Last week I had a post about language and God talk. It was called Horse Gods and it incorporated C.S. Lewis’ poem “A Footnote on All Prayers”. Part of what came out of that was an exchange with J.W. about pronouns, the Bible, and Inspiration. I wanted to transfer some of that over here (I have edited it for clarity) in order to bring more people in on the conversation.
J.W.: So, what does your god look like? And how is that look any different from Piper’s or Driscoll’s?
Thanks for asking! Actually there is quite a substantial difference. Let me point out just a couple of things to start:
A) I don’t believe that language about God is univocal (as I have said). SO we begin in humility understanding that all our words, metaphors and concepts are OUR best attempt.
B) I believe that langue (since it is not univocal) functional relationally. When Jesus uses ‘Father’ language, he is talking about the WAY in which relates to a father. Not that God’s ontological being is Father in an exacting and representative way. It is an expressive use of language. That is the nature of language.
C) The way that Scripture is expressed is historic. I believe that the Bible is Inspired by Holy Spirit. That means that Holy Spirit was at work in the authors and ultimately in those who collected and validated the canon. (I confess this by faith). Those authors were historically situated and particularly located. They expressed their thoughts in their best language in their best frameworks. We see that historical locatedness and account for it when we engage their writings.
D) Whether you call it ‘original sin’ (I don’t) or ‘human nature’ or (my favorite) relational brokeness and conflicting biological impulses … humans have a problem. We are not 100% whole. Something is wrong (we don’t even do the good we WANT to do). That means that in every epoch and era there are things in place that are not perfect. Those show up in scripture – since it is a snap shot of its environment. The Bible is fully human (and I believe fully divine in a Process sense) but it is not ABSENT of humanity. It is full of humanity.
So If you take just those 4 things in contrast to Piper and Driscoll, then my God talk is:
- in Humility not certainty or pushy
- Relational not static or exacting
- Historical not trans-historic
- Human not un-human
Does that help? SO that is my starting point. From there I diverge wildly from the other two.
Well, first of all, thanks for a response.
Second, no offense, but you use an awful lot of words to not say too much. Or, to say the same thing over and over while denying that you are saying one thing, yet actually affirming another. Since I don’t have any real idea what you believe Piper and Driscoll believe, I still don’t know that you are painting a different god or not.
You start out saying that all expressions of God are only a best attempt, but then you claim to believe the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. So, which is it? Our best attempt, or Holy Spirit inspired? See the problem there. It’s either one or the other, can’t be both.
Certainly the Bible is written situationally. God could have inspired men to write it so it only made sense at one point in the entire course of time, or He could have inspired it so that it meant the same thing from beginning to end, from the beginning of time to the end of time. And written so that ordinary people could figure it out with a little help from His Holy Spirit. Which is what I believe. You seem to believe that only post-modern thought with a lot of help from certain philosophers can figure out this whole humility, relation, human thing. Sorry, way too many creeks have flowed over their banks throughout history for me to believe that only recently have we been smart enough to figure this whole mess out.
God (Holy Spirit) inspired the whole Bible. He could have very easily caused His writers to use words that wouldn’t mean anything to their (at the time, current) readers, but would only matter eons later. IF that is what He intended.
Again, you haven’t showed me anything but dichotomies, and nothing of substance that disproves anything Piper et al believe-which I still don’t know what you believe they believe.
1) I did use a lot of words, but it was to say quite a bit. Unfortunately it was not what you were looking for so you think I didn’t say much. I assure you that I say quite enough in my 300 words to get in a lot of trouble in many circles!
2) You are 100% wrong that “It’s either one or the other, can’t be both.” Inspiration is not the OVERriding of human intent – it is the filling UP and expanding of human intent. Inspiration does not make something inhuman. You are thinking of something else not inspiration. Then you accuse me of dichotomies? Weird. I am talking about a participatory-relational model that transcends either/or thinking. You must be confused.
3) Here is an example of the difference (which you apparently were not able to pick up on): It is equally a valid to call god She as it is to call god He. Because in the end, god is neither. Those are pronouns that stand in for their antecedent but which do not entirely explain god or contain god’s ontological reality. God did not give Christianity a masculine feel. We did. God is God that is beyond our biological categorizations and anatomical classification. God is not defined by those – we simply conceptualize God and these terms and portray those conceptions in our language.
This is the nature of language. It is symbolic – analogical – and metaphorical. That does not mean that we are not saying anything when we talk about God. We are. It does not mean that there is no inspiration. There is. Those are not mutually exclusive.
To quote Elizabeth Johnson in She Who Is :
Words about God are cultural creatures, intwined with the mores and adventures of the faith community that uses them. As cultures shift, so too does the specificity of God-talk.
To call God She is just as accurate and as inaccurate as calling God ‘he’.