Over the past couple of months I have been slowly reading through Peter Rollins’ most recent book, The Orthodox Heretic. Rollins is a brilliant thinker/practitioner from the UK with a PhD in postmodern thought and while I have been familar with his work for some time now, I have to honestly admit his first two books (How Not to Speak of God and The Fidelity of Betrayal) have been a bit too weighty philosophically for me to engage fruitfully.
The power and beauty of The Orthodox Heretic is found in the fact that is filled with stories. Now stories are something that I can wrap my mind around.
This morning I came to the final pages (digital pages I might add as I have been reading the book on my Kindle). The last parable was entitled, Heretic and recalls the story of a man who is tried for the crime of heresy, convicted and sentenced to death. The judge permits one final request from the condemned – “if it would please the court, on the day of my execution I would like to choose from among the gathered crowd the one who would light the fires upon which I am to die.” On the morning of his execution the young man speaks to the crowd, “I stand before you, helpless as a child, condemned to death for heresy. I am guilty as charged, for I have held a distorted, muddied, and inaccurate view of the divine. I have only one request that I be set alight by one among you who is innocent of this charge.”
This story reminds me of my own journey of faith. Years ago as a younger pastor and leader I often succumbed to the temptation of having to present an air and attitude of complete certainty when it came to all matters of faith and doctrine. I viewed my role as a type of localized “Bible Answer Man” – always ready with a quick Bible answer for both the small and big questions of life. Being a well educated seminary graduate, I could put together some pretty good answers (and even make some some good ones as well when necessary to maintain my position as the Bible Answer Man).
An honest Monday morning confession and I say this in complete faith in Christ and in the wondrous salvation that I have graciously experienced: sometimes I feel like the older I get, the less I know.
The very last sentence in The Orthodox Heretic resonated deeply with me this morning: “we must question the difference between the heresy of orthodoxy in which we dogmatically claim to have the truth, and orthodox heresy, in which we humbly admit that we are in the dark but still endeavor to live in the way of Christ as best we can.”
While I am grateful that the Light of Christ has shined upon my life and that through the presence of the Holy Spirit I am not walking in complete and utter darkness, I recoginze that in my humanity I still flounder around an awful lot in the darkness. Even some of my best thoughts and reflections upon God are muddied, distorted and inaccurate.
Call me what you will – but I pray that until my earthly journey ends I will faithfully live as an orthodox heretic. And in deep humility, with an every growing and ongoing dependence upon the revelation of God, and by sharing the journey through my embracing the gift of community with sisters and brothers, I (and we) will endeavor to live in the way of Christ as best we can.