Recently, as a part of my The Slavery of Death series I wrote a critique of Peter Rollins's book Insurrection. Yesterday, Peter posted a response (I think because many of you tweeted at him) over at his blog. Head on over and check it out and share your impressions there or here (or both places).
The gist of my original post was that I couldn't find in Insurrection the necessary connection between the "death of god" (crucifixion, Part 1 of Insurrection) and the practices of love (resurrection, Part 2 of Insurrection). More specifically, why does the Deus ex Machina interfere with love? Why do we have to get rid of the Deus ex Machina for love to flow forth?
As I wrote in my original post, the only connection I could discern in Insurrection was that the Deus ex Machina promoted an otherworldly spirituality. Love is projected onto a god "out there" rather than being directed at flesh and blood people. This is the root of my critique in the Bait and Switch post.
So I agree that this is a problem. Otherworldliness is rampant in contemporary Christianity. As Stanley Hauerwas has noted, American spirituality is "too spiritual."
This is correct as far as it goes. I just don't think it goes deep enough. In my opinion, the deep problem with the Deus ex Machina isn't otherworldliness or existential infantalism (believing that God is the Benevolent Father in the Sky who will take care of us), though these are problems. My take is that I think these are surface level symptoms of the deeper disease, the runny nose rather than the virus itself. The real problem, in my opinion, are the biblical problems, the Christus Victor problems:
Sin. Death. The Devil. The Principalities and Powers.
As I read it, these are problems that don't show up a lot in Insurrection. What I think is lacking in Insurrection (surprise, surprise) is the very thing we are working through in the Slavery of Death series (and which I touch on a bit in The Authenticity of Faith): a robust theology of sin and the satanic, the roots of selfishness, rivalry, and violence.
1 John 3.8In summary, I don't think Rollins and I disagree at all on the surface level, that the "death" of the Deus ex Machina is necessary for love to be truly embraced. The difference, if there is one, and there might not be one, has to do with 1) how we specify the underlying machinery (the psychological dynamics at work), and 2) where the root problem is to be found. For Rollins the problem seems to be existential infantalism (the need for the Big Other). For me, that's a symptom a deeper problem: our slavery to the fear of death which produces the works of the devil in our lives. The Deus ex Machina in this case is less a cause than a symptom, a mask that is deployed (mostly unconsciously) to obscure the deeper dynamic.
The reason the Son of Man appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
What I can't tell is if these distinctions in our projects make much of a difference. There's considerable overlap. But I do think starting with the slavery to the fear of death as prior to the Deus ex Machina is a beginning place that has greater explanatory power and can incorporate more biblical, theological and psychological material.