Thursday, March 22, 2007

Introduction to Part 1 of How (Not) to Speak of God

The introduction's title helps introduce us to the deep thread that ties the book together:

Heretical Orthodoxy: From Right Belief to Believing in the Right Way

This book is written in two parts. Part One is a collection of theological and philosophical reflections, riddled with parables, stories, quotes from other authors, mystics, philosophers, theologians, and Rollins' himself. Similar in how Brian McLaren makes the point that theological and philosophical ideas can be perhaps more subversive in parables and stories in The Secret Message of Jesus, Rollins employs this tactic throughout Part One of the book. The parables don't stop there however. Part Two of the book is a collection of 10 services that Rollins' has participated in and probably helped create with his community called Ikon in Ireland, that bring out the themes, theologies, and philosophies in the first part of the book, while stirring up our imagination with more stories and parables to illuminate, however darkly, the ideas from the first section of the book.

Today, I'd like to just begin conversing about the introduction to Part One...perhaps this will help others like me, I feel like I need to keep the ideas and notions in manageable chunks, both to be able to have conversation about them, and also to digest the rich thought in the book. So I thought I'd throw out another quote, that sticks out to me from the introduction to Part One (in which Rollins' is setting up his aims for this section of the book):

"Here 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. Instead of following the Greek-influenced idea of orthodoxy as right belief, these chapters show that the emerging community is helping us to rediscover the more Hebraic and mystical notion of the orthodox Christian as the one who believes in the right way--that is, believing in a loving, sacrificial and Christlike manner. The reversal from 'right belief' to 'believing in the right way' is in no way a move to some binary opposite of the first (for the opposite of right belief is simply wrong belief); rather, it is a way transcending the binary altogether. Thus orthodoxy is no longer (mis) understood as the opposite of heresy but rather is understood as a term that signals a way of being in the world rather than a means of believing things about the world (Rollins, pgs. 2-3, italics and bold mine)."

I think that this notion of orthodoxy, as right way of living and believing hits at the heart of what I've thought for some time now. I have struggled a lot with Reformed theology and the whole predestination/free will thing for a long time, though it has become much easier in the last few years, largely because of this nagging suspicion that orthodoxy was never about having all the right beliefs lined up in a row to show God (or others). Rather, orthodoxy was the way in which we are called to live and love in the likeness of Christ. This helps to free us from the fear that if we don't believe all the right things, or are "led astray" on a certain doctrine, that we can find hope in that orthodoxy is rooted in the way we live and believe, rather than in what we believe, which bypasses the whole, "say the sinner's prayer" or before you can be saved you must believe 1, 2, and 3.

How does this sound to you? Orthodoxy as right living and believing rather than having a fixed or proper set of beliefs that are all "correct" (if we can even be perfect or correct in our doctrines about God)?


chris said...

Hey Josh,
How are things? I'm glad you have this blog. It's really a good way to keep in tune with the things that you are learning and growing in. It's good food for my mind here in Mongolia too. I'm inspired by your creativity and willingness to go against the grain on a lot of relevant issues for the American church today. One of these days, I will get around to emailing you back about our email dialog too. Love you brother!

Tom said...

Very clear post Josh. As you are well aware I am a huge fan of this "believing the right way" vs. "right belief." Thanks for the thoughts. You seem to have a gift for explaining hte puzzling. Ever thought of being a professor?

Josh said...


thanks for stopping by man, and for staying in touch. take your time about getting back to our emails, no pressure...I hope life in Mongolia is well, and your health is good.

things are going well here, i think i hit a saturation point in seminary for the first time last week, where nothing new could go into my brain. but with a little rest i hope things will be back to normal. great to hear from you Chris, much love!

Josh said...


i am with you as well on the necessary difference between believing in the right way vs. believing the right things.

i have thought some about becoming a fact in my dream world, i would help start a new community and eventually teach part time at the university/college level both as kind of part time explorations. thanks for the compliment friend...

hope you enjoy reading week (spring break...)

Mute Writer said...

Alright, after reading your comments and Todd's...I have to get the book and read it!

I think you'd make a good professor based on what I've read from you and your interpretations.

Tom said...

Just another does believing the right way bypass the "sinners prayer?" Do you mean to avoid turning towards God altogether (is this what a bypass does) or is the "sinners prayer" included in the journey of faith rather than the climax? Sorry, just wondering about the bypass...not so much the "prayer."

Josh said...


thanks for the comments man. yeah, i can't say enough about this book right now. i'm on vacation this week, and couldn't bring it with me (i had too many school books to read, and a gardening book to start a garden when i get home...). definitely pick it up, and we should all get together and talk about it sometime...and thanks for thinking that i'm talking about this stuff coherently. it's nice to hear that it is making some sense to others besides myself!

the sinner's prayer doesn't become an invalid means of expression or prayer, but rather is re-defined or better understood as a part of the journey...not the means to an end, or the prayer to pray so that one can go to heaven...but a prayer that orients us on the journey. it helps us to be situated and in a proper posture for believing in the right way...the prayer itself is not the answer we are looking for.

hope that helps...