The Negation of Deconstruction: A Review of The Orthodox Heretic by Peter Rollins.

What is deconstruction? It is the disassembling of a construct, a structure which supports the idea, complex or simple, and exposing it at its smallest concept. No one invented it, but a group of intellectuals known as the postmodernists utilized it to expose the root of all manners of thought, and those educated in it apply it to whatever they can get their hands on. Their goal? Expose the hierarchy within. Show what your king, your god truly is. Hold on display what you hold dear at its root. It’s never what you think, but when it surfaces, the truth shocks you.

If that definition doesn’t make sense, here’s the Wiki article.

I have a tendency to dislike deconstructionists while having respect for deconstruction. It called out everyone in philosophy on their crap, but the deconstructionists practically deconstructed everything out of meaning and left us all hanging what anything mattered anymore. For this, I have a marked distrust for anyone claiming to be a deconstructionist or, for that matter, anyone who has a PhD in postmodern theory.

This is why I’ve had a hard time reading Peter Rollins; his PhD is in postmodern theory, and throughout The Orthodox Heretic, he utilizes deconstruction as a way of looking at the Bible and Christian theology, and not always to the best results.

Before I continue, let me clarify one thing: I do not intend to cry wolf on Peter Rollins, nor to cry heretic (though, given the last tale in this book, he’d agree with me if I did). Rollins is a man with a pastoral heart, no doubt. He wishes greatly to see people not only understand their faith, but grow in it in unconventional ways that the world finds strange and perhaps threatening. He’s had enough of complacency in the church, demonstrated by his critiquing of those who cling to devotions, Sunday morning services, and small groups as reflections of a true faith. This is what I pastor ought to do.

Anyway, I’m rambling.  The Orthodox Heretic and Other Impossible Tales is a series of little stories divided into three sections designed to teach understanding regarding Christian belief(Beyond Belief), understanding God(G-o-d-i-s-n-o-w-h-e-r-e), and the transformative power of Christian experience (Transfiguration).  What Rollins is attempting to do is make his theology more accessible, and he certainly does a good job at that.  From what I’m told, this is the most accessible of all his books, though I myself haven’t read his others (they’re on my list).

I like Rollins; don’t get me wrong.  This book has a lot of value to it in getting Christians to unseat themselves from complacency and narrow-minded understanding into active living for Christ and understanding God ways that might seem new to them, but which have ancient roots.  There are several stories that feature the use of apophatic theology, or the practice of understanding God based on what He is not. This is an ancient tradition, stretching back to Moses’ encounter with YHWH at the Burning Bush and God’s ineffable name.  Some of the best mystical writings are apophatic, such as Dark Night of the Soul and The Cloud of Unknowing, both of which Rollins references at least once.

What bothers me about Rollins is how cavalier he is with his use of deconstruction.  Again, I see the need for such a philosophy as deconstruction and exposing what we really are adhering.  Rollins uses it well in showing Christians what their idols are, but he also goes too far sometimes, boiling the stories of Christ’s miracles in the Gospels to matters of “the miracle of faith,” and claiming the occurrence of a physical miracle is unimportant. While I agree that faith is at the root of every single miracle Jesus did, I also affirm that they did happen, for if they didn’t, the “faith” that the healed individuals had would be worthless.

Not that Rollins would listen to a lowly blogger like me (or a lowly bachelor’s degree holder like me), but I would caution him in his use of deconstruction.  I get what he’s trying to do, and for the most part, I like it.  I will be getting my own copy of this book in the future and using it if I ever get to being a pastor. Rollins just walks down roads that I don’t think we should/need to walk down.

Anyway, that’s it for Rollins (for now)!  See you tomorrow!

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