Review: Too Good to be True: Radical Christian Preaching, Year A by Christopher Rodkey

As too-good-true-christopher-rodkey-e1390961693945most of you know, I’ve developed a little bit of a fascination/obsession with radical theology.  I’m impressed by the challenges it poses to confessional theology, and I think it’s just amazing how so many (but not all) of the people in this camp do what they do without any sort of metaphysics (the author of this book excluded; he’s more into Altizer).  I personally think that radical theology really has some great things to say to the church in the 21st century…if the 21st century church would stop and listen to it.  Of course, given the antagonistic nature of RT, it kind of makes it difficult for the Confessional folks to listen, no matter how badly they might need to hear it.

All the same, one of the objections that I had to RT when I first began researching it was that it seemed to be something that was pretty much exclusive to the academy.  To even begin comprehending the idea of the death of God, or perhaps understanding what the hell John Caputo is talking about in his “weak theology,” you feel like you need a PhD to even keep up.  It’s frustrating, confusing, and a bit disillusioning (we are talking about a theology that pretty much attacks Confessional Theology with vigor). I began to wonder (yes, I really did) if such thinking could actually say something to the church, or if it was just something academics kicked around for fun and research funding.

Around last November, I began to see things here and there on theo-blogosphere about practical application for RT. It was about damn time, in my opinion, but all that it seemed to work with was the writings of Caputo and Derrida. I wanted to see something that worked more with Thomas Altizer, the man who claims a literal Death of God on the cross and actually does some really great work in terms of Christology (from what little I’ve read, at least). As you can imagine, This is where Christopher Rodkey comes in.

I had actually heard of Chris Rodkey from when he was speaking at Tony Jone’s Progressive Youth Ministry conference in Chicago.  I missed my chance to go, but had I attended, Chris’s session on teaching the Death of God in youth ministry would have been high on my list.  I’ve been wanting to see for a long time how someone who’s worked in RT preaches, and, fortunately for me, Chris’s church is about an hour from where I live in Pennsylvania, so I went down and heard him speak, got a (digital) copy of this lovely little book, and had myself a good time.

Anyway, the book. Too Good to be True is a collection of Chris’s sermons from the last three or so years dealing with a range of subjects and based on the Scripture readings from the Revised Common Lectionary. Some of them are rather run of the mill with a little bit of a twist (such as his sermon “Worshipping the Golden Calf”), whereas others feel like he aimed a cannon at his congregation and lit the fuse (such as “The 9-12 Error” and “Good News to the World the Church Has Hurt”). They’re not full of confusing language, nor do they really have a “high-minded” air about them; Christ is a pretty down-to-Earth type of guy, and it shows in his preaching and sermons.

Here’s what I really, really appreciate about Chris’s preaching and, by extension, about Chris (you learn a lot about a person by reading the things they SAY, probably more than what they write sometimes): RT has infused his heart and mind to challenge everyone in the church, including himself, to take Jesus seriously about the Kingdom of God and to see that be an ever-present reality, rather than something that we sit around waiting for. I’ve heard so many times in church that, without God, there’s no point in paying attention to the teachings of Jesus at all.  RT actually runs contrary to such thinking, and Chris is no exception. For Chris, it seems that he doesn’t follow Jesus in spite of the Death of God, but BECAUSE of it. Because of the Death of God, we are given full responsibility for what happens in this world.  Because of the Death of God, the Kingdom of God Jesus preached is OUR responsibility to bring about.  Because of the Death of God, creation is always being made New.

What’s great about this review is it’s just as much an endorsement of a book as it is a person.  Technically, all reviews are, but this is one of the few where I’ve had the privilege of meeting the author and chatting with him before even starting the book itself.  Definitely pick this book up.  It’s full of challenging, sustaining, and powerful works by a man driven by deep passion fo the church and the Kingdom of God.



One thought on “Review: Too Good to be True: Radical Christian Preaching, Year A by Christopher Rodkey

  1. Great review Patrick. I’ll have to check this book out. One quick comment on your opening remarks:

    “…it’s just amazing how so many (but not all) of the people in this camp do what they do without any sort of metaphysics”

    I’d say it’s safe to assume that most people in the radical theology camp are materialists. Materialism is definitely a metaphysic, albeit a minimal one. I’m with Derrida here when he says that we can’t shake metaphysics, because as soon as we try to do so, we’re once again doing metaphysics ;-)

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