Saturday, March 24, 2012

NOT a Book Review!

If you haven't done so already, DON'T FORGET to check out yesterday's GUEST POST, by Doug B.  For me, it highlights the notion that rest is, indeed, a gift.  Enjoy the read...  and please leave some thoughts or encouragement in the comments! 

Okay.  I think I've FINALLY finished my "Peter Rollins binge".  I just finished reading Insurrection, and though book reviews are not my 'thing', I thought I'd share some of my impressions, and a few things from the book that I found worth chewing over.

As the title suggests - this is NOT a book review.  I'm not even going to try to do a thorough critique - plenty of thinkers who are far more qualified have already done that - but Rollins' thinking explores some areas I've been poking around in too, so there was a lot in there I was really ready to wrestle with (try saying that three times fast!!)  As far as critique goes, I suppose I'll just say that the book left me with as many questions as answers, and there is a lot in it that really didn't 'click' with me. 

In spite of the 'gaps', there were some strong ideas put forward in the book that definitely resonated with me - so I'm going to give you my rundown on those today.  (True to my usual habit, you really are getting my version - this is what I gleaned from the book, so if you want an accurate understanding of what Rollins is on about, you'll just have to read it yourself...  this is the 'Kerry version' - okay?)
The Other  - Rollins sees the "other" as central in the embrace of Christianity.  I think this is partly because it is only in the eyes of another, that we can truly see ourselves.  I think also that he finds truth in the "gaps" between worldviews - which are only revealed in meaningful exchange with those whose worldview is different to our own.

Subtraction - He sees the work of Christ as essentially a "stripping away" of all that we use to build our cultures, our identities, and especially our path to God.  It is truth laid bare of every ingenious device we might use to fool ourselves about ourselves.

Identity - Rollins points out that Jesus is the God who gave up his identity as God.  When we are "in Christ", we also give up our identities (for there is no Jew, Greek, Slave, Free, male, female....) For me this is huge.  I believe that our "in-group identities" are such a large part of what stands between us and truly loving others.  To be "in Christ" means to lay all that aside.

Love -  Love is central (of course!).  However Rollins has some deep insights into how love brings the "other" into transcendence, and is in itself a transformative power.

Where is God? - This relates to all of the concepts already discussed, but particularly love.  For Rollins, the release of God in the world takes place as we love.  It is not in the object of love, or the giver of love, but in the enactment of loving.  It is found in the process of transformation, as we seek new ways to enact love and truth, and in the very process of change as we continually seek to transform our world.  This is only accessible to us in the laying aside of identity to fully identify with one another, in the breaking of religious structures and worldviews that shield us from truly knowing ourselves.

One other thing that is quite central to his work, and which I have not listed,  is the "death of God".  Rollins is quite specific that this refers to the death of what he calls "the god of religion";  the form of God we use as a psychological crutch, justification for our in-groups, and a shield from really facing ourselves.  He speaks of Jesus as "God losing God", citing Jesus' cry on the cross ("My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!") as something of central importance.  On the one hand, I'm all for getting rid of our false visions of God, and the unhealthy roles that they play - however I'm not sure I quite follow the rest of his argument on this one...  

Well, that was probably the quickest (and most incomplete) summary of Rollins' work ever devised, but I think they were the main things that really came alive to me as I read the book.  

Some thoughts about identity in my next post, I think.  They've been brewing for a while - and this reading has stirred them up again... 


  1. I have to admit, I've been on the fence about whether or not to read this book. I really want to now, even if only to talk about this stuff with you!

  2. He has some interesting ideas, Ethan ... Some of his arguments don't seem ( to me) very coherent - but his critique of the church is very insightful, & there are some wonderful thoughts on the work of Christ. Even if you don't agree with it all (& I suspect few people will) he sheds drag insight on some really important ideas.

  3. Drag insight- darned auto correct!! Think that was meant to be 'real'
    P.S. If you get around to reading it, I'm up for that discussion anytime!! :-)


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