Research

His Color is Our Blood: A Phenomenology of the Prodigal Father

Ian Mobsby talks to Pete Rollins about his PhD – the source for the book “How not to speak of God”.

How to get hold of it:
The title of my PhD was ‘His Color is Our Blood: A Phenomenology of the Prodigal Father’ and can be obtained by contacting me via my blog.

[Note: from Ian – much of the central themes Pete has explored in his PhD have been compiled into his published book ‘How (Not) to Speak of God’]

What did you gain from researching & writing this?
Working in the academic environment was invaluable in my own spiritual journey. Since the conscious beginning of my becoming Christian I have been interested in reflecting seriously upon my fractured faith and the source of that faith. Perhaps, all those years ago, I began to study in order to understand the source of my faith but in the process became more interested in the idea that the source of my faith needed to be protected from the logocentric desire to understand it. This process involved studying the Greek philosophers, scholastic thought, modern and then postmodern thinking. While the process fed my mind I must say that my research was primarily a spiritual discipline which helped to transform me (ultimately provoking me to start ikon).

What is there in it that has most helped you and would benefit emerging-types?
The work itself is quite philosophical and would not really be of interest to those who do not have some training in philosophy. Having said that it contains the theoretical underpinnings of what I am endeavoring to work out concretely within ikon. While both my research and the beginning of ikon both took place without any knowledge of the emerging movement (bar a little experience of alt. worship in the 90’s) I quickly found that what I was doing here in Belfast resonated with projects happening across the world. I think that this is what may make the work I did interesting for emerging people. For it has nothing explicitly to do with exploring the emerging church, I was just trying to find the best (or least bad) language to explore faith: and it turned out that I found myself broadly resonating with people involved in this movement called (perhaps unhelpfully) ‘emergent’.

What do you think are its main findings?
With philosophical pieces like this ‘findings’ are all but impossible… we often think that the whole world has been discovered, yet, to me, most of it still lies in darkness because it has not be discovered by me. In the same way I was really discovering insights which have always been there in different forms. I guess what makes the work potentially interesting is the way in which I attempted to marry (or at least bring into conversation) deconstruction and apophatic thought to form ‘an /theology’ which both helped to give breath to a concrete community and which influenced the book How (Not) to Speak of God. There were other ideas which will provide fuel for a couple more books which I hope to bring out in the next couple of years.

What questions were you left with as you wrote it up?
As with all of these things I had more questions at the end than I had at the beginning… but I think that they were better questions.

What other reflections do you have now looking back now on it?
Well I guess I have few feelings as I remember those days, I remember them fondly and feel privileged to have been able to have taken the time to study. If I had had more time I would love to have read some contemporary thinkers more closely such as Zizek, Badiou and Agamben… each of these people, while not explicitly religious, have written brilliantly on the issue of Christian faith.


Dr Pete Rollins is a founding member of ikon, Belfast.