I waited eagerly for the delivery of How (Not) to Speak of God by Peter Rollins in my mailbox (I still have this childish anticipation for things coming in the mail, which is why I’m pretty much addicted to Amazon.com). The book has been around for a few years, so I am just now getting to something that should have been on my “to read” list long ago. Rollins essentially uses postmodern theory to reassess the state of Western Christianity, and then transcends that postmodern idea and its own limitations to offer a new vision of Christianity for the Church. Rollins sees the “embryonic” stage of this new vision in the emerging church.
What I’m already loving about this book is Peter’s reevaluation of the understanding of God that Christian mystics explored in the medieval period. These mystics seem swept under the rug in favor of the scholastic theology and rational interpretation of scripture that emerged from the Age of Reason (actually from the medieval period as well: including Duns Scotus and St. Thomas Aquinas). Mystics such as Meister Eckhart and St. Francis of Assisi challenged the contemporary understanding of God, but rather than denying it, immersed themselves completely in it.
Anyway, I have just started the book, and there are already a few great gems to ponder. Consider this insight from Chapter One in which Rollins uses the analogy of a painting and a parable to show possibility/impossibility of knowing (read: revealing, revelation) God.
When we ask ourselves the meaning of [artwork], we are immediately involved in an act of interpretation which is influenced by what we bring to the painting. In a similar way, the revelation of God should be compared to a parable that speaks out of an excess of meaning. This means that revelation offers a wealth of meaning that will be able to speak in different ways to those with ears to hear. The parable is given to us, but at the same time its full wealth of meaning will never be fully mined. It is not reducible to some clear, singular, scientific formula but rather gives rise to a multitude of commentaries. In opposition to this, many Christian communities view the stories and parables of the Bible as raw material to be translated into a single, understandable meaning rather than experience as infinitely rich treasures that can speak to us in a plurality of ways. Hence revelation ought not to be thought of either as that which makes God known or as that which leaves God unknown, but rather as the overpowering light that renders God known as unknown (How (Not) to Speak of God, 16).