Richard Rohr, a Franciscan friar, is “the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation and academic dean of the CAC’s Living School” in Albuquerque, NM.1The core Faculty of the CAC are Father Richard Rohr, Brian McLaren, Barbara Holmes, Rev. Dr. Cynthia Bourgeault, and Dr. James Finley Rohr may not be a household name among most evangelical Christians but his impact on them is growing, in many cases without their being aware. This growing influence on the church occurs through trends in Progressive Christianity and the widespread use of the Enneagram, an alleged personality assessment tool. His book, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective, and a book by two of his acolytes (Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile), The Road Back to You, introduced the Enneagram into the church.
Although his theology is outside the limits of orthodox Christian beliefs, Richard Rohr is viewed as a Christian by the many who know of him. Rohr asserts that he is a Christian and that he is being biblical. How is he able to do this? He does it by redefining words and by using vague terms. The Eight Core Principles of the Center for Action and Contemplation at Richard Rohr’s Center of Action and Contemplation are an excellent example of Rohr’s ability to obfuscate.
Each of the Eight Core Principles links to a PDF doc at the end with a fuller explanation of each Core Principle. What follows is my commentary on excerpts from the writings on Core Values 2, 3, 4, and 7 to explain some of this language.
Core Value 2 – Process:
Contemplation and compassion are finally coming together. This is my second gaze. It is well worth waiting for, because only the second gaze sees fully and truthfully. It sees itself, the other, and even God with God’s own eyes, which are always eyes of compassion.
What is the “second gaze?” It is seeing the world through a new filter via the practice of contemplative methods such as Contemplative/Centering Prayer, labyrinths, Lectio Divina, and others. These methods are based on Eastern spirituality and/or techniques from mysticism that alters your worldview.
Am I overstating my case? Actually, no, I am backed up by none other than Richard Rohr himself on this point. Rohr has said that you need to alter your worldview to understand the “Universal Christ.” He thinks Contemplative methods can do that. He has also said several times that Contemplative practices are “unlearning.” As he states in “Why Do We Misunderstand John 14:6?” at around 1:04 in this 1 minute 12-second video:
We’ve got a lot of unlearning to do. And that’s why we teach contemplation, because contemplation is mostly unlearning.
Why do you need to alter your worldview? Answer: To replace it with Rohr’s worldview. Rohr reveals himself to be an elitist for all his talk about outcasts, outsiders, the marginalized, etc. His message through his book, The Universal Christ, on his blog, in interviews, and in lectures is that Christianity has been wrong for 2,000 years about what Jesus was teaching and who Jesus Christ is, but he, Rohr, uniquely has the inside story and can tell us what real Christianity is and who the Christ is as opposed to our false understandings of Jesus the Messiah.
Core Value 3 – Emphasis:
This leads us to the second diversionary tactic: the way of flight. This is the common path of the “Pharisee,” the uninformed, the falsely innocent and often the conservative type. They deny the pain altogether, they refuse to carry the shadow side of anything in themselves or in their chosen groups…
But the flight people are also subject to hypocrisy, projection or just plain illusion: ‘We are right and you are wrong”…The world is divided into black and white and I know who the good guys and bad guys are.
The “shadow side” referred to is evidence of the influence of Carl Jung’s ideas on Rohr. Jung taught that everyone has a “shadow side” from which we try to hide. Who are the “flight people?” The Rohr term uses applies to anyone who believes in holding to sound doctrine or orthodoxy. It is wrong, according to Rohr, to say that a particular doctrine is right, and teaching contrary to it is wrong.
The claim is self-refuting because Rohr himself is saying something is wrong, and in doing so, he is making a distinction.
Secondly, it is not a matter of opinion when it comes to clear doctrines taught and supported in Scripture. So what one thinks is not the point. Rohr vilifies people in the above description by using words like hypocrisy, illusion, and black-and-white in order to castigate anyone who would disagree with him.
Rohr also sees “dividing the world into black and white” as dualistic. Being non-dual is the ideal for Rohr. In his mind, being non-dual means the Perennial Wisdom view that everything is connected and already in Christ, so nobody is “out.”
However, Rohr is still not specific enough for anyone to claim he is saying anything wrong or know exactly who he is criticizing. His terms, such as “shadow side,” leave most people in the dark, and one has to have Richard Rohr’s dictionary to know what he means.
Core Value 4 – Perspective:
The edge is a holy place or, as the Celts called it, ‘a thin place’ and you have to be taught how to live there. To take your position on the spiritual edge of things is to learn how to move safely in and out, back and forth, across and return. It is a prophetic position, not a rebellious or antisocial one. When you live on the edge of anything, with respect and honor (and this is crucial!), you are in a very auspicious and advantageous position.
Rohr means that once you realize the truth, as he defines it, then you are in the “holy place.” This place is not within orthodox teachings of any church, so it is on the “edge.”
Rohr positions himself as a Christian who is “in the know” of the real teachings of Christianity, which, ironically, he actually rejects.
Rohr redefines Jesus and Christ because he makes an unbiblical distinction in Jesus Christ. Jesus embodied Christ, but creation was the first incarnation of Christ; Jesus was the second incarnation. When Jesus Christ was resurrected, Christ became more than Jesus, and “Christ said things that Jesus never would have said” (Rohr makes this claim in several interviews).
In his book, The Universal Christ, Rohr teaches that the Jesus whom Matthew, Mark, and Luke wrote about is not the same Jesus that Paul or John wrote about, because Paul and John wrote about the so-called Universal Christ. According to Rohr, this Christ was a new paradigm for humanity, but the church has still not grasped this.
This idea of a Universal Christ can be easily refuted by Scripture. Paul and John were writing about the same Jesus as the other authors of Scripture. “Christ” is the English translation of the Greek for “Messiah,” which is the Hebrew for the anointed One, and there is only one Messiah. Jesus and Christ are one and the same. In the incarnation, Christ added humanity to his nature, and so Jesus Christ was fully man, fully God. It is important to know that Rohr would affirm this. However, Rohr also teaches that Christ is more than Jesus, and is now a power, pulling creation and humanity towards a point of perfection.
Since the first incarnation of Christ was creation, according to Rohr, everyone and everything is in Christ already. It is just a matter of realizing that “truth.”
Since Core No. 1 is “The teaching of Jesus is our central reference point,” it would be easy to assume Rohr is being biblical and following the true Jesus. But like Rohr’s other statements, it is misleading, and investigation is needed to get at what is meant by the word “Jesus” in any statement Rohr uses that name.
Core Value 7 – Ultimate Direction:
Simply put, the false self is the disconnected and autonomous self. In that sense, it does not even exist. The Judeo-Christian tradition calls this state of disconnectedness “sin.” When you’re disconnected from your deepest Being, you’re in the state of sin, or what some modern thinkers call the state of alienation. You do not naturally belong here or anywhere and you look for all kinds of false and addictive ways to fill up your emptiness.
After describing his teaching on the supposed “True Self,” he writes:
The false self is not really the bad self; it just does not know that there is anything like a True Self. Your false self is basically the state of unconsciousness. Your True Self is full consciousness, but it does take a while to get there…
The main purpose of religion is to lead you to an experience of your True Self, who you are in God and who God is in you.
The “True Self” is one’s self that is inherently already in Christ, according to Rohr, and has never been separated from God. This is a Perennial Wisdom belief that goes along with Rohr’s teaching that creation was the first incarnation of Christ. Perennial Wisdom is panentheistic; that is, they claim that God is in creation. Not realizing this so-called truth is being in the state of sin. Rohr even has the audacity to state that the Judeo-Christian tradition calls this “disconnectedness” sin. Rohr’s dictionary redefines sin and enables him to use the word with his heresies fairly undetected.
The false self is ignorant of this truth and needs to get to this realization. In this view, all religions derive from this truth and will lead one there if one goes on the journey to truly discover truth.
Rohr writes that contemplative methods aid one in finding this True Self:
The idea that there is a hidden truth we are blind to and must be uncovered, such as the True Self, or the idea we must awaken to some truth, is a hallmark of all occult, spiritually esoteric teachings. This concept of “awakening” indicates a teaching contrary to God’s word. While God’s word is profound, God does not hide secret meanings in the text, nor do we need to practice techniques to “awaken” to some hidden truth of Scripture. A relevant Bible passage is this:
The high priest then questioned Jesus about His disciples, and about His teaching. Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world; I always taught in synagogues and in the temple area, where all the Jews congregate; and I said nothing in secret.” (John 18:19-20)
The truth from God is plain and discoverable, not hidden and not only accessible through certain methods or changes in consciousness.
Is Richard Rohr New Age?
Some may think some of what Rohr teaches sounds New Age, and it does. Certainly, some of what Rohr asserts is compatible with certain New Age beliefs. However, Rohr’s views are from Perennial Wisdom and other sources that differ in many ways from the New Age outlook.
Rohr has stated his view is an embodied spirituality, not a Gnostic/New Age view that denies the reality of or rejects the validity of the material world. For more information on Perennial Wisdom, see CANA article, “Perennial Wisdom and Christianity.” I would also recommend “A Heretic’s Christ, a False Salvation: A Review of The Universal Christ” by Dr. Doug Groothuis.Ω
Before trusting Christ, Marcia Montenegro was a professional astrologer and was involved in Eastern and New Age practices for many years. Through her ministry, Christian Answers for the New Age, Marcia speaks around the country and on radio, and writes on New Age and occult topics. She has a Masters in Religion from Southern Evangelical Seminary, Charlotte, NC, and serves as a missionary with Fellowship International Mission, Allentown, PA. Based in Arlington, VA, she is the mother of an adult son and author of SpellBound: The Paranormal Seduction of Today’s Kids, (Cook, 2006). She is also co-author of Richard Rohr and the Enneagram Secret (MCOI Publishing, 2020) with Don and Joy Veinot You can find her online at: CANA or on Facebook at Christian Answers for the New Age
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