Beauty, Mercy and Total Embrace

rohr_lg.jpg“Perhaps my single greatest disappointment in most of the world’s religions is that they succeeded, against all odds, in making most people afriad of God! Do you realize how absurd and horrible that is? It pretty much makes it an unsafe and scary universe at the core, where no one is at home and everyone is paranoid. It makes the mystical adventure impossible. It turnes religion into a self-serving brokerage business, always picking up the pieces after a kind of “taught and learned helplessness.” The result has been massive neuroses, nonstop aggression and a phenomenon unique to the West: atheism.

Anyone who has any authentic inner experience knows that God is only beauty, mercy and total embrace, and nothing but beauty, mercy and total embrace. The Trinitarian nature of God makes that theologically certain. The only people who don’t know that are those who have never sought God’s face. In my experience there is an almost complete correlation between the degree of emphasis one puts on obligations, moralities, ritual performance and one’s lack of any real inner experience. Once you know for yourself, you will be plenty “moral,” in fact, even more so, but it all proceeds from a free reponse, from the Trinitarian flow passing through you. It is a response, not a requirement, an effect of having known love, not a precondition for getting love. God is always the initiator, always good, always available, and the flow is always free. Yes, sin is real and common, but it merely means to stop, resist or deny this onmipresent flow of God’s love.”

Richard Rohr from his book “Wild Man to Wise Man”


16 thoughts on “Beauty, Mercy and Total Embrace

  1. I agree about the label, I think it is pretty much right on. One thing about the Bible though is that it isn’t a book, it is a collection of poetry, letters to the church, stories, etc. (or as my hermeneutics professor calls the Bible “Stories, Poems, and other Peoples’ Mail”). And each of these different types of writings are meant to be read differently, and the books in the OT are to be read differently than the books in the NT and so on and so on. The Bible is so complex it is hard to put a label like that on it.

    Now, I do understand that most of the western church sees the Bible as one book, with one author (the big man upstairs), and it should all be taken literally and they are wrong (at least I think so). I also understand the Bible is full of rated-R content and when giving the Bible to someone for the first time (whether child or adult) they should be able to understand what has been placed in their hands and the purpose behind Christians reading the Bible (which is hopefully not as ‘God’s Instruction Book’ but instead as a sacrament meant to draw man closer to God).

    Okay, I’m stopping, this is now longer than my original post by at least double.

    Have a great day.

  2. Boy, God sure has changed since we used to hang out in the Old Testiment.

    I struggle with this idea constantly…has God changed? Has our perception of God changed? Should Gods rules change with society, or should they be more concrete?

    Right now, I am of the opinion that we all worship the same God, and when the message was spread to us, it had to be brought in a way that different cultures could accept. Imagine Jesus coming and saying…ok…lets start with the sun, WE revolve around IT. The greater message he had would have been lost because he would have been stoned to death.

    It seems there are many paths to God, the refusal to accept that seems to have started many wars. Of course…I could be wrong, and since there is only one way to test this theory…well, lets just say I can wait to find out the answer.

  3. Hey Keith,
    I just wanted to ask some questions and make some comments.

    1) When you say we all worship the same God what do you mean by we and the same God?

    2) In John 3 19 man was given light but liked darkness because of his evil ways. So, it not that people havn’t been given enough light they liked the darkness rather than light. Imagine, Jesus message being so bad that they not only flogged the guy they hung him on a cross.

    3) As far as the many paths to God thing goes. Well, here goes.
    From one man God made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live, God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us,” Acts 17:27

    Men and women are not sentenced to hell based upon whether or not they have heard of Jesus Christ. Rather, they are justly and fittingly condemned based upon the fact that they are sinners. They are sinners who have failed to act responsibly on what God has already revealed to them whether through the light of creation (Rom. 1), through the light of conscience (Rom. 2), or through the light of Christ (Rom. 3). If people respond to whatever light they do have, then God will send them the light of the gospel. Because no one has been kept in the dark about God’s existence, we’re all accountable directly to Him (Luke 12:47-48).

    The Bible tells that Christ is the only Savior (Acts 4:12), it also states that God is truly just (Job 34:12) and that He loves humanity with an everlasting love (John 3:16). Let us, therefore, labor all the more to bring God’s message of reconciliation to a world in desperate need of salvation (Rom. 10:13-15), knowing that there is no other way to reach Him except through His Son — the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6).

  4. Good point Z.

    I don’t want to sound harsh about these points I have made. However, these are taken right out of scripture. Much like Tank said about the bible, “it is a collection of poetry, letters to the church, stories, etc… or hermeneutics (The art and science of biblical interpretation) It’s an art because the more you do it the better you get at it. It’s a science because certain rules apply.

    Once you learn to read the bible in the way it is intended things start to clear up.

    I was trying to let him know the what the bible says because I have wondered and thought the same things in the past.

  5. Ok, these are hermeneutic principles.

    I will post the explanations on my blog if you are interested.

    1 The Literal Interpretation Principle
    2 The Contextual Principle
    3 The Scripture Interprets Scripture
    4 The Progressive Revelation Principle
    5 The Accommodation Principle
    6 The One Interpretation Principle
    7 The Harmony of Scripture Principle
    8 The Genre Principle
    9 The Grammatical Principle
    10 The Historical Background Principle

  6. That’s a pretty impressive list there, but how are we certain that while following your list, we end up with the “correct interpretation”?

    It’s nice to know things have “cleared up” for somebody here.

  7. This is by no means “My List” this is basic hermeneutics.
    The whole point of a hermeneutical study is to be certain or accurate about what it is you are reading.

    Example in Genesis, are we to take it literally or not. Lucifer is a snake. Right? Well, when Moses writes about Lucifer as being a snake he is not talking about what Lucifer looks like but what he is like.
    So, is it literal or non-literal? Well, that might be a false dichotomy. Genesis, like the rest of Scripture, has to be read as literature. In other words, if you want to interpret the Bible literally you have to interpret it as literature, and then pay close attention to genre and figures of speech. This is particularly true of Genesis, which is a historical narrative with symbolism and repetitive poetic structure. If Genesis were reduced to an allegory showing abstract ideas about temptation, sin and rebellion, with correlation with actual events in history, the very foundation of the Christian faith would be destroyed. If the historical Adam and Eve did not eat the fruit and turn to a life of sin, there is absolutely no need for redemption. On the other hand, if we consider Satan to be a slithering snake, we would not only misunderstand the nature of fallen angels but we might also suppose that Jesus triumphed over the work of the devil by stepping on the head of a serpent rather than through His passion on the cross.

    BTW – when I stated that “things start to clear up” I was referring to similar issues I had with the bible. I don’t have all the answers. 🙂

  8. I would suggest that while following this list of hermeneutical principles, it would be foolish to adopt a posture of certainty in regards to what God has intended to communicate to us through the Bible.

    I would also suggest that this certainty or clarity we often seek is not important. Our connection with God is a relational one and this relationship is not predicated what we know about God, but rather a recognition of and a response to God’s unconditional, everlasting love, as Father Rohr has pointed out to us quite nicely.

  9. I hear what you are saying in heart. On the other hand, in my head I have a hard time agreeing with the 1st paragraphs point. I would say exactly the opposite, but don’t take my word for it.

    Matt 4:4 Jesus said, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”.
    John 10:27 Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me”
    Proverbs 7:1–3 says, my son, keep my words and store up my commands within you. Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.
    Acts 17:11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
    1 Thessalonians 5:21 Paul says, But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;
    2 Timothy 2:7 Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.
    Matthew 7:24-27 Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.
    2 Timothy 2:15 Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth.

    The 2nd paragraph is well said. However, I would not put it that strong in light of the scriptures I referenced.
    Rather, I would say that “head knowledge” is not nearly as important as “heart knowledge”. Moreover, it’s not the fact we know of God plan for salvation. Even Lucifer himself knows what Jesus did. Rather, we need to realize we are sinners, be willing to receive it in faith (we know this through the promises of scripture), repent and allow the sanctification transformation to take place, Confess or tell others of the good news Romans 10:9.

  10. So are you saying it’s possible to have the correct, full understanding of what God has communicated to us through the Bible?

    For instance, how can you be certain that you possess a full understanding of Jesus’ claim that the “first shall be last and the last shall be first”? What is the “correct” analyzation of that?

    It’s interesting that out of the verses that you’ve sited above, the ones from Jesus say nothing of having a full understanding of scripture. How could he expect those who he was talking to to have a vast understanding of the scriptures when a large majority of them didn’t even posses a copy of the scriptures? How could you possibly “correctly analyze” and “accurately divide” a text in which you do not have access to? Often when he healed someone from an illness or an affliction, he didn’t say, “Go and come to a full understanding of the Torah and then tell others how they’ve not understood it correctly”. Instead he would tell them to “Go back to your home and tell those who you know what I have done for you.”

    Jesus asks us to “hear his words”, “listen to his voice”, and “live on the words that come from God”. What we are asked to hear or listen to is not limited to the Biblical text, correct? These words and commands are continually being revealed to us now, in present day, outside the Biblical text, through our relationship with God and the Church (Big C).

    Maybe being correct or accurate in our knowledge of scripture is not paramount in our connection with our creator. We are called to be like children, to adopt a “beginner’s mind” so God can reveal himself not only through the Biblical text, but also through the mystery that awaits us in our spiritual journey back to the Garden (Big G). What make this difficult is that our journies are unique and look different from each other. God has created us to be unique and our relationships with him reflect that uniqueness. With that in mind, it’s difficult to come along side someone else and begin to establish that you’ve got the clear and full understanding of what it will take for them to return back to God’s readily available love.

    To be clear, I’m not suggesting that the Biblical text is not valuable for us to have and to study. It’s certainly of massive importance. I’m simply trying to point out that claiming to have landed on a “clear” understanding of what scripture has, is, and will be revealing to us is, in a big way, not giving the scriptures the respect and humility that they rightly deserve. I fear that in your attempt to give some of us a better understanding of your approach, you’ve alluded to an assuredness that, to me, seems to be a tiny bit wreckless. But in the end, who am I to speak out against wrecklessness? I’m secular musician that plays the devils music and you’re a worship pastor.

    In the end, Ryan, you ARE the man and you know me too well. I’m just busting your balls because i’m just an asshole with a blog. 😉

    Peace Bro.

  11. It’s good to know that you know your faults. hehe.. 🙂
    Mine are as follows I am lazy, selfish, arrogant about guitar, etc…

    I will now comment line by line to your paragraphs.

    #1) I am in no way saying that the whole of scripture is entirely clear to me or anyone for that matter. I am saying that there are a lot of things that we can understand to further our relationship with God.

    #2) Well one “analyzation” of Matthew 19:30 could be. Those who fill themselves with the riches of this earth (First) will gain nothing in heaven with out Christ (Last), Those who have little on earth (last) if they have Christ will gain everything in heaven (First). This verse is about sacrifice.

    #3) you mentioned the fact that verses I gave about Jesus say nothing of having a full understanding of scripture. Then you mentioned the fact that Jesus could not expect those who he was talking to have a vast understanding of the scriptures when a large majority of them didn’t even posses a copy of the scriptures? Let me break this down for you. Jesus was speaking the Lucifer at the time in Matthew 4:4. I think he knows the scriptures quite well. After all, how could Lucifer tempt Jesus with out knowing the scriptures in the first place? BTW – Jesus was quoting Deuteronomy 8:3 which last time I checked was still in the Old Testament. Jesus didn’t come to abolish the old-testament. Matt (5:17-18) Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.…
    Let me give you a bit of a lesson in history:
    The religious life of ancient Israel may be the most commonly known aspect of their culture. In the Old Testament, we read many accounts about religious feasts, sacrifices, and worship. Furthermore, the scriptures were available at any synagogue through out the country. The synagogue was a place where the rabbi’s would teach debate and raise up the new talmid or disciples if you like. Once again, it was also the center of the culture for those living on the outskirts of the country or not near the temple. Students attended school in the synagogue and were taught by the hazzan or a local Torah Teacher. Study began at age five or six in elementary school, called bet sefer. The subject was the Torah and the method was memorization. Memorization of tradition and Gods word were essential. At first students studied only the Torah. Later they began to study the more complicated oral interpretations of the Torah. Question-and-answer sessions between teacher and student were added to the memorization drills. The more gifted students might continue after age 12 or 13 in beth midrash (meaning house of study, or secondary school). Here began the more intense process of understanding and applying the Torah and oral tradition to specific situations. The truly gifted would leave home to study with a famous rabbi to become like him as a talmid (disciple). Although their discussion and study might be held in the synagogue, these disciples would travel with their rabbi, learning the wisdom of Torah and oral tradition applied to the daily situations they faced. By the time a person was an adult, he knew most of the Scriptures by heart. If someone recited a passage, the audience would know whether it was quoted accurately or not. Jesus, in keeping with his culture, would simply begin with It is written …” knowing his audience would recognize an accurate quote. So, to say that they didn’t know anything about the scriptures would be inaccurate. Further, most of what Jesus taught was right out of the old-testament. In fact, Jesus likes to start his lessons like this it is written…
    You are right is saying that Jesus doesn’t tell us to “Go and come to a full understanding of the Torah and then tell others how they’ve not understood it correctly” because they already knew it.

    #4) you are absolutely right on when you talk about listening to the text and outside sources. In so much as they line up with scripture.

    #5) your next paragraph is well said!! But as far as the last sentence goes I would point you back to my comments in paragraph 1)

    #6) the majority of the paragraph I point you back to #1. However, I don’t think it’s reckless to try and give answers to people.
    (2 Timothy 4:2-3) Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
    (1 Peter 3:15) But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
    The fact that one is in a “secular band” whatever that means adds no weight to ones reckless. In fact, I think you have many more opportunities than many to spread the good news. You might be surprised to meet the folks that made it to heaven because of the stances and leadership you have shown.

    #7 Thanks for the comments at the end I was starting to worry a bit. You are so black and white that’s what I have always liked about you. You have many other great qualities but we don’t have to go into them now.

    Lets “put this to bed” so I can move on with my life. I haven’t typed this much sense I was a boy-scout leader. LOL…

  12. Thanks for the comment Ryan. I think this comes down to the fact that we are viewing Christian spirituality through two totally different sets of lenses…and that’s fine with me. Again, thanks for the dialogue.

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