The first school of theopoetics suggests that instead of trying to develop a "scientific" theory of God, as systematic theology attempts, theologians should instead try to find God through poetic articulations of their lived ("embodied") experiences. It asks theologians to accept reality as a legitimate source of divine revelation and suggests that both the divine and the real are mysterious — that is, irreducible to literalist dogmas or scientific proofs.
Theopoetics makes significant use of "radical" and "ontological" metaphor to create a more fluid and less stringent referent for the divine. One of the functions of theopoetics is to recalibrate theological perspectives, suggesting that theology can be more akin to poetry than physics. It belies the logical assertion of the principle of bivalence and stands in contrast to some rigid Biblical hermeneutics that suggest that each passage of scripture has only one, usually teleological, interpretation. The dismissal of the aesthetic as a living part of language has turned the academic enterprise of biblical studies and theology into a language more at home with lawyers than poets. Theopoetics is the art of using words and thoughts that speak to the reader in an aesthetic and existential way to inspire spirituality in the reader.
Whereas those who utilize a strict, historical-grammatical approach believe scripture and theology possess inerrant factual meaning and pay attention to historicity, a theopoetic approach takes an allegorical position on faith statements that can be continuously reinterpreted. Theopoetics suggest that just as a poem can take on new meaning depending on the context in which the reader interprets it, texts and experiences of the Divine can and should take on new meaning depending on the changing situation of the individual.
In the second school of theopoetics, the aim is drawn “from von Balthasar’s affirmation of poetic expression: when God speaks to us in the Incarnation, all qualities of human language—even being itself—are employed as created ‘grammar’ by which God expresses himself to us…With God at the center of expression, poetry becomes capable of an authentic role in theological language.”
This form of theo-poetics “requires the interplay of three massive fields of knowledge: metaphysics, language, and Christology” and is to be “sharply distinguished from the agnostic overtures of the ‘theo-poetics’ movement, whose lineage is not be found in the thought of Balthasar.”
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