Richard Rohr – Is His Teaching Biblical?

Apr 26, 2017 by

By Jane Krammer, Anglican Mainstream[1].

This paper has been researched and written as a result of a deep concern over those Christian friends who have turned away from a more biblically based Christian faith to follow the teachings of Richard Rohr and the Center for Action and Contemplation. Many consider Rohr’s teachings very attractive, like flashes of gold in the mundanities of life. He is often spoken of in glowing terms; and his following continues to grow, spreading through friendship groups and social media. However Rohr’s use of biblical terminology and Christian sounding language is deceptive, lulling his readers into a false sense of security, whilst feeding them a mixed diet of mysticism, self-help spirituality, social justice, biblical inaccuracies and false doctrine. In this way the biblical faith of his followers is progressively and systematically undermined. Those who become more deeply embedded in his teaching have a demonstrated tendency to turn away from upholding Jesus Christ as Son of God and our only Lord and Saviour.


Richard Rohr’s ideas and teaching seem to be continually evolving and also adapting in response to criticism – which makes it hard to arrive at his completely definitive answer on some subjects. I started this paper by thoroughly studying 2011 Rohr’s teaching from his book Falling Upwards, before turning to some of his daily online meditations 2015-2017[2], in which he develops some key themes, which are touched on but not elaborated, in Falling Upwards. In this paper I have sought to examine some of the most significant themes in Rohr’s teaching (notably ‘dualism’ and ‘the Cosmic Christ’ as well as his views on biblical authority, the deity of Jesus, atonement and the cross), I have then tried to give a more biblical perspective on these.

Before looking at the evidence in greater depth, I thought it might be helpful to summarise some of Rohr’s ideas – using the questions addressed on the Alpha Course. As you will see, Rohr’s ideas are somewhat controversial.



Is There More To Life Than this?         Yes – you need to search for and find Your True Self!

Who is Jesus?            It depends if you mean Jesus of Nazareth or ‘the Cosmic Christ’ – because according to Rohr, these are two separate entities. Rohr believes that Jesus was ‘a special Jew’, a ‘microcosmic moment in time’, but that Jesus is not the Cosmic Christ. Rohr believes that the Cosmic Christ is ‘macrocosmic’; it is ‘ever-growing’ and is wherever ‘matter and the spiritual coincide’. (Rohr does not consider Jesus Christ as Lord or that Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the World).

Why did Jesus die?          Rohr adamantly rejects the penal substitutionary atonement of Jesus. Rohr considers Jesus’ death to be ‘tragic and absurd’ but ‘necessary to create Christianity’ (the religion). Rohr considers that the purpose of the cross was to show us our ‘tendency to scapegoat others’, and that it was ‘to reveal the lie and absurdity of the very notion and necessity of “sacrificial” religion itself.’ Rohr tells us: ‘nothing changed on Calvary, but everything was revealed as God’s suffering love – so that we would change.’[3]

How can we Have Faith?            Rohr believes that faith needs to ‘evolve’….

Why and How Do I Pray?        According to Rohr and his fellows, we need ‘centering prayer’[4] which largely involves meditation. Prayer is ‘any interior journey or practise that allows you to experience faith, hope, and love within yourself.’[5]

Why and How Should I Read The Bible?            Rohr does not believe that the Bible is the Word of God – he discounts much of it as ‘dualistic’. Instead he advocates that ‘Scripture as validated by experience and experience as validated by Tradition are good scales for one’s spiritual worldview’. ‘Tradition’ is not tradition of the church, but rather ‘the perennial philosophy’ which ‘points to recurring themes and truths within all of the world’s religions’[6]

How Does God Guide Us?            Rohr tells us that in ‘surrendering’, you can trust ‘that almost everything is a kind of guidance’.[7]

What Does The Holy Spirit Do?            Rohr states that the Holy Spirit is female. He refers to the Holy Spirit as an ‘inner compass’ but also as a ‘force field’. According to Rohr the Holy Spirit seems to be linked to the ‘unified field’; and it keeps us in ‘the flow’, where our ‘True Self’ is.

How Can I Be Filled With the Holy Spirit?            Rohr believes that we do not need receive the Holy Spirit externally as we are already in ‘The Flow’. The question is therefore irrelevant.

How Can I Resist Evil?            Rohr considers that to make a distinction between good and evil is ‘dualistic’. Because Rohr considers ‘dualistic’ thinking to be the source of most violence in the world – we probably shouldn’t be asking this ‘dualistic’ question.

Why and How Should I Tell Others?            It rather depends what you want to tell them. To tell others the traditional Gospel message is inappropriate as there is no such thing as ‘in or out’; to speak of ‘in or out’ is ‘dualistic’. Rohr is a pluralist and a universalist; all paths lead to ‘God’ and there is nothing that we need to be saved from except possibly ourselves. It is good to spread Rohr’s teaching however but don’t be surprised if people spurn it – they are ‘immature’ and ‘dualistic’.

Does God Heal Today?            No comment on physical healing. Otherwise through the Twelve-Step programs.[8]

What About the Church?                        You may probably eventually be called to leave it in the same way that Jesus told us to leave our families.

How Can I Make the Most of the rest of my life?            Sign up to Rohr’s daily meditations which you can easily do online through; buy Rohr’s books, read and listen to resources from the bookstore, join CAC’s conferences in New Mexico or watch online, watch the CAC webcasts, or join one of Richard Rohr’s online teaching courses and join the online community (available through the website). Later you can apply to join Rohr’s 2-year Living School, part home/online & part Alberquerque based. Potential students must go through ‘an intentional discernment process to assess your readiness’.[9] By the end of all this, you are extremely likely to have lost all semblance of mainstream biblical faith.


Richard Rohr is a Franciscan Priest and an internationally known, speaker, prolific writer[10] and retreat master. He describes his teachings as ‘grounded in the Franciscan alternative orthodoxy – practices of contemplation and self-emptying, expressing itself in radical compassion, particularly for the socially marginalized’. He is the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) and academic Dean of the Living School for Action and Contemplation (part of the CAC), based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The vision of the CAC (available at ) is as follows: ‘The Center for Action and Contemplation supports a new reformation – from the inside – * In the spirit of a Cosmic Christ * Confirming people’s deeper spiritual intuitions * Encouraging actions of justice rooted in prayer[11] * With a new appreciation for, and cooperation with, other denominations, religions, and cultures’.

Rohr is very controversial but he is currently extremely popular. His writings (and meditation techniques) are attractive to Christians from all backgrounds and denominations – those who are searching for a deeper intimacy with God and those who are in some way dissatisfied with their current spiritual lives. He appeals greatly to those in the 45+ age bracket; who in a time of mid-life crisis or watching loved ones die, are looking for a transcendent, mystical or deeper spiritual experience. There are however considerable problems with his teachings and methods.

Continue reading the full analysis of Richard Rohr’s teaching here

See also: The ongoing influence of ‘new gnosticism’ among C of E evangelicals, by Andrew Symes, Anglican Mainstream


[1] Jane Krammer has been a committed Christian for over 30 years; she is married with four children and has an MA in Christian Ethics from Kings College London.

[2] Rohr’s online meditations can be accessed at

[3] See Rohr’s daily meditation for Friday, February 12, 2016: ‘Incarnation instead of Atonement’ – accessed at

[4] See the teaching of Rohr’s colleague, Cynthia Bourgeault, on Centering Prayer for further details. A summary of this is available at Also see footnote 8 below.

[5] See

[6] See

[7] See Surrender is to ‘a Trinitarian God’, ‘Trinity, the primal and ultimate Source’. I have not explained Rohr’s doctrine of Trinity in this paper as this has been done much more competently by the theologian Fred Sanders in his critical review of the Divine Dance – see page 25 of this paper.

[8] See https://cacorg/in-need-of-healing-2016-05-29/

[9] See for detailsof discernment steps. See

[10] Rohr’s Wikipedia page lists him as the author of 30 books. WorldCat lists 474 works in 904 publications in 8 languages and 11,424 library holdings (see . In addition, his daily reflections and meditations are sent out via the worldwide web to vast numbers of people.

[11] In this paper, I am not examining Rohr’s views on prayer. However, the CAC’s philosophy and practise of ‘centering prayer’ seems to be very attractive to Rohr’s followers, as it introduces a mystical element that many find lacking in their spiritual lives. Rohr closes each of his daily online meditations with a ‘Gateway to Silence’.     The website provides teaching on how to set about ‘centering prayer’ and Rohr’s colleague Cynthia Bourgeault, has recently published a book on the subject The Heart of Centering Prayer – Nondual Christianity in Theory and Practice (2016) Shambhala, Boulder.

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