The New Christians

Peter Rollins and Stephen Shields have begun a bit of a back-and-forth under the post, Ten Years of Emergent/ing.  Here’s Pete’s response to Stephen, and here’s hoping they’ll continue the conversation (here or elsewhere):

Hey there

Would love to chat, and I am sorry that my tone in the comments sounded so strong!

I am also aware that my own thoughts here may not be representative
of how many people who adopt the term ’emergent’ think. However I guess
one of my projects is to develop Bonhoeffer’s ‘religionless
Christianity’ and show how it is an important source for the most
radical form of emergent thinking.

For me religionless Christianity operates without any metaphysical
guarantees. There is doubt, complexity and ambiguity throughout. And so
there can be no final foundational claim to an external source ensuring
that everything will work out well in the end (one can, of course, hope
that there is).

I do argue however that there is a type of non-foundational
foundation in faith of the type that Pascal hints at in his statement,
‘the heart has reason that reason does not know’. This I think can be
termed ‘rebirth’. But that rebirth is such an immanent event that it
does not give itself over to epistemic justification or other-worldly
guarantees. For me the story of the man born blind is a representation
of this. He says he can see but refuses to make any absolute claims
concerning the person of Jesus. To put it in another context one could

‘I have been reborn, transformed, renewed by God, but then again I wonder who, what or even if God is.’

I guess I was worried that the above statement might do the same as
some types of mystical apophatic theology… namely give with one hand
(unknowing) what it takes with the other (an ultimate knowledge). This
is why Derrida ultimately found negative theology too positive.

Instead of saying ‘I am not sure God is there in my day to day life
but I know that God really is there’ (i.e. everything is ultimately
going to be o.k), I am more prone to say that Christianity allows us to
claim, ‘God is here in our midst, although I am not sure God exists’
(i.e. God is what we live here and now without guarantee that God is
‘out there’). While the former justifies faith via a metanarrative the
later lives Christianity as a meganarrative (a grounded story)

Hope that is useful.


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