According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Peter Rollins on the Insurrection of the Christian Faith

Peter Rollins Discusses his book
October 6, 2011

Peter Rollins has been praised as possessing one of the most provocative and thoughtful theological voices of our day. An author, lecturer, and storyteller, he is renowned for his dynamic and winsome speaking. He is also the founder of ikon, a faith group that has gained an international reputation for blending live music, visual imagery, soundscapes, theatre, ritual, and reflection to create what they call "transformance art." Rollins received his higher education in Queens University, Belfast, where he earned degrees (with distinction) in Scholastic Philosophy (BA Hons), Political Theory (MA), and Post-Structural Religious Philosophy (PhD). He is currently a research associate with the Irish School of Ecumenics in Trinity College, Dublin, and is the author of the much talked about How (Not) to Speak of God, The Fidelity of Betrayal and most recently, The Orthodox Heretic and Other Impossible Tales. He was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, but currently resides in Greenwich, CT.

Peter Rollins proclaims that the Christian faith is not primarily concerned with
questions regarding life after death but with the possibility of life BEFORE death.

Christianity is a way of defining the world, God, self, and life after death. This definition can be overly restrictive or immensely enlightening, reforming, transforming.

Christianity is not what you believe in your head but how you live in the world.

The Christian faith is not simply about life after death but
about how to live life before death.

The Christian faith is about finding meaning in the very chaos of our existence.

The title Insurrection plays off the idea of Resurrection each adding to the idea of our participation in the Transformation of God - one through an "uprising" (from the idol of ourself) and the other through a 'rising up' into the transforming life of God.

Insurrection requires a burning up of our beliefs, our identity (pyro-theology)...
Resurrection requires a participation into this process of insurrection.

Embracing God does not mean that man must escape life but must re-embrace life,
through relationships, through work, through love. This is the idea of Insurrection and Resurrection.

Our image of our idealized self is the idol (or the mask) that must go, that prevents us
from seeing who we really are...

Questioning our faith, embracing mystery, doubt and unknowing helps to remove the false idol of self.

Our God journey begins by engaging the world, allowing ourselves expression, participating in relationships. Because who we are cannot be seen except through society with others.

Christianity begins by transforming our beliefs that will transform our material reality.

Those same beliefs must not stay hidden in the Christian's mind and heart
but must be physically expressed through  our talents and abilities into society. book information -

A Fuller Student's depiction of Peter Rollins Speaking
at Fuller Theological Seminary, Oct 2011

Peter Rollins Talks with Fuller Students

Report from the Public Affairs Office at Fuller
October 26, 2011

Fuller students and many other fans from the Pasadena area packed into Chang Commons on Friday night, October 21, to hear popular writer and public speaker Peter Rollins give a talk based off of his new book, Insurrection, at an event sponsored by the Brehm Center. Every chair was filled while more attendees leaned against the walls around the room’s perimeter as the crowd hung on Rollins’s every word. “I am inviting you to a revival meeting—I’m preaching for conversions,” he said, beginning his talk lightheartedly.

Indeed, Rollins, an Irish-born theologian best known for provocative statements such as, “to believe is human; to doubt divine,” offered what many sense is a fresh take on Christianity. He previously coined the term “pyro-theology,” believing that the Church is in an era where its vital beliefs and practices must be burned away so that we may approach theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s proposed “religionless Christianity.”

Speaking quickly and with an Irish lilt to his words, the high-energy theologian referenced cartoons, philosophers, psychological schools of thought, and popular films as he made his points, sprinkling in humorous and thought-provoking parables as he went.

When an infant begins to achieve a sense of self at around nine months old, Rollins said, that child begins to experience a sense of loss. “This loss—this nothingness—follows us into adulthood,” he explained. “We start to postulate something that will satisfy our emptiness.” For Rollins, this is actually original sin—the sense of nothingness at the core of our being comes first, thus being “original,” and leads to our postulating what has been lost, resulting in the generation of an idol. “Sin is anything you do to bridge the gap between you and your postulated idol,” he stated.

“The world is a vending machine full of idols,” continued Rollins, so that as we try to figure out what has been lost, we have plenty of options to turn to. And when the church focuses on the claim that Jesus will satisfy out felt needs, God just becomes “one more product.” True Christianity has a unique place in this cycle, Rollins said, because it is “a form of life that blows it apart.” Christianity shows Christ to be without sin, which means without a void and without a drive toward a postulated idol. But when on the cross Jesus cried out, “Why have you forsaken me?” he experienced the loss, claimed Rollins, that drives humans to sin. The genius of Christianity, Rollins argued, is that “we have to believe Christianity and then let Christianity stop believing in itself—God stops believing in God.”

The Resurrection also plays a key role in Rollins’s theology, because “after the death of God as an idol or product,” he explained, “we discover God is love.” While an idol exists, is sublime, and is meaningful on its own, love is none of these things. Rollins described love as not existing, but bringing all things into existence; not sublime, but pointing to others and calling them sublime; not meaningful in its own right, but rendering the world meaningful.

In this Christianity, church becomes the place “where we are freed from the pursuit of our happiness” and our drive for idols, where our brokenness surfaces and we sensitize ourselves to one another. “In just being human,” said Rollins, “we experience happiness that is real and deep; not ecstatic like the happiness an idol promises.”

For more on Peter Rollins and his theology, visit his website at
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How (Not) to Speak of God vs. Insurrection

by Peter Rollins
posted July 7, 2011

As I prepare for the launch of my new book a good friend has been pushing me to do a series of podcasts. He is suggesting that the first few concentrate on How (Not) to Speak of God while the subsequent episodes offer a chapter-by-chapter discussion of the latest one, Insurrection. The idea appeals to me, so I have started re-reading How (Not) to Speak of God in preparation.

But in doing so I have discovered something very disturbing. I have uncovered the reality that these two siblings are squaring up for a fight; a fight over the nature of faith and the future of Church.

Interestingly both jump off from the same location and both attempt to land in the same field. But between these two points a large conflict between them exists.

In many respects this means that the best critical companion to Insurrection is How (Not) to Speak of God and visa versa.

Part one of How (Not) to Speak of God begins with the line,
Christian faith, it could be said, is born in the aftermath of God”
Upon hearing this, [the book] Insurrection would no doubt shout out with a wholehearted “Amen” (as well as secretly wishing he had started with that line). Yet they both go on to interpret what “aftermath of God” actually means in radically divergent ways. Indeed the kernel of the two books can be seen as offering an interpretation of that phrase and its importance.
The more I listen to these rivals the more I think that it might be interesting to give some talks where they are placed side by side and allowed to slug it out.

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 Insurrection Reviews

Robin Simmons (Palm Springs area, CA United States)
Again, Peter Rollins challenges church tradition, dogma and creed with ideas that truly embrace the mission and message of Jesus. This is not a book for the faint-hearted, but for those who seek the freedom -- and fear -- of truth. Someone said to me recently, "The only truly illuminating church is one that's on fire." The resurrection of Jesus forever embedded him in the material world we inhabit -- and the mind we can choose to share. This terrific book deserves the widest circulation, especially now that the political scene has so many poseurs espousing their dangerous and ignorant definitions of Christianity.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Pete's most important title yet, October 5, 2011
This is Pete's most important work yet. I started following his work shortly after the release of "How (Not) to Speak of God" and was impressed with its reflection of a Derridean post-structuralist theology.

"Insurrection" marks a significant turn to contemporary Radical theology and psychoanalytic theory. The book has a series of layers to it- the reader wholly unfamiliar with Zizek and Lacan will have absolutely no trouble following the progression of the book, but each page is undergirded with complex theory that can be explored further. Pete has a gift for bringing high theory to a very readable (and practical) level.

"Insurrection" is a book about symbolic disavowal, the big Other and Bonhoeffer's deus ex machina, and the pseudo-activity that keeps a narcissistic community from truly engaging both themselves and the problems of the world.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
How (Not) To Speak of God

With sensitivity to the Christian tradition and a rich understanding of postmodern thought, Peter Rollins argues that the movement known as the “emerging church” offers a singular, unprecedented message of transformation that has the potential to revolutionize the theological and moral architecture of Western Christianity.

How (not) to Speak of God sets out to explore the theory and praxis of this contemporary expression of faith. Rollins offers a clear exploration of this embryonic movement and provides key resources for those involved in communities that are conversant with, and seeking to minister effectively to, the needs of a postmodern world.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly -

In the first half of this powerful but frustratingly opaque book, debut author Rollins summarizes some of the theological ideas that the so-called emerging church is currently exploring: the importance of doubt and silence, the limits of apologetics, and the idea that God is concealed even as God is revealed. He skillfully scrutinizes Christian teaching though the lens of postmodern (especially deconstructionist) theory, and argues that Christians should both affirm their views of God and recognize that those views are inadequate.

The second half comprises a set of liturgies that Rollins's religious community, an Irish group called Ikon, has employed. One service explores "divine absence" through a parable and a reading from Pascal. A ceremony for Advent uses sackcloth and ashes to highlight the penitential nature of the season. If most of these liturgies are affecting, some are a little hokey—in a concluding service called "Queer," for example, participants wrap stones, representing their prejudices, in Bubble Wrap.

While this may prove an important book for some younger Christian leaders, dense prose will limit its audience: "God's interaction with the world is irreducible to understanding, precisely because God's presence is a type of hyper-presence." Nonetheless, a very enthusiastic foreword from Emergent elder statesman Brian McLaren will help create buzz. (Aug.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Congregations, 2007

The emerging church is not just a term to describe a new movement for congregations that are just beginning; every congregation should see itself as emerging into the next stage of its journey, and this book will be an important tool on our journey as we think of how we speak or do not speak of God in this time in which we live.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Insightful ideas are worth the effort, September 10, 2006
Kevin Holtsberry (Columbus, OH USA)   

One of the problems with a book like this is that you wonder if it will ever be read by anyone outside the community it describes. Rollins is attempting to describe the philosophical underpinnings of the "emerging church" or the conversation that is taking place around the world about how to approach the Christian faith in a post-modern era.

To do this he brings the work of deconstructionist theory, and the history of Christian mysticism, to theology and faith. In doing so he tries to avoid the dichotomy of fundamentalist faith on the one had and relativistic nihilism on the other. He wants to challenge and re-imagine the Christian faith without abandoning its core meaning.

This is not an easy task. I have a feeling that a great many more traditional Christians will be turned off by 1) what they will perceive as a threat to orthodoxy; and 2) by its language rooted in post-modern criticism and theory.

But I would recommend that this book be read in the spirit in which is written. Instead of viewing it as a threat to orthodox Christianity, view it as a challenge and a source of potential insight. Rollins certainly challenges traditional ways of thinking about theology and faith.

His deconstructionist approach to knowledge and truth will feel awkward and potentially heretical to most Christians, and it isn't always easy to sift through the language, but there are a number of keen insights for those who put in the effort.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

A hopeful vision of Christianity's future, May 16, 2008
Adam Moore (Waco, Texas)

"How (Not) to Speak of God" is one of the most thought-provoking and hope-filled books I've ever read. I know I will read this book over and over. Ever since reading it, the content of this book has been transforming me in so many ways.

The book is divided into two parts. The first part is the theoretical portion of the book and basically proposes a new way of believing. Speaking as a practitioner and philosopher within the "emerging church," Rollins proposes that this revolution occurring within the Church is not a revolution of WHAT we believe but instead HOW we believe.

The second part of the book, which by itself would have been worth the price of the book, is a description of ten different services, Rollins calls them "theodramas," from Rollins' faith community in Belfast, which is called IKON. These ten services help to bring the first half of the book into the practical expression of a faith community.

In short, this book spurred my imagination to picture a Christianity for tomorrow's world. And the picture Rollins presents is one that brings me great hope.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I totally get it!!!, May 2, 2008

I totally get it. I just disagree. The whole of Rollin's book amounts to this: When it comes to understanding theology, "a/theology", (his term), truth (big or little "t"), giving, love, salvation, orthodoxy, praxis, etc, don't believe them, believe me. Because of my proper understanding of Derrida, Neitzche, Foucault and other deconstructionists can now uplift the rest of you poor modernists.

God is so oblivious as to who we, part of His creation, are as humans and what our limitations may be that he is incapable of breaking into our world through revelation and transcending all our cultural baggage so that we may, even in part, come to know Him in any way that is either meaningful or language independent. Big claim, eh?

As much as post-moderns/emergents cry foul when it comes to apologetics or truth claims, they have their very own apologetic, as is evidenced by this book, as it meticulously lays out why its view is (drum roll) meaningful.

At one point in the book, Rollins states why his views reject relativism. That being, that as a statement, relativism devours itself because the proposition "relativism is true" would make it an absolute statement. But then he refuses to go the extra mile (or 2 or 3) and apply the same criteria to his own philosophy, post-modernism, to see how it also refutes itself. The book is full of contradictions, false dichotomies, and straw men but I still think one should read it and here's why.

Is everything that post-modernism teaches, or everything coming out of the emerging (emergent) conversation without value? Absolutely not. (Sorry for the absolute statement you pomo's.) Rollins and other emerging authors have done the church-at-large a tremendous service by pointing out grave wrongheadedness and blind spots within the church. It also does, I think provide on some level and in some areas possibilities to engage one's faith more deeply. I also do like how the examples of emerging worship from Rollins own church wrestle with themes that most churches don't touch. Doubt for example (although as in many areas of postmodernism I think they take a good idea or theme and then go too far and extoll it as a virtue rather than just acknowledging it as a normal part of the human condition and then working through it). So it's for these reasons, and not simply for the purpose of refuting them that I suggest one should read this book. And besides, conversation is a great thing.

Regarding all the authors of books out there in the emerging conversation and the philosophy espoused therein, I think Rollins' goes deeper, stays down longer, but ultimately comes up murkier.


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