"Having a blog is like wandering around your house naked with the windows open; it's all very liberating until someone looks in the window. However, while being caught unawares is one thing, it is quite another to stroll up to the window and press your naked, flabby body against the coolness of the glass in a hideous form of vertical prostration for all the world to see..." These posts are the smudges that are left behind on the window.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Separating Eggs

I am currently reading a book by Peter Rollins called “How (Not) to Speak of God”. I first heard of him, and the book, on Drew Marshall. He was so fascinating that I immediately ordered all three of his books. So far I’ve just gotten through the introduction and the first couple of chapters.
In the foreword, Brian McLaren says that he is a raving fan of the book, so I was cautiously optimistic when I started reading. After having read a couple of chapters let me just say this; I do NOT recommend reading this book – unless your spiritual journey has taken you down a path that is similar to Brian McLaren et al, and you are comfortable in that spot. Because, if you aren’t, you will start to read and after a very short while you will put it down in disgust, and possibly never pick it up again - which would be a real shame. This book has the potential to take your spirituality to the next level in much the same way that “A New Kind of Christian” opened up the spirituality of many fundamentalists. In fact, providing that Peter doesn’t somehow screw up, I think that he, and those who are like minded, will be the force that causes the emerging church to explode in the coming years.
I am debating whether or not to write about the book as I fear that in my attempt to summarize some of the concepts I will overly simply things that he has taken great pains to explain. However, since a blog really isn’t written for those who read it, but is more cathartic therapy for the author, I probably will. In any case, I suspect it will influence my blogs for the next while.
In the first chapter his basic premise is that theology is man’s attempt to explain what can not be explained – God. In fact not only can God not be explained in any adequate way, but he actively resists any attempt to be explained. The danger in thinking that we can explain or define God, is that it creates a type of idolatry – conceptual idolatry as opposed to physical idolatry.
One of the examples of God avoiding explanation or definition is Job. I have never come across a wholly satisfying explanation of God’s response to Job, until now. Basically Job questions God, and God goes into the whole long tirade of how Job has no idea what he’s talking about, and how he can’t possibly know why God does, or did, anything and never does really answer Job. After which Job goes; you’re right, I have no idea what I’m talking about – and backs down.
You might think that if you are arguing that God can not be explained, you would come to the conclusion that you should just give up trying, but this is not the case. It is one of the things that I like about the book - it is actually very fair and balanced. What he is trying to say is that we can have our explanations – in fact we need to have our explanations – but we need to remember that they are completely inadequate, and that they may not be correct or complete. We must always remember that the points of view of others may be more complete or valid than ours, so we must not create an idol out of our beliefs.
I don’t know if you’ve ever separated eggs – the whites from the yolks – but there are basically two methods. One, you crack the shell in half and then slip the egg from one half to the other, and you keep doing this until the white has fallen off and you are only left with the yolk in the shell. The other way is to crack the whole egg into your hand and let the white slip through your fingers until eventually you're left holding just the yolk in your hand. The second way is a very tactile experience as you move your fingers back and forth trying to open them just enough for the whites to flow through, but not wide enough that the yolk starts to drop. You are always very conscious of the fragility of the yolk. Any wrong move and you will breach that microscopic barrier that holds the yolk intact, and the whole mess disappears through your fingers. This is a very good picture of how we should view our ideas of God. Yes we can have our concepts, but we must always recognize their fragility. That they are less than perfect and that they may disappear on us suddenly if we are confronted with different concepts that make more sense, or give us a more complete picture of God.

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