Friday, February 13, 2009

Words on God

It's easy to get caught up in language. How many fights start not because people disagree with what is being said, but how it is being said? Admittedly, there are times when people use the same language to talk about different things. And at times like that, a separation of meaning is necessary. But too often people split hairs over vocabulary, perhaps because they can't stand the thought that someone else's language might be an upgrade.

The encounter: alternative words.
The reactionary emotion: feeling threatened.

Yeah, it sounds silly, but it happens. Espeicially when we bring God-language into the mix. For many, God must be spoken of in the masculine. To talk of God as "She" rocks their mental dingys. And don't even bring non-personal language into the mix, lest the boat tip right over. When I encounter people who have such rigid God-concepts, I find that use of alternative language is seen almost as an attack on God Himself. Hence, the too often aggressive reaction.

Here's my suggestion to those with rigid mental concepts of God: get over it.

Anytime we speak of the Unspeakable, we use words. Words strung together coherently becomes a language. And all language is metaphorical. The language used does not contain the essence of that being spoken about. Rather, it relays an idea, one that is meant to be grasped through experience. God-language is no different.

Whenever we use God-language, we are trying to articulate in human language our experience in this world with that which is beyond the limits of our full experience. For some people, personal language works best. For others, impersonal. I tend to beg, borrow, and steal...as long as what the words invoke resonate with my spiritual experience.

One day a couple of years back, I decided to reflect on what my favorite metaphors for God are. This is what I came up with (since modified, but only slightly):

To me, God is...
~The Life-Giving Source of Creativity~
~The Loving Way of Interpenetration~
~The Abysmally Absolute Other~


It was quite fun to do. There's actually a lot packed into those three descriptors. And they all come from my experience. It will be interesting to see what happens to that package in the years to come.

4 comments:

CLAY said...

The tongue is a fluke--I say, music is our highest form of communication. Excellent post sir.

irreverance said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
irreverance said...

Nice response. Thank you.

irreverance said...

Hmm. Looks like someone didn't want their comment to stay.