A Critical Guide to Reading Peter Rollins: Do I believe?

For many, Peter Rollins, is the “rock star” of the post-modern, emergent, post-structural, avante gard church movement.  Peter Rollins is the new leader of the next wave of Christianity some testify.  (I have taken to using “P” as the abreviation for Peter Rollins.  “P” is also a play on one of the theoretical sources of the Pentateuch.)  

Peter “P” Rollins has pressed his Existential understanding of the historical Jesus to the extreme.  P seems more concerned about faithfulness to his philosophical roots than to taking Jesus historical-ness seriously.

This could as easily be a critique of liberalism as it is of Peter Rollins.  There have been hundreds of books written, lectures given, showing the strengths of Christian liberalism and its weaknesses.  Those voices pointing to its weaknesses can be placed on high beam with P.

I simply want to reiterate what those far smarter than I have said about this point of view.

“P” Peter Rollins is little concerned for the historical Jesus.  Many people, scholars, students, teachers, etc are little concerned with the historical Jesus.  No point to be made there.  However, P wants to remove the historicity of Jesus by stating that it doesn’t matter if Jesus existed or did what the Bible or history says he did.  What is important is how we, in the twenty first century understand the “myth.”   The “myth” of Jesus incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection are what it is all about.   

For Peter it all becomes just religious language.  It is the power of myth in a person’s life.

Why not just study a fairy tale like “Snow White and the 7 Dwarves” or Tolkien’s The Hobbit?   No one claims these are historical and likewise no one thinks that Bilbo or Grumpy are “myths” that give this life meaning.  Jesus is no different from the imaginary Bilbo for P.

I wonder if P’s “love” for Jesus isn’t some residual “faith” in the historical Jesus?   Peter, why aren’t you creating some “new” myth to speak to our culture?  Why try to “resurrect” a non-existent being that you fail to see as grounded in history, actually lived, died and was raised?

This is philosophically inconsistent.  But you didn’t need to hear this from me.  How many times has it been pointed out?   Your insight into the incarnation the crucifixion, “why have you forsaken me”  and the power of the resurrection as political-economic-spiritual revolution seems to fall apart and looses it’s luster if  they did not happen in history.  They become imaginary with out a grounding in history.

There is no way to escape this critique.   Anyone who wants to ascribe meaning to the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection is forced to face their historicity.  People have said that Jesus was a great teacher and that can be seperated from the miracles and his divinity as proclaimed in the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection.  No one would claim that Jesus was a miracle worker but deny that he ever did a miracle.  

In the same way it is pure fantasy to claim Jesus as Lord of incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection and deny they actually occurred in the concrete historical event.

Peter, is this a problem?