I’m working on a sermon for tomorrow (“Why I Gave Up God for Lent”) that reflects on the idea that a certain atheism lies at the heart of Christianity. This atheism (or a/theism as Peter Rollins and Mark C. Taylor have described it) is not against God or religion, which is the popular distortion, but rather stems from an appreciation of God and religion. This is because at a certain level, all of our ideas about God are necessarily limited. As St. Augustine once put it: “If we comprehend it, it isn’t God.” Such an approach isn’t meant to diminish God, but rather to glorify God. In How (Not) to Speak of God, Pete Rollins describes such an approach this way:
Not only is Christianity atheistic insomuch as it rejects ideas of God which stand opposed to those found in its own tradition (the early Christians were called atheists because of their rejection of those deities worshipped by the Romans), but also there is a sense in which Christianity is atheistic because it rejects its own understanding of God. For a Christian who does not simultaneously reject the idea of God that he or she affirms implicitly claims that the one he or she worships can be held within his or her systems of belief…This does not mean that Christianity teaches us to reject our religious beliefs but rather reminds us that we must engage in a process of ‘de-naming’ God every time we name God, acknowledging that God’s name is above every name that we could ever ascribe.
You could also say that this approach represents an act of praise offered toward God. After all (as Rollins also states in How (Not) to Speak), when we describe God, we usually end up describing ourselves. As such, one of the most faithful acts Christians can make is to reject our own finite conceptions of God in order to make room for God, in order to praise God.