Barbara Brown Taylor

When God is Silent

Review by Kim Young Ju, 2002

Taylor, Barbara Brown. When God is Silent. Cambridge, MA: Cowley Publications, 1998.

Barbara Brown Taylor is one of twelve most effective preachers in the English-speaking world.

By this book, she illustrates her own views of language as a communal property, and silence as God’s hiding place. She holds the position that to say something well, or to hear something said well, is to reach a higher level of being (however temporarily).

Taylor proclaims that our age is in the midst of a famine of the word. According to Taylor, words without silence lead to the discrepancy between the word and the reality. And, when the connection between them has been lost, the language is no longer trustworthy. When running out of words, then and perhaps only then can God be God. Our language is broken.

Taylor quotes Martin Buber’s words, “Our knowledge of God is limited by our language. As ‘Pure Thouness’ God is not objectifiable. Words serve only as mute gestures pointing to the irreducible, ineffable dimension where God subsists.”

The God who keeps silence is the God beyond anyone’s control.

Barbara Brown Taylor suggests that we approach this God with all due respect proclaiming the Word without violating the silence, by speaking with restraint.