Feb 16, 2012

Insurrection: When Crucifixion Became a Myth

This is my continuing "review" of Peter Rollins' book Insurrection, although I'm really writing with a mixture of review, summation, and personal reflection. In short, these writings are more a way for myself to work through what this all means, rather than a "review" per say, or my trying to convince anyone else of these ideas. Additionally, please note that my beliefs expressed here may not necessarily coincide perfectly with Rollins'. View the first installment here.
Belief in God is perfectly human--life is hard, full of suffering and bitterness, and we have a natural desire to bring to it order, meaning, and something other than randomness. This is the essence of our psychological need for God to exist. However, religion today is most commonly understood with a deus ex machina mindset: It is the affirmation of a constructed source of explanation, meaningfulness, and solutions to our problems--a.k.a. God.

By rejecting God, one is usually labeled an atheist. But can you really blame a person for being an atheist? Doesn't a God who only exists to satisfy me sound a little feeble? Yes, it does. But that doesn't make me an atheist. In fact, Rollins is going so far as to say that accepting atheism is the only way one is able to participate in Crucifixion. And I agree.

So, the questions now are "What is crucifixion?" and "What is atheism?"

Is crucifixion God sacrificing His son for us? Is it reconciliation for our sins? Does it put us in good standing with God? Is it something that was done for us by which we define ourselves, rather than defining ourselves by what we do?

Is atheism the intellectual denial of the existence of God?

Defining both of them is the only way to define either of them, because experiencing both of them is the only way to experience either of them: Crucifixion is existential atheism--a real, experienced, and felt loss of God. It is undeniable. It is the sacrifice of everything that satisfies our psychological need for God, which is, of course, God.

When religions talk about giving up false gods, they usually mean giving up anything that one worships other than God (e.g., money, cars, Xbox). But what about worshiping dues ex machina? Isn't this "God of the machine" just replacing these (equally) false gods?

In fact, religion usually tells us to give up false gods so that we can find true meaning, purpose, security, and ultimate reality in God-with-a-capital-G. But what about giving up false gods by engaging in existential atheism--In other words, giving up everything that satisfies our desire for God? What about giving up everything including God? What about giving up everything that comes after the phrase "so that"? No one ever talks about giving up that God.

But giving up this God is what Crucifixion truly is.

The church has domesticated the crucifixion into a mythology--a story that brings meaning into meaninglessness. Yes, we affirm that it actually historically happened. But we also look at it with a dirty lens muddied up by the "what does it mean for me?" mindset. Therefore, no sacrifice was actually made. Again, it is simply a deus ex machina.

This is why Christ's words "Why have You forsaken me?" are so wrought with meaning, and yet meaninglessness. Contrary to popular belief, he wasn't crying out to God in the midst of suffering--No, he was suffering in the midst of his utter loss of God.

And the beauty, as well as the horror, of it is that we can participate in it too. We no longer are a slave to our psychological need for God. We can simply enjoy the grace that is the fact that our need exists, much like our taste buds make our need for food enjoyable.

"When we truly participate in the event of the Cross, we are forsaken by ourselves--We are cut off from the system that we construct and which constructs us." (p. 35) There is nothing but our naked self. Nothing but pure purity.

Edited on 2/17/12 at 3:28pm.


  1. Thanks again for posting. I've actually listened to a couple of interviews and podcasts pertaining to this book and read a couple reviews/summaries. In regards to Christ's words on the cross, I would comment that what Christ was experiencing was the loss/separation from God that we experience because of sin. I state this because it wasn't until that very point that Christ became sin and therefore was separated from God. This is something that we experience on a daily basis because we live in this imperfect world/state.

    As for our feeling of emptiness and loneliness, I think these are symptoms of our fallen state and not a conditioned psychological need. I think that is inherently part of being an imperfect fallen human. We were created like God so community/connection is at the very core of our being. This exists within the Trinity. I don't think that we can experience that fully (only hints) until we are in God's direct presence again. It seems as if Peter is suggesting that by partaking in this "existential atheism", that it will help fill the void. Am I wrong in my understanding of what he is stating?

    I do agree that religion can be an idol and is used to try and fill this emptiness instead of seeking closeness with God directly through relationship. Religion can be something that is self serving instead of a sacrificial relationship. I think that the pursuit of that relationship does help alleviate the loneliness because we do at times catch glimpses or hints of that perfect communion with God that we will have again.

  2. One more note... I just listened to the following: http://peterrollins.net/?p=2508
    If I'm understanding correctly it's kind of a summary/intro for his book Insurrection. I do not agree with everything he has to say or his methods or reasoning but I think he does make a very valid point when he essentially states that we deny the resurrection of Christ when we neglect those with needs around us but we affirm it in those moments in which we do actually choose to act. Withing our actions we demonstrate the veracity of what we claim to believe. Basically faith in action is proof of our faith.

  3. Yo Paul... I haven't listened to the clip you linked, so I will just comment on your first post right now, and listen to that later.

    With Christ's words on the cross, I don't believe he was experiencing the loss from God, but rather the loss of everything INCLUDING God. This is the essence of ultimate suffering. Jesus was a human, so he had the psychological need for God. By not sinning, it means that he was the only person not to abuse that need. Hence, he was willing to sacrifice it. (Kinda makes my head spin.)

    One thing I've been taught all my life, but am having a very hard time believing as an adult, is this idea that humans are in an unavoidable "fallen state", are inherently evil, are born sinners, etc. I think this theory is simply an easy way to explain away the world's problems, while also denying our psychological need for God to exist which makes our version of God correct. Yes, I believe that everybody sins... I just don't believe it's because of a predisposition.

    (An aside: I would define sin as abusing one's psychological need for God in order to use it for personal satisfaction.)

    So, my point in bringing that up is that when you don't believe the earth is inherently evil, a lot of other things about your beliefs change with it. I'm not saying I'm right... Just pointing out the reason for the different place that I'm coming from, and hence our difference.

    Anywho... See you tonight bro.