Thursday, April 2, 2015

True Theology is Fundamentally Apophatic

The Orthodox Church is known for using both cataphatic and apopfatic theology. The latter is mostly used, especially by the Fathers, in order to establish what God is not, in order to understand and acknowledge what He is. There are countless exegeses given in respect to what apophaticism is and isn’t. Vladimir Lossky explains, on this matter:

‘[Apophaticism] is above all, an attitude of mind which refuses to form concept about God. Such an attitude utterly excludes all abstract and purely intellectual theology which would adapt the mysteries of the wisdom of God to human ways of thoughts. It is an existential attitude which involved the whole man: there is no theology apart from experience; it is necessary to change, to become a new man. To know God one must draw near to Him. No one who does not follow the path of union with God is necessarily the way of deification. He who, in following this path, imagines at a given moment that he has known what God is has a depraved spirit, according to St Gregory Nazianzen[1]. Apophaticism is, therefore, a criterion: the sure sign of an attitude of mind conformed to truth. In this sense all true theology is fundamentally apophatic.’[2]

[1]‘Carmina moralia. X: Περί αρετής’, P.G., XXXVII, 748.
[2] Lossky, Vladimir, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, (Cambridge, James Clarke & Co. Ltd, 1991),pp. 38-39.  

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