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What the Heart Knows—Theopoetics

Posted on January 26, 2012 | By Robby White

Recently Vickie and I had the opportunity to travel to Hawaii. I wrote a paper for an International Conference on Arts and Humanities and was asked to come and present the paper. The conference was sponsored by the University of Hawaii.

The paper was entitled “What the Heart Knows – Theopoetics and the Renewing Power of Metaphor.” Theopoetics is an interdisciplinary study with elements of poetic analysis, process theology, narrative theology and postmodern philosophy. This approach suggests that instead of trying to develop a scientific theory of God or developing a systematic approach to theology that we acknowledge that the language of faith relies on story, prayer, parable, hymn, and poetry.

The potential of theopoetics is that it openly embraces mystery and questions. It utilizes narrative and poetry, values parable and prayer, merges imagination with faith in ways that allow us to see and understand things differently. We are invited to explore the vastness, mystery and glory of God. Theopoetics is a call to reclaim the potential of imagination and language.

I developed this understanding through the text found in Ezekiel chapter 37. This is the story of the valley of dry bones. You’ve heard me preach on this passage many times at Locust Grove. Little did I know that one day I would stand in Honolulu, Hawaii and offer a reflection on this passage.

The primary aim of my paper was to remind all of us that theological systems and doctrinal structures that we so often rely on are human constructs. As human constructs they are at best partial and temporary. It is a much more exciting way to read the Bible when you recognize the metaphoric, poetic quality and the symbolic richness of the text. Theopoetics is an invitation to read and understand the Bible as a living word.

As you might imagine, the trip was not all work. Vickie and I enjoyed our time in Hawaii. I have included a few pictures of our trip.

It is a joy to be back with you and to serve with you.


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