by Richard Rohr, with Mike Morrell.
New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 2016.
ISBN: 978-1-62911-729-4. 220 pages
Reviewed by Dr. Katie M. Deaver
In this book, Rohr explores his belief that Christians have failed to incorporate a true understanding of the Trinity into our faith lives. Arranged in three parts, Rohr’s book invites the reader into a new way of coming to know God through the Trinity.
“Part I: Wanted: A Trinitarian Revolution” focuses primarily on God within the Trinity. This section uses biblical passages as well as the writings of historical and contemporary theologians to show that relationship is central to all life and that the Trinity itself is God’s invitation to all of creation to join in the dance of relationship. Rohr uses the metaphors of a divine banquet and an invitation to dance as ways for Christians to understand not only our relationship with God but also the relationship between the persons of the Trinity. For Rohr, the Trinity is a circular power, fully connected and fully reliant on relationship to live fully and authentically. This section of the book also emphasizes the importance of recognizing the divine light in all aspects of creation and seeing a connection to God within this divine light. Finally, Rohr makes it clear that all knowledge of God is participatory in nature. We are most connected to God when we are participating in relationship with God and with the divine light that lies in all of creation.
“Part II: Why the Trinity? Why Now?,” as many Christian readers may have guessed, considers the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ. In this section Rohr argues that Christians have taken Jesus out of the Trinity and, as a result, have been left with an earthbound atonement based on suffering and the human aspects of God. He goes on to explain that, while many Christians are very comfortable with Jesus the person, the human man who cares about the sinner and the outcast and is a buddy to all, we have failed to develop deep relationships with the divine aspects of Christ. Jesus as a human being is personal and historical; Christ as a cosmic savior, on the other hand, seems to be difficult for Christians to connect with. Once again Rohr returns to his affirmation that it is the divine light within each one of us that connects with God and continuously invites us into relationship, not only with God but also with one another. For Rohr, our very existence means we are invited into the dance, the love, and the constant communion that is taking place between God and creation.
Finally, in “Part III: The Holy Spirit,” Rohr focuses on God as a Being, an active verb. The active aspect of the Trinity for Rohr is the Holy Spirit, and it is the Holy Spirit that is responsible for all forms of relationship. Rohr explains that the Holy Spirit has two primary roles: 1) to create diversity, and 2) to connect those diverse creations. This assertion, of course, further supports his focus on a circular understanding of relationship between all of creation. The circular pattern that can be seen in the Trinity, then, is copied through the connection of all of creation.
Rohr also offers readers an appendix filled with practical approaches to connecting the book to the prayer life of both individuals and groups. Overall, Rohr’s take on the Trinity is extremely helpful and his writing is clear and easy to follow. This book would be an easy read for Christians who have limited exposure to theological academic writing. In many ways the book reads much more like a devotional text than a scholarly work, which I found quite refreshing! My only concern with this text was Rohr’s consistent use of Father and Son language when describing the Trinity. Rohr goes to great lengths to ensure that the reader understands that it is not the gender or the names of the persons of the Trinity that are important but, rather, their relationships with one another, but if that is truly the case why continue to use Father and Son throughout the entire book? Why not also use female identifiers, or nongendered identifiers of God and the Trinity? The one exception to this is in the third section of the book where the Holy Spirit is consistently referred to as “she.” All in all, this book is an intriguing read and would make a wonderful Advent or Lenten devotional text.
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