Do You Identify with Peter Rollins? Towards an Assessment Part III

imageToday I continue with the third part of my series in response to the questions of Ben Aldous, a master’s student at Redcliffe College and the Reverend in charge of the Mission Portfolio at St Martin’s Church in Durban, South Africa.

Aldous is writing his master’s dissertation about the work of Peter Rollins and asked for comment around four questions:

  1. What troubles you most about Rollins’ work or ideas?
  2. What do you find most liberating or freeing about his writing/thoughts?
  3. How much do you identify with his work personally?
  4. Please comment on negative or positive missiological concerns that you feel Rollins provokes. What do you make of Rollins’ typical deconstructive notion that, ‘evangelism should be a powerless approach that breaks down the them and us thus creating space to become re-evangelised.’

The third question is:

How Much do you Identify with his Work Personally?

Rollins’ work has been important in my personal journey as a Christian, both by helping me feel relaxed about the things that I now think it is probably best to feel relaxed about (see part 2!), and by challenging me to think about how I really practice my faith in the real world (see part 1!)

And most of the time I come up short if I am honest about how I put my faith in practice in the real world. I think of a conversation I had with someone in Ikon, who related Pete’s response to a question about whether or not Ikon is ‘Christian.’ Pete said:

‘Of course not. We don’t feed the hungry and clothe the naked, so of course we’re not Christian. And if you don’t do that, neither are you.’

I think of Pete’s work as a prompt to me to live like a Christian. So if his work does that, I can identify with it 100%.

Of course that doesn’t mean I agree with him 100%, or even always 100% understand what he’s talking about!

I also think that those who are troubled by what they see as the more extreme implications of his work needn’t be so anxious. The church has always had people on the fringes whose challenges to the way we currently think about and do things have been considered ‘heretical.’ (See my Post on Heresies and How to Avoid Them)

It’s possible to identify with someone without agreeing with them 100%. What could be considered current attempts to exclude the likes of Rollins, Rob Bell,  Brian McLaren (in some quarters) from wider Christian conversations because of their so-called lack of orthodoxy just seems me unnecessary and uncharitable. 

We need to hear these voices not just in order to condemn them, but to actually listen to what they have to say, and to weigh whether what they are saying (in whole or in part) is indeed a message the churches should heed.

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