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Baking the Cake from the Bottom Up

Monday, January 2, 2017

From the Bottom Up: Introduction

Baking the Cake from the Bottom Up
Monday, January 2, 2017

It seems to me we need to rebuild our whole notion of religion from the bottom up. All too often religion—and Christianity in particular—has focused on continually re-icing a collapsed cake rather than baking the bottom layers properly. In other words, we keep redoing the “fixings”: refining doctrines, moralities, beliefs, and belonging systems. But again and again they seem to fall apart, because Christianity isn’t primarily a moral matter; it’s a mystical matter that only works when the mind and heart operate with some newly installed “software.”

We must begin with who God is, the very shape of God, in whose image all is created (Genesis 1:26-27). Our operative image of God is the first foundation of all religion, the bottom layer of the cake, so to speak. For Christians, the shape of God is Trinity—mutual emptying and infilling, and infinitely so. We’ve had the doctrine of the Trinity described for us since the fourth century, but we have barely begun to draw out the wonderful implications.

Good theology is still important. Your image of God creates you. You become the God you worship. If your God is an eternal torturer, then torture is validated. If God is presented in the image of a king, then we’ll all want to be kings. If God is Trinity—love and relationality—that creates a very different kind of humanity. It leads us to a different worldview, sociology, politics, and sense of belonging and purpose. [1] Anthropologist David Buchdahl writes: “A change in the conception of God is a cultural event of some magnitude, especially because the character of a culture is heavily influenced by the notion of God that predominates within it.” [2]

We also need to understand that the original Incarnation happened over thirteen billion years ago with what we now call the “Big Bang.” That is when God materialized and the universe began. This is the Cosmic Christ, which is a category much larger than Jesus. Jesus of Nazareth, who came 2,000 years ago, is the revelation of the pattern that is true everywhere and always. All notions of time fall apart. Christ is a code word for everything God created—with the added message that materiality funnels Spirit into the universe. What a cosmic surprise! Matter and spirit can never be seen as separate, once you encounter the Christ Mystery. Christ is not just the code word for many of us, but also the code breaker as to the nature of the universe.

So the Christ Mystery is the second from the bottom layer of our cosmic cake. Once these two—Trinity and Christ—are in place, we can present the Jesus layer, and all its many implications as the third layer. Imagine the Christ as a vertical, downward movement from the Divine; Jesus then becomes the visible, horizontal extension of the Incarnational message across all of our artificial divisions. But now I am jumping ahead of myself. (You must be patient and prayerful to stay with this slow bake in mind, heart, and body.)

Gateway to Silence:
Create in me a new heart, O God.

[1] See Richard Rohr, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation (Whitaker House: 2016).

[2] David Buchdahl, as quoted by William McLoughlin, Revivals, Awakenings, and Reform (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978), 215.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, video interview, November 28, 2016,

Image credit: Galapagos Before Sunset (detail) by Iris Diensthuber, summer 2007.
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