How are we to be intelligent, thinking creatures on the one hand, and faithful, trusting people on the other? One answer to this dilemma is theopoetics. Theopoetic arguments suggest that we are best served when we make room in our worldview for the beauty and mystery of life as an integral part of faith: our intelligent, rational minds certainly have a place in faithful living, but they are not sufficient in of themselves.
Asking powerful, critical questions can help in challenging ill-gotten authority, and yet to ever sink into any sense of deep joy there must be an acceptance of things we cannot understand. As we are reminded in Hebrews, “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” And so we encounter a seeming impasse… from which theopoetics may provide another path.
Theopoetics isn’t just about verse. When a text is acting theopoetically, it functions in opposing directions, simultaneously pulling the reader further into the world of the text and pushing the reader into a reconsideration of, and reconnection to, life in the world beyond it.
Classic Greek has the noun poema and the verb poiein; “a created thing” and “to make,” respectively. Theo is Greek for God.
The English author Samuel Johnson wrote, “The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar, and familiar things new.”
Percy Shelley added, “Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world.”
I work with the word theopoetics from the intersection of these ideas: theopoetics is the theory and practice of making God known, particularly through language. I believe that how we express our experiences of the Divine may change our experiences of the Divine.