Thursday, June 08, 2017

A review of Peter Rollins' Insurrection

Insurrection: To Believe Is Human To Doubt, DivineInsurrection: To Believe Is Human To Doubt, Divine by Peter Rollins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Peter Rollins has been on my list of authors to read for a long time, as he is one of those authors that a lot of authors I read and people I respect have mentioned and recommended. Although it took me years to finally get to reading one of his works, I would not be surprised if I read through all of the rest of his books in the next few months, judging by how much I appreciated his writing and his thought process in Insurrection.

I started reading my way through Rollins with Insurrection, his fourth book, because it seemed from what I had read about his work that this is the point at which much of his philosophy of "pyro-theology" started to emerge in a more clear manner. Rollins discusses pyrotheology as the burning away of any and all presuppositions and worldviews that would otherwise interfere with our theology, including (especially) the elements of religion and Christianity that have served as a security blanket to followers of Jesus. He deconstructs many of the ways that churches have come to believe and practice in order to reach back to the Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection of Christ without the trappings that have obscured those events over the past two millennia.

I have read similar works that have contained similar arguments by authors such as Bruxy Cavey, Brian McLaren, and Rob Bell, but Rollins' take is, in my estimation, the most philosophically driven and abstract of these kinds of works. Cavey, McLaren, and Bell have some investiture in "pastoring" readers through their new understanding as a result of their vocation as pastors, whereas Rollins seems to have much more interest in pursuing the thought experiment to its logical conclusion (or even past that point at times) as a philosopher and thinker, without the same kind of regard for caring for his audience as in those other works, a factor that seems to unfetter him in order to allow him to craft a "headier" argument.

It is not difficult to see why Rollins' work has become so influential on those other writers or in the context of the post-modern church movement of the past decade (a movement that is often labeled as "emergent" even though that is somewhat of a generic misnomer). He has taken a lot of the ideas that have been espoused within the context of deconstructing theology and expressed them in a way that is accessible and meaningful.

That's not to say that Insurrection is necessarily that palatable or easy; in fact, it is quite challenging at times to make it through, as evidenced by the fact that I had to restart it after several months away and then it still took me a lot longer than I had expected to make it through the text. Its difficulty lies in just how much Rollins packs into his writing and thinking and the level of deconstruction that is happening; it seems as though, just at the point at which he can't go any further that he does, and that step opens up a variety of questions about institutional implications and personal ramifications.

That said, I think it's worth it to read Insurrection if you're like me and attempting to engage on a journey of reflection and deconstruction in order to peel away the layers of culture that have obscured the character of Christ within the church. On the other hand, if you have not started to ask questions about the Christian culture and worldview, you might need someone else to ease you into this kind of thinking. I would not recommend Rollins as a starting point - Bell is the obvious gateway author for that kind of thinking - but I would say that a journey that begins with Bell logically leads to Rollins.

I felt as though I missed so much as I was reading through this book, whether it was because I could not nearly hope to consume it all on a first reading or because I do not yet have the faculties to be able to process everything that he was saying. I think this is definitely a book that I will have to read again, particularly after I have read the rest of Rollins' works. I think it has the potential to be quite the journey, and I'm looking forward to it.


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