Saturday, September 29, 2007

Book Thoughts

How (Not) to Speak of God by Peter Rollins

Sent to me by my friend Bob Carlton and a huge hit in the emergent community. The point is basically this: we cannot truly speak about God and we must speak about God. God is huger, more complex, more loving and encompassing than we can imagine. The ancient Hebrews put their collective finger on it in handing down God's name (YHWH) which is an amalgamation of letters which are unpronouncable because (1) it has no vowels and (2) it is just too holy. When you come across the Name, you read Adonai instead of what it says. But we experience God in our lives, here and now, intimately. We who worship God do not do so because it makes sense intellectually--it doesn't--but because we have felt the presence of the holy in our daily lives. Thus, God is indescribable and completely describable. How to navigate these waters?

Rollins repeats himself quite a bit, reading like he was given a book contract based on a short paper. That said, it's very readable and well-thought out. Plus it has a second section documenting ten emergent services focused on this ambiguity and creating space for complex interpretations of both God and our experience of her. These services took place (continue to take place) in a bar in Ireland in an inclusive and blurry-boundaried community called Ikon. They are a/theists. They are, in a lot of ways, the future of the church.


Angela Roskop Erisman said...

The name YHWH is indeed pronounceable. We're just not sure exactly how. It relates to the Hebrew verb for "to be" and means something like either "he is" or "he causes to be." We don't know exactly how to pronounce it because the people who transmitted biblical manuscripts were pious. In the Dead Sea Scrolls, YHWH often appears written in a different script to highlight its uniqueness. Those who copied manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible added vowels (Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts don't have any), not because there were no vowels, but in order to preserve the pronunciation of a sacred text written in a language that was no longer actively spoken. When they came across the word YHWH, they vocalized it like the word "Lord." That doesn't mean they didn't know how to pronounce it. It's just a sign of their piety.

aliceatredeemer said...

Good point, Angie! I recall my Hebrew professor saying that they put in the vowels from "adonai" but that doesn't seem to work. Regardless, the name as written is, you might say, spiritually unpronouncable. This is the one name of God, the one God gave God-self, that we don't say. In our human striving for more and our desire to posess everything, this is one thing we cannot have. Would you agree?