August 4, 2020

On Peter Rollins: Deconstruction Is Not Enough

stumpsThe Idolatry of God: Breaking Our Addiction to Certainty and Satisfaction
By Peter Rollins
Howard Books, 2013

– Part two of a two-part review and meditation

* * *

It is dangerous to put a chainsaw in the hands of a preacher.

We live in a house that is 112 years old and this has been renovation summer. We are engaged in a months-long project of painting the exterior and fixing various trouble spots. We also have a lot of overdue landscaping work to do, including trimming and cutting down trees, pruning back and replacing large bushes and refurbishing gardens.

So I got out the chainsaw last week and went crazy. Our backyard, once dense with foliage, is now filled with light. There is a large dead tree that I can’t get, which is awaiting the chainsaw of a tree professional, but the rest is gone, helpless to stand against my lumberjack wrath. I joked with my neighbor that this is what I do best — wreak destruction. I’m not so good at construction.

At some point Gail and I will have to come to agreement on the plan going forward. What kinds of trees, bushes, and flowers will we plant, and where exactly will they go? We’ll need to envision what we want for these spaces, measure, plan, shop, consult with experts, make purchases and then build a new backyard. We’ve been talking about it, and will soon start making decisions. Then the positive work of making something new will start in earnest.

This is our second day of considering what Peter Rollins has to say in his book, The Idolatry of God. Rollins is an intelligent voice that speaks effectively to a certain constituency in the post-modern, even post-Christian wilderness. He does so by being a provocateur, countering the traditions and claims of the Church with a direct and startling clarity.

The message of his book is that, although God has traditionally been approached as a product that will render us complete, remove our suffering, and reveal answers about which we can have certainty, in reality we can’t be whole, life is difficult, and we remain in the dark, even (especially!) as people of faith. We should therefore embrace our brokenness and stop putting our trust in over-stated mythologies that are set forth as ways of liberating us from the common lot we share with our fellow human beings.

Sadly, then, the church today does not offer an alternative to the Idolatry and Unbelief that weigh us down, but instead blesses them and gives them divine justification. The question that faces us, then, is how Christianity in its most radical and subversive form, critiques the church and offers real freedom.

Fair enough. Houston, we have a problem. But so does Peter Rollins. For although the paragraph above concludes the first part of his book, promising a positive vision of “the new creation” that the Church can promote, he cannot and does not deliver. Deft with the chainsaw, he wreaks what may be a necessary deconstruction of the Church’s inadequate message. However, no true new landscape ever emerges.

IdolatryofgodInstead, what we get are statements like these:

In this way we learn that heaven is discovered only when we renounce it and put ourselves to the task of embracing the world.

The Good News is not simply a confrontation with the reality that total fulfillment and certainty are not possible, but rather is found in the joyful embrace of this insight.

For to lose the Idol means to be freed from that drive that prevents us from fully embracing our life and taking pleasure in it. It means giving up our desire for ultimate satisfaction and then, in that act, discovering a deeper, more beautiful satisfaction, one that is not constantly deferred but that can be grasped here and now. Not one that promises to make us whole and remove our suffering but one that promises joy in the midst of our brokenness and new life in the very embrace of our pain.

However, what we find in the event that gave birth to Christianity is something far more powerful that one master mythology designed to cover over our unknowing and anxiety. For here we do not find yet another system of meaning to place alongside all the others but a type of splinter that disturbs all meaning systems and calls them into question.

…the identity of the Christian is found in the very experience of feeling the impotence of all identities.

Those who are excluded from the new collective signaled by the new creation are now those who exclude themselves — the ones who so wish to cling to their own identity that they are not prepared to encounter another as anything but a stranger to convert, an alien to tolerate, or an enemy to crush.

For Paul it is this very loss of identity that identifies us with Christ. As we experience the loss of the operative power of our identity, we thus touch upon that experience of utter loss experienced in the Crucifixion of Christ.

The one who identifies with Christ thus stands outside the very tribal systems that seek to define them. As a result we are being asked to give up the sense of mastery that our traditions offer and open them up to the white-hot fires of unknowing and mystery.

In my view, Peter Rollins is missing something vital here. Though he speaks fleetingly of “embracing” the new, it remains largely defined by rejecting the old.

The chainsaw is still running.

In particular Rollins is concerned that the Christian Church has developed a “tribal identity” that Christians must abandon if we are to break free of “idolatry.” He cites Paul in Galatians 3 and develops an entire thesis, complete with charts, to show that being “in Christ” means that we are no longer defined by our tribal identities.

However, he misses an obvious fact — “In Christ” is an identity. It certainly transcends and transforms all of our other identities — it relativizes the various identifications by which we find meaning and set up boundaries between ourselves and others. But it does not bring us to a place where we have no identity besides “human.” Is not the entire story of Scripture a testimony to God’s plan to form “a people?” Is that not a distinct identity?

We define ourselves positively in relation to Jesus, not merely negatively in relation to the “tribal” identities which heretofore determined our place in the world.

And we do not merely identify with the Christ on the Cross, though a robust theology of the Cross is essential. Rollins speaks well to the modern Church’s avoidance of some of the crucifixion’s implications, including aspects which we have been writing about in recent days. We meet Christ in the experience of abandonment, uncertainty, and lament. The ongoing experience of the Cross in our lives engulfs us in the mystery of God — that he is often most present when he seems most absent, that when he hides himself he is most revealed. Rollins is right to rail against the easy certainty and satisfaction offered by the modern Church.

What he does not do is fully consider the reality and implications of the resurrection, ascension, and bestowal of the Spirit, which bring the work of Christ to culmination, creating a people that finds a defining identity in Jesus.

As a result, when Peter Rollins concludes his book with a section answering the question, “What would a group seeking to enter into and remain faithful to such a way of life actually look like?” he has little to offer by way of positive vision. Instead, he offers examples of services and practices that are primarily deconstructionist in nature, designed to get Christians to encounter beliefs and experiences that are alien and threatening to a shallow embrace of certainty and satisfaction. In his view, this amounts to a positive move, since: “this very act of deconstruction is a direct expression of Christianity,” and “the critique of Christianity as a system and the experience of divine absence are inherent parts of Christianity.”

At a certain level and with certain communities, practices like this may be helpful. Deconstruction is sometimes necessary, and the Church ignores that to its peril. However, though Rollins says that these practices “invite us into a different type of existence in which we engage with the world around us in a different way,” he never quite gets to any kind of adequate description of what that “different way” might be.

plantingtree_3If I am reading Rollins correctly, his “Christianity” amounts ultimately to embracing our humanity in all its facets. He speaks of one who knows how

“to embrace life in all of its beauty and horror, someone who [is] able to smile deeply, embrace suffering, celebrate the cycle of life and accept the inevitability of death. …[Whose] very life [is] her miracle and her example [is] her gift to humanity.”

While this is an admirable description of a healthy and mature human life, and one from which the Church can most certainly learn, it falls short of the Gospels’ vision of the dawning Kingdom and a Jesus-shaped spirituality.

Again, to end this discussion, I will bring in Eugene Peterson to testify to the importance of keeping Jesus front and center in this discussion, something Rollins does not do successfully. For the opposite of idolatry is to be Christocentric, not simply to open ourselves to “the white-hot fires of unknowing and mystery.” 

Jesus is the name that keeps us attentive to the God-defined, God-revealed life. The amorphous limpness so often associated with “spirituality” is given skeleton, sinews, definition, shape, and energy by the term “Jesus.” Jesus is the personal name of a person who lived at a datable time in an actual land that has mountains we can still climb, wildflowers that can be photographed, cities in which we can still buy dates and pomegranates, and water which we can drink and in which we can be baptized. As such the name counters the abstraction that plagues “spirituality.”

Jesus is the central and defining figure in the spiritual life. His life is, precisely, revelation. He brings out into the open what we could never have figured out for ourselves, never guessed in a million years. He is God among us: God speaking, acting, healing, helping. “Salvation” is the big word into which all these words fit. The name Jesus means “God saves” — God present and at work saving in our language and in our history.

The four Gospel writers, backed up by the comprehensive context provided by Israel’s prophets and poets, tell us everything we need to know about Jesus. And Jesus tells us everything we need to know about God. As we read, ponder, study, believe, and pray these Gospels we find both the entire Scriptures and the entirety of the spiritual life accessible and in focus before us in the inviting presence of Jesus of Nazareth, the Word made flesh.

Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology

Comments

  1. I appreciate what you have to say here. I think maybe you conceded to Rollins on one point where you didn’t have to, though. I don’t know that it’s true that “The Church” (with a capital “c,” that is) has ever taught precisely that God is “a product that will render us complete, remove our suffering, and reveal answers about which we can have certainty.” That sounds a lot like certain strains of American evangelicalism, yes. But it doesn’t sound like St. Paul. It doesn’t sound like St. Augustine, or St. Thomas Aquinas. It doesn’t sound like Martin Luther, or St. Therese of Lisieux, or Dietrich Bonhoeffer or John Paul II.

    So does the “Church” really make the errors he accuses her of making? Or is he indicting the whole based on the specific sins and distortions of a branch that is as much as anything deeply influenced by American individualism and consumerism?

    • Katharina,

      I think most of Rollin’s criticism is directed toward the Evangelical individualism which he experienced in N. Ireland–influenced greatly by Darby and American Revivalism.

      T

      • Like I said, there’s no doubt that the distortions he is addressing are out there, particularly in that kind of church. But I still have to question what goal is being served in accusing “The Church” of teaching those things. There are hundreds of hundreds of books that aim to address some popular heresy or bad teaching and break it down and restore the church to orthodoxy. But that’s not what Rollins is doing, at least not according to anything I have read from him or about him so far. He’s a radical deconstructionist, and his position is closer to “the Church has always been wrong” than to “the Church is right but some within it have misunderstood.” He’s more similar to the sort who thinks we should rely on the Gnostics to tell us the “real, hidden story of Jesus” than someone who is advocating a careful reading of the Gospels.

        I’m not sure what his ultimate goal is, here, but it is apparent to me that he is being less than honest in his rhetorical methods, and I have to approach that with great distrust.

    • I agree. I do feel Rollins critique is much against a cultural stereotype as straw man. I keep asking myself, “where has Christianity ever taught this?” But then, in a moment of introspection, I realized that though it was never overtly proclaimed, it is often subconsciously expected, even by me. In light of the recent post on acedia, I realized that a lot of the frustration I experience in life is rooted in my expectation that in following God things would work out better. I understand this runs quite contrary to the teaching of the church, especially my tradition, and perhaps this secret expectation is a remnant from my time in Evangelicalism, but Rollins is right to go after it, and wrong to pin the “orthodoxy” ribbon on it.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        >I realized that a lot of the frustration I experience in life is rooted in my expectation that
        >in following God things would work out better. I understand this runs quite contrary to
        >the teaching of the church, especially my tradition

        Formally yes, but what actually comes from the pulpit and clergy can often be influenced by concepts of parochial morality or the prevailing cultural gnosticism [which is so pervasive it is hard to avoid falling into].

    • I actually heard a claim kind of like that in church last Sunday (which was evangelical Anglican). I mean not the part about removing suffering, but that we all have an indefinable sense of incompleteness and yearning for ‘home’ that Jesus answers. My reaction wasn’t that Jesus never answers that for people — it seems presumptuous to say that — but I’m not sure that everyone actually has that feeling.

  2. The more you quote Rollins, the more I think of the recommendations of Altizer in his Christian Atheism: embrace the world and your humanity as it is, the horror and the beauty, the transience, the lack of transcendence and certainty, etc.,etc. It’s a spirituality for supermen, not human beings, and certainly not Christians. And where exactly do those with diminished capacities or resources fit in all this? Nowhere, nohow.

  3. Jesus is the personal name of a person who lived at a datable time in an actual land that has mountains we can still climb, wildflowers that can be photographed, cities in which we can still buy dates and pomegranates, and water which we can drink and in which we can be baptized. As such the name counters the abstraction that plagues “spirituality.”

    It was typeable blood that was shed for us on the Cross.

    Yes, this is the way forward. Also, I don’t think the wider Church is as bad as Rollins makes out. We need wielders of hoes, pruning snips, trowels, and edgers more than wielders of chainsaws, but chainsaws are so much more fun.

    @Robert F – I picked up “Theology of Christian Atheism” the other day to see if I could find some entry into the thought of Owen Barfield. I came away with the impression that there was some doe-eyed 30 year old sculptress in his congregation he wanted to sleep with, and the book was his justification. I hope I’m wrong, or that I’m too stupid or fundy to understand it, but it just sounded really toolish to me.

    • Mule,
      Are you referring to Altizer’s The Gospel of Christian Atheism? If so, I think I have to disagree with your assessment. Not that I agree with Altizer’s theology, I don’t. But apart from the fact that it is neither gospel or atheism, so the title is misleading (perhaps meant for shock effect), I think Altizer was a very creative radical theologian; too creative, in fact, and that was his problem. He created a theology that only he and a quite small band of academic followers had any interest in, precisely because it was too much of a virtuoso performance to be the belief of any gathered group of people. It’s creativity made it incredible.

      Having said that, there is a pathos and poignancy to his idea that God actually died as a transcendent being in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ ,and exists now only within the immanence of this world as a fellow traveler (…”what if God was one of us, just a slob like one of us, just a stranger on the bus tryin’ to make his way home…”) in the process of being; and that he killed himself precisely so that his creation could obtain the freedom it never could in the shadow of his transcendence. It’s truly delightful the way he pulls together Blake and Nietzsche and Hegel and a host of others to dance out his theology, to collapse transcendence into the immanent, and to exhort us to live with courage in the present because there is nothing else.

      But it is just a performance, and when the dance is over, everyone goes home: “…more than this, you know there’s nothing….,” and nothing sustaining is left but the memory of a nice time, which soon fades.

      • It is as I thought. I was too dumm and too fundy to catch that. That’s really subtle. I didn’t think it was a tour de anything. Just plain ol’ unbelief dressed up with a lot of 60s existentialism and sexual frustration, the way only the immediate pre-Sexual Revolution could do it.

        I missed Smokey Barnable’s death in Little, Big, too.

        • Altizer wrote his major works, including The Gospel of Christian Atheism, after the advent of the Pill and in the very middle of the Swinging Sixties; he never held a pastorate and was always an academic, so he lived and moved and had his being in the sexually expansive milieu of the newly liberated knowledge class. And, like Mr. Rollins, he was way too good looking and charming to be sexually frustrated in such an era; think of him as one of those delightful academic satyrs that populate Updike novels.

          • I just read all that about “the Dialectic” and it reminded me about my undergraduate escapades with really cute Jewish girls who were philosophy majors.

          • “Delightful academic satyrs” — my new illustration of the meaning of “oxymoron,” right after jumbo shrimp and non-skid slippers.

          • I find this thread a bit offensive. I hope I’m just reading it poorly. Here’s what I see: First Mule Chewing Briars speculates that Altizer’s ‘Theology of Christian Atheism’ was the result of Altizer’s lust for a member of his congregation. Then Robert F., after an interesting exchange, writes authoritatively, in words worthy of the National Enquirer, concerning Altizer’s sex life. He links this to Rollins’ sex life. Next Mule Chewing Briars is reminded of his “undergraduate escapades with really cute Jewish girls who were philosophy majors”. Given the rather questionable point I can see the relevance of these women being cute and philosophy majors, but what’s the relevance of their being Jewish?

            I’ve enjoyed much of what both of you have written not the least of which is Mule Chewing Briars’ recent post on acedia. I apologize if I’m being overly sensitive.

          • Craig Vick,
            Well, I think both Mule and I were being a little tongue-in-cheek (or tongue in jawbone, in Mule’s case).

            For my part, my comments concerning the sexual lives of Mr. Altizer and Mr. Rollins were me engaging in a flight of fancy, which I admittedly sometimes overdo, and sometimes only realize I’ve overdone when someone else has the firm kindness to call it to my attention, so thank you Craig Vick.

            Please pardon my inappropriate fictions; it comes from never quite having outgrown my misspent youth and young adulthood.

          • Katharina von Bora says

            I am right there with you, Craig. Nothing like that kind of comment stream to remind me that I am but a pair of breasts intruding into male discussion space.

          • Robert F,

            Thanks for hearing me out. I hope you’ll feel free to correct me when I need it.

            Katharina von Bora,

            Thanks for saying very eloquently why this thread gives offense. If I’ve done a small part in making this blog more welcoming for you than I think I’ve done a good thing.

          • Same here.

            I had my tongue so far back in my cheek that probably nobody but Robert saw it.
            I realize now I will have to do some major work on my next post, as it deals with sexual issues.

  4. Adam Tauno Williams says

    > For the opposite of idolatry is to be Christocentric

    Which, really, is just as vague as Mr. Rollins. I do not see how citing, however correctly, that “Jesus is the personal name of a person who lived at a datable time” stands in any kind of opposition.

    Beware, if you make any specific statements or recommendations the ravenous hounds ever in search of the *E*V*I*L* legallist will be growling beneath your window. And then the deafening chorus of the faith-alone-not-works torch-bearing mob coming to back them up will completely drown out the questions of the poor sod standing across the street asking: “What do I do?” If he is lucky, they won’t trample him.

    Maybe he’ll go to the mosque down the street where nobody is at fist-a-cuffs about whether or not praying three times a day is the thing to do.

    > “we find both the entire Scriptures and the entirety of the spiritual life accessible and in focus before us”

    Accessible and in-focus? Or not. The mad squabbling and endless chain of books, and the ravenous hounds mentioned above, testify to a different truth.

    • Adam, I quoted Peterson not as a full answer to Rollins but as a starting point. The goal here at Internet Monk is to promote a Jesus-shaped spirituality. In our posts, we are wrestling with what that means. What Mr. Rollins seems to have forgotten, at the most fundamental level, is that there is a Person at the center of our faith, not merely an experience or a “spirituality.” Rollins focuses on ideas, Peterson focuses here on Jesus. That is the simple contrast I wanted to draw.

      • Mike,

        You said: “If I am reading Rollins correctly, …” – would it be possible for you to invite him to respond to some of the concerns you have raised? I would think since this website is dedicated to promoting a Jesus-shaped spirituality he might be open to respond. Just a thought.

  5. An excerpt from Richard Rohr’s daily meditation:

    “… prayer had become something functional;
    something you did to achieve a desired effect—which too often puts the
    ego back in charge. As soon as you make prayer a way to get what you
    want, you’re not moving into any kind of new state of consciousness.
    It’s the same old consciousness, but now well disguised: “How can I
    get God to do what I want God to do?” It’s the egocentric self
    deciding what it needs, but now, instead of just manipulating everybody
    else, it tries to manipulate God.
    This is one reason religion is so dangerous and often so delusional. If
    religion does not transform people at the level of both mind and heart,
    it ends up giving self-centered people a very pious and untouchable way
    to be on top and in control. Now God becomes their defense system for
    their small self! ”

    A deeper contemplative life would be a good start on the road to reconstruction.

    And Eckhart:
    “What we plant in the soil of contemplation, we shall reap in the harvest of action.”

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > As soon as you make prayer a way to get what you want, you’re not moving
      > into any kind of new state of consciousness.

      When that happens you are moving into the realm of magick. The classic prayer-chain concept of – if we can get enough people to lobby the heavens…

      From there it is just natural to have jets loaded with red heifers standing by for the destruction of the temple.

  6. Eugene Peterson is a good counter balance to Rollins. However, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places has it’s share of deconstruction–especially as regards things like the Eucharist.

    Metanoia requires just as much deconstruction of our thinking as it provides constructive correction. For some of us the way forward is to turn our backs on all that we thought we knew and begin anew. Only later we discover that some of what we threw out with the baby is actually good and useful. It isn’t hard to go back and rebuild with old brick as long as you’re willing to clean off the old mortar concretions with a trowel.

    • You’re right, of course, Tom. No one has the full picture of what a Jesus-shaped spirituality is yet. Otherwise, I’d just recommend the book and shut down Internet Monk.

      • On the Drew Marshall Show was an interesting interview of Steve Stockman (Belfast area). At one point Drew asked Stockman what he thought of Peter Rollins. Stockman said that he and Pete were very good friends, but they have very different goals in mind. Stockman is trying to build church community while Pete isn’t very committed to that. At which point Drew intros. Pete who’s been listening, and ask Pete if he’d like to take a swing or two at Stockman. Northern Irish “crack” is very entertaining, to me at least.

        http://drewmarshall.ca/audio/130316stevestockmanandpeterrollins.mp3

        (Would someone here demonstrate what code is needed at the iMonk site to post a hot link. Martha did it recently. How ’bout some help lovely Martha??)

  7. I think Rollins is poking at something significant that perhaps he mis-labels. While the errs he addresses are not necessarily the official positions of the Church, there is a tendency within the Church to stand against deconstruction when it comes to challenging the institution. This happens on anywhere from a global scale to a local congregation. There should be room for something of a big tent in Christianity when it comes to certain things. But challenging leadership decisions and methodological paradigms are usually anathema. These sorts of things can be the breeding ground for the ills Rollins is reacting against.

  8. Jesus was free. Something that we are not. We are bound to sin and cannot free ourselves.

    We don’t need a good example or a certain shape that we plug into our empty hole.

    We need a real Savior. One who knows exactly who and what we are, but who has decided to love and forgive us anyway.

  9. David Cornwell says

    Chaplain Mike, this summer we find ourselves doing similar things. I’ve mentioned before the return of energy and physical strength I seem to have found this summer, so have been working on projects that demand a lot of deconstruction, followed by replacing with something different or new. The tearing down is relatively easy. The putting up of the new is sometimes experimental, especially when coming from a non-expert.

    And so it is sometimes in one’s life with Christ, or life toward Christ. Back in the 1980’s I knew a Jesuit priest, Georgetown educated, who was a recovering alcoholic. He had been sober at that point for many years. He was an older man and worked in a well known rehabilitation center both as a counselor and spiritual advisor. The AA approach to God, while I applauded it, also troubled me. So I asked him just how such a deconstructed approach to finding God could actually lead one to the true God.

    He assured me that I should not worry, that one who found himself/herself in an alcoholic haze of despair was not out of the reach of God. He basically told me that spelling out a framework of explanation and understanding was of no use in these cases. And that God would bring such a person along as He desired to full recovery and salvation.

    I think this applies to many others as well. Jesus has been lost to many people who have been through the fundamentalist-legalistic-super church grinding mill. Jesus has been squeezed out, rather than introduced. And leaving it behind they want nothing to do with the spiritual abuse and judgment that has been pounded into them.

    Something new has to be introduced in order for healing/salvation to come. And they learn about the real Christ in a different king of loving community, not in theology class. It must be more pastoral in nature, and less apologetic. And more than black and white, it must be more nuanced (bad word?). This won’t be a satisfactory answer to traditionalists. It can bring anxiety and worry about a person’s state of grace and right belief (orthodoxy).

    The thing is, deconstruction has already done it’s work in many people. How the Church works to rebuild something new, a real Jesus shaped life makes all the difference. I don’t have all the answers. But I notice that things can dramatically change over time.

    • +1

    • Mark Kennedy says

      David, your post is very helpful in explaining how 12-step programs approach God. (I’m a decades-long recovering AA myself).

      • David Cornwell says

        Thanks Mark. I have many friends who are recovering. AA members are some of the most loving, caring, and truthful people I know.

        I think something like this approach, which is really pastoral in many ways, is needed to help those who have had their Christian “system” torn apart by the spiritual abuse handed out to them. Many are very near to believing nothing, have become agnostic, or just so confused and disoriented that they have lost their way. Handing them a set of doctrinal standards or a theological system probably won’t work. And these people are not few in number.

    • David Cornwell says

      I realize that the deconstruction talked about in this post is different from that mentioned in my reply. However I think that there are different levels of the same problem. One is ideological and the other more personal. But they can be intertwined. And certainly Peterson is right when he says:

      “Jesus is the central and defining figure in the spiritual life. His life is, precisely, revelation. He brings out into the open what we could never have figured out for ourselves, never guessed in a million years. He is God among us: God speaking, acting, healing, helping. “

      • Exactly David.

        “Jesus is the central and defining figure in the spiritual life. His life is, precisely, revelation.”

        Peterson is a winsome conservative; he reminds us what is worth keeping.

        Rollins is a winsome radical; he keeps trying to get us to see behind what’s worth keeping.

        However, I take to heart Barth’s statement, “You can’t ‘get behind’ Jesus.”

      • Christiane says

        “Jesus is the central and defining figure in the spiritual life. His life is, precisely, revelation. He brings out into the open what we could never have figured out for ourselves, never guessed in a million years. He is God among us: God speaking, acting, healing, helping. “

        He is also the one among us who is hungry and thirsty, He is the one who is a stranger and the one in need of clothing, He is the one in prison who waits alone when no one comes . . .

        This is Christ also, Who has crossed over into our world and Who calls out to us through the sufferings of others . . . that too, is a part of His revelation.

  10. We’ve seen this before: Rollins like Nietzsche, Marx, Freud, and all the other before him fails in his attempt to offer a genuinely positive vision because that vision is anchored in a mythology other than the person of Christ.

    • Andy, I wouldn’t make that determination from one short book review. And, I might add, though each of Rollin’s books stand alone the reality is that each represents a continuing development in Rollin’s thinking and writing.

  11. Hopefully this will not be hung up to long in spam filter/moderation…

    David Cornwell’s Jesuit priest friend was right. David is also right in this:

    “Something new has to be introduced in order for healing/salvation to come. And they learn about the real Christ in a different kind of loving community, not in theology class. It must be more pastoral in nature, and less apologetic. And more than black and white, it must be more nuanced (bad word?). This won’t be a satisfactory answer to traditionalists. It can bring anxiety and worry about a person’s state of grace and right belief (orthodoxy). ”

    This is exactly what Rollins is about. In his writings he is trying to help people be open to that something new that actually works healing. In order to do that, one has to become radically honest, and the deconstruction (we’ve know it by other names in the past, equally unpalatable to many) is what gets one to that place.

    Yes, he is reacting – he’s reacting against a false notion of God, and he’s reacting to the abysmal lack of a theology of suffering and loss in Protestantism (with some rare exceptions) and especially in Evangelicalsm. Yes, he speaks to “a certain constituency in the wilderness” of which our beloved Michael Spencer was a part, who himself got really, really honest, and from that honesty arose in his understanding the deep need for a Jesus-Shaped Spirituality. No, Rollins does not get as far as pointing specifically to Jesus in a “gospel message” or a Liturgy. But he does get us to a very necessary place, from which it is an extremely short step to “Be Here Now.” And in that place we do in fact encounter a Person, for it is impossible to love unless that love is expressed between Persons, and the true God, the real Jesus who was united to humanity all the way down to death by torture, ostensibly as a political prisoner – the weakest position there is – is in that midst, by His Spirit.

    And it is not really so very much further to:
    -The Presence in the Absence (http://glory2godforallthings.com/2013/08/19/the-presence-in-absence-2/)
    -The Great Canon of St Andrew
    http://orthodox.net/redeemingthetime/2010/02/13/great-canon-of-st-andrew-of-crete-explanation-themes-texts-biography/
    and
    -The Anaphora of St Basil – the longest and most solemn Offertory Prayer in the Orthodox liturgy, which neither denies the realities of this world, including suffering, nor makes God an idol of Rollins’ definition
    http://churchmotherofgod.org/text-of-prayers-of-the-church/1378-anaphora-prayer-st-basil.html

    Finally, if one wants to understand what Rollins is about with his work and has 25 minutes available, this is a good source:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=t7tRd6wVeGw#t=865
    I hear many, many echoes of EOrthodoxy in his words, and also this:

    Love is of God, and the one who loves is born of God and knows God (not knows *about* God)… If we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

    Dana

  12. Mike, Jeff, Somebody,

    please let my previous post out of moderation before the conversation goes away… It has links, that’s the only problem.

    Thanks-
    Dana

  13. I’m a little amused that on a blog where I was rebuffed (though politely) for even mentioning the name ‘Derrida’ I now read of deconstruction going on all over the place and with great ease. Forgive my playfulness, but it does seem to me (I haven’t read the book but plan to) that Rollins is deconstructing in a more technical sense of the word than is expressed here. In other words, I don’t think he’s just cutting down trees.