Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Review: The Fidelity of Betrayal

I like Peter Rollins' work a lot as many of you might have guessed, even while I don't agree with everything, I find his books extremely helpful. So I thought I'd review Peter Rollins' book The Fidelity of Betrayal: Towards a Church Beyond Belief. A couple of months ago I had the opportunity to hear Rollins speak at a lecture series from my seminary, and it was a fascinating and great experience to hear Rollins come alive as he sparked imaginations, told stories, and laughed a lot...the way philosophy should be discussed in my opinion. He was humble, generous, and thoughtful in the way he engaged with responses from the crowd and faculty. It was great to have a couple of minutes to talk with him after his lecture, and while he rocked the boat a little bit, I don't think that he did it with a spirit of arrogance or attack.

Anyways, I read his latest book that was out at the time (he had a new book The Orthodox Heretic come out about a week ago) The Fidelity of Betrayal and found it to be a helpful read, especially in his discussion of reading the Bible with a second naivete (HT: Paul Ricoeur), which is an informed reading of the text, that is devotional and transformational in its aims, informed of course by the knowledge and previous experience one brings to the text yet with a second naivete that inspires new readings and understandings.

I also appreciated his discussion of the mystery of God brought near in Jesus. Rollins writes, "The mystery of God is not dissipated in Christ but brought near. Is this not the key to understanding the idea of transcendence within Christianity, a term that describes a way of breaking the here/elsewhere dichotomy of near and far through the idea of an immanence so deep and impenetrable that it cannot be approached? The myster of God now dwells among us rather than standing above us (pp. 53-54)." The point Rollins was making in describing the Incarnation was a bigger point in his discussion of truth, the biblical text, and the Word of God, namely that we will never be able to learn everything there is to learn or understand all that there is to understand about Jesus, the Bible, God, the mystery of God, theology, etc. not because God is unknowable, but because God's immanence ruptures into time and space, into real history in such a way that it shatters the ability to speak in any way about God, or an interpretation of the text that is final or the last word.

So the larger picture is that the church must be willing to deny its own beliefs in order to faithfully follow God. It must resist the tempation to name God in some final or all-encompassing manner. Rollins' writes further, "the deep truth of Christianity is not found in the acceptance of some particular historical claim. Rather, it refers to a happening testified to within the Bible that cannot be reduced to words, confined in concepts, or divulged by definitions (113)."

I enjoyed this book a lot, not as much as his first book, How (Not) to Speak of God which is in my top 10 of all time books at this point in my short life, but still worth a read if you are interested in postmodern theology and philosophy. Here's a pic from the evening when I heard him speak...a great night to hear someone whose work has meant a lot to me over the last couple of years.

No comments: