encourage new metaphors, and to help us experience differently those historical realities that were developed with our traditions out of what we might call the “formations contexts” of the Trinity within the pro-Nicene polemical and exegetical environment.

  17. John December 8, 2016 at 9:51 am #

    All this is relevant and by God!
    Everything is based on non dual expressions.
    Love conquers all

  18. Johnboy December 8, 2016 at 10:27 pm #

    A preliminary weigh-in from Tom Belt:
    https://anopenorthodoxy.wordpress.com/2016/12/02/go-with-the-flow/ via @TGBelt

  19. Lewis January 14, 2017 at 1:28 pm #

    The shallowness of Fred’s review is flabbergasting.

    The author feels free to warn the world of Rohr’s heresy, based on his own interpretation of Truth, while admittedly knowing so little about the man and his work.

    Rohr seems like such a graceful and wise person and I’m sure he, understanding man’s fearful and exclusionary nature, will bear the author no malice.

    I pray for the author and anyone who his sentiments appeal to that their hearts may be opened.

  20. Geoff Wilson June 3, 2017 at 11:34 pm #

    This is the first time I have ever posted a comment on a blog. I have read a number of the comments on DD and the cross comments by the commentators. Far too many of them show far too much ego in the commentator – especially those critiquing DD. Please, spare us the egocentricity. Some humility would be encouraging. Do you guys really understand how vastly out of touch you are with the vast bulk of people in our western culture. The many damaged men like me who are searching for a more authentic way to relate to God as love and not the angry distant punishing God we were taught about (and experienced) as children could not care less about your intellectual pride. Why cann’t you explore a deeper understanding of the Word of God and everything in it with some decency and civility and with a care for those who are yearning for illimination of the heart as well as the mind. Its a distraction from the light we pray that the Holy Spirit will bring to us to heal our brokenness. Please get out of the way so the light of Christ can get in.

    • DP March 6, 2018 at 9:38 am #

      Geoff, yours is truly the best comment under this post. A number of the others are an absolute waste of time and energy, and serve more to inspire non-belief than relationship with Christ (if he’s even God – Rohr draws many exasperated doubters and “nones” & “dones”, as you pointed out. Those close to giving up on God & religion, who are looking for a well of hope). And don’t get me wrong – I’m a fan of theology. It’s a wonderful and vital exercise of mature religious belief, and some of my fondest moments of joy in life have come from theological contemplation. The temptation to slide into intellectual snobbery is real though, and its unashamed display on here by some is astounding.

  21. Maureen August 10, 2018 at 8:51 pm #

    Ouch, most of this is over my head. I am not familiar with most of the terms used. I am just curious to how people react to Divine Dance. Some of it got my b.s. antenna rising. I kept thinking of Peter Pan and syllogisms. And why? I got lost with, the unified love of the Trinity…. forms the content of the symbol, “Christ” and the 4th person of the Trinity.

  22. John Davids July 23, 2023 at 1:54 pm #

    Nailed it, especially with Keller’s book excerpt. I have been amazed that as hard it is for us to conceptualiize the Trinity, yet we can understand the atom. Neutron, proton and electron-one atom the building block of all matter (three yet one). With the Neutron and proton together in the nucleus and the electron orbiting the nucleus but never able to predict where the electron is (Holy Spirit). Don’t misunderstand, the atom is not god, but purely reflects God. In the Quantum in physics, Einstein called it “spooky” it cannot be predicted and measured like classical physics. Neither can apophatic prayer, unlike kataphatic prayer. Thank you for your response to Fred Sanders.


  1. Perichoresis as Vehicle Negativa in Rohr’s Divine Dance – a polydoxic trinito-phany in continuity with an orthodoxic trinito-logy – ROHR'S DIVINE DANCE - December 11, 2016

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