In other words: Towards a poetic theology of the spoken Word of God

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Jacob Rollison


In this paper, Jacob Rollison considers poetry in its various relations. Poetry raises questions regarding the relation of the world to a ‘beyond’, and the relation of representation to presence. The question poetry poses to theology is: if Jesus Christ is the Word, is this to be understood prosaically or poetically? as representation or presence? To probe this question Rollison draws on the work of the French theologian, sociologist and poet Jacques Ellul. For Ellul, poetry manifests the inseparability of form and content in communication, resisting Kierkegaard’s ironic stance by viewing the word as inseparable from the life of the one who speaks it. This points, in turn, to an inseparability of form and content in theology and the presence of God in his revelation. In contrast to the post-structuralist view, the world is not a text. For Ellul, the central medium is God’s speech, temporal and non-spatial in its essence. His poetics of speech is in turn based on the poetics of the Word of God. The form, then, of the Apocalypse in Revelation ‘allows the comprehension of its content’: theology is a poetic listening and responding to the Word, architecture in movement. The concerns of theology as poetry are not simply with poetic ideas but with the richer world of poetic existence.

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