Language we use to talk of God


Now that I am again in the South Pacific amongst some of the most post-colonial and post-secular people, I am reminded how anachronistic is the language we use for God.  When speaking of God, we tend to use majestic language – of monarchy – of Kingship and of Lord.  In a world that is increasingly discovering a more mystical and spiritual sense, this majestic language creates negative connotations around power, hierarchy and outdated forms of governance.

So what language should we use for God?  How can we be authentically Christian yet contextual?  This is the argument that Sallie MacFague uses in her writings and I don’t think we have been able to make much progress.  She suggests the importance of metaphorical theology – the use of metaphorical language in our pursuit of using affirming and accessible words for God.

In the Moot Community we have used words such as Creator, Redeemer and Companion as functional metaphorical language instead of Father, Son and SPirit. But we still have a long way to go.

In countries like Australia, I am reminded that contemporary culture is much more interested in premodern modes of expressing spirituality.  There is great interest for example in the pantheism of Australian Aboriginal culture oppressed by colonisation in the modern period.  So in our now post-secular culture, premodern language finds new resonance.

So how do we express the deep mysticism of Christianity in a language that is accessible to post-secular seekers.  Well for me it starts with a re appreciation of how the Hebrews developed a language for God coming from experience.  This is the judeo-christian tradition at the heart of the faith that finds its fulfillment in the Holy Trinity.  So we need to increasingly find post-patriarchical and non-power language for naming God.

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