The Idolatry of God by Peter Rollins, Chapter 1

I’ve just started reading The Idolatry of God by Peter Rollins. Of all the books that we have read the last couple of years, Peter Rollins’ Insurrection was the most challenging. Rollins’ writing is the type you have to read twice, maybe more, to fully understand.

Rollins’ main motivation in his work appears to be to challenge our commonly held beliefs and practices.

In Chapter 1, Rollins suggests that infants undergo two births. The first is their physical entry into the world, the second is the birth of self-consciousness. Rollins says:

  • “One of the fundamental experiences that arises from this second birth is a profound and disturbing sense of loss, for as soon as we experience our inner world, we encounter for the first time an outer world.” (page 12)

Rollins says that this sense of loss is a gap we spend our lives trying to fill, and that this gap at the core of our being has an ancient theological name: Original Sin. (page 19)

  • Original Sin is parsed, “sin” meaning separation” and “original” referring to that which comes first.

On page 19 Rollins writes:

  • “But this belief in something that would finally bring satisfaction is nothing more than a fantasy we create, a fantasy that fuels the obsessive drive we have for books, talks, and people who promise a life of total sexual, emotional, and/or spiritual fulfillment. This Original Sin is the very thing that causes us to falsely think it is not original at all. This sense of gap makes us think that there must have been something before it, an original blessing that we somehow lost.

I am a bit uncertain about what Rollins is getting at in the bold sentence above. Is Rollins suggesting here that what we think we have lost, we in fact have not lost? It seems so, he goes on…

  • “Sadly, almost the entire existing church fails to embrace the full radicality of what Original Sin actually means, for they presuppose that there is something we are separated from, something that will bring wholeness and insight.”

Rollins then goes on to make a pretty strong statement about the church today. In observing how contemporary worship music tends to replace secular objects of desire with Jesus, he writes:

  • “When such music is used in a church context, it renders the source of faith into just one more product promising us fulfillment, happiness, and unwavering bliss. The church then takes its place beside every other industry that is in the business of selling satisfaction.” (page 22)

The statement above raises the questions:

  • why does the church exist?
  • what is the church’s purpose?
  • why am I a member of a church?
  • what’s in it for me?
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