Is Richard Rohr’s ‘Universal Christ’ Christian?

Richard Rohr is a well-known and popular teacher, and his books are regularly best-sellers. Despite that, he is something of a ‘Marmite’ theologian—people either adore or loathe him. Depending on which side you come down on, you will either find his latest book, The Universal Christ (London: SPCK, 2019) a scintillating and energetic tour de force of broad-brush theology, or an irritating, simplistic and infuriatingly inaccurate repetitive jumble of ideas. Edward Dowler, in his review in the Church Times, puts it rather well:

Many will warm to him who think that theological language and concepts grown stale and fusty will benefit from being thrown up in the air so that we can be excited by seeing where they land. And they often do land in interesting places, thus yielding a wealth of striking aphorisms and insights.

Others, however, who value plodding virtues such as accuracy and attention to what the scriptures and teachers of the tradition have actually said, will find difficulty with the sweeping generalisations, questionable assertions, and Aunt Sallys that Rohr frequently sets up, so as then to be able, triumphantly, to knock them down.

It is worth starting with his broad-brush theological ideas, since that is where the book itself starts, plunging immediately into a radical claim about the meaning of Jesus and Christ which is then repeated and reiterated throughout the book. Rohr starts by recounting at length an experience from someone when travelling on the London Underground; all at once, as she looks down the carriage, she suddenly sees ‘Christ’ in everyone and everything—the ‘universal’ Christ who is in all, whether we realise it or not. Beginning in this way offers a pointer to three consistent features of Rohr’s writing. The first is the primacy of experience; for Rohr, supposedly unmediated experience offers us authoritative insights into reality, including theological truths, though there is no recognition that there is no such thing as unmediated experience, since all experiences sit within a pre-existing set of assumptions, and all need interpretation. The second is that this highlights the shape of his argument, in which he sets out large-scale claims without any real justification, and then writes around them, revisiting them repeatedly and showing their importance, though without offering much analytical reflection about what they involve or what issues they raise. The third is the way he plunders both biblical texts and theologians in the tradition for broad-brush claimed support for his ideas—this one simply being followed by ‘(Colossians 1, Ephesians 1, John 1, Hebrews 1)’ which apparently demonstrates conclusively that what he is setting out would have been accepted by the apostolic church.

Taking this conclusion of universality as his starting point, he then makes several moves in relation to the nature of God and the Christian revelation. The first move is to separate ‘Jesus’ (the historical figure) from ‘Christ’ (the universal presence of God). In the book overall, his claim seems contradictory, in that his first concern is that the ‘Church’ has not paid sufficient attention the cosmic language attached to Jesus, particularly in Paul’s writings—yet in the first half of the book he seems to completely detach this cosmic language from the person of Jesus, using the term ‘Christ’ in a quite distinct way. In the later chapters, he appears to return to the specifics of the person of Jesus, but it is (like many things) not clear how he makes connections with the earlier language of universality.

His second move functions as a complement to this separation, and consists of an integration between creation and the creator. Believing that the incarnation of the universal Christ as the particular Jesus is not something novel, but a continuation of God’s activity, he asserts that the ‘first incarnation’ is the act of creation itself. The principle here is that ‘God loves things by becoming them’ (p 20), the comment that is pulled out by Bono on the back cover commendation as a key, startling insight of the book. This reads very much like the eastern idea of pantheism, which features in many strands of Buddhism and Hinduism, and later in the book Rohr acknowledges the connection with Buddhism (whilst asserting differences). He also claims that his view is panentheism, which in some forms maintains a difference between the creation and the created, rather than pantheism, though it is not clear in the first half of the book how this is realised, and he further claims that this is not much more than the teaching of Eastern Orthodoxy with its interest in ‘theosis’—but again, there is no exploration of this with any care.

In this context, he briefly appears to dismiss any notion of eschatology as traditionally understood or set out in the New Testament. The ‘second coming’ of Christ is best understood as the ‘third incarnation’, which is the realisation of the presence of the universal Christ in all. This leads to what might be described as his understanding of atonement and salvation: the only thing which separates us from God is our failure to realise that we are not separated from God. What is therefore needed is an awakening or enlightenment, a realisation that God is already present in us. Once more he comes close to what appears to be a Buddhist understanding—though I think it would be distinct from Buddhism in offering some sort of immediate confidence of God’s presence, rather than seeing enlightenment as the final goal of a long path of discipline and contemplation.

Putting these together, it is quite difficult to see any of this having any real connection with anything that could be described as orthodox Christian belief as historically expressed. Rohr repeatedly claims that his vision is radical, startling, surprising and new, and that readers might struggle to understand it if they have been raised in traditional Christian faith.

If all of this is true, we have a theological basis for a very natural religion that includes everybody. The problem was solved from the beginning. Take your Christian head off, shake it wildly, and put it back on!

But he often immediately combines this with the claim that there is little new here, merely a recovery of what the writers of the New Testament, and their first readers, believed, but which the Western church has ‘forgotten’ or obscured. (Like numerous others, he is then claiming that his insight is a new kind of ‘reformation’). However, he does this by paying no attention to what the texts of Scripture that he cites actually say, and stopping to ask whether theologians that he claims for his case actually mean what he claims they mean would slow the argument too much.

In light of this, it is worth asking two questions. The first is: how does he get to this point? I am not sure the answer is much more complicated than saying he pays no attention to what things actually mean and say, but happily adapts them into his thinking, bending them to fit into his argument. This applies to things non-theological as well as texts of Scripture and the ideas of theologians. For example, on p 14 he claims that

Scientists have discovered that what looks like darkness to the human eye is actually filled with tiny particles called ‘neutrinos’, slivers of light that pass through the entire universe.

Scientists have discovered no such thing. There is a ‘neutrino theory of light‘, which claims that photons (light ‘particles’) might consist of neutrino–anti-neutrino pairs, but there is simply no experimental evidence for this, and neutrinos and photons remain quite distinct fundamental particles. It seems as though Rohr has heard someone mention this, and the idea that what looks like darkness is ‘actually’ light fits with his idea that what appears to be the absence of God in the universe is in some sense the presence of God—so in goes the illustration.

The approach marks Rohr’s use of scripture and theology without—a connection is found, and a text or idea is levered in to provide ‘support’ for his ideas. I can honestly say that I did not find a single biblical text which was cited with any plausibility; every single one was either misread, or taken out of context, or even cited with errors. It doesn’t help the credibility of his case that he cannot spell either the Hebrew term meshiach (‘messiah’, anointed one) or the Greek en Christo (‘in Christ’)—though I suppose that using non-conventional spellings in transliteration could be part of a claim to be novel. He claims that John 1.14 uses the term ‘flesh’ to suggest that the incarnation was not confined to a single body (p 7); that the inclusion of gentiles from Acts 10 confirms should be understood as universalism; that the ‘all’ in John 17.21 means all of humanity, not all believers; that Paul’s cosmic language in Col 1.19 implies panentheism; that, since light is universally present in the cosmos (in the form of neutrinos), when Jesus says ‘I am the light of the world’ (John 8.12) he is claiming to be universally present; and so it goes on. What is notable here is Rohr dislocates these text both from their cultural context, failing to ask how these words might have been understood by either speaker, writer or hearer in the first century, but also ripping them from the wider text itself, ignoring the ‘canonical’ context, even of immediately surrounding sentences. If Jesus is the universal light and universal ‘flesh’, why do we immediately find comment about ‘those who would not receive them’ (John 1.11), or about the repeated references to those who ‘continue to walk in darkness’? There are some questions to be asked about Paul’s universal and cosmic vision—but it is not one that can ignore the centrality of repentance, faith and judgment in Paul’s theology.

This happiness with inaccuracy then extends to Rohr’s characterisation of the positions of other people. As Dowler notes, the argument is choc-a-block with Aunt Sallys, with exaggerated caricatures of opposing views which are depicted as so ridiculous that it is hard to resist how superior Rohr’s own view is. You are either a happy universalist like him, or you are obsessed with a wrathful God who is just waiting to condemn everyone. You either agree with his vision of the cosmic Christ, or you are locked into a narrow misunderstanding which is over concerned with the human Jesus and misses the real point of the whole narrative. This kind of rhetoric is one that is then embedded in one of effortless superiority, which I think is something of a paradox. I suspect in person that Rohr is a kind and gentle man, and listening to a few minutes of online interview certainly confirms that he comes across in an avuncular way which matches his appearance. But his consistent line is that his position is the mature understanding of Christian faith, and that if you have any objections to it, it is essentially because you have not yet understood and not yet reached his degree of contemplative maturity. The answer to this is not to ask questions or delve into the arguments, but to sit and wait, read again, contemplate, and eventually enlightenment will come and you will realise that he is right. If you don’t do this, you are not only unenlightened, you are positively damaging, and you have ‘no good news’ (p 29).

Part of the difficulty with this is that Rohr is leading us down some very odd paths and a long way from orthodox Christian faith at numerous points. There is, he believes, no real difference between the ‘holy’ and the ‘profane’ (p 15), which gives us a problem with the biblical understanding of God’s holiness. Christianity should not be in the business of making universal claims, but should provide a hospitable space for different theological positions (p 17). Jesus is a Third Someone, a different kind of creature, which sits very oddly with orthodox understandings of Christology. Since the life of God is in all things, Jesus’ resurrection is not at all surprising, but what we might naturally expect. (It is not really surprising that any sense of the Jewishness of either the Old Testament or the historical accounts of Jesus in the gospels, or Paul’s theology, is completely absent.) The goal of the gospel is self-acceptance and universal inclusion. God is not an ‘old man on a throne’ (p 28), despite God being depicted as, well, an old man on a throne in the visions of Daniel 7 and Rev 4 which provide some of the most central ideas (ancient venerability and universal sovereignty) to the New Testament. In his reading of Paul, any question of ethics has no connection with the cosmic theological vision, an assertion contradicted by just about every Pauline passage. But this is necessary since, like Buddhism, Rohr’s theology appears to have little ethical content beyond the virtue of ‘inclusion’.

One of my concerns here for the general reader is what seems to me to be the failure to take seriously pastoral realities. If the universal Christ is present in all, how do I make sense of that in the person who has hurt or abused me, or in those who manipulate power, or (in the extreme) collude in or initiate murder and genocide? What is Rohr’s theology of evil, beyond ‘lack of enlightenment’? Is the Bible really that easy to read, and can we simply pluck universal formulae from it? Can we really brush aside the ‘scandal of particularity’ so that we don’t need to take Jesus seriously as a first-century Jew? Rohr’s simple answers seem to me to avoid all the difficult questions, and I cannot help feeling that we do people a disservice by taking such an approach.

But this leads to a second major question to ask: why is Rohr so popular? And what challenge does that leave us? It would be easy to dismiss Rohr’s writings as a mishmash of theological psycho-babble, and this is made easy by his generalising turns of phrase. But I feel the need to move beyond such dismissal, not least because a number of friends whom I respect like his writing and have found this book to be energising.

First, Rohr clearly recognises the divide between ‘thinking’ and ‘feeling’ approaches to faith and spirituality, and clearly comes down on the ‘feeling’ side in response to an over-emphasis on the ‘thinking’ side, especially in his own context in North America. Is there a strategy that ensures that ‘orthodox’ thinking does not fall into this trap on the other side?

Second, I think Rohr articulates a general sense of exhaustion with the complexities of modern life. We are overwhelmed with the demands of everyday existence; even turning on the television now requires the use of two remote controls and (it feels like) a degree in engineering, and both regular broadcast media and social media tell us relentlessly of the bewildering variety of competing theories of life that we are supposed to live with, cope with and even engage with. Rohr’s broad-brush, simple approach has an almost visceral appeal to it. Can we do some serious reflection on life and theology without wearing people out?

Thirdly, this spills over into how we engage with others and make sense of the world. I suspect all of us have a sneaking feeling that taking time to really understand all the different claims made by those with different views will just take too long to understand. Far better, then, to pick and choose, and find easy points of agreement, than get into argument and dispute. Can we do justice to the viewpoints of others, with respect, whilst retaining the integrity of difference?

And lastly, of course, the language of ‘inclusive’ feels much easier to live with in a tired world, even if it is actually incoherent, even in its own terms. Can we disagree with others, even profoundly, whilst also engaging?

I am not at all convinced that Rohr offers us helpful answers to any of these questions—but he surely highlights the desires around us for spirituality and discipleship which is not confined to the intellectual, which offers rest and respite from complexity, which is content, and is known more for what it is for than what it is against.

If you enjoyed this, do share it on social media, possibly using the buttons on the left. Follow me on Twitter @psephizoLike my page on Facebook.

Much of my work is done on a freelance basis. If you have valued this post, would you consider donating £1.20 a month to support the production of this blog?

Signup to get email updates of new posts
We promise not to spam you. Unsubscribe at any time.
Invalid email address

If you enjoyed this, do share it on social media (Facebook or Twitter) using the buttons on the left. Follow me on Twitter @psephizo. Like my page on Facebook.

Much of my work is done on a freelance basis. If you have valued this post, you can make a single or repeat donation through PayPal:

For other ways to support this ministry, visit my Support page.

Comments policy: Do engage with the subject. Please don't turn this into a private discussion board. Do challenge others in the debate; please don't attack them personally. I no longer allow anonymous comments; if there are very good reasons, you may publish under a pseudonym; otherwise please include your full name, both first and surnames.

108 thoughts on “Is Richard Rohr’s ‘Universal Christ’ Christian?”

  1. Great review, and really helpful. Articulates my own uneasiness with Rohr’s approach. The questions at the end are challenging and need serious attention.

  2. A nice companion piece to your earlier review. I’m with you if you’re racking your brain trying to figure out why anyone would think that Rohr’s ideas are remotely biblical and apostolic, but not if you’re not yet quite ready to call him a heretic. The christological system you outline here makes his heresy plain as day. Many thanks.

    • Thanks! Yes, but even without the book he is not consistent, and often back peddles on how radical his ideas are. It is a bit tricky when he at once says ‘This is a radical new idea for a new mature humanity…and it is the same idea the early church had’. It cannot be both!

      • Frankly, I think he speaks to many Catholics who grew apart from the church. People like myself who fell as if I was locked out. With no other place suitable.
        He reintroduced me to my faith.
        He is a rare person. Many people who devote themselves as he has for a lifetime, gain a
        depth of knowledge, and are willing to share as teacher. I find it I almost always the case that they hold back. Maybe it is some feeling of proprietary rights to that which took great effort and sacrifice to amass. Maybe it is fear of creating equality among less worthy.
        Richard Rohr is one of those rare teachers who is generous with what is his. And I think people can sense it. This quality earns trust.
        I have explored a great deal of Catholicism through his guidance. He oriented me into the material and I took it from there.
        It really is obvious where his teachings depart in emphasis and provoke other Catholics.
        His theology is oriented to an Incarnational Salvation.
        His Trinitarian teachings are oriented heavily on Eastern Church ideas. The Capadocian fathers, Maximus the Confessor, and the mystics.
        He lives experiential/ contemplative faith which always seems to rub some the wrong way. And always will.
        We who get him understand that he orient’s and places us into the materials that we are looking for, without initially knowing it is there. He is a sincere guide with a genuine Christian heart. And that is rare.

          • Great review. You criticized his work without labeling him a heretic. We should be able to show respect to anyone who is passionately exploring alternative approaches to the problematic and damaging dogmatic certainty of the evangelical brand of Christianity.

            While there are certainly some potential flaws with Rohr’s insights, they pale in comparison to the bullheaded Mack truck approach so many employ when trying to defend the “traditional” doctrines of evangelicalism.

            I sometimes find myself wondering why we evangelicals seem so kneejerky towards anything that might offer more compassionate inclusion towards Gods ALL creations and less self-righteous exclusion.

          • ‘His depth of knowledge and his willingness to share as a teacher’ – well said. His honest engagement with both his formal background as a Franciscan priest and his own lived experience of God encourages me to trust my own.

          • I think you have put your finger on the issue. I have pointed out in the review a number of places where his engagement formally with Scripture actually isn’t ‘honest’, making texts serve his agenda when that is not what they really mean. And we need to honestly make sense of our experience—but not ‘trust’ it. Surely Christian faith is about trusting God in Jesus, not ‘our own experience’. What if my ‘experience’ is of times of darkness when God seems absent? What if our ‘experience’ says that it is best to tread on others and stand up for my rights if I want to get on in life?

            Jesus actually calls us to trust him *beyond* our raw experience.

  3. ‘over concerned with the human Jesus’. Speaks volumes.

    I would suggest if he is popular, it is because many dont like reality as it is shown in the NT. The idea, for example, of anyone judging ‘me’ is silly. Im as good as most everyone else.

    ‘but he surely highlights the desires around us for spiritual and discipleship which is not confined to the intellectual, which offers rest and respite from complexity, which is content, and is known more for what it is for than what it is against.’

    Fair point, though I think people want to come to God on their own terms rather than His, and hence close their ears to the whole picture.

    • Yes, that is true. I think an open question is: ‘Does Rohr’s theology include a demanding ethic?’ I am gradually coming to the view that, unless an expression of the gospel makes significant demands as well as promising transcendent ‘benefits’, it cannot be true to Jesus’ proclamation…

      • Yes though I struggle to balance this with salvation by grace. Is grace truly a ‘free gift’ simply to be accepted? When I was becoming a Christian I dont think I thought too much about ‘demands’ but rather Christianity was true and that was that. Similar to CS Lewis’ last stage, “When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did.” Though for me, I wasnt going to the zoo!

  4. Even reviewing a book about vague generalities, you raise so many questions about the conclusions we draw from this text and its reception by the prominent throughout its brief history. Thanks for this article. Rohr is someone I will now probably happily ignore.

    But I have so many friends, all nearing their various consummations as we age into oblivion, who have not read much if any of the text but who seek some vague spirituality. Is theology a practice of drawing conclusions? Particularly conclusions that somehow I should point out to my friends, teaching them visions of snowy peaks when they have not ventured to climb these particular mountains…

    Having ‘finished’ my translation of the Hebrew Bible to explore its embedded musical score, can I – God forbid – somehow do better with my conclusions than the authoritative ancients?

    I could continue with criticism of the churches that points only to its failures (pogroms, war, divisions, prejudice, financial and sexual exploitation) or its successes (schools, hospitals, art, joy).

    Today, some of these beloved friends of vague theology are acting with responsibility for the continuation of life on earth in the face of the technical marvels and horrors that Adam has leashed upon the earth. I think I must work to support their actions as part of God’s work in the arts, sciences, and technology. All this, I hope in the new Adam, will be part of the self-giving that Jesus enacted on our behalf, for the life of the world, making up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.

    But divisions caused by superficial readings of the canonical text cannot be supported after the Holocaust that my generation grew up with. Yes, we must do better than vague spiritualism, but we must also do better than blind acceptance of theological authority, the conclusions that prior authorities drew that let us to horror.

  5. “his consistent line is that his position is the mature understanding of Christian faith, and that if you have any objections to it, it is essentially because you have not yet understood and not yet reached his degree of contemplative maturity. The answer to this is not to ask questions or delve into the arguments, but to sit and wait, read again, contemplate, and eventually enlightenment will come and you will realise that he is right. If you don’t do this, you are not only unenlightened, you are positively damaging,”

    Thanks for this helpful review. The quote above from your review sums up my feelings after beginning Rohr’s ‘Falling Upwards’ – I felt that if I did not follow what he was saying, the fault was obviously on my part! This book would appear to have the same style.

    • Interesting that you felt that. In social media discussion, most people have been more positive about Falling Upwards, at least for its psychological insights—but interesting that there is the same kind of tone. I’ve not read it, and to be honest don’t intend to. Two Rohr books is about enough for me I think!

      • Thank you for your helpful review, Ian. The first book I read by Rohr was Falling Upwards and, like your friends, its psychological insights were significant in helping me to understand my experience, without having to stray from a fairly orthodox view of my Christian faith, and forvthus reason, I would recommend it.

        It was a hoping for more of the same that drew me to Immortal Diamond because it promised to delve deeper into discovering our ‘true selves’.

        I was disappointed, then, when, it diverted so much from its theme (and orthodox theology) and seemingly ignored so many difficult passages of scripture along the way. It was the latter reason that made me give up Universal Christ half way through, too.

        But, like many, I am still searching for a more generous orthodoxy than evangelicals are known for, and for that reason, Rohr’s appeal will no doubt continue.

    • “God became man, so that man might become God” -St. Athanasius

      Western Christianity needs to merge back with its Eastern roots.

  6. This review seems to miss the point of why I (and I think many other people) have so much time for the likes of Richard Rohr. For me when “the shit of life happened”, the things I grew up believing with certainty no longer made sense. It would have been easy to simply walk away from faith at that point. Yet in all of that hardship and struggle I still couldn’t get away from God, Christ and the person of Jesus. In that context Richard’s inclusiveness and openness is refreshing. It gives me hope that there is a way through the struggle without having to give up completely. Am I right in how I view God, Christ and Jesus? Who knows. Is God big enough to handle that? I have to hope so; I don’t think I’d want to believe in a small and limited God who isn’t.

    • Martin, thanks for that comment, which is really helpful. Like you, I have hit various crises on the way, though seem to have responded to them differently, and it would be interesting to explore why.

      I agree with you that there is a danger in worrying that God cannot cope with our questions; both the Psalms and other parts of Scripture suggest that this is an unfounded anxiety. But is God’s wanting us to be confident in what we believe about him—how we know him in relationship—a sign of us making him small? Surely not. For example, can we be confident that God is faithful and true to his promises? Can we be confident that Jesus’ death and resurrection do bring us forgiveness and healing, and allow us by his outpoured Spirit to cry ‘Abba! Father!’ Any parent would want their child to be confident in this, as a sign of loving generosity, not smallness.

      I don’t know your situation, but your question is right about holding on to faith. I think my difficulty is that, if my analysis of Rohr is in any way correct, his way of reading is actually letting go of faith in any meaningful sense, and just holding on to some texts and ideas that he fashions in a way that suits him. He is holding on to something, but I am unsure how it can be called ‘Christian faith’ in any meaningful sense.

      Does that make sense?

      • For me its a bit ironic to see a protestant appeal to orthodoxy! Who’s the arbiter? I used to have the perfect theology until I met the charismatics and was filled with the Spirit. From then on my doctrinal soundness has waned until I no longer need to dot every theological T. For me now, being a Christian is not about believing all the ‘right’ things anymore, it is more about how I treat my neighbour: feeding the hungry at the food bank, visiting the sick, trying to live out the fruits of the Spirit.

        For what its worth, I’m equally judgmental of those who claim to be orthodox but fail to practice the fruit of the Spirit. Can their belief in all the ‘correct’ tenants of theology really be ‘Christian faith’ in any meaningful sense?

        • Brilliant mate. Love it. Knowing God removes, in my opinion, the need to have it all ‘right’. Just being in His presence and living in the Spirit – including manifesting the fruits – is all I want in life. I don’t think any doctrine in the world can improve on that.

          I’d also add that ‘orthodoxy’ is not, I believe, on God’s agenda. The way I see it is that there are so many Christian denominations, all of whom claim to welcome God into their services…so who am I to presume to judge whether God turns up or not? I’m sure He does. I have no reason to doubt my brothers’ claims of God’s immanence; moreover it is not my place to judge that – nor is it anyone else’s. So I assume He’s there in their services, no matter how dry and dusty, or conversely, loud and unrestful, those services are. And that’s in addition to His presence in the believer’s daily life.

          So for me that means that actually God’s not all that bothered about doctrinal hoops, but more about whether or not people’s hearts are turned towards Him. And of course the most important thing is that God simply loves to spend time with us as His children, whether we believe ‘right’ or not. That’s why I think that doctrine isn’t all that important.

          Equally, some congregations might claim that they hold the ‘correct doctrine’ for the same reason: that because God turns up, He must therefore be pleased with them, and therefore this Presence vindicates their doctrines and practices as ‘correct’. Well, firstly, I would not imagine that many in the churches would claim that they have everything perfect doctrinally; most mature Christians know there is always something more to learn. Given that God is infinite, this should come as no surprise to us. And secondly, again, God turns up because He is indeed pleased with us as His children, but not because we have it all ‘right’. But unfortunately some take God’s presence as being approval of their doctrines, not of them as people and as His children. Which is tragic, really.

          • ‘I’d also add that ‘orthodoxy’ is not, I believe, on God’s agenda.’

            How odd. So why the emphasis on God as teacher of Israel? Why the consistent refrain ‘The WORD of the Lord came to me…?’ in the prophets? Why the interest in the textual tradition all through Judaism and Christianity? Why did Jesus say ‘The truth shall set you free’? Why ‘Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth’ in John 17?

            And why was Jesus known primarily as ‘teacher’ as well as ‘Lord’?

            Both Jesus and Paul (and the other NT writers) consistently hold experience, action and truth together–but they never dispense with truth, and in many ways see it as foundational to the other two.

        • It’s not either or: it’s both and. Charismatic doctrine is replete with orthodox Trinitarian Christianity as many past and present testify, such as Gordon Fee and Frontiers Churches, including Andrew Wilson. And Charismatic Baptist record such as Sam Storms
          All are a far cry from from what I read of Rohr’s writings and core-sub-Christian creedal beliefs. And as Simon has said we are to discern, test the spirits
          And by what measure do we do that, but by God’s self revelation in scripture. Some of the most Pentecostal, Charismatic people I’ve met are Bible literalists.
          And there is the weight of longevity of the truth of the creeds.
          Truth, does not age.

        • ‘For me its a bit ironic to see a protestant appeal to orthodoxy!’

          What an odd thing to say. The whole historical impulse of Protestantism is to return to the orthodoxy of the Scriptures.

        • Isaiah 29 v 24 ”They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine”.

          And, ‘Origen’ how are you to know false doctrine if you don’t learn orthodox doctrine? In fact, you may meet with some of those false teachers on this blog’s comments section. Romans 16 v 17 ”Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. 18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.”

          See also Ephesians 4 v 14.

          Paul says a feature of ‘the latter times’ of earth’s history will be that men forsake right doctrine and actually depart from the faith. 1 Timothy 4 v 1
          ”Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils”

        • By the way, Origen Adam, aren’t you the same man who used to comment on the Christian Institute’s Facebook page? If so, then I remember you as a virulent apologist for homosexuality. If I’m right, then it’s not really surprising that you’re not a ‘fan’ of correct doctrine, especially the orthodox Christian doctrine that sodomy is a sin that necessitates repentance. Of course, if you are not the same person then that is a tremendous coincidence that you have the same name as he and I will stand corrected if you put me right.

  7. Richard Rohr is endlessly experimenting with mixtures – Franciscan style pantheism/panentheism/animism mixed with syncretism/shamanism/solipsism leading to a Frankenstein style speculative pop-theology created and crafted from an eclectic array of looted and assembled body parts and discarded remains…..

  8. A number of your respected friends like and are energised by the book!?
    Why? How?

    Have you pointed them to this, your review?
    Perhaps they’d be rigorously and vigorously envigorated by a robust discussion with you, prompted by the review.

      • I have seen Martin’s comment and your response. My wife and I, too, have been brought to an end of ourselves, our own resources, before being brought to the startling sufficiency of our Triune God.

        Having been in receipt of secondary mental health services including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and supported Mental Health Patients in secondary care/hospital (not at the same time) it is noticeable that while there can be good psychological insights, with “trial and error” drug therapy, there is no ultimate answer to existential questions of self, life and the world.

        Dr’s Consultants have said so. Our deepest longings can only ever be fulfilled by God, through whom and for whom we have our being and we’re made. Anything else is counterfeit substitute. There is nothing more delightful than the reality of orthodox Christian beliefs and doctrine. The immensity of our Triune God and orthodoxy is staggering, beyond our philosophies and psychologies. Our wayward imaginings can only ever be centred by God’s self revelation, in nature, in humanity , in scripture, and ultimately in the second person of the Trinity . In fact by the revelation by all the Trinity.

        To disabuse anyone thinking that life is now all hunky -dory -glory, they’d be wrong to do so.

        Martin, while this may not seem like an encouragement to you, I’d suggest that it is indeed an encouragement that you couldn’t get away from God and Christ. In some of the darkest times I’ve wanted to gave up on Christ (by the way there is no God, hiding behind Christ, as it were) but I can’t, and really don’t want to.

        From what I’ve read from Ian’s reviews I’d personally stear clear of Rohr’s books as they see to lead to some confusion and perhaps false comfort. If you are struggling with doubt and questions some ballast may be be found in Tim Keller’s, Making Sense of God, which starts from a position of addressing the question of relevance of Christianity to life, written for the believer and skeptic, arguing that Christianity can provide freedom, meaning, satisfaction, identity, moral compass and hope and makes the most emotional and cultural sense and gives unsurpassed resources for meeting these inescapable human needs

        • Geoff, could it be possible that a reason some of Rohr’s writing is appreciated by Christians (even evangelical ones) is that the ‘answers’ you have given, true though they are, are alone not enough to cause our hearts to burn within us when we are in despair? After all the two on the road to Emmaus needed the presence of Jesus as well as knowing that the body was not in the tomb. It could be that some of Rohr’s writing helps us see God’s ‘bigness’ (call it ‘grace’) when, say, Calvin’s writing doesn’t?

          • That’s interesting, and again it is worth exploring the reasons why a little further. I agree with you (and others) that the rationalism that is found in some conservative theology is unappealing, and I have found it leaves me cold.

            But if people are finding that Calvin’s writings don’t help them see the bigness of God, then surely something has gone wrong…?

          • Hello Bruce,
            I’ve been on holiday, hence delay.
            It’s interesting that you’ve honed in on Calvin, when I didn’t mention him and know very little of his direct writings.
            Is Calvin opposed to the presence of Jesus, of Holy Spirit
            in a believer’s life?
            Despair. One of the errors that some in the church fall into is that Christians are immune from despair, or despair is evidence that one is not a Christian. There is far too much in the word as a topic, to be looked at in a comments section, and the thought sources of despair would need to be explored, probably on a personal level but again Keller book “Walking with God through pain and suffering” is worth a look.
            And from an earlier era Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones series on “Spiritual Depression” is worth a look or lending an ear to his recorded sermons. Language is of its time.
            But and this is a big but, in psychology as well as Christianity it is the “truth that set you free” : it is the “renewing of the mind by the washing of the word” to counter lies . Indeed it is the truth “bigness” of God, which, from all that Ian Paul has written about Rohr’s writing is denuded by him.
            One great reformed truth is the reality and the immensity of a Christian’s “union with Christ”, heart- burning- life -transforming, including being credited with Christ’s active and passive obedience, dying and being raised with him.
            For the immensity of it all how about the truth of the reality of Ephesians Chapters 1 &2. Or as a Christian GP said, prescribed, reading Romans 8, three times a day. Rohr doesn’t get a look in.
            And what was it that was the cause of John Wesley’s heart being strangely warmed.
            And if you want awe and bigness look at Ian Paul’s later post, with link , “Recapturing the Wonder at Easter”
            or, this from the past, from a different tradition: That’s My King – Do you know Him? – S.M. Lockridge. Listen/watch here 3:18 minutes:
            Amen and Amen

  9. Rohr seems desperate to tear down everything that is particular about Christianity; to form a religion in which each ‘member’ is no more devoted to nor dependent upon any other particular person; to mold ‘citizens of the world’ using theologically-emptied Christian symbolism. Rohr is more or less advocating for the secular humanist worldview that is attempting to assimilate various cultures and religions.

    • I think you are right—he wants to eliminate particularity in all its forms. Of course he does that through the particular philosophical position he holds and within a very particular (post) modern context which allows him to think the way he does.

  10. I must say that Rohr’s bit about neutrinos is actually correct, as far as we scientists know. The neutrino theory of light that you mention is related to neutrinos themselves, but is not the whole story

    Rohr’s point about darkness (or ’empty’ space) being filled with little particles, although he doesn’t phrase it that way, is a good analogy to what it’s ‘really’ like as far as we understand it – although, in my opinion, people who don’t know actually anything about particle physics (apart from a smattering obtained from five minutes on Wikipedia) should all steer clear of pretending that they do. You undermine your own rebuttal by showing that you don’t really understand it at all, because you have referred to a related subject rather than actual neutrino theory. Theory in its scientific sense, that is: an hypothesis supported by evidence, rather than the colloquial ‘Oh that’s just a theory’ so beloved of those who don’t know. Best stick to your training, bro.

    • Thanks for the comment Tony. Actually, my training was first in science; I studied special relativity at A-level and I did degrees in both pure and applied maths. My PhD was on metaphor theory, and I included in that a section on the way cognitive understandings of metaphor relate to the status of hypotheses in scientific predication.

      I am well aware of the presence of neutrinos throughout space; Rohr’s claim is that ‘darkness is actually full of light’. In saying that, he is specifically claiming that neutrinos are a kind of photon, which I don’t think is true, is it?

    • Hi Tony,

      Your point about theologians being careful with science is a fair one. So, I better include my credentials 🙂 My degree was in theoretical physics and my doctoral and post-doctoral research was in an area of theoretical astrophysics.

      You say,

      I must say that Rohr’s bit about neutrinos is actually correct, as far as we scientists know. The neutrino theory of light that you mention is related to neutrinos themselves, but is not the whole story

      I must have missed something. I assume Ian quotes Rohr correctly in referring to “tiny particles called ‘neutrinos’, slivers of light”*. Neutrinos are not slivers of light. They are fermions. Light is composed of photons, which are (gauge) bosons. Because neutrinos only interact by the weak nuclear force (and probably gravity as it seems that they have a very small mass, which scuppers the neutrino theory of light), their interaction with, for instance, atoms is very weak.

      I wonder if Rohr’s reference to ‘slivers of light’ is a reference to the light that is produced in some neutrino detectors. However, this light is generally Cherenkov radiation produced by high energy electrons (or positrons) produced when a high energy neutrino interacts with a proton or neutron. However, this is light which is not the neutrino, nor the product of the interaction of the neutrino, but produced by the product by its interaction with its surroundings.

      It is true that you and I are in a flux of neutrinos produced as a by-product of the nuclear fusion in the Sun, and we are not aware of it as they pass almost uninterrupted through us. However, this suggests to me that using neutrinos as an illustration of God’s interaction with us leads to the conclusion that God is almost absent.

      (Perhaps the person best qualified to comment on Rohr’s assertion and its relation to Christian faith would be John Polkinghorne.)

      * I’m not sure I can be bothered to obtain Rohr and check the context myself. I have more than enough worthwhile reading to be getting on with.

      • Thanks David. I was going to say all that, but thought I’d leave it to you… 😀

        I can assure you the quotation is verbatim.

        And, as you say, the analogy is ironic as it suggests that God does *not* interact with the world!

      • Excellent reply, David, thank you. I think you have already deduced that I was trying to keep the description simple; I was indeed going to describe a neutrino detector where the neutrinos are detected as what looks like light (yes, Cherenkov radiation)…but I didn’t in order to keep things simple, by keeping things at the same level as the original quotation, which is usually a safe bet. My words that you quote were intended more to introduce the idea that space is not ’empty’ as most people would understand the word, which is what I think Rohr was meaning. I too have enough to be getting on with without having to explain such things!

        Ian, thank you for your courteous reply and please be assured I was not trying to be awkward; I am Autistic and sometimes what I put does not reflect my feelings. No, indeed neutrinos are not photons, as David has already described. My beef is more with non-scientific people trying to pretend they know things they don’t. Like Flat Earthers. For example, I once had a preacher using the Greek word ‘meteoris’, which he informed us meant ‘hanging’. (I don’t knw whether it does or not). But he then went on to say that this was like a ‘meteor’, which ‘hangs in space’. Facepalm time, because that ‘hanging’ thing he was referring to would in fact be a comet, a different animal entirely (although some meteors are caused by cometary fragments). A meteor is what is colloquially called a ‘shooting star’ and as everyone knows, to our eye they look very, very fast indeed – certainy not ‘hanging’.

        Fwiw, my training is in physics, chemistry, biology and astronomy; although my degrees are in microbiology and biochemistry, my main line of work at the moment is in pharmaceutical chemistry. But the qualifications do not describe, define or deliniate the person; my main scientific interests are in physics (with a special interest in aerodynamics/fluid dynamics) and astronomy, but I didn’t do physics or astrophysics at University becasue I couldn’t handle the maths.

        Peace and grace to you both

        • Thanks Tony. But my point it to protest in Rohr exactly what you found frustrating.

          He specifically makes the point that what is apparent darkness is in fact light, since neutrinos are ‘light’, and in the same way the apparent absence of God is his presence.

          The argument is poor, and the illustration precisely shows his complete disregard for whether the things he says have any warrant at all.

          • Appreciated, thanks 🙂 Maybe I wouldn’t go so far, though, as to say that one poor illustration – or indeed poor argument! – necessarily destroys his entire stance. I think that sometimes, when reading others’ points of view, it’s good to find bits we agree with and that nourish us, while rejecting the parts we do not find helpful. Rarely are people going to agree on all points – and that’s fine – but sometimes we can learn even, or especially, from thos with whom we disagree most. Peace 🙂

      • In thinking of the dark night of the soul, I believe Rohr’s analogy would show that though we cannot feel God’s presence in the way we expect and feel he is absent, he is still there. If we allow him to lead us into this different experience of prayer we will actually experience him at a much deeper level that is not attached to form.

        I believe the analogy was our initial perception of God when we feel like he’s not with us instead of whether or not he interacts with us. Is the point interaction? It seems it is deeper than that: it is “Christ in you the hope of glory.” In this unity we are the light if the world.

  11. “like Buddhism, Rohr’s theology appears to have little ethical content beyond the virtue of ‘inclusion’.”

    Have you studied Buddhism? Because if you have, I doubt you would have claimed that Buddhism has “little ethical content.” It’s ethical content supersedes Christianity in many respects

    • Thanks for this challenge—I think you are right, and it was a lazy passing comment that needs correction. It is certainly the case that Buddhist ethics don’t correspond very closely to what Christianity has understood as ‘morality’—but it is interesting that Rohr’s ‘gospel’ doesn’t appear to have that much ethical content…

  12. Oh good, another Christian blog about who is and who is not a Christian. Yawn. About as interesting as watching grass grow.

    • Don’t you think it curious that many Christians are apparently finding spiritual nourishment in a book which doesn’t appear actually to be very Christian? Don’t you find that intriguing…?

      • I went to a seminar on RR, in an Anglican conference centre, led by an Anglican priest who is also a Third Way oblate (is that the right word?) She is also a friend of mine, and had given me a copy of ‘The Universal Christ’ in advance. The attendees were nearly all Catholics, and I think they were looking to RR for liberation from Catholic authoritarianism, very much as people responded to Gerard W. Hughes’ ‘God of Surprises’ which is a far finer book in my opinion, and helped me through a spiritual crisis in a fundamentally liberating way, although I didn’t always agree with him. Ian, I was so relieved to read your review! I really struggled with the book, finding it disordered and chaotic. I am also a lay preacher, particularly interested in Jewish and historical context, and I too struggled to find a Biblical quote that actually backed up what he was saying, if you read the whole passage and put it in context. I am very far from being a fundamental evangelical, but found that RR was better at knocking such beliefs down than in suggesting a clear interpretation of what all the quotes about judgment in the Gospels and the Letters are about. I am glad it was not just me!

    • Oh good, another passive aggressive, who sits superior judging others even as they seek to test the spirits as the Scriptures require of us


  13. O dear O dear, as I think Milne would have Rabbit say.
    Ian – first let me say I value your posts and have often cited your work. You keep me in touch with my evangelical side.

    But – if we are to plunge “into a radical claim about the meaning of Jesus and Christ “, should we not have a definition or two? I recall a sermon from the 1970s on how creatively Paul uses these two words. They are not automatically ‘Jesus Christ’, but often ‘Christ Jesus’, or Jesus alone, or Christ alone, or the Spirit of Christ, and so on. If the pattern of Paul’s seeking out of words in his letters is to be considered, then perhaps the ‘meaning’ of the words is not to be constrained either by old authorities who would stop us from reading, or by ‘precise’ theologians or vague ones.

    When I was reading the letter to the Hebrews c 1984, I was told by my superiors that I, not a priest, was not permitted to read it. Later on, still studying this letter, in 2006 at St Andrews at a conference, I was asked by the mystery that is in the human spirit, if I could really understand the idea of ‘the son’ without at least reading his Scriptures in their original tongue. I derived this direction in the clouds of possible meanings for this word to me, that I must have a more secure grounding in the mystery of the election of Israel and the many ways in which language and metaphor is used in the Hebrew Scripture, the only texts available to Jesus, the son, in his earthly life.

    How can we use the adjective ‘Christian’ – surely one of the most abused adjectives ever invented by the English, without a firmer grounding in the issues of who is Anointed and what the role is of this anointing in our lives?

    It is curious that many within the churches are finding nourishment in this book. Why would they search here if the churches were doing their jobs? Our local synagogue (I have it on good authority – I don’t often attend) is filled with Christians who want some good teaching.

  14. I love Richard Rohr. I have an MDiv…blah blah blah…Richard Rohr reflects those of us who have climbed out of the Evangelical silo. We have already rejected the Evangelical Gospel with its Redemptive Violence, relentless fear-mongering and intellectually primitive Devil as the CEO of Evil . Yet we sense something in the broader arcs of scripture. As metaphor it is engaging. As history it is inane. I see Richard Rohr as pulling silver out of the dross of Christianity.

    • That’s interesting…but curious that you both parody evangelical belief, but also collapse orthodox Christian doctrine of 2000 years into it…and label it all as dross.

      If anyone was asking ‘Does Rohr teach the Christian faith as understood by most Christians through history’, you appear to answer very clearly ‘No, and a good thing too…’

    • “we have already rejected the Evangelical gospel of Violence/relentless fear mongering/intellectually primitive/inane history”

      Wow – that reads very angry and rather afraid. “MDiv blah blah blah?” so you trained for ministry – presumably sensing a vocation – but no longer? so what happened Chris to make you so bitter towards the Church? Was it the doctrine or its ethics that led you to reject the faith you had received?

      You realise your verbal attack on orthodox Christianity and your gushing support for Rohr only serve to underline why many of us are concerned that Rohr is not orthodox and why he has become the darling of the gnostics.

  15. I have not read any of the books written by Rohr only an article articulating his approach. It is, however, interesting reading this article and considering the apparent popularity of his work.

    There is in Paul’s writings the idea of Jesus, “being in all and through all,” as it was in the beginning that all things were created through the Word. It is also my understanding Jesus died for all – the good, bad, ugly and beautiful. If you did it as a Venn diagram the whole world of people would be included in his death. As it is also said in scripture after the resurrection, Jesus is the Lord of both heaven and earth and therefore all who reside there, even though it may not at present appear as if this is the case.

    The key variation for me from what I interpret as Rohr’s positioning is the choice is still left for people to accept such a great salvation. Like unrequited love, God will not, no cannot, force anyone to accept what he offered in His Son. He waits for us to choose – because God is love and love is the only thing you cannot force anyone to do.

    A close friend (okay so it’s a subjective experience ) after becoming a Christian was concerned over whether God would continually ‘be there’ for them so to speak and they experienced an audible response from God, “I have waited for you for 33 years and I am not going to let you go now.” It resounds so closely with the Father in the parable of the Prodigal son who can only but wait for his child to come to Him. God is indeed for us, he promises to “draw all men to himself” but he will not force us to come.

    Perhaps there is a generally perception of Christianity being about rules; about who qualifies and who doesn’t; about the arrogance of a religion promoting only one way to God (through Jesus). And perhaps people’s ears have long been deaf to the truth about God through Jesus meeting all the rules as us, qualifying us despite any shortfalls, and by doing so offering as gift that which we cannot ourselves ever obtain.

    I personally contend that Jesus and Christ are synonymous nouns for our Lord.

  16. Thanks for this article, Paul. I appreciated hearing Richard Rohr on a podcast interview. However, I have struggled with – what comes across as – his universalism, and even more – again what comes across to me as – his depersonalisation of our Lord Jesus Christ. I must say I’m so glad that Jesus is a person who I can relate to and shows me what the Father is like.

    Thank you for setting a great example in, rather than being simply dismissive, trying to understand the Richard Rohr phenomenon and what that says to us of the needs and shortcomings in Christian thought and community.

    Best wishes,


  17. I have been poking a bit around the website of the “Center for Action and Contemplation” (, Rohr’s place. There is significant ground here for saying that this is something that is scarcely Christian. For instance, on the home page inviting one to received Rohr’s daily meditations, they say, “Does Christianity have anything of value left to offer?”

    The description of Rohr himself states that “Fr. Richard’s teaching is grounded in the Franciscan alternative orthodoxy,” (alternative orthodoxy seems something of an oxymoron to me.) It seems he draws on the “the Perennial Tradition”, which is described thus:

    “The Perennial Tradition encompasses the recurring themes in all of the world’s religions and philosophies that continue to say:

    . There is a Divine Reality underneath and inherent in the world of things,
    . There is in the human soul a natural capacity, similarity, and longing for this Divine Reality, and
    . The final goal of existence is union with this Divine Reality.”

    Where does one start to unpick this?

    • Thanks for all the interesting comments. It seems to me all are working to understand. Pardon my presumption listening in…

      David, the religious framework implied by the above three points in your comment of April 18, 1:43 is not incompatible with the Scriptures of the Hebrew Bible.
      . There is a Divine Reality underneath and inherent in the world of things, – look up who makes heaven and earth. E.g. in the Psalms, a phrase repeated 5 times 115:15, 121:2, 124:8, 134:3 146:6. And only in Book 5 of the Psalter does it have this exact form roughly pronounced oseh shamayim vearets – i.e. with the definite article. Book 5 of the Psalms is the most universal of the books of the Psalter. It ends with the final doxology, a summons for all the breath-bearing to praise Yah.
      . There is in the human soul a natural capacity, similarity, and longing for this Divine Reality, See Psalm 42: As a hart yearns over a watercourse, // so my being yearns for you, O God. The only other place this word for years is found in the OT is Joel 1:20. Even the beasts of the field yearn for you, // because dried up are the channels of water and fire has devoured the haunts of the wilderness.

      . The final goal of existence is union with this Divine Reality.”
      This last one takes a bit more unpicking. Goal, existence, union are all generic modernistic language. But the whole story of the building of the Dwelling-Place for Yahweh exhibits this desire. And so many chapters of Exodus are devoted to the detail that I think we are supposed to pay attention.
      Ex 25:8 And let them make for me a sanctuary, // and I will dwell among them.
      Other Psalms make this tangible presence even more strongly. E.g. Psalms 16:11
      You will make known to me a path of life,
      satisfaction of gladness in your presence,
      pleasures at your right hand always.

      This shows that the generic outline of Rohr’s thinking is not incompatible with the thrust of the Scriptures given for those who are in Christ to learn from. The Hebrew Scriptures are quite specific and concrete. Whether Christianity (a hugely encompassing set of traditions) has been faithful to this source document is another question. I would guess that Rohr probably has issues with the ‘ity’ word.

      • Bob, thanks for your comments.
        My opinion is that “Divine Reality underneath and inherent in the world of things” is leaning very heavily in the direction of pantheism or panentheism. The word ‘inherent’ seems to suggest that ‘things’ are part of the Divine. If YHWH is the maker of heaven and earth, this expresses to me the distinction between creator and creation. Creation reflects the creator, is utterly dependent on him and is intended to be in relationship with him and bring him glory. But the otherness of God is something which should never be forgotten. A fault of modernity is that it has lost a true sense of the transcendent. Modernist ‘spirituality’ is an attempt to satisfy what has been lost with a poor substitute.

        As for ‘the human soul has a natural capacity, similarity and longing for this Divine Reality’, one can find in the Scriptures some expressions of longing, I concede. After all, God has “set eternity in the human heart” (and, following Augustine, “our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee”). However, ‘natural capacity’ is a problem. “yet no one can fathom what God has done from the beginning to end.” ‘Similarity’ founders on the essential otherness of God (“My thoughts are not your thoughts.”) Entirely missing from this statement is any acknowledgement that there is an issue in human relating to the Divine. There is a blockage and brokenness. Something is wrong which needs fixing. The culture of therapy fails to deal with sin. Rather is says “you’re OK, I’m OK.” This culture, probably more than any which has preceded it, is the self curved in on itself, incurvatus in se, Augustine’s definition of sin. I have not read Rohr, but I get the impression that he is offering “salvation by enlightenment”, as if the problem is simply ignorance.

        I’m not sure how your examples from Exodus and the Temple illustrate ‘union’ with the Divine. This is a dwelling with the Divine; “I will be your God and you will be my people.” As I attempted to express in my second comment, this is fundamentally personal language, which is a language which seems missing from Rohr’s offering (perhaps because it is found in few places other that Judeo-Christian tradition.)

        We need to consider the whole counsel of Scripture, particularly where this challenges our unthought assumptions.

          • I thought it a good idea for me to look up Richard Rohr. His twitter home is immediately inspiring. I am sorry to see this conversation here degenerate into diatribe.

            The Evangelical wing of the Anglican Church has to cease from its desperate grasping of poorly understood English translation of Scripture. It is a bit frightening to leave what one might think are secure moorings, but the fruit of those moorings: the suppression of women, the persecution of sexual minorities, and the destruction of other cultures and tradition, is the result of brackish water in the well. One cannot get bitter water from a sweet well.

            Ian, I have replied to you specifically but the reply button sent me to a comment I was not replying to? – I agree with you on this: – you have never insisted on ‘your way or the highway’ in any post I have seen. Your precision and scholarship is something I have respected and continue to respect.

            But what I am replying to is the thesis that God is separate from creation. I have shied away from theology because I think it so hard to come to conclusions. There is a risk that one’s readers will accept the conclusion without doing the hard homework.

            I looked for separate in my translation work and found 45 uses of the stem in Hebrew. It has three uses: 17 as the animal, mule. Once as the word kernel, and the rest as our expected idea of separateness, the rivers of Eden, the islands of the nations, Abraham and Lot, the two nations in Rebekah’s womb, Elijah’s separation from Elisha, the bones of the subject of Psalm 22, and so on. It’s a great read, the word פרד. Proverbs warns us against the degeneration of our words: One who is wayward dispenses dissension, and one who natters separates a thousand. The unique usage as kernel is in Joel. There is no grain, the kernel is rancid.

            Never is God mentioned as separate from creation. We are not to separate ourselves from others with abstract words.

            How can I have a theological conclusion where there appears to be no support for it in Scripture? Admittedly I have not looked at the NT. But there I have just read of Holy Spirit in Matthew 1. I know, wrong season! But as Rohr suggests with his tweet, The seeds of Easter are already found in Christmas.

            Holy Spirit occurs as a phrase in Hebrew only once – in Psalm 51, but it is prevalent in the NT. There is where ‘separation’ lies. God is Holy. The Holy that protects Mary is the inner sanctum of God, the dwelling place of God with humanity, the whole thrust from wilderness tabernacle to the temple of the body. This then is as far from separateness as one can get. God in us in our body.

            It seems to me that the God who created Leviathan to sport with refuses separation from humanity and by implication from creation and the whole created order. I haven’t got an abstract name for this since there is no such abstraction in the Scriptures. What is Scriptural for us who are in Christ is contained in 2 words from Jesus, “Follow me”. That is the shortest requirement for praxis. Even shorter than “Jesus is Lord”, an ambiguity completely lost on English Christians because of the problem with the sense of that very difficult word ‘lord’.

            We are being called out of all our idolatry.

          • Bob, (briefly)

            Perhaps Ian’s choice of word ‘separation’ was not well-chosen. I would talk of the distinction between the Creator and creation. It seems to be that the Hebrew Scriptures are pretty clear that YHWH is the “maker of heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them.” (That’s from Ps 146 in my Jewish Study Bible, presumably untainted by the poverty of evangelical translation.) What is made is not the maker, although it reflects the maker. The separation is one of being not involvement.

            It is this distinction which is not present in pantheism or panentheism. In Rohr seems to me to be leaning towards these. In what way is his ‘Divine Reality’ different from ‘The Force’ in Star Wars?

  18. Paul’s comments above about Rohr’s depersonalisation of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is evident in the description of the ‘Perennial Tradition’ which I found, and in Ian’s review. It seems to me that an essential part of a Christian understanding is that God is personal and relational. Any talk of “a Divine Reality” seems wholly inadequate. It is hardly different from “The Force” in Star Wars.

    A key part of Jesus’ teaching was that we are invited into relationship with the Father. Where is this in Rohr’s teaching? That being a Christian is a relationship with a personal God seems key to me. Anyone can be in a relationship, of any intellectual capacity or age. How can there be love outside of relationship?

    An important part of our relationship with the Divine is worship. This is, according to the Westminster Confession, our chief end. Worship implies a distinction between the worshipper and the worshipped. I cannot see how worship fits in Rohr’s framework.

    Person and relationship are also at the heart of the shortest of the Christian confessions: Jesus is Lord. I wonder how this fits in Rohr’s scheme of things.

  19. Just because Rohr has different understandings about things doesn’t mean to say he’s wrong. Why is it so often on this blog Ian Paul’s way or the highway?

    • If you can point to one example where I claim ‘it is Ian Paul’s way or the highway’ I’d be interested. I am here comparing Rohr not with my own views or my own tradition, but with the very broad consensus of the Church down the ages in what it says about the nature of God, and how we should make sense of the Scriptures.

      Why is that such a problematic question to ask?

      • As I’ve pointed out before its ironic that a protestant claims to be orthodox. And claiming that your views are inline with tradition whilst others aren’t is pretty arrogant too. I’m more of the view that everyone captures glimpses of truth and we can learn from all – rather than criticising if people don’t match up to our version of truth.

        Just because MLK had extramarital affairs it doesn’t then follow that he was wrong about everything else, for example.

        A recurring example of ‘your way or the highway’ would be your never-ending series of articles criticising LGBT people. Why don’t you cherry-pick some of Rohr’s teaching that you do like and write about that, and as I’ve said quite often, why don’t you write a positive article about LGBT folk?

  20. Hello All,
    I just finished reading Ian’s blog and all the comments and felt like a response from a person like me might be helpful. That’s because none of you have studied Rohr deeply… perhaps one or two books or just an article and one had listened to a podcast. I also listened to a podcast, perhaps the same one, about 3 years ago. I was captivated. Something went off in me, saying “this is good, this is for me.” It was kind of like Wesley’s “heart strangely warmed.” I began calling that heart feeling my “tuning fork” actually a physical sensation, hard to explain, but very real and now one of my ways of discerning truth. Having never heard of Richard Rohr before, I did a lot of research and prayer and decided to apply to the Living School, his 2 year program. I’ll graduate in August and it has been one of the best experiences of my life. I’ve fallen more in love with Jesus, and am better equipped and more motivated to “follow Him” than ever before.

    One of the reasons that I am a stronger Jesus Follower since the Living School is that I am engaging with both my head and my heart, that tuning fork I mentioned. In my Evangelical upbringing, I only learned facts and believed them in my head. There was no teaching about any other way of knowing, except that it was suspect and probably of the devil. Luther and Calvin both actually said, “No more mysticism” So for at least the last 500 years, my particular branch of the Church has had no teaching at all for the ways of the heart. So studying the mystics of all the centuries and the early church leaders and the Desert Fathers and Mothers and learning their contemplative practices… was new life to me. We were encouraged to adopt a daily practice of meditative prayer. Wow, Prayer really does change things, sometimes mainly the guy praying! That connection through the mystics and other marginalized authors and practices all the way back to the first centuries is the thread of Richard’s “Alternative Orthodoxy.” Some of it is so old, it seems new. And some rather new stuff from my upbringing would have sounded strange to the Church Fathers.

    I know this doesn’t address specific criticisms of Richard Rohr or doctrinal differences that some here are calling heresy. I just wanted to say that Richard has been a huge blessing in my life and the lives of my study partners. This post is just testimony but I’m willing to say what’s so for me about specific criticisms if you choose and ask for specifics.

    One final observation about the Church and Rohr and myself may be helpful. There are many, many folks who grew up Evangelical, who are going thru a Deconstruction – Reconstruction process. I have been going thru it for the last 10 years and am coming out more in love with both God and the Bible, albeit with a different understanding of both. For many people who are hurting and questioning and are somewhere on that deconstruction – reconstruction spectrum… Richard Rohr can make sense and be helpful on their journey. For those who are certain of their doctrines and have no doubts, Richard will probably not be helpful.

    • Thanks for this helpful comment. You say ‘In my Evangelical upbringing, I only learned facts and believed them in my head. There was no teaching about any other way of knowing, except that it was suspect and probably of the devil.’ In UK terms, that sounds more like fundamentalist than evangelical, and it is certainly not typical of evangelical churches in the UK, though that tendency is present in some.

      But it would be very hard to say of our evangelical forebears, like Wesley and Calvin. Yet they both believed doctrine mattered, and were orthodox in a way that Rohr is not.

      I suppose my question is, in the end: is the Jesus we meet in the New Testament enough? Rohr seems to think not…

  21. As an Eastern Orthodox Christian and a reader of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, I am tired of people like Rohr grabbing something from our theology and running wildly into heresy or error with it. There are a number of things that, at the surface, appear to have some truth in what he says. We do believe that God is in everything (panentheism) yet everything is not God (pantheism). The Psalmist wrote that even if he made his bed in hell, God would be there. Nothing is self-existent except God Himself, and therefore, in some sense, everything that exists that is not God has to exist because God Himself holds it together. There’s also our doctrine of theosis that some people like to hijack…

    I would love to see Rohr come to the Orthodox Church and be properly catechized. Our faith is deep and beautiful, and he wouldn’t have to fabricate a bunch of crap to be original.

  22. Thanks Ian. Your differentiation between fundamental and evangelical was new thinking to me… I had kind of lumped them together. I think you are right. My Evangelicalism had a strain of fundamentalism in it. I’ve been deconstructing it for a decade and currently I am enjoying integrating into the most evangelical church in our area. Although I have ideas that are different than their main stream, my ideas are respected there because they are all based on scripture. I also respect their ideas, which are also based on scripture. I read your “about” page and look forward to hearing more about Metaphor, perhaps you could recommend a book or maybe your dissertation is available? It seems to me that how much metaphor a person accepts is a major key to differences in positions.
    I’ll try to respond. You said…
    … to say of our evangelical forebears, like Wesley and Calvin. Yet they both believed doctrine mattered, and were orthodox in a way that Rohr is not.
    What Rohr points out is that he is orthodox in a way that Calvin and Wesley were not. He’s referring to the writings before 313 – 385 which are a strong part of our Living School foundation. Those along with the writings of the Desert Fathers and Mothers which were a rebellion against the Church hopping in bed with Empire and the various mystics down thru the ages point to an Orthodoxy that would be unknowable by Calvin etc. The church had been influenced by empire for too many centuries by Calvin’s time. Schisms left the Eastern and African parts of original orthodoxy behind. The way it was put in our schooling was that this Alternative Orthodoxy is like a Minority Opinion from our (US) Supreme Court….Not the main line, but never declared heresy. Francis of Assisi clarified the Christ in all of Creation with his ‘brother sun, sister moon” and valuing animals and all of creation etc. He was held even by the Catholic hierarchy at “the edge of the inside” (which is where he wanted to be, and where Jesus himself chose to stay. Definitely not in lockstep with the main line.
    You close with…. I suppose my question is, in the end: is the Jesus we meet in the New Testament enough? Rohr seems to think not…
    In a way, Richard agrees with you. That is a major point of his book. We’ve focused on Jesus the Man, and Jesus, God. We’ve built “personal relationship” with Jesus and shorted Christ. Christ, who was there from the beginning, thru whom all was created and all is held together. It’s all over the book of John and Paul’s two word key to everything, “In Christ” is used so much that it’s hard miss. That’s what Richard’s book is trying to bring back into balance. So at least my answer, after two years of Rohr’s teaching is, Yes, Jesus Christ is enough. Jesus by himself, without Christ and the full Trinity has been carrying a load he was never meant to carry most of these last two millennia.
    So I am full of hope. The Trinity is being brought back as a vital doctrine. Jesus and Christ are both essential. A person may start with a personal relationship with Jesus and expand to an understanding of Christ. Or our secularized friends who characterize themselves as “spiritual but not religious” may well find Christ in nature or art first and then find Jesus.
    Hopefully I’ve been helpful. Another resource for anyone open to understanding Rohr is a series of Podcast Interviews about this book. It’s on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts under the title “Another Name For Every Thing”

  23. Jesus himself came to us — at the direction of the Father — to show us a new way of ‘seeing God’…. he emphasized God’s mercy and his love for the humble, but he chastised Jewish religious leaders, those who thought they understood the heart of God above the poor, the lost, the spiritually wounded, the sinners and the sick… Jesus said even sinners would enter the kingdom of God before the proud and the learned….

    It’s interesting to me that Protestantism began as a search for a direct ‘personal truth’ about God and the Scriptures, and yet now that a new way of “seeing” and understanding is being offered to all Believers and the whole world (surely a movement of the Holy Spirit, who Jesus said would come to guide us) — and which is, incidentally, ‘inspired’ through the very means of ‘personal experience’ — is claimed as false and heretical, is really no surprise, for even Jesus was accused as a ‘false’ teacher.

    In John’s gospel, Jesus says, “‘I have come to judge the world… I have come to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.’ The Pharisees who were standing there heard him and asked, “Are you saying we are bind?” Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would have no sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”

    How can you not acknowledge the role of ‘personal experience’ when someone’s heart – and their mind – is radically changed? If Richard Rohr’s Spirit-inspired writings are bringing Jesus – even Jesus’ ‘universal’ attributes to the lost, the sick, the wounded, the poor and to sinners – i.e, to all of humanity – than who am I to stand in the way? And to take this a step further, am I not to forgive those who wish to condemn and block that seeing?

    The peace of Christ to you, Ian.

    • ‘How can you not acknowledge the role of ‘personal experience’ when someone’s heart – and their mind – is radically changed?’

      I am not denying the role of experience, as I say in the piece. But I am saying (with almost all Christians in all ages) that our experience alone is an unreliable guide; God has revealed himself to us in Jesus, and the apostolic witness of the Scriptures tells us that truth about that. If ‘experience’ reliably tells us the truth about God on its own, how come different people have different experiences? And how can we avoid a power play by one person claiming their ‘experience’ is true and others are false?

      ‘If Richard Rohr’s Spirit-inspired writings are bringing Jesus – even Jesus’ ‘universal’ attributes to the lost, the sick, the wounded, the poor and to sinners – i.e, to all of humanity – than who am I to stand in the way?’

      That’s a big ‘If’. Since Richard is fairly clearly misreading the Bible, I don’t think it is true that he is bringing the Jesus of the New Testament to us.

      • Dear Ian,
        PLEASE DO NOT PUBLISH THIS NOTE ON YOUR SITE….. It is a personal note re: my post of MAY 28, 2019….
        First and foremost, I sincerely apologize for using the Scripture verse to make my point regarding your learned profession and vocation. It was prideful and an underhanded way to make my point. I feel that God showed me this afterward, and convicted me. I prayed that I would never use my writing in such a way again toward Christians and others with whom I disagree.

        Though I have not read your books, I truly sense that what you are doing in defending the faith is your calling from God, and a noble one. Protecting the flock, especially those young in the faith, is so critical. Learning, and more importantly, knowing the Christ of the Bible, was the beginning of my maturity as a human being, and was probably my most important Christian phase. My need for Christ and my story of sin and failure led to a conversion experience that saved my life, for sure. HE LOVES US SO MUCH.

        I think as Christians we are all at different stages in our faith, given different gifts at different times to live out our faith, and to collaborate even with those whom are not Christians — God gives them ‘goodness’ and ‘desires to become and do good’ as well. The point is, we are all in process, and if we are listening carefully, reflecting and meditating daily on spiritual truths, embodying and growing in God’s love, we have an opportunity to mature to different levels in the faith, as I am sure you have done in your own spiritual journey.

        I wondered if you had a chance to read the companion book of essays that came with Richard Rohr’s book, titled “Oneing, An Alternative Orthodoxy.” I find these essays to be very helpful in discerning the age we live in, some solid ideas about the role of Christianity in what must be done to honor, restore and ensure perpetuity of the Good Earth that God created for us, and what we are doing to our planet, to the future of humanity (all God’s children), and to ourselves. It would be so interesting to me if you would read each short essay and comment on them in your blog. I found them to be highly evocative.

        Blessings and peace to you, brother.

  24. That you might know the limited extent of my credentials: I am a lifelong, eighty-seven year old lay practicing Catholic educated in Catholic schools for fourteen years before attending the United States Military Academy and graduating from there in 1955 with a BS Degree. Following my graduation, I married a lifelong practicing Catholic who was educated in Catholic schools for twelve years. We have been busy since living out our faith raising a family of ten children. Stimulated by changes resulting from the Second Vatican Council, I spent the last fifty-three years studying my faith as time permitted while living it as taught and understood.

    While some Catholic friends and relatives like RR, my exposure to him always leaves me with too many red flags as he ventures into uncharted waters of his own making and tries to justify his imaginations with cherry-picked quotes from reliable sources. His writings remind me of the Book of Mormon that was supposedly translated from some tablets that existed thousands of years before Christ and whose translator offered selected references to the King James version of the Bible to support its claims of authenticity.

    My self study of my Catholic faith and of what others believe and would have me believe has left me with no alternative but to stick with what the magisterium of the Catholic Church teaches as “truth” if no other reason than it is the “Body of Christ” understood as His bride with a traceable history to Jesus who established it under the authority of Peter and promised never to abandon it.

    Today we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus and very soon the Descent of the Holy Spirit on the one, holy, catholic (i.e. universal) and apostolic church. To know the Catholic Church is to know the suffering Christ.

    • Thanks for this. I would certainly agree with you on the importance of the church as one, holy, catholic and apostolic, and that RR’s teaching hardly fits with this.

      • I am also interested in points of disagreement with explanation as to why people believe what they believe. It is hard to find people willing to have a rational conversation on matters of faith and remain friends. One of my favorite authors, G. K. Chesterton, managed to do so and I have found him to be a model for healthy exchange of perspectives because his thoughts make me think. My journey has been a passage through the stages of the “what”, the “why” and the “how” of religious conviction. I find few men these days willing to address the “why” of their “what” lest it disturb their “how”.

  25. Good to see the reviews of RRs new book and ideas expressed respectfully, I will endeavour to be similarly objective but also candid. Now a 58 year old having ‘become’ a Christian at 14 as part of the house church movement in the 70s and thoroughly trained in the evangelical tradition at university, UCCF and mission initiatives (I thank god for all those good people in my life); I now find myself a supporter of RR and like minded writers Bell, Chalke, McLaren et al. Believing in a gospel of grace that for me hasn’t been one – predicated on the power of personal repentance and believing for salvation has been a recipe for debilitating self doubt over the years and a distraction from the real business of a life affirming faith and being a Christian on a day to day basis. The church is a powerful work of God and I am a big supporter and whenever it engages practically instead of distracting itself with much theological debate which I feel quite sure if Jesus were about today he would dismiss as pharisaical nonsense. I believe salvation to life is a sovereign work of God and a position of enlightenment from the Holy spirit, the opposite of the legalistic tradition of penal substitution and atonement which I have personally found to nothing short of sinister and controlling. RR may be accused of thin repetition – as if one could preach on the subject of love every Sunday and ever get to the end of it! It has been rightly said (see comedian Deborah Francis White ‘ Saving brother Ryan’ R4)….if you want to jail people you need a gun but if you want people to jail themselves you need to use words. There is only one truth, it cant be faked, we all know what it is, to be walked in daily to find God in everything – a beautiful, powerful and tangible reality.

    • Julian, thank you for sharing your experience in such a helpful way. Are you able to offer any reflection on the kinds of issues that I raise, in terms of the tension between some of the things RR says about what the gospel means, and your previous experience?

      I would certainly agree with you that the way that sin and repentance is talked about in some evangelical circles could lead to ‘debilitating self doubt’; what I find interesting is that Jesus in the gospels manages to talk about sin, repentance and forgiveness in a different way—and yet still does talk about it in a way that RR appears to dispense with.

  26. Paul thank you indeed for answering my post. You must have broad shoulders to stick with this debate and always some courage required when airing personal views in public sometimes only to be verbally abused…..I see no point in that since though I also feel things strongly being ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ doesn’t seem to be appropriate when the God we all believe in (if he is God at all) is a loving and patient one and able to deal with all our quirks and foibles.

    Indeed perhaps that is the point, I have always felt there is too much emphasis on what WE must do to assuage gods anger against us in the evangelical tradition (i.e. the holy spirits main job is to convict us of sin, to realise our awfulness before we can then properly(?!) repent of all our past present and future sins and that’s it, now we’re born again only to find on going hatred in our souls mostly for ourselves for being so useless and not gathering on a daily basis that there is no good in us – I here the song now, and be expected to receive this gracious loving good news and pass it on to others – sadly I think not) which is ironic considering its a work of grace from the holy spirit and we should love ourselves and find god in ourselves daily.

    Again, penal substitution seems to me a busted flush. Its in the word god requires punishment. Nietzsche said beware anyone in whom the wish to punish is strong (paraphrase). But even as humans we understand that justice is required but restorative at all times. Punishment always means retributive and its not the truth. If I should ever lose someone close to me through someone else’s deliberate, negligent or weak act (God forbid!) there will be no victory (perhaps short term ‘satisfaction’) in retribution but only in my loving memory of that one and the hope of restoration in the ‘guilty’ party. I’m sure you have heard those folks in the news that have experienced just this and set their hearts to forgive – its a powerful wonder and beauty, full of victory. Also think Les Miserable.

    The victory of Christ’s message is always restoration, willingly entered into by both parties. The father child metaphor is always the truth – we don’t demand their love but seek for them to express it from within; not dull obedience but the discovery of love in all its souring and boundless potential.

    Jesus words give many examples of this simple profound and restorative truth:
    The Prodigal son. The words of the Lords prayer – forgive us AS we forgive others. The good Samaritan. So many more but I cant think right now…..

    Interesting the good Samaritan – Jesus challenged us to think who the ‘christian’ was – and it wasn’t someone who’d got his doctrine right but the act of love. I think you have said what RR preaches is ‘nice’ (…probably not the word you used but perhaps intimated…) but not necessarily Christian. I would beg to differ and suspect we will be surprised when we get to heaven just who is there!

    I think this is more the angle RR is coming from – no he isn’t a dot and comma man but should we be? The truth is so simple and needs to be. My mother and father in law; brilliant Christians and many times in ministry including missionaries but not very theologically astute – they don’t need to be, their powerful faith and enduring faith oozes from them and to others.

    Another point, traditional evangelicalism appears to be a witch hunt, demonising and creating self doubt wherever it goes because self believe (actually required to love ourselves) would be rebellious hubris. Demonising often appears to be the raison d’etre of some elements of the church and it creates something very ugly – I know i’ve been it. Its a little like the chicken and the egg, which came first? Our wrong doing is a true expression of our inner evil or more the expression of inner tragedy and poverty that Christ came to save us from? Just think how many evil people have you actually come across but I would imagine you can report many good ones – Christian and ‘non-Christian’ alike.

    Apologies the disconnected thoughts though hopefully some coherence…..kind of I think that’s the point of RRs message – surely the truth is staring right at us and if we chose it we will be rewarded with life in abundance; not because we gathered every theological point correctly together but that we heard the good news of Christ and it transformed our hearts and our minds – I think Paul said it the other way round but it matters not its the same thing. PTL

  27. Dear Ian – so sorry to have called you Paul, of course your surname, in my previous reply.
    I feel sure you must be busy with many things to continue endlessly with replies on the debate about Richard Rohr and his book. However, I guess finding ‘truth’ as Christians is what we’re about and I remain interested in what you have to say. I have re-read your piece on this site and want to understand more about as you say ‘the tension’ and apparent conflict between the views held by RR and a more orthodox view point. Rather than I add more comment and assert my opinion, can I ask how you feel ‘Jesus in the gospels manages to talk about sin, repentance and forgiveness in a different way’ that is both true to the scriptures and is also a positive gospel that is truly life affirming? A big question I know but reconciling the value of both the liberal and more conservative Christian traditions seems to be at the heart of this debate…..

  28. For what it’s worth I am a 50 year old recovered alcoholic/addict …a sinner who has been to prison..who has hurt others and who had rejected God yet I was saved through Christ 6 months ago…

    I have been clean and sober for 8 years through the 12 steps and I used to see God as a set of instructions:
    …Good Orderly Direction …I was well behaved but miserable..I had an empty heart…I was bereft of joy and love

    Then I met God in person when I met a beautiful christ like man and other members of the Living Fire, a House Church I now call home and there I was able to see God for what I now know he really is a kind, loving forgiving Father who welcomed me home and did not judge me for the things I did whilst I was lost…

    My Father however has since given me the freewill and freedom to choose to make right the wrongs that I did and by following Christ …and living like Jesus…I am now able to try and do that ….

    I struggle to put into words how grateful I am but
    I am so…so grateful to God the Father…and to Jesus for his sacrifice….the love of God and his saving grace for me ….is the gift he gave me to pass on to others and that is what I believe Fr Rohr is doing through this book…he is sharing the love God has given to him and the love he has for God with his readers…

    He is not sharing right or wrong he is sharing God”s unending love for his children …and that does not need to be contained or constrained by theological argument ..

    God is love and the love of God transcends everything…

    Peace and blessings to you all

  29. Phil. You say ‘for what its worth’ – your comment is much appreciated. Your appreciation of Richard Rohr’s book and why, helpful. I wont repeat what you have said well and found from personal experience to be true, I agree. I have found that when my understanding of Jesus/God is based on some kind of ‘doctrinally’ correct transaction rather than love then it fails me and I am overcome with doubt. God is love and came specifically to give us life and not condemn us. Its all God and his faithfulness. My faith to believe or do it all ‘correctly’ stands for nothing. Grace to all

  30. He’s a fraud and a liar, it’s that simple. He brought a once blank shell called the Ennegramn to the church and lied about it having ancient origins and Christian roots. It has neither! They, then got some New Agers to add a bunch of mumbo jumbo like always, suggesting Jesus is the center of this thing and a new age psychologist to add in fake personality types. It’s literally made up as they went. Want proof? Look up Christian Answers for the New Age who probably has 10 factual documents that show the true origins.

    Rohr is also going against Catholicism by preaching things contradictory to their doctrine, not that I really care about Catholicism.

    He preaches a universal Christ much like I ignorantly supported in the new age before I was born again. It’s all an Agenda pushing for the one world religion which the bible predicted.

    He’s a false prophet and a liar! Also, anyone Oprah endorses is textbook antichrist.

  31. Despite having spent 15 years of my education in schools run by various christian orders, I am by no means qualified to debate anything dealing with scripture or biblical references. However I can say Rohr’s appeal (to me at least) is it provides an alternative to exclusive and judgemental nature of much of what is found in today’s religions. The concept that Jesus was an advocate of universal acceptance in the immersion of God’s love seems entirely lost in the religious offerings of today. Instead of unconditional love religion has manifest as an ever-increasing and narrowing set of rules and requirements derived by man to justify the structures they create and to determine those who are ‘good’ vs. those who are not. Even the comments listed here (“anyone Oprah endorses is textbook antichrist.” – is this really a christian perspective?) are perfect examples of why good-hearted people are turning away from religious institutions and individuals who reflect these same small, seemingly unchristian view of the world. I have no idea if Rohr’s citings, interpretations or even spellings from biblical reference are ‘correct’ in the eyes of the ‘experts’, nor do I really care. His message is broad and inclusive, much as I assume Jesus would advocate. He may not be ‘right’, but the vision he offers, even if only directionally correct, is more inspiring and love-based than that put forth by those who seem to fear a less controlled, more inclusive path to spirituality and salvation.

    • Thanks for the comment, but I think you have hit the nail on the head there: ‘His message is broad and inclusive, much as I assume Jesus would advocate.’

      Assuming that Jesus would advocate what you advocate means you are not listening to Jesus; you are listening to yourself. If you read the gospels, you will quickly find he is nothing like the ‘Jesus’ of Rohr’s writings, and that is the whole issue.

  32. People would benefit far more it they read the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” to discover what Church doctrine is in regard to Sacred Scripture rather than what speculative and imaginative theologians have to say about Christ and His Church. It is the doctrine that Catholics (both clergy and laity) have an obligation and right to to know so that they can live, announce, and defend it as necessary in accord with their capabilities and circumstances so as to fulfill their role in the apostolate. (Canon 229-1).

  33. Pastor Paul: I have been looking for even-handed and careful reviews of Rohr’s Universal Christ when I came upon yours. I have seen your reviews of his other books and wondered if you had a truly open mind to Rohr’s willingness to think and teach outside the box. You disqualified yourself almost immediately in your second paragraph: I quote: ” Rohr starts by recounting at length an experience from a friend when travelling on the London Underground.” You should have done your homework! Rohr did not recount “an experience from a friend” but quoted a passage from Caryll Houselander’s autobiography, A Rocking-Horse Catholic. Houselander was an Englishlay Roman Catholic poet and mystic who lived from 1901 to 1954. Rohr was only 11 and living in Kansas when Houselander died. If you can’t get your initial basic facts right, how can I have any faith that you’re an accurate reader and reviewer?????

    • Why should you have any faith in my comments? Here’s some reasons:

      a. because I engage with critique. Thanks for the note; I have removed the word ‘friend’ and replaced with ‘someone’

      b. because on the matters of substance, what I say is accurate (he does prioritise experience).

      c. I don’t write the comments of critics off on the basis of trivial detail, like not being able to include a space between ‘English’ and ‘lay’

      d. because my observations about Rohr’s use of the Bible are accurate.

      Given that, where do you think my substantial critique is in error?

  34. Rohr begins his book insinuating people who aren’t as “open-minded” as he is are dualistic. Doesn’t that make him dualistic? And his over-the-top criticism of President Trump and conservatives throughout the book turned me off. Rohr seems to be a nice man and his book was interesting. But your review is dead on. He promotes a Diet Pepsi version of Christianity.


Leave a comment