Sunday, December 01, 2013

Richard Rohr Is Wrong on the Goal of Religion

Monroe County sunset (11/30/13)

Popular writer Richard Rohr writes that "Non dual thinking is the highest level of consciousness. Divine union, not private perfection, is the goal of all religion." 

I think that's false. 

Rohr has a false dichotomy here - "Either divine union or private perfection." I think of the "goal of religion" in neither of these ways, because of how Rohr defines "divine union."

Rohr seems to understand "divine union" as resulting in "non-dual thinking." For a Christian theist like myself, this is wrongheaded because it is so very non-Hebraic. One must always maintain the distinction between us and God, even as we are "in Christ." God is always "Other" than us; therefore dualistic thinking remains and is necessary to think correctly about God.

When doing doctoral work at Northwestern U. I was privileged to take two independent study courses with Professor Richard Kieckhefer, a scholar in Medieval mysticism and theology. (What a great privilege to study with him!) One of the courses was on the writings of Meister Eckhart (1260-1327). Eckhart comes perilously close to arguing for the possibility of an ontological union with the being of God. Whether he does or not remains a scholarly issue. But the idea of such a possibility as our goal is non-Hebraic and non-Christian. Were that a reality, it would be the place of non-dual thinking. 

If by "divine union" Rohr means something like "abiding in Christ" and "Christ in me, the hope of glory," I am fine with that. That would be the goal of the Jesus-life. But in its achievement Jesus still remains ontologically distinct, and to be worshipped. Such real worship requires dualistic experience and dualistic thinking.