Sunday, May 30, 2010

Peter Rollins and Orthodoxy

At the same time as I picked up and began reading How (not) to Speak of God: Marks of the Emerging Church, I also picked up two recent anthologies of essays by Orthodox theologians: Thinking through Faith: New perspectives from Orthodox Christian scholars and Orthodoxy and Western Culture:A Collection of Essays Honoring Jaroslav Pelikan on His Eightieth Birthday. I am finding that Peter Rollins and some of these Orthodox scholars are saying very similar things but with a difference. Rollins seeks to affirm the tradition. However from my reading Rollins can't quite see that Revelation isn't merely human language about God but God reaching us in human language. So, Rollins tends towards the not speaking of (not) speaking, tends towards doubt that puts holes in affirmation, tends towards the experience of the cross without Resurrection. In this he mirrors much of Derrida who at moments will seek to not prioritize absence over presence recognizing that his philosophy would itself deconstruct such a priortizing but can not find a way to encounter presence/absence. What these Orthodox theologians are doing for me as I read them in parallel to Rollins is showing how to hold presence and absence together: how in absence we have presence and in presence we have absence and this is the holding always together Crucifixion and Resurrection, Jesus' divinity and humanity, God's hiddeness and God's unveiling in revelation. I believe this is what Rollins seeks to do but at lest in How (not) to Speak of God, at best he vacillates between the two but the weight is always on the "not to speak of God" that sometimes allows affirmation. But affirmation is always held in suspicion as the easy way out, that which undermines faith. Rollins is so afraid of false claims of absolute presence that at best he seems to touch it only to withdraw, as if Thomas the Twin touched Jesus' wombs without exclaiming "My Lord and my God" and withdrew again into the shadow of Holy Saturday. As if Thomas only whispered that affirmation and only ever after could whisper "My Lord and my God." As if such an affirmation erased the crucifixion and uncertainty, rather than compounding it. This is what the Orthodox scholars are saying is that in affirming the incredible that God is revealed in the Passion (Jesus Christ Crucifixion and Resurrection, is to be left in the unutterable reality of God.