Someone recently asked me if I had any information on an individual by the name of Richard Rohr. I don’t normally do posts on pastors/teachers (or even friars, which is what Richard Rohr is). I have two reasons for this:
A) there are plenty of them out there, and
B) not every one of them needs a public post.
However, I do take requests and I evaluate them carefully.
Prior to this request, I had a bit of a surface-level knowledge of Richard Rohr. Unlike prior profile posts I have done (on pastors such as Max Lucado, Joseph Prince, Todd Smith and Henry Seeley), this one will not be done on a pastor, for Richard Rohr is technically not a pastor. Instead, he is a friar. Even Wikipedia does not show Rohr as a pastor. According to the website https://cac.org/richard-rohr/richard-rohr-ofm/, here is a screen capture showing some information on Richard Rohr (focusing on the top and bottom paragraphs; I purposely blacked out the middle one; that paragraph shows books he has written):
Notice that the first overall sentence states that Rohr is a “globally recognized ecumenical teacher.” He also has over 103,000 followers on Twitter (at the time of this post). Therefore, a post on him is most definitely appropriate. This is not a Matthew 18 issue because Rohr is obviously in the public eye (not to mention not a brother in Christ). After all, can one really get more public than “globally recognized”?
As I stated before, Rohr is not a pastor, so the criteria I use when giving biblical critiques on pastors will not apply here. Instead, one needs to compare Richard Rohr’s teachings against the Word of God. In this post, I look at information about him from the organization he founded. What I do here is a bit of a line-by-line analysis of him from the first and last paragraphs from the above shown information from Rohr’s own website. While that does not sound like a whole lot, one can find much information behind the sentences I am about to analyze.
A. Fr. Richard Rohr is a globally recognized ecumenical teacher bearing witness to the universal awakening within Christian mysticism and the Perennial Tradition.
According to his own organization, Rohr is globally recognized as an ecumenical teacher. The key word here is “ecumenical.” Consider the first two paragraphs of this article by GotQuestions.org that gives a little information on ecumenism (bolding done by me):
Walter A. Elwell, in The Concise Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, defines ecumenism as “the organized attempt to bring about the cooperation and unity among Christians.” On an international level, the World Council of Churches represents ecumenism when it states its purpose this way: “The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior according to the scriptures, and therefore seek to fulfill together their common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is a community of churches on the way to visible unity in one faith and one eucharistic fellowship, expressed in worship and in common life in Christ. It seeks to advance towards this unity, as Jesus prayed for his followers, ‘so that the world may believe’ (John 17:21)” (www.wcc-coe.org). On a national level, a document called Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium, published in 1994 and endorsed by some rather prominent representatives of evangelical Christianity and Roman Catholicism, is another example of ecumenism.
Ecumenism can also be defined more broadly: “a movement that promotes worldwide unity among all religions through greater cooperation.” For example, a Christian priest may invite a Muslim imam to speak in his pulpit, or a church may get together with a Hindu temple to hold a joint prayer service. Defined this way, ecumenism is definitely wrong. We are not to be “yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14; see also Galatians 1:6–9). Light and darkness have no fellowship with each other.
Because Rohr’s own organization states that Rohr bears witness to Christian mysticism and the Perennial Tradition (rather than biblical Christianity), it is safe to say that Rohr subscribes to the broader definition of ecumenism listed in the second paragraph of the above article. This is not a good thing. Consider what Rohr’s own organization states about the Perennial Tradition (screen capture of relevant text):
It should be understood that Christianity is a religion; it is a religion with salvation as purely a gift by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). Are the three above things recurring themes in Christianity? God’s Word begs to differ on that. First, the idea that there “is a Divine reality underneath and inherent in the world of things” smells of panentheism. Christian and missionary Marcia Montenegro has done extensive work on the New Age. She notes how Rohr admits to being a panentheist. Consider these five paragraphs under the “Panentheism” section of her article on Rohr’s book The Universal Christ here:
Rohr openly admits to panentheism in his blogs, and on page 43 of this book. Panentheism is the belief that God is contained in creation, and creation is contained in God, with God also transcending creation. “God is hidden in the dirt and mud instead of descending from the clouds,” writes Rohr (119). Panentheism alters the nature of God as revealed in Scripture.
The panentheistic God reacts to and has a relationship with creation such that God is not totally independent of creation. (See section on panentheism in CANA article on Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts).
Panentheism is not the biblical belief of God”s omnipresence. Biblical theism does not deny God’s omnipresence nor his activity in the world. It asserts that God created the world out of nothing and is therefore distinct from it. God is omnipresent because he cannot be contained in any one locale, yet he remains distinct from his creation.
This book brims over with overtly panentheistic statements such as “God loves things by becoming them,” and “God joined in unity with the physical universe” at the moment of creation, which was the “first incarnation.” What Rohr calls the “Divine DNA” is in all creatures (28).
Later in the book, Rohr offers a meditation to “rewire you to see all things in God, and God in all things” (225), and a poem for meditation which includes the line that “a mirror, the sun, and God are all the same.”
Obviously, Rohr subscribes to panentheism. GotQuestions.org has a short article here that refutes panentheism. Consider it below:
Related to Process Theology, panentheism is essentially a combination of theism (God is the supreme being) and pantheism (God is everything). While pantheism says that God and the universe are coextensive, panentheism claims that God is greater than the universe and that the universe is contained within God. Panentheism holds that God is the “supreme effect” of the universe. God is everything in the universe, but God also is greater than the universe. Events and changes in the universe affect and change God. As the universe grows and learns, God also increases in knowledge and being.
Panentheism is most definitely not biblical. In fact, it is extreme heresy that impugns the character of God and makes Him more like a man. God is present everywhere (Psalm 139:7-8), but God is not everything. God knows everything, whether actual or possible (Psalm 139:1-6; Romans 11:33-35). God does not learn because He already has all knowledge. God is “affected” by things that occur in the universe, but only in that sin angers Him and holiness pleases Him. Our actions do not change God or impact His essential being.
The Bible presents God as holy (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8), sovereign (1 Chronicles 29:11; Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 83:18; Isaiah 37:20), omnipresent (Psalm 139:7-10), omniscient (Job 28:24; Psalm 147:4-5), omnipotent (Job 42:1-2), self-existent (Exodus 3:14; Psalm 36:9), eternal (Psalm 90:2; Habakkuk 1:12), immutable (Psalm 33:11; James 1:17), perfect (Deuteronomy 32:3-4), and infinite (Job 5:9; 9:10). None of these attributes are compatible with panentheism. God transcends all of His creation, and is in no sense limited or changed by events in His creation.
God’s Word absolutely refutes the first point of the Perennial Tradition. The idea that there “is a divine reality underneath and inherent in the world of things” is absolutely refuted by God’s Word.
For the second point, Scripture refutes the idea that there “is in the human soul a natural capacity, similarity and longing” for some kind of divine reality. Consider Romans 3:9-20 (NASB):
9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10 as it is written:
“There is no righteous person, not even one;
11 There is no one who understands,
There is no one who seeks out God;
12 They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt;
There is no one who does good,
There is not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave,
With their tongues they keep deceiving,”
“The venom of asps is under their lips”;
14 “Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”;
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood,
16 Destruction and misery are in their paths,
17 And they have not known the way of peace.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 because by the works of the Law none of mankind will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes knowledge of sin.
If nobody seeks for God, how is there a natural capacity, similarity and longing for some kind of divine reality? The answer is that there is not such a thing. In fact, by default, people are born dead in trespasses and sins.
Ephesians 2:1-10 explains:
2 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
The Bible is clear that people are born dead in trespasses and sins (2:1-3). God’s being rich in mercy makes one alive in Christ (2:4). Furthermore, it is by grace through faith that one is saved (2:5-9). It is not based on works (2:9).
If you do not believe what Ephesians 2:1-10 states, I would ask you please look at the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17. Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever stolen something, even if it was small? Have you ever used God’s name in vain? Jesus said that whoever looks upon a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery in the heart (Matthew 5:27-28). Jesus also said that if you ever get angry at someone, you’ve committed murder in the heart (Matthew 5:21-26). Just the mere thoughts of adultery and murder make you guilty of the very acts themselves.
Please understand that it only takes one murder to be a murderer, one lie to be a liar and so forth. David said in Psalm 51:5 that he was conceived in sin. Genesis 6:5 states that every intent of the thoughts of man’s heart is only evil continually. Clearly, man has a sin problem. Romans 3:23 states that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Man is in big trouble with God because of his sin. This is more amplified by the fact that perfection is the standard (Matthew 5:48).
Now, some people try to justify their sin by trying to balance it out with the good deeds that they have done. However, if you were to try that in a court of law, the judge would throw the book at you. A good judge would not accept a bribe. He would cast you off into jail. God likewise will not accept a bribe, for there is no partiality with Him (Deuteronomy 10:17; Ephesians 6:9). Revelation 21:1-8 states the following (NASB):
21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among the people, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be anymourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
5 And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He *said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” 6 Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give water to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life, without cost. 7 The one who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. 8 But for the cowardly, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and sexually immoral persons, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
The Bible is clear that all liars will have their part in the lake of fire. No adulterer, no murderer, no idolater, no unbeliever (among others) will inherit the kingdom of God (see also 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Sin has a very serious consequence.
Thankfully, Jesus Christ came to solve the sin problem 2000 years ago (Isaiah 53:1-12). You and I broke the law. Jesus paid the fine (Matthew 26:14-28:20). This means that the judge can do what’s legally right in dismissing your case. He can say, “This person has broken the law, but someone has paid his fine. He’s out of here.” This is good news.
There are two things a person must do. He must repent. This means to turn from his sin (Mark 1:16; Luke 24:36-49; 2 Timothy 2:19-26; Acts 17:30-31). He must also put his trust in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31, 17:30-31; Romans 4:1-25, 10:1-17; Galatians 3:1-14; John 6:26-29). These gifts of repentance and faith are granted by God (Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 2:22-26). If you repent and put your trust in the Savior Jesus Christ, He will forgive you of your sins and grant you everlasting life (John 6:47). Oh may you know His mercy and grace today if you have never repented and put your trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. If you get anything out of this long-winded article, please know how you can be saved through Jesus Christ alone.
The idea that people have a natural capacity, similarity and longing for some kind of divine reality is not a recurring theme in Christianity. Scripture clearly refutes that idea.
In refuting the third point of the Perennial Tradition, I really have no idea what “union with this Divine Reality” means. Therefore, I look to GotQuestions.org once again. Consider these five paragraphs in their answer to the question of “Why am I here?”:
Why am I here? To glorify God. Ultimately, God created us for His glory; our purpose is to glorify Him and, in this fallen world, to make Him known to others (Isaiah 43:7; Matthew 28:18–19). Human beings are not accidents; we are not here by chance. Many passages in the Bible make it clear that the purpose of humans is to give God praise and glory, for He created us and gave us life (Ecclesiastes 12:13; Revelation 4:11). Augustine of Hippo sums up our purpose and our deep desire in his Confessions: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee” (1.1.1).
The general reason why we are here—to glorify God—extends to each of us specifically. Psalm 139:16 indicates that God’s purpose for us is as precise as it is personal: “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed” (NLT). According to this verse, God is in control of three things that intimately concern each of us: 1) the beginning of each life, 2) the length of each life, and 3) the exact plan for each life.
Why am I here? To be reconciled to God, who “commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). Jesus died in our place, taking the punishment for our sins upon Himself (Romans 5:6–8; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Through His resurrection, He conquered sin and death and made it possible for us to have a relationship with God, thus restoring the relationship that was fractured at the fall of mankind (2 Timothy 1:10; Romans 5:10). By repentance and faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are set free from sin. The Bible describes God as “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
Why am I here? To serve the Lord and obey Him. “When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is this: Fear God and keep His commandments, because this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13, BSB). There is no higher purpose than being a servant of the King of the universe (see Psalm 84:10).
Why am I here? To prepare for eternity. Those who are confused about why they are here may end up pursuing pleasure or wealth or fame as the goal of life, but all of those things are vanity, as the book of Ecclesiastes attests. Part of why we’re here is to ready ourselves for the inevitable journey we must take after death: “People are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Jesus promoted an eternal perspective, asking, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Mark 8:36–37).
God is much more than a “divine reality”; He sent His Son to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21; 1 Timothy 1:15; John 1:29). Those who have repented and have been forgiven do much more than just seek union with God; they wish to glorify Him in all they do. This Perennial Tradition that Richard Rohr bears witness to is completely not in alignment with what the Scriptures say. Its’ three points are certainly not a recurring theme in Christianity. They are three points of something else altogether. Therefore, whatever Christian mysticism (such a broad term) he bears witness to is something not worth trusting.
B. He is a Franciscan priest of the New Mexico Province and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Since Rohr’s own organization states Rohr is a “Franciscan priest”, it would be good to know what exactly Franciscan priests preach. GotQuestions.org has an article that answers the question, “Who are the Franciscans?” It’s a short article. Here are the five paragraphs of that article (bolding done by me):
Franciscans are members of a religious order that follows the teachings of Francis of Assisi, a Catholic friar, mystic, and “saint.” Franciscans are usually Catholic, but there are some Anglicans and Lutherans who also follow the Franciscan Rule.
Franciscans usually add some rules to those of St. Francis, observing some of the teachings of other Franciscans such as St. Clare of Assisi and St. Anthony of Padua. There are several groups within the Franciscan Order, but the word Franciscans applies specifically to the First Order, or the “Order of Friars Minor.” These friars are men who depend on charity for their livelihood, owning no property and spending all their time and energy on religious work. This group can trace their beginnings back to Francis himself.
One of the main teachings of Francis was the duty of poverty. Having been inspired by a sermon he heard on Matthew 9:10, Francis spent his life in voluntary poverty as he traveled through the Umbrian Mountains preaching Catholicism. Francis gathered a group of men who believed as he did, and they traveled together.
The Bible does not require a vow of poverty. However, there are many verses on the blessedness of giving and caring for the poor (Proverbs 14:21, 31). Giving is to be done with a cheerful heart, not under compulsion (2 Corinthians 9:6–7). The Lord says that “whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done” (Proverbs 19:17).
The Franciscan commitment to charitable work is commendable, but the Bible is clear that no amount of charity can earn a place in heaven. Ultimately, the Franciscans miss the mark in that they promote the false doctrines of Catholicism, a works-based religious system. It is right for us, as Christians, to have empathy for the suffering of others, to view ourselves with humility, and to spend our resources wisely. But no amount of asceticism, self-denial, poverty, or prayers to saints can atone for our sins. Only Jesus saves, and that is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8–9).
The article is clear that Franciscans follow the teachings of Francis of Assisi. Unfortunately, Franciscans partake in a works-righteousness-based religion. This type of religion saves nobody (see Galatians 1-5, Ephesians 2:1-10, the book of Romans, etc.). You might be wondering, “But what if Rohr doesn’t follow Francis of Assisi?” That’s a fair question to ask. Consider the beginning of this article by Rohr (dated May 18, 2020) from his own website:
By his own admission, Rohr says St. Francis of Assisi is his “own spiritual father.” It doesn’t really get any clearer than that. That admission begs the question; what was Francis of Assisi’s theology like? Thankfully, GotQuestions.org has an article about him. Consider the first and last paragraphs of the article below (bolding done by me):
Though never officially ordained to the priesthood, Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, known today as Saint Francis, is one of the most famous religious figures in history. Nicknamed “Francesco” by his father, Francis was a Catholic friar and preacher who lived from 1181 to 1226 near the town of Assisi, Italy. While fighting as a soldier for Assisi, he had a vision that caused him to change his life and take orders as a Catholic monk. On a trip to Rome, Francis experienced the sufferings of the poor and as a result made the decision to live in poverty. In 1224, Francis is purported to have received the stigmata after having a vision of an angel….
…Francis performed many good works, and his humility and aid of the poor and sick are certainly worthy of emulation. However, Francis was Catholic, and many of his teachings depart from biblical truth. His veneration of Mary, his staunch allegiance to the pope, and his extreme asceticism should all be causes of concern to New Testament believers. The New Testament never commands fasting and, in fact, warns believers of those who “forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods” (1 Timothy 4:3). Also, the Bible does not condone the elevation of men to “sainthood”—everyone who is in Christ is a saint (Romans 1:7)—or even the naming of ministers as “teacher” or “father” (Matthew 23:8) because we are all brothers. As with any man-made system, we should examine the Franciscan Rule in light of Scripture. Then, “hate what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9) and follow Christ (John 21:22).
It has already been established that Franciscans depart from biblical truth via their emphasis on a works-righteousness-based religious system. Francis of Assisi basically followed the same thing, and Richard Rohr considers Francis of Assisi as his spiritual father. Because of that, it is not possible for Rohr to preach the biblical Gospel.
It was stated earlier that Rohr founded the Center for Action and Contemplation (henceforth referred to as CAC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It would be wise to consider the organization’s mission and vision. Both are on this webpage here:
For the vision, notice that Jesus Christ is missing. While Jesus is listed under the first of the eight core principles for CAC, recall that Rohr admits to having Francis of Assisi as his spiritual father. Francis was a catholic whose teachings were not in agreement with biblical truth. This Jesus Rohr speaks of is not the biblical one.
Notice also an emphasis on the work of “Love.” I found it interesting that “Love” was capitalized under their vision. This vision is consistent with the works-righteousness-based religious system of the Franciscans. After all, there’s an emphasis on love (which is law) and on “overcoming dehumanizing systems of oppression” (also law). There’s no Gospel here.
Earlier, I cited Romans 3:9-20 in refuting the Perrenial Tradition. That same text refutes the “spiritual seekers” idea under CAC’s mission. Notice also there’s an emphasis for alleged seekers to “experience the transformative wisdom of the Christian contemplative tradition and nurture its emergence in service to the healing of our world.” Earlier this year, I reviewed a timeless classic called Christianity & Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen. Here are a few paragraphs from that book worth noting (all bolding done by me):
It is not true at all, then, that modern liberalism is based upon the authority of Jesus. It is obliged to reject a vast deal that is absolutely essential in Jesus’ example and teaching —notably His consciousness of being the heavenly Messiah. The real authority, for liberalism, can only be “the Christian consciousness” or “Christian experience.” But how shall the findings of the Christian consciousness be established? Surely not by a majority vote of the organized Church. Such a method would obviously do away with all liberty of conscience. The only authority, then, can be individual experience; truth can only be that which “helps” the individual man. Such an authority is obviously no authority at all; for individual experience is endlessly diverse, and when once truth is regarded only as that which works at any particular time, it ceases to be truth. The result is an abysmal skepticism.
The Christian man, on the other hand, finds in the Bible the very Word of God. Let it not be said that dependence upon a book is a dead or an artificial thing. The Reformation of the sixteenth century was founded upon the authority of the Bible, yet it set the world aflame. Dependence upon a word of man would be slavish, but dependence upon God’s Word is life. Dark and gloomy would be the world, if we were left to our own devices, and had no blessed Word of God. The Bible, to the Christian is not a burdensome law, but the very Magna Charta of Christian liberty.
It is no wonder, then, that liberalism is totally different from Christianity, for the foundation is different. Christianity is founded upon the Bible. It bases upon the Bible both its thinking and its life. Liberalism on the other hand is founded upon the shifting emotions of sinful men.pp. 80-81
At this point, it should be established that Christianity is different from the religion of the Franciscans. Since Rohr’s own organization places an emphasis on experiencing “the transforming wisdom of the Christian contemplative tradition”, is it possible Rohr’s organization is a subtle form of liberalism? This is something to think about.
By now, one should see that Rohr both promotes a works-righteousness-based religious system and is the founder of an organization that really has no Good News to proclaim to anybody. Rohr even admits that Francis of Assisi, a Catholic, is his spiritual father.
C. Fr. Richard’s teaching is grounded in the Franciscan alternative orthodoxy—practices of contemplation and self-emptying, expressing itself in radical compassion, particularly for the socially marginalized.
I have already shown some information on the identity of the Franciscans. Here I spend some time explaining the practices of contemplation and self-emptying. Conveniently, Rohr’s own website gives information on this. I also explain other information related to the practices of contemplation and self-emptying.
Rohr’s CAC website has a page titled, “What Is Contemplation?” For section “C” of this article, I draw from this page and all the sections/videos in it in my critiquing of it. Conveniently, the three videos on this page have a transcript. I used each transcript as a base to construct a more accurate one for each. Before I get to the transcript of the first video, it is good to see the opening paragraphs of this page to see CAC’s emphasis:
Notice that CAC’s emphasis is not on the Great Commission (see Matthew 28:18-20 and Luke 24:36-49). There is also an emphasis on feelings. Moreover, there is an invitation to let the feelings (not the Word of God) teach you. This is absolute subjectivity. Recall earlier some quotes I shared from Machen’s Christianity & Liberalism. Here are more paragraphs to consider (bolding done by me):
The Christian gospel consists in an account of how God saved man, and before that gospel can be understood, something must be known (1) about God and (2) about man. The doctrine of God and the doctrine of man are the two great presuppositions of the gospel. With regard to these presuppositions, as with regard to the gospel itself, modern liberalism is diametrically opposed to Christianity.
It is opposed to Christianity, in the first place, in its conception of God. But at this point we are met with a particularly insistent form of that objection to doctrinal matters which has already been considered. It is unnecessary, we are told, to have a “conception” of God; theology, or the knowledge of God, it is said, is the death of religion; we should not seek to know God, but should merely feel His presence.
With regard to this objection, it ought to be observed that if religion consists merely in feeling the presence of God, it is devoid of any moral quality whatever. Pure feeling, if there be such a thing, is non-moral.p. 55
Machen argued that pure feeling is non-moral. CAC is inviting people to let feelings teach them. How can CAC support one’s growth as a “loving, compassionate human being” when it is inviting people basically to be taught by non-moral stuff (feelings)? This is not biblical Christianity. It is an invitation to be taught by some endlessly diverse entity with a foundation that is not founded upon Scripture.
Rohr claims to be a traditionalist. He claims this in his video titled Reading as Spiritual Practice: Uniting Heart, Mind, and Body. The transcript I have below is a little different from the one on the website. I show the full transcript because full context is necessary here (bolding done by me):
Almost 10 years ago, a member of our staff here at the center in New Mexico, came to me and said, “What about if we start putting online, some of the many things you talk about?” I am afraid I talk about too many things, and he said, “Let’s try to get them, down into smaller pieces and offer them to people on a daily, basis.” And I thought, “Well, I don’t know who is going to listen to that.” But it grew from there. And every year it seems more people, checked in and, uh, the staff encouraged me by drawing from more of my writings and and talks, and little by little we had a full-blown set of daily meditations, and I know that they introduce a lot of ideas that sometimes at first blush probably seem scary, edgy, new, dangerous. I don’t think they are. Believe it or not, I pride myself in being a traditionalist. I would never have the courage to say the things I do, or say them with any kind of self-confidence, if I couldn’t draw them from scripture, from the whole 4000-year tradition of Judaism and Christianity, and find them bookmarked throughout that tradition, in saints and mystics and prophets and counsels of the church. That’s what tells me, “Okay Richard, you might be on the right course, or at least somewhat right course.” So that’s what we are going to offer you. I think it amounts to a mini-course, in mystical Christianity. Now don’t be scared by that word “mystical.” For me, mystical simply means experiential, that it’s not all up here in the head. It’s not just sentimentality in the heart. It’s not just body feelings, but it’s somehow putting all of those together, and when I mean experiential, that’s what I mean, and that’s what I want you to be able to experience, where head and heart and body and soul are all working together. So when you hear words like “non-dual consciousness”, “mysticism”, don’t be scared. I am really plugging in to that Christianity that most of you first learned maybe as a little child, but probably, you understood it, how could you not, with the mind of a little child, and, if we’re talking about experiential Christianity, we also want to introduce you, if you don’t mind me saying it, to adult Christianity. Nothing less is going to feed this world. We don’t have time, for, religious baby talk, just to make us feel secure. We need to say, “What does that really mean? What does that really mean for me, and what does that really mean for the world?” So, I’d love to invite you into that journey and it is a journey, and I promise you that we’re going to go together to some place very good. Thank you for your trust.
Notice that Rohr upholds himself as the authority as to whether or not his daily mediations are “scary, edgy, new, dangerous.” It’s not the Word of God (where objective truth is found) that is the authority; it’s Rohr (a subject). And yet ironically, he says he draws from Scripture and tradition when he states the things he states. Notice also he takes a subtle swipe at head knowledge by stating “it’s not all up here in the head.” His “experiential Christianity” (involving an interweaving of head, heart, body and soul) seems tantamount to “adult Christianity” (whatever that means) whereas anything less (i.e., the “religious baby talk just to make us feel secure”) both won’t feed the world and, in essence, is inferior. Keep in mind that feeding the world is law (not Gospel). Also, where is Jesus Christ in that above transcript? He is nowhere. If Richard Rohr is a traditionalist of anything, it’s his own nonsense. After all, where is his concept of “adult Christianity” found in the Bible?
Rohr actually condemns himself with his “traditionalist” label. Mark 7:1-23 is a helpful text here (NASB)
7 The Pharisees and some of the scribes *gathered to Him after they came from Jerusalem, 2 and saw that some of His disciples were eating their bread with unholy hands, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the other Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thereby holding firmly to the tradition of the elders; 4 and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they completely cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received as traditions to firmly hold, such as the washing of cups, pitchers, and copper pots.) 5 And the Pharisees and the scribes *asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk in accordance with the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with unholy hands?” 6 But He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:
‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
7 And in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
8 Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”
9 He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘The one who speaks evil of father or mother, is certainly to be put to death’; 11 but you say, ‘If a person says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is, given to God),’ 12 you no longer allow him to do anything for his father or his mother; 13 thereby invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.”
14 After He called the crowd to Him again, He began saying to them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside the person which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which come out of the person are what defile the person.”
17 And when He later entered a house, away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him about the parable. 18 And He *said to them, “Are you so lacking in understanding as well? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the person from outside cannot defile him, 19 because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thereby He declared all foods clean.)20 And He was saying, “That which comes out of the person, that is what defiles the person. 21 For from within, out of the hearts of people, come the evil thoughts, acts of sexual immorality, thefts, murders, acts of adultery, 22 deeds of greed, wickedness, deceit, indecent behavior, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile the person.”
Given his promotion of the manmade doctrine of “adult Christianity” (which is his own term/tradition), isn’t Richard Rohr a modern-day Pharisee? He certainly is neglecting the commandment of God in favor of his heavy emphasis on both the subjective and the mystical (see also Matthew 15:1-20).
The next biblical text I show refutes Rohr’s emphasis on feeding the world. That text is John 6:22-71 (NASB; bolding done by me):
22 The next day the crowd that stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other small boat there except one, and that Jesus had not gotten into the boat with His disciples, but that His disciples had departed alone. 23 Other small boats came from Tiberias near to the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they themselves got into the small boats and came to Capernaum, looking for Jesus. 25 And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You get here?”
26 Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate some of the loaves and were filled. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.”28 Therefore they said to Him, “What are we to do, so that we may accomplish the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” 30 So they said to Him, “What then are You doing as a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work are You performing? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven and gives life to the world.”34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.”
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; the one who comes to Me will not be hungry, and the one who believes in Me will never be thirsty. 36 But I said to you that you have indeed seen Me, and yet you do not believe. 37 Everything that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I certainly will not cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of everything that He has given Me I will lose nothing, but will raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”
41 So then the Jews were complaining about Him because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.” 42 And they were saying, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop complaining among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘And they shall all betaught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down out of heaven, so that anyone may eat from it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats from this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I will give for the life of the world also is My flesh.”
52 Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 The one who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56 The one who eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in him. 57 Just as the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, the one who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread that came down out of heaven, not as the fathers ate and died; the one who eats this bread will live forever.”
59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.
60 So then many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This statement is very unpleasant; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, aware that His disciples were complaining about this, said to them, “Is this offensive to you? 62 What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh provides no benefit; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit, and are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray Him.65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”
66 As a result of this many of His disciples left, and would no longer walk with Him. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to leave also, do you?” 68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. 69 And we have already believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot; for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him.
Rohr believes that nothing less than his manmade tradition of adult Christianity will feed the world. God’s Word says not to work for the food that perishes (verses 26-27). Rohr’s “adult Christianity” is a perishing Pharisaical pseudo-christianity that feeds nobody because of its emphasis on works, and works do not save a person.
Another text to consider is Matthew 4:1-11 (NASB):
4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after He had fasted for forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4 But He answered and said, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes out of the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil *took Him along into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and he *said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written:
‘He will give His angels orders concerning You’;
‘On their hands they will lift You up,
So that You do not strike Your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written: ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
8 Again, the devil *took Him along to a very high mountain and *showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; 9 and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus *said to him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written: ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’” 11 Then the devil *left Him; and behold, angels came and began to serve Him.
Jesus says that man does not live by bread alone. Instead, man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Richard Rohr believes that nothing less than his manmade Pharisaical “adult Christianity” will feed the world. Either Jesus is lying or Richard Rohr is lying. Who will you believe?
I now move onward from the video transcript. Directly below this video is a section on contemplation. Conveniently, the CAC page has a definition:
You’ll notice Rohr does not appeal to a single biblical text in this definition. The Word of God is completely absent from the above paragraphs. I thought Rohr could not say the stuff he does with any confidence if he “couldn’t draw from scripture, from the whole 4000-year tradition of Judaism and Christianity and find them bookmarked throughout that tradition in saints and mystics and prophets and counsels of the church.” Where is Rohr getting this definition? It certainly is not from a biblical text.
The second section of this page is titled “A Different Way Of Knowing Prayer.” This section includes some text and a video. What I do now is show the text. I’ll then critique it. I then show a transcript of the video. I’ll critique that as well (bolding outside of the section title is done by me).
A Different Way of Knowing Prayer
The spiritual journey is a constant interplay between moments of awe followed by a process of surrender to that moment. We must first allow ourselves to be captured by the goodness, truth, or beauty of something beyond and outside ourselves. Then we universalize from that moment to the goodness, truth, and beauty of the rest of reality—including ourselves! This is the great inner dialogue we call prayer.
Contemplative prayer, remaining silently and openly in God’s presence, rewires our brains to think with compassion, kindness, and a lack of attachment to the ego’s preferences. We begin to move beyond language and experience God as Mystery. We let go of our need to judge, defend, or evaluate, plugging into the mind of Christ which welcomes paradox and knows its true identity in God. During contemplation we come to know that there is no separation between sacred and secular. All is one with Divine Reality.
Contemplative prayer is a practice for a lifetime, never perfected yet always enough. Each time we pray, we come with beginner’s mind—true humility, and an openness to not knowing. Even with our best intentions to remain present to Presence, our habitual patterns of thinking and feeling interrupt and distract. Yet it is our desire that matters. Through our repeated failings we encounter God’s grace.
Notice again he is not appealing to a biblical text in this definition. Instead, he appeals to a mystical practice called “contemplative prayer.” GotQuestions.org has a brief and fantastic article defining what it is. I show all five paragraphs of the article. I bold stuff along the way in an effort to show some of the emphasized parts I have highlighted in this overall critique at this point.
It is important to first define “contemplative prayer.” Contemplative prayer is not just “contemplating while you pray.” The Bible instructs us to pray with our minds (1 Corinthians 14:15), so, clearly, prayer does involve contemplation. However, praying with your mind is not what “contemplative prayer” has come to mean. Contemplative prayer has slowly increased in practice and popularity along with the rise of the emerging church movement—a movement which embraces many unscriptural ideas and practices. Contemplative prayer is one such practice.
Contemplative prayer begins with “centering prayer,” a meditative practice where the practitioner focuses on a word and repeats that word over and over for the duration of the exercise. The purpose is to clear one’s mind of outside concerns so that God’s voice may be more easily heard. After the centering prayer, the practitioner is to sit still, listen for direct guidance from God, and feel His presence.
Although this might sound like an innocent exercise, this type of prayer has no scriptural support whatsoever. In fact, it is just the opposite of how prayer is defined in the Bible. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6). “In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:23-24). These verses and others clearly portray prayer as being comprehendible communication with God, not an esoteric, mystical meditation.
Contemplative prayer, by design, focuses on having a mystical experience with God. Mysticism, however, is purely subjective, and does not rely upon truth or fact. Yet the Word of God has been given to us for the very purpose of basing our faith, and our lives, on Truth (2 Timothy 3:16-17). What we know about God is based on fact; trusting in experiential knowledge over the biblical record takes a person outside of the standard that is the Bible.
Contemplative prayer is no different than the meditative exercises used in Eastern religions and New Age cults. Its most vocal supporters embrace an open spirituality among adherents from all religions, promoting the idea that salvation is gained by many paths, even though Christ Himself stated that salvation comes only through Him (John 14:6). Contemplative prayer, as practiced in the modern prayer movement, is in opposition to biblical Christianity and should definitely be avoided.
Notice that contemplative prayer is right up Rohr’s alley of pure subjectivity. Moreover, notice the liberal commonalities between contemplative prayer and what Rohr has emphasized up to this point. Rohr’s “different kind of prayer” is in complete opposition to the biblical kind of prayer.
I found it interesting that Rohr placed an emphasis on letting go of the need to “judge, defend, or evaluate” when engaging in contemplative prayer. This is eerily similar to the stuff the charismatic heretics from the Pentecostal-Charismatic Movement (PCM) have said. Earlier this year, I reviewed an incredible book called The Pentecostal-Charismatic Movements: The History And Error by David Cloud. Here is a noteworthy excerpt:
…when discussing the PCM practice of exalting experience over Scripture, Cloud uses a plethora of quotes to show that this exaltation of experience over Scripture is absolutely everywhere in the PCM (pp. 220-231). Earlier, I showed a long quote from Phil Johnson that detailed his experience at Anaheim Vineyard in 1994. Cloud appeals to this same quote again in this section. Here are some noteworthy paragraphs that follow this second instance of the 1994 Anaheim Vineyard citation (p. 223; bolding done by me):
At the same meeting a woman church staff member led in public prayer with these appalling words:
“We refuse to critique with our minds the work that You want to do in our hearts. WE REFUSE TO SUBJECT YOUR WORK TO OUR LITTLE DOCTRINAL TESTS.”
In his book The Touch of God, Rodney Howard-Browne warns, “If you come in and try to analyze or try to work out what’s happening in these meetings with your mind, you’ll miss it” (p. 99). When dealing with people who come forward to receive “the anointing”, Howard-Browne repeatedly instructs them, “Don’t pray. GET YOUR MIND OUT OF THE WAY!”
When Dale Brooks, pastor of an Assemblies of God congregation in Tampa, Florida, shut down his own services and urged his people to attend the Rodney Howard-Browne crusade in Lakeland in 1993, he advised: “Don’t fight it. Enjoy it. Walk in it. DON’T TRY TO FIGURE IT OUT” (Charisma, August 1993).
Colin Dye, a promoter of the Pentecostal Laughing Revival in England, says: ‘We must not dare test the work of the Spirit!” (Directions magazine, April 1995).
In a Brownsville Assembly of God service on Feb. 22, 1996, Stephen Hill said he could discern that the devil had sent analyzers to the service and warned the congregation against analyzing: “He went on to say, ‘LET YOURSELVES GO: DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU ARE DOING; forget about those around you and what they are doing. Release your mind; release your spirit; and let the mighty river of the Holy Ghost take you wherever He wants you to go” (Jimmy Robbins, Revival … Or Satanic Counterfeit. Feb. 1996, Southern Pines, NC: Midnight Cry Ministries, http://www.midcry.org/revival.htm).
Apparently, if you’re an analyzer, you were sent by the devil. In other words, if you’re there to test the spirits (1 John 4:1), to examine everything carefully (Acts 17:11) and to test everything (1 Thessalonians 5:21), you were sent by Satan. Is it possible that hirelings/heretics like (there are more in addition to the following) Perry Noble, Steven Furtick, James MacDonald, Mark Driscoll, Mark Beeson, Dan Southerland and Ed Young Jr. (44:20 mark) were influenced by the PCM given their overall general disdain for those who wanna go deeper in God’s Word? Was the influence of the PCM behind Perry Noble’s labeling those who wanna go deeper in God’s Word “jackasses”? Was this same influence behind Furtick’s absolutely demonic “Hey Haters” video? Was it behind Mark Driscoll’s disgusting “pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus” line? This is certainly something to think about.
Notice the commonality between the PCM and Rohr’s emphasis on experience over Scripture (Rohr’s is much more tacit). Moreover, there is a common disgust for discernment held by both the PCM and Rohr (although Rohr’s disgust seems much tamer). Both the PCM and Rohr encourage a turning off of the brain. The Bible does no such thing. In fact, there is a good emphasis on filling the mind with all knowledge and discernment (1 Timothy 2:1-4; Colossians 1:9; Philippians 1:9-10; 2 Corinthians 2:14; 2 Corinthians 8:7; Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 2:6; Proverbs 3:21-24; Proverbs 8:8-9; Hebrews 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:15-17).
Finally as it pertains to the section “A Different Way of Knowing Prayer”, Rohr states in the last line that “All is one with Divine Reality.” I remember a post I did on false teacher Max Lucado. In that post, I made brief mention of Rohr and how he taught that people are “human and divine at the same time.” This is basically the same as stating that “All is one with Divine Reality.” Here is an excerpt from that post on Lucado. This excerpt is within the context of my describing Lucado’s being interviewed by heretic Jen Hatmaker on her podcast:
Lucado states that God picked her as a believer. Hatmaker, however, is a follower of Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest, mystic and deconstructionist who was refuted often in the second American Gospel movie. According to the film, Rohr teaches little-god theology (which is heresy) and has stated that people are “human and divine at the same time.” Isaiah 44:6-8, Isaiah 41:4, Isaiah 43:10-11, Isaiah 48:12, Revelation 1:8, and Deuteronomy 32:39 refutes the “little gods” heresy.
Once again, Scripture refutes Rohr. Rohr’s “different way of knowing prayer” is most certainly not the biblical way.
Conveniently, Rohr’s second video on this What Is Contemplation page had an unedited transcript. I tweak the transcript a little bit to reflect (in my opinion) a more accurate transcript. The video’s title is A Different Way of Knowing Prayer (bolding done by me).
Let me offer you just one example of what I might mean by a practice. Probably the most universal and common one, is what we call prayer. Now, you’ve all heard that word all your life, but we largely thought of it as talking to God, or making announcements to God, and when we say practice, we’re not talking about a merely mental exercise, or even a verbal exercise, but somehow something that includes embodiment, physicality. So here at the center, for example, we practice a form of centering prayer, where we sit together, for 20 minutes in the morning, in a somewhat disciplined posture there is not a perfect one, but, it, you sit there not in your, ideal world, not in your identity world. In fact that’s exactly what you let go of. Just this morning as we did it, I looked around the circle, which I probably shouldn’t have been doing, and I said, “You know what, we’re all absolute equals now. We’re just naked beings sitting in our nakedness without our identity, without our smarts, just being in the presence of God.” Now that might seem, like that’s almost nothing. Actually it ends up ends up being almost everything, because you have to get back to what Thomas Merton called the beyond the shadow and beyond the disguise, where you knock on the hard bottom of your own reality. That’s what practice does for you. It gives you the discipline to get out of your head, and much more, in your soul, in your body, where you frankly, you learn in a different way, you know in a different way. It really is, practice is, a different way of knowing the moment, and therefore of knowing yourself. I hope that makes sense, but don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.
I’ve already discussed both the concept of the presence of God and getting out of one’s head (i.e., turning off the brain). GotQuestions.org, once again, comes through; they have an article on centering prayer. It stems from contemplative prayer (something I already described via a separate article from GotQuestions.org.). What I found interesting is that Rohr states to not knock the practice of centering prayer until you’ve tried it. It made me think again of the review I did on Cloud’s book on the PCM. Here is another excerpt from that review that shows a parallel between Rohr’s statement and how people got involved in the PCM:
Cloud shows some eye-opening quotes from Charles and Frances Hunter pertaining to “dabbling with error” (pp. 328-329). Perhaps the most interesting reason was the “desperation” reason. While Cloud offers solutions to all the above reasons, I’d like to contribute one to the “desperation” one. But first, let me show some paragraphs to give an idea of what Cloud means by “desperation” (pp. 331-332):
Many of those who have been deceived by Charismatic error have gotten involved out of desperation. They are undergoing some severe trial and are on the brink of an emotional and physical breakdown, and as a last resort they attend a charismatic meeting to “give it a try.”
Randy Clark, one of the fathers of the “Toronto Blessing,” testified that as a pastor of a Vineyard church he felt “empty, powerless, and so little anointed emotionally, spiritually, and physically, I knew I was burning out.” In that condition he ignored his conscience which told him that the Word-Faith movement was patently unscriptural. He did not agree with the doctrine of Kenneth Hagin and the Rhema movement, but he attended the Rodney Howard-Browne meeting at Rhema anyway, out of desperation.
Guy Chevreau, a former Baptist pastor who has become immersed in the most radical aspects of the Charismatic movement, testifies that he also first attended the meetings in Toronto as a failure in the ministry and “too desperate to be critical.”
It was the same sense of desperation that former Southern Baptist evangelist James Robinson allowed a Charismatic to lay hands on him and cast alleged demons out of him.
I have heard the same testimony from many others who have accepted the Charismatic movement.
In my review, I did not include the quotes from Charles and Frances Hunter. I’d like to include them here to strengthen the parallel I’m building. I also include information before the quotes for context:
An excellent yet frightful illustration of how people get involved in things such as the charismatic Laughing Revival is contained in the book Holy Laughter by Charles and Francis Hunter. They trace their own involvement in the charismatic phenomenon, admitting that it began with dabbling around in Penecostal circles, even though they felt at the time that Pentecostalism was not biblically correct. Consider the following very carefully. It explains why many people are being deceived by error:
“…when Charles and I were married and we began TO NIBBLE AROUND where the Holy Spirit was concerned, we saw ‘those’ people with both hands raised!…Whenever you begin to nibble, however, sooner or later you’re going to get caught!…We began to hear a lot about a woman named Kathryn Kuhlman. …What was this peculiar, unspiritual thing that made her push them all down [“slaying in the Spirit”]? We rejected it, of course, but our hungry little ‘SPIRITUAL PIG’ HEARTS drew us to one of her [Kathryn Kuhlman] meetings the next morning after the experience at the Charismatic Conference. I [Francis Hunter] stepped into the aisle. She merely said, ‘Jesus, bless my sister,’ and bless me He did! Faster than you can blink an eye, I was lying on my back on the floor of the First Presbyterian Church in my very best dress. …All the arguments I previously had about the baptism with the Holy Spirit and speaking with other tongues disappeared instantly! (pp. 13, 19, 20).
We went to a Full Gospel Businessman’s Fellowship banquet in Houston. … The man [the speaker] said, ‘Well, Jesus, bless Francis!’ Down I went faster than you could blink an eye, followed one second later by my precious husband! … I tried to get my hands off of the floor, but nothing happened. I couldn’t believe what had happened to me, because it was physically impossible for me to move. … I felt as though someone had given me a divine alka seltzer because way down deep in the very center of my being I began to feel a most peculiar type of ‘bubbling.’ … then it abruptly came out of my mouth in the form of the loudest laugh I have ever heard. … no pressure on my mouth could keep the laughing back. I laughed, laughed, laughed and laughed. … I stopped laughing just as quickly as I started, and suddenly I was released from the bed of Holy Ghost glue in which I had been resting!” (Charles and Frances Hunter, Holy Laughter, pp. 21-23).Cloud, David W.. The Pentecostal-Charismatic Movements: The History And Error (first edition). Way Of Life Literature (2006): pp. 328-329
Rohr states that people should not knock centering prayer until they have tried it. There is a wealth of evidence in the PCM showing that people got caught up in that heretical movement because they were nibbling around. In other words, they tried it. In the case of the Hunters, the previous arguments they had about the Holy Spirit and tongues (orthodox arguments, I would presume) “disappeared instantly” (emphasis mine) even though the stuff they dabbled in was far from biblical. Rohr’s insistence that people should not knock centering prayer until they have tried it is unquestionably deceitful in light of what has happened with those who “tried it” with the heretical PCM. It is an invitation to open one’s self to practices that are so unbiblical they could potentially kill off any general orthodox theological views a person may hold.
The final section under Rohr’s What Is Contemplation page is a section titled “Practice-based Spirituality.” The language used in this section should be familiar at this point. I show it in an effort to complete the long-form analysis of this page (non-titled bolding done by me). I critique the video after commenting on everything else in the section.
Many people practice forms of contemplation like Centering Prayer or focused breathing. Other expressions and cultures emphasize community experiences (like sharing meals or speaking in tongues), movement (dancing or yoga), and music (drumming, ecstatic singing, or chanting). You may resonate more with some practices than others—and that’s okay.
Feeling God’s presence is simply a matter of awareness. Of enjoying the now. Deepening one’s presence. There are moments when it happens. Then life makes sense. Contemplative practice helps us become habituated to this way of being, opening ourselves to presence in the ordinary and humdrum.
The deepest truths can’t be grasped at the level of intellect. Christianity can’t just be based on beliefs. It only becomes authentic and transformative through experience and practice, when head, heart, and body are all open and receptive. From this open-hearted stance you learn to hold the tension of paradox, allow space for questions and unknowing, let go of unhelpful beliefs, and change the way you live in the world.
Whatever ever practice(s) you choose, we invite you to commit to it. Through contemplation and life itself, God works on us slowly and in secret. Contemplative practice gradually rewires our brains to perceive and respond to reality with love.
Some Examples of Contemplative Practices
Drumming: Practicing surrendering the mind and attuning the body through rhythm
Walking Meditation: Taking slow, mindful steps
Ecstatic Dance: Moving freely to music
Chanting: Singing with intention
Centering Prayer: Observing and letting go of all thoughts without judgment during a period of silence
Lectio Divina: Reading short passages of text in a contemplative way
Welcoming Prayer: Welcoming any feeling, sensation, or emotion that arises in the midst of your day
YHWH Prayer: Consciously saying God’s name through each breath
Pranayama: Breathing mindfully
Loving Kindness Meditation: Recognizing your inner source of loving kindness and sending love to others
The stuff I bolded is stuff already discussed at this point. The section has an overall emphasis on turning off the brain. This is dangerous. One contemplative practice of note from above is the practice Lectio Divina. GotQuestions.Org has a long-winded (but good) article describing what it is. It suffices to show several paragraphs here. I both bold certain phrases/sentences and insert a hyperlink for transcendental meditation in the citation:
The actual practice of lectio divina begins with a time of relaxation, making oneself comfortable and clearing the mind of mundane thoughts and cares. Some lectio practitioners find it helpful to concentrate by beginning with deep, cleansing breaths and repeating a chosen phrase or word several times to help free the mind. Then they follow four steps:
Lectio – Reading the Bible passage gently and slowly several times. The passage itself is not as important as the savoring of each portion of the reading, constantly listening for the “still, small voice” of a word or phrase that somehow speaks to the practitioner.
Meditatio – Reflecting on the text of the passage and thinking about how it applies to one’s own life. This is considered to be a very personal reading of the Scripture and very personal application.
Oratio – Responding to the passage by opening the heart to God. This is not primarily an intellectual exercise, but is thought to be more of the beginning of a conversation with God.
Contemplatio – Listening to God. This is a freeing of oneself from one’s own thoughts, both mundane and holy, and hearing God talk to us. Opening the mind, heart, and soul to the influence of God.
Naturally, the connection between Bible reading and prayer is one to be encouraged; they should always go together. However, the dangers inherent in this kind of practice, and its astonishing similarity to transcendental meditation and other dangerous rituals, should be carefully considered. It has the potential to become a pursuit of mystical experience where the goal is to free the mind and empower oneself. The Christian should use the Scriptures to pursue the knowledge of God, wisdom, and holiness through the objective meaning of the text with the aim of transforming the mind according to truth. God said His people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6), not for lack of mystical, personal encounters with Him.
Notice again an emphasis of clearing the mind. Moreover, there is an emphasis on reading the biblical passage in a narcissistic way. Finally, notice the promotion of hearing directly from God outside the Scriptures. This practice inherently is a tacit denial of Sola Scriptura.
It is important to understand that God’s Word is all true, all powerful and without error (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Numbers 23:19; Malachi 3:6; Psalm 12:6; John 17:17; Titus 1:2). Furthermore, it equips the believer for every good work, for it is sufficient for all things pertaining to life and godliness (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3-9). Scripture is sufficient. Scripture alone is one’s authority for the faith and practice of a Christian. Hebrews 1:1-2 (NASB) states:
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.Hebrews 1:1-2 (NASB)
Who is “His Son”? That would be Jesus Christ, God in human flesh (John 1:1-14). Jesus is the Word incarnate. Moreover, He has already revealed all the Christian needs to know as it pertains to life and godliness. We do not need claims of direct revelation from God. We certainly do not need practices like lectio divina either. Such things deny the sufficiency of Scripture.
The third video, like the first two videos, has a transcript. I found that that transcript was rather inaccurate compared to the first two. While this one I’ve constructed is similar to the one on the website, you will notice rather quickly what is missing if you compare mine with the one on the website. The video is titled Practice-Based Spirituality: Beyond Belief:
Some have predicted, that the future of Christianity, cannot be just belief-based. We’ve pretty much tried that, for most of our history. We have to be also, practice-based. We have to find something that rewires this and reconnects this. We call that practice. So, if you read the daily meditations, you’re gonna see at the end, uh, a gateway to silence phrase. On Saturdays, you’re gonna see a longer invitation into practices that will hopefully do just that. That will allow you to reconnect things. There’s nothing to believe. There’s nothing to disbelieve, or fight against. It’s just do it, try this, and see if this practice does not force you to think, or feel, or see, or hear in a different way. So, oft-times, if you’re not used to practice-based Christianity, I’ll be honest they sometimes feel, “Oh this is silly, or this is childish, or you’re playing with me.” But don’t knock it till you’ve tried it, and you might even ask sometimes, “Why am I afraid to do this simple, almost childlike thing?” That might be our very, indication of our resistance and the line that we have to cross, so I just offered to you as an invitation, and I think at the end of a few months, you’ll see for yourself, there is nothing to believe here. There is only something to experience and then, you’ll know for yourself. You’ll feel for yourself. It’s not Richard’s feeling. It’s now something that has emerged out of your own body and soul, mind and heart, and that is the way Jesus said we are supposed to love both God and our neighbor. You can’t do it just with your head, or even with just your willpower or your behavior. Somehow they have to act as one, and that’s what a good practice teaches you. Trust me on that.
The stuff I have bolded should be familiar by this point. Notice that Rohr does not appeal to a single biblical text in the above video. Despite that, he invokes Jesus’ name as it pertains to loving God and neighbor. Those two practices in and of themselves are law, not Gospel. Nevertheless, preaching law and not Gospel is pretty consistent with Rohr’s bad theology. As a result, there is no need at all to trust him on anything theologically.
At this point, you have seen Rohr’s heavy emphasis on basically emptying all intellectual thinking. Such a practice is theological suicide and it should not be practiced by anybody. To do so is to invite eternal havoc on one’s soul. You should also have seen Rohr’s Pharisaism in this section of the article.
D. Fr. Richard is academic Dean of the Living School for Action and Contemplation. Drawing upon Christianity’s place within the Perennial Tradition, the mission of the Living School is to produce compassionate and powerfully learned individuals who will work for positive change in the world based on awareness of our common union with God and all beings.
Rohr’s CAC website has a tab titled “Living School.” Here is some information explaining what it is (non-titled bolding done by me):
Do you seek contemplative grounding and purpose?
Do you long for wisdom elders and companions to share your spiritual journey?
Are you willing to be shaken and changed at your very foundation?
The Living School for Action and Contemplation offers a unique opportunity to a select group of students to deepen engagement with their truest selves and with the world. Discover your authentic identity and grow your capacity to embody this calling in the world. Through rigorous study and contemplative practice, awaken to the pattern of reality—God’s loving presence with and in all things. Embrace a rich heritage of faith from the Christian mystical tradition.
Learn from five of the greatest living contemplative teachers, Living School core faculty Richard Rohr, Cynthia Bourgeault, James Finley, Barbara Holmes and Brian McLaren.
Living School Overview
This two-year program includes:
– at-home reading, reflection, contemplative practice, and course work;
– online dialogues and teachings;
– three annual symposia with core faculty and invited teachers;
– one five-day intensive with Richard Rohr and Brian McLaren;
– optional second-year intensive with Cynthia Bourgeault or James Finley (subject to availability);
– interactions with fellow students.
The Living School welcomes applicants who are committed to both contemplation and action, who are willing to receive the lessons of darkness and suffering, and who are open to profound transformation and change of consciousness.
The Living School is an “emergent” or para-school, on the edge of the inside; it is not affiliated with any church or institution of higher education. As such, formal degrees or certification are not offered. The reward is the experience itself—learning and practices that can support students’ continued growth as fully human, God-indwelled beings.
Some of the material I bolded should be familiar by now. I want to focus on two things from the above information. First, I had no idea that heretic Brian McLaren was a teacher at Rohr’s Living School (although I am not surprised). Second, I never thought of Rohr as much of an Emergent prior to my researching his teachings. Nevertheless, the emergent connection does make sense. This is especially so in light of an article that GotQuestions.org has on the Emergent Church movement. I show the first four paragraphs of the relevant article. I bold those terms that have connections with what Rohr teaches:
The emerging, or emergent, church movement takes its name from the idea that as culture changes, a new church should emerge in response. In this case, it is a response by various church leaders to the current era of post-modernism. Although post-modernism began in the 1950s, the church didn’t really seek to conform to its tenets until the 1990s. Post-modernism can be thought of as a dissolution of “cold, hard fact” in favor of “warm, fuzzy subjectivity.” The emerging / emergent church movement can be thought of the same way.
The emerging / emergent church movement falls into line with basic post-modernist thinking—it is about experience over reason, subjectivity over objectivity, spirituality over religion, images over words, outward over inward, feelings over truth. These are reactions to modernism and are thought to be necessary in order to actively engage contemporary culture. This movement is still fairly new, though, so there is not yet a standard method of “doing” church amongst the groups choosing to take a post-modern mindset. In fact, the emerging church rejects any standard methodology for doing anything. Therefore, there is a huge range of how far groups take a post-modernist approach to Christianity. Some groups go only a little way in order to impact their community for Christ, and remain biblically sound. Most groups, however, embrace post-modernist thinking, which eventually leads to a very liberal, loose translation of the Bible. This, in turn, lends to liberal doctrine and theology.
For example, because experience is valued more highly than reason, truth becomes relative. Relativism opens up all kinds of problems, as it destroys the standard that the Bible contains absolute truth, negating the belief that biblical truth can be absolute. If the Bible is not our source for absolute truth, and personal experience is allowed to define and interpret what truth actually is, a saving faith in Jesus Christ is rendered meaningless.
Another area where the emerging / emergent church movement has become anti-biblical is its focus on ecumenism. Unity among people coming from different religious backgrounds and diversity in the expression of corporate worship are strong focuses of the emergent church movement. Being ecumenical means that compromise is taking place, and this results in a watering down of Scripture in favor of not offending an apostate. This is in direct opposition to passages such as Revelation 2:14-17, Jesus’ letter to the church of Pergamum, in which the Church is warned against tolerating those who teach false doctrine.
The emergent church’s focus on subjectivity, ecumenism (the unbiblical kind Rohr promotes), and liberal doctrine/theology are all up Rohr’s alley. As a result, classifying Rohr as among the Emergent movement is not far-fetched at all.
It should be established by now that Rohr’s teachings are rather dangerous. What amplifies all this is that Rohr has equally (if not more) dangerous heretics teaching at his school. Brian McLaren fits that bill. Pastor Chris Rosebrough of Fighting For The Faith has been covering McLaren’s heresies for years. One of those heresies is McLaren’s affirmation of homosexual marriage. I have also commented on McLaren in previous articles of mine. One such article was a movie review on the important movie The Submerging Church. In that article, I noted that McLaren signed a document that basically stated he denied the Triune God. Good Fight Ministries (the ministry that made The Submerging Church) wrote an excellent article pertaining to this. Here are some noteworthy paragraphs (all bolding was already done by the authors):
Another Emerging Church leader, Tony Campolo, a proponent of the so-called “evangelical left” claimed that “even if” Muslims “don’t convert, they are God’s people.” Campolo further declared, “A theology of mysticism provides some hope for common ground between Christianity and Islam.” (Tony Campolo, Speaking My Mind, page 149). Campolo, like McLaren and Warren, has a habit of compromising biblical truth to forge unholy alliances with sworn enemies of the Gospel. Campolo admitted, “Consequently, anyone who accuses me of violating the biblical message is correct!” (Tony Campolo, A Reasonable Faith, page 190)…
…Even more chilling is the fact that over 300 prominent Christian leaders signed a letter issued by the Yale Center for Faith and Culture claiming that world peace is dependent on Muslims and Christians recognizing “Allah” and “Yahweh” as the same God. This letter, titled “Loving God and Neighbor Together,” was written in response to a signed document by 138 Muslim leaders titled “A Common Word Between Us and You.” McLaren, Warren, Robert Schuller and Bill Hybels were just several of the signatories to this outright betrayal of Christ!
Furthermore, both of these documents affirmed Muhammed as a “Prophet” of God and declared that world peace was dependant on mutual affirmation of the “unity” of God. Dr. William Lane Craig, a leading Christian apologist and philosopher, correctly stated that by signing this document, Rick Warren and others were, in effect, signing up to become Muslims! This is because an affirmation of Allah as God is a denial of the Triune God revealed in Holy Scripture. Moreover, the Quran denies that Jesus is the Son of God no less than nine times.
The Quran is the Muslims’ holy book. It obviously denies Jesus as the Son of God. Sadly, that did not stop McLaren from basically affirming that false religion. The fact Richard Rohr has McLaren on his staff makes Rohr complicit in tacitly endorsing Islam and other false religions.
Finally as it pertains to McLaren, in my aforementioned review of The Submerging Church, I cited a quote from McLaren. Here is that quote:
I don’t think we’ve got the Gospel right yet. What does it mean to be “saved?”…Before modern evangelicalism nobody accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior…None of us has arrived at orthodoxy.McLaren, The Emergent Mystique, Christianity Today, p. 40, November 2004
You’ll notice that McLaren’s quote came from an article in 2004. According to my NKJV MacArthur Study Bible, the apostle Paul, writing via the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:16-21), likely penned this letter “in the first half of A.D. 55.” As a result, McLaren basically states that even after roughly 1,950 years, we still have not gotten the Gospel right despite the fact it is clearly in a biblical text that has been around for that same time (1 Corinthians 15:1-19). McLaren’s arrogance and cluelessness could not be more clear. Sadly, Rohr has this clueless and arrogant man on his teaching staff.
In my closing remarks of the content for section “D” of this article, notice that the Living School’s goal “is to produce compassionate and powerfully learned individuals who will work for positive change in the world based on awareness of our common union with God and all beings.” In short, the focus is not on the Great Commission. Moreover, it has been established that no less than two heretics are on the staff of this “Living School.” There is no warrant to give even a cent to this school because the school is so dangerous.
At this point in the article, I have established at least the following on Richard Rohr:
- He promotes an unbiblical ecumenism.
- He is a panentheist.
- He bears witness to a Christian mysticism that is not worth trusting.
- He has no Good News to proclaim to anybody because he does not proclaim the biblical Gospel.
- He instead promotes a works-righteousness-based religious system that will save nobody.
- He calls Francis of Assisi, a catholic whose teachings had an emphasis on works-righteousness, his spiritual father.
- He is the founder of an organization (CAC) with ties to liberalism.
- He promotes an “adult Christianity” that is in reality a form of Pharisaism.
- He admits to being a traditionalist which, in light of Mark 7:1-24, renders him a modern-day Pharisee.
- He does not have the Word of God as his authority.
- He despises discernment similar to the way discernment is despised in the Pentecostal-Charismatic Movement.
- He teaches “little-god” theology.
- He has heretics on his staff at his “Living School.”
- He denies the sufficiency of Scripture.
- He places heavy emphasis on subjectivity.
- He is intentionally deceitful via his encouraging people to try the unbiblical practices he promotes.
Now, you might be asking, “Why don’t you review a sermon by Rohr? After all, you’ve reviewed sermons by other people in your profile posts.” This is most certainly true. However, as I mentioned earlier, Rohr is not a pastor. He’s a Franciscan priest, and it has been established that Franciscan priests promote a works-based religion. Works don’t save anybody. Moreover, the non-sermon information I have critiqued comes from Rohr’s own organization. There is so much refutable information that a sermon review perhaps is not necessary. Furthermore, Rohr, due to COVID-19, is neither giving homilies nor participating in public mass at this time.
If I did do a sermon review, it would be on an Easter or Christmas sermon/homily. When I did a brief browse of Easter/Christmas sermons Rohr may have done, I did find roughly an 11-minute Easter homily from April 20, 2019. Rohr did read from John 20:1-10. However, there was no law. There was no Gospel. There was no proclamation of the forgiveness of sins. There was no Good News. Sadly, this was not a surprise given the information I have shown on Rohr at this point.
LIMITATIONS TO THIS POST
As I noted earlier, this post did not do any full-fledged sermon (or homily) reviews. It simply analyzed and critiqued Rohr’s own information from the organization he founded. Rohr is certainly not in the background as it pertains to this information; he is front and center. Future posts could elaborate on how Rohr’s sermons expound upon, contradict, and/or agree with the values of his CAC organization.
This post also does not really take into account other articles or resources that have exposed Richard Rohr. While I was researching for my post (said research beginning around Veterans Day 2020), Christian apologist Alisa Childers wrote a post explaining why Christians should avoid Richard Rohr’s teachings. I know that American Gospel: Christ Crucified refutes Rohr. In my notes I took for the film, I noted that Rohr:
- states Jesus became the Christ.
- claims authentic Christianity as panentheism.
- teaches little-god theology.
- says everything has to carry the divine DNA.
- perverts the meaning of the word “atonement.”
- believes no atonement is necessary.
- wants to do away with binary oppositions.
- emphasizes contemplative prayer.
- supposedly doesn’t mind being called a liberal.
The film does a good job elaborating on the notes I took above, so no lengthy input is really needed on my part. The engine behind the film, Brandon Kimber, has put out little snippets of both that film and the first American Gospel film (titled American Gospel: Christ Alone). None of the snippets feature Richard Rohr (which is fine).
This post also did not review any books by Rohr. The CAC website does show that Rohr has authored several books. This article already featured parts of an article by Marcia Montenegro that critiqued a book by Rohr. Future research could elaborate further on his theology in his books.
Richard Rohr is a modern-day Pharisee and heretic who does not proclaim Jesus Christ and Him crucified for our sins. Instead, he deceitfully preaches a works-righteousness Pharisaical liberalism that both encourages one to shut off the brain and places heavy emphasis on feelings and subjectivity instead of knowledge of biblical truth. He admittedly is a disciple of Francis of Assisi, a Catholic whose teachings are not in agreement with Biblical truth. Rohr is certainly one who should be marked and avoided (Romans 16:17). Pray he repents and receives forgiveness for his preaching and promoting heresy, for Jesus Christ has even bled and died for those sins.
NOTE: I tweeted this post. My plan was to tag Rohr in it. Usually I email my critiques to the people I critique. I’ll also tag them on Twitter. However, in light of this below page on his website, I have refrained from doing so.
Again, this post was done at the request of another. I have stated in the past that I don’t do these posts regularly (otherwise these posts would be all I would do, for there are a PLETHORA of teachers/pastors out there). However, I have gotten more requests lately than I have in the past, so I may do more of these. After all, I do believe it is biblical to compare what people are saying in the Name of God to the Word of God (Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1). Above all, pray for those I critique. Pray for me as well. If you disagree with anything I have written, please make your case biblically. If I am wrong, I will repent and I will hope you forgive me.
Thank you again and God bless.