The Seven Themes are more than simply the themes that have organized Richard Rohr’s life’s work; they are the fundamental issues that any serious Christian must engage in to develop a healthy and holistic spiritual worldview.
—David G. Benner
Scripture as validated by experience, and experience as validated by Tradition, are good scales for one’s spiritual worldview.
I am increasingly convinced that the word “prayer,” which has become a functional and pious thing for believers to do, was meant to be a descriptor and an invitation to inner experience. When spiritual teachers invite us to “pray,” they are in effect saying, “Go inside and know for yourself!”
For many black Christian women today, “wilderness” or “wilderness experience” is a symbolic term used to represent a near-destruction situation in which God gives personal direction to the believer and thereby helps her make a way out of what she thought was no way.
Just because you use Scripture, even in a God-affirming way, does not mean you are using Scripture for life and love, growth and wisdom—and for the sake of God or others.
The New Testament is a vision quest story, an invitation to us to step into the vision quest of God. This quest is transformative.… It is the earth-bound story of a flesh and blood seeker who lives in the midst of the mundane, using what is at hand to turn the common into the extraordinary.
Interpreting the Scriptures with Jesus
Father Richard outlines a prayerful practice of interpreting Scripture the way Jesus did:
- Offer a prayer for guidance from the Holy Spirit before interpreting an important text. This begins to decenter our egoic need to make the text say what we want or need it to say. Pray as long as it takes to get to this inner intellectual freedom and detachment.
- Once we have attained some honest degree of intellectual and emotional freedom, we must try to move to a position of detachment from our own will and its goals, needs, and desires.
- Then listen for a deeper voice that isn’t our own. We will know that it isn’t the ego because it will never shame or frighten us, but rather strengthen us, even when it is challenging us. If it is God’s voice, it will take away our illusions and our violence so completely and naturally that we can barely identify with such previous feelings! I call this God’s replacement therapy.
- If the interpretation leads our True Self to experience any or several of the fruits of the Spirit, as they are listed in Galatians 5:22–23—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness, and self-control—I think we can trust this interpretation is from the Spirit, from the deeper stream of wisdom.
- If any negative or punitive emotions—such as morose delight, feelings of superiority, self-satisfaction, arrogant dualistic certitude, desire for revenge, need for victory, or any spirit of dismissal or exclusion—arise from the interpretation, this is not the Jesus hermeneutic at work, but our own ego still steering the ship.
- Finally, remember the temptation of Jesus in the desert (see Matthew 4:1–11). Three temptations to the misuse of power are listed—economic, religious, and political. Even Jesus must face these subtle disguises before he begins any public ministry; this is a warning to all of us.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, What Do We Do with the Bible? (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2018), 52–54.
Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Benjamin Yazza, Untitled 7. Jenna Keiper, Bisti Badlands. Benjamin Yazza, Untitled 6. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image.
The landscape of our own lives informs how we understand Scripture and Tradition.