Beyond Words by Richard Rohr

All words are metaphors approximating the hard-knock of reality itself. That doesn’t mean we throw words and ideas out. Quite the contrary! The best Jewish approach to scripture study was called midrash; they struggled with the text, unraveled it, looked at its various possible meanings, and offered a number of interpretations that often balanced and complemented one another. There was never just one meaning, or one certain meaning that eliminated all others. If only Christianity had imitated our Jewish forebears in this regard our history would have been so much more peaceful and life giving.

After the Enlightenment in the 17th century, we regressed in many ways as religion wanted to compete with the rational, intelligent thinkers of Europe. The later Protestant Reformation moved forward with this mind as individuals and groups claimed there was only one correct interpretation of every scripture. Catholics looked to the Pope for that one correct interpretation. It’s no surprise there are 30,000 Protestant denominations today, and Catholicism became so monarchical. We will never agree on the meanings of words. That’s why the Word became flesh, to reveal that words can’t get you there. Only experience, love, and relationship can.

Jesus’ truth claim was his person (John 14:6), his presence (John 6:35), and his ability to participate in God’s perfect love (John 17:21-22). Emphasizing perfect agreement on words and forms, instead of inviting people into an experience of the Formless Presence, has caused much of the violence of human history. Jesus gives us his risen presence as “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). No dogma will ever substitute for that.

Most of Jesus’ teaching is walking with people on the streets, out in the desert, and often into nature. His examples come from the things he sees around him: birds, flowers, landlords and tenants, little children, women baking and sweeping, farmers farming. Jesus teaches with anecdote, parable, and concrete example much more than creating a systematic theology. Particulars seem to most open us up to universals. “Thisness” is the actual spiritual doorway to the everywhere and the always, much more than concepts. Incarnation is always specific and concrete, here and now, like this bread and this wine, and this ordinary moment, or this half-crazy person right in front of me.

Adapted from Hell, No! (CD, MP3 download)–Coming soon!;
and Things Hidden: Scripture As Spirituality, pp. 124, 126-127

Sign up to receive CAC’s free daily, weekly, or monthly emails for yourself!

Truth does not …

Truth does not die in the confrontation with new knowledge but it dies when we act as if truth can be captured inside the time warped and time bound concepts of any human form. The human perception of truth is never the same as truth and that perception is never static. There is no such thing as an inerrant Bible or an infallible pope! A living religion must always be interacting with unfolding truth. – John Shelby Spong

Parachurch As a New Kind of Reformation – Fr. Richard Rohr – Daily Meditations – 44 of 52

What some call “Emerging Christianity” has four common elements, in my opinion, even if they might be described in different ways:

  • There is a new honest, broad, and ecumenical Jesus scholarship. We are reading what theologians of all denominations are saying. And the amazing thing is that, at this level of scholarship at least, there is a strong consensus emerging about what Jesus really taught and emphasized.
  • There is a reemergence of a contemplative mind in all of the churches. It’s not content with the dualistic mind which has dominated for the last five hundred years. Contemplation receives the whole field of the moment and lets such an open lens teach us—both what we understand along with what we don’t understand. Finally there is room for mystery and the acceptance of even being wrong or just partially right.
  • This consensus (both at the scholarly and experiential levels) is revealing that Jesus tended to emphasize very different things than present organized Christianity tends to emphasize. Present organized Christianity (in all denominations) tends to be preoccupied with things that Jesus never talked about ever, and sometimes even disagreed with. 
  • New community structures and new parallel church organizations are often emerging and flourishing to make this possible. (The CAC would be an example of such a “parachurch” group, as well as Hospice, Habitat for Humanity, various social service ministries, contemplative prayer groups, and volunteer and mission work, etc.) None of these are in competition with Sunday religion, but they give us ways to actually do what we are told to do on Sunday. The emphasis is often orthopraxy (practice) instead of just repeating the orthodox creeds every Sunday.

Wish to sign up for CAC’s email lists yourself? Subscribe to CAC email lists here.

More about Richard Rohr –