You are on page 1of 7

In a review, "Why I Dont Flow with Richard Rohr," Fred Sanders cri ques Rohr & Morrell's

__Divine Dance___:

1)The ow is divine and cosmic and human all at once, always together. For Rohr, thats the
point. 2) The important thing is he gets himself into a posi on to teach his metaphysic of ow,
under the banner of teaching a Chris an doctrine. 3) [Rohr] channeled the en re experience into
his pre-exis ng metaphysic of Flow 4) And my longforgive mereview has one main point:its
thatThe Divine Danceisnt about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Its a book about an
alterna ve spirituality of Flow, commi ed to a metaphysic that refuses to recognize a dis nc on
between God and the world.<<<<<
For Rohr, onto-theology would be descrip ve but not pejora ve. A er all, one could argue that
his fellow Franciscan, the medieval Scotus, was among the rst, great onto-theologians! That
said, s ll, that's not what he's doing in this book.
The Divine Dance does not amend classical ad intra, ontological accounts of the immanent,
essen al Trinity (vis a vis ques ons of who and what). Arguably, neither does it amend the
tradi onal ad extra, divine communica on accounts of the revealed, economic Trinity (vis a vis
when, where and how). Instead, it addends these approaches, supplemen ng them with a
perichore c cri que.
Some have invoked perichoresis --- not as a katapha c, root metaphor of onto-theology, but --as an apopha c, theopoe c cri que. Such theologians, while very much arming the
indispensable noe c trajectory of logos in every theo-logos, employ perichoresis as a vehicle
nega va, which serves to remind us that all symbols, whether sacramentals or metaphors --- not
only reveal, but --- conceal the reali es, which they reference.
Accordingly, a perichore c cri que, evoking the poetry of dance, doesn't at all deny ontological
root metaphors, much less subs tu ng its own (e.g. ow) but, instead, invites us to keep 'em
coming!
Assuming such a theopoe c cri que, then, one must avoid the category error of employing
perichore c references (e.g. dance, ow or rela ng) as katapha c and onto-theological root
metaphors, when, indeed, they are precisely otherwise intended to serve as conceptual
placeholders. This is to say that such placeholders, apopha cally and phenomenologically,
deliberately bracket such metaphysics. They much less so deny old models, interpreta ons and
metaphors and much more so encourage ever new, always deeper, understandings!
Bo omline, I knew Rohr wasn't doing onto-theology or metaphysics precisely because, as a
Roman Catholic and panentheist, he's manifestly not commi ed to a metaphysic that refuses to
recognize a dis nc on 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 perichore c references as apopha c, theopoe c
cri ques, for example, consistent with Vladimir Lossky's approach.
I oer what's immediately below as prologue for my engagement of The Divine Dance, which I
an cipate 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 wri ngs have profoundly inuenced me.
Older inuences include Thomas Merton, Don Gelpi, the American Pragma sts: 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 inuenced by the approach of those who inhabit communi es 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 inuenced 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 poe c musing nor some fanciful ight of a
supercial theological imagina on. Rather, I am poised, here, to harvest the fruits that will have
emerged organically from a theological crop that's been long cul vated in the ground of

Sco s c intui ons (in con nuity with Peirce),


Franciscan sensibili es (o en a minority account within larger tradi ons),
Patris c outlooks (apokatastasis and prac cal universalism, oh my!),
polydoxic sophiologies (others are on ecacious wisdom trajectories?!),
a generous ecclesiology (preferen al op on for the marginalized, even),
a pluralis c pneumatology (the Spirit 's also over there?! in her?!),
a Goldilocks anthropology --- neither too pessimis c (e.g. total depravity) nor op mis c (ergo, no
facile syncre sm, no insidious indieren sm, no false irenicism) and, paramount,
a contempla ve stance that arms a most robust, par cipatory rela onality, beyond a mere
proposi onal, problem-solving preoccupa on.
The late Don Gelpi, SJ had a saying: "orthopraxy authen cates orthodoxy."
Gelpi had Lonergan's concep on of authen city in mind as he so related "right prac ce" to
"right belief. " And Gelpi expanded Lonergan's authen city to include what he called ve
"conversions." Those conversions refer to intellectual , aec ve, moral, social and religious
transforma ons. We might, then, think of them, respec vely, in terms of

right believing,
right desiring,
right behaving,
right belonging and
right rela ng.
Rohr and Morrell address these in spades! more appropriately, HEARTS!

Following Lonergan and immersed in the pragma sm of Charles Sanders Peirce, Gelpi would
oer that any authen ca on of the various dogma, prac ces, liturgies, rituals and doctrines --not just of Chris anity, but --- of any of the world's great tradi ons, as well as indigenous
religions, could be cashed out in terms of how well they foster ongoing human transforma on.
Now, this doesn't invoke that vulgar pragma sm 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 rela ng, then we will more likely also encounter
right believing.
It's no accident, then, that systema c theology will typically address ve integral human
value-realiza ons:
1) truth via creed, as ar culated in beliefs about reality's rst and last things, in what we call an
eschatology, which orients us;
2) beauty via cult-iva on, as celebrated in life's liturgies, rituals and devo ons, in what we call a
soteriology, which sanc es us;
3) goodness via code, as preserved in codica ons and norms, in an incarna onal 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 contempla on, as realized through radical self-transcendence, in a given
sophiology, which will ul mately save and liberate us.
One can authen cate a given systema c theology, whether its implicit or explicit expression, in
orthodoxic, orthopathic, orthopraxic, orthocommunal and orthorela onal terms, discerning how
well this or that creed, cult, code, community or contempla on fosters intellectual, aec ve,
moral, social and religious conversions, respec vely
orien ng a people's beliefs to logos and for truth,
sanc fying their desires in pathos and for beauty,
engendering nurturing and healing behaviors in ethos and for goodness,
empowering and uni ng them in cosmos and for unity, and
saving and libera ng them in mythos and for freedom.
A proper theological cri que thus will address eschatology, soteriology, sacramentology,
ecclesiology and sophiology, as well as a theological anthropology. Chris an approaches will add

a paterology, pneumatology, Christology, missiology and dis nct apologe cs.


Reality thus presents a vefold dona ve or "giving" nature as reected in what I call an holonic
pentametric, which includes
1) a pentalec cal axiology of the gi s: truth, beauty, goodness, unity and freedom, which when
integrally converged gi love, itself;
2) a pentapar te anthropology of the gi ed: intellectual, aec ve, moral, social and religious as
reected in logos, pathos, ethos, cosmos and mythos;
3) a pentalogical epistemology of receiving: descrip ve (e.g. sciences), evalua ve (e.g. cultures),
norma ve (e.g. philosophies), interpre ve (e.g. religions) and contempla ve (e.g. the robustly
rela onal);
4) a pentadic phenomenology of givens: intraobjec ve iden ty of unitary being, intrasubjec ve
integrity of the unied self, intersubjec ve in macy of our uni ve strivings, interobjec ve
indeterminacy of an ul mate unicity and transjec ve 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
prac cal or pastoral implica ons in most of our lives if its even possible that we could drop it
tomorrow and it would be a forge able, throwaway doctrine then either it cant be true or we
dont understand it!"
As prologue, they introduce the pragma c cri que, inquiring whether orthopraxy has
authen cated Trinitarian orthodoxy!
They make the point: "Remember, mystery isnt 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 skep cism when it comes to our God concepts vis a vis the
problem of evil and thereby has ar culated a theology of love (considering puta ve
God-constraints, such as essen al, metaphysical or keno c). Similarly eschewing a radical
skep cism regarding Trinitarian doctrine, Rohr and Morrell are on their way to ar cula ng --spoiler alert --- a theology of love!
Here comes the leit mo f of Rohr's lifelong emphasis on the fruit of the contempla ve stance:
"Whatever is going on in God is a ow, 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 hesychas c concep on of Divine Energies as well as Joe
Bracken's process no on 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 ow,
mys cs and philosophers have long intuited some type of unitary being, some type of
interconnectedness that allows objec ve interac vity across what may otherwise be ontological
gulfs, which would be logically necessary to account also for the intrasubjec ve integrity of each
unied self, who then par cipates in those glorious uni ve strivings of all loving intersubjec ve
in macies.
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 lter the rest of the book
through the cloudy lens of their facile, hence errant, metaphysical presupposi ons. So few
trac in the nuances required to dis nguish between pan-en-theism, pan-entheism ,
panen-theism or cosmotheandrism, between an objec ve unitary iden ty and a subjec ve
uni ve in macy or between epistemic, on c and interpersonal nonduali es. 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 Sco s c Franciscan
sensibility - that the Incarna on 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 ow who ows through everything, without excep on, and who has done
so since the beginning."
Yes, indeed, for God so loved the world!
"But divine things can never be objec ed in this way; they can only be 'subjec ed' 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 admira on, you have spiritual knowing. Some of us call this
contempla ve knowing."
There it is - -- the dis nc on between the objec ve and subjec ve, the merely proposi onal and
the robustly rela onal!
Ul mately, beyond the truth, beauty, goodness and unity, in which all crea on par cipates,
there emerged a freedom gi ed by that contempla ve 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 addi on to any essen al and
metaphysical constraints God may even keno cally self-constrain toward the end of augmen ng
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 posi on to live undefended, in a kind of constant openness to the otherbecause
it would mean others could some mes actually wound you (from vulnus, 'wound'). But only if we

choose to take this risk an e also allow the exact opposite possibility: the other might also gi
you, free you, and even love you. But it is a felt risk every me. Every me."
Did you ever imagine that God might take risks? Felt risks? Precisely to free you? That beyond
any omniscience, omnibenevolence, omnipotence, omnipresence --- all suitably (apopha cally)
nuanced as capaci es greater than which could not otherwise be conceived without falling into
either metaphysical incoherence or theo-logical contradic ons --- God passionately experiences,
also, a divine omnipathy? precisely through the Incarna on!
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, lets go!' The touchable ones are the healed
ones; its pre y much that simple. Theres no doctrinal test. Theres no moral test. There is no
checking out if they are Jewish, gay, bap zed, or in their rst marriage. Theres only the one
ques on: Do you want to be healed? If the answer is a vulnerable, trus ng, or condent one, the
ow always happens, and the person is healed. Try to disprove me on that!"
Here we encounter the wisdom of an authen c forma ve spirituality, where right rela ng
precedes right belonging which fosters right desiring which encourages right behaving and sees
right believing much more so as a par cipatory orthocommunal, orthopathic and orthopraxic
response, much less so as an orthodoxic proposi on, which, truth be told, more o en presents
in polydoxic sophiologies, which entail the wisdom of love (beyond our philosophical love of
wisdom).
While the Dance perichore cally circles around truth, beauty, goodness, unity and freedom,
each of these divine impera ves integrally intertwined with and leading to the others, because
of our radical human nitude we will ordinarily follow a transforma ve path conveyed rst in
community and gi ing us, even, our deepest desires. The pro-posi onal, apart from the
par cipa onal and rela onal, will lack norma ve impetus unless those norms derive, rst, from
some energizing evalua ve dis-posi ons.
It's beyond the scope of this considera on but modern semio c science with roots in medieval
Sco sm very much resonates with this emphasis on rela onality, which need rely on no robust
metaphysic, no par cular root metaphor, only a vague phenomenology (Chris anity can remain
in search of a metaphysic!):

"What physicists and contempla ves alike are conrming is that the founda onal nature of
reality is rela onal; everything is in rela onship with everything else. As a central Chris an
mystery, weve been saying this from the very beginning while s ll u erly 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 wri ng right here. Theres nothing more to say, and itll 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 no on of transforma on, which

includes Lonergan's conversions, like the social. Instead, he was talking about that growth in
in macy with God, self, others and cosmos that lays in store for those who properly relate,
contempla vely. Rohr and Morrell touch on this: "Most Chris ans have not been taught
contempla on. Contempla on 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 otsam and jetsam on your stream of consciousness will then
have li le power to trap or imprison you. The only dierence between people that ma ers is the
dierence between those who allow this space to ll iith ow and those who dont, or wont,
allow it. Like Mary, the model for contempla ves, 'it is done unto you,' and you can only allow.
Always."
If the kind reader can grasp these fundamental dis nc ons from Part I of the Divine Dance and
thereby realize that Rohr and Morrell are supplemen ng not rewri ng Trinitarian doctrine, they
'll be readily disposed to receive the gi s of the book's remainder, which are par cipa onal,
contempla ve, pastoral or, in other words, dis nc ons that can make a transforma onal
dierence in one's life!
holonic pentametric, mike morrell, richard rohr, divine dance, perichoresis, Sco s c intui ons,
Franciscan sensibili es, Patris c outlooks, polydoxic sophiologies, generous ecclesiology,
pluralis c pneumatology, Goldilocks anthropology, contempla ve stance, indieren sm,
syncre sm, irenicism, par cipatory rela onality, proposi onal-problem-solving,
orthopraxy authen cates orthodoxy, donald gelpi, amos yong, thomas merton, thomas oord,
catherine keller, right believing, right desiring, right behaving, right belonging, right rela ng,
authen city, truth, beauty, goodness, unity, freedom, eschatology, soteriology, sacramentology,
ecclesiology, sophiology, creed, cult, code, community, contempla on, logos, pathos, ethos,
cosmos, mythos, pentapar te anthropology, pentadic phenomenology, pentalec cal axiology,
pentalogical epistemology, pentatarian theology, paterology, pneumatology, Christology,
missiology, apologe cs, omniscience, omnibenevolence, omnipathy, omnipresence,
omnipotence, unitary being, uni ve strivings, ens necessarium, problem of evil, theological
skep cism, theology of love, contempla ve stance, life force, life energy, divine energies, divine
matrix, hesychasts, Joe Bracken, pan-en-theism, pan-entheism , panen-theism, panentheism,
cosmotheandrism, unitary being, uni ve in macy, epistemic nonduality, on c nonduality,
interrela onal nonduality, nondualism, forma ve spirituality, vladimir lossky, gregory lossky,
theopoe c, economic trinity, immanent trinity, ontological trinity, onto-theology,
ontotheological, Why I Dont Flow with Richard Rohr, fred sanders