Insurrection Book Notes

Posted: November 25, 2011 by Todd in Books, Theology
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A month or so ago, I finished reading Peter Rollins new book, Insurrection: To Believe Is Human To Doubt, Divine, after being blown away by his earlier book, How (Not) to Speak of God.  Rollins had billed it as being very controversial, but I didn’t particularly see why other than using terms like “a/theism” to describe states of doubt.  I suspect it had as much to do with book promotion as anything.  The book is essentially an embracing of doubt, even religious disillusionment as part of faith and Rollins advocates that the church should make more space for doubt and disillusionment.  Yet, it isn’t merely a book about doubt.  It is a rejection of certain forms of faith as well.  Rollins’ book is an unequivocal rejection of religious escapism. To say “yes” to life, is to say “yes” to Christ. [more…]

All in all, I enjoyed How (Not) to Speak of God more, but loved this book as well.  One of the most striking parts was a reversal of the image of the “Rapture” where God embraces those who are “left behind.”  Beautiful!  Rollins has an illustrated video of this part here:

The Rapture from Peter Rollins on Vimeo.

Here are some notes and quotes I took as I read.  I got a hold of an Advanced Reading Copy before the book was released so the page numbers correspond to the ARC.

Through Chapter 3 – no notes taken

Chapter 4 – I Don’t Have to Believe, My Pastor Does that For Me

“Yet it is evident that they are often unable to express this reality in any public way – at least not unless they immediately follow it up with some safety net claim that God is big enough to contain the doubt (thus expressing an even deeper certainty).” (pg 66)

I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten the sense that people’s own doubts are held at bay by the pastor’s faith.  Not resonating with Rollins here. (66-67)

“Resistance” is the response of protecting ourselves from what we know – refusing to watch documentaries like Food, Inc. or An Inconvenient Truth due to lame excuses.  When we’re not directly confronted, we don’t need to admit that we know. (68-69)

“Many refused to see for fear that they would then need to act.” (69)

Pastors/parents/believer acknowledge doubts, disagreements with orthodoxy in private, but don’t do so in public. (71)

“A/theism aims to rupture, not the actual beliefs of a person, but the way those beliefs function as a crutch that would prevent the individual from actively participating in the difficult challenge of embracing the world.”  (72)

Rollins practical suggestion -> churches should offer suffering/struggle/doubt as part of the liturgical witness.  Small tastes of mourning.  Todd’s note: this sounds very depressing.  Some will respond to the tastes of mourning in worship as a “critic,” saying what is wrong or right, without emotionally entering in.  Rollins compares this to Wesley’s “Almost Christian.”(75)

“Christ does not intellectually reject the idea of a supreme principle but rather experiences the loss of this belief’s comforting power.” (76)

Mother Teresa (and her doubts) is Rollins’ patron saint of living through the forsakenness.

Part II, Chapter 5 – Who Am I?

We are to participate in the crucifixion.  Rather than experience supreme love of God, we experience loss of security. (82-83)

We mask depression by working too much, excessive partying, or other such behaviors.  (84-85)

We find things (jobs, recreation, etc.) to protect us from confronting what matters most to us. (86-87)

We confront this truth that is often hiding from us in fiction (e.g., dreams). (87)

According to Rollins, there seems to be a rise of subjective knowing in characters/people. (89)

“Hitler was well known to be a strict vegetarian who avoided alcohol, loved animals, was kind to his staff and enjoyed the company of children.  Hitler was likely an interesting person once one got to spend time with him in a more private and intimate setting.  This is so difficult for us to accept because we are accustomed to thinking that the truth of a person is discovered best in such a setting.”  (92)

“For what we must remember here is that the truth of a person is to be located, not in the story they tell about themselves, but in drives and desires that manifest themselves in material practices.”  (92)

“In grace we are able to accept that we are accepted and, in this very act of knowing we do not have to change, we discover the ability to change .” (106)

“To experience the Crucifixion is to lose all the supports that would protect us from a direct confrontation with the world and with ourselves .” (110)

“This phrase can be misleading as it is often claimed to refer to the mere continuation of this life into eternity, but the New Testament writers are clear that they are not speaking of the prolonging of our present life but rather about the entry into an utterly new mode of life, one that starts right here, right now.  Eternal life is thus fundamentally a transformation in the very way that we exist in the present.”  (111)

“The Incarnation tell[s] us that if we want to be like God, then we must be courageous enough to fully and unreservedly embrace our humanity .” (112)

Resurrection isn’t an escape from this world and its darkness, on the contrary, it is an embrace of it (112).

“We must…avoid thinking that God’s transcendence has anything to do with being outside the world.” (124)

Responses to “Do you believe in God?”

  • Yes (theism)
  • No (atheism)
  • I don’t know (weak agnosticism)
  • No one can know (strong agnosticism)
  • The question is irrelevant (ignosticism)

We shouldn’t focus on “belief in God,” but participation in life with God (127).

It seems Rollins, then, is advocating ignosticism. “It is a way of living in love, a love that embraces existence, not because it is perfect, but because it is beautiful in the midst of its very imperfection .” (131)

“What if Resurrection life is marked by the acceptance of our role as creators of destiny rather than mere pawns to be moved around by it ?” (133)

“The hidden truth of Judaism is fully revealed in Christianity for all to see with the tearing of the veil: faith is about this life .” (156)

“The apostle Paul was by far the earliest Christian writer, yet he is almost completely silent about the teachings and miracles ascribed to Jesus .”  (164) Todd: This seems like an overly pessimistic interpretation of Paul based on the Reformational paradigm.

Thought: Kenosis isn’t very kenotic.  It seems that every time God gives up God’s power, e.g., Incarnation, Crucifixion, that paradoxically, God’s power is perfectly calibrated towards God’s goal of redeeming the world.

[Summary Statement] “In light of all this, to deny Resurrection of Christ means nothing less than to turn away from the world, to run from our suffering, to avoid an authentic meeting with our neighbor, and to hide from ourselves.  It means holding too tightly to what we have and identifying too closely with our idealized image.  It means avoiding doubt, turning from our weakness, and refusing to face up to our finitude.  In short, it means saying ‘no’ to life.” (180)


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