Jesus, Postmodernism and Doubt by Angela O’Shaughnessy

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I asked my friend, Angela O’Shaughnessy to allow me to share her thoughts about some of the writings of Peter Rollins. Rollins is a postmodern “theologian” who seems to delight in destroying faith.

Just like post-modern philosophy, post-modern theology believes in no-absolutes (so there’s nothing to believe in). I want to be clear that I don’t think post-modernism and a loving, saving God work together (I’ll bet Rollins would agree with me on that). I don’t think post-modernism works with the basic tenets of our faith- simple things like the Apostle’s Creed and the inspiration of Scripture. Anyway, here are Angela’s thoughts on  Rollins’ book, The Orthodox Heretic.

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I was recently “introduced” to post-modern philosopher Peter Rollins.  Rollins’ motto is “To believe is human; to doubt, divine.”

The main reaction I have as I read Rollins’ work is confusion.    Paul wrote a great deal of the New Testament to clear up confusion in the church. He wrote in I Corinthians 14:33: “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.”  I believe when God speaks to us, He desires to give us clear answers.  He doesn’t use discord or sneak in the back door.

From the front of Rollins’ book The Orthodox Heretic: “Religious writing is usually designed to make the truth of faith clear, concise, and palatable.  Parables subvert this approach.  In the parable, truth is not expressed via some dusty theological discourse that seeks to educate us, but rather it arises as a lyrical dis-course that would inspire and transform us–a dis-course being that form of (mis)communication that sends us spinning off course and onto a new course.”…”This does not mean that the words contain no message, or that they mock us as some insoluble puzzle (and thus not really as a puzzle at all).  Parables do not substitute sense for nonsense, or order for disorder.  Rather they point beyond these distinctions, inviting us to engage in a mode of reflection that has less to do with fixing meaning than rendering meaning fluid and affective.”

Jesus did not use miscommunication to throw people off course.  He told stories to make a point, and he used word pictures to which listeners could relate in order to make his point more clear.  His meanings were not “fluid and affective.”  They are eternal.  If you read some of Rollins’ writings, he does indeed seem to thrive on contradiction, nonsense and disorder.  He states clearly on his blog that he is a universalist.

In The Orthodox Heretic, there is a story called “Finding Faith” which tells of a businessman with a “deep, abiding faith.”   Again, there is confusion and miscommunication.  For example, it said that “the businessman possessed a deep, abiding faith, and love of Christ.”  He meets a preacher with the unusual “gift” of praying for people and having them lose their faith.  After chatting for a bit, the preacher offers to pray for him, and the businessman readily agrees.  The story tells us,  “After the preacher had uttered a simple prayer, the man opened his eyes in astonishment.  ‘What a fool I have been for all of these years!  It is clear to me now that there is no God above who is looking out for me, and there is no sacred text to guide me, and there is no Spirit to inspire and protect me.’”  He now had no religious beliefs, had a breakdown, gave up his work, gave all his wealth to the poor and helped the oppressed.  In the end, he ran across the preacher again and said, “Thank you for helping me discover my faith.”  I understand that we sometimes need a fresh perspective to remind us of an old truth. I know that religious activity does not a Christ-follower make.  However, giving up a deep, abiding faith and love of Christ, discrediting the presence of God, the truth of Scripture and the leading of the Holy Spirit to go out and do good works is definitely not true Christianity either.  In fact, I’d call that heresy.

Bottom line, I guess I just don’t see Peter Rollins’ place in the life of a Bible-believing Christian.

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