Here is a recent video of one of my personal heroes, Peter Rollins, as he discusses his recent Insurrection Tour. I recently read his book, The Fidelity of Betrayal, and it really did give words to most all that I have been wrestling with and through for the past year or so.

Rollins is a philosopher by trade, and his work has become the philosophical foundation for many of the more “Emergent” guys around today. And that’s what’s so interesting about him. He is good friends with Rob Bell and many of the Emergent Church folks quote Rollins to support many of their ideas. He is even talked about in the book Why We’re Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck, who definitely think Rollins is fundamentally flawed.

But, if you watch this video–by far the most succinct and comprehensive summary I’ve found of his thought–it seems like he really does stand in the middle between the fundamentalists and the liberals. He challenges both to live in the tension that is inherent in the Christian life. Rollins, I feel, exemplifies brilliantly how post-modernity can inform orthodox Christianity (as opposed to simply becoming “Postmodern Christianity”). I really do feel that large philosophical movements are actually providentially ordained by God to try and correct the Church when they’ve embraced one philosophy as the “right” one (as evangelicals have done with modernity).

But nevertheless, Rollins still has the reputation in more conservative circles of being one of “those guys” that sacrifices the Bible for the sake of “the culture.” And indeed, he seems to self-identify as one of “them,” and he certainly hangs out in those circles. Maybe I just don’t get it. He at least seems to me to be far more historically and Biblically orthodox than those guys are. But, the negative connotation still lingers with his name. Even the fake Twitter account made in my name by a yet-to-reveal-themselves person mocks Rollins and my affection for him. So watch the video–especially the last half–and decide for yourself.  I hope it gives words to all of you where you have had none before.  

And discuss in the comments.

About The Author

Paul Burkhart

0 Responses to What Does Theology Look Like When Responsibly Informed by Post-Modernity? Like This.

  1. Eric Blauer says:

    I agree…Peter put into words ideas and tensions that I have had a hard time articulating. I sound like an idiot..he sounds like a philosopher…which is either his degree or accent. 🙂
    Here is one phrase out of TFOB that I really loved: “wound of unknowing” a possible rip off of “The Cloud of Unknowing” which I plan on revisiting.

    “In order to see revelation at work let us take the paradigmatic conversion of the New Testament, namely the conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus. In this famous conversion Saul is literally nocked off his horse and blinded by the incoming revelation. This event overcomes him both emotionally and intellectually, and utterly alters his entire way of interacting with the world. The result is that Saul is never the same again; taking on the name Paul, he is utterly transformed, having a total change of heart (what is called, within theology, a metanoia).
    Rather than thinking that we are ignorant of God before God arrives on the scene, we can thus say that true ignorance of God occurs with the incoming of God. In our lives we have been exposed to so many images and ideas about God, many of which have been deeply embedded within us from childhood, that we have an abundant reservoir of understanding. Then, in the moment of revelation, the tranquility of this reservoir is disturbed. Revelation enters our world as a “wound of unknowing.”

  2. Michael says:

    A lot of what he says reminds me of portions of Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton—talking about Christianity as a rebellion, and the tension between two seeming contradictions (Chesterton uses the example of God’s wrath and God’s love), for example.

  3. Brandon says:

    Great stuff from Pete, as always. Have to say, though, his accent has really flattened out since he made the move to America. Probably a good thing for the American audience, since just trying to understand the depth of what he has to say is enough of a challenge without having to strain to hear it through a thick Northern Irish brogue. =)

  4. micah says:

    @ michael: the reason this guy sounds like chesterton is because a lot of the stuff he’s saying is more or less things that the catholic church has said in various forms for the last 2 thousand years.

    i’ll be honest—i don’t get the emergent movement much. i haven’t read tons of the writing, but every time i encounter it, about the only thing that sticks out to me is how much these guys are ripping off eastern mystics and catholic theologians.

  5. micah says:

    sorry, i should qualify my statement so i don’t come off sounding just like a troll 😛

    my point is this: i don’t see anything particularly post-modern in him. if it’s the taste for paradox or the “via negitiva” type of theology, one only need to look back to pseudo-dionysius (who, as most know, was a major influence on aquinas).

    it seems more to me that this “post-modern” theology is just protestants rediscovering the baby their predecessors threw out with the bathwater.

  6. Michael says:

    Micah: yeah I’ve noticed the same thing as well. Writers that get labelled as postmodern/emergent are often just reiterating ideas that Protestants have historically rejected or neglected. It’s seems to me that they aren’t so much finding or inventing new theology, as much as rejecting what was their old theology: evangelicalism (as much as a nebulous movement like evangelicalism can be said to have a defined theology). And that vacuum gets filled with a much older orthdoxy.

Leave a Reply

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.