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Peter Rollins (1) (1973–)

Autor/a de How (Not) to Speak of God

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This is a sad little volume with an appropriate title, though not for the reason intended.

Structured as a collection of short parables followed by a short reflection on each parable intended to elicit contemplation by the reader, Rollins seeks to utilize this beloved pedagogical tool of Jesus' for its capacity for subversion and depth, in contrast to more discursive devices.

Unfortunately, once one understands the position the author is coming from (or especially if you're already aware of it going in), the parables themselves become rote and highly predictable very quickly. And the didactic explanations -- rather than drawing us into 'mystery and unknowing' or deeper contemplation -- provide nice, neat, cookie-cutter templates of meaning. Indeed, the reader is positively assaulted, not by the author's vaunted 'mystery and unknowing', but by a veritable systematic theology which is as dogmatic as those which it decries. As could hardly be avoided, the opponents of dogma and certainty can do naught but trade sound dogma, based on divine revelation, for bad dogma based on whim.

One very curious feature of the volume is its presentation of a few very basic, traditional, orthodox Christian concepts, which the author seems to think are novel revelations. For example, the notion of the soteriological importance of 'incarnating' the commandments of Christ, rather than merely believing them. Granted, as a reaction against certain novel, heretical modern forms of contemporary Christianity -- esp. various forms of Protestantism with strong antinomian strains -- this might seem like a radical revelation, but for all historic, traditional Christianity, it's nothing other than what has always been affirmed, taught, and strived to be accomplished.

Of course, not content with affirming this -- because what kind of radical would you be if you didn't set yourself over against every other Christian who has ever lived? -- Peter goes on to claim, contrary to the Bible and all historic Christianity, that belief (as an aspect of faith) not only doesn't matter at all, but can actually hinder one from obeying the commandments. Well, no. Sorry. Fail less.

Similarly, Peter draws false dichotomies throughout the book. Between belief and action ("only action matters, period!" when in fact right action is most important, but is inseparable from and flows from right belief), between prayer/Bible-study and service of the poor ("only the latter matters period, the former is nothing"), between even love of God and love of man. Yes, if you pray and read your Bible but don't follow the commandments, your faith is dead. The flipside (which Peter doesn't acknowledge or understand) is that if you don't pray and read the Bible (or, to go further, believe rightly, go to church etc.), you can not possibly 'incarnate' the commandments. Though the two are intricately interwoven, the commandment to love God comes before and is higher than the commandment to love man.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the book is the tweaking of gospel accounts and parables, turning them into new parables, and developing teachings that are often directly contrary to the actual gospel account. To give just one example, the author is apparently uneasy with the parable of the prodigal son presenting repentance as preceding forgiveness, so he retells the parable almost unchanged, except it moves the prodigal's repentance to the end. Instead of waking up from his wallowing with swine, having seen his own depravity, and repenting (which is demonstrated by both his words and his action of returning home), Peter imagines his return is self-interested and not penitent, and only later does he experience repentance as a result of forgiveness. Of course, experiencing our gracious Lord's long-suffering mercy does lead us to *greater and deeper* repentance, but there is no forgiveness w/o repentance. As the parable (in its original form) clearly reveals. Peter apparently prefers a different moral, one contrary to Christ's words. Christ could have, of course, told a parable of a father who drags his son -- kicking and screaming, against his will -- out from the mire and muck of his sin, back into his arms, but this would rather obviously not be loving or true forgiveness. Yet it's the model of forgiveness Peter ultimately endorses, whether he realizes it or not.

He also flirts with a genuinely Orthodox (capital-o) theme in dealing lightly with apophaticism. Of course, he doesn't endorse the apophatic way of St. Dionysius (though he cites him), St. Gregory the Theologian, St. Maximus the Confessor or the entire Orthodox tradition, but he mines it and manipulates it into something it isn't. Whereas authentic, apostolic Christian tradition on the matter holds that God's unknowability is balanced by His self-revelation and intimate communion with Him, offered via the salvific acts of the All-holy Trinity in history, Peter pits his unknowability *against* his self-revelation, and essentially sees his self-revelation as swallowed up in unknowability. But this is ultimately a denial of God's goodness and desire to draw us into His kenotic life of love.

To be fair, I did not heed the pretentious advice in the intro which instructs readers to read the parables slowly, and many times, so as to fully appreciate their power. Seriously? I lightly chuckled at the absurdity of that before reading the text, but now having read it my laugh is deep and guttural. The parables are paper-thin, the explanations cut against deep reflection, and the morals contained therein are deeply anti-Christian. Avoid this book altogether, or only read it as a sad reminder of the bitter, pretentious, divisive fruits of the emergent or post-evangelical progressive movement.
… (més)
Duffyevsky | Hi ha 6 ressenyes més | Aug 19, 2022 |
Here Rollins has 33 tales or parables that stretch you. I thought they were great, and I plan to buy the book to use the stories for further discussion and teaching (borrowed it from the library). No doubt he usually has an agenda with each little story. Some are home runs; others leave you wanting more. Sometimes the commentary is better than the story. Other times it feels like there's more to the story than Rollins even intends or realizes. Overall a really good book that I plan on returning to. Recommended. Pretty quick read.… (més)
nrt43 | Hi ha 6 ressenyes més | Dec 29, 2020 |
I read this book in small chunks, as recommended by the author. The parables contain a small taste of a grand conversation - there is much to ponder and ruminate on. It's not a book to be read all the way through in one go.

Here are some quotes that resonated with me:

-"First, I used [the story] to express the idea that authentic faith is expressed, not in the mere acceptance of a belief system, but in a sacrificial, loving manner. Here I reject the inner/outer distinction in which one can fool oneself into thinking that private beliefs are somehow more important or reflective one's essence than public actions." (p. 8)

-"The law is abolished by love, and yet, in its being abolished it is also fulfilled. For once the law is swallowed up in love, the temptation that the law generates loses its power and becomes impotent. Thus Paul does not say, "Your behaviour is not permissible" but rather "Everything is permissible..." (1 Corinthians 6:12b). For, while the law enslaves, love sets people free to do what they desire, knowing that a person liberated by love will desire to live a life of love." (p. 136)

-"We can so easily miss the radical message that a life of simplicity is not contrary to the wealth of faith but is part of its very outworking. It is so easy to forget this and embrace the message of the world that the accumulation of success, worldly happiness, and possessions is a blessing to pursue. Thus, we give up the treasure we have for the poverty of affluence." (p. 154)
… (més)
Cail_Judy | Hi ha 6 ressenyes més | Apr 21, 2020 |
I cannot comment with astute theological or philosophical critiques of this work as many who have already reviewed. I found The Idolatry of God to be a fascinating and well-articulated account of the current fallacies of the church and Evangelical Christianity that consumed my childhood. Rollins is a witty writer who provides a wealth of illustrations ranging from film analogies to parables. I also appreciated his willingness to contribute tangible solutions to the philosophy he espouses in the final two chapters.… (més)
b.masonjudy | Hi ha 3 ressenyes més | Apr 3, 2020 |


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