Ch 1: God rid me of God - How (Not) to Speak of God

(Link to introductory post, which I'll update with links to each chapter's posts)

How (Not) to Speak of GodRollins starts out his book with an introduction to the emerging conversation as he sees it, and what it brings to the table that is different that the modern church. His core point seems to be that it isn't a difference of theology or dogma. Rather, it is a difference of focus. For instance:

... Christianity involves a process of journeying and becoming. There is a shared understanding that being a Christian always involves becoming a Christian.

followed with:

This is not to say that those involved in the emerging conversation choose the idea of journeying over and above the idea of destination; rather, there is a sense in which such binary thinking is rejected in favour of a view that faith embraces journey as a type of destination.

This introduces an important theme which carries throughout the book. That is, the rejection of "binary thinking" (either/or) in favor of what I guess you'd call transcendent thinking (both/and). He works hard at stepping out of the various "boxes" that people tend to see, and tries to look at how both perspectives offer insight into the nature of God. I think this is a very important point. It's not a rejection of what has come before, but a synthesis with what has followed.
He then moves very quickly from the Enlightenment, when reason was king, and it was assumed that it was possible to know objective truth about anything and everything, to more contemporary philosophers who argued that true objective knowledge was impossible because we always filter everything through the various lenses of our experience, biology, etc.

Indeed Nietzsche, Marx and Freud have often been (mis)used in order to justify a form of nihilism which claims that the universe arose from nothing, is going nowhere and possesses no meaning. This has lead to two dominant reactions by the Western Church. First, the predominant response has been by those who would close their ears to such critiques and run back to the naïveté that existed before these great iconoclasts came onto the scene. Second, there has been the less popular but deeply influential response of those who claim that we must bite the bullet and forge a new Christianity from the carcass of the old, a Christianity that is concerned with developing an ethical way of life based on the teachings of Jesus while rejecting the question of God as an irrelevant abstraction belonging to the past.

... The idea of an objective world was not rejected by these great 'masters of suspicion' (a title bestowed upon Nietzsche, Freud and Marx), only the idea that human beings could grasp this objective world in an objective manner.

Building on this, Rollins then goes on to call attempts to hold objective knowledge of God to be nothing less that idolatry. He refers to it as a "conceptual" idol rather than a physical idol.

Like an aesthetic idol (such as the Golden Calf in the book of Exodus), the conceptual idol lies in the fact that the former reduces God to a physical object while the latter reduces God to an intellectual object.

I have no doubt that Mr. Rollins will take a lot of heat for that particular section, but I think it holds a lot of truth. I'm reminded of a blog post by Alan Hartung entitled "The Idolatry of Truth" which spoke of similar issues. As I recall, he also took a lot of heat.

The core point of the chapter is that there should not be a division between the ideas of God as revealed and God as hidden an unknowable. That God does in fact reveal God's self to us through scripture, but that God is still hidden within that revelation.

What is important about revelation is not that we seek to interpret it in the same way but rather that we all love it and are transformed by it. To fail to recognize this would be similar to an art critic saying that what is important when considering a piece of art is that we interpret it correctly rather than loving it and being challenged by it.

Oh, and if you want a different (and probably more scholarly) take on this book, head over to the church and postmodern culture where they're hosting discussions on this book (HT: TallSkinnyKiwi)