Sunday, November 12, 2006


The explanatory comment below is slightly adapted from the end-notes to my recent article responding to Richard Dawkins' challenges (and starting with some recent natural and human tragedies). I have revised this piece again in the light of some interesting exchanges with correspondents who have either been seeking clarification or offering constructive criticism in response to my reflections. This at least demonstrates, I hope, that reflexive conversation about what is reasonably involved in 'God-talk' is both both possible and necessary, in spite of (and, indeed, because of) the way this kind of thing gets translated into acrimony in a hyped media environment. [Picture: Talk with God, from All rights reserved by the photographer. ]

Those who appreciate what I am saying in noting that God is inherently 'beyond description' may wonder how the obviously human ('anthropomorphic') Gospel story can thereby be allowable. The brief answer is that narrative is not a pinning-down of what it refers to, but a signpost – one whose never-quite-finished character is (unlike totalizing theory) consistent with the unconditioned giving-ness God is necessarily held to be. Rightly understood for what it is, figurative language (biblical imagery, for instance) does not claim to 'grasp' its subject, but to recognise the ineluctable 'otherness' of God, even as it seeks to speak of the impact of that otherness on the pattern of our living, in relational (and therefore personalist) terms. Incidentally, abstract categories are just as anthropomorphic as figurative ones - albeit with a different kind of function - because they are produced within the nexus of human language. There is no 'other place' to speak from this side of eternity, even when we speak of what is other. If we do not appreciate the practical significance of this, our attempts at God-talk become hopelessly disordered, as in the case of Richard Dawkins' old-fashioned positivism, or the different - but parallel - kind of imprisoning objectification practiced by religious fundamentalism.

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