Insurrection

It took me a little while but I recently finished Peter Rollins latest book, Insurrection. It is a meaty read—not in the style it is written but in the depth of thought that Rollins invites you into. I love writers like him who challenge the easy thought process that we all fall into and cause us to question the very core of what we believe. We emerge stronger if we are willing to push through the process.

Rollins invites the reader to experience what it truly looks like to die to self. What it looks like to truly experience crucifixion with Christ. It means that we leave the comforts of certainty, and safety, and go to face despair and suffering directly in the face.

To be sure, not everyone has the spiritual “stomach” for such a process. That is why it is easy to label Rollins as a heretic. But behind the contrarian spiritual advice lies a truth that we seem only to be able to embrace in fleeting moments. Yet it shows us the depth of the Gospel.

I would normally share a quote and then comment on each, as I did earlier this week with another book, but the content of this book speaks for itself and almost reads as poetry when the ideas are allowed to soak in. With that in mind, I invite you to ponder a few of the sections that most stood out to me.

The whole religion industry is thus fueled by our desire to escape suffering and avoid the gnawing sense of meaninglessness. The certainty is marketable because it is a response to our unhappy situation, and it keeps selling because it is ultimately ineffective in properly transforming it. In this way, the religious structure operates in a similar way to how movies functioned during the Great Depression.

Just as the resurrected Christ is said to have borne the scars of the Crucifixion, so our Resurrection life will continue to bear the marks of the death we had to undergo. This new mode of living is not one in which the anxiety of death, meaninglessness, and guilt are taken away; it is one in which they are robbed of their weight and sting.

Because destiny is open, freedom and responsibility are thrust upon us. There is no plan B, no army of angels ready to descend into the world if we fail to reach out to our neighbor. In Resurrection life we find the courage to face up to this terrifying freedom, we grow the muscles needed to bear its weight, and we discover the compassion required to act. In this new mode of life, we find the conviction required to fully assume responsibility for our fleeting, fragile existence. We are unchained from the shackles that would bind us to some divine script already written and instead experience destiny as something we participate in through a full and loving embrace of the world.

The difficult political question we must ask is: Do the activities we participate in as a church act as token gestures or perverse protests that end up supporting the system they supposedly oppose? Could our prayer meetings and weekly involvement with social justice programs actually operate as a means of preventing us from changing how we spend our time and energy the rest of the week, enabling us to continue in careers that contribute to the very things that we are praying against and acting in ways that contradict what we express in our Bible studies?

If participation in the Crucifixion involves being overtaken by the darkness, where all guiding flames are extinguished, then participation in the Resurrection is the moment when we find the ability to affirm light and life in the very midst of the darkness and beneath the cold shadow of death.

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Jeremy Jernigan

This is the personal blog of Jeremy Jernigan husband, father, executive pastor, and student of truth

5 Comments

Robert

about 3 years ago

Next on the reading list. Good review.

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Dan King

about 3 years ago

This was a great book, and love this author. Also try Orthodox Heretic as it was another great book by Peter Rollins. Here are my top 3 favorite highlights from this book (I couldn’t decide on just one). 1) Eternal life is thus fundamentally a transformation in the very way that we exist in the present. 2) God is not something we encounter directly and thus is not something that we experience. Rather, God is that which transforms how we experience everything, i.e., love. God is the name we give to the way of living in which we experience the world as worthy of living for, fighting for, and dying for. 3) For the believer who passes through the Christian experience, God is no longer related to as an object out there. Rather, God is affirmed only through a passionate participation in life itself.

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Russell Bray

about 2 years ago

I guess I don't have the spiritual "stomach" for such a process of an open destiny or an existence not under a divine script as Rollins writes. My weak stomach is not the cause of Rollins being labeled a heretic, but perhaps his writing that stunts God's power and elevates our [human] ego. I completely get that religion (the way the Pharisees and false prophets do religion) can get in the way of Christ's love and that going to church does give many a false security of their salvation, good works and security, but Rollins seems to remove the power of God from the equation and places it squarely [perhaps solely] on us as humans. I find that dangerous. If there is a theological position that elevates man and demotes God, I will reject it. Not because I'm tied to religion, set in my ways, or simply a simple man, but because that way of thinking introduced sin into the world through Adam: to be like God (Genesis 3:5-6). Perhaps I misinterpret the 3rd Rollins exerpt from your post, but when I read that exerpt, I read Rollins diminishing God and elevating man.

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