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Godtalk for the modern world

The God Book

The contents of the book point to ordinary parishioners rather than academics – the faithful who continue to struggle with language about God and our understanding of God in a world that largely ignores God.

Ken Booth   |  08 Dec 2008

The God Book: Talking about God Today edited by Neil Darragh (Auckland: Accent Publications, 2008 – NZ$29.95)

It’s very encouraging to see books of theological reflection being published in New Zealand. We should be grateful to Accent Publications for undertaking this venture and to Neil Darragh and all those involved in the production of this book.

When I think about books on talking about God, many I have come across would qualify as introductions to the philosophical problems posed by belief. That is not how this book has approached the issue, which suggests it has in mind a more general readership than those of us who enjoy theological speculation. This book arose out of a symposium on the subject suggested by the title.

What is not clear is the exact nature of that symposium, but the contents of the book point to ordinary parishioners rather than academics – the faithful who continue to struggle with language about God and our understanding of God in a world that largely ignores God.

What you will find here is a more gentle exploration of how we can continue to talk about our faith and address God in the contemporary world. Many need encouragement that the varied ways in which we now talk about our world do not mean we have to abandon talk about God.

As with all collections of essays, not all of these will appeal to everyone, but when ecology is so much on people’s minds, there is a useful essay here by Susan Smith on “Speaking of God in an Ecologically-challenged World”, and another by Neil Darragh himself called “All Earth is Telling the Glory of God”.

Other subjects explored include: “How can Our Talk about God be Good News?” (Kevin Duffy), “God in the Liturgy, God in the World” (Jo Ayers), “We Are a Word Spoken by God” (Stuart Seller), which explores an aspect of our spirituality almost in a mystical way, and “Changing God Language, Ourselves and Society” (Mary Betz).

There are 20 essays in all, mainly by Catholic authors with teaching responsibilities. The whole collection has been ably drawn together by Neil Darragh himself, whose introduction is a highlight for me, touching as it does on the difficulties of “Calling God Names in Public” (to quote the subtitle of the Introduction), when God is often relegated to a private and individual option on the one hand or loudly trumpeted by fundamentalists of various traditions.

So Neil calls for a reflective Christian agenda that is open to revision of the God-language used in the Christian community itself and also open to conversations with partners who do not share Christian beliefs but are interested in promoting the public good in a pluralist society. This book will help.

Ken Booth is Precentor of Christchurch Cathedral. knblbooth@xtra.co.nz

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