Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Peter Rollins and His Relentless Paradoxes

Rollins.jpgI will admit that I found Peter Rollins’ The Fidelity of Betrayal over the edge, but I did really like parts of his How (Not) to Speak of God. He loves paradoxes and he explores them and he creates them and he offends by them, and sometimes I wonder where he stands and what he’s really doing. And his rhetoric and his ideas draw me back to listen again… 

And his newest book, The Orthodox Heretic: And Other Impossible Tales
, is my favorite. Yes, indeed, another paradox though not a new one — others have used this one. I don’t know how to put those two substantives together, but this book is 33 stories — his own parables. I’ve long been impressed by the power of story, not as an “illustration” of an idea but as a way of coaxing readers and listeners into an imagined world. By entering into that imagined world one finds new light and senses a new way of life, and that is exactly what Peter does in this book. 
It is unfair to you to list the title of all 33 parables; it is unfair to Peter to describe them, but let me just do one. In chp 5 he tells the parable of salvation for a demon and he spins a wonderful yarn of an old priest who was radically hospitable, and so hospitable that folks stole from him — well, they couldn’t because he had given all things to God. Then a demon enters into the church and finds the old man at worship and prayer and the demon tears the place up, and then invites himself to dinner with the old man as he leaves and the old man says he can come to his home. Then the demon tears up the old man’s place, and then asks if he can make his home in the old man’s heart — and the old man says of course — and it defeated the demon and he ran away on empty. Quite the story … and you’ll have to read Peter’s own comments on his own story. Anyway, that’s a taste.
I’m sure of this: Pastors would benefit from this collection of stories, even if he spins some yarns they don’t like.
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posted December 17, 2009 at 12:18 am

I’m going to have to read this, thanks for talking about it.

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posted December 17, 2009 at 12:23 am

That was one of the better texts I’ve read in a while. I passed it on to a friend of mine who was able to develop several sermons from them. The one that struck me was the twist he put on the feeding of the 5,000 which makes you look at questions like missional and church in a very different way.

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Mike Goldsworthy

posted December 17, 2009 at 12:48 am

i really enjoyed this book for the same reason you give – pastors may not agree with it, but need to read it. not only did many of his stories leave me thinking for a while afterwards, but it made me think about what it would look like to not utilize a story as an illustration, but to allow a story to take you somewhere and make you think…to use it as a parable.
i’ll be reading it again this year

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derek leman

posted December 17, 2009 at 8:18 am

I went to hear Peter speak about a year ago. Disturbing, but engaging.
What came to my mind was Bonhoeffer’s religionless Christianity or Kierkegaard’s existentialist Christianity.
I’d be interested to hear others’ reactions to Peter.
Derek Leman

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posted December 17, 2009 at 9:58 am

Rollins’ concept of “hypernymity” was a critical handhold for my thesis at Vandy Div…
he’s pretty compelling…

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Tim Snyder

posted December 17, 2009 at 11:22 am

Pete, you look respectable here. Admirable even. Distinguished, perhaps. Hope you are well. Looking forward to getting you to Minneapolis again.

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posted December 17, 2009 at 2:22 pm

Couldn’t agree more, Scot. It’s a GREAT book. I’m hoping my church’s book club might discuss it. It may be a book I re-read after Christmas.

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Brad Boydston

posted December 17, 2009 at 2:26 pm

Scot McKnight is reading a lot of fiction these days. Some kind of religious conversion?

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