Archive for the ‘Atheism’ Category

Rollins On Belief

Okay I’m really digging this book. Rollins captures what I believe is one of the central tensions between those in the emerging church and those who critique from the outside.  It’s the razor’s edge between theism and the atheism of our own cognitive belief systems.  In other words, our brokenness colors our image of God in a way that constantly tugs at us to reject our own image of God in favor of what God is revealing to us.

“As we have seen, we ought to affirm our view of God while at the same time realizing that that view is inadequate.  Hence we act both as a theist and an atheist.  This a/theist is not some agnostic middle point hovering hesitantly between the theism and atheism but, rather, actively embraces both out of profound faith.” (p 26)

Peter Rollins in How (Not) To Speak Of God

From the outside this probably sounds absurd.  Embrace atheism?  Say what?  And you can hear those in the back row running with this one.  “Those in the emerging church are now saying you have to be an atheist.  But that’s not what he’s saying.  He’s calling us to take a hard look at the image of God we create that is always filtered through our brokenness.  To constantly be embracing a new image at the expense of the old.

In other words, we are constantly deconstructing what we think in favor of what God reasserts and reveals in our lives. It also requires an understanding of our own finitude, or limited cognitive capabilities.

Staying in this tension is hard.  It requires coming to terms with our brokenness.  But that’s why its called faith, not certainty.  The temptation is to want to be done with our faith and have a concrete structure to stand on for the sake of coming to a conclusion.  And certainty in an of itself can be like a booby prize.  We think our interpretation is God incarnate but leaves us with a fowl smell of stagnation.

Rollins continues and important distinction,

This a/theistic approach is deeply deconstructive since it always prevents our ideas from scaling the throne of God.  Yet it is important to bear in mind that this deconstruction is not destruction, for the questioning it engages in is not designed to undermine God but to affirm God.

This is why I think sent Jesus, to reveal the true Imago Dei, the clarifying icon of humanity.  He is the image of God we can point to.  And yet even this is filtered through our understanding of him.  Thus the need for surrender to the Holy Spirit.

Rollins continues a little later exploring the role of doubt in belief.  He says,

This is in no way equivalent to saying that the Christian ought to adopt a position of disinterested agnosticism – far from it.  The point is only that the believer should not repress the shadow of doubt that hands over all belief.

For when we can say that we will follow God regardless of the uncertainty involved in such a decision, then real faith is born – for love acts not whenever a certain set of criteria has been met, but rather because it is in the nature of love to act.

And it is here that I think we hopefully find the bridge to communication.  Faith is faith because of our limited nature as human beings.  Faith is faith in the fires of doubt.  And in that wrestling we learn to test what is so that we can reveal what is true.  It’s not an intellectual ascension but a live experience of the truth.


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In this very interesting audio presentation by Jim Henderson and Matt Casper, who wrote Jim and Casper Go To Church, Matt, the atheist says something that I’ve been percolating for a long time.

“I see Dawkins, Hitchen, and Harris, not so much as atheists, because their not really talking about what’s good about atheism. They’re more anti-theists, They’re talking about what’s wrong with belief. What’s wrong with religion, and uh, I’d like to hear them talk more about what being a non-believer has done for them. How that’s made their lives better.”

His continues with a funny point about the absurdity of gathering together to talk about what we don’t believe.

“How do you rally together…we don’t believe something…let’s get together.” It doesn’t make a lot of sense.

And this point brought out a question that I have been feeling for a long time. When ever I visit a blog that positions itself as an atheistic conversation, the conversation is about why I don’t believe in God. Why is much of atheism seem like it is about not believing in God. And I’m asking seriously for anyone who would like to chime in. Help me with this because I don’t understand this.

In appreciation for what Matt is trying to do, he said this, which I really appreciated.

“The stuff that Jesus asked people to do, I happen to be doing.”

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