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on 6 May 2017
For today's Christians struggling with their existence in daily life and their life in the church, this is a 'must' read book. Finally an author who pulls God beyond the mundane perspective and presents God as a mystery.
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on 31 January 2013
This is the first Peter Rollins book that I have read. I ordered it as soon as it came out on the basis of an interview I read about Rollins work last year in "Reform" magazine.

The book is subtitled "Breaking the addiction to certainty and satisfaction". It is this addiction or longing that is a serious problem for humans, religious and otherwise. He argues for this diagnosis of the human condition using some theories of psychology which I have not previously encountered. He says that the basic human condition is an aspiration or longing for an unattainable perfection that will bring complete sense of well being and peace. This aspiration is objectified into various idols that are longed for and yet when attained prove illusory in terms of the satisfaction they give. This feeling of longing for an unattainable idol can be called original sin. The model works with many different idols, both religious and secular. In traditional evangelical Christianity Jesus is the "idol" that you have to accept into your life to make all things well and find the certainty and satisfaction that you are seeking. (He has several astute critical comments on the practices of churches.) However the crux of the argument in the book is that the Christian hope is not about conforming to this model but is about destroying it. Thus Christ's message is to show the emptiness and futility of our desire for satisfaction and certainty. He says that central to Christianity is the experience of the absence of God as experienced by Christ in his cry of dereliction from the cross. Doubt and uncertainty become the central tenets of faith. God isn't an object to fill our needs. Salvation comes from accepting our brokenness and using it to help heal a broken world.

I wonder how much Peter Rollins has been influenced by the Buddha in this analysis? Buddha practised yoga until he reached the highest levels of enlightenment but after the ecstasy he found that he was again plagued by greed, lust, envy and hatred as he was before the religious experience. He began a new practice to enhance the natural impulses of empathy and compassion. In this way he broke the longing for fulfilment. Buddha saw that to live morally was to live for others. After enlightenment a person must return to the world and practise compassion.

Peter Rollins also talks about the need for true encounter with those of faith viewpoints very different to our own in a spirit of vulnerability and unknowing.

The final section of the book outlines some of the imaginitive and creative sessions where the author has worked with others to challenge and stimulate an experience of God's presence and absence.

This book has put into an ordered and systematic form a coherent radical Christian faith. The book is easy to read and doesn't use complicated theological or philosophical language. You may not agree with all of it but you will find it a stimulating read.
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on 1 January 2013
While there was a little borrowed from Insurrection (which is probably the only downside to the prolific nature of Rollins' most recent work), I feel like it was an excellent continuation of the thoughts presented in Insurrection. Especially important is the amount of attention paid to the concepts of Original Sin, Idolatry, and The Incarnation. Original Sin is conceptually robbed of its sting by stripping it of its misguided definitions and reducing it to separation from the source of life. Idolatry is our subconscious and conscious attempts to close this gap in impossible and ridiculous ways (most or all of our beliefs included). We know that they are impossible and ridiculous, but we don't know that we know (Rollins does a much better job of explaining this). The Incarnation of Christ is Jesus' refusal of the identity he has as God (see Philippians 2) and the acceptance of his humanity. The Incarnation and life of Jesus makes a cut across all of our identities (there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female) and allows us to truly encounter others.

Being radical theology, there is a ton to grasp here and I found almost every section a challenge. The best illustration of the difficulty radical theology poses can be found toward the end of the book as Rollins describes some of the ways in which he and his communities have attempted to practice their desire to truly encounter "the other." Of the four practices described, the one I would have the hardest time with is The Last Supper. Where I live, this would involve scouring the very, very conservative landscape of Eastern Washington state for some speaker or presenter that differs enough from the rest of the guests to make it worthwhile. That speaker would probably end up being me, and I would probably end up crucified.

I need to give it and Insurrection another run through. In short, Rollins has packed a lot in here and multiple reads reveal that he may not have meant what you thought on first read.
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on 30 September 2013
I warmed to the theme of this book. I agree wholeheartedly that most of our religion is addicted to certainty and satisfaction, and that real 'salvation' is not finding what we think we need but being shaken out of that whole way of thinking.
At the same time, I have some questions about the logic of Rollins' argument. His definition of 'original sin' as the universal sense of a lack or a vacuum that comes from our first experience of the self is very helpful, but what does he mean when he says that Jesus was 'sinless' in the sense of not having that lack? What made him the only human being without it? This seems to suggest a supernatural doctrine of incarnation that doesn't fit with what I perceive to be Rollins' kind of theology.
I would also question whether the first Christians saw the crucifixion in the way Rollins sees it. It seems to me that they believed firmly in God, and that their message was that Jesus who had been crucified had been vindicated by God through the resurrection. Paul certainly dwells on the paradox of Christ's condemnation being our justification, his 'self-emptying', God's power shown in weakness etc., but I'm not sure about the other New Testament writers, or whether even Paul would go as far as Rollins does.
Is Rollins, in talking of the 'sinlessness' of Jesus and the cosmic change brought about by the crucifixion, speaking of the actual historical Jesus and the event of the crucifixion, or is he weaving a myth around them? I would not object to that, but would like to see him spell it out.
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on 6 August 2013
This amazing book covers similar ground to the author's earlier 'Insurrection', but expresses the insights perhaps even more powerfully here. The book argues that human nature turns God into yet another idol, a means of emotional security and satisfaction. Only by surrendering all idols (including our idolatry of God), can we discover the true Source of life. This Source is known, not as an object, but in love itself. The book is packed full of wisdom that bridges the gap between religious symbols and worldly experience. It shows how the heart of the message of the Gospels and of Paul is very different from the path to security it is usually thought to be. It offers a compelling vision of the unique contribution that a reinterpreted Christianity could make now and in future. I found the author's suggested new rituals (to replace those he regards as bolstering the artificial security) less convincing. And it could be argued that other long-established approaches, for example Christian meditation / contemplation, can also lead us to the "dark night of the soul" needed to precede experiencing the insights of the book. But that is a minor issue in what is a brilliantly illuminating book. The building is on fire - step inside!
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on 14 November 2012
Loved the book, completely thought provoking, challenges everything I thought I understood and shatters most of it, leaving me not lost, but grateful. Rollins best work yet!
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on 17 May 2014
I enjoyed this book a lot despite disagreeing with a lot of it. I find that Rollins has some great ideas and I agree with them in principle (such as the suggestion that we are not made to be satisfied or whole) but he then makes leaps and conclusions (and sometimes accusations, particularly against the Church) without backing them up with anything. I haven't read any of his other books, maybe he justifies his position and opinions somewhere else but this book as a stand-alone just seems poorly written. I would love to read more on this subject by a different author, if anyone reading this review has any suggestions please make them.
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on 16 September 2013
This is a challenging read and well worth it. Love it or hate it, this book will make you think deeply about what you believe or don't believe about particular views of God. Thinking is good! We need more of it!
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on 2 February 2016
I find it a wonderful book to read more than once or twice.

A bonus is that you so rarelt these come across a book so beautifully printed and formated.
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on 2 August 2016
brilliant contemporary theology. A must for anyone interested in how to meaningfully think of God and being religious in a post-modern world.
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