I like Peter Rollins…I like the way he thinks and I love his passion for the Kingdom of God. Peter is not afraid to 'stir up the pot' with creativity and theological sophistication as well as insight. I've never met Peter but I'm sure I would like him. He communicates in a style I can relate to – part instigator, part comforter, part Prophet and part shepherd. Sometimes you can talk and write just to be an intellectual nuisance…sometimes it is profound enough to be a helpful nusance…that's the aspect of Peter's work that I can relate to.
Insurrection is Peter's latest work…although the cover tells the reader about his desire to encourage "doubt" actually the book is more about the profound effect that the Crucifixion can have on the soul and journey of anyone who aligns themselves with Jesus. He works through an issue that I find extremely helpful, that being, how people use any religious experience as a psychological crutch. Actually, Peter is correct in his assessment…people do look for a "deus ex machina" (a reference to Dietrich Bonhoeffer's work, which is worth examining on its own merits) to "deliver" them from the stresses and strains of real life. It is what some would call a blind adherence to a "theology of glory", that being constantly believing in the delusion of God's "duty" being to provide some sort of consistent temporal comfort level to people who align themselves with Him. In citing Bonhoeffer, Peter comments,
"…the Church (has) approached God as a deus ex machina. God was merely an idea clumsily dropped into our world in order to fulfill a task. God was introduced to the world on OUR TERMS in order to resolve a problem rather than expressing a lived reality. The result is a God who simply justifies OUR beliefs and helps US sleep comfortably at night (page 13-14, emphasis mine)."
That pretty much covers it! Peter's thesis is that we have created a God not only in our own "likeness" but according to our deep seated "needs." So when we who do ministry praxis in community talk about a "needs driven" ministry strategy, Peter would affirm that not only because it is true but because that would be consistent on how we have "created" our God. In fact, Peter belives that THE reason why faith is most often at the periphery of life is because we have created a faith journey that only serve US when we are facing depressions, struggles and even death. That type of faith is disconnected from daily experience, hence the "deus ex machina"…that God who conveniently "drops into" our lives, who seemingly is out of place and not involved in life's story but is there more as a superhero figure in a need-based moment than One filling our lives with presence. He actually says someting pretty "funny" but astounding when he writes,
"Getting people to believe in some form of deus ex machina is as easy as getting children to believe in Santa Claus."
Oh, how true! The remaining pages of the book explores a faith that embraces the Cross in a deep, profound and life-changing manner…that moves God from periphery to center of existence. Truth is, for those of us who do Kingdom living from a position of leadership, Peter's enouragement is worth the price of admission:
"the one who commits themselves to the task of helping people really enter into doubt, unknowing, and ambiguity needs to be ten, twenty, even a hundred times better than those who sell certainty."
That and the rest of the book should keep you off the street for a while…this isn't a "perfect" book…I'm not "endorsing" every page, but a faith that is real has to be discovered in the midst of real life. We don't create a God who endorses our fantasy existence or who simply drops in at our convenience. And entering the Cross and living in the shadow of Calvary is more than singing, "Were you there?"…it is a "fundamental way of entering into the presence of God." So, Peter, you have my endorsement! Friends, this is a theologically challenging read…perfect for your holiday cheer!