Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation
With Mike Morrell
Hardback: Whittaker House, 2016
Buy Now: [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]
Reviewed by Amy Neftzger.
Richard Rohr’s latest book The Divine Dance: The Trinity and your Transformation is both rich and revolutionary. It’s rich in the sense that it discusses deep theological issues about the nature and structure of the Trinity, while at the same time describing a need for a radical paradigm shift in the way modern Christians think about the Trinitarian God. The concepts outlined in the book are revolutionary not because they’re new, but rather because they challenge the mindset of our current culture and longstanding beliefs about God.
Christianity has often struggled with how to express the notion that God is one being with three manifestations. The traditional explanation of the “three in one” version of God has been explained through the different forms of water: liquid, ice, and vapor. However, Rohr proposes that the primary issue with this idea of God is the view of God as substance (or material) rather than relationship. If we shift our thinking and consider the concept of God as a “flow” – similar to the nature of a river – we open up to the concept of God as a living being that informs our interactions with others. Suddenly God doesn’t exist as an entity but rather as a relationship and a connection to other lives. This concept is the form that love takes: it is not something we feel or an action we take. Rather, it’s our response to everything around us and involves being present in the moment for ourselves, for God, and others around us.
Most of us have grown up with the understanding of the trinity as a sort of triangle of divine authority with God the Father at the head of the pyramid. Rohr argues that while this notion isn’t completely wrong, it also isn’t absolutely correct. This model can be short sighted because it takes on a hierarchical view of God as an authority figure rather than a relational being. This view of God has resulted in a legalistic interpretation of how individuals should behave if they want to be considered a part of the elect. Rohr proposes that it’s not so much a matter of being “in” or “out” of the group, as it is a matter of participating. We can choose to join in the dance that is the relationship of God where we’re guided by the flow of the music and move in relation and response to one another. This is at the core of what it means to be in the Spirit. If we want to use a geometrical figure, Rohr suggests that a circle or spiral would be more accurate because the true nature of the Trinity rests in dynamic relationship and connection. The cyclical nature of these figures embodies the potential for movement while at the same time maintaining the association and interdependence between them.
Almost half the book makes the case for a revolution in the way we view the Trinity, but the second half of the book is where is starts to get personal. This is where Rohr discusses the impact of this new perspective on the individual and why this is a critical change we should be making. First of all, he says, we grow spiritually and emotionally when we take part in this dance because it facilitates revelation and inspiration. When we engage in the flow of God’s spirit, we become more like God and also communicate more easily with God, which results in a richer prayer life. Secondly, this new view of the Trinity emphasizes relationships with others, regardless of another person’s belief system. We learn what it means to love our neighbors and understand that this is a global concept and not limited to simply loving others who are like us or behave in a manner we deem to be worthy of our love. It also means learning to exemplify heaven in our present state, not through the creation of rules and laws that guide the behavior of individuals, but instead through learning how to let love happen now in this moment. This means less control over others and more giving of ourselves, which may be a radical concept for some of us.
This book may not appeal to everyone, but I do think many of us would benefit from reading it. Some Christians may struggle with the content because the message is different from the current cultural mindset in the Western church. It challenges the concept of a male dominated theological model and the need for legalistic doctrines. However, those who are frustrated with the current state of the church and are looking for more from their religion are likely to find the content refreshing and inspiring. The book is, after all, about transformation – of both our concept of the Trinity and of ourselves.
Finally, while some of these concepts may sound a little too mystic for Western theological ears, I think that Rohr’s book is worth reading precisely for that reason. In modern Christian America we’re concerned about doing the right thing and making the correct decision, and we view every life choice as a moral decision that can be reasoned. A good example of this is the current election where half of us are convinced that God is conservative and the other half are convinced that God is liberal. If God is about relationship then we’re not commanded to judge the opinions of others as much as respect the individuals whether they agree with us or not. Many times in the past Christianity has been fractured over legalistic views where relationship has been pushed aside for the sake of righteousness. It may be time to view the example that God gives us in the Trinity as a model for living with one another.
Amy Neftzger has been writing books and articles for over 15 years. Her works include non-fiction, professional articles and several fiction books, such as Conversations with the Moon. Her latest YA novel is The War of Words (2016). Some of her favorite things include traveling, books, movies, art, and gargoyles.