For the next few posts, I’m going to summarize Peter Rollins’ How (Not) to Speak of God.
This book has been something of a watershed experience for the emerging conversation. However, unlike other books that have discussed the emergent movement, it is not focused on emergents, emerging churches, or the criticisms that are being directed by emergents at mainstream protestants. Instead, it is a very concise articulation of a simple idea.
The idea behind this book lies at the heart of what so many of us in the emerging conversation have been trying to find words to express during the last few years. Rollins is giving us a language that we can use to talk about God and truth in the context of a rapidly changing culture.
In the introduction, Rollins describes his struggle to reconcile two seemingly inconsistent statements. The first, expressed by philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, goes like this:
What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.
The second, which comes from Rollins’ roots in evangelicalism, goes like this:
God is the one subject of whom we must never stop speaking.
Rollins’ struggle was this: God will never be adequate for words. He is larger and more complex than our ability to comprehend, much less describe. Thus, how could we ever speak of him at all, much less find a way to never stop speaking of him?
Ultimately, however, Rollins discovered an ancient solution to his dilemma – one which was embraced by the Christian mystics. It goes something like this:
That which we cannot speak of is the one thing about whom and to whom we must never stop speaking.
In this way of thinking, God is not a subject that can be passed over in silence, nor is he someone that can be fully revealed in words. Thus, for me, the point is this:
While we can and must speak of God, we should do so with humility – realizing that our words will always be inadequte.
With this thought in mind, Rollins moves into the first section of the book, entitled Heretical Orthodoxy: From Right Belief to Believing in the Right Way.
More to come.