I absolutely loved this book. Like a cool pool on a dry day, it begs for a slow immersion of the reader– ample time and mental space to revel in its ebb and flow and wry turn of phrase. And it is certainly rewarding when allowed to work in this way. Indeed, I daresay it is even devotional, albeit in a postmodern/philosophical/theological way– for Pete Rollins (and his readers), deconstruction is redemption and renewal.
All through the book, gems pop off the pages, like this one:
…the deep truth of the Judeo-Christian tradition is exposed as an intimate, life-transforming encounter with that which cannot be rendered into an object of detached contemplation and idle consideration. As was true with Jacob there are times when we wish to find out the name of the divine stranger that we wrestle with throughout our lives, when we seek to understand the one who calls us into new life, a life full of joy and peace, pain and sorrow. Yet the source with whom we wrestle is not to be approached in such a way. We are named by the source, we do not name it.
Facing some tough challenges head-on, Pete cites example after example of apparent contradictions in the Bible, yet shows a way forward which incorporates the ‘conflicts’ and actually strengthens the thought behind them. His suggestions are fresh, humble, and provocative, so that even when he is off on an unconvincing caveat (such as when he is writing about Judas), I found myself applauding his efforts. And when Rollins handily redeems Nietzsche’s famous observation ‘God is Dead’ as a piece of helpful and religiously defensible truth, he is at his very best.
For Pete, God is not an entity to be named, but an event to be experienced. In this way, God is both less personal and more personal, all at the same time. Similarly, he points out that turning away from ‘church’ can actually expand community, and denying our ideas of ‘faith’ can empower a whole new life of faith. Which makes his subtitle, ‘Towards A Church Beyond Belief’, mighty appealing indeed.