According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - 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

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Why is Neo-Evangelicalism Threatened by "Love Wins"?


Over the past eight months of its inception this blog has re-examined Christianity in its many expressions, both in contemporary culture, as well as in the past eras of church history. It has been a provocative study at times that has shown many popular Christian sentiments to be mis-directional and/or inadequately expressed. Consequently, when Rob Bell's book "Love Wins" was first published there was a heated outcry from Evangelical Christianity's more conservative zealots to seek immediate retribution and retaliation for any perceived doctrinal discrepancies and errors to the(ir) faith.

However, in Roger Olson's latest post, through his student Austin Fischer, we discover (not for the first time) that Evangelicalism's near-and-dear dogmas come under fire again, especially pertaining to Calvinism's doctrinal impasse between the "Sovereignty of God" and the "Election of man in his Depravity" with the more historic positions of "Free Will Theism" and "Prevenient Grace" doctrines more commonly accepted over the past 2000 years of church history.

Consequently, evangelicalism's real reasons for bashing "Love Wins" lies in the fact that it feels threatened in the very heart of its movement's signature interpretations of key biblical doctrines, especially those related to Calvinism. In other words, evangelicalism's whole case for its existence as a modern day Christian movement rises and falls upon its interpretation of whether God needs our help or not to "save" mankind from its sins. Which gets us into the evangelical boundary markers of missions, evangelism, church outreach programs, love, sin, heaven, hell, and so forth, that are near-and-dear dogmas held close to the heart of many Christians. And any restatement of them will be provocative, perhaps contentious, and slowly surrendered, if at all.

And yet, it is the argument of this blog, and from the lips and pens of the many discerning evangelics amongst us, that these very same issues and positional statements MUST be examined, discussed, debated and critiqued lest we miss God altogether in the idols of our man-made religion of dogmas, creeds and systematic statements of confessionalism. And because this task is as much cultural as it is personal, it is not an easy task to undertake. It requires the patient, steady, moderating task of love, prayer and devotion to the people of God who would turn to follow any pretty-voiced "shepherd" calling for alarm, fear, and insurrection (a most curious word to use in light of Peter Rollins latest book of the same name, wouldn't you say?).

Despite all this it is true that we remain critical - but critical both of (i) evangelicalism's more vocal adherents as well as (ii) Rob Bell's looser contentions that he makes in "Love Wins." And yet, give Bell credit for expressing his emotional ire with evangelicalism's modernistic dogmas and more zealot proponents, for the bulk of this web blog has been built to redress those very same issues that Bell has been trying to say to anyone who would listen... something that has taken a newer generation of emergent Christians to finally say and question.... Which is to understand why our brand of Christianity hasn't been more ardently embraced by other religions of the world? Why we have made our version of God as an exclusive, condemning, withdrawn Savior? To ask why postmodernism hasn't been allowed to critique modernism's excesses and pride? And finally, why we have allowed our Christian faith and worship to slip into a wooden experience of religious construction and oversimplified folk religion?

And yet, God is a very patient God with his Church.... For it is this self-same God who raises-up prophetic, discerning, men and women to help lead his people through those difficult times of transition, and out of the dark pathways and dead ends that we have managed to loose ourselves into. Through his Spirit, God continually works to de-construct us - while at the same time re-construct us - into the beings He intends for us to be. How? Partly through the able leadership and guidance of the fellowship of our faith as we examine together the Scriptures with one another. And partly through the hard lessons of life as we turn from our mistakes and errant judgments into His more gracious light of mercy and love.

One of these hard lessons has become the comfortability of our Christian religion as we have fashioned biblical sentiments and statements around our personal beliefs and preferences advocating our preferential cultural views of God. But sometimes it is the contrarian views and seeming anti-biblical statements that we must hear again. That dissettles us. That makes us uncomfortable. That force us to change our beliefs and worship. Because sometimes these contrarian views are true. Are biblical. Are real. Something that we didn't discern earlier in our lives but now require us to significantly modify and adapt to against what we first thought was wrong and unbiblical. This has been the case for Emergent Christianity. It's new. It's unknown. It speaks and acts differently. It seems radical. And it seems unbiblical to our older doctrines of the faith. But when examined more closely, and with less heat and glare, starts to make sense, even helping us over  previous faith-hurdles that had brought us confusion without any decent answers or directions.

For God desires that we look behind the curtain of who we are, and where we once were, and to grow up and re-examine again what our life values are, who we are, what we have become, and can become, as He perfects us into the image of His Son Jesus, the Lover of our Souls. So then my friends, take heed of one another. See each brother and sister whom we meet as heaven-sent and not demon-bound. Rejoice in the strength of our fellowship's diversity, its union, its solidarity with the purposes of God Almighty. For the discerning fellowship of the body of Christ has been given for our protection, our guidance, our help. Learn to listen to all its parts and not to just some its more vocal parts.

RE Slater
November 2011

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More response to Love Wins and the controversy surrounding it
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2011/10/more-response-to-love-wins-and-the-controversy-surrounding-it/

by Roger Olson
posted October 31, 2011

This is a guest post written by one of my students–Austin Fischer. As you can see, he’s particularly bright (and not just because he agrees with me about most things!) and articulate. I think he makes some very good points about the controversy surrounding Love Wins here. However, just because I post a guest essay here does not mean I agree with everything in it (the standard disclaimer!)

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Love Wins? God Wins?

As has been duly noted at this point, Love Wins has sparked a firestorm in the evangelical world because it has exposed some deep fissures. These fissures have been around as long as evangelicals have but certainly seem to be growing. In a lecture on universalism, Scot McKnight suggested that evangelicals have reacted with such vitriol towards the book because it threatens the very heart of the evangelical ethos, which (according to McKnight) is the belief that people need to be converted. As such, Rob Bell’s flirtation with universalism has threatened the importance of conversion and thus incurred the wrath of evangelicalism.

Yet McKnight’s contention seems to make two questionable assumptions. First, it assumes there is a blanket evangelical rejection of the ideas in Love Wins. Second, it assumes that those evangelicals who are rejecting Love Wins are rejecting it for the same reasons.

Why Can’t We Agree On What Love Wins Is Saying?

The first assumption is problematic on a couple of levels. First off, it seems implausible to say there is a blanket rejection of the ideas in Love Wins because there has been little consensus as to what exactly Love Wins is saying. There is an interesting dynamic at work here, because—to speak candidly—Love WinsLove Wins is saying? How can some people think the book teaches universalism and some think it doesn’t?

The answer is exceedingly simple: we’re not good readers. And the fact that we’re not good readers has nothing to do with inadequate education or IQ. It has everything to do with a growing trend in evangelical (and perhaps wider) culture towards sectarianism and the loss of moderation. Lots could be said here, but suffice [it] to say there are fewer and fewer people trying to be in the center anymore. The center is seen as a weak place, a place lacking conviction, a place where the cowards huddle together and try not to offend anyone.

Not too long ago I was talking with a pastor about being a “moderate” Christian and he rebuked the very existence of such a thing: “When it comes down to it, I don’t think there are any moderates.” Hmm. When I asked him to substantiate the claim, his answer was telling: “Because even moderates are passionate about some things.” Apparently, a moderate is a person who isn’t passionate about anything…except everybody being happy. This moderate caricature is as pervasive as it is inaccurate. And while I don’t care to offer a full-blown definition of what it means to be a Christian moderate, I think it is helpful to say that to be moderate is to be passionately committed to meaningful conversations in pursuit of the truth. To be a moderate means you check the impulse to caricature, distort, talk over, and assume you know what someone else is saying. As such you can be a conservative moderate or a liberal moderate, a Calvinist moderate or an Open Theist moderate. Whatever.

We’re not good readers because we’re not good at being moderate. We don’t really want to listen to opposing ideas and we don’t want a real conversation. We think “we” have the truth and “they” don’t, so why have a conversation? Bluntly, if we find it difficult to have an actual conversation then it’s probably because we’re arrogant and ignorant, [and] not informed.

So why can’t we come to a consensus on what Love Wins is saying? Because we don’t want to hear what it is saying. We just want to use it as a springboard into a monologue about why we’re right.

What Is Love Wins Saying?

This said, what is Love Wins saying? Like I said, it’s simple and really not that much different from what people such as C.S. Lewis, Moltmann, and Hans Urs von Balthasar have said; namely, in the end we can’t say anything too firm about the destiny of human beings other than the fact that God will do what God wants with us. Bell speculates over what God does indeed plan to do with us (i.e. giving us all eternity to allow God to save us…a flirtation with universalism) and that speculation is certainly fair grounds for conversation and criticism. Indeed a moderate would encourage such! But the fact that so few grasp this clear, simple thesis of the book is a sad indictment of the current evangelical climate. Like I said, we’re not good readers.

The second problem with the assumption is that there simply hasn’t been a blanket evangelical rejection of Love Wins. Some evangelicals agree with most, if not all, the book. This leads us to an examination of the second assumption: Are all evangelicals rebuking Love Wins for the same reasons?

Why is Love Wins Rejected?

The second assumption—that all evangelicals are rebuking Love Wins because it questions the need for conversion—is problematic because evangelicals are so diverse. The primary example of this is seen in the variously labeled neo-Puritan/neo-Calvinist branch of evangelicalism, characterized by the theology of Jonathan Edwards (especially as articulated by John Piper), the preaching of Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, Francis Chan, Tim Keller, and the influence of Al Mohler and company. To state the obvious, this branch of evangelicalism holds as fundamental numerous beliefs that stand in direct antithesis to any “free-will” branch of evangelicalism. As such, it should come as no surprise that while free-will and Calvinist evangelicals might both rebuke Love Wins, they don’t do it for the same reasons.

My contention is that neo-Calvinist evangelicalism doesn’t rebuke Love Wins because it undermines conversion (I mean what could undermine conversion more than unconditional election!?), but because it doesn’t teach Calvinism. To put it another way, they are not rejecting Love Wins so much as they are rejecting anything that is not Calvinism.

This is blatantly obvious if you’ve read any of the numerous books written in response to Love Wins, many of which are written by neo-Calvinists. Now to be clear, I’m not criticizing them for writing a response. That’s the moderate way! But what they and many others fail to perceive is that most of the ideas they critique in Love Wins are not critiques of universalism but of any sort of free-will theism.

Evangelics are not criticizing universalism
but basic free-will theism.

God Wins: A Case Study

An excerpt from God Wins by Mark Galli[1]...

[1] I should note that I don’t know Galli’s theological presuppositions. Indeed at points he seems to affirm free-will theism (see his response metaphor on 73-74). To me he appears to be either a confused/inconsistent free-will theist or a confused/inconsistent Calvinist.

...is helpful: “What is assumed in…Love Wins is that the human will is free, autonomous, and able to choose between alternatives. [Love Wins] assumes that the will is not fallen, that it needs no salvation, that it doesn’t even need help” (71).

A number of things jump out. First, where does Love Wins assume that the human will is not fallen and does not need help? This is a massive indictment and if it were true then I would assume all free-will theists would join in the indictment. But where is it? Page number? Nope. See the above section on being bad readers.

A second thing that jumps out is the lack of an acknowledgement of a mediating position; namely, that while the human will is naturally “turned in on itself” with a propensity towards evil, the grace (prevenient) of God heals our fallen will so that we can actually choose for God or against God. This idea—that prevenient grace heals our fallen will to the point that we can indeed make a decision for or against God—is not universalism. It is classical free-will theism, the predominant Christian understanding of the relationship between human will and divine grace for two thousand years (see Against Calvinism by Dr. Roger Olson for substantiation of this claim).

Does God Give Us What We Want?

Related to this is Galli’s critique of Bell’s central assertion in Love Wins: in the end, God gives us what we want. In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis suggests that the doors of hell are locked from the inside. That is, those who end up in hell are there because they wanted hell and not because God was keeping them out of heaven. God has forgiven everyone (or made forgiveness possible for everyone) through the cross so that salvation, redemption, and reconciliation are possible for every last person and thing in the cosmos. In my view, all Bell does is pick up this line of thought. It’s not universalism. Lewis was clearly not a Universalist and believed many would indeed choose hell (especially the theologians!). It is, I think, a fair and plausible explanation of what Scripture tells us about God and his purposes for the world.

But according to Galli, the idea that God gives us what we want would be “very bad news” (because he mistakenly dismisses the notion of prevenient grace wherein our wills can be healed so that we can indeed want God), and on top of that it’s "unbiblical." He tries to substantiate his claim by citing all the texts that talk about how we’re slaves to sin, insinuating they prove God doesn’t give us what we want because all we would want is sin. In doing so he makes the glaring mistake of failing to acknowledge the basic free-will explanation of such passages. At the risk of monotony, free-will theism holds that we are indeed enslaved by sin but by God’s grace our will is healed so that we can indeed make a decision for God. In other words, according to free-will theism, God does indeed give us what we want, granting us the grace so that we can make a decision for or against God.

Along these lines, to say that the idea that God gives us what we want is unbiblical is, to a free-will theist, itself unbiblical. I would argue that every single time Scripture admonishes us to repent or perish, to do evil or good, to obey God or disobey, to follow or not to follow Jesus, it is telling us that God gives us what we want. And to put it mildly, there are a lot more verses in the Bible about this than there are about our will being fallen, though both are true and easily reconciled by free-will theism.

Seen in this light, I think God giving us what we want is one of the most foundational and often-revealed truths in the Bible. It doesn’t necessitate some mushy sentimentalism in which God exists to serve our every need and wouldn’t criticize Hitler for beating the Virgin Mary. Nope. It just means that our God’s peculiar way of dealing with his creation is not to give it what it deserves. Rather it is for him to take what we deserve upon himself, up to the cross and down into the grave to ensure that none of us have to get what we deserve. We can get what we deserve if we so choose, but we don’t have to. And God doesn’t do this because he has to. He does it because he wants to, which is the great mystery we call love. Love wins? Yep. God wins? Yep.

Conclusions

So what does Love Wins say? I think it says that in the end the only thing we can be sure of is that God will do whatever he wants with us, and that Jesus and the Bible teach us that what God wants to do with us is let us have what we want. In other words, God lets us choose between heaven and hell. That sounds pretty orthodox to me. Now to be sure, Bell does flirt with universalism, so fire away with criticism at that. But the problem is that lots of the “evangelical” criticism isn’t that Bell teaches universalism: it’s that he doesn’t teach Calvinism.

So if the problem with Love Wins is it teaches that God graciously gives us the chance to choose between heaven and hell, then I think evangelicals should have a problem with those who have a problem with Love Wins. In the end, God does give us what we want. I can’t think of anything more evangelical…or biblical.

- Austin Fischer
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Comments

Scot McKnight says:
First, I’m not sure I said there was a blanket evangelical rejection of Bell’s book, but I’d be close to that. There was, then, a widespread rejection of the book. I don’t know how we can prove such things, but that is my perception. A number of letters came to me by associate pastors who told me they were being told to “declare their colors on Rob Bell.”

And of course part of what you are saying depends on what you mean by “evangelicalism,” and I tend to define it more narrowly than most rather than embracingly. For example, it makes no sense to me to say someone is an “evangelical” Catholic; I don’t think Michael Horton wants to be called “evangelical” in the popular sense; I see no reason to call Brian McLaren an evangelical; and I think Rob Bell is pushing the boundaries. (I’ll avoid discussing where I fit on that question.)

I’m willing to live with this ambiguity: what one person calls evangelical another person might not. That means where I see a widespread evangelical rejection you might not see i as widespread.

But it seems you slide into that we don’t know what Bell was saying. True in some ways, but I don’t think it is all that ambiguous what he is arguing.

Second, I haven’t read Mark Galli’s book yet … I saw some of it earlier. So I want to avoid that discussion, but the one thing I observed in the furor after the book came out — on the part of Calvinists — was the absence of what I would call distinctly Calvinist arguments. Galli does bring in the free will stuff, and the libertarian free theory at work in Bell is obvious and pervasive, but I saw none of this in the furor — and I mentioned that very point in the lectures at Truett.

Third, on your point about all disagreeing on the same point. Well, yes and no. I did lay out some responses but said I didn’t think they explained the furor. (Remember I was after why this book got so much heat.) So I don’t think everyone responded on the same grounds. But I do think [Bell's] combination of flirting with universalism and postmortem opportunity cuts the ground out from under evangelicalism’s specific identity-marker: it’s emphasis on a conversion experience in this life. Bell calls that into question, and it is my suggestion why the book drew the heat it did.

On the very last point, well I think you’re fudging: it’s not just that God gives folks what they want, which is somewhat evangelical (but not Calvinistic [re election - skinhead]), but that God continues to offer that in the postmortem condition. That’s enough to create liminality for the existence of evangelicalism.
----------------------------------------
[lim-uh-nal-i-tee] noun Anthropology.
the transitional period or phase of a rite of passage, during which the participant lacks social status or rank, remains anonymous, shows obedience and humility, and follows prescribed forms of conduct, dress, etc.

----------------------------------------
Additional Observations

McKnight - "That's enough to create liminality for the existence of evangelicalism"

I should like to ask Scot the further meaning of his expression. Does it support or not support evangelicalism's case... my take is that it doesn't support evangelicalism, giving its movement a limited shelf life in the Christian eras to come, even though the statement of "God giving man what he wants" is both true now and after death.

----------------------------------------

Fishcer - "... the great mystery called love."

Peter Rollins speaks to this point in his book Insurrection wherein he describes love as selfless, sacrificial, creative, ordering. Love is like the void before creation. Without love there is nothing just as without creation there is nothing. Love cannot exist on its own but only in service to others... and in this case, through the Creator-God who chooses to love man, to recreate man through his love, and to be in fellowship with man (and all things that would sustain man).
http://relevancy22.blogspot.com/2011/11/peter-rollins-on-insurrection-of.html.

Here is my loose adaptation of what Peter Rollins is saying:

"The Resurrection plays a key role... because after the death of God-as-an-idol (or product) we then discover God is love. While an idol exists, is sublime, and is meaningful on its own, love is none of these things. Love does not exist in itself but brings all things into existence; love is not sublime, but points to others and calls them sublime; love is not meaningful in its own right, but renders the world meaningful."

- RE Slater



Peter Rollins on the Insurrection of the Christian Faith




Peter Rollins Discusses his book
"Insurrection"
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.



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDw2cbgpZp0


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.


Amazon.com book information - http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=peter+rollins+insurrection&x=0&y=0




 
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 peterrollins.net.
 
 
 
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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.


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


 Insurrection Reviews

UBI DUBIUM, IBI LIBERTAS (TO DOUBT, IS TO BE FREE), October 10, 2011
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.
 
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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.
 
 
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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
http://www.amazon.com/How-Not-Speak-Peter-Rollins/dp/1557255059/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1320224872&sr=1-4#_

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.


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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.


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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.

 

Shane Hipps - How Technology Shapes Our Faith

Shane Hipps: God's Presence in a World of Absence
Biola University Chapel, Sept 26, 2010

Shane Hipps is a Teaching Pastor at Mars Hill Church in Michigan.



Digital Formation: How Technology Shapes Our Faith
Part 1 / 2


Uploaded by on Sep 26, 2010

We live in a rapidly changing digital age. We see changes happening all the time but stand oblivious to the hidden ways we are being shaped by our technologies. Beneath our conscious awareness a revolution is taking place. Our understanding of God, relationships, and the gospel are radically changing under the influence of technology. Learn to see beneath the surface of things so that we can learn to use our media rather than be used by them.


Digital Formation: How Technology Shapes Our Faith
Part 2 / 2


Uploaded by on Sep 26, 2010

For most of us it begins in college. Our journey of purpose. What are we going to do? Who will we be? How will we contribute? We are inundated with voices all beckoning us; our parents, our culture, our friends, our fears, our God. But how do we know when we are hearing God and when we are hearing something else? Learn the art of listening for God's call in your life.






 

Shane Hipps On Anabaptism, Mennonites, and Non-Violence





Shane Hipps - Mennonites - A History of Non-Violence
[Audio Clip] March 25, 2010




For Much More Information on the History of Anabaptists
please see this excellent site - http://www.anabaptists.org/history/