Monday, July 17, 2006

Bringing God's Kingdom through Language

Today I finished the Grenz and Franke book I’ve been going on about, and have one more provocative idea to discuss.  I know I’ve been theology-heavy lately.  Deal with it.  Grenz and Franke follow the contention of Peter Berger and others that we construct our realities culturally and linguistically.  This is not to say that divine reality does not exist in some universal and ultimate way, but that human reality is interpreted through the lens of human discourse.  This brings them to this quotation, in the section on eschatological theology.

“As God’s image bearers we have a divinely given mandate to participate in God’s work of constructing a world in the present that reflects God’s own eschatological will for creation.  Because of the role of language in the world-constructing task, this mandate has a strongly linguistic dimension.  We participate with God, for through the constructive power of language we inhabit a present linguistic world that sees all reality from the perspective of the future, real world that God is bringing to pass.”  (Grenz and Franke, 272)

I agree with Grenz and Franke that it is our job as people of God to construct discourse that reflects the reality that God wants – a reality that looks forward to the eschaton when all things are made new.  They assign theologians the task of constructing this language for the church, but it leaves me wondering in what ways and in what spheres this should be accomplished?  I think that it is, first, a job for liturgy.  I’m reminded here of Lauren Winner’s discussion in her memoir of how the words of liturgy not only frame our worship, but give us words for our lives.  It also reminds me of my own work on Sabbath (which I am thinking I could also expand to sacrament and liturgy) that suggests that Christian practice can be a form of social action.  But I also think it should influence our creative work that is not inherently churchy, and I think this is where David Dark’s idea of apocalyptic art is particularly useful (he even uses the eschaton to speak of it).  Finally, I think this kind of discourse-construction needs to happen in our political rhetoric.  Here I think many Christian activists have the right idea (Jubilee 2000 is one salient example of framing our efforts toward justice in the language of God’s transforming the world).  This seems a bigger task than only for theologians.  I think Grenz and Franke present an important challenge, and I think they minimize it and hide it at the end of a book without much discussion.

1 comment:

David A. Zimmerman said...

Tom Sine has called for this type of linguistic, artistic and liturgical enterprise. I suppose that theologians will always say something starts with theologians, but I suspect that liturgists in particular and many artists alongside them would be thinking theologically as they cultivate a new kingdom language, so maybe they're right. Grenz's wife is a liturgist, I believe.