The Fidelity of Betrayal: Towards a Church Beyond Belief


"About 30 years ago, I came across the evocative phrase 'religionless Christianity' in Dietrich Bonhoeffer's later writings, and it has stayed with me ever since. In his new book The Fidelity of Betrayal, Peter Rollins has teased out - as Bonhoeffer never had the chance to do - profound possibilities hidden in the phrase. As a huge fan of Peter's first book, I find his second no less thoughtful, stimulating, and at times unsettling - always in a most (de)constructive way. His subversive parables, his clever turns...

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"About 30 years ago, I came across the evocative phrase 'religionless Christianity' in Dietrich Bonhoeffer's later writings, and it has stayed with me ever since. In his new book The Fidelity of Betrayal, Peter Rollins has teased out - as Bonhoeffer never had the chance to do - profound possibilities hidden in the phrase. As a huge fan of Peter's first book, I find his second no less thoughtful, stimulating, and at times unsettling - always in a most (de)constructive way. His subversive parables, his clever turns of phrase, and his beguiling clarity all conspire to tempt the reader into that most fertile and terrifying of activities - to think to the very rim of one's understanding, and then to faithfully imagine the Truth that lies far beyond."

- Brian McLaren, author/activist (

What if one of the core demands of a radical Christianity lay in a call for its betrayal, while the ultimate act of affirming God required the forsaking of God? And what if fidelity to the Judeo-Christian Scriptures demanded their renunciation? In short, what would it mean if the only way of finding real faith involved betraying it with a kiss?

Employing the insights of mysticism and deconstructive theory, The Fidelity of Betrayal delves into the subversive and revolutionary nature of a Christianity that dwells within the church while simultaneously undermining it.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Rollins possesses the freshest theological voice of the emerging church movement. The leader of an ecclesial community called Ikon that meets in pubs in his native Northern Ireland came out of nowhere with his How (Not) to Speak of Godin 2006, where he made the tools of postmodern philosophy accessible to nonspecialists. That book's virtues are again on display: clarity (rare enough for an academically trained philosopher), wit and playful, counterintuitive readings of Christian scripture. He argues that the most faithful response to Christianity may be Judas's betrayal of Jesus over against fundamentalists who would violently defend Jesus and academics who would imprison Jesus. Rollins paints with an overly broad brush—not every theologian since Descartes has been boxed in by his categories. At times an academic degree would be helpful to understand his use of Zizek or Nietzsche. All the same, Rollins puts postmodern philosophy to work for those trying to rethink their faith for a new day without stifling modern categories. Even those who disagree will find the pages turning themselves. (June)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781557255600
  • Publisher: Paraclete Press
  • Publication date: 6/1/2008
  • Pages: 196
  • Sales rank: 772,163
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

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  • Posted December 21, 2010

    Christianity: A Religion without Religion

    What is Christianity? This is the central question that Peter Rollins seeks to answer in The Fidelity of Betrayal: Towards a Church Beyond Belief.

    Drawing on such philosophers and theologians as Pascal, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Bonhoeffer, and Zizek, Rollins provides his answer, constantly referring to Christianity as a "religion without religion," which is, of course, reminiscent of Bonhoeffer's notion of religionless Christianity. (Rollins's background in poststructuralist thought and continental philosophy, especially the influence of Hegel, is evident throughout this book.)

    What, then, is this religion without religion? At its heart is Rollins's notion of betrayal: to be a Christian, one must continually betray all that one affirms and believes, to doubt everything, especially the objective notion of truth.

    Truth is not, for Rollins, some Platonic form that the mind seeks to grasp. If one objectifies truth as something to be known by the mind or affirmed in creeds and doctrines, one has thereby distanced oneself from the truth: truth is somewhere apart from the believer, out there to be sought and known. In objectifying the notion of truth in this manner, truth is stripped of its life; it ceases to be a transformative power and becomes rote dogma. Thus, traditional Christianity has killed truth by objectifying it, and so this objective notion of truth must be betrayed so that real Christianity and authentic truth can live.

    Thus, Rollins gives primacy to betrayal of all beliefs, and doubt becomes a virtue in his vision of Christianity. Authentic Christianity is not a system of beliefs and creeds, of adherence to prescribed teachings. In this non-dogmatic vision of Christianity, many of the best Christians are non-Christians in terms of their beliefs (or lack thereof).

    But if we are to embrace Christianity as a religion without religion, exactly what, then, is this Christianity? According to Rollins, it is a way of life that questions all systems of power: governmental, religious, cultural, societal. Directly to this point, Rollins writes, "The Christian critique is not then directed at the people in power so much as the place of power itself" (page 170). It is the very idea of power, of subjugation, that Christianity seeks to overthrow, including the power wielded by Christianity itself.

    Any institution that says to someone, "You are not one of us," is to be questioned and undermined, subverted and brought down. No longer can the Christian say to the Jew or Muslim or atheist, "You are cannot be a member of the body of Christ." No longer can society say to lesbians and gays, to aliens and ethnic minorities, to women, "You cannot have full rights as citizens within our society." The authentic Christianity speaks rebellion and subversion against all institutions that oppress and exclude, against all expressions of dominance and power.

    Where does God fit into Rollins's paradigm? Although he does not explicitly mention Tillich in this book, he seems to have been influenced by Tillich's view of God as the ground of being: God is not some being out there (like the idea of objective truth) to be known by the mind; rather, God is that which makes being possible, is being itself. Rollins describes God as the Event that allows the miracle of Christianity to occur, and the miracle is the radical transformation that Christianity as a religion without religion brings into th

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    Posted July 29, 2010

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