Critique of Matthew Dominguez' Inklings on Philosophy and Worldview: A Voice for Richard Rohr

By Marcia Montenegro, March 2022 (page 1 of 2)

Why this book?

I read this book at the request of some parents whose children were using this book in a Christian school. It is promoted as a book on worldviews to inform students and aid their discernment. However, the book undermines the idea of objective truth and promotes Perennial Wisdom, but in a covert manner. Only selected topics are addressed here, not the whole book.

Perennial Wisdom (also called the Perennial Philosophy or the Perennial Tradition) avers that there is one core truth at the heart of all religions. Though they differ outwardly, all religions are rooted in the same divine reality, which is discovered through a person's inward journey (see CANA article on Perennial Wisdom and Christianity). The True Self of each person has never been separated from God, so no salvation is necessary, only awakening to this divine reality. Mysticism is the bridge that leads to realization of this truth.

Perennial Wisdom does not teach that all religions should merge because Perennial followers believe that various religions reveal truth to those who seek it, and each way is equally valid. Perennial Wisdom should not be equated with the New Age, though they have some similar and overlapping views.

Nothing is 100% Certain

Section one of this book, which includes five chapters, has a theme that nothing can be 100% verifiable or certain. Everything is based on trust and what we consider to be trustworthy. But, writes Dominguez, our trust is via fallible eyes, hands, ears, tongues, noses and our often malleable and fragile brains to make sense of the world (17). Dominguez writes that these perception tools have been inaccurate and could be wrong right now (17).

What Dominguez appears to be saying is that reality or truth is what we perceive it to be and we cannot know for certain what is true. If that is the case, how can his assertion be true? How do we know that Dominguez is not basing this idea on his own malleable and fragile brain?

Even if Dominguez is coming at this from an angle to get readers to think, his premise is flawed because it is based on the idea that nothing is certain, and we must decide what is trustworthy. This kind of thinking was common with the Emergents like Rob Bell and Brian McLaren and others. In fact, Dominguez quotes Erwin McManus, who was also one of the Emergents (now called Progressives).

Dominguez admits he believes in objective truth but that his personal access to it is subjective. But since Jesus did not ask us to prove we are right but only to trust him, writes Dominguez, then it is okay. The problem with this contention is that trust in Christ is different from the trust that Dominguez is discussing. If it were the same, it would be a bad testament to Christ and objective truth.

Dominguez equates trust in what is true based on subjective access to trust in Christ. However, objective historical evidence for the existence of Jesus, even from non-Christian sources, the amazing amount of documentary evidence for the New Testament, and the internal consistency of Scripture calls for more than an uncertain trust based on subjective channels.

Although Dominguez is not writing a survey of evidence for Christ or the Bible, his approach is a flawed one that is not helpful in determining truth claims. As a book for students, this approach has graver consequences than if it were simply expressing the author's ideas for the general reader.

On page 30, Dominguez writes that trust activates truth. This sounds like truth is based on what we choose to believe. I do not know how to interpret this any other way and if that is what is meant, it is quite alarming. His other statements only support this erroneous view.

He interprets John the Baptist calling for people to repent to mean that one must change their mind and let go of old views. By using our choice, we can do this (36). However, what John the Baptist called for was based on God's revelation and on absolute truth. It was not just a call for people to change minds and make choices based on subjective perceptions, but a call to turn to the living God. It was a message based on the words of a prophet (John) foretold in the Hebrew Scriptures (Isaiah 40:3-5; Malachi 3:1, 4:5) who was called and ordained by God to announce God's truth. This is diminished in the book.

Richard Rohr

On page 37 there is an excerpt from Richard Rohr's blog. The quote is the second paragraph of an essay found on Rohr's site at https://cac.org/universal-reality-2016-04-21/ called "Universal Reality."

It is important to note that Richard Rohr is completely heretical, even by liberal standards. His view on creation, God, man, sin, the atonement, Jesus, and the future is totally at odds with the biblical worldview. (I have been tracking Rohr since 2013 and have watched and listened to dozens of his talks, lectures, podcasts, interviews, and I read and wrote articles on three of his books). Here is the excerpt:

Much of Western culture is saddled with the conviction that humans must rationally create and explain all meaning for themselves. But this task is impossible, and so the search for meaning inevitably collapses into nihilism. The seeker gives up, assuming, "Since I can't figure it out, everything must be absurd and meaningless. There is no meaning, except what I manufacture, what I decide to believe." No civilization or community can be founded on this individualistic worldview, because it is simply a collection of competing egos fighting for their dominant story based on private individuals' experience, hurts, perception, and education. This is most of North America and Europe today. (Richard Rohr, as quoted in Dominguez)

Rohr is very much against what he calls Western. He has stated that the Eastern church (Eastern Orthodox) retained at least some of what Rohr considers to be truth: nondual thinking, contemplative practices, mysticism, a view of Christ distinct from Jesus, and not following the Bible in a literal way.

The statement is anti-logic and downgrades rational thinking. This is because all those like Rohr who advocate mysticism (this is also true in the New Age) are against what they view as rational or logical thinking when it comes to beliefs. Ironically, the words denounce individual experience and perception which is what Rohr bases truth on. The reference to education is another way to demean intellectual efforts or analytical thinking.

Rohr pits his spirituality against critical thinking because logic and reason easily dismantle Rohr's beliefs. Yet God's word upholds reason, which is rooted in God's character ((Isaiah 1:18; Matthew 22:37; Acts 17:17, 18:4, 19; Psalms 16:7; Proverbs 1:2-5; 18:15, 22:17; Romans 12:3; 1 Corinthians 14:15; Hebrews 10:16; the book of Romans is a logical apologetic for the Christian faith; the Holy Spirit transforms the mind of the believer, Romans 12:2).

It is sadly ironic that in a book that supposedly enhances the critical thinking of students, an influential figure who discourages such thinking looms so large in the book.

Dominguez writes that nobody can substantiate his or her understanding of the truth (38; he also repeats this on p. 44). Christian apologists would disagree. External evidence and compelling arguments do exist for the historical Jesus, the documentary reliability of the Bible, and the rationale for a Christian worldview.

Dominguez writes about making choices and that choice is the essence and lifeblood of trust (39). We must keep finding what is trustworthy. That may be part of a search for truth but what does it rest on? He seems to say you just need to make a choice and choose what works as trustworthy for you. This is a search for what is true from a very postmodern angle.

The Four Worldviews

The book continues with its theme of trust. Dominguez writes that all the answers are based on trust (63). If I were a young believer or were struggling with my faith, I would find little comfort in the idea that trust is based on what we find trustworthy. What criteria do we have for that? That is not explained.

The rest of this section describes the four worldviews Dominguez is focused on: Pure Idealism, Authentic Materialism, Complete Monism, and Religious Theism. The first he defines as seeing everything as spiritual. Materialism is the opposite and views all as purely physical. Monism is a belief that the physical and spiritual realms are connected with no distinctions.

For the fourth, Religious Theism, Dominguez uses a definition that is not standard: the reality of the spiritual and material realms are deeply connected but with real distinctions. Theism, however, is usually defined as the belief in one God, but God is not even mentioned. Theism acknowledges both the spiritual and material but the focus is on one God, not on any kind of connection between the material and spiritual.

This definition from Dominguez would seem baffling if Rohr's influence on Dominguez were not known, but since Rohr's influence is a factor, that explains the definition. Rohr continually talks about the melding of spirit and matter as part of his Panentheism.

This is worrisome enough, but what Dominguez claims about the relationship between these four views is equally disconcerting.
 

Interlude: Video of Dominguez

Just as I started Section Three, I received a link to a YouTube video by Matthew Dominguez in which he talks to students about Richard Rohr and about the lights on in monism and the truth in monism about Christ. (This video has since been removed).

Dominguez begins by saying that he has given ten devotionals from Richard Rohr to the students. Dominguez adds that in our Western and Evangelical worldview we often don't get the light of monism.... like Richard Rohr does. Dominguez also states he would love to have Rohr come to the school to speak in the chapel.

Richard Rohr has a Christ-centered and biblical worldview, declares Dominguez around 6 minutes in. However, Rohr's view of the Bible is that men wrote it at different states of spiritual evolvement. Furthermore, Rohr teaches that Matthew, Mark, and Luke wrote about Jesus, but John and Paul wrote about the Universal Christ. Jesus and the Universal Christ are not one and the same (see link to CANA article on Richard Rohr's The Universal Christ). Rohr does not have a biblical worldview at all and he teaches a heretical Christ.

Since Dominguez calls Rohr a mentor and states I've read pretty much every book by Richard Rohr, he must know what Rohr believes. He also claims Rohr is a trusted voice.

He recommends Rohr's book Immortal Diamond (and two other books) about our identity in Christ and how it is soooo good. However, Rohr's view of our identity in Christ is based on Panentheism (God and creation interpenetrate each other, and God is dependent on creation) and Perennialism. We are all in Christ because the first incarnation of Christ is creation, Rohr believes. And our true Self is in Christ because in the Perennial view, everyone has an innate true Self that is part of God and was never separated from God.

The video merely verifies the influence of Richard Rohr on Dominguez and his book.

A Painting in Four Parts

In chapter 14, Dominguez uses the metaphor of the Da Vinci painting of the Last Supper being divided into four parts. He writes that although each part comes from the original, only that part of the picture can be seen. He compares this to the four worldviews (Idealism, Materialism, Monism, and Theism), saying that each has part of the truth but are incomplete, and are completed by the other parts.

His assumption is that these worldviews all have a piece of truth and when connected, they yield the whole truth. However, three of these four are not only false but contrary to the Christian worldview. They cannot offer "truth" to the biblical worldview nor does the biblical worldview need additional so-called truth. If such truth could be added, it would mean that the Bible is incomplete for our needs, that God overlooked some information.

On page 123, Dominguez denies being a pluralist. However, pluralism and Perennial Wisdom are different categories. Dominguez does not use the term Perennial wisdom, or anything similar, but the book and his references to Richard Rohr give strong indications that he may be in agreement with that view.

Pluralism is defined as a political philosophy holding that people of different beliefs, backgrounds, and lifestyles can coexist in the same society and participate equally in the political process. This is the most common definition. Whether Dominguez is a pluralist or not is irrelevant to the problems found with the book's messages.

Perennial Wisdom is a spiritual belief that acknowledges that all religions though outwardly different at their core share the same divine reality (God) or core truth. However, this truth is not apparent. One must discover it on an inward journey via mystical (Contemplative) practices.

Dominguez states that the undivided person of Christ is the complete painting and Christ is far bigger than any of this (123-124). He writes that we can only get glimpses of the fullness of reality. The term undivided indicates that pieces of Christ are found in other religions since we only have glimpses of.
 

What does it mean to say Christ is bigger than any of this? It is reminiscent of Richard Rohr's Universal Christ, a Christ seen from everywhere like a kite in the sky attached to a string held by Jesus (this illustration is given on Rohr's site for his book). Not everyone sees Jesus, but they see the Christ. In other words, Christ is captured in all beliefs and not exclusive to any one belief, and can be known outside of knowing Jesus.

Many Christians, when reading odd statements such as those about the 4-part painting and Christ being bigger than all this, would shrug and read on, or perhaps interpret it in a way that makes it seem orthodox. That is one reason why these ideas fly under the radar and infiltrate churches and schools. Another reason is that a book and author are accepted because of reputation, friendship, or a seemingly credible publisher. However, a simple investigation could turn up worms under the rock.

 

 

 

 

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