Rollins thinks that Christianity today is making God an Idol. “In a basic sense, an Idol can be understood as that object which we believe is the answer to all our problems, that thing we believe can fill the fundamental gap we experience festering in the very depths of our human experience.” (26) Christianity is being sold to us as that which can fulfill our desire rather than that which transforms the very way we desire. (2)
Rather than the freedom to pursue what we think will satisfy us, the Gospels hint at a different freedom, “the freedom from the pursuit of what we believe will satisfy us.” (80) The Good News is the reality that total fulfillment and certainty are not possible. Joyfully embracing this insight takes away the oppressive sting. We are free from the drive that prevents us from embracing life and taking joy in it.
Rollins has written this book because he wanted to “show how the idea of God today preached within much of the church is nothing more than an impotent Idol. Simply stated, this boils down to the claim that God is treated as nothing more than a product, a product that promises certainty and satisfaction while delivering nothing but deception and dissatisfaction.” He argues “that the modern church engages in a host of material practices designed to act as a security blanket for life. It does this by offering preaching, prayers and songs that solidify our tribal identities and promise fulfillment.” He argues for “collectives.” “In other words, a church where the liturgical structure does not treat God as a product that would make us whole but as the mystery that enables us to live abundantly in the midst of life's difficulties.” He is “inviting people to engage in a type of archaeological dig aimed at discovering if their beliefs are protecting them from the embrace of unknowing and suffering, and if so, what ought to be done about it.” (From A Conversation with Peter Rollins at the end of the book.)
Perhaps this reflects the message of Rollins' book: “There are countless churches that sell us a false promise of certainty and satisfaction... In contrast, there are a few insurrectionary groups that are seriously attempting to explore what it might mean to give up the idea of God as a product, dissident voices calling us to live fully in this world with an embrace of our unknowing.” (201)
Rollins is such a voice.
Rollins is a philosopher and writes like one. At times his writing, his use of words and concepts, were beyond my lay, non-philosophically trained brain.
Rollins is also associated with the emerging church movement and postmodern Christianity. Much of the anxiety and dissatisfaction he wrote about has not been a part of my Christian experience. I am of the boomer generation and I think Rollins is speaking to a much younger and certainly more agitated community of Christians.
I just could not identify with most of Rollins' work. I do believe God is the answer to all of my problems, in one way or another. I do believe that God fills whatever that is festering in the very depths of my being. And I do find certainty and satisfaction in God.
Peter Rollins is a widely sought after writer, lecturer, storyteller and public speaker. He is also the founder of ikon, a faith group that has gained an international reputation for blending live music, visual imagery, soundscapes, theatre, ritual and reflection to create what they call ‘transformance art’.
Peter gained his higher education from Queens University, Belfast and has earned degrees (with distinction) in Scholastic Philosophy (BA Hons), Political Theory (MA) and Post-Structural thought (PhD). He is currently a research associate with the Irish School of Ecumenics in Trinity College, Dublin and is the author of the much talked about How (Not) to Speak of God. His most recent work is entitled Insurrection. He was born in Belfast but currently resides in Greenwich, CT and is employed by The Olson Foundation.
Find out more at http://peterrollins.net/.
Howard Books, a division of Simon and Schuster, 240 pages.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.