God knows the “future of nature” but – just what is the “nature of the future”? anthropopathic projections or theopathic interpretations?

That God omnisciently knows the future of nature, there should be no doubt. On the other hand, the nature of the future must be properly understood.

Peter Geach held that apart from present trends and tendencies there is no future to be known. This squares with a divine omniscience of peircean thirdness.

See, for example: Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion (vol. III), ed. Jonathan Kvanvig (OUP, 2011), pgs 222-251. Geachianism

A truly Catholic open theism, as would be consistent with many of the thoughts of Norris Clarke and Peter Geach (Roman) or John Polkinghorne (Anglican), could make for a very generic version.

In addition to the distinction between esse naturale and esse intentionale

See, for example: William Norris Clarke and Robert A. Connor on Person as Thomistic Esse

we can also distinguish between an essential impassibility and affect passibility (and certainly affirm both).

See, for example: Graham A. Cole, The God Who Wept a Human Tear: Some Theological Reflections http://ojs.globalmissiology.org/index.php/english/article/view/612/1538

In light of the imago Dei, one needn’t interpret the Biblical depiction of divine suffering as some anthropopathic projection, but can interpret human suffering as theopathic or God-like.

See, for example: Graham A. Cole, The Living God: Anthropomorphic or Anthropopathic? Reformed Theological Review, 59 (1, 2000), pp. 16-27

Also, see:

Marcel Sarot (2001) Does God Suffer?, Ars Disputandi, 1:1, 53-61


Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, The Gaze of Mercy: A Commentary on Divine and Human Mercy, Frederick, Maryland: The Word Among Us Press, 2015

Walter Kasper, Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to the Christian Life, Paulist Press, 2014

Divine Attributes per Greg Boyd

Divine Omniscience


Divine Omnipathy


Divine Omnibenevolence






Divine Omnipotence


Divine Omnipresence


Divine Immutability




Divine Necessity & Contingency



We should take the theological stances, above, as opinions, even better, as questions!

God knows the future of nature but we don’t fully know the nature of the future.

At bottom, our philosophical theologies, beyond some rather vague phenomenological commitments, only frame our questions but should not pretend to have answered them, proving too much, telling untellable stories, saying way more than we could possibly know. Instead, we abide with paradox, tolerate ambiguity, nurture creative tensions, seek out the antinomies, resist rushes to closure and admonish the voices of certitude … but move forward, anyway, in humility, with hospitality, doing what we’ve discerned we must and saying what we believe we should, dialogically, boldly and imaginatively! There is, after all, a certain wisdom in distinguishing between a legitimate plurality of theologoumena and matters that are de fide?

Any kataphatic theopoietic, which aspires to articulate our theopoiesis (our divine cooperations via kenosis, katharsis & synergia) and theosis (our ineffable, unitive divine participations via theurgy & theoria), will necessarily quickly unsay itself, apophatically. Above all, suitable analogical predications must be employed.

What we can say, then, for example, is that …

God suffers impassibly.

Norris Clarke critiques Hartshorne, whose process approach ignores the possibility of a rich, inner life of divine plenitude, thereby overemphasizing ad extra divine relations.

At the same time, in the same way that he employs the esse naturale vs intentionale distinction, which seems consistent with open theism, he similarly draws a distinction between

God’s infinitely intense interior joy (never rising higher in intensity of perfection) and its relational expressions, which do entail a divine enrichment via novel determinate modalities of expression of those joys, such finite modalities being limited participations in that infinite Source.

This reminds me of Boyd’s distinctions between the intensity and scope of aesthetic experience as well as between definitional and constitutive (relational) dispositions, all consistent with my appreciation of the essence-energies distinctions.


Clarke affirms divine contingency. I interpret his reference to the “eternal now” not so much as an argument for or against a/temporality but as his attempt to remain modally agnostic, temporally speaking.

In other words, in affirming the THAT of divine contingency, i.e. openness, at the same time (ha ha), he’s saying that that affirmation is nontemporal, that it’s not taking a stance on HOW temporally thick or thin God’s now might be.

For Clarke, the question of divine foreknowledge springs from a category error re: god-talk (needs to be decisively analogical). He otherwise certainly seems on board with the “open future” conception of the open theists.

Clarke wouldn’t object to a temporal view of the divine relational consciousness, i.e. God as changing, as long as we’re only referring to esse intentionale and as long as God’s only affected — not improved — by relations with the world.

In my view, each such formal distinction (not quibbling with thomistic real-logical relations as the logical can refer — not just to conceptual distinctions, but — to noninherent but inseparable relations) may or may not reflect a divine contingency, for example, vis a vis the future (properly conceived!), mutability (of this or that attribute), im/passibility, a/temporality, or even enrichment. At least the necessity and/or contingency of each attribute or energy would have to be argued separately. One could, for example, affirm open theism vis a vis omniscience but still deny passibility.

Fr Clarke could be interpreted to be, using Boyd’s terms, affirming an enrichment of the divine aesthetic scope while denying same regarding intensity, especially given his recognition of one Source of value — thus supporting a thin notion of enrichment or a thin passibility vis a vis the divine esse intentionale.

Regarding most theological opinions (vs de fide), I don’t have a dog in such hunts. I’m still trying to understand the questions they raise.

It seems to me that Orthodox approaches to panentheism (as indwelling w/sufficient ontological distinctions beyond just mereological distinctions) do not threaten classical theistic approaches to divine attributes, immutability, impassibility and so on.

Because open theism entails no theologic amendments to omniscience and only metaphysical reconceptions re: temporality, i.e. the nature of the future, it should be compatible with Anglican, Roman & Eastern Catholicisms and Orthodoxy, whether via a classical theism or proper panentheism.

Democratizing Theosis for Jesus is a truly Cosmic Christ

And in despair I bowed my head

There is no peace on earth I said

For hate is strong and mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good will to men

How might we conceive the implict faith of nonbelievers?

If we consider our journey in terms of a formative spirituality that fosters what Lonergan called authenticity (secular conversions) and sustained authenticity (being in love), and …

if we conceive of the Spirit as inviting, coaxing, even wooing each person from image to likeness into intimacy

then, at least, in terms of orthopraxy, we might affirm the presence, in any person who’d respond, of such theotic realizations as

kenosis  (e.g.  self-transcendence) and

katharsis  (e.g.  purgative  way), which foster

synergia  (cooperating  with  the  spirit  & divine  energies).

So, in the  domain  of orthopraxis, a person might realize the fruits of a somewhat inchoate theosis. Its soteriological trajectory would be abundantly efficacious.

How would we, then, otherwise conceive (not indifferently) the more robustly theotic as realized in the explicit faith of believers?

The more robustly theotic will necessarily move beyond our ascetical and orthopraxic concerns to  the more explicitly mystical, which will also  entail such theotic realizations as the

theurgic  (e.g.  rituals  &  practices  such as the hesychastic way of the heart) and

illuminative  (including  initiations into community  &  mystagogy), which will culminate  in

theoria  (i.e. loving  contemplation).

None of this to  suggest  that  an  implicit faith  cannot  realize  truly unitive  goals, such  as  through  synergia, but only  to recognize  that,  optimally,  theosis will realize  the  gnosiological  gifts  of  special revelation.

In the life of implicit faith, like Pip in Great Expectations, one realizes reality’s pervasively donative nature and responds appropriately in becoming a true gentleperson, even while otherwise remaining ignorant or even positively confused regarding the identity of one’s benefactor.

In the life of explicit faith, one learns the identity of humankind’s Benefactor and one’s ascetical soteriological trajectory is supplemented by the superabundant realizations of a mystical sophiological trajectory, which further fosters, contemplatively, our being in love with God, others, the cosmos and even ourselves.

When we say contemplative, it can refer to a

prayer practice or means or method, which is contemplative;

associated cognitive-affective dispositions or felt contemplative experiences, including consolations & desolations requiring discernment; and the

terminus or ends or ultimate goals in terms of transformation or our love of God and neighbor (including even our self and the cosmos) via our increasingly habitual cooperation with the gifts of the Spirit.

Our emphasis, thus, remains on love, which is the goal of transformation.

Now, surely the question must beg for some regarding the plurality of explicit faiths. And that’s a reality I’ve treated elsewhere. In a nutshell, I believe there’s an essential orthopraxic soteriological trajectory that inheres in all who cooperate with the Spirit, whether through implicit or explicit faith. Otherwise, I view the plurality of explicit faiths, for the most part, as diverse polydoxic sophiological trajectories, each, more or less, properly emphasizing different contingent expressions of the divine simplicity to which we respond, thereby sustaining our authenticity, by being in loving relationships that, however variously constituted, invariably participate in God’s love.

For my part, my soteriologic resonances are distinctly pneumatological and my sophiological commitments are profoundly Christological and trinitarian. So, beyond any facile syncretism or insidious indifferentism, I do recognize Jesus as both the Incarnate Human One and the Eternal Cosmic Christ and commend following Him to all who would will to journey to our unitive destiny ever more swiftly and with very less hindrance (which is to say with the greatest consolations and most efficient economy i.e. sacramental).

How would I plead to charges of interfaith, interreligious and ecumenical irenicism?


Why do I otherwise imagine myself exculpable?

It’s not a false irenicism.

Then rang the bells more loud and deep

God is not dead, nor does he sleep

The wrong shall fail, the right prevail 

With peace on earth, good will to men

Then ringing singing on its way

The world revolved from night to day

A voice, a chime, a chant sublime

Of peace on earth, good will to men 

A Roundup of Recent Reviews of Rohr & Morrell’s Divine Dance

Sanders said: And my long—forgive me—review has one main point: it’s that The Divine Dance isn’t about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It’s a book about an alternative spirituality of Flow, committed to a metaphysic that refuses to recognize a distinction between God and the world. <<<<<

Shouldn’t somebody on Sanders’ team have checked the heterodoxy equivalent of Snopes.com before concluding that Rohr’s committed to a metaphysic that refuses to recognize a distinction between God and the world?

As Walter Cardinal Kasper suggests: As Christians, we should keep to the rule of St. Ignatius of Loyola, and instead of ridiculing each other we should interpret each other in the best possible orthodox way. If we don’t, meaningful theological dialogue becomes impossible and sacra theologia turns into a political and ideological battlefield.

Rohr’s famously known to be a self-described panentheist, wholly within his Roman Catholic tradition, which precisely maintains ontological distinctions between God and the world, coupled with robust conceptions of creaturely participations/partakings.

The best orthodox interpretation, then, would have been that Rohr was not doing ontotheology or metaphysical modeling but theopoetics or a metaphorical trinitophany (like Panikkar’s christophany).

Sanders wrote: Church Fathers weren’t talking about dancing when they used the word “perichoresis,” which isn’t the origin of our word “choreography” (that would be choreuo, not choreo). Is it a bit pedantic to point out that Rohr is guilty of spreading etymological urban legends? Probably so. <<<<<

Definitely so, especially since, again, the best orthodox interpretation would be that Rohr was not departing from LaCugna, who knowingly employed dance vis a vis perichoresis — precisely not from philological warrant, which she clearly said it lacked, but — due only to metaphorical effectiveness.

Anticipating the harshness of his critique and the devastating pastoral conclusions that would ensue, did Sanders not have a greater responsibility to ensure the best orthodox interpretation, to consider the possibility that, at worst, Rohr was being inartful but certainly does not hold and has not historically taught something so egregiously wrong (pantheism, Sanders’ MAIN POINT) that it would get him into trouble with the Vatican, even?

Perichoresis as Vehicle Negativa in Rohr’s Divine Dance – a polydoxic trinito-phany in continuity with an orthodoxic trinito-logy

RE: And my long—forgive me—review has one main point: it’s that The Divine Dance isn’t about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It’s a book about an alternative spirituality of Flow, committed to a metaphysic that refuses to recognize a distinction between God and the world. <<<<< Fred Sanders

Well, no. It’s not.

Human perichoretic participation refers to neither the Trinity’s essence (ousia) nor its persons (hypostaseis) but to the uncreated energies (energeiai), which are loving, saving and deifying. Thus our human union with God is neither substantial nor hypostatic.

Classical ontological distinctions between creatures and Creator are maintained, as humans don’t participate in God’s essence!

As per Walter Cardinal Kasper:

As Christians, we should keep to the rule of St. Ignatius of Loyola, and instead of ridiculing each other we should interpret each other in the best possible orthodox way. If we don’t, meaningful theological dialogue becomes impossible and sacra theologia turns into a political and ideological battlefield.

These distinctions pertain even to eucharistic theology. Apophatic theology doesn’t convey objective knowledge (episteme) but leads, trans-apophatically and trans-rationally, to subjective experience (gnosis) of God as its goal.
These understandings of theotic (deifying) sanctification and glorification are wholly compatible, soteriologically, with notions of justification, many would contend, even those of reformed traditions.

Previously, I purposefully used vehicle negativa as distinct from via negativa, as the latter refers to a rational mode and a form of kataphasis, while the former refers to a transrational experience or participation, a form of apophasis, which does not proceed through essentialist negations but, instead, through ineffable existential experiences or REALizations. The latter are robustly relational in an interpersonal sense, experiences beyond words. Such is the reality to which perichoresis vaguely refers without robustly describing.

A vehicle negativa transports and trans-forms us, while a via negativa in-forms us, such as the distinction between knowledge of and knowledge about, the latter a problem to be solved, the former a lover to be loved. Both are necessary but one is a means, the other an end.

To be more clear, some Orthodox theologians point out that both the via positiva and via negativa are RATIONAL approaches, both sharing the same trajectory of increasing descriptive accuracy, whether through affirmation of what something is, ontologically, or is like, analogically, or through negation of what something is not or is not like. That’s how kataphasis and apophasis are largely conceived in the West, often through radically logo-centric lenses.

When Lossky employed an apophatic, perichoretic strategy, though, he referenced a transrational mystical experience moreso in terms of ineffability. He aspires merely to a successful relational reference but does not ambition a successful metaphysical description. (This distinction applies, by the way, to so much of nondual teaching in Buddhist & Hindu traditions, as they aren’t doing metaphysics as much as they are leading us into experiences or real-izations).

The Orthodox priest, Dumitru Staniloae, according to some, was more rigorous and nuanced than Lossky. He would refer to our ineffable experiences as transrational and trans-apophatic. That’s why I prefer to refer to

trinito-logy vs trinito-phany.

The difference between a metaphysical image and a model does not lie in how exhaustively it is employed in different contexts as a basic metaphor. An image does symbolic and metaphorical work, poetically and aesthetically. A model, though, is based on a root metaphor, which serves as an heuristic device, metaphysically, employed systematically, ordinarily, in terms of classical Aristotelian causes — material, efficient, formal and final, setting forth putative relationships to bridge emergent phenomena such as in natural theologies, quantum interpretations, cosmogonies, biopoietics, philosophies of mind and symbolic language origins.

While exhaustively applied, Rohr’s images aren’t doing the work of models, metaphysically or onto-theologically, only the work of metaphors, theo-poetically, aesthetically. Rohr’s images already presuppose a classical Scotistic-Palamatic metaphysical frame of distinctions, a model of divine essence, hypostatic persons and divine energies, panentheistically interpreted. There is another method in play here, theopoetically, at the intersection between theology and spirituality.

Once we define the applicable methodological contours of the development of doctrine from historical exegetical and polemical environments, through what additional methods might we authenticate their spiritually transformative efficacies?


We abide with the paradox, tolerate the ambiguity, nurture the creative tensions, seek out the antinomies, resist rushes to closure and admonish the voices of certitude but move forward, anyway, in humility, with hospitality, doing what we’ve discerned we must and saying what we believe we should, dialogically, boldly and imaginatively!

As Scott Holland suggests: Good theology is a kind of transgression, a kind of excess, a kind of gift. It is not a smooth systematics, a dogmatics, or a metaphysics; as a theopoetics it is a kind of writing. It is a kind of writing that invites more writing. Its narratives lead to other narratives, its metaphors encourages new metaphors, its confessions more confessions . . .

If all too certain theological understandings get undermined and theopolitical modes of historical discourse challenged, theo-poetics will have a chance to successfully advance the spiritual efficacies of otherwise sterile abstract doctrines, bringing them alive in the concrete lives of the faithful through fruitful ortho-relational, orthocommunal, orthopathic and orthopraxic realizations.

As Roland Faber puts it: One moves into an “undefined land” in which one experiences differently, begins to think differently, and is encouraged nor just to adopt to, but to create new theological language. Today, I think that not only can we not control this field or region in fact, but that it is of the essence of process theology to be an uncontrollable undertaking in the infinite adventure of God-talk, and consciously so, in modes that I came to name “theopoetics.”

Rohr is merely the latest in a long pedigree of people who want to run with the Trinity (or dance, as it were) to — not draw conclusions, but — to create new theological language, encourage new metaphors,  and to help us experience differently those historical realities that were developed with our traditions out of what we might call the “formations contexts” of the Trinity within the pro-Nicene polemical and exegetical environment.

I would even call my own writings regarding Rohr’s ouvre a systematic theophany and not systematic theology.

Still, for Rohr, onto-theology would be descriptive but not pejorative. After all, one could argue that his fellow Franciscan, the medieval Scotus, was among the first, great onto-theologians! That said, again, that’s not what he’s doing in this book.

The Divine Dance does not amend classical ad intra, ontological  accounts of the immanent, essential Trinity (vis a vis questions of who and what). Arguably, neither does it amend the traditional ad extra, divine communication accounts of the revealed, economic Trinity (vis a vis when, where and how). Instead, it addends these approaches, supplementing them with a theopoetic, trinito-phanic, perichoretic critique.

Some have invoked perichoresis — not as a kataphatic, root metaphor of onto-theology, but — as an apophatic, more properly trans-apophatic, theopoetic critique. Such theologians, while very much affirming the indispensable noetic trajectory of logos in every theo-logos, employ perichoresis as a vehicle negativa, which serves to remind us that all symbols, whether sacramentals or metaphors — not only reveal, but — conceal the realities, which they reference.

Accordingly, a perichoretic critique, evoking the poetry of dance, doesn’t at all deny ontological root metaphors, much less substituting its own (e.g. flow) but, instead, invites us to keep the trinito-phanic metaphors coming!

A great Orthodox conception of Perichoresis



Orthodox freedom arises from ecstasis and self-transcendence, going beyond ourselves (Lacugna 1991:261).  The freedom spoken of here is based on the communion of persons, not the fulfillment of autonomous individuals.  Zizioulas draws the distinction between the individual and the person noting that the individual becomes a person by loving and being loved (Zizioulas 1985:48-49).  True human freedom means going beyond our individual self and becoming open to others which finds its ultimate fulfillment in union with Christ and life in the Trinity.

Eastern Orthodoxy’s emphasis on the person (hypostasis) leads to freedom and relationality.

The fact that God exists because of the Father shows that His existence, His being is the consequence of a free person; which means, in the in the last analysis, that not only communion but also freedom, the free person, constitutes true being.  True being comes only from the free person, from the person who loves freely–that is, who freely affirms his being, his identity, by means of an event of communion with other persons (Zizioulas 1985:18; emphasis in original).

This in turn opens the way for perichoresis, the idea that the three Persons of the Trinity mutually inhere in one another (LaCugna 1991:270 ff.).  Perichoresis lays the foundation for the idea of persons in communion, both in terms of intradivine relations within the Trinity and our being invited (elected) into that interpersonal communion.  (See John of Damascus’ De Fide Orthodoxa Chapter VIII (NPNF Vol. 2 page 11 Note 8).)

end of quote

Assuming such a theopoetic critique, then, one must avoid the category error of employing such perichoretic references (e.g. dance, flow or relating) as kataphatic and onto-theological root metaphors, when, indeed, they are precisely otherwise intended to serve as artistic conceptual placeholders. This is to say that such placeholders, apophatically and phenomenologically, deliberately bracket such metaphysics. They much less so deny old models, interpretations and metaphors and much more so encourage ever new, always deeper, understandings!

Bottomline, I knew Rohr wasn’t doing onto-theology or metaphysics precisely because, as a Roman Catholic and panentheist, he’s manifestly not committed to a metaphysic that refuses to recognize a distinction between God and the world.

Also, when reading Rohr and Morrell’s references to divine energies, I relexively put on the Orthodox lens and thought of Gregory of Palamas and, in turn, interpreted their perichoretic references as apophatic, theopoetic critiques, for example, consistent with Vladimir Lossky’s approach. Any implicit metaphysic would be Scotistic, trinitarian distinctions consistent with his Eucharistic, Christological and Incarnational approaches, some representing minority reports but not otherwise unorthodox.

This is all to point out that I knew before reading the Divine Dance that Rohr’s approach to the Trinity with Morrell would be neither some ad hoc poetic musing nor some fanciful flight of a superficial theological imagination. Rather, I am poised, here, to harvest the fruits that will have emerged organically from a theological crop that’s been long cultivated in the ground of

Scotistic intuitions (in continuity with Peirce),

Franciscan sensibilities (often a minority account within larger traditions),

Patristic outlooks (apokatastasis and practical universalism, oh my!),

polydoxic sophiologies (others are on efficacious wisdom trajectories?! e.g. Gregory of Palamas),

a generous ecclesiology (preferential option for the marginalized, even),

a pluralistic pneumatology (the Spirit ‘s also over there?! in her?!),

a Goldilocks anthropology — neither too pessimistic (e.g. total depravity) nor optimistic (ergo, no facile syncretism, no insidious indifferentism, no false irenicism) and, paramount,

a contemplative stance that affirms a most robust, participatory relationality, beyond a mere propositional, problem-solving preoccupation.

None of this wouldn’t a priori be inconsistent either with various Arminian, Molinist or Open approaches, with various logical defenses or evidential theodicies to problems of evil (whether Augustine, Plantinga or Oord), with various creation accounts (ex nihilo, profundis, multitudinae, tehomic) or various wisdom traditions vis a vis their shared soteriologic trajectory of human authenticity (an implict pneumatological, Christological inclusivism via Lonergan’s transcendental imperatives and conversions) and diverse sophiologic trajectories of sustained authenticity (via being in love).

The late Don Gelpi, SJ had a saying: “orthopraxy authenticates orthodoxy.
Gelpi had Lonergan’s conception of authenticity in mind as he so related “right practice” to “right belief. ” And Gelpi expanded Lonergan’s authenticity to include what he called five “conversions.” Those conversions refer to intellectual , affective, moral, social and religious transformations. We might, then, think of them, respectively, in terms of

right believing,
right desiring,
right behaving, 
right belonging and
right relating.

Rohr and Morrell address these in spades! more appropriately, HEARTS!

Following Lonergan and immersed in the pragmatism of Charles Sanders Peirce, Gelpi would offer that any authentication of the various dogma, practices, liturgies, rituals and doctrines — not just of Christianity, but — of any of the world’s great traditions, as well as indigenous religions, could be cashed out in terms of how well they foster ongoing human transformation.

Now, this doesn’t invoke that vulgar pragmatism of “if it’s useful, then it’s true,” but it does suggest that, wherever, whenever and in whomever we witness
right belonging ,

right desiring,

right behaving and/or

right relating, then we will more likely also encounter

right believing.

It’s no accident, then, that systematic theology will typically address five integral human value-realizations:

1) truth via creed, as articulated in beliefs about reality’s first and last things, in what we call an eschatology, which orients us;

2) beauty via cult-ivation, as celebrated in life’s liturgies, rituals and devotions, in what we call a soteriology, which sanctifies us;

3) goodness via code, as preserved in codifications and norms, in an incarnational or sacramental economy, which nurtures and heals us;

4) unity via community, as enjoyed in familial and faith fellowships, in what we call an ecclesiology, which empowers and unites us; and

5) freedom via contemplation, as realized through radical self-transcendence, in a given sophiology, which will ultimately save and liberate us.

Rohr and Morrell, right up front, ask:

“If Trinity is supposed to describe the very heart of the nature of God, and yet it has almost no practical or pastoral implications in most of our lives… if it’s even possible that we could drop it tomorrow and it would be a forgettable, throwaway doctrine… then either it can’t be true or we don’t understand it!”

As prologue, they introduce the pragmatic critique, inquiring whether orthopraxy has authenticated Trinitarian orthodoxy!

They make the point: “Remember, mystery isn’t something that you cannot understand— it is something that you can endlessly understand!

They don’t confuse a lack of comprehensibilty with a lack of intelligibility. Thomas Oord similarly resists a retreat into theological skepticism when it comes to our God concepts vis a vis the problem of evil and thereby has articulated a theology of love (considering putative God-constraints, such as essential, metaphysical or kenotic). Similarly eschewing a radical skepticism regarding Trinitarian doctrine, Rohr and Morrell are on their way to articulating — spoiler alert — a theology of love!

Here comes the leit motif of Rohr’s lifelong emphasis on the fruit of the contemplative stance: “Whatever is going on in God is a flow, a radical relatedness, a perfect communion between Three— a circle dance of love.”

They ask: “Instead of God watching life happen from afar and judging it… How about God being inherent in life itself? How about God being the Life Force of everything? Instead of God being an Object like any other object… How about God being the Life Energy between each and every object (which we would usually call Love or Spirit)?

This reminds me of the Orthodox hesychastic conception of Divine Energies as well as Joe Bracken’s process notion of the Divine Matrix. In some ways, it speaks to Scotus’ univocity of being.

Whether one employs a root metaphor like substance, process, experience, energy or flow, mystics and philosophers have long intuited some type of unitary being, some type of interconnectedness that allows objective interactivity across what may otherwise be ontological gulfs, which would be logically necessary to account also for the intrasubjective integrity of each unified self, who then participates in those glorious unitive strivings of all loving intersubjective intimacies.

I’m willing to bet, though, that those above references to life forces and energies will have many exclaiming a heterodoxic: “Game! Set! Match!” That is, they will filter the rest of the book through the cloudy lens of their facile,  hence errant, metaphysical presuppositions — that Rohr articulates a pantheism!

So few traffic in the nuances required to distinguish between pan-en-theism, pan-entheism, panen-theism or cosmotheandrism, theocosmocentrism, between an objective unitary identity and a subjective unitive intimacy or between epistemic, ontic and interpersonal nondualities. I won’t tease out all the relevant nuances, here, but I can only suggest from a rather long acquaintance with both Rohr and Morrell that they aren’t playing theology without a suitable philosophical net! Keep reading!

Here comes another minority opinion grounded in a long established Scotistic Franciscan sensibility – that the Incarnation was not occasioned by some human felix culpa but was in the Divine pneumatological cards from the cosmic get-go: “This God is the very one whom we have named ‘Trinity’— the flow who flows through everything, without exception, and who has done so since the beginning.

Yes, indeed, for God so loved the world!
But divine things can never be objectified in this way; they can only be ‘subjectified’ by becoming one with them! When neither yourself nor the other is treated as a mere object, but both rest in an I-Thou of mutual admiration, you have spiritual knowing. Some of us call this contemplative knowing.

There it is – — the distinction between the objective and subjective, the merely propositional and the robustly relational!
Ultimately, beyond the truth, beauty, goodness and unity, in which all creation participates, there emerged a freedom gifted by that contemplative faculty found in the human imago Dei: “But we have to be taught how to ‘gaze steadily into this law of perfect freedom, and make this our habit,’ as James so brilliantly intuits it.

Love and freedom remain integrally related to the extent that in addition to any essential and metaphysical constraints God may even kenotically self-constrain toward the end of augmenting our freedom, amplifying our love!

The following is so poignantly put:

Did you ever imagine that what we call ‘vulnerability’ might just be the key to ongoing growth? In my experience, healthily vulnerable people use every occasion to expand, change, and grow. Yet it is a risky position to live undefended, in a kind of constant openness to the other—because it would mean others could sometimes actually wound you (from vulnus, ‘wound’). But only if we choose to take this risk antie also allow the exact opposite possibility: the other might also gift you, free you, and even love you. But it is a felt risk every time. Every time.

Did you ever imagine that God might take risks? Felt risks? Precisely to free you? That beyond any omniscience, omnibenevolence, omnipotence, omnipresence — all suitably (apophatically) nuanced as capacities greater than which could not otherwise be conceived without falling into either metaphysical incoherence or theo-logical contradictions — God passionately experiences, also, a divine omnipathy? precisely through the Incarnation!

How does one merit this type of love?
Jesus never has any such checklist test before he heals anybody. He just says, as it were, ‘Are you going to allow yourself to be touched? If so, let’s go!’ The touchable ones are the healed ones; it’s pretty much that simple. There’s no doctrinal test. There’s no moral test. There is no checking out if they are Jewish, gay, baptized, or in their first marriage. There’s only the one question: Do you want to be healed? If the answer is a vulnerable, trusting, or confident one, the flow always happens, and the person is healed. Try to disprove me on that!

Here we encounter the wisdom of an authentic formative spirituality, where right relating precedes right belonging which fosters right desiring which encourages right behaving and sees right believing much more so as a participatory orthocommunal, orthopathic and orthopraxic response, much less so as an orthodoxic proposition, which, truth be told, more often presents in polydoxic sophiologies, which entail the wisdom of love (beyond our philosophical love of wisdom).

While the Dance perichoretically circles around truth, beauty, goodness, unity and freedom, each of these divine imperatives integrally intertwined with and leading to the others, because of our radical human finitude we will ordinarily follow a transformative path conveyed first in community and gifting us, even, our deepest desires. The pro-positional, apart from the participational and relational, will lack normative impetus unless those norms derive, first, from some energizing evaluative dis-positions.

It’s beyond the scope of this consideration but modern semiotic science with roots in medieval Scotism very much resonates with this emphasis on relationality, which need rely on no robust metaphysic, no particular root metaphor, only a vague phenomenology (Christianity can remain in search of a metaphysic!):

What physicists and contemplatives alike are confirming is that the foundational nature of reality is relational; everything is in relationship with everything else. As a central Christian mystery, we’ve been saying this from the very beginning while still utterly failing to grasp its meaning.”

My favorite quite from the Divine Dance:
God does not love you because you are good. God loves you because God is good. I should just stop writing right here. There’s nothing more to say, and it’ll take the rest of your life to internalize this.

Merton once lamented that our churches do a great job helping socialize people but a terrible job transforming them. He was not using my broadly conceived notion of transformation, which includes Lonergan’s conversions, like the social. Instead, he was talking about that growth in intimacy with God, self, others and cosmos that lays in store for those who properly relate, contemplatively. Rohr and Morrell touch on this: “Most Christians have not been taught contemplation. Contemplation is learning how to abide in and with the Witnessing Presence planted within you, which of course is the Holy Spirit, almost perfectly symbolized by the ark of the covenant. If you keep ‘guard,’ like two cherubim, over the dangerous, open-ended space of your transient feelings and thoughts,  you will indeed be seated on the mercy seat, where God dwells in the Spirit. The passing flotsam and jetsam on your stream of consciousness will then have little power to trap or imprison you. The only difference between people that matters is the difference between those who allow this space to fill iith flow— and those who don’t, or won’t, allow it. Like Mary, the model for contemplatives, ‘it is done unto you,’ and you can only allow. Always.”

If the kind reader can grasp these fundamental distinctions from Part I of the Divine Dance and thereby realize that Rohr and Morrell are supplementing not rewriting Trinitarian doctrine, they’ll be readily disposed to receive the gifts of the book’s remainder, which are participational, contemplative, pastoral or, in other words, distinctions that can make a transformational difference in one’s life!

The crux of the Sanders critique was: “And my long—forgive me—review has one main point: it’s that The Divine Dance isn’t about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It’s a book about an alternative spirituality of Flow, committed to a metaphysic that refuses to recognize a distinction between God and the world.”

Beyond either classical theism or panentheism (broadly conceived, as it has many versions variously heterodox), Rohr was being charged with PANtheism.

Long story short, he’s NOT a pantheist.

I’ve seen panentheist flirtations even in Reformed, Calvinist notions (the great Edwards!) and have drawn great inspiration from Wesleyan Arminian theologians in the same direction! We’re talking about LOVE here, so, I’m confident this misunderstanding will resolve, happily!

RE: essence (ousia) vs (hypostaseis) vs uncreated energies (energeiai)

One way of interpreting these distinctions would be to consider the first two metaphysically and the last mystically. That’s been partly my thrust in distinguishing trinoto-logy from trinoto-phany, rational from trans-rational, kata/apo-phatic from trans-apophatic, speculative from relational, philosophical from contemplative, ontotheology from theopoetic, episteme from gnosis, science from art.

My case in favor of Rohr’s project has been to emphasize it as an exercise in post-experiential effabling about ineffable contemplative encounters, drawing on reflections of our contemplative community and tradition.

Clearly, though, Rohr has never advocated an arational contemplative stance, as if mysticism gifted a gnosis unconstrained by doctrine, tradition, philosophy or science. The contemplative, relational, mystical approach goes beyond these other epistemic approaches but clearly never without them.

So, too, the distinctions between essence (ousia) vs (hypostaseis) vs uncreated energies (energeiai) are much more subtle than I’ve let on for fear of going too deep into the metaphysical weeds. But, I’ll set those fears aside.

Distinguishing the divine energies from the divine essence does, of course, have a philosophical and doctrinal angle in addition to the mystical, all which must be expressed in continuity. There’s a question of how much continuity vs how much free rein to be answered. It’s hard to put this succinctly without coming across too bluntly, but the old essentialism vs nominalism, Thomism vs Scotism, analogy vs univocity of being, tensions come into play. This problem cannot be satisfactorily addressed using essentialistic approaches.

One must honor Fr Rohr’s Franciscan sensibilities and contemplative approach and turn to Scotus, placing him in dialogue with Gregory Palamas regarding divine energies in the Orthodox tradition. The distinction between the divine essence is neither what Scotus would call real nor merely conceptual but is, instead, a formal distinction, not wholly unrelated to what Peirce came to call thirdness in his modal ontology. There is a great deal of continuity between Scotus and Palamas, Peirce and Hartshorne, and panentheism (broadly conceived).

Just for the record, my point is that Rohr did not elaborate a trinito-phanic interpretation wholly apart from an eminently defensible Scotistic-Palamic metaphysic-theology. He went theo-poetic-ally beyond but not without an onto-theo-logic.

Some my have confused his not being sufficiently Thomist with his not being doctrinally sound. Those are two wholly different considerations. There is great promise for bridging East and West, Catholic and Orthodox, divine essence and divine energies, if we pay more attention to real vs conceptual vs formal vs modal distinctions, if we open our hearts and minds to both Scotus and Palamas.


Rohr would probably affirm divine passibility while denying mutability (cf. Denis Edwards). His trinitarian approach might be influenced by Joe Bracken, who expanded on Whitehead and Hartshorne (Bracken deliberately mindful, too, of orthodox notions of transcendence) using a field theoretic approach (social ontology employing fields). At least, it seems Rohr often uses such field metaphors and he has referenced a divine matrix, too. Not all Catholics think any of this succeeds or that it or panentheism is necessary (Norris Clarke).

Amos Yong, with whom I most resonate, shares some of Bracken’s insights regarding reality’s pervasive interrelationality, interactivity and intersubjectivity. But he derived those insights from a pneumatological reading of creation narratives, not from a process cosmology.

Footnote regarding Sanders’ hyper-Critique:

Being immersed in Rohr’s spirituality and theology for decades, I gathered his meaning easily and implicitly. I would be unable to easily discern where he might have more artfully been more explicit in his presupposed onto-theo-LOGY to keep the uninitiated reader, one as intelligent as Sanders, from misinterpreting anything. I just don’t know but my sneaking suspicion is that Sanders will accept any needed clarifications and place part of the blame on Rohr. At the same time, as a scholar, Sanders could’ve inquired further into Rohr’s body of work to equip himself with better hermeneutical lenses, especially once he realized how hypercritical his review would be, if only not to embarrass himself, but also to avoid offending charity.


In “Divinization: A Lost Pearl” Fr Rohr writes:
If you want to do your own research here, the fathers of the church to study are St. Clement of Alexandria, Origen, St. Basil, St. Athanasius, and St. Irenaeus in the West; and St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Maximus the Confessor, Pseudo Macarius, Diadochus, and St. Gregory Palamas in the East. The primary texts are in the Philokalia collection and the teachings of the Hesychastic monks.

In “The Univocity of Being” Fr Rohr quotes Bonaventure:
Christ has something in common with all creatures. With the stone he [sic] shares existence, with the plants he shares life, with the animals he shares sensation, and with the angels he shares intelligence. Thus all things are transformed in Christ since in the fullness of his nature he embraces some part of every creature. —Bonaventure [1]

See also:

Divine Simplicity and the Formal Distinction

The Essence/Energies Distinction and the Myth of Byzantine Illogic

“Farewell, Divine Dance”? An Open Letter to The Gospel Coalition.

Special Footnote:

Deeper into the theological woods, I wanted to mention that, in reconciling Fr Rohr’s reading of Catherine Mowry LaCugna’s trinitarian theology to his own Franciscan sensibilities, which employ robustly participatory accounts of communion, I found palamite distinctions helpful, especially amenable to scotistic distinctions.

See: https://www.academia.edu/30618485/PARTICIPATING_IN_THE_DIVINE_DANCE

LaCugna, herself, would not make this move because she does not similarly interpret palamite distinctions. The following article supports my reconciliation of scotistic and palamitic approaches in a manner consistent with how I conceive Fr Rohr’s implicit metaphysical and theological presuppositions (which, however, were not what Divine Dance was explicitly about as it was otherwise a trinito-phanic theopoetic and an exquisite one, at that!).

Modern Theology 32:1 January 2016 ISSN 0266-7177 (Print) ISSN 1468-0025 (Online)



theopoetic, trinity, richard rohr, mike morrell, scott holland, roland faber, vehicle negativa, via negativa, perichoresis, apophasis, kataphasis, transrational, ousia,  hypostaseis, energeiai, theosis, theotic, sanctification, justification, glorification, perichoresis, perichoretic, episteme, gnosis, trinity, eucharist, apophatic, trans-apophatic

​From ontotheological (trinito-logical) is-ness to theopoetic (trinito-phanic) dance-ness? YES!!!

Regarding perichoresis, Rohr has spoken and written rather extensively regarding divine interpenetration and indwelling, all in fidelity to its patristic etymological roots. Of course its not uncontroversial to univocally predicate such a perichoretic dynamism of persons, both divine and imago Dei, but its eminently defensible.

What’s not defensible, though, is the presupposition that Rohr’s use of dance imagery was grounded in philological warrant, though, rather than metaphorical effectiveness, which was precisely LaCugna’s position.

As it is, again, the apophatic and theopoetic evocation of perichoresis refers to a relational reality and not an ontotheological modeling attempt. The dance metaphor thus belongs to Rohr’s trinito-phany and is not over against classical trinito-logy. As such, it doesn’t tell us how to think about the immanent Trinity in terms of essence, but how to experience the economic Trinity in terms of divine energies (or other psalmodic not philosophic metaphors).

Rohr’s inviting us into a robustly relational, contemplative, mystical experience and not rewriting classical trinitarian formulae.

trinitology, trinitophany, catherine lacugna, richard rohr, mike morrell, perichoresis, divine energies, divine dance, immanent trinity, economic trinity, ontotheology, theopoetic, mystical experience, contemplative experience, apophatic

Divine Dance: Rohr, Morrell & Panikkar – Oh my!

As to Fr. Richard Rohr, ​I’ve been getting excited with his every new publication, tape, mp3, video, webcast or daily e-mail for almost 40 years now. I can never resist hyperbole and superlatives as I commend each new work to family and friends. Why stop now?

I have always unwrapped each new gift from Fr Rohr anticipating its practical, pastoral significance, looking for changes I can make in my relationships to God, others, the world, even myself. He’s never trafficked in idle, academic speculation (nothing wrong with that, just not his theo-schtick) but has engaged us with invitations to new ways, dis-positions, of seeing, imagining, participating, giving, receiving and experiencing Love, moreso than any new pro-positions.

The Divine Dance, in all of the above ways, in my view, represents Fr Richard’s magnum opus!

In a nutshell, right away, I thought: Fr Richard and Mike Morrell have done regarding the Trinity precisely what Panikkar did regarding the Christ!

That’s to suggest that in the same way that Panikkar elaborated and related his Christo-phany to classical Christo-logy, they’ve, in effect, elaborated and related their beautiful Trinito-phany to classical Trinito-logy.

Enough of my words. But, to my point, I used the glossary entry for Christophany at the Panikkar website and did word substitutions — Trinity for Christ, Trinito-logy for Christo-logy and Trinito-phany for Christo-phany.

Below’s what fell out.

It’s eerily on the mark???!!!

Trinito-phany is the Christian reflection that the third millennium must elaborate.

– It does not claim to offer a universal paradigm, nor even necessarily a model to adopt, but rather simply to offer to all humanity a believable image of Trinity.

– It is a Christian word yet opened to the universal problematic in a concrete and thereby limited way.

– The word is used in the sense of “phaneros of the Christian scriptures”, visible and public manifestation of a truth. Divine energies are a direct manifestation of God to human consciousness and represents an experience.

– Trinito-phany does not ignore nor claim to abolish the preceding trinito-logy, but trinito-phany rather tries to situate itself in a continuity with trinito-logy in order to deepen it.

– Trinito-phany “suggests that the encounter with Trinity can not be reduced to a mere doctrinal or intellectual approach”; it wants to elaborate a reflection on the economic Trinity and the human being with clear reference to the immanent Trinity: “The logos is also the Logos of God, but the Logos is not “all” of the Trinity.”

– The Trinito-phany does not take anything away from the Trinito-logy, but shows itself opened to the reality of the Spirit.

– This contemplative, mystic attitude situates trinito-phany in a more receptive posture, in contrast to the more aggressive search on the part of reason.

– This notion of Trinity must include both the figure from the historic past as well as the present reality.

– Trinito-phany is a reflection opened to the Christian scriptures, but is in dialogue with the other religions; opened to dialogue with the past (even the pre-Christian) and with the present (even the non-Christian) and in particular the contemporary scientific mentality.

– Trinito-phany, therefore, does not exclude a priori any epiphany of the sacred or the divine when searching for an integration of the image of the Trinity in a more spacious cosmovision.”


trinitology, trinitophany, christophany, christology, raimon panikkar, richard rohr, mike morrell, divine dance, perichoresis, trinity, mystical experience, contemplative mystic

Morrell’s 4-D IMAX Rohrian Perichoretic Adventure

To get properly immersed in a 4-D IMAX Rohrian theo-phanic adventure, one needs a set of 3-D lenses, which implicitly provide Rohr’s indispensable theo-logic vision.

“Of a hundred writers who have held Duns Scotus up to ridicule, not two of them have ever read him and not one of them has understood him.” ~ Etienne Gilson

Perhaps the same could be said of Richard Rohr?

Occasionally, it does seem to be the case that his Franciscan, Scotistic sensibilities, which have long yielded minority — not unorthodox — reports, leave him misunderstood, and …

precisely by those who, only having engaged him sparingly, have engaged him superficially, thus rashly judging him, even while stridently recommending to others that he best go unread!

Those who fail to trade-in their hermeneutically polarized theo-logical shades before entering Rohr’s perichoretic theater will not only find his motion picture of our relationship to the Trinity blurry, but might feel theologically poked, jolted and shaken in their seats from a lack of that hermeneutical context, which otherwise allows his imagery to theophanically stoke, ignite and fire-up others of us!

Rohr’s hermeneutic — not only neither blurs nor ignores, but — manifestly employs very robust notions regarding identity (strict and nonstrict), separability and distinction.

For those searching for his onto-theo-logical, trinito-logical model, it’s not articulated explicitly in The Divine Dance, which explicates Rohr’s theo-poetic, trinito-phanic imagery. But it is nevertheless implicated and rather pervasively!

This is to recognize that Rohr’s mystical imagery has always most certainly represented a trans-rational, trans-apophatic, experiential and relational over-flow and precisely from the rational, kataphatic-apophatic, modalities with which they confluently stream, existentially model-ing the doctrinal and liturgical continuities, which they theo-phanically transcend but do not theo-logically transgress.

Rohr employs a robustly relational Hermeneutic of Presence:

We encounter Rohr’s Implicit Hermeneutic (Scotistic & Palamatic) of Presence vis a vis the ways he addresses:

Incarnation (Christological & panentheistic) and

Eucharist (people gathered, word proclaimed & sacred species), which then onto-theo-logically extends to the

Trinity (perichoretic), trinito–logically, for those searching for his model, which takes:

essence as ousia

persons as hypostaseis

energies as energeiai

eucharist as christ’s transfigured, life-giving, but still human, body, en-hypostasized in the Logos and penetrated with divine energies

participation, as methexis — not partaking of divine essence, but — partaking of met-ousia

metousiosis as a multifaceted presence that involves

semiotic (sign and symbol),

dynamical (efficacious via divine power and activity),

penetrative (indwelling) and

distinct (essentially, conceptually, adequately, formally and/or modally) realities.

None of this is to claim that such a hermeneutic is either unproblematic or uncontroversial, only that, at least in Catholic circles — Anglican, Orthodox and Roman — it is not unorthodox. I don’t see why it would necessarily be incompatible in Arminian, Wesleyan or other traditions. Indeed, many of its elements can foster ecumenical and interreligious dialogue across all of our great traditions, East and West, pneumatologically, panentheistically and polydoxically!

theo-phanic, Duns Scotus, Etienne Gilson, Richard Rohr, Scotistic sensibilities, perichoretic, strict identity, nonstrict identity, separability, onto-theo-logical, trinito-logical model, Divine Dance, theo-poetic, trinito-phanic trans-rational, trans-apophatic, kataphatic, apophatic, Hermeneutic of Presence, Scotistic, Palamatic, Incarnation, Christological, Eucharist, people gathered, word proclaimed, sacred species, onto-theo-logically, Trinity, trinito–logical, essence, ousia, hypostaseis, energeiai, en-hypostasized, divine energies, methexis, met-ousia, metousiosis, semiotic, divine indwelling), essential distinction, conceptual distinction, adequate distinction, formal distinction, modal distinction, mike morrell, polydoxy, ecumenical dialogue, interreligious dialogue