19/06/2017

The Divine Dance (by Richard Rohr)


I’ve very much appreciated the mystical, thoughtful and yet readable style of the books I’ve previously read by Richard Rohr. He’s a Franciscan priest, and I first came across his writing in relation to the Enneagram system of understanding different personalities. When I saw that he had a new book published last year, I put it on my wishlist and was delighted to receive it for my birthday a couple of months ago.

‘The Divine Dance’ is subtitled ‘the trinity and your transformation’. The book is an attempt to understand the concept of the Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - not intellectually, but relationally. It’s taken me several weeks to finish it, partly because some of it is quite heavy going and I had to have frequent pauses for thought; partly because of significant family commitments and lack of time. But it’s the kind of book that I feel I could start reading all over again, as I’m sure I’ve missed a great deal.

Much of the book, as its critics point out, refers to ‘flow’, something most often associated with water in pipes, and also the state of writing or other creativity where one is motivated and active without thought of time or physical place. Rohr and his co-author Mike Morral talk about the ‘dance’ of the Trinity, existing from before the universe existed, in a perfect love relationship. This isn’t a new thought to me, but I was struck by the idea of continual flow in ongoing creation, of seeing God in and through everything, of being a participant in the ‘divine dance’.

The book is divided into two main chapters, with several subsections in each, followed by a much shorter one, and an appendix. The first part talks about a ‘new’ paradigm, about the way that modern Christianity has lost much of the idea of the Trinity. The author criticises Protestants and Catholics equally, each focussing too much on one part of the godhead, and neglecting another. I could agree with much of what he said, although - as with so many other books - was a little surprised that the author seemed to imply that what he was suggesting was something that had been lost entirely.

The second chapter is more about the Trinity as seen by Rohr, with brief digressions into related topics such as the question of sin, and what is meant by God’s wrath. The final shorter one is about the Holy Spirit, and then the appendix focuses on what the author calls ‘practices’ for growing closer to God.

Traditional evangelicals will probably find much to criticise in this book. Rohr writes as an inclusivist, seeing God reaching out to all humankind, encircling them with love, moving in them by the Spirit when they themselves are part of the ‘dance’, whether or not they know it.

I admit I had moments of wondering whether some of the book was heresy. I like the style very much; the writing is persuasive, and encouraging, and a great deal resonated with me. But can the good news really be as good as Rohr implies? I hope so.

As the author himself says, it’s important to weigh up his words and expect the conviction of the Spirit if what he’s writing is true. It’s also vital to be open, to check Scripture for ourselves, and acknowledge that what we thought - or were taught - previously may be wrong.

Overall I liked this book very much, and would recommend it to anyone interested in knowing more about the Trinity.

Review by copyright 2017 Sue's Book Reviews

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