This week’s reading in Emergent Gathering comes from Peter Rollins book, How (Not) To Speak Of God. In the first part of the book Rollins gives a layout of some of the theological understandings of the emergent church. The section of the read that stuck out to me, and raised the most questions, was chapter three.
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The way we speak of God can place limits of our understanding of God, according to Rollins. He writes, “an emerging discourse acknowledges that speaking of God is never speaking of God but only ever speaking about our understanding of God.” This is an idea that was raised during a class I took in my first semester of seminary. Our professor for that course asked us if the preconceived ideas that we had of God were limiting our understanding of God and how God is working in our lives. For me as a first year, fresh off the bus seminary student I was like, “do what!?” But Rollins, and my professor from last fall raise a good point. Are we limiting God by the way we speak of God?
“God is love”, is an example Rollins uses to illustrate this point. By using this as a definition of God, Rollins argues that our understanding of the word love is not an adequate description. Is this going a step too far in the way we try to limit our own use of our language? Maybe. But this does raise a good point.
The use of the definitions never bring us to God. The labels and definitions that we attempt to use when describing God or the nature of God, if we are not careful, result in us falling short on the very idea we are trying to convey!
“when it comes to God, we have nothing to say to others and we must not be ashamed of saying it.”
This notion that our language is limited in its ability to adequately acknowledge who God is raises even more questions. But I think that is what the emerging community wants. The people who comprise this community do not want to be satisfied with their faith being handed to them. This community wants to wrestle with faith and doubt, because doubt can strengthen faith.
The same first semester professor who raised the idea that attempts to define or describe God adequately only led to a further limited understanding of God also told us that sometimes the best response to give to someone in crisis or doubt is nothing. That is to say that, in the silence in when we can being to listen and experience the sacred space of the exploration of faith.
So with this post I do not know if I have raised more questions than I have answered, but then again maybe that is not such a bad thing.