I hesitated before buying Richard Rohr’s latest book, The Divine Dance, because of its sub-title The Trinity and Your Transformation. As a Unitarian, I have long rejected the classic Christian doctrine of the Trinity, being unable to see how God can be one and three at the same time. But because it was Richard Rohr, whom I trust, I decided to give it a go, and my thinking, my beliefs have been transformed.
I have never seen the Trinity explained like this, not anywhere. He recommends starting with God as Three, rather than God as One, and the grounding perception for his thesis is that the three persons of the Trinity are in a fully relational flow between themselves, and that the flow itself is God (which is where the One comes in).
Firstly there is God as Father / Mother, whom Rohr refers to as “Being” and “God for us”, who gives and receives Love eternally, and who created all things.
Secondly there is God as Son / Daughter, whom Rohr refers to as “Consciousness” and “God alongside us”, who receives and gives Love eternally. This is the cosmic Christ who pre-existed with the Father, the incarnational part of the Trinity, much more than Jesus. Rohr explains that the key importance of the Incarnation in Jesus was as an example to humankind – the two-natured bit. That God “came down to earth” and became fully human means that this is also true of each of us. We are all divine incarnations, enfleshments (which is what incarnation means), sons and daughters of God, fully human and fully divine. He actually says at one point in the CD which I also bought, that the crucifixion wasn’t necessary, except as a dramatic way to get humankind’s attention. The key is the dual nature of Jesus as fully divine and fully human, incarnated in this world.
Thirdly, that the Holy Spirit, whom Rohr refers to as “Joy” and “God in us”, is precisely this incarnated spark of the Divine, which of course the Quakers call “that of God in everyone”. Which makes us a part of this divine outpouring and flow of Love in the universe.
These three aspects of God are three fully autonomous but also simultaneously intimately related avatars of the one God.
The really weird thing is that this seems to make perfect sense to me, the lifelong Unitarian. I have accepted the idea of the divine spark in everyone for many years, so in that sense I have always been a “Binitarian” of sorts, but up until now I have always struggled with the idea of Jesus as the unique, divine Son of God, second person of the Trinity.
Yet the way Rohr explains it – that the Incarnation in the human Jesus was a necessary part of God’s plan to prove to human beings that we are all partly divine, all in close relationship with Him, all having what Rohr calls “innate, divine DNA”, is an explanation of the Trinity that I sort of understand, on a gut level. It means that the Trinity is not so much the three aspects of God as in the flow, the relationship, the “sacred / divine dance” between them.
Also that not only human beings, but all living things are part of this divine dance – the whole of the universe is sacramental. That every other living being happily accepts its part in the sacred dance, and that only humans have trouble with it. Which is why the Cosmic Christ was incarnated in Jesus, to demonstrate the possibility of human beings being part of this divine dance.
So I think that the dreams I have been having since reading the book are an outworking of these ideas, urging me to accept that I too am part of the divine flow, part of God who is eternal transcendent Being, the ultimate giver of Love, and who is always God for us; Jesus Christ, God alongside us, who came as an example of incarnation, to point the way for humankind; and the Holy Spirit, that of God in us, reaching out to God the Father / Mother in eternal relationship. It is peculiarly satisfying to believe that every human being is born with this divine DNA (Rohr says elsewhere that it is “installed by the Maker from the beginning, who is God”) and can hence be part of the sacred dance of the universe, along with all other living beings. I really, really like it.
So far as I understand it, the key difference between Rohr’s Trinitarianism and Christianity’s is that he rejects, or seems to dismiss as unnecessary, the doctrine of the Atonement, that Jesus died to put humankind back into right relationship with God the Father, and that without his death on the cross, we are all lost to God. Instead, Rohr sees the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus as modelling the process of loss and renewal, from False Self to True Self, how we die before we die.
He explains that sin only happens when we decide to turn away from participation in the divine dance, turn our backs on God, ignore our own divine natures, and consciously choose to go it alone, to be autonomous. Because being part of the divine dance, part of God, is a surrender of autonomy, a letting go, a loss of control, which is too scary for many people.
It also fits in with my triquetra, which I’ve always seen as symbolising “the flow of love, grace, and compassion between God and all creation”. It all makes sense!
He also states very firmly that the divine spark is in everybody, specifically naming the likes of Hitler and Stalin. Wow! In every human being of whatever colour, race, sexual orientation, class, or faith tradition. Lovely universalist thinking.
Reading this book has been a revelation. It sent me back to the first year of my Encounter studies, when we did a session on the Trinity, which totally passed me by at the time. To my delight, I found this meditation, given to us by the tutor, Anthony Lury, which now makes perfect sense:
LIFE IN GOD
Imagine for a moment God the Lover who loves God the Beloved
with the infinite total love of Lover …
Be aware of God the Beloved who loves God the Lover
with the total love a of a Beloved …
But the Lover loves the Beloved through you
and he loves you as an adopted son or daughter …
And Beloved loves the Lover through you,
and he loves you as his brother/sister …
And the Lover loves his other children through you,
with his love that flows from you to them …
And Beloved loves his other brothers and sisters through you
with his love that flows from you to them …
This dynamic process of Lover and Beloved loving each other
and loving through you is going on constantly …
The love that flows through you and binds the Lover and Beloved together is the Holy Spirit …