Rollins, How (not) to Speak of God

So, I recently re-read Peter Rollins book, How (not) to Speak of God after hearing him give a teaching at Mars Hill Church (Michigan).  I had read this little book a long time ago, but couldn’t wrap my head around it.  This time was much more successful!  Whether that was because I took it a little slower, or because I had heard Rollins speak and could imagine his Irish accent in my head as I read…

The book is about how our words can be natural limiters in our understanding of God, and how we cannot imagine ourselves fully capturing God with language – or even with our thoughts for that matter.  If God truly is infinite, then even a word like infinite cannot fully express the enormity of God (neither can the word enormity).

The book is only about 60 pages of theology, followed by several sample services from the church Rollins is involved with in Belfast.  It’s a very helpful book, but do read it slowly if you chose to read it.  And, I thought the last chapter pushed past deconstruction into nihilism, but that’s my take, and I bet if I read it again slower, I’ll understand it better.

Here’s some helpful material:

  • p.2, “I picture the emerging community as a significant part of a wider religious movement which rejects both absolutism and relativism as idolatrous positions which hide their human origins in the modern myth of pure reason.”
  • p.5, “There is a shared understanding that being a Christian always involves becoming a Christian.”
  • p.7, “Unlike those who would seek to offer a different set of answers to theological questions, those within the emerging conversations are offering a different way of understanding the answers that we already possess.  In other words, those involved in the conversation are not explicitly attempting to construct or unearth a different set of beliefs that would somehow be more appropriate in today’s context, but rather, they are looking at the way in which we hold the beliefs that we already have…in a sense, nothing changes and yet the shift is so radical that absolutely nothing will be left unchanged.”
  • p.10, “This has led to two dominant reactions by the Western Church. First…run back to the naivete that existed before…second…bite the bullet and forge a New Christianity… that is concerned with developing an ethical way of life based on the teachings of Jesus while rejecting the question of God as an irrelevant abstraction belonging to the past… both mistakenly agree that if one accepts the idea that all our theological constructions are deeply tainted by the limits of our intelligence, the influence of our culture and the unfathomable workings of our subconscious desires, then, on must necessarily give up on a meaningful faith.”
  • p.14, “the term ‘holiness’ has strong connotations fo a God who is beyond all finding out.”
  • p.27, “This a/theism is not then some temporary place of uncertainty on the way to spiritual maturity, but rather is something that operates within faith as a type of heat-inducing friction that prevents our liquid images of the divine from cooling and solidifying into idolatrous form.”
  • p.31, “This emerging a/theology can thus be described as a genuinely ecumenical device, for by unsettling and decentering any idea of a one, true interpretation held by one group over and against all the others, true interpretation held by one group over and against all the others, a network of bridges is formed between different interpretive communities who acknowledge that we are all engaged in an interpretive process which can never do justice to the revelation itself.”
  • p.37, “In a world where people believe they are not hungry, we must not offer food but rather an aroma that helps them desire the food that we cannot provide.  We are a people who are born from a response to hints of the divine.  Not only this, but we must embrace the idea that we are also called to be hints of the divine.”
  • p.44, “Christianity, following this deconstructive and subversive element in the life of Jesus, is then a religion which critiques its own religiosity.”
  • p.56, “While the Christian can make use of these other discourses, the prime notion of truth within Christianity is directly connected with liberation and transformation rather than with objective description.”
  • p.65, “we are affirming that Jesus came to teach us a way of life that is dictated by the radical excess of love rather than ethical rulebook.”
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