3 Peter Rollins Books that You Must Read

by Mark Votava

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1. The Divine Magician: The Disappearance of Religion and the Discovery of Faith

Dogma, doctrine and tradition are questioned as Peter Rollins uses the metaphor of the magic trick to expose the illusion of what he calls the sacred-object.  Religion needs to disappear so we can find, not a fictional satisfaction in God, but an authentic life that reappears as engagement in the world.  What we are looking for in God that will make us whole is not there and never has been.  So what we are left with is a spirituality of confusion, risk, uncertainty and insecurity as this leads us to find what is authentic within the world.

  • To destroy the scapegoat mechanism

“In order to destroy the scapegoat mechanism, a different strategy must be adopted.  Instead of trying to create a community where there is no outsider, the real answer lies in understanding that there is a sense in which we are all outsiders.  In concrete terms, this means that a community faces its own lack, rather than ignoring it and thus creating a scapegoat who must carry it.”

  • A melancholy that creeps into every crevice of our lives

“The desire that is generated by the pursuit of something we believe will make us whole creates a melancholy that creeps into every crevice of our lives, even poisoning our happiness.”

  • A different way of understanding faith

“…there is a different way of understanding faith that operates outside the realm of meaning making.  This is a type of faith against faith.  A faith that involves us.  One that is full of risk and uncertainty.”

  • Those who hide their lack under a fiction of wholeness

“The point then is to help break the false distinction between the idea that there are those who are whole and those who have a lack.  For the true distinction is between those who hide their lack under a fiction of wholeness and those who are able to embrace it.”



2. The Idolatry of God: Breaking Our Addiction to Certainty and Satisfaction

Certainty and satisfaction are exposed as the Idolatry of God.  We are so attached to finding in our perceptions of God certainty and satisfaction that we cannot find an authentic spirituality anymore.  In this book, Peter Rollins says that we have created an Idolatry of God through our addiction to certainty and satisfaction.

  • Freedom from the pursuit of what we believe will satisfy us

“But there is another, more radical form of freedom hinted at in the Gospels – not the freedom to pursue what we believe will satisfy us, but the freedom from the pursuit of what we believe will satisfy us.”

  • You can’t be fulfilled; you can’t be made whole; you can’t find satisfaction

“Here we start to approach what can be called the Good News of Christianity: You can’t be fulfilled; you can’t be made whole; you can’t find satisfaction.”

  • The loving embrace of this world

“In the Gospels we are presented with the image of a man who was at one with life, himself, and his surroundings.  One who spoke out against those who would seek to keep people enslaved in Idolatry and told stories that always subverted the certainties of the day.  It is in the aftermath of the Crucifixion that we are able to understand that the God revealed in Christ is found in the loving embrace of this life and a rejection of all that would turn us away from this.”



3. Insurrection: To Believe is Human To Doubt, Divine

Through using doubt to demonstrate an authentic spirituality, Peter Rollins has written an amazing book here!  We need to embrace our humanity fully.  Living in our fictional certainty without embracing the doubt that opens up our deep questions within us is not wise.  Insurrection leads us on a path to living into our questions, embracing doubt as divine and fully embodying our humanity in the world we live in.

  • Radical doubt, suffering, and the sense of divine forsakenness

“Radical doubt, suffering, and the sense of divine forsakenness are central aspects of Christ’s experience and thus a central part of what it means to participate in Christ’s death.  The moment we feel the loss of all that once gave us meaning is not a time in which we are set free from Christ, nor is it a moment where we fall short of Christ: It is the time when we stand side by side with Christ.”

  • To fully and unreservedly embrace our humanity

“The Incarnation tells us that if we want to be like God, then we must be courageous enough to fully and unreservedly embrace our humanity.”

  • Help create a world where the poor do not exist

“But what if our real job is not to give to those who are poor but to help create a world where the poor do not exist?”

  • Theological materialism

“Christianity can be described as a theological materialism: It is that which transforms our material existence.  If our faith does not throw us into the arms of the world, if it does not lead to our experience of responsibility, love, celebration, and our commitment to transformation, then, whatever we call it, we have nothing but an empty shell.”



Have you read any of these wonderful books?