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How (Not) to Speak of God: Marks of the Emerging Church

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  1,281 Ratings  ·  85 Reviews
With sensitivity to the Christian tradition and a rich understanding of postmodern thought, Peter Rollins argues that the movement known as the “emerging church” offers a singular, unprecedented message of transformation that has the potential to revolutionize the theological and moral architecture of Western Christianity.
How (not) to Speak of God sets out to explore the t
Paperback, 144 pages
Published August 1st 2006 by Paraclete Press (first published January 1st 2006)
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Apr 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book was lent to me by the "community mission associate" of my local Anglican parish, a bright young man in charge of organising and promoting their social and cultural action, with whom I have occasionally volunteered. Very vaguely schooled in Catholicism in my early childhood, I cannot call myself Christian in any meaningful sense: my later engagement with the subject came from an interest in the history of ideas, and probably from a certain sensitivity to the aesthetics of religion. More ...more
John Ellis
May 19, 2013 rated it did not like it
How do I rate a book in which the author, while confessing anti-abstractionism, claims a level of epistemic certainty (a level that he decries in others, by the way) based on his own abstractions? Well, I begrudgingly give the book one star while wishing that Goodreads allowed me to give the book negative stars.
Corey Hampton
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book (have read it twice now), and I love it's particular blend of apophatic theology and poststructuralism. If you read this and enjoy it, you must follow it with 'The Fidelity of Betrayal,' which works out its implications very helpfully.
May 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Rollins has a wonderful understanding of philosophy and theology, which he really puts to use in forming a robust way of believing that can be honest, self-critical, loving, and worshipful at the same time.

Basically the book is set up into two parts. Part 1 consists of five chapters of explanations and explorations of ideas that are seemingly polar opposites, but in fact are necessary balances to each other. He thrives on contradiction and the tension when two extremes are held tightly.

All of
Mar 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology
A thought provoking book. I've quite taken to Peter Rollins recently. I appreciate his ability to tell a great story, to tell old parables in new ways that reveal the original meaning freshly, or even to construct new parables to go away and mull over. He has made me think deeply about what I believe and how I believe.

This book comes in two parts. The opening section explores the (un)knowability of God (can't recall if he used that exact phrase). We can know God in that he has revealed himself t
Oct 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Heresy in top form. Absolutely amazing. Rollins challenges & exhorts readers to truly love God & others through exploring what Christianity is, with creativity and depth that is nothing short of a gift.
Rebecca Foster
Jul 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology, postmodern
The main idea I gleaned from the book is that we should never be overconfident in our own picture of God, because any picture we create is by nature an idol. Rather than worshipping an idol of our own creation, we should be allowing God to constantly surprise us and refresh our ideas of who he is and what he is like. Rollins also advocates Christians calling ourselves “heretics” since we can’t possibly have everything right when it comes to God.
John Hanscom
Feb 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Actually, 4 1/2. Much better than the other two books I have read on the subject, the ideas appeal to me, and much better descriptions of the services of the Ikon Community. However, I have a feeling, no matter how well these services are described, "you sort of have to be there."
Luke Magnuson
Jul 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 4-faith
A lot of good nuggets in this one. Here are a few of my favorites:

"What is important about revelation is not that we seek to interpret it in the same way but rather that we all love it and are transformed by it. To fail to recognize this would be similar to an art critic saying that what is important when considering a piece of art is that we interpret it correctly rather than loving it and being challenged by it."

"If theology comes to be understood as the place where God speaks, then we must se
Michael Wardrop
Sep 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Peter Rollins is one of the few figures from Europe to feature prominently on the American emerging church scene. Touted by prominent emergents like Brian McLaren and Phyllis Tickle and befriended by the crown prince, Rob Bell, Rollins has made a big splash internationally in the last five years. How (Not) To Speak Of God was published in 2006 and was Rollins’ first book.

The book is split into two parts. Part 1 (Heretical Orthodoxy: From Right Belief To Believing In The Right Way) is a deconstru
M Christopher
Oct 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology, ministerial
This book seized my attention for a couple of reasons. First, it comes highly recommended by Phyllis Tribble and Brian McLaren, two of the leaders of and prime commentators on the Emergent Church movement. Their praise for Rollins, a theologian and pastor in Northern Ireland, carries some weight for me due to how much I've gotten out of their books. Second, it's quite rare to find in any era of the church such a clear work primarily based on apophatic theology, that is, a theology based on the c ...more
Sarah Gagnon
Feb 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
Peter Rollins is complex, but it’s all been so helpful. Not all philosophy is this practical and personally useful. He is certainly writing with an audience in mind, crafting his ideas with us in mind and his sentences with a clarity and sometimes beauty not typical found in religious philosophy.
This was a really amazing experience. I've wanted to read something by Peter Rollins for quite a while now but couldn't find his books in any brick-and-morter stores, and for some reason I just didn't want to order it online. I was at the library getting some books for an Art History paper and ended up seeing this on a display shelf and knew I had to get it.

I'm not even really sure where/how to start wrapping up my thoughts on the content. It was different from what I expected, but I can't even
Jul 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book!! Would have given it a full five stars, but there were times when the author was unnecessarily wordy and seemed a little patronizing. Nonetheless, this is the best book I found for explaining the emergent perspective.

But these concepts are not limited to emergents; these concepts could be seen as important to religion/faith in any context. For instance, when Rollins talks about turning one's belief system into a false god or idol, the references he uses are Biblical and therefor
Caleb Ausbury
Feb 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
The key issue Rollins is addressing is how should Christians structure their faith and practices around a God that is beyond human comprehension. With such an accepted notion, the current idea of "orthodoxy" as a measurement of correct belief seems difficult to make sense of. How can we insist on our beliefs about God being correct if we agree that by definition our understanding of God cannot be correctly comprehended? Rollins argues that this notion of orthodoxy be replaced with that which he ...more
Mar 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a book that I've always kind of wanted to read and just never got around to. Thankfully it was recently on sale on Amazon, so I downloaded it.

I am glad I finally did. It is a great book that asks many questions, provides a few answers but all-in-all makes you think. For those who, like me, grew up in an evangelical subculture that was quite certain we had the correct and proper theology, this book may be challenging. Rollins pokes holes in this sort of certainty. He argues that when we s
Geoff Glenister
Dec 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book is an excellent and fitting sequel to Rollins' The Idolatry of God. This book artfully and provocatively explores how we replace the infinite God with finite conceptions, and replace the life Jesus offers through "The Way" with ideas. But Rollins doesn't stop there, but offers ways to get back to the living and active Truth offered in Christianity. All throughout, Rollins offers these incredible terms and phrases that provocatively tease at their excess of meaning - words like "hyperny ...more
Apr 14, 2011 rated it liked it
I have to admit that I've often found Peter Rollins' high-intensity talks to be a bit annoying, so I was surprised by how well he writes. The prose in this book is tight, and Rollins does quite a job of walking the epistemic tightrope. I found his insights on colonizing the name of God and concealment being built into revelation to be refreshing and illuminating. Holding a doctorate in post-modern theory, while perhaps a bit of an oxy-moron, does qualify Rollins to critique western conceptions o ...more
Jul 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
How can I sum this up?

Maybe with a warning - that reading this book may be hazardous to staying in your comfort zone.

I think it made me realize that living in a small town in the South is not the best place for my faith to grow.

I love what Rollins has to say about fundamentalism. Because of the mystery of God, fundamentalism has at its core the fallacious idea that we can define God - or at least define exactly what he wants from us. Once you've read the Bible, you realise that the concept of
Jan 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Norah by: the author
Shelves: christian
Finally got time to read this book properly: being fairly academic, it needed some concentration! After the first chapter I flipped over to the second section which described some of the Ikon services I have attended, to see if I recognised them! Which I did, at least those I was at! Then back to the theory section, and it did help to understand some of the basic Ikon ideas. Some were very difficult for me, others made sense. I showed it to Trevor, an elder in my previous Presbyterian church, an ...more
Dec 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: christian
Having read Metaphors We Live By, I would describe what Peter Rollins does as providing additional metaphors by which people coming from a more Westernized school of thought can understand and appreciate God and faith. He is not looking to replace or remove the existing metaphors by which we use to understand God, but instead supplement them to highlight attributes of God such as his mystery and infinite nature.

This is important because it breaks down many binaries and false dichotomies that we
Jul 18, 2012 added it
Not sure how to rate this book. I liked some of the ideas and gave me lots to think about but it's hard for me rate it highly when I feel the fundamental premise (that God exists) is flawed. I think the book presents some interesting new ways to conceive (or not conceive, if you're doing it right) of God and has some ways of going about which I imagine would be very rewarding and comforting if you were so inclined.

I think Rollins explains that we get our information from revelations and that re
Oct 05, 2013 rated it liked it
This is the first I've read by Rollins. It confuses me. The last half of the book is example services that Rollins says "...employ the Christian narrative to allow a space for reflection and encounter". While throughout the book Rollins proclaims that we cannot know that our ideas about God are correct and we cannot say that others are wrong, even to the point of accepting atheists into his Ikon group, he seems to assume that the Bible is useful for guiding our search for God and that we should ...more
Dec 12, 2011 rated it did not like it
While there were some thought-provoking topics and views presented in the first half of the book, I found most of it the mental wandering of someone who hasn't settled on his understanding of the authority of Scripture as contrasted with man's philosophical machinations.

The second half, while again thought provoking, struck me as dangerous. Many of the services bordered on (from my perspective) being demeaning to Christ, and felt "additive" (many times someone read something in the service "as i
T.Kay Browning
Sep 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Oh no, I am already reading theology in my spare time. But seriously, this is good stuff.

Really liked this book. I would have loved the (a)theology of the first half to be longer and more fleshed out, and probably the second half to be spun off into its own book, to talk more about how this (a)theology is put into practice, instead of just throwing in a second half of descriptions of services.

Still, this is by far the best theology I have ever read, or at least what resonates with me most now of
Jeremy Serrano
Jan 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Overall I like Rollins message. Although he re-interprets words like atheism to mean something that the general public would not easily understand. His understanding of God as both hidden and revealed is thoroughly Lutheran, in fact he does an excellent job of describing how God being revealed in Jesus is actually a concealment of the divine. I appreciate hat Rollins is willing to both make claims about God while at the same time admitting that his claims are always tentative.

I highly recommend
Sep 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gay-semiotics
Peter melds competent post-modern continental philosophy with post-modern Christian theologies and ethics in a most satisfying way.

He is a calm voice for change that is at once revolutionary and timeless. His command of historical perspectives gives gravitos to his arguments.

Author's webpage:

Having read Borg, McLaren and Spong's "Why Christianity Must Change or Die" and "A New Christianity for a New World," this book gives practical form to new emerging
Jun 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
This was a good introduction to many of the ideas and practices that seem to be part of what Rollins calls "the emerging conversation." There wasn't a lot here that I found particularly new, but maybe that's because I've been thinking about this stuff for a while.

The second half of the book was helpful for sparking ideas for emergent congregations. One beef is that Rollins' group meets at a bar, and their meetings are very adult-focused. I think if the emerging conversation is going to go anywh
Adam Shields
Apr 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Short review: Peter Rollins is an Irish pastor of the Ikon community. This is an 'emergent' church community. Rollins is a very bright pastors with a good background in philosophy, theology, epistemology, etc. I know I did not get all of this, but I got enough to be able to walk away with three basic ideas. I try to regularly read outside my tradition to give me new insight into the theology and Christianity and this book certainly did that.

My longer (about 1000 word) review is on my blog at ht
Ryan Adams
Dec 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book has REALLY challenged the way in which I think about so much that is wrapped around God and Faith. I don't agree with everything Peter says here necessarily, but it has broadened my view quite a bit on what it means to have relationship with a Divine Being. His concept of a/theism is fascinating. The reoccurrence of the term "emerging conversation" and the merits thereof bog this book down in a limiting niche I feel. I thought the allure of the emergent movement was it's difficulty to ...more
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Madison Mega-Mara...: How (Not) to Speak of God by Peter Rollins 1 4 Sep 08, 2012 12:35PM  
  • What Would Jesus Deconstruct?: The Good News of Postmodernism for the Church (The Church and Postmodern Culture)
  • A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith
  • The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier
  • The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why
  • An Emergent Manifesto of Hope (emersion: Emergent Village resources for communities of faith)
  • Who's Afraid of Postmodernism?: Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church (The Church and Postmodern Culture)
  • The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture
  • The Politics of Jesus
  • The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millennium
  • Honest to God
  • Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures
  • Adventures in Missing the Point: How the Culture-Controlled Church Neutered the Gospel
  • Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church Is Transforming the Faith
  • Texts of Terror: Literary-Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives
  • Allah: A Christian Response
  • The Church in Emerging Culture: Five Perspectives
  • Flickering Pixels: How Technology Shapes Your Faith
  • The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology
Peter Rollins is a Northern Irish writer, public speaker, philosopher and theologian who is a prominent figure in Postmodern Christianity.

Drawing largely from various strands of Continental Philosophy, Rollins' early work operated broadly from within the tradition of Apophatic Theology, while his more recent books have signaled a move toward the theory and practice of Radical Theology. In these bo
More about Peter Rollins...
“Orthodoxy as right belief will cost us little; indeed, it will allow us to sit back with our Pharisaic doctrines, guarding the ‘truth’ with the purity of our interpretations. But orthodoxy, as believing in the right way, as bringing love to the world around us and within us … that will cost us everything. For to live by that sword, as we all know, is to die by it.” 8 likes
“In contrast, the a/theistic approach can be seen as a form of disbelieving what one believes, or rather, believing in God while remaining dubious concerning what one believes about God (a distinction that fundamentalism is unable to maintain).” 4 likes
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