Archive for June 17th, 2009

In my poking around looking for primary sources on the beliefs of Peter Rollins I came across an interview he conducted on the campus of Calvin College.

Early in this interview it becomes clear that Peter Rollins is interested in a form of Christianity that is life-transforming and expressed in life changing ministry. This is a goal with which we can all agree.

Rollins states that the church (and here I assume he means the western evangelical church of the last 500 years) has placed too much emphasis on belief… belief at the expense of behavior. I agree. One of the strengths of the emerging churches, one of the benefits of the secularization of our culture, is the emphasis on being not just believing. Or as others have put it – the Gospel (and salvation) was reduced to mere assent to a set of propositional statements – this is changing.

That said, I think Rollins has swung the pendulum too far in the other direction. At the 10:40 point he contrasts the existing/historical process of the church with what he thinks it should be. He says the process has been “Believe – Behavior – Belong.” This he says should be inverted and he gives the example of a family as a metaphor. One is born into a family so they belong first, then they start to behave in a manner consistent with the family, this leads to a belief that is consistent with the family. The problem with this metaphor is that birth into the family – which stands as a metaphor for rebirth into the church – is based on belief. Jesus said if you believe what I say you have passed from death to life (cf. John 5:24). You must believe to belong. In a sense you can belong to a community without believing, and I understand the emphasis on letting people belong to see if they want to believe. I think this is a good development and a strength of young churches. But ultimately a person must believe to be born into the church, to be truly adopted into Rollins’ metaphorical family. Until the belonger believes they are just (to continue the metaphor) the semi-adopted kid next do who acts like a son but everyone knows he is not.

I agree that the process should not be “Believe – Behave – Belong” but nor should it be “Belong – Behave – Believe” since one cannot belong without believing… not in the ultimate sense. The best process, the most biblical, is “Believe – Belong – Behave.”

At the 12:00 point he is asked about belief in the resurrection. He responds, “Christians are not called to believe in the resurrection, but be the resurrection.” I understand his point… I believe it was first made by James the brother of our Lord. Belief without transformation and behavior is essentially non-belief. But Rollins severely overstates this when he says we are not called to believe in the resurrection; we are in fact called to believe in… and to live it. He swings from belief without action/transformation to action/transformation without belief. I doubt he actually believes this – but it is what he said.

This emphasis comes up again at eh 19:05 point. Here he is asked about belief. He says he does believe (though I am not exactly sure in what – this is not an indictment against him, just an admission) – he says “I hold to the belief but the belief is nothing if it does not turn you into a more beautiful person… if it is not expressed…” At this point it seems Rollins is again taking up the theme of James.

This emphasis becomes disturbing when asked how he would interact with someone wanting to meet God, how would he respond if someone asked “How do I meet God?” At 20:48 he answers this by saying the person should “…go and do what people who believe in God do…and you may find truth… do the activities and you will find the truth.” I concur that doing the things that those who believe in God do is a good start, and I concur that simply assenting to a set of propositions is reductionist, but the answer should also include some of the propositional truths of the Gospel.

Basically, I agree with Rollins (as far as this interview goes) in that the emphasis of the recent past has been misplaced. Yet, his response is to over correct, to over compensate the course of the church – and this is as dangerous in theology and philosophy as it is driving on icy roads – of not more so.

[disclaimer: opinions expressed herein are based solely on this interview… and quotes are may be slightly off since I was transcribing them as he went along]

  • Share/Bookmark

Peter,

If you happen to read this could you drop by and defend yourself. I’m not really familiar with your work but some here are and they incessantly contend that you are a heretic. I think it stems from your relationship with Phyllis but I’m not certain why they think she is a heretic either. I’ve heard her speak many times and while she doesn’t say the words I’m used to I believe she is a follower of Christ. Ultimately though; I can’t really be sure about either one of your commitments to Christ. I wish I could be though. Meaning I wish I was God.

On another note; are you related to Henry? I really like his music. However his acting is kinda creepy. I don’t know why? I think it’s because of his voice or maybe his face. Not that he’s ugly; just mean looking. He kinda scares me. Oh well. If you are related could you have him drop by also. I want to ask him what he meant by the this quote:

“If I was gay, there would be no closet. You would never see the closet I came out of. Why? Because I’d have burned it for kindling by the time I was twelve … If I was gay, at this stage of the game — age 37, aging alternative icon — I’d be taking out ads.”

In my eyes he’s obviously gay and this quote appears that he’s not but I found a blog that contends that even though he said he isn’t; he actually is. You see I have this habit of not believing actual words that people say. Unless of course those actual words are from people that I agree with telling me what the people I don’t agree with, are actually saying. I know kinda confusing but I think you could help with that.

A few more things I need you to clear up. On your blog you state:

Without equivocation or hesitation I fully and completely admit that I deny the resurrection of Christ.

What the…? Really? Are you serious? HERET…oh wait. I stopped reading at that line. Sorry about that you also say

This is something that anyone who knows me could tell you, and I am not afraid to say it publicly, no matter what some people may think…

I deny the resurrection of Christ every time I do not serve at the feet of the oppressed, each day that I turn my back on the poor; I deny the resurrection of Christ when I close my ears to the cries of the downtrodden and lend my support to an unjust and corrupt system.

However there are moments when I affirm that resurrection, few and far between as they are. I affirm it when I stand up for those who are forced to live on their knees, when I speak for those who have had their tongues torn out, when I cry for those who have no more tears left to shed.

So what you are saying is that my life, how I live it, can either confirm or deny my belief in Christ. Sounds a little like this:

34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, [1] you did it to me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Oh that Jesus! So darn serious about helping the poor. If I didn’t know better I would say that he was a heretic.

Okay a few more things and then I’ve got to get back to my phylactery waxing.

You point out on your blog that you:

I also lecture in areas of moral theory, philosophical theology, mysticism and Existentialism. However my passion is to render the academic discourse accessible, interesting and useful to faith collectives.

Oh brother…I’m really concerned now.

moral “THEORY”? It’s not a theory Petey. It’s an absolute. Unless of course you are suggesting that people have certain theories about morality then of course you can lecture on that.

“mysticism”? You do know that’s code for heretic right? In these parts we’ve argued about that word forever. You may want to strike that from your blog. It just not worth the trouble of trying to explain it.

“Existentialism”? Again with the “human condition” stuff. Really is it important to understand how God interacts with us and how we should respond? Isn’t it enough to know that “He is God”? Just leave it at that. If people don’t get it, tough nuggies. Seriously!

My biggest concern about you though is that last sentence. “Academic discourse accessible”? Two words, in Latin, so you know it’s really important, SOLA SCRIPTURA buddy! I don’t need no stinking, two bit, liberal spouting, college per fessor, telling me nothin bout my Jesus. Unless of course he agrees with me. Otherwise I ain’t havin none of it. That’s all I need is somebody messing up my perfect, preconceived, theological box. I almost got excommunicated for quoting from “The Shack”. So no more of that “thinking” stuff for me. It’s just not safe to think. What if I come up with the wrong thoughts? What if the Holy Spirit took the day off and that was the exact day I chose to read “A brief history of everything”? The ramifications to my salvation could be catastrophic. No thank you.

Well thanks for your time.

Sincerely,
Chris

P.S. You don’t need to talk to Henry for me I just Wiki’d him and his last name is actually Garfield. Sorry bout that.

  • Share/Bookmark

Tags: , , , ,