At first glance, Peter Rollins' How (Not) To Speak of God seems theologically heavy. His references to Derrida and Dionysius made me feel like I was reading philosophy back in undergrad. I vary in what I read throughout the year, so I do like to challenge myself, but I just didn't feel like reading something like this.
But by persevering and wading in a little deeper, Rollins' insights are profound and prophetic. He is heavy on praxis, as is evident by the entire second half of the book being a collection of liturgy. This book is the perfect combination of theory and praxis for the emerging church.
And, I think it's the best book about the emerging church, capturing as best a definition as possible of that which fights against classification. I encounter lots of people who want to know what the emergent church is, and instead of fail trying to encapsulate something that resonates so deeply with me, I usually rattle off a list of books they should read. This book will now be at the top of that list.
I like that Rollins isn't scared to take a stab at something. Throughout, he begins phrases with, "The emerging conversation…" and then completes them with definitions, descriptions, and qualifications. Maybe he's wrong (I don't think he is), but at least he doesn't play the bashful card and plead the fifth. Sure, he may step on toes, and some may not feel that he got it quite right. But he tried. And I like that.
I also love that he takes on and offers a new look at old Christian staples such as salt and light, evangelism, and the 'God-shaped hole.' He even tells the church (universal):
Rather than encouraging people to join our community (whatever 'our' community happens to be), we ought to be trying to help people to find the right community that will aid them in their further conversion.
The first 75 pages (the theory part) are packed full of fantastic quotes for any Christian trying to live a life of authenticity. His anecdotes and illustrations are memorable, hammering home key points that any believer ought to remember.
His main point? You don't know everything because you can't know everything. The very essence of God is such that the more you think you know, the less you actually do. But instead of a journey of futility, this should inspire a life of emulation, mimicking Jesus every step of the way, living with a prejudice of love.
Spend a few hours with the book. Then, whenever you think you've got it figured out, read it again.
And I'll leave you with this:
For most Christians, the question, "Would you die for your beliefs?" is the most radical one that can be asked – to which the faithful will answer with a defiant "Yes." But Amen asks a more radical question, namely, "Would you kill your beliefs?" In other words, would you be prepared to give up your religious tradition in order to affirm that tradition? Can you give up the very thing you would die to protect, not because of something even more powerful, but rather because of another's suffering?