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His thesis is that whatever is going on in God is like dancing, a flowing of life. Knowledge of God is participatory; it is knowing from within, from participating in the dance. Sin is stopping the flow of the dance. Moreover, he says, “What physicists and contemplatives alike are confirming is that the foundational nature of reality is relational; everything is in relationship with everything else” (page 69). Being a psychiatrist, I would add that behavioral science and neuroscience are confirming the same.
The book contains important take home messages. Among my favorites are the following:
Messages about God: “Whatever is going on in God is a flow, a radical relatedness, a perfect communion between Three [Father, Son and Holy Spirit for a Christian]—a circle dance of Love. And God is not just a dancer; God is the dance itself” (page 27). “… God … is actually inter-being …” (page 82). God loves you, not because you are good, but because God is good (page 110). “The cross is the standing icon and image of God, showing us that … God is in the suffering with us” (page 132). “Jesus became incarnate to reveal the image of the invisible God” (page 174).
Messages about the universe and us: “Our starting place was always original goodness, not original sin” (page 32). “Personhood is not a static notion, but an entirely dynamic and relational one … our original identity in God. All human personhood implies a process of coming to be in love! Sin is every refusal to move in the direction of our deepest identity as love” (page 77). “…this ‘whole creation itself … [is being] brought into the same glorious freedom as the children of God’ and is ‘groaning in one great act of giving birth’” (page 114). “Humans change in the process of love-mirroring, and not by paying any price or debt” (page 132). “Creation just keeps unfolding …” (page 147).
The book ends with a quote from Catherine of LaCugna: “The very nature of God, therefore, is to seek out the deepest possible communion and friendship with every last creature on this earth” (page 194).
An appendix describes seven practices for experiencing the Trinity.
I highly recommend this book for people of all faiths who seek inspiration for living in our current time of increasing interconnectedness.
My third reason was Rohr's co-author Mike Morrell. Morrell is best known as the organizer of the Wild Goose Festival. One of his seven or eight other day jobs is curating SpeakEasy,a blog review program which has introduced me to some great books the past few years. This book came into fruition when Morrell got his hands on material that Rohr had delivered at two conferences and offered to help Rohr translate them from conference to book form.So the Triune God, Rohr and Morrell conspired. The Divine Dance was born. Um. . .the book, not the dance. The Divine dance has been happening for a little while now.
The book is based on Rohr's lectures, but the concept came to Rohr during a Lenten retreat. While on retreat, he picked up Catherine LaCugna's book, God For Us: The Trinity and Christian Life and read it. Rohr describes the reading of her book as being brought into conversation with the "big tradition." For him the Trinity was no longer a "dusty doctrine" to be shelved, but "almost a phenomenology of my own—and others'—inner experience of God" (40-41).
Organizationally this is different from Rohr's other books (mostly through Morrell's influence). There is an introduction and three parts. In lieu of chapters there are sub-headings in each section—seventy headings in all. This makes it an ideal book for daily devotional reading; however I wouldn't say that there is a linear argument running through each section. Instead Rohr steps, sways, and sashays his way across the floor, circling back to aspects of the Trinity, embellish his dance moves with creative flourishes.
Rohr's introduction describes how despite Western Christians' affirmation of the Trinity, it has made little practical impact on our lives. The invitation, Rohr has for us, is not just to see the triune relationship at the heart of God, but to enter into communion with Father, Son and Spirit. Rohr illustrates this by describing Rublev's Trinity which depicts the Godhood sitting at Abraham's table. Rohr posits that a mirror originally hung in front of the icon, to help the observer take up her space at the table (29-31). This takes Trinity out of the world of abstraction and invites us into Divine relationship.
Part 1, Wanted: a Trinitarian Revolution is conceptual and philosophically rich. Rohr attempts to answer how entering into Triune reality changes everything—breaking all our dualisms (including political dualisms), and opens the way for new paradigms and connection with the world. Part II, Why the Trinity? Why Now?, delves deeper into the nature of God and how commitment to the Trinity dismantles our divine caricatures, and showcases a God more loving, welcoming and present to us. Part III, the Holy Spirit, concludes the book with some thoughts on how the Spirit brings helps us engage deeper with God and the world. An appendix describes seven practices for experiencing the Trinity, notably a litany of seventy evocative names for the Holy Spirit (210-212).
Rohr avoids the practical modalism of Western Christianity by looking East to the Social Trinity of the Cappadocians. He writes, "Don't start with the One and try to make it into Three, but start with the Three and see that this is the deepest nature of the One" (43). Rohr makes the case that the relationship in the Godhead between its members, is the basis of all reality, and understanding and embracing the Divine Dance opens us up to new realities which effect politics and community.
Richard Rohr and I have different starting points He's a Franciscan friar and a priest, I'm a low, roving Protestant. But I appreciate the way Rohr urges a recovery of the Trinity and has traced out its implications. I highly recommend this book for several reasons. First, Rohr is all about the great tradition. He cites Protestants, Patristic, medieval theologians and a healthy helping of notable Franciscans. Secondly, Rohr is both gracious and thoughtful in his analysis. Third, there are lots of theology books about the Trinity, but there have been few books that help us imagine what the practical implications are for our spiritual life. This one delivers. Fourth, even where we may disagree with Rohr,(i.e. his critical and selective reading of some Bible passages), he asks hard questions which we ought to press into. For example, he writes as a Franciscan priest who doesn't believe in forensic models of the atonement (131). If we are to affirm penal substitution, how does God's wrath against the Son on the cross fit into our Trinitarian theology? What impact does our belief about God impact how we live? Our politics? These are great questions. I happily recommend this book and give it four stars.
One final plea, get the hard cover edition instead of the Kindle edition. Reading this as e-book is okay, but because this is a book with no chapters and so many headings. I prefer the orientation and spacial awareness provided by a physical binding. Also, the inside of the front and back covers have a full-color reproduction of Rublev's icon of the Trinity (the same image in copper hue embossed in copper tone across the dust jacket). Divine Dance is published by Whitaker House. Many of their books reflect a charismatic aesthetic. They are best known, to me, for publishing Smith Wiggleworth and a slough of deliverance ministers. This may be the most beautiful book they've ever published.
Note: I received this book from SpeakEasy in exchange for my honest review. I wasn't asked to write a positive review. I just can't help myself.