Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Meaning and Purpose of Apophaticism

Apophatic theology, or the apophatic approach, is often mistakenly understood to mean that nothing can be known about God. That negative theology leads to agnosticism.

It is true that apophaticism wrestles with the transcendence of God, that God in His Essence is unknowable, beyond knowledge, beyond affirmation and negation. But this negative approach does not deny the positive, cataphatic approach. God can be known for it is in the Incarnation the Trinitarian God is revealed. But this self revelation reveals Him at once as immanent and transcendent. Apophaticism should be understood then, not as the source of agnosticism, but as a necessary check to prevent our cataphic knowledge from becoming idolatrous. In His light the limits of philosophy, of our thoughts, of that which is created becomes evident in our silence. The purpose of the apophatic approach is to lead us beyond knowledge, beyond the known, to a union with the Unoriginate who has revealed Himself in the Incarnation.

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