On God-talk

August 6, 2007

I’ve just finished watching a DVD called “Nuwe Strominge”, in which some people try to show how a number of leading international and local theologians are misleading people, and are leaving the common faith, or something like that. This DVD was supposedly sent to every Dutch Reformed Minister. I believe in the coming weeks a lot will be said about this, and about the way in which it was put together etc. etc. So I’m gonna give that a skip, maybe on another day, if someone actually ask me to comment on that I’ll do that, for now I’ll just say: I’ve done my fair share of video editing, and really, the video editor has a lot of power to create perceptions!

Rather, I’ll like to share some thoughts on God-talk. That’s simply my way of trying to find a word for what we do when we try to make sense of this world, our experiences, others experiences, our traditions, the Bible, or for that matter any religious text, or God. We are busy with God-talk. It’s talk about God. Some might call it theology, and certainly I think that’s not a bad word, but maybe God-talk would be better.

As I sit here typing, I really long for God-talk to be beautiful! And really, I’ve experienced this to be possible! I’ve experienced this in conversations I had with some of you, also some of you I’ve met through blogging. I’ve seen this happen between friends. But I’ve seen God-talk to be extremely ugly as well. To hurt. To make wounds that for ever drive people away from God-talk. And yes, I must admit, I think sometimes I’ve also been the cause for this.

Maybe I’m over-simplifying things, most probably I am, but I think one thing remain the distinguishing factor which determine whether God-talk is beautiful or ugly: Do we see God-talk as something which happen between fellow seekers, or between one party who in and another who is out. God-talk is beautiful when those I’m talking to is fellow seekers, whether it’s the pope, Benny Hinn, or the local charismatic youth worker, it’s beautiful when both consider the other as fellow seeker. God-talk become really ugly when I consider myself as the superior with the answers, that need to show you how wrong you are. When I become the one that need to convince you that you know nothing about God, and that I’ve been appointed to introduce you to the “true God”. Maybe just to put things into context: I’m not talking about inter-religious dialog here, I’m at this stage simply thinking about the way Christians talk to each other, although I do think this same principles can be applied to inter-religious dialog as well.

This is not relativism. I have a great respect for the works of David Bosch, as I believe many of you reading this might have. Thus, I just took Transforming Mission from the shelf, and paged to something which I recalled reading a while ago, so go have a look at page 484, and I cannot put it better:

… true dialogue presupposes commitment. It does not imply sacrificing one’s own position – it would then be superfluous. An “unprejudices” approach is not merely impossible but would actually subvert dialogue.

He then go on to quote this amazing words from the World Council of Churches Guidelines on Dialogue with People of Living Faiths and Ideologies:

Dialogue means witnessing to our deepest convictions, whilst listening to those of our neighbors.

Without my commitment to the gospel, dialogue becomes a mere chatter; without the authentic presence of the neighbor it becomes arrogant and worthless. It is a false construct to suggest that a commitment to dialogue is incompatible with a confessional position

Some might be willing to claim that they have the final word on God. And really, I don’t know how to answer you. As for me, I think I’ll be a searcher for the rest of my life. But at the same time, that which I have found, I love to share. But if I read Bosch correctly, and please do share your thoughts on what he is writing in these pages, the possibility that I might be wrong should always remain a possibility, even though I believe certain things with everything in me. This tension must remain! I believe certain things more than I can express, but still I must remain humble enough to listen – I understand listening not as something we do out of politeness, but as something I do because of being interested.

That’s some thoughts on God-talk…

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6 Responses to “On God-talk”

  1. Quixxxie Says:

    Hi Cobus

    I like your post, because it has so many open ends.. or so it seems. It awakes the ? in you .
    What I cannot understand is, why people cannot talk about God without feeling offended if the other person is not of the same faith. What within us brings about the squeelly feeling when we want to discuss about God. And whats with the saying “Never discuss God and politics” Why?

    I think like Richard Dawkins does – Many of us relate God with Good and Bad (Sin) and we are afraid to question, as it brings up feeling of guilt, which is turn makes us feel like we are committing a sin..

    So, if you have a conversation like, God is beauty- and you keep directing the conversation toward the call it what you may – “Creation”, “Supernatural process”, “Universe” etc..I think it’s an easier handle.

    I dont believe in any particular faith, but not out of ignorance, but more from experience.

  2. cobus Says:

    Quixxxie, thanx for dropping by.
    I can’t think of God without ending up with a LOT of open ends and questions. But how could it be otherwise? I don’t neccesarily mean doubts, although that is part of it at times, rather just a quest in which I’m trying to understand how the reality of God is part of the reality of life… or something like that.

    Those quotes from David Bosch, was’t written with conversations between people of the same faith in mind, but with conversations between people of different faiths… totally different views of God… in mind.

    Haven’t read Richard Dawkins yet, but I’m planning on doing it in a while, will be writing something on my thoughts.


  3. [...] some more thoughts on conversations, also some thoughts from David Bosch: On God-talk Posted by cobus Filed in Books, Conversations, Emerging [...]


  4. [...] I’m good at debating, I can debate almost anything, but I don’t like arguing about faith, I like to dialog, in all it’s forms, about [...]

  5. loopyloo350 Says:

    Very good post. I think the difference is that God did not try to force belief. He gave us free will and expected us to teach, both by example and by reasoned discussion. So many people feel that you have to make them understand what they believe and that if you don’t it is their responsibility to make them see the error of their ways, even if it is by force. These are the manipulators that have no desire to learn because they think they already know everything, but also some that are so used to being manipulated that they resent being told that there are other ways. Another analogy is like soldiers following their leader. They are so used to obeying that to tell them they might be wrong will sometimes provoke extreme behavior.


  6. [...] You can find the eight posts here. I wrote some thoughts on something David Bosch wrote on dialogue here. Posted by cobus Filed in David Bosch, theology Tags: dialogue, interfaith dialogue, Islam, Max [...]


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