A friend of mine posted Peter Rollins's "I Deny the Resurrection" vimeo to my FB. I'd encountered Rollin's work before but couldn't tell you much abouA friend of mine posted Peter Rollins's "I Deny the Resurrection" vimeo to my FB. I'd encountered Rollin's work before but couldn't tell you much about it, and in browsing his website, this book seemed relevant to the "What IS the Good News?" question that recurs in my life -- so I got it from the library, despite the fact that I've developed a knee-jerk reaction against consuming texts by white [cis, het, ...] dude authors.
Rollins' opening premise is that we all feel unfulfilled -- and that church/religion, instead of helping us to live in that space, takes the same route as consumerist culture and tries to sell us something to fill that emptiness ... which ultimately doesn't work as that emptiness CAN'T be filled (he argues that infants initially don't experience themselves as distinct from their surroundings but when we attain selfhood consciousness we perceive this separation -- and experience it as a loss/separation, and of course there's no way to fully bridge that gap, especially since the reality we thought we lost was really a misperception of reality).
I'd been experiencing some persistent underlying dissatisfaction/whatever, so there's a way in which this resonated with me -- but I also felt dubious about the premise. I'm familiar with the child development science claim, but I'm less sold on the idea that it generates in us some deep, soul-level, unfillable emptiness. Certainly there's the idea that we're never entirely satisfied (which gets framed in various ways -- e.g., maybe it's a good thing because it drives human innovation etc., Heaven is Our True Home, ...) but I think there are other schools of thought that would argue that e.g. we are all in fact connected and the more we realize that the better off we'll be.
But digressions aside, I was willing to go along with the premise for the purposes of the book.
Rollins argues that Christianity, at its core, is about rejecting this idea of certainty, etc. -- which doesn't seem to me to be a transparently obvious claim, and he offers few scriptural citations. (Literally, I went back and counted after I finished the book, and the number of Scriptural references he makes period, not just ones that are explicitly invoked to support this thesis rather than cited as part of related arguments, is approximately 24 -- in a 205 page book. Full list at the end of this review.)
In some of his readings of the parables I think he's stretching the text to make it mean what he wants it to mean -- but certainly most all of us do that from time to time. He spends a significant amount of time on Galatians 2:38, exegeting it as an exhortation to hold those identities lightly ... which I think is a reasonable interpretation of the text -- but I think that Paul would say we can/should hold those identities lightly because our primary/most important identity is our identity in Christ ... whereas Rollins just makes assertions like, "the type of universalism we see expressed by the apostle Paul operates on a fundamentally different level by inviting everyone into a community in which everyone exists beyond or outside the operative power of any given identity, including a Christian one" (p. 101).
Where Rollins really loses me is the final chapter (Chapter 9: "Want to Lose Belief? Join the Church") where he sketches some case studies of ways to do this disruptive work in community. The first ones are really basic exposing yourself to differing views (I do appreciate his emphasis on attempting to hear what people are really saying and not just automatically fit it into the paradigms we already have for understanding things), and the next few are performance art -- which I can imagine being compelling to people whose only experience of Christianity is conservative fundamentalism, but which don't seem to offer much substance for what you do after you leave the performance. (Admittedly, I'm much more inclined toward -- to somewhat misuse some fancy theology words -- "cataphatic" ALL THE THINGS theology than "apophatic" NONE OF THE THINGS theology, and Rollins in this book seems to be very much about stripping things away and not really about how, productively/constructively, one moves forward in that absence.)
While I know that progressive/liberal churches are not exempt from the appeal of certainty, the case studies at the end in particular gave me the impression that this book is aimed at people whose only exposure to Christianity has been oppressive fundamentalism. (Though anyone who had retained fundamentalism's emphasis on Scripture would be zero percent sold on his argument.)
I think the premise of his The Church is Fundamentalist on my Behalf (short video) is intriguing and compelling -- but really dude, have you not been in churches where people talk honestly about their doubt? Is this really a threatening and terrifying thing in all the churches you've been in? Are my churches really so unusual?
My attempt to count all the Scripture citations in this book:
* "the kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:20-21) p.5 * "the famous biblical story in which King Solomon is asked to resolve a dispute between two young women who both declare that they are the mother of a young child" (1 Kings 3:16-28) p.38-39 * Jesus calling the Pharisees whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23:27-28) p.62-63 (discussed through p. 65) * p.80 asserts, "there is another, more radical form of freedom hinted at in the Gospels---not the freedom to pursue what we believe will satisfy us, but the freedom from the pursuit of what we believe will satisfy us" -- which feels resonant to me, but Rollins doesn't actually cite anything from the Gospels * p.87-89 discusses the Cross, though the only direct Scriptural citation is "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" * really this discussion of the Cross continues through the end of the chapter (p.97), though direct Scriptural references are only: ** "the Temple curtain in Jerusalem being torn from top to bottom" (Matthew 27:51) which is discussed on p.91 ** the Book of Ecclesiastes, which is mentioned on p.91 ** "the Jewish prohibition against making graven images of the divine" (p.92) though it's not actually made explicit that this is in the Tanakh (the Scripture we share with Jews) rather than Jewish tradition more broadly ** "while not everything is beneficial, everything is permissible" (1 Corinthians 6:12, on p.95) * p.101 begins the lengthy discussion of Paul's "universalism" (I wouldn't phrase it that way, but on p.101, in his discussion of Christian universalisms, Rollins writes, "the type of universalism we see expressed by the apostle Paul operates on a fundamentally different level by inviting everyone into a community in which everyone exists beyond or outside the operative power of any given identity, including a Christian one") which continues through the end of the chapter (p.119), but mostly Rollins is expositing on Galatians 3:28 (first cited on p.105); the only other direct scriptural references in that chapter are: ** 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 ("this world in its present form is passing away" -- p.107) ** Matthew 15:21-38 (p.109 -- the "Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table" story, which gets discussed for about a page) ** Matthew 22:2-10 (p.110-111 -- a wedding banquet parable, which gets discussed for 2 pages, including revealing the surprising ending, Matthew 22:11-13, for which Rollins offers an interesting interpretation albeit one I don't buy) ** Matthew 10:34-39 (p.115 -- the "I did not come to bring peace, but a sword," section, which gets discussed for about a page) ** on p. 118 Rollins mentions that "At one point Paul provocatively described Christians as the trash of the world" (1 Corinthians 4:13) * becoming a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) p.121 * Paul's mention of the "renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2) p.121 * p.122 Rollins says, "In the Gospels, Jesus is given the name 'the second Adam' " without citation * "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God' " (Psalm 14:1) p.140 * Paul's opposition to Greek philosophy (Colossians 2:8) p. 140-141 * Ecclesiastes again, starting on p. 141 and going through p. 145 -- explicit citations are 5:18-20 and 6:1-6 * p.165 again mentions Christ on the Cross crying out "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" * John 14:6 ("I am the way, the truth, and the life") p.176 * 1 Corinthians 14 ("Women should remain silent in church") p. 178...more
[the AAR session description is to big to fit in the Private Notes section -- this is not a review]
A22-206 Christian Systematic Theology Section and Th[the AAR session description is to big to fit in the Private Notes section -- this is not a review]
A22-206 Christian Systematic Theology Section and Theology and Religious Reflection Section and Ecclesiological Investigations Group and Roman Catholic Studies Group Joy McDougall, Emory University, Presiding Theme: A New Theology of Hope? An Ecumenical Reception of John Thiel's Icons of Hope (University of Notre Dame Press, 2013) Saturday - 1:00 PM-3:30 PM Convention Center-29C Karen Kilby, University of Durham John Thiel's Icons of Hope: Ressourcement and Aggiornamento Michelle Gonzalez Maldonado, University of Miami The Dead, the Spirit, and Saints: Latina Eschatology Grounded in Everyday Religion Kathryn Tanner, Yale University Kant and the Moral Significance of Eschatology Cynthia Rigby, Austin Theological Seminary Reclaiming the "Body," in "Bodily Resurrection": Thiel's Provocation of a Re-Imagined Reformed Eschatology Responding: John E. Thiel, Fairfield University...more
Twice in less than a week I was put in a position to recommend feminist [Christian] theology texts, but I had never actually read any feminist theologTwice in less than a week I was put in a position to recommend feminist [Christian] theology texts, but I had never actually read any feminist theology books (I just sort of absorbed by osmosis and jumped ahead to queer theology, [queer and non-] Jewish commentary, etc.), so I started to read the feminist theology books I had adopted from Jeff+Julie when they moved out of the country.
Published in 2001, this book feels a bit outdated (cough, gender essentialism) and also has a moment where I would have thrown the book across the room/quit reading except I was committed to finishing the book for the purposes of this project -- in the chapter on embodiment, the author is clearly uncomfortable with sexuality and hospitality as models for God because of the ways they have been used to exploit women, which are valid concerns, and it's unfair for me to ask people to be at the same stage of comfort/reclamation as I am, but in talking about eros, Grey says, "As holy it stands in direct opposition and rejection of distorted forces such as sadomasochism and pornography. They are to be opposed as wrong relation" (p. 80, emphasis in original). While I think Grey is wrong, I understand why she thinks this. However, on the next page she says, "Pornography in its truest sense is not eros (or even sex) but violence" (p. 81, emphasis in original). Maybe define your terms before making such claims?
Okay, backing out from my specific critiques to my broader concerns about the book...
The book feels surface (it talks at length about God as "our passion for justice" and yet barely talks about process theology... it talks about eros and never mentions Audre Lorde's "The Uses of the Erotic"...) and I'm just not that compelled.
I realized, in talking to Ari, both that I came into this book wanting feminINE images of God, and that I don't care about a lot of its arguments. Its purpose seems to be to present ways to conceive of God that aren't oppressive like the traditional patriarchal models have been, and (a) these aren't issues I personally feel a need to work through at this point in my life, (b) answers such as goddess or "our passion for justice" don't resonate for me.
The final chapter, on Sophia, seems to be positing that Sophia is the optimal feminist imagery of God -- but doesn't really explain what Sophia means. I felt a little like Sophia combines and improves upon all the things the author has already talked about and found lacking, though in actually returning to the text I don't think that's technically wholly true.
The Table of Contents of the book is: 1. Struggling to Move 'Beyond God the Father' 2. Encountering Gods as 'She' 3. Images of God in Jewish Feminism 4. God--Our Passion for Justice 5. The God who Liberates and who does not Liberate: The Challenge of Womanist Theology 6. An Embodied God 7. Tragedy in God 8. The Re-emergence of Sophia Epilogue: The Journey is Home
In the Sophia chapter, Grey lays out 6 threads ("What I try now do to here is to sketch a kind of cartography for Sophia, Lady Wisdom, weaving in and out of the many inspirational strands in which she is sought and savoured, without ignoring the negative reactions and backlash she has evoked and the theological issues raised" -.p. 102-3): 1. the Wisdom literature of the Hebrew Bible 2. "the mythological strand and the role of Sophia in other ancient Near Eastern cultures. For Sophia is also a goddess figure appearing in the religions and cosmos of many lands." (p. 104) 3. "the way that Sophia as goddess functions as an empowering figure in women's spiritual journeys" (p. 106) 4. Sophia in Christian feminist liturgies 5. "Sophia is also present in the Russian Orthodox theological tradition" (p. 107) 6. "the steadily insistent way that feminist theology has been working on the integrating of scriptural Sophia themes within Christian doctrine and systematic theology" (p. 108)...more