Continuing my never-ending reflection on quotes from Peter Rollins’ “How (Not) to Speak of God“…
Some people of our faith are dedicated to having answers. The generally philosophy is, “If we can answer every question a person has, they will certainly see that what we are saying is true.” This, of course, will then cause a person to believe what we are saying and decide to follow Jesus…
Undoubtedly, this approach has actually worked for someone somewhere. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be so many books and programs based on this approach. And while I readily acknowledge that reason is definitely a way in which God speaks and people connect with God, I really wonder about how we encourage that.
Pete Rollins suggests, “the job of the Church is not to provide an answer…but rather to help encourage the religious question to arise….one of the roles of the Church is to provide a sacred space for this exploration” (p.40-41). Well, that sort of changes everything.
Could it be that more people would come to faith if they were able to ask questions, even if we don’t have the answers? Can we affirm questions and seeking, even if we don’t know ourselves? This obviously assumes that we don’t have all the answers – something the modern church just can’t live with.
But I’m ok with it. How about you? What do you think the Church would really look like if we were to encourage this? I don’t mean philosophically (wouldn’t most of us think this is a good idea?) I mean, any ideas or suggestions of practical ways to go about it?
Clever Peter Rollins likes to play with words by writing words with slashes “/” in them, thereby giving double meanings. Anyway…
One of my favorite quotes from the whole book has to do with God’s transcendence. Rollins makes a fantastic argument that we generally misinterpret the concept. How many of you have learned/believe that God’s transcendence means He is other than us, different, even distant? This is often contrasted to God’s immanence = God is close, near, available. Rollins says:
“God ought to be understood as radically transcendent, not because God is somehow distant and remote from us, but precisely because God is immanent. In the same way that the sun blinds the one who looks directly at its light, so God’s incoming blinds our intellect” (24).
In other words, God’s transcendence is like the sun – massive, overpowering. In fact, it is too much to look at – we have to close our eyes or turn away from God’s blinding brilliance. Rollins calls this hypernymity: God gives “too much information” for us to handle.
So, transcendence doesn’t mean far away. In a weird way, it means “too close.” Rollins is essentially trying to redefine the seeming paradox between immanence and transcendence.
I like it. Try it out – face the sun, eyes closed. This is God. He is transcendent. But he is a flaming supernova who warms your skin and shows through the skin of your eyelids, no matter how tightly you shut your eyes.
He loves you.
Wow. I’ve now read several books I had hoped to comment on here. So, let me go back to the first – How (Not) to Speak of God by Peter Rollins. It’s been a while since I’ve finished, but let me post a few more comments on this book before I move on to the others I’ve been reading.
“While all of the Church has maintained that there is a revealed and hidden side of God, the difference here [the emerging conversation] is that we are rediscovering the Barthian insight that EVEN THE REVEALED SIDE OF GOD IS MYSTERIOUS. The emerging Church is thus able to leave aside the need for clarity and open up the way for us to accept the fact that what is important is that we are embraced by the beloved rather than finding agreement concerning how we ought to understand the beloved (as if a baby can only really love her mother is she understands her)” – p.18.
Must we understand God to love God? Or can we actually embrace the One who loves us in the dark? God’s mystery, I think, may draw us into loving God all the more.
Pete Rollins suggests a very interesting form of idolotry.
Our standard idea of idolotry is anything we worship other than God. Traditionally, we picture wooden idols, stone images, etc. – tangible representations of a transcendent God. Spiritually, we often move the conversation to anything that we “put before God” – material possessions, desires for attention, people…
Rollins challenges us to consider if we are guilty of committing ideological idolotry. Do we worship our CONCEPTION of God more than God himself? Do we confuse our limited understanding of God with God? Rollins isn’t saying that we can’t know or worship God. But, we must be cautious with what we are “certain” of.
“The only significant difference between the aesthetic idol and the conceptual idol lies in the fact that the former reduces God to a physical object while the latter reduces God to an intellectual object” (p. 12). Is your God a great idea, boxed up and understood neatly by your mind? Or, is there still room for an unknown, amazing, beautiful, mysterious God?
I read Peter Rollins’ book How (Not) to speak of God a while back. Brilliant. At the time, I had meant to write out some of my thoughts and questions. But, the reading never stops and I haven’t got around to it – until now…
Early in the book, Rollins is talking about an emerging church culture and what he appreciates about it. One thing he says of those in this form of faith journey is that “There is a shared understanding that being a Christian always involves becoming a Christian” (p. 5).
In other words (and he expounds on this quite a bit) postmoderns are more willing to embrace the idea that we have not arrived. We are being saved, becoming Christian, becoming Church. We are actively journeying. This does not mean that there is no destination. But, its an admission that we are not there.
How does that work for you right now? How would you describe YOUR journey these days? I would love to hear