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apophatic theology


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A way of approaching God by denying that any of our concepts can be properly affirmed of Him. It is contrasted with affirmative and symbolic theology. The soul rejects all ideas and images of God and enters the ‘darkness that is beyond understanding’, where it is ‘wholly united with the Ineffable’ (Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite). The roots of apophatic theology may be seen in the ban on images in parts of the OT and a similar rejection of anthropomorphism by Greek philosophers. In the W. Church apophatic theology tends to be seen as an affirmation of the inadequacy of human understanding in matters Divine. In the E. Church it is seen as an affirmation that the essence of God is unknowable, though He makes Himself known to us through His energies.

Subjects: Christianity.


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