aithfulness is the central issue for the church in our time because unfaithfulness is so rife in our culture. For all who follow Jesus, faithfulness to Him, to His lordship, and to His decisive stamp of authority on the Holy Scriptures should be final. Yet postmodernism has undermined all authorities and certainties by making all claims “undecidable,” so we are experiencing a plague of Christians whom Søren Kierkegaard called “kissing Judases”—those who betray Jesus with an interpretation. They treat the authority of Scripture like a rubber nose and bend it to favor whatever cause or lifestyle they happen to like. “Anything goes” theology is the order of the day, and anything-goes ethics follows close behind.
In the fifth century, Saint Augustine protested against similar Manichean distortions of the Scriptures: “For you people who believe in the gospel what you choose to believe, and do not believe what you do not choose to believe, believe yourselves rather than the gospel.” Flannery O’Connor stated the point bluntly: “The truth does change according to our ability to stomach it.”
Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward must be read in the light of this atmosphere. The real surprise is not the book, but that it has been welcomed so undiscerningly by so many evangelicals around the country. The aim of the book is laudable: to provide a spiritual perspective on the journey into and through the second half of life. With the graying of America as the baby boomers enter their “second half,” that aim gives the book its popularity, and its essentially New Age direction is no barrier to many American readers. The book is therefore perfect for people in the mood for “spirituality, not religion.” But why the evangelical enthusiasm when Rohr’s vision differs so starkly from the biblical vision?
First, Rohr’s notion of “spirituality for the two halves of life” is quite anti-biblical. He actually calls it a “second call.” You could never find such two halves of life in any of the great lives, such as Abraham, Moses, David, Daniel, Saint John, and Saint Paul. Nor could you justify it from the Scriptures or the orthodox Christian faith as a whole. The idea may be perfect for selling books and seminars to anxiously aging boomers, but it has nothing whatever to do with a decisively Christian understanding of the journey of life.
Second, the notion of the two halves of life comes from Carl Gustav Jung and the “perennial tradition,” as Rohr admits. It also fits in perfectly with today’s mix-and-match syncretism and the idea of the common unity underlying all the world’s religions. So the real authorities and the main ideas for Rohr’s book come from fundamentally pagan and non-Christian sources—with an occasional doffing of the cap to Scripture.
Third, there is a striking and fatal omission in the book of any of the central truths of a Christ-centered spirituality, such as sin, repentance, the Holy Spirit, growth in the fruit of the Spirit, and above all Christ’s substitutionary death for us on the cross. Rohr’s negative comments on Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ show that he subscribes to the views of the thirteenth-century philosopher-theologian Duns Scotus.
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