Friday, June 25, 2010

illumination: Positive Theology is a Companion to Apophatic Theology


Every reality, concept or symbolic image mirrors God as well as awakens in us the proof or unexplainable feeling that God is totally different... they confront us with an infinite abyss of divine reality which we can't grasp with our minds.... But our mind, faced with this abyss still doesn't give up looking at things... and finds they don't give it the means to describe the abyss... Finally the mind realizes that not one is is suitable. Fr. Dimitru Staniloae 
Apophaticism is a stage where reason become aware of its limits. It does not mean that we must abandon all the concepts we have learned as being useless, but we accept their limits in knowing God and negate them in this context.

Fr Dimitru says,
Therefore negative theology doesn't eliminate the enriching of our spirit with concepts ever higher and more enhanced.  It also measures divinity with them and always finds it incomprehensible...
We need to first develop these concepts, because to negate we need something to negate.  So as our positive knowledge increases so does our ability to approach the unknowable God.

Fr. Dimitru says,
It is true that positive theology is a theology of the finite, but far from excluding the infinite, it makes the ascent to Him possible.  Only if it is used without negative theology does it have but a limited character... . We must have first tried, and continually be trying to approach the divinity with the rems of positive theology in order to know that they don't fit and consequently negate them...
So because of the fact that by His hidden nature God is unknowable but by His works which come into the world and are mirrored in their created effect, He is knowable, stands for the necessity of expressing God antinomically, in other words in positive terms, immediately replaced by the negative.  thus on one hand we must say that God is life, according to His life-creating power which He has manifested by working in the world, on the other hand we must say that He isn't life, because the hidden nature from which the life-giving power comes and acts in the world, isn't identified with this, but is greater than it.
Affirmative theology expresses the grain which can be taken from the "nature " of truth––negative theology, the consciousness or evidence that these grains aren't everything, that by them the knowledge of the truth isn't finished.  It expresses the consciousness or evidence of the inexhaustible mystery, which as such is the inexhaustible source of the truths which will be known in the future.  Positive theology strikes the balance of the truths already known.  Negative theology gives the assurance for the knowledge of the future.

Reference: Orthodox Spirituality, pp 245 - 254 

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