Apophatic vs Cataphatic Theology

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posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 10:47 AM
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Cataphatic theology is for fundamentalists, idolators, simpletons, children of the faith.

Cataphatic theologians think God actually is something or another. That little word, IS, is rather problematic. They want to describe God in positive terms. God is this, God is that. God is male, is father, is good, ect.

But they lose sight of the fact that all our positive terms are just tiny metaphors. So they get caught in their local cultural metaphors like flies caught in a web. They fall into a trap that leads to narrow-minded dogmatic fundamentalism, bigotry, hate, literalism, tribalistic thinking.

Cataphatic: God is a being among other beings... with a personality and a gender and a viewpoint that corresponds to their local cultural viewpoint and psychological type. How lucky for them! They managed to create God in their own image through cataphatic theology!

Apophatic theology, on the other hand, is for mystics, comparativists, contemplatives, free-thinkers, adults of the faith.

Apophatic theologians describe God in negative terms, not positive terms. They think God transends ALL our concepts and images and cultures.

Cataphatic theologian: God is our father

Apophatic theologian: No, "he" isn't. God transcends your concepts and cultural father-image metaphor.

Cataphatic theologian: Heretic! Blasphemer! Demon-spawn! blah, blah, blah.

Apophatic theologian: Gee, aren't you a swell conversation partner...


The two forms of theology are like yin and yang. Yin and yang both point to something larger, the Dao, and they are both necessary, and they are both incomplete in-and-of-themselves. Both have their place, and often it seems that the place of cataphatic theologians is to deny apophatic theologians their place by demonizing them so that they can cling to their literalism like a baby clinging to bottle.

"We do not know what God is. God Himself does not know what He is because He is not anything. Literally God is not, because He transcends being." -John Scot Erigena

edit on 6-3-2013 by BlueMule because: (no reason given)




posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 10:59 AM
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reply to post by BlueMule
 


Calling everyone that doesn't believe as you do simpletons and children sounds very adult.

"You are black", said the pot to the kettle.



posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 11:03 AM
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reply to post by watchitburn
 


Maybe cataphatic theologians really are childish uninitiated simpletons...have you thought of that?

Simpletons and children have their rightful place in the Kingdom of God, and they are welcome to it. At least I'm not demonizing them, calling them evil devil-spawns that ought to burn in hell for all eternity for their heresy.

edit on 6-3-2013 by BlueMule because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 11:12 AM
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What if there is no god except that which resides in our genetic memory, and in our collective unconscious? A god that has no awareness of itself, because the only place it can exist is within our species, and only then, as long as we ourselves exist. Just a momentary rumination.
edit on 3/6/2013 by Klassified because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 11:33 AM
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reply to post by Klassified
 


No doubt that concept contains some truth. But it is still a concept. As such it has to be transcended... one has to chuck it into the cloud of forgetting in order to dwell in the cloud of unknowing.

edit on 6-3-2013 by BlueMule because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 12:11 PM
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Great thread! S/F

Thanks for bringing the theories to the forum. I agree with you; especially the "negative" description. God is so far beyond description that one can only admit that silence is the actual most-appropriate description. We don't have the tools or knowledge to comprehend "God".

God is "Not nothing", and so forth....
edit on 6-3-2013 by wildtimes because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 01:45 PM
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Originally posted by wildtimes

We don't have the tools or knowledge to comprehend "God".


Yep, but despite that people shop around for a concept of God, as if having a rock-solid concept is possible or even makes any difference. They run around asking which is the one true religion... thinking of religion in terms of true/false, fact/fiction...

Then when they find one that resonates with them (or a lack of one) they defend it against outsiders, thus contributing to the problem of primitive tribalistic 'us vs them' thinking, instead of contributing to unconditional love, charity, compassion.

God can't be reduced to a concept, a religion, an image, a formula, or a name.

But God can be grasped by love.

A Sharp Dart of Longing Love

No one can think of God.

"Therefore it is my wish to leave everything that I can think of and choose for my love the thing that I cannot think. For while God may be loved but not thought. God can be taken and held by love but not by thought. Therefore though it is good at times to think of the kindness and worthiness of God in particular, and though this is a light and a part of contemplation, nevertheless, in this exercise, it must be cast down and covered over with a cloud of forgetting. You are to step above it stalwartly but lovingly, with a devout, pleasing, stirring of love and desire to pierce that darkness above you. You are to smite upon the thick cloud of unknowing with a sharp dart of longing love and do not cease no matter what happens."

From The Cloud of Unknowing 6:130-131.

edit on 6-3-2013 by BlueMule because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 01:50 PM
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What time does the circle jerk start? Stroke of midnight?



posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 01:53 PM
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reply to post by BlueMule
 



Cataphatic theologians think God actually is something or another. That little word, IS, is rather problematic. They want to describe God in positive terms. God is this, God is that. God is male, is father, is good, ect.


So like Jesus basically?



posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 02:27 PM
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reply to post by BlueMule
 


I love the irony of this statement:



God can't be reduced to a concept, a religion, an image, a formula, or a name.

But God can be grasped by love.

A Sharp Dart of Longing Love

No one can think of God.



posted on Mar, 6 2013 @ 02:31 PM
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Originally posted by BlueMule
Apophatic theology, on the other hand, is for mystics, comparativists, contemplatives, free-thinkers, adults of the faith.

Really? You think you're more enlightened than the "simpletons" who don't ascribe to Negative Theology?

Hate to break it to you, but Negative Theology is an orthodox Christian point of view, espoused by theologians since the early church fathers. It's still the predominant view among Eastern Orthodox Christians, who are hardly mystics, and would take umbrage at your elitism.



posted on Mar, 7 2013 @ 08:12 AM
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Well, boys, I see some of you've - gang-like - missed the information and have resorted to attacking the OP. While I agree that his manner is elitist and abrupt (and has been since he arrived), I was unaware of the two categories of Theology that he presented.

His snide arrogance notwithstanding, I found the title, and the links, interesting and worth reading.

Now, however, I'm sorry I ever participated in it.

Can you just address the two styles of theology and your thoughts about them? Or are you all just trying to demean and "get back" at the OP? It's like a movie script for a stupid film about a bunch of mean high school jocks who pick on the new smelly nerdy kid who thinks they're just dumb jocks! Really? Remember that your responses indicate something of your characters as much as his name-calling indicates something of his.

edit on 7-3-2013 by wildtimes because: (no reason given)

reply to post by BlueMule
 


I want to address this description:

Yep, but despite that people shop around for a concept of God, as if having a rock-solid concept is possible or even makes any difference. They run around asking which is the one true religion... thinking of religion in terms of true/false, fact/fiction...

Then when they find one that resonates with them (or a lack of one) they defend it against outsiders, thus contributing to the problem of primitive tribalistic 'us vs them' thinking, instead of contributing to unconditional love, charity, compassion.


I think this is an astute assessment of how the typical person "chooses" a church, although it's not entirely their "fault" - most people are not educated in the development of humanity's "religiosity", and are just doing their best to figure it out.
Calling them "simpletons" doesn't help sell your case.
edit on 7-3-2013 by wildtimes because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 8 2013 @ 07:15 AM
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Originally posted by wildtimes

I think this is an astute assessment of how the typical person "chooses" a church, although it's not entirely their "fault" - most people are not educated in the development of humanity's "religiosity", and are just doing their best to figure it out.
Calling them "simpletons" doesn't help sell your case.


Yeah, but I'm not really interested in selling my smelly case to a bunch of dumb jocks. I'm interested in making you and maybe a few lurkers aware of these categories of theology.


Besides, only God can take fundamentalist simpleton children, like so many around here are, and turn them into something more. My charming style and selling points and nerdyness won't make a bit of difference. Even the most perfect selling pitch won't bring a fundamentalist around. Only Divine Grace makes any difference. We are all in need of it... jocks and nerds alike.

Maybe the dumb jocks will realize that, maybe they won't. But at least their predictable responces have kept this thread going long enough for you and maybe a couple of other people to become aware of it.

Oh, and about the question of "fault". I absolutely agree its not a matter of fault. No one is to blame. It's like yin and yang... everything is as it should be. No one blames yin for being yin, even when it becomes yang.

edit on 8-3-2013 by BlueMule because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 8 2013 @ 12:11 PM
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reply to post by adjensen
 


It's still the predominant view among Eastern Orthodox Christians, who are hardly mystics, and would take umbrage at your elitism.

Nobody likes "elitism", adj, but in fact, I looked into Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and they DO accept mysticism as a complementary way of personally "finding" God.
Apophatic theology in the Christian tradition wiki.

Eastern Christianity makes use of both apophatic and cataphatic theology. Adherents of the apophatic tradition in Christianity hold that, outside of directly-revealed knowledge through Scripture and Sacred Tradition (such as the Trinitarian nature of God), God in His essence is beyond the limits of what human beings (or even angels) can understand; He is transcendent in essence (ousia). Further knowledge must be sought in a direct experience of God or His indestructible energies through theoria (vision of God).[7][8] In Eastern Christianity, God is immanent in his hypostasis or existences.[9]

Negative theology played an important role early in the history of Christianity, for example, in the works of Clement of Alexandria. Three more theologians who emphasized the importance of negative theology to an orthodox understanding of God were Gregory of Nyssa, John Chrysostom, and Basil the Great. John of Damascus employed it when he wrote that positive statements about God reveal "not the nature, but the things around the nature." It continues to be prominent in Eastern Christianity (see Gregory Palamas). Apophatic statements are crucial to much modern theologians in Orthodox Christianity (see Vladimir Lossky, John Meyendorff, John S. Romanides and Georges Florovsky).


So, actually, the Eastern Christians embrace mysticism as well as apophatic theology.

Here's another source:
Theology and Mysticism in the Tradition of the Eastern Church
by Vladimir Lossky


The eastern tradition has never made a sharp distinction between mysticism and theology; between personal experience of the divine mysteries and the dogma affirmed by the Church. The following words spoken a century ago by a great Orthodox theologian, the Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, express this attitude perfectly: 'none of the mysteries of the most secret wisdom of God ought to appear alien or altogether transcendent to us, but in all humility we must apply our spirit to the contemplation of divine things'.[1]

To put it in another way, we must live the dogma expressing a revealed truth, which appears to us as an unfathomable mystery, in such a fashion that instead of assimilating the mystery to our mode of understanding, we should, on the contrary, look for a profound change, an inner transformation of spirit, enabling us to experience it mystically.

Far from being mutually opposed, theology and mysticism support and complete each other. One is impossible without the other. If the mystical experience is a personal working out of the content of the common faith, theology is an expression, for the profit of all, of that which can be experienced by everyone.



Why, then, do you think they are "hardly mystics"? Can you show me sources that defy the two descriptions above, please?



posted on Mar, 8 2013 @ 12:43 PM
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reply to post by wildtimes
 


Some Eastern Orthodox Christians are mystics, just as there are Catholic mystics, Jewish mystics... I'm sure that there are Methodist mystics (I think I probably know one, in fact.) The theological view of Eastern Orthodox may have a more mystical tinge to it than Roman Catholicism, but the vast majority of adherents cannot be described as mystics, hence my comment.



posted on Mar, 8 2013 @ 01:03 PM
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reply to post by adjensen
 


Got it. Thanks for your reply!


Do you have any interest in mysticism, personally? Or do you go with the Cataphatic thinking? Everything I've read so far indicates that mysticism isn't for everyone - I think that whether or not someone is interested in it depends on many things;
temperament, intensity toward a subject, and training/education in the classical arts and humanities.

Some people don't have the interest or background to accept it as a viable way to try to build a "knowledge" that really is about just accepting that we can't know. We can only marvel on how profoundly we just can't know.

That's one of my issues with organized faith. With all the icons and rituals and common prayers, it seems like enough to most people (or certain types of people). Once a person has found a "way" that satisfies them, they won't likely continue looking. Do you agree with that?


edit on 8-3-2013 by wildtimes because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 8 2013 @ 01:22 PM
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Originally posted by wildtimes
reply to post by adjensen
 


Got it. Thanks for your reply!


Do you have any interest in mysticism, personally?

I am about halfway though this book: The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks and once that's done, I have Roots of Christian Mysticism: Texts from Patristic Era with Commentary waiting (I'm reading them that way because I suspect that the second will build on the first.) I vaguely recall my wife recommending St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila to me for some reason, so they're on the reading list, as well.


That's one of my issues with organized faith. With all the icons and rituals and common prayers, it seems like enough to most people (or certain types of people). Once a person has found a "way" that satisfies them, they won't likely continue looking. Do you agree with that?

Well, we're all on different journeys, that's for sure.

My counterpart to your issue with organized faith is the exact opposite -- people who dismiss it, simply because it's mainstream / the orthodox view. I recall a quote from somewhere that to dismiss tradition is to dismiss others' opinions, knowledge and guidance simply because they've had the misfortune of dying. I don't know that organized religion has any of the answers, but I similarly see no reason to assume that they don't, simply because it is organized religion.



posted on Mar, 9 2013 @ 07:23 AM
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reply to post by adjensen
 



I don't know that organized religion has any of the answers, but I similarly see no reason to assume that they don't, simply because it is organized religion.

I agree with you here. I never said "simply because" (I know you weren't accusing me of saying that, btw) - that would be truly ignorant. There's no good reason to reinvent the wheel when the hardest work's been done already and certain things established.

Even those people who claim they go to "nondenominational" churches are partaking of tradition and established thoughts. The point that strikes me most is - the thing is, that a mystical aspect has always been part of "religion", whether it's a shaman smoking something, or a sweat lodge, or a vast cathedral with soaring ceilings and a "magical" ambience created by music, candles, incense, and chanting, or a whirling dervish - ALL of them had at least some way of "altering their consciousness" in order to receive "higher knowledge".

Some people are gifted at doing so on their own (usually after much, much practice), and others need "simulations" or symbolic objects, or whatever to induce the trance-like state. Like I said, temperament has so much to do with it.

It's when people understand those "symbols" - whether physical or words - as the thing to be worshipped that they miss the point, and that's exactly why the early church didn't want the "vulgar" to know the "secrets". They weren't properly initiated, or trained toward reaching that ecstatic, fleeting "aHA" point of awareness.

Since no words or objects can accurately represent the Godhead, those people who are "attending church" but take it all simply at face value, and then choose to "describe" the indescribable Godhead as a person with emotions (including the more unpleasant ones) are missing the mark. They may be devoutly pious, but that doesn't mean they really understand the underlying REASONS for the way things are set up.

I don't know if I'm expressing myself well.... I haven't finished my tea yet.



posted on Mar, 9 2013 @ 07:39 AM
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reply to post by adjensen
 


I just read the lengthy "blurb" from the second link of yours - that looks like a very interesting read, indeed!

Most importantly, given the modern propensity for bogus spirituality, Clement shows the indissoluble unity between mysticism and doctrine. The Fathers speak doctrine in voices radiant with the dark vision of God and their doctrine is both the fruit of prayer and the form of spirituality.

From this perspective, the Churchs teachings about God, Christ, Church, Sacrament and Christian vocation become the objects of contemplation and the personal quest for God finds its way within, not apart from the Church, ecclesia. Christian mysticism, therefore, always occurs within the womb of the Church, particularly within the locus of the liturgy and thus, is prevented at the outset from becoming merely a freewheeling and self-authenticating form of emotional exuberance.

Mysticism, thus firmly rooted, is considered the normal spiritual life of all Christians.

This ^, especially, is part of what I'm trying to say.
It goes on:

All the faithful are called to realize fully the grace of their baptism, that is, to fulfill their humanity by being divinized through grace. These words might be disconcerting or raise the specter of enthusiasm, but some proper understanding of this calling, however embryonic, is indispensable to spiritual growth, to the life of the Church and to the transformation of culture. Why, for example, when so many Americans claim to be Christian does their faith have so little impact on our culture? Or why are the Churchs moral teachings found to be so excessively burdensome? Perhaps Christians have seldom been directed toward a spirituality that would open them to a fuller vision of their true destiny in Christ.

Yeah. Perhaps.

I would add that baptizing a baby is done for the parents, not for the baby, who can't possibly understand it's significance. I know that I was baptized, and as I got older and went through confirmation, I was taught doctrine and choreography only. Prior to my first wedding (which was a "traditional" one in the church) we went to premarital counseling with the priest, and he did talk to us about "agape" love, but there was nothing deeper. Perhaps that's why I always found it somehow lacking.

I've envied those who found that blissful "other-ness" somehow, but the church didn't teach me HOW to actually do it, or WHAT exactly I was supposed to be getting out of it. It was just rote performance.

edit on 9-3-2013 by wildtimes because: (no reason given)


I did, however, reach that ecstatic moment a few times through Buddhist thought. As I have said before, each tradition has something to offer. It doesn't make them "right" or "wrong" - the One Ultimate Truth remains the same.
edit on 9-3-2013 by wildtimes because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 9 2013 @ 08:03 AM
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Originally posted by wildtimes

Since no words or objects can accurately represent the Godhead, those people who are "attending church" but take it all simply at face value, and then choose to "describe" the indescribable Godhead as a person with emotions (including the more unpleasant ones) are missing the mark. They may be devoutly pious, but that doesn't mean they really understand the underlying REASONS for the way things are set up.


That's what makes them uninitiated exoteric children. They don't really understand, and they form a layer of defense and offense around the borders of their religion. In their ignorance they tend marginalize mysticism and counter-culture... they fail to realize that its mysticism that informs the esoteric. And through the esoteric, the exoteric.

In turn the exoteric layer of the religion influences mystics who are born into that tradition. It's a give-and-take. Ideally, the tradition will have mechanisms available to nurture mystics in a safe environment. Monasteries and retreats so forth. Places where mystics can transcend dogma, and themselves, in safety under the guidance of more experienced mystics. Away from the prying judgmental eyes of ignorant exoteric children.

edit on 9-3-2013 by BlueMule because: (no reason given)





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