Liberating Language: Rubem Alves, Theopoetics, and the Democratization of God-Talk

Jeffery S. Hocking


With the fall of the analogia entis and metaphysical accounts of linguistic meaning, we are left searching for a way forward in our thinking about how we talk about God. Some have launched projects attempting to revive a “chastened” analogical methodology, while others have turned to apophatic, metaphorical, or symbolic methodologies. It is the contention of this paper that Rubem Alves offers another way forward via theopoetics, one that takes advantage of the fall of analogical methodologies and promises to democratize theology by centering faith-language around stories of the faithfulness and promises of God. The structure of the essay consists of a triangulation of Karl Barth, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Rubem Alves. Barth and Wittgenstein have dramatically shifted the way that we approach faith-language and Rubem Alves is able to rely on their insights, while forwarding his own, theopoetic account of faith-language. As we seek out new methods for speaking of God, Alves offers a path that promises to move theological practice beyond the academy, employing theopoetics to open genuine dialogue with previously marginalized voices.

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