Idolatry of God, Chapter 7: I Need Your Eyes in Order to See Myself

What will a community, the Church, that seeks to enter in to and remain faithful to a way of life free from the relentless pursuit of certainty and satisfaction look like?

When we take a step back and look at our actions, do we not find that we stay mainly with those people who think like us?

When we accept our unknowing and brokenness, we are not weakening our faith, we are boldly expressing it.

How do you think you would react if you participated in the Last Supper and Evangelism Project?

Idolatry of God, Chapter 6: The Fool Says in His Heart, “There Is Knowing God”

The only way to break from our attachment to idolatry and the addiction to certainty is a change at the very core of our being, something that the apostle Paul called becoming a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Have you felt faced with the similar two choices as Finn (the new christian) on pages 122/23 when starting to question the beliefs once taken for granted?

  • Either leave the church or repress your questioning and insulate yourself from the outside world.

“It is not when we reject the Idol that we are freed from it but rather when we are directly confronted with the Idol rejecting its status as an Idol.” Rollins goes on to say that “The Cross testifies to a liberating logic where the prison of idolatry is shattered from within.”

Do you agree with Rollin’s analogy of how the church today largely teaches us to act like Oliver Hardy when it comes to the Crucifixion? (In the analogy, Rollins describes one of the Laurel and Hardy comedy motifs in which Hardy exhibits an excess of pride and arrogance, only to made to look ridiculous by a situation created by Laurel. It works because Hardy realizes by never accepts the reality of his humiliation.)

How do you understand the early church’s teaching of Jesus being fully human?

  • I’ve always taken this to mean he was like me, but Rollins says he is fully human because he is unlike me. In other words, it is me who is not fully human, or not as originally intended. (page 134)
  • Jesus lacked the lack. (without Original Sin)

I really like the second to last paragraph of the section “The Missing Link,” page 134

God of Christ is a reality that we experience as not existing. Instead, this God is present as the source that calls everything into existence.

God is not seen but is testified to in a particular way of seeing.

Quote at the end of page 138, “By revealing God as love, the Christian tradition rejects the idea that God is a meaningful being….”

To make the claim that you know God is actually to proclaim a no-God. It is to proclaim an Idol, masked as God.” (page 139)

In Christ we are confronted with a different understanding altogether, one in which God is not directly known (either as a being “out there” or as found in all things), but is the source that renders everything known.

Love is the crazy, mad, and perhaps ridiculous gesture of saying yes to life, of seeing it as worthy of our embrace and even worthy of our total sacrifice.

Ecclesiastes 5:18-20

Ecclesiastes 6:1-6

What do you think of Rollin’s depiction of the significance of as Christ dies on the Cross we read of the tombs breaking open and the dead coming to life?

A life in which the source of all is no longer approach as some being whom we ought to love, but as a mystery we participate in through the very act of love itself. (page 145)

Idolatry of God, Chapter 5: Trash of the World

Ironic how the original meaning of crucifixion, off being outside of the divinely given order has become the symbol for those who are within the divinely given order. Christendom.

Rollins says in page 101 that Paul describes a form of universalism as operating on a fundamentally different level by inviting everyone into a community in which everyone exists beyond or outside the operative power of any given identity, including a Christian one. What does this mean?

Based on what Rollins is saying about Paul, do we think that Paul would like the term “Christian?”

Page 108, “Paul understands participation in the life of Christ as involving the loss of power that our various tribal identities once held for us.”

In context of what Rollins writes about “universalism that is captured in the idea of the Christian as the trash of the world invites us to identify with the one who is placed outside all systems” what has been the affect of Constantine’s church?

Idolatry of God, Chapter 4: Be Part of the Problem, Not the Solution

Zombie movies have become popular in the last several years, what does the rise of zombie movies say about us?

The section “Give Me Freedom from the Pursuit of My Satisfaction” really speaks to me. In this section the focus is on obsession of the pursuit. Does the fact that “pursuit of happiness” is written in one of the founding documents of the United States say anything about that obsession?

Is selfishness natural or taught?

On page 79 Rollins writes, “Indeed, people who are driven to pursue something like wealth or fame are often painfully aware of this reality.” If that is the case, why are people driven for more, even when it is to their detriment?

“What we see here is a concrete example of how the freedom to pursue our highest ambitions is often not experienced as a freedom from an oppressive system but is itself felt to be oppressive.” (page 79)

How does the internal protest that Rollins describes on page 80 relating to parents, children and church?

Page 86, Rollins says the Good News of Christianity is, “You can’t be fulfilled; you can’t be made whole; you can’t find satisfaction.” Do you agree that this is good news?

Any comments on the reference to Ecclesiastes on page 91?

Any comments about Rollins’ take on atonement theories on page 93?

Idolatry of God, Chapter 3: Hiding Behind the Mask That We Are

All the stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves have a fictional quality. “A legend in our own mind.”

That which we are conscious of in ourselves is called the ego. This ego is the image we have of ourselves, the image that we present on a daily basis through work, recreation, and social medial. (page 54)

Our real beliefs are generally not to be found at the level of ego; rather they are more like the operating system of a computer they are the heart of the machine that causes it to act in certain ways.

We all have mythologies that we have constructed and adapted from infancy. The problem arises when we fully identify with these mythologies, viewing them as a complete and accurate description of who we are and how the world works. These narratives help us prop up the fantasy that we are in control of our destinies and are masters of our own actions. (page 60)

What do you think of Rollins’ explanation for Matthew 23:27-28? (page 62)

When we encounter a worldview different from our own, there are four common responses:

  • One is a form of consumption, by which we attempt to integrate the other into our social body. We attempt to persuade them that they should believe and practice in a particular way.
  • The second is a process of exclusion whereby we condemn and reject the other who cannot be consumed by us. “Vomiting the other out.”
  • The third is toleration. There is an attempt to accept the other, even they they seem strange to us.
  • The fourth is a dialogue aimed at finding agreement. It is the idea that beneath all our little differences, we’re really pretty much the same.
  • In each of these we stand over the other

A different way to approach the other involves placing ourselves beneath them in the sense of allowing their views to challenge and unsettle our own.

Literalistic listening is different than what we normally do where we filter what a person is saying through our own experiences. Example of what we normally do on page 68. In literalistic listening we take careful note of everything the other says from their position instead of quickly interpreting it in relation to our own position.

It means that we don’t simply look at the other through our own eyes, but we attempt to look at ourselves through the eyes of the other.

The church often turns out to be the most extreme agent of this myth-making: it doesn’t simply offer a narrative that tells us who we are, why we are here, and where we are going, but it tells people that this narrative has been directly delivered by the divine. (page 71)

The question that faces us, then, is how Christianity, in its most radical and subversive form, critiques the church and offers real freedom.

Idolatry of God, Chapter 2: On Not Getting What You Want, and Liking It

In this chapter Rollins spends more time deconstructing what is traditionally taught about Original Sin, Idolatry and the Law.

  • Original Sin: A sense of a gap in our lives
  • Idolatry: that which we believe will fill the gap, the answer to all our problems

Rollins says (on page 26) that “What we see taking place in the church today is the reduction of God to an Idol…the church ends up mimicking every other industry by claiming that they can take away the sense of loss that marks our life. Do you agree or disagree?

What is your understanding of the Law and its relationship to sin?

Page 28, According to Rollins, Paul writes about how the Law and sin are actually intertwined and exist on the same side. “For Paul, the Law is the ‘no’ that appears to be opposed to the very structure it actually creates and upholds.”

Formula on page 29

Reaction to the following: “the ‘no’ that we are confronted with — the Law — turns what was previously an object that satisfies basic needs into an object of veneration. From that time forth we become little industries dedicated to the creation of Idols.

What is you understanding of the notion of “Total Depravity?”

  • Rollins says the phrase does not mean there is no good within us, but instead refers to the idea that there is no part of our existence that is not marked by and influenced by the effect of this separation (Original Sin) and alienation (Law). (page 30)

Why are movies based on the chase for the MacGuffin so popular?

Page 37, “One of the primary fuels for hatred of others in the fantasy that they have access to the pleasure that we unsuccessfully seek.”

Page 39, “If we cannot have the Idol, then we wish to prevent the other from having it.”

On page 40 Rollins defines sin within the context of what we have been discussing, “sinful acts are simply acts dedicated to helping us grasp the ever elusive Idol.” Could include charitable work, marriage, church attendance, prayer, and random acts of kindness. Agree?

Page 41, “If an act is designed to bridge the gap between Original Sin and the Idol, then it falls into the theological category known in the biblical text as ‘works.'”

Jesus bridges the gap. Really? Does it work?

  • Deferment
  • Repression
  • Disavowal

Three characteristics of the Idol:

  • We experience it as existing
  • It is felt to be sublime
  • That which is ultimately meaningful

Creatio ex nihilo

  • God creates out of nothing…. or
  • Out of nothing (Original Sin), a god is created (the Idol).

“the God testified to in Christianity exposes the gap for what it is, obliterates it, and invites us to participate in an utterly different form of life, one that brings us beyond slavery to the Idol.” (page 48)

Peter Rollins: The Idolatry of God, Introduction and Chapter 1

The full title of this book is: “The Idolatry of God, breaking our addiction to certainty and satisfaction.” What does this tell us about what this book is about? What are your expectations of the author?

Rollins starts the introduction by describing a commonly held belief about the apocalypse, is what he describes consistent with your understanding? (Page 1)

What is the “Good News” of Christianity?

Page 3: Did Jesus come to abolish religion or set up a new one? Did he seek to show us a way of escaping the world or of embracing it?

Page 4: “It is the claim of this book that Christ signals a type of apocalyptic event much more dramatic than the one we find in fundamentalist literature. For in the figure of Christ we are confronted with an atomic event that does not destroy the world, but rather obliterates the way in which we exist within the world.”

How do you feel about not knowing, and not being satisfied?

Chapter 1: The Church Shouldn’t Do Worship Music, the Charts Have It Covered

Creatio ex nihilio: something coming from nothing

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)

Page 12: “..for when we feel separated from something we assume there was something we once had.”

On page 15 Rollins introduces the concept of prohibition, and states that this is what Paul called “The Law.”

Can you think of any examples of a MacGuffin?

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 suggests that contemporary church worship music is really not too different from secular music. Do you agree or disagree?

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?