Jun 13, 2007

Our little systems have their day;
They have their day and cease to be:
They are but broken lights of Thee,
And Thou, O Lord, art more than they.

--Tennyson, In Memoriam

Chapter 2 of How (Not) to Speak of God continues themes from Chapter 1: How our speech and understandings of God always fall short. And, thus, we must take note of the Lesson of the Pharisees who believed that their understanding of the Messiah WAS the Messiah. We must be cautious of making the same mistake, assuming our understandings of God (via our doctrine, theology, and church tradition) ARE God.

To illustrate this point, Rollins deploys a couple of formulations:

a/theology: There are both things we can say about God (theology) and things we cannot say about God (atheology).

the un/known God: God is known and yet God is also beyond all knowing (unknown).

a/theism: We affirm things about God (theism) yet deny that formulations of God are God (atheism).

We noted that these formulations share similarities with the apophatic and cataphatic moves in theology. Apophatic theology emphasizes what can NOT BE SAID about God. It is a "negative theology" emphasizing God's ineffability, inscrutability, and mystery. By contrast, cataphatic theology, so-called "positive theology," focuses on what can properly BE SAID about God. American Protestant traditions have tended to be cataphatic, focusing on making claims about God. But this may have lead to pride on our part, causing us to slip into the error of the Pharisees. By reclaiming the apophatic aspects of theology, rooted in Christianity's mystical tradition, we learn that human speech and doctrine are limited in their ability to capture God in a verbal box. This is not to disrespect doctrine or tradition but to pay God our highest respect: God will not be verbally, theologically, conceptually, or intellectually tamed by us. God will stand above all our words and ideas.

These formulations reinforce each other, leading to the same point: As noted in Tennyson's poem, our theology, doctrine, and church tradtions are but "broken lights" that "have their day" and "cease to be" and that God will always be "more than they."

Jun 6, 2007

Our first class on Peter Rollins' book How (Not) to Speak of God introduced the emerging church and discussed Chapter 1 of How (Not) to Speak of God: God rid me of God.

Summarizing the class. In the wake of modernity, a situation often called post-modernity, we are living in a time where metanarratives, those universally agreed upon "big stories" about values, have been dismantled. No longer can we assume that the people in our neighborhoods, cities, nation or world share the same religious or metaphysical vision as we do. As Nietzsche declared, "God is dead" for many people. Given this situation, the emerging church is attempting to proclaim the truth of God in a world where truth is not self-evident and where people are suspicious of claims of certainty. What then is the recommendation of the emerging church?

Rollins begins How (Not) to Speak of God by noting that our speech about God is always flawed and potentially self-interested. Thus, the way to proceed as a post-modern believer is to note that "naming God is never really naming God but only naming our understanding of God." This shift of emphasis begins to elevate orthopraxy (right practice) over orthodoxy (right belief). Or, in the formulation of Rollins, the emerging church is making a shift from emphasizing "right belief" to "believing in the right way," a way that is "loving, sacrificial, and Christlke in manner."

To defend this point, Rollins warns against conceptual and linguistic idolatry, where we begin to think our current understanding of God IS God. Thus, it is important for Christians to routinely pray the prayer of Meister Eckhart: "God rid me of God." That is, we ask God to continually to rid us of all the bad notions and ideas we routinely ascribe to God. This move keeps us humble and searching, a much better place to begin as Christians in the post-modern situation.

Copyright 2010 Template Laboratory.

Theme by WordpressCenter.com.
Blogger Template by Beta Templates.