We now move to Chapter 3 of Peter Rollins’ book How (Not) to Speak of God.
In Chapter 3, Rollins explores the implications of the idea that Christians must be a/theological (that is, we must speak of God while simultaneously recognizing that God transcends anything that we can conceive or speak about). Here are the six concepts that he covers:
1. Dis-course: Once we begin to speak in a/theological terms, we can accept denominational differences without creating denominational barriers. No one group holds the “true” interpretation, since everyone acknolwedges that their views, though the “best they can do,” are limited.
2. Doubt as Virtue: Rather than being viewed as a cancer to faith, doubt is seen as absolutely essential – otherwise, we might become idolatrous about our own ideas of God. (I wish that here Rollins would have made something clearer: doubt enables us to refine and re-focus. By shaking us from our particular “perspective” of God, doubt requires us to re-evaluate, recongize that God is transcendent of our ideas and understanding, and perhaps ultimately arrive at a way of thinking that, while still imperfect, is much better than what we held to before).
3. The End of Apologetics: Rollins believes that the modern church has mistakenly bulit its foundation on the apologetics of word (rational argument which shows Christianity is compelling) and/or wonder (alleged miraculous events). He sees both of these as abusive power-plays because they seek to compel someone to act regardless of their motive or desire. Jesus, by contrast, offers a “powerless” discourse, which entices people to love God by putting on display the love that God has for them.
4. Iconic God-talk: As a result of a/theological thinking, we can begin to think of our words and symbols as aids in contemplation of the real thing, rather than living under the idolatrous delusion that our words fully describe God. When we wish to gaze on the face of someone we love, he explains, it is not because we love the face, but the whole person who is represented by the face.
5. A/theology as transformative: As a result of a/theological thinking, we can begin to see our faith community’s traditions and our spiritual disciplines as tools for transformation, rather than as rigid systems of religiosity. Each system may be different, but thats okay – they are all birthed from the same experience of God, and explore that experience in different ways.
6. The saying of nothing. “Evangelism” in this context means creating space in which others can explore their own experience of God, rather than engaging in a “power discourse” that beats them over the head with the One System that gets them “saved.” As Rollins puts it, “when it comes to God, we have nothing to say to others and we must not be ashamed of saying it.”
I could go on and on expounding on almost every one of these points, but I don’t have the time to expand this post any further right now. Later, I may try to come back to the idea of “power”discourses and apologetics, because its really insightful and it deserves more attention.
Nevertheless, up next: Rollins discusses the importance of re-discoving our desire/hunger for God in Chapter 4.