God isn’t the different patches of meaning we all place on the wind of the unknowing; God IS the wind.
Pete is one of my favorite philosophers and theological studiers. He’s a researcher at Trinity in Dublin, and he’s written a few books. The thing I love about it him is that he understand theology as a means to an end and is ultimately more interested in working with communities that want to put some of these thoughts into action.
I was introduced to him by a great friend named April. She’s a beautiful, unassuming, sometimes self-effacing nurse with a real quiet, strong spirit. She’s increasingly more humble each day and ever so patient to let me rant and rave in my ego and arrogance while she just loves me constantly. What is most beautiful about her is that she is willing to be challenged away from the environment she grew up in, as long as it leads to what is true. So we’re searching for that together.
This first link is to a 20 minute video. There are several things on the web page...just scroll down to the video and press play.
These other three are consecutive lectures that he gave...they'll be a little longer, but if you like the video content you'll want to hear these too.
I’ll tell you why I like what Rollins says. Like Rob Bell, he’s the first to tell you it’s ok to disagree with him. In fact, Peter often disagrees with himself. This resonates with me as I’m still searching, struggling, figuring things out, trying to understand how to live in this world. I absolute love when people disagree with me because there is a chance on either side to learn and grow. And if the thing about which we disagree has a certain answer (an apple sits behind a curtain; you think it’s red, I think it’s green) one of us has an opportunity to learn what it is and maybe learn about why we thought it was something else (maybe both of us do). In fact if you disagree with Rollins, then you’ve already agreed with him (huh?).
Rollins also speaks about the heart of Christianity. I sometimes shy away from using the word Christianity because it seems useless to use it to mean what Jesus meant since it has so many other interpretations and realizations in the world, today. But Rollins doesn’t shy away from that. He calls it an irreligious religion, an atheistic theism. I understand this and try to help my groups back in South Africa understand that doubt was not something to fear. It did not have to be a hindrance to faith, but rather a necessary stepping stone. He talks about Christian atheists like Nietzsche. How cool is that?
There’s a philosopher-writer who thought about how anything can exist in our world. He said there were three ways. First, something could exist as an idea. This is the lowest level, and (to this philosopher since others would consider this the highest level) this is rubbish. What can you do with an idea? It’s not yet physically real. For example, I can have an idea of a new type of school, but if the school is not created, it’s only an idea.
Secondly, there is actual reality that was first conceived by the mind. For example, I can imagine a building in my mind (lowest level) and then I go out and build it. The physical building is now a reality that was first conceived in my mind. This is the 2nd level, a higher level.
Third, he hypothesized that perhaps there is a higher level. Imagine any type of reality that cannot be contained by the mind, cannot be understand by the mind. If something could exist in reality but be beyond the mind’s capacity to comprehend or contain, this would be the highest level, the third level. In fact, he thought if anything like this exists, it must be God.
In other words, most agnostics or agnostic atheists imagine that we don’t know God out of anonymity. If there is a God, he’s acting in a hidden, invisible way. He’s anonymous. His work, his touch is anonymous. And we can’t know God because he’s anonymous if he even exists; he may not exist.
The philosopher above is saying something different. He’s saying if God is a type of reality that is above and beyond the ability of our minds to comprehend, he’s not anonymous, but he’s hyper-nonymous. In other words, it is not that we don’t know God out of anonymity, we don’t know God due to his hypernymity. In other words, maybe he’s too much to know or understand. It’s an excess that our minds can’t handle. He’s everywhere. His imprint of excess is too much or great to take in.
This resonates more with me, personally, than anonymity due to the evidence both for a God and against a God. But this is too theoretical. Let me show how Rollins lives some of this out and how it resonates with some of the things I’ve been doing in South Africa.
Rollins has a group called IKON. Unlike most Christian churches that severely believe in man-made authority and leadership over each other, IKON operates with a doughnut structure where everyone is on the outside and no one is at the center. So there’s no membership for instance. Another example is that there is no professional hospitality or greeting team. In other words, if the person sitting next to you doesn’t reach out and say hello and love you then they’ve all failed. It’s on everyone and everyone does it; it’s not a role for some, it’s a living principle embodied by all. I could continue with more, but you can begin to see. Most traditional Christian churches feel that this could never stand or hold up, but I’ve learned that where there is love, perfect love, authority disappears. So when I tried to get my church to have a speaker about human trafficking and they wouldn’t allow it because they had a set agenda for months of sermon series and topics--that’s authority that’s not listening to the breeze of the wind through the people.
They offer an Omega course. Ha! It’s like exiting Christianity in 12 weeks. It’s like Alpha (and I like Alpha and am not knocking it as many people have started a relationship with God through it) but no answers are given in the end about anything so there is even less of an issue of saying the wrong thing or not believing the “correct” thing in Omega than in Alpha. This reminds me a little of a doubt series I did with my life/small/cell/house group while in South Africa. We did a few sessions on doubt. We had Doubt Night. People could write down their doubts about the faith on sheets of paper and enter it anonymously into a bin and we would read them out and talk about them. No answers, no resolution. Just doubt. Why? God doesn’t resolve (read “Blue Like Jazz”) like jazz music. Yes, some of those questions we had answers, but many we didn’t. It’s the tension of humanity that is our daily lot while living in the human condition.
They have atheism for Lent. They read all the big atheists during Lent, like Freud, Marx, Nietzsche, Feuerbach, etc. I LOVE this. Why? I read atheists. I read as much as I can about people who think and believe differently than me. I want to understand. More honestly, there are parts of me that agree with them as I doubt things that I do believe. I once gave a book about love to a Christian homosexual (non-practicing at the time) friend of mine struggling with homosexuality and not feeling that he could have someone to love while being a Christian. This book is called “Sex God” by Rob Bell and doesn’t even mention homosexuality directly (Rob can be vague sometimes), but he deals with love and sex so holistically and from a place of tension and release that I love. The church bookstore keeper order tons of books because she thought it would go well with the 6-part “sex” sermon series going on at the time. The pastor saw the book and rejected and told her to return all the boxes of copies saying that it was theologically shaky. She saved a book for my friend. This happened again with a book I wanted my small group/life group to read (I was leading the life group at the time). The pastor again rejected “Velvet Elvis” by Rob Bell because it was theologically shaky. And it killed me because I longed to be in a place where instead of sheltering sheep from different thoughts you expose people and allow them to doubt and breathe and question and understand while not understanding. Does that make sense? So many pastors are in a protection mode from even people with different thoughts within the SAME RELIGION. Many pastors, for instance, told their congregations not to read “The Shack” which I found a wonderfully challenging book. I’d love to be a pastor and have my congregation read from Richard Dawkins. It’s good to understand, see, feel, empathize, and sometime agree (and disagree).
They have anti-evangelism. My friend Jeannie asked me about being evangelical. It’s a bit like when a person ends a long relationship, engagement, marriage and it’s quite painful. The thing the heartbroken person wants most is to get back into the relationship or to find someone else. At least that’s what they say they want. In reality, they just want comfort and security and the feeling of being loved. If you give them what they want and they quickly find someone new it can be a waste and hurtful and disingenuous. Instead, you withhold the very thing they want in order for them to find it. You tell them, “No, you don’t need to get into a new relationship. Go do something with yourself. Get a hobby, develop yourself. Work on yourself.” Once you do that, and are engaged and actually fulfilled without some elusive love, you actually end up finding that love when you aren’t looking for it. Sometimes it can be similar with God if that makes sense. I won’t go on, but they encourage doubt in their evangelism as Christianity is a type of atheism mixed with theism, in a sense.
They do other things like Suspended Space, but I’ll stop for now. I encourage you, if you want, to go to the IKON website or just check out the links above in which he talks about these things. If you don’t want, that’s cool, too. I just love talking and moreso doing some of these things.