Peter Rollins rocked my seminary world with his first two books, How (not) to Speak of God and The Fidelity of Betrayal. I have a deep appreciation for him. His parables compel me to act. His message disallows taking comfort in mere “belief”. At the same time, he gives transformative power to my doubts! Perhaps most importantly, Pete exudes nothing but kindness and concern when you meet him. His faith community in Ireland called Ikon has even inspired others like my friend Adam Moore to start the Void Collective in Waco, TX. It is no exaggeration for me to say that there would be something lacking in my faith today if I had not encountered Peter Rollins.
My only concern is that, in general, Pete sometimes seems to be responding to a particular version of Christianity that has tended to superficially classify God as static, other, unrelational, and irrelevant to the world, depicting God as a separate deity “out there” that doesn’t directly affect me “here”. A close look at most of Christian theology throughout the centuries, however, will reveal that this was never supposed to be the conception of God – other theological problems in the tradition of course notwithstanding. Yes Christianity has recourse to the existential crisis in Ecclesiastes, or Jesus being forsaken on the cross – and we desperately need to retrieve these motifs as Pete does – but can its sources for consolation be left out? For instance, God as immutable: unlike the Greek notion, in the Christian sense, God understood in this way was always Trinitarian! Trinitarian meaning we assume the Incarnation, in which the ineffable God of eternity is profoundly affected by us, and especially by the union with humanity in Jesus. The incarnation, among other things, also implies God’s willingness to make humanity a dialogue partner. In other words, contra Rollins, 1) believing in God, and 2) what God says to me, cannot be separated.
Nonetheless, the sad fact is that much of popular evangelicalism in America in particular maintains a notion of God that is indeed akin to precisely what Rollins is criticizing. So in this respect, I think what Pete is doing is incredibly valuable. BUT, here’s the looming problem – Pete’s project provides a Christian form that is often without Christian content. It is a philosophy of the Event without a theology of divine action (i.e., Zizek, Badiou, etc.). And it is in this sense that what he is doing might be somewhat less valuable – even misleading.
Maybe Tony Jones really is being an “annoying wee troublemaker” – but it sure was funny! My challenge to Pete, if I can dare be so bold as to challenge someone who has otherwise completely been challenging me, is this: Keep doing what you’re doing! We do need it. But as long as you refer to yourself as as Christian, maybe read some orthodox theology from time to time as well – that way you can do something constructive and not just deconstructive with it when you talk to people – something other than turning Bonhoeffer or Pascal into figures that they were not 🙂 As a postmodernist, can’t Marion be your guide more than Derrida? And even though this is exactly what you apparently mean not to do, can you figure out a way to give people the resurrection? Not as historical fact or even with metaphysics, and not because we need answers or cheap reassurance, but because doubt without hope – real hope – ultimately leads nowhere but to despair – even for the “doubter in denial” who needs to experience the rupture of the Real.
 Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theo-Drama: Theological Dramatic Theory : The Dramatis Personae : The Person in Christ (Balthasar, Hans Urs Von//Theo-Drama) (Ignatius Press, 1993), 72.