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.