Contemplative challenge to dualistic outlook, R. Rohr

This hour long talk by Richard Rohr titled “The Christian Meaning of Enlightenment” touched on many different themes, surrounding, but not limited to the thread title. He addresses overarching subjects that are dear to so many here, and (I think) gives good challenge to western Christians about philosophies that we’ve imbibed that are greatly coloring our approach to the gospel, not to mention life and people around us!

There is much good here to contemplate, and I would include some teaser quotes, but the speech is too rich with those to pick and choose. I’m eager to share here with any reactions, whether affirming or critical or both.

1 Like

I actually only was able to make it to the 34 minute mark so far which is roughly just into when he begin to talk specifically about dualism though the there interweaves itself from the beginning. I like portions of it for sure. Overall so far though I guess I disagree with it to many times to feel like I’m actually gaining anything significant from it. I would never recommend it to anyone as of now to better understand faith or God really.

There is a lot to unpack that he says. Often just a single sentence is a jab at things I think are way more serious than the way he treats it.

Such as I don’t think Jesus’s words against the Pharisees was even remotely an attack against organized religion. Christianity is a organized religion. Jesus spoke about do’s and don’ts and so did the apostles. They did lay out requirements to be an elder, how to worship, fruit of the spirit vs flesh and so on. We are even told to pay attention to the traditions given to us.

So likewise I don’t think following that doctrine for what it says is the same thing as a carrot being dangling out in front of us. When I read scripture in don’t seem evidence for universalism. I don’t see evidence that we have no free will. If we have free will, and the wages of sin is death, and we have doctrine and righteousness taught to us by Jesus and the gospel then it makes sense that we do play a role in it. God says he gives his grace and mercy to when he chooses and he does not choose anyone and if he’s fair then that means he created a series of instructions on how to pursue him, which seems to be exactly what the scriptures are.

I do believe there is a difference between a cosmic Christ and a word becoming flesh.

He speaks often of recognizing someone as light being filled with enlightenment as evidence of salvation and I don’t believe to. There are people of many faiths and lifestyles have find peace and enlightenment but does not mean they are disciples of Jesus Christ. It’s more than who has the right finger, and is centered on who is abiding in the words and teachings and love of Christ. Participating in creation does not mean drawing closer to God because someone worshipped nature and rejected God. A adversarial mind does not mean someone misses the hope and peace of Christ but can mean it’s someone, just like jesus calling someone a brood of vipers, is standing for the faith and what’s there.

But I do agree that nature can help people better understand God and that God was not just waiting for Catholics, Jews, or Protestants. That god did reach out to mankind all the way back to the story of Adam. Before the law, sin existed, but we were not held accountable to it. That before the law, and even now, we can glean aspects of the creator through his creation. I liked how he subtly mentioned in genesis the God was already above the chaos and created something habitable. I do agree that not everything is essential.

Though not a big deal, I always notice when someone refers to satan as lucifer because lucifer was simply a kjv mistranslation of Venus the morning star.

Translation is an art.

It definitely is. I’ve read the same books translated by different people and some definitely do a way better job and make it flow better.

With those verses I guess the reason why it stands out to me is because I don’t believe it’s about satan at all. It’s comparing a man to venus metaphorically and not about an angel at all.

Yeah! I recently heard that too from a Bible Project guys video recently posted here.

Thanks for giving it a listen then! It can be a challenge to persist all the way through something when it has little to no traction with you. While I still feel the temptation to address points you bring up … it would fly in the face of so much of what he says: people having food fights over who’s right and who’s wrong. Some of us are fairly invested in those “food fights”. I find I’m becoming less so as I get older - though due to good influences I hope, and not simply due to passage of my time here.

I will say this, though - I don’t think Christianity as an organized religion gets off the hook of criticisms such as what Rohr notes. You and I may be willing (rightly or wrongly) to cut it some slack, but the rest of society certainly is not; and theirs is the world we’re living in.

1 Like

Neither monism nor dualism is the Christian understanding of God. As long as we keep going around this circle between the East and the West we will get nowhere.

God is not only One, God is also Many. God is Three and One, the One and the Many. Please wake up and smell the coffee…

I like the bible project but don’t remember that specific one. It was a video posted here? I watched some of it but I’m not big into videos as much as podcasts because I like to move around. Hiking ,biking, and so on. I’ll eventually listen though it.

If you ever want to share what you disagree with I’ll definitely read it. Counter arguments either forces someone to reconstruct and alter their belief or gives them the opportunity to further strengthen it.

I think he has a overall nice paradigm but it just seems a bit off to me and I can’t quite make it fit. But I will watch all of it eventually.

Well … see that’s just it! We westerners all just want to become more and more correct (truth and education … it’s in our bones by now!) And reasoned exchanges and arguments are great towards strengthening our grasp of reality (we hope) - and especially great towards making ourselves more convincing as we become better at winning arguments. But eventually (to borrow Roger’s phrase) we wake up and smell the coffee that even if I was the rightest and smartest argument winner in the world (and maybe actually even right about it all), - even then it would all be for naught if Love isn’t governing it all in my heart.

I think one of Rohr’s many astute points made here is that, as necessary as the Protestant Reformation was, one of the unfortunate things it did not reform (and in fact made even worse) is that it quickly devolved into “food fights” about now needing to prove that your denomination was right about stuff and everybody else’s … not so much. It became about knowing and believing all the right stuff - which of course can find lots of selective verses in support of such arguments (we’re quite good at that in fact! - we’ve been majoring in it for several centuries now.) But we entirely miss the point of the gospels in doing so. I suggest that Rohr is spot on in this critique. It is in this way that modern Christianities are so much like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day.

I can tell you what (among other things) a whole lot of people have found “off” about Rohr: he is waaaay too ecumenical for their tastes … and beyond even just giving credit where it’s due to various Christian denominations; he even has the audacity to speak approvingly of entirely other religions (and does so in this very speech). Of course it is that very provincialism that Rohr has fixed his critical sites on, and so it is no surprise that he will inspire ire.

I definitely think there needs to be a balanced between being right and being righteous and knowledge with love. Since I do believe that there is a hell and the lost are destroyed there for lack of knowledge it’s important to learn it. You can love and appreciate someone who is following after a pagan god and learn lessons from their faith and so on but it still means they run the risk of being condemned.

At the same time as Paul says in 1 corinthians 13 we can have all knowledge and power and if we don’t have love it’s useless. Faith without deeds are dead and those deeds are fruits of the spirit driven by love for your neighbor and God. God does not like a hard heart. But I believe it’s also foolish to believe all paths lead to God. The gate may not be so narrow that only one belief can fit past it but it’s definitely not a open field.

For many things I discuss it to get how it relates to someone and that it’s something organic that can evolve and be reshaped repeatedly to be understood in a indefinite amount of ways. But when it comes to doctrine and righteousness, my standard is scripture and that means anything I believe I want to find out how to make it flow systematically. One wrench means something is off. I don’t expect to learn everything but I do expect to learn something and if I can expect to learn something then I must assume I learn the right thing occasionally.

For me I don’t place any emphasis on something being Protestant, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and so on. I don’t even use the terms Catholic or Protestant to define me. I don’t believe in any scriptural support for a pope and I think all canonization as an closed case of accepted books is false. The Protestant bible to me is just as incomplete as the catholic bible.

For me it’s not the ecumenical view in itself that I have a issue with as much as he gives me the impression that he could conclude that universalism is true and all paths lead to god and feelings trump lines drawn in the sand. But just because we can’t be perfect or know everything or even know something with absolute certainty I believe that we can still draw reasonable and unreasonable conclusions and use that to interpret scripture.

But maybe after finishing all of it and watching some of the other videos I may better understand his positions.

I don’t want to come across too strongly with my enthusiasm insofar as conversation partners here might feel they’re stepping on my toes if they take issue … though I suppose I’ve already tipped my hand in that regard since I’m obviously enthusiastic about so much of what Rohr says. But even so, please don’t think I’ll be offended if you don’t “come around” to the way Rohr thinks. I enjoy hearing your thoughts just as they are and may well remain. Fellowship continues!

If notions of universalism trip your trigger, then you are right to be concerned about Rohr - because I’m thinking (in some ways) that he leans in those sorts of directions.

1 Like

If I shackled my beliefs to what others in my “circles” believed generally then I would still be a literal creationist who believed in eternal torment and the sinners prayer lol.

I don’t get offended by different beliefs or feel peer pressure to alter them for others and I always hope others feel the same.

I have thick skin too and so very little actually offends me. But what I try to do is voice my thoughts a few times from various angles and engage in discussing a topic and once it seems like
It’s clear where everyone stands I tend to back and try to focus on what I agree with for most parts and just dashes if disagreements if they exist. It’s in my nature to always be honest about my thoughts.

1 Like

I have started this but it is taking time because I have to keep stopping it so I can look up passages myself and read the context. Definitely a sign that this is a talk very rich in inspiration. I am definitely learning a great deal as I go through it.

Ok… finished.

So the first portion where Rohr seeks to reintroduce to the Christian the place of the word “enlightenment” in scripture with passages from the Bible was fascinating!

But as with all things I read and listen to, I do it with a critical mind – and that will never change. So for example when he speaks of “quantum physics” what can I say? That light is the one constant has very little to do with quantum physics. That is relativity and cosmology. And Rohr’s claim that science proves that everything is light? WRONG! This isn’t even remotely true. Science shows that everything is energy and light is ONE form of energy. Ok… so this is not great science. He is not a scientists so what is the point? The point is really that I am looking at everything Rohr says critically.

From the beginning of the talk I was waiting for the question of dualism to be addressed. It never happens. Rohr seems to have a very different definition of this word. And it pretty much comes down to this…

splitting what I already agree with from what I don’t understand and I call all of that wrong.

Ok… The complaint against this seems quite reasonable to me, but Rohr seems to equate this with all analytical thinking and any effort to employ discernment and make distinctions. But it isn’t the same. In truth the majority of academia uses discernment and distinctions without judgement. And whenever people start assigning absolute truth values to things they begin to frown because they mostly don’t see how you can makes such determinations objectively.

So the irony here is, much of what Rohr says after this point which is around minute 34 is what I don’t understand, and it is for completely my own reasons that I do not call this wrong. Perhaps the truth is that I don’t understand 50% and if I really didn’t understand any of it then maybe I would call it wrong.

I would compare a lot of this latter portion of his talk with a painting – not a photograph, but a paining. The point is that this is not about perfect objective accuracy but that this is more a way of looking at things and thus not something I will swallow without a number of grains of salt. I certainly like Rohr’s mention of poetry and how we all know from the beginning that we only half understand it. And from this way of looking at things I can even credit the idea of the big bang as an incarnation but with my analytical mind I would say that this is true in the sense that a painting is an incarnation of the artist who painted it. Which is not to say that God’s creation is like painting, because it is not. Paintings are things and God’s creation is full of life. So there is a fundamental difference in this. It is as much an act of parenthood as it is an act of artistry. See… there goes my analytical mind again – and it will never stop! LOL

I was also interested in this definition of “mystic” as experiential religion. But then I would like to point out that there are huge fundamental differences in the way that people experience things. And this gave me a bit of a “light bulb” moment with Rohr’s idea of an enlightened person which he called “generative” and sounded a lot like my own description of people who create heaven around them. It made me realize that people probably are not so black and white and that people who “create heaven around them” probably only do this well in particular circumstances where they are good at doing so. And maybe most or all of us have a light to shine in particular areas even if we have nothing but darkness in other areas of our life. Hmmm…

1 Like

yeah - I totally agree. I’m no expert in quantum physics, but even I could hear that science is not Rohr’s strong point - or at least not beyond a lay appreciation for science; he does have that.

I’ll have to give more thought to what you write about analytical thinking. It seems to me as if Rohr is almost trying (succeeding?) in stepping outside of even that in order to assign it a distinct place of its own, while denying it the privileged place (queen of everything perhaps) that he suggests the west has enthroned.

What you say makes sense - that distinctions need not always be judgments.

I’m glad you aren’t shackled. Being able to glean gems from more than just "approved’ sources is an undervalued skill now.

To add just a bit more … there was a cartoon somewhere in the humor section that I liked and have already re-posted in other threads, I think, so I’ll just describe it here … underneath a picture of what looks to be a ‘catechism class’ where the teacher is pointing at some ‘twig end’ or ‘tendril’ of a bushy, complicated-looking family tree. Caption: “And here’s where our movement came along and finally got the Bible right!” (followed by a parting shot delivered by one of the participants: “Jesus is so lucky to have us!”)

The above humor is what Rohr playfully refers to as our post-reformation “food fights”, and it is the kind of provincialism that he calls his audiences to emerge from, and presumably has emerged from himself at least in some way as a contemplative.

For my own part, here is my continued thought along those same lines (perhaps - ‘pushback’ on Rohr if you will). In defense of ‘provincialism’, where else could a person possibly stand? What else could we be but provincial in the extreme? We have only one possible perspective of the world after all - our own one-and-only out of billions. It seems to me that in fact the incarnation implies an embedded endorsement of provincialism, a sacredness of present locality. God meets each of us where we’re at - both individually and denominationally. I don’t think Rohr would disagree with this, actually. And I’m not suggesting that therefore all denominations/religions are equal or provide equally valuable offerings on training ourselves for obedience or embracing the joy of life. Some may have quite the baggage or quite a cast of members who even manufacture more stumbling blocks or falsehoods than they do help for needy people. [No denomination, tribe, or person will be entirely free of such baggage.] Lord (Christ) knows that He didn’t think much of how the Pharisees were living / practicing their religion at the time. So there need not be any wishy-washy “let’s find something nice to say about everybody, everything” kind of liberalism here. To use a Lewis metaphor - we will naturally find a preferred room in the house in which to enjoy fellowship; whether it be by the fireside, or in the dining room or even the kitchen. But to pretend that one must always stay in the hallways so as not to ever favor a room - that is not a natural habitat for the house dweller. So in that sense, our provincialism is a necessity and a blessing. I guess that in the sense Rohr is criticizing it, though, is when we begin to think that our particular room is the only one in the house.

1 Like

All I can really say is that I think I can find beauty , and revelation about this or that in almost every faith and find a way to use it to generate a fable that expresses beliefs I find in the Bible. When it comes to doctrine or acts of righteousness I believe that scripture draws the line in the sand and that some lines may be very very straight and some may be wavy and some may be faded and no one is really sure where the actual line is. Or to use the house metaphor I agree there is a house with different rooms, but they are all in the house. Plenty will still be in the wrong house, or out In the yard, or even in the wrong neighborhood. I also believe that believers don’t necessarily go with what makes them comfortable. I definitely did not. When I read about how christianity started out of Judaism I see that it was not comfortable for them either. Some of it was so far from their paradigm that they did not even understand the message Jesus was giving.

Some people come from paradigms that simply seems to be completely outside of scripture regardless of how much biblical language and metaphors they use. Does not mean I think they evil like Hitler, but it does mean I think they are just dangerously off target as Gandhi.

A metaphor that comes to my mind I heard once that I really enjoyed.

There once was a really sweet old lady who loved the kids of her village. They were a poor village and to help the kids feel a bit more satisfied with life she loved to collect berries for them from her wandering and giving them to the kids. So she found a bunch of yew berries and tasted them and thought these taste really sweet and brought them back and gave them to the kids who are the whole thing.

So the lady has the best intentions and is coming from a place of love and she’s even half correct. But the part she got wrong was all it took to kill the kids.

Your metaphor illustrates the importance of truth, to be sure. It also provokes an important distinction that I think we can make regarding our relationship to God. While the sweet old lady’s genuine love ended up causing unintended harm, I don’t think we need fear the same “misfired” love on God’s part. What I believe will never be heard, even on judgment day is this: “Child, you really do love me - and I love you; your heart sure was in the right place, all given to me in fact! But you believed something that was wrong, and because what you believed was not the truth, I’m afraid you have no place here with me.” No - I believe that God will have a prevailing love in the end that will see to it his children get bread without worry of stones or even poisonous berries as it were. […or such untruth as they were innocently led to believe will, in the end, not harm their relationship with God; perhaps we could say, ‘they may swallow a truth-equivalent of poison, and it will not hurt them … they may be surrounded by snakes, and not fear harm.’ To the pure in heart, all things are pure, and to the defiled, all things (even factually true things) become defiled.]

It’s interesting that Ghandi had the same criticism of the ostensibly “Christian” west … and by what standard did he judge we were falling short? His knowledge of Christ.

I freely press Lewis’s metaphor beyond its original limits to think that God’s love is big enough, not just for all the rooms of a house, but for the entire neighborhood. Dare we say … even a Kingdom. One big enough that it includes Samaritans, Roman soldiers, tax collectors, pagans of all kinds - and yes … even room for Pharisees, even if they are among the last to enter. And just to be clear with my comparison here, I see “Pharisee” as a direct stand-in for “modern Christian” and “pagan” as a stand in for all the disenfranchised groups today.

1 Like

I definitely see scripture talking about this subject.

2 Thessalonians 2:10 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.

2 Peter 3:16 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.

Matthew 7:21-23 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

Matthew 28 even has Jesus mentioning the great commission. To make disciples by baptizing them and teaching them.

That’s one of the main reasons we have scripture.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

As for Gandhi it’s not about eastern or western thought. It’s not about American philosophy vs Indian philosophy.

What it is though is a challenge to those who preach a message contrary to the gospel regardless of their intentions.

But yes anyone can come to Christ. But there is not a Eastern Jesus and a western Jesus. A white capitalist Jesus and a white socialist Jesus. There is not a Jesus tailored for pagans and a Jesus tailored for jews.

Same for the gospel. The gospel is the same. It’s story was the same 2,000 years ago and will be the same in 20,000 years. We may have new ways to apply it, but we won’t have reason to change it.

One of the downfalls to allegories is that they can be changed and changed.

Jesus uses some good ones.

There are seeds and 4 types of soil.
There is a narrow gate and a wide gate.
There is eternal life and destruction.
There is truth and their is deceit.

So the bible itself makes it clean not everyone will make it. Regardless of when or where they were born or their backstory. Some won’t make it. Those that don’t make it miss out for two reasons.

There life ( fruit of spirit vs flesh )
There doctrine.

The emotional connection they feel to this or that seems to be rather irrelevant in the grand scheme.

1 Timothy 4:16 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

16 Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.

Wow. Thank you for that, Merv. Of course one doesn’t need a bible in ones hand to get it, but what a fine way to get it Christianity can be. One of the best things I’ve heard in a long time. I was provoked to take notes, something I almost never do.

Edited to add that I was inspired to share this video at an agnostic forums I post at in the Natural Religion group to which I belong, along with this introduction:

The reason I do not disparage religion is that it can serve as a vehicle to appreciate some subtle and important things about this life we live. No, one does not need a Bible to gain these insights which is good because I know very little of that book. And if one percent of one percent of the Christians you encounter ever displays even some of the qualities eluded to by Richard Rohr in this video you should probably count yourself as lucky. This guy gets it. If being an atheist only means not subscribing to the many absurd beliefs some Christians hold, that isn’t much. That isn’t anything to hold up as a significant accomplishment. If you can’t understand what is true in what this rare Chrisitian is saying, then you are missing out. I’d like to think atheists can embrace the kind of enlightenment he speaks of but if my godlessness wasn’t getting it done for me I think I’d want to give some more thought to what it is which has given rise to God beleif. Maybe there is a baby to be rescued from the bathwater.

*Please note the part I bolded is not intended to apply to those who accommodate obvious facts of science as easily as most everyone here. But you’ve got to toss out a little red meat if you hope for any nonbelievers to watch an hour long video of a Christian speaking.

1 Like

I’m glad to hear that you too appreciate the connections he makes. And after a second listen-through of my own, I would now fine-tune my recommendation to advise that I think he really starts warming up into his best theological exhortations after about 14 minutes in building all the way to the end … not that there isn’t good stuff before that, but I think his enthusiasm about science and any convenient alignments between QM and light etc. are not where Rohr really shines. He shines when he speaks from his own experiences as a Franciscan and a priest.

And I always feel like I’m learning good history whenever I listen to him.

1 Like

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

This is a place for gracious dialogue about science and faith. Please read our FAQ/Guidelines before posting.