Sunday, February 18, 2007

How (Not) to Speak of God – Chapter 3: A/theology as icon

One theme running throughout chapter three, and the entire book, is the idea that we should approach “the divine mystery as something to be transformed by rather than solved.” I believe the implications of this statement are vast – perhaps significant enough to change the face of majority-Christianity. I was particularly affected by how this view changes the way we understand the unity of the Church.

Returning to the analogy of a painting he used earlier in the book, Rollins states: “…what unites Christians is not that we somehow grasp the true meaning (another way of saying ‘my meaning’) of the painting, as if it can be reduced to a singular message, but that we are seduced and transformed by it. [We must] find unity not by a type of cloning by which all Christians are encouraged to believe the same thing, thus forming one master denomination, but amidst denominational diversity.”

Do you see the implications for the unity of the church in moving to a view of God as “something to be transformed by rather than solved”? If as Christians we are trying to solve a formula, then it makes sense that our unity would be based on the goal of all holding to the same understanding of the formula. But we are not trying to solve a formula. Rather, our unity should be found in the fact that we all love the same painting (to use Rollins’ analogy). This frees us from the division and discord of working to find one ‘true’ interpretation - instead together we can love and be transformed by God, gaining from the perspectives of those who are transformed in ways unlike ourselves.

This view also leaves room for doubt within the Church. Rollins states: “In contrast to the modern view that religious doubt is something to reject, fear or merely tolerate, doubt not only can be seen as an inevitable aspect of our humanity but also can be celebrated as a vital part of faith.” If God is not a formula to be solved, then there is freedom to doubt. If we realize following Jesus and believing in God is often unclear, then we can acknowledge doubt as a part of faith - we can even embrace faith and doubt as equally valid aspects of the journey, rather than incongruous opposites.

Lastly, I want to leave you with a few (ok, maybe more than a few) final words from chapter three. This was too good to leave out:

“In contrast to the view that evangelism is that which gives an answer for those who are asking, we must have faith to believe that those who seek will find for themselves. If this is true, then the job of the Church is not to provide an answer – for the answer is not a phrase or doctrine – but rather to help encourage the religious question to arise.”

And later:

“In short, the emerging community must endeavour to be a question rather than an answer and an aroma rather than food. It must seek to offer an approach that enables the people of God to become the parable, aroma, and salt of God in the world, helping to form a space where God can give of God. For too long the Church has been seen as an oasis in the desert – offering water to those who are thirsty. In contrast, the emerging community appears more as a desert in the oasis of life, offering silence, space and desolation amidst the sickly nourishment of Western capitalism. It is in this desert, as we wander together as nomads, that God is to be found. For it is here that we are nourished by our hunger.”

Others in this series:
- Introduction
- Chapter 1
- Chapter 2
- Chapter 4
- Chapter 5


Rishi said...

This is truly good stuff...thanks!

Brooke said...

Without doubt there is no faith. I believe that those who refuse to let themselves doubt are missing out on a fuller, richer discovery of what faith really is. And who God really is.

This is all very good. Thank you for taking time to share for those of us that don't have time to read the book!