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The Orthodox Heretic: And Other Impossible Tales Hardcover – April 3, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Don't be fooled by the slender spine of this unusual book. Rollins, the Irish philosopher/po-mo theologian who has previously published How (Not) to Speak of God and The Fidelity of Betrayal, upends some of Christians' most cherished platitudes about God in his newest outing. He cautions readers that the book is not to be read quickly, for acquiring information, but to be savored slowly for possible transformation. Mostly, the book lives up to this billing. Rollins recasts some of the most familiar parables of and stories about Jesus, sometimes subversively—as when he proposes a version of feeding the 5,000 that shows Jesus and his disciples pigging out on meager resources while the multitudes look on, starving. His point? That Christians are the body of Christ, and when we oppress the poor and hoard scarce resources, we are saying that represents the kind of God we serve. Although not all of the parables work equally well—some could use further illumination—Rollins is a tremendously talented writer and thinker whose challenges to Christianity-as-usual should be well-received by the emergent church crowd, if not beyond. (Apr. 1)
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From the Inside Flap

" Religious writing is usually designed to make the truth of faith clear, concise, and palatable. Parables subvert this appraoch. In the parable, truth is not expressed via some dutsy theological discourse that seeks to educate us, but rather ita arises as a lyrical dis-course that would inspire and transform us. In light of this, the enclosed parables do not seek to change our minds but rather to change our hearts."

                                                        - Peter Rollins


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 184 pages
  • Publisher: Paraclete Press (April 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1557256349
  • ISBN-13: 978-1557256348
  • Product Dimensions: 4.6 x 0.5 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #682,273 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Peter Rollins is a provocative writer, lecturer, storyteller and public speaker who has gained an international reputation for overturning traditional notions of religion and forming "churches" that preach the Good News that we can't be satisfied, that life is difficult, and that we don't know the secret.

Challenging the idea that faith concerns questions relating to belief Peter shows that an incendiary and irreligious reading of Christianity is possible: one that destroys the distinction between sacred and secular, blurs the lines between theism and atheism and sets aside questions regarding life after death to explore the possibility of a life before death.

This approach has been christened "pyrotheology," and aims at burning up the basic assumptions that both critics and advocates of religion hold concerning the life of faith.

Peter gained his higher education from Queens University, Belfast and has earned degrees (with distinction) in Scholastic Philosophy (BA Hons), Political Theory (MA) and Post-Structural thought (PhD). He is the author of numerous books, including Insurrection, The Idolatry of God and The Divine Magician. He was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, currently lives in LA and will die.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Chad Estes on April 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
According to a recent article about heart/brain communication, research shows that fibers in the nervous system are 90% dedicated to sending messages to the brain and only 10% going out from the brain. "Neurally speaking," states Rollin McCraty, PhD, "the heart sends far more information to the brain than the brain sends to the heart." If that is the case I need to read more books that connect straight with my heart, not just ones that simply stimulate my thinking. Peter Rollins new book, "The Orthodox Heretic: And Other Impossible Tales" does just that.

In 33 short chapters Rollins weaves tales designed to bathe readers in the possibilities of faith, love, freedom and forgiveness. And in the same way that Jesus told parables to shock his listeners; Rollins uses this literary technique to poke his readers. I ended several of the sections with a laugh, a chill, or an audible gasp as a point was driven home.

He follows each tale with some of his own processing that went into the story as a jumping off place for reflection. This is helpful in understanding Rollins thoughts, but the processing doesn't end with reading the book. These tales stick with you. Several times I found myself grabbing a friend or family member and saying, "Sit down, you have to listen to this story!" as I read aloud to them and entered into meaningful conversations. This book will serve as an excellent resource for discussion groups as they engage with these narratives.

I highly recommend this book!
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Walter Eberle on July 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Who else is doing this stuff? Peter Rollins expands some ideas from his other books to create over 30 original parables that will make you think harder about tenants of your faith you may take for granted. This book is a beautiful work of art as well as a finely crafted device for helping communicate transcend truth where normal language sometimes breaks down. As Jesus realized, some things can only be communicated via story, our modern systematic theologies often fail to articulate the most profound aspects of the way of Jesus. Rollins commentaries are also very helpful, though I would recommend reflecting on each story yourself before moving on to Rollins explanations, surely Rollins would welcome his work speaking to different people in different ways. Part of the beauty of parables is there is usually an ambiguity that makes the medium of the parable or short story all the more valuable. In my opinion, this is the most thought provoking book I have come across in quite a long time, and is a great intro to Rollins' (timely) thinking.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Grant Marshall on March 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I like the premise of the book. Jesus told parables as a way of drawing his audience into the story. You can counter good arguments or side-step doctrines but stories and parables creep under our defenses and infect us from the inside out. They are like stones in our shoes that constantly annoy us and call for our attention. So as such the concept of the book is an excellent one. I got a great deal on the book too - only 99c on a kindle special. Even though the concept is good the nature of the book makes it hard to evaluate. There isn't one single unifying theme for all the parables, so for a while I tried blogging through each parable and giving an earnest appraisal and critique where necessary.

There were some great stories. "Translating the word" - a beautiful story that seemed to encapsulate St. Francis' words "Preach the Gospel and if necessary use words." Pearl of Great Price, Great Misfortune and the Third Mile are excellent too. They gave me good food for thought and did as a parable should. They forced me to find myself in the story. The Payoff was by far my favourite of the whole book. The priests reaction at the end was so unexpected I actually laughed when I read it. The Mission of Judas was a strikingly different interpretation of Judas, albeit it unconvincing to this reader. But from then on the stories seemed to wane and become less engaging.

There were also some theological irresponsible stories, most notably Salvation for a demon. I guess there was a reason this book was called the orthodox heretic. I found this story to be almost completely heretical. I also found that Rollins had a habit of pitting two things against each other that needn't be.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Mike Stavlund on May 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Orthodox Heretic might not be Pete Rollins' most challenging book, but it is surely his most powerful. Having shown his academic chops in his previous two books, Pete shifts gears to show us some true subversion, along with the depth and breadth of his hermeneutic.

This is a collection of parables, each of which acted like a tiny explosive device as they detonated slowly and successively, crumbling my understanding of the world and of Christianity, and showing me something much more beautiful, messy, powerless, and true. Here, Pete displays creative and courageous exegetical skill, his radical interpretation of the essense of Jesus' teachings and practice, and his deep understanding of human nature. What he leaves us with is a kind of Christianity that supercedes belief: a life of love and sacrifice and fidelity.

So on second thought, perhaps it is Pete's most challenging book: not challenging to understand, but extremely challenging to live (and I'm sure it was quite challenging to write). Because in it, Pete challenges our very confidence in our ideas of God, pointing us away from the heresy of orthodoxy, and toward orthodox heresy.
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