I recently finished Peter Rollins latest book, The Divine Magician. Like all of his books, this one challenges the status quo and asks deeper questions to arrive at a more substantial faith at the end. His method of doing this through the three parts of a magic trick is creatively engaging. He unpacks the elements of the Pledge, the Turn, and the Prestige, and makes connections to Biblical faith with each. While the book tends to go into philosophical wonderland at times, my favorite part of reading Peter Rollins is not that I agree with all his answers, but rather that I appreciate the way he causes me to ask new questions.
Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:
Through partaking in Communion, the Pledge, the Turn, and the Prestige are sacramentally reenacted. First there is the presentation of the sacred as an object in the bread and wine. Then there is the disappearance of this sacred-object in the consumption. Finally there is the Prestigeâ€”the return of the sacred through a realization that we are the body that we consumed, â€œNow you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.â€ The Eucharist, then, becomes a snapshot of our Christianity as a whole.
Christianity is not an intellectual position we take with regard to the world, but a way of immersing ourselves in the world.
Christianity is not an intellectual position we take to the world, but of immersing ourselves in it.Click to tweet
Just as the dramatic pulling back of a curtain by the magician reveals an empty space, so in Christianity the temple curtain was ripped in half to reveal an empty room… This revelation places us in the same situation as the Roman general Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus who, in 63 BCE, stepped behind the temple curtain in Jerusalem. According to the historian Tacitus, he was surprised to discover that â€œthe sanctuary was empty and the Holy of Holies untenanted.
Salvationâ€”as that which takes place within lifeâ€”means wiping away the sacred-object so that we might find freedom from its gravitational pull.
When we open ourselves up to love, we do not leave pain behind in favor of pleasure; rather we open ourselves up to an experience of depth and meaning that involves both pain and pleasure. For when life is infused with depth and wonder, we cannot help but experience our fair share of both happiness and unhappiness.Â It is only in protecting ourselves from love that we can hope to protect ourselves from suffering.
To grasp the difference between the sacred that we lose in the Turn and the sacred that is returned to us in the Prestige, we can compare and contrast the desire that arises from wanting something we donâ€™t have and the desire that is birthed from loving something we do. In the former, our desire is experienced as unsatisfying because it doesnâ€™t have what it seeks, while in the latter our desire is fueled by what it does have. In both of these, desire remains; but in the latter this desire is experienced as a positive and life-affirming force.