Saturday, May 07, 2005

Let's Talk About God

Most objections to the doctrine of the Trinity arise from the fact that we live under a sort of persistent delusion that we know what we mean when we say "God." But it simply isn't so.

Human communication generally works by metaphor (see Lakoff and Johnson's Metaphors We Live By). We've got such a rich set of metaphors built up that we often don't notice, but if you think about learning something new you can see it.

For example, if I were to ask you "What's a guanaco?" You might say "It's kind of like a llama?" So in my mind, I begin forming an idea in my mind that uses the word "guanaco" but has an image of a llama.

But God is like nothing else, so our metaphors for God have to reach farther. William Holladay has said that theology is the art of saying the least wrong thing about God. Whatever we say about God is going to be misleading in some way. The trick is to find things to say that are more useful than they are misleading.

A look at some of the Biblical talk about God can help. In 1 John 1:5 we read that "God is light." It should be immediately clear to us that this is a metaphor. It draws on the rich light and darkness symbolism that runs through the gospel and letters of John, and we really need to enter into that way of thinking to understand the statement.

A similar statement in 1 John 4:16 says that "God is love." This is a powerful metaphor, and one that is important for understanding God as Trinity (if God is love from all eternity, who did God love before creation)? Simone Weil extended this metaphor saying that God is love the way an emerald is green.

These metaphors tell us something about God, but they are only beginning to help us form the outer edges of an understanding of God. A more direct statement about God is Exodus 3:14: "I am who I am." This is a stark reminder of the ultimate impenetrability of God. The only thing that we can ultimately use to describe God is God.

Nevertheless, we do not wish to be completely silent. What can we say about God?

Continue to "Mystery"
Go back to "The Ultimate Answer"


Post a Comment

<< Home