RE lang - general and apophatic Flashcards Preview

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Flashcards in RE lang - general and apophatic Deck (17)
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1

intro

- Some agnostics argue that God is not available to reason/experiment and that none of the words in the human vocab can communicate anything about God. Thus, they would say that there is no point engaging in RE discourse as we cannot be sure what we are saying is true
- Theists give God different titles e.g. Islam – 99 diff titles for Allah inc. The Merciful/The Gracious
o E.g. Hinduism – Krishna is described as the ‘supreme Lord of all beings’
o E.g. Judaism – ‘the father of all’
- Theists try and convey other aspects of belief e.g. afterlife, nature of the soul
- Some argue our human language is inadequate to describe a perfect and infinite being
- Judeo-Xian tradition
o The majority of the Judeo-Xian tradition does not use apophatic theology
o It has been significant in elements of Jewish theology, God’s name spoken to Moses is said to be ineffable and Jews will not speak God’s name
o Mostly use cataphatic theology, based on Scripture, RE exp, sacraments
o Revelation suggests that God communicates what God is like to people

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apophatic way - general

- Apophasis comes from the Greek ‘to say no’
- Refers to describing by not describing or negatively describing
- We describe God by saying what he is not e.g. God is not knowable, God is not human, God is ineffable, God is not part of the universe etc.
- Apophatic theology = often combined with mysticism
- 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

3

apophatic way - Maimonides

Maimonides
o Lived in the ‘Golden Age’ in 12 Century Spain, Jews and Xians lived peacefully under Muslim rule
o The apophatic way allows for meaningful God talk
o By making negative statements about God, we build up a picture of what God is
o Uses the example of a ship
♣ May not know the name of it
♣ A person learns that is not an accident, not a mineral, not a plant, not a body, not a flat object, not a sphere, not a pointed, not round shaped, not equilateral, not solid
♣ This tenth person has almost arrived at the correct notion of a ship by the foregoing negative attributes (…) in the same manner you will come nearer to the knowledge and comprehension of God by the negative attributes. I do not merely declare that he who affirms attributes of God has not sufficient knowledge concerning the Creator but I say that he unconsciously loses his belief in God.

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apophatic way - bible

o The majority of the Judeo-Xian tradition does not use apophatic theology
o Mostly use cataphatic theology, based on Scripture, RE exp, sacraments
o Revelation suggests that God communicates what God is like to people
o Genesis 1
o 1 Tim 6:16 - Who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honour and might forever. Amen.
o 1 Kings 19:11-13 - The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore.

5

apophatic way, pseudo-dionysus

- Pseudo-Dionysus the Areopagite
o Influenced by Judaism, developed the ideas that God is unlimited, beyond knowledge, unknowable
o Xian Neoplatonist, early 6th century CE
o Transposed pagan Neoplatonism into a distinctively new Xian context
o God is beyond human understanding and imagination
- the soul needs to be unified with God. body and soul are divided, body is holding back soul.
o It is counter-productive to speak of God as though he can be perceived by the senses/reason
o It is through the recognition of the limits of humanity that spiritual progress can be made
o Must accept the mysterious quality of God

6

positives of apophatic way

+ Recognises that we have to go beyond usual day to day experience to talk about God
+ It does not limit God by using terminology from the material world experienced by humans
+ It conveys the otherness of God
+ We can say things about God that are certainly true and transcend cultural values. Via negative is meaningful to everyone unlike myth/analogy
+ As Maimonides suggests, we could build up a picture of God that isn’t misleading
+ Maybe it is impossible to speak positively of an infinite being

7

negatives of apophatic way, general

- Removes the ability to say a lot of things about God e.g. God is Trinity
- Never featured sign in Jewish/Xian Scripture
- Saying what God is not in saying a lot about nothingness
- It tells us little about whether God exists or not
- We cannot say what God is not if we do not fully know what is e.g. can’t describe black as not white to someone who has never seen white.

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negatives of apophatic way - Maimonides, Davies

- Brian Davies
o Only saying what something is not gives no indication of what is actually is, and if one can only say what God is not, one cannot understand him at all. (…) It is unreasonable to say that someone who has all the negations mentioned ‘has almost arrived at the correct notion of the ship’. He could equally well be thinking of a wardrobe.

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negatives of apophatic way - hume

- Hume, there is so little genuine theistic content to the beliefs of those who use the apophatic way (since God is ultimately unknowable and mysterious) that they are in danger of being atheists without knowing it.

10

apophatic way, Gregory of Nyssa

the a way acknowledges god's eternity as something unique, no mediated through space and time.
it does not argue that we can know nothing about god but that we cannot know his essence. we can still know his effects in the world

11

apophatic way, John f teahan

best way to approach god by transcending ideas is to 'know by unknowing'

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apophatic way, Olson

roger Olson
- it diminishes the purpose of creation and god's personal nature. it depersonalises god

13

+ Philo of Alexandria

He distinguished between the existence of God which could be discovered and the nature of God which he believed was inaccessible to man. This nature of God could only be talked about in negative terms, stating what God is not, via negative.

14

+ stiver

Stiver has argued in support of the Via Negativa identifying the following characteristics:
There is a move beyond words to denying them; this is not scepticism, but designed to lead to the truth and the experience of God.
No cognitive or descriptive content is allowed.
This principle undercuts any approach involving cognitive meaning

15

- inge

- if we strip god of his descriptions because our descriptions are limited and based on human experience, we are in danger of losing the link between god and humanity. tragic as god loves us

16

+ Otto and st John of cross

would both support emphasis on mysticism

17

+ 1 king 19:18

'all whose knees have not bowed down'