God and “Misplaced Concreteness”

“God is dead,” Kids in the Hall

Literature, metaphor, God. From Creation and Recreation:

The recreation of poetry and its metaphorical use of language leads to two principles, one specific, the other universal. First, it reveals the narrowness of our ordinary descriptive use of language. Nietzsche’s statement “God is dead,” which has been so widely accepted, even in theological circles, is primarily a linguistic statement, or, more precisely, a statement about the limitations of language. The word “God” is a noun, which within our present descriptive framework of language means that God has to belong to the category of things and objects. We may agree that God is dead as the subject or object of a human predicate. But perhaps using the word “God” as a noun in this way is merely a fallacy of the type that Whitehead calls misplaced concreteness. We note that in the burning bush story in Exodus, God, though he also gives himself a name, defines himself as “I am that I am” [3:14], which scholars say would be better rendered as “I will be what I will be.” Buckminster Fuller wrote a book called I Seem to be a Verb, and perhaps God is a verb too, not simply a verb of asserted existence but a verb expressing a process fulfilling itself. Such a use of language revives an archaic mode of language, and yet is oddly contemporary with, for example, the language of nuclear physicists, who no longer think of their atoms and electrons as things but as something more like traces of processes. (CW 4, 79)

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