Chapter 4 in Rollins’ book How (Not) to Speak of God addresses the implications of a/theology on the nature of the Christian walk and on our concepts of evangelism and missions.
Rollins begins the Chapter with a discussion of Christianity as religion. Is it a religion, he asks? In a sense, he concludes, no, it isn’t, becuase Jesus’ life was – in many ways – a critique of structured religious systems. Such systems, he told us, were not adequate to express what God really wants from us. In other words, religion, like theology must be seen as an inadequate response to God. We are (my term here) ir/religious people.
Next, Rollins discusses the nature of our desire for God. He notes that Pascal made reference to a “God-shaped hole” that each of us possess, which it was said is fulfilled in God. But Rollins turns this entire concept on its head:
The believer, far from once having a God-shaped hole in his or her being that is now filled, is one who has a God-shaped hole formed in the aftermath of God, a hole that compels us to seek after that which they already have.
The irony, then, is that those who desire and seek after God are the very ones that have him already – the hunger for God itself is what also nourishes us. (Here it is helpful to think about Jesus’ words in Matthew 7: if you ask, you get it; if you seek it, you find it; if you knock, its opened).
There is no difference, then, between a desire to be transformed, and the process of transformation itself. They both occur at the same time.
Rollins ends the chapter with a mind-bending idea that still makes me reel when I come back to it:
If we are truly desiring God, we should have no fear of honest dialog with people who are different from us (even non-Christians). If we believe our own individual convictions/conclusions about God are the complete (and only) explanation, then everything that is different threatens us, and we can never truly engage others in dialog. But if we doubt our own understanding and trust that God will reveal himself, we have nothing to fear.
God’s promise is that if we pursue him, we will find him. It is that simple. Again, Rollins says:
[I]f we genuinely seek truth from above, we will not be given a lie, for God does not give scorpions to the one who seeks bread.
Mission work (and evangelism), then, should not be seen as a holier-than-thou effort to bring the God that “we have” to people “out there,” but as dialog – a genuine effort to bring everyone, ourselves included, closer to God. “In serving the world,” he says, “we find God there.”