Rebecca Stark is the author of The Good Portion: God, the second title in The Good Portion series, a series written to encourage women to immerse themselves in the depths of Christian doctrine.

The Good Portion — God explores what Scripture teaches about God in hopes that readers will see his perfection, worth, magnificence, and beauty as they study his triune nature, infinite attributes, and wondrous works. 

Rebecca also blogs at Out of the Ordinary.

                         

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Tuesday
May142019

Theological Term of the Week: Apophatic Theology

 

 

apophatic theology
A method of describing God by saying what he is not. Also called via negationis.1

  • From None Greater by Matthew Barrett:

    This approach is sometimes referred to as the via negativa or via negationis, the way of negation, because it is asserting something true about God by denying something false about him. So when we want to say that God is not mutable or that he does not change, we simply say he is immutable. Essentially, we are identifying all that is creaturely and therefore cannot be in God.2

  • From The Christian Faith by Michael Horton:

    [T]he incommunicable attributes are especially identified by the way of negation (via negationis), by stating some of the respects in which God is not like us. Characteristically, these attributes are recognized by the alpha privative in Greek (the initial a of words such as apatheia (non-suffering) or a similarly negating prefix in Latin, which is taken over into English (for example, immortal, invisible, immutable).3

    [I]t is these attributes of the way of negation that are most frequently challenged as a supposedly later corruption of biblical theology by pagan (Greek) metaphysics. However, it is not only later theologians but the apostle Paul as well who use the alpha-privative prefix, referring to God, for example, as immortal (aphthartos) and invisible (aoratos) (1 Ti 1:17; cf. 6:15-16).4

Learn more:

  1. Got Questions: What is apophatic theology?
  2. Theopedia: Negative Theology

Related terms:

Filed under God’s Nature and His Work

1From None Greater, page 248.

2 From None Greater, page 37.

3 From The Christian Faith, page 225.

4 From The Christian Faith, page 226.


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