Thursday, June 12, 2008

"The Fidelity of Betrayal"

I just finished Pete Rollins "The Fidelity of Betrayal." I had a similar response to it as I did his "How (Not) To Speak of God": more style than substance, and the substance was said earlier and better by Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

In particular,

1. Rollins' interpretation of Judas in the Biblical text seemed sophomoric and implausible. Barth's effort to offer a similar kind of reading of Judas is far more sophisticated and plausible (though, perhaps, not finally convincing).

2. his efforts to debunk the fundamentalist-evangelical/liberal-historical-critical commitment to modernistic assumptions in reading Scripture, while on target, seems a bit unnecessary at this point in time. It has been done repeatedly and well bu many others in the last twenty years. Perhaps, though, Rollins still encounters this enough to make it worth his while to go through the exercise.

3. his efforts to forge a "religion without religion" and his ideas on revelation as an experience on concealment that is finally ineffable again sounded like a postmodern version of Barth's attack on religion in his Romans commentary. Barth however employed a dialectic view in which revelation was a concealing/revealing event that allowed for both content and mystery, truth and provisionality that seems more helpful than Rollins' approach. Further, in the light of Bonhoeffer's criticisms in "Act and Being" Barth reworked his conception of God as pure act in a way that more satisfactorily accounted for continuity in God's being and revelation, an issue that plagues Rollins' account as well.

4. finally, in practical terms, there seems to be little advance beyond Bonhoeffer's "Letters and Papers" in fleshing out a religionless Christianity or nonreligious interpretation of Christianity.

In sum, if our generation needs a rehearsal of these matters and will not read Barth and Bonhoeffer, then Rollins will get them into the issues (though with less depth and nuance!). If one has read Barth and Bonhoeffer, there seems little in either work that advances our understanding.



Rob Allen said...

You have now made me want to read Bonhoffer and Barth. I have read a little from years ago, but not enough to remember the thought. All I remember is that when I was in a Sunday School class at First, Fort Worth, I found that Barth was the theologian more to my liking.

Wonder if Bonhoffer and Barth are on

Lee said...

I am working on a book entitled "'Churchiness'or Why Only Bonhoeffer Can Save Us Now!" It plays off Steven Colbert's idea of "truthiness" and identifies "churchiness" as our contemporary version of "cheap grace" (one of Bonhoeffer's important ideas) and then follows that out into various other specific concerns in light of Bonhoeffer's insight and example. So, yes, Barth and Bonhoeffer are in my judgment will remain important resources for the 21st century. I don't know whether any of their stuff is on or not. If you'd like to see each chapter as I produce it, i"d be gald to forward you a copy.