How (Not) To Speak of God

The below posting comes from another blog that I write on for the Emergent Boise Cohort   and I thought I would post this here too.  The book our group is reading is “How (Not) To Speak Of God” by Peter Rollins.

As we prepare to discuss this book together, let’s preface our face to face discussion of this book by noting portions of our reading that resonate with us or are troubling to us.  This will start the conversation and will hopefully provide us an opportunity to have a better discussion in March, when we again gather face to face.  With that in mind, I am going to transcribe a portion of the introduction with which I resonated and appreciated. 

The below portions come from  the introduction pages XiV and XV.

“I found myself drawn to the mystics (such as Meister Eckhart), for while they did not embrace total silence, they balked at the presumption of those who would seek to colonize (italics mine) the name ‘God’ with concepts.  Instead of viewing the unspeakable as that which brings all language to a halt, they realized that the unspeakable was precisely the place where the most inspiring language began.  This God  whose name was above e very name gave birth, not to a poverty of words, but to an excess of them.  And so they wrote elegantly concerning the limits of writing and spoke eloquently about the brutality of words.  By speaking with wounded words of their wounded Christ, these mystics helped to develop, not a distinct religious tradition, but rather a way of engaging with and understanding already existing religious traditions: seeing them as a loving response to God rather than a way of defining God…For the mystic God was neither an unspeakable secret to be passed over in silence, nor a dissipated secret that had been laid bare in revelation.  Rather, the mystic approached god as a secret which one was compelled to share, yet which retained its secrecy.”

As I re-read these words I was again struck by two concepts that are presented here.  First the utility of words but also the weakness and limitations of them.  For the mystic, one whose discussion would be about the encounter of this mysterious God, words were used to point at truth and were not presumed to define facts about God.  Secondly, there was not the idea of carving out a new tradition but rather a discovery of God from within various traditions.  I wonder if, as I believe Peter is intimating, that our emergent discussion will not probably result so much in a new Christian tradition or sub-group but is another opportunity to re-imagine the traditions to which we currently belong.

What do you all think?

How has the church “colonized” the term God?

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