The latter can be placed squarely within the tradition of negative theology, according to which ‘we ought to affirm our view of God while at the same time realizing that that view is inadequate.’ The result is both a theism and an atheism, an “a/theism” that is ‘not some agnostic middle point hovering hesitantly between theism and atheism but, rather, actively embraces both out of a profound faith’ (Rollins, How [Not] to Speak of God, p.25).
For Rollins, this is
a deeply religious and faith-filled form of cynical discourse, one which captures how faith operates in an oscillation between understanding and unknowing. This unknowing is to be utterly distinguished from an intellectual lazy ignorance, for it is a type of unknowing which arises not from imprecision but rather from deep reflection and sustained meditation (p.26).This is the form of un-knowing that is operative within negative theology, which describes God through negations, knowing God by knowing what God is not. Thus this theological method functions as a guard against idolatry.
In a similar way, Rollins’ notion of a/theism introduces what he describes as ‘a type of heat-inducing friction that prevents our liquid images of the divine from cooling and solidifying into idolatrous form’ (p.27). It is ‘an atheism that rejects our understanding of God precisely because it recognizes that God is bigger, better and different than we could ever imagine’ (pp.100-101), one ‘not designed to undermine God but to affirm God’ (p.26). Because ‘God remains concealed amidst revelation’ (p.26,) Rollins suggests that ‘the believer should not repress the shadow of doubt that hangs over all belief (the potential lie that may dwell in the heart of every belief)’ (p.34). If ‘God is beyond all conception’ and ‘can’t be grasped by language,’ if ‘all theological discourse is a dis-course that sends [us] off course’ (see here), then the religious beliefs about God that are thereby formed may well be “lies” (see my posts on Ricky Gervais and Religion as Lie).