Altar to an Unknown Love: Rob Bell, C.S. Lewis, and the Legacy of the Art and Thought of Man


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This must be so because Leibowitz thought that God cannot be described, that God's understanding is not man's understanding, and thus all the questions asked of God are out of place. There are interesting parallels in Indian thought, which developed largely separate from Western thought. An expression of negative theology is found in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad , where Brahman is described as " neti neti " or "neither this, nor that". Whenever we deny something unreal, it is in reference to something real. Buddhist philosophy has also strongly advocated the way of negation, beginning with the Buddha's own theory of anatta not- atman , not-self which denies any truly existent and unchanging essence of a person.

Madhyamaka is a Buddhist philosophical school founded by Nagarjuna 2nd-3rd century CE , which is based on a fourfold negation of all assertions and concepts and promotes the theory of emptiness shunyata. These currents of negative theology are visible in all forms of Buddhism. In Advaita, Brahman is defined as being Nirguna or without qualities. Anything imaginable or conceivable is not deemed to be the ultimate reality.

Yet the Hindu scriptures often speak of Brahman's positive aspect. For instance, Brahman is often equated with bliss. These contradictory descriptions of Brahman are used to show that the attributes of Brahman are similar to ones experienced by mortals, but not the same. Negative theology also figures in the Buddhist and Hindu polemics. The arguments go something like this — Is Brahman an object of experience? If so, how do you convey this experience to others who have not had a similar experience? The only way possible is to relate this unique experience to common experiences while explicitly negating their sameness.

Even though the via negativa essentially rejects theological understanding in and of itself as a path to God, some have sought to make it into an intellectual exercise, by describing God only in terms of what God is not.

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One problem noted with this approach is that there seems to be no fixed basis on deciding what God is not, unless the Divine is understood as an abstract experience of full aliveness unique to each individual consciousness, and universally, the perfect goodness applicable to the whole field of reality.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Religious concepts. Ethical egoism Euthyphro dilemma Logical positivism Religious language Verificationism eschatological Problem of evil Theodicy Augustinian Irenaean Best of all possible worlds Inconsistent triad Natural evil. Theories of religion. Philosophers of religion. Iqbal M. Related topics. Criticism of religion Ethics in religion Exegesis Faith and rationality History of religions Political science of religion Religion and science Religious philosophy Theology. Main article: Middle Platonism.

Main article: Neo-Platonism. People by era or century. Desert Fathers. Contemporary papal views. Aspects of meditation Orationis Formas , Mosaic of Christ Pantocrator , Hagia Sophia. Autocephalous jurisdictions. Noncanonical jurisdictions. Evangelical Orthodox Western Orthodoxy. Celts France Gaul. Ecumenical councils. Liturgy and worship. Liturgical calendar.

Major figures. Other topics. Main article: Eastern Orthodox Church. See also: Credo ut intelligam and Fides et ratio. See also: Philo. Anatta Sunyata Vipassana. Neti neti Self-enquiry. Existence of God Fideism Limit-experience. Geldard: "[M]ore than any other pre-Socratic thinker, Heraclitus embodies the apophatic method. He "unsaid" the myths of the Archaic tradition on his way to transforming the ideas of divinity through the divine Logos.

It was a transformation affirmed by Plotinus years later. Chinul: What has just asked me this question is precisely your mind of void and calm, numinous awareness. Why not trace back its radiance rather than search for it outside? For your benefit I will now point straight to your original mind so that you can awaken to it. Clear your minds and listen to my words. Bible et Proche-Orient. Quoted by Lasine, Stuart Weighing Hearts. Character, Judgment, and the Ethics of Reading the Bible.

London: Bloomsbury Publishing. This is said to be forever inconceivable, unimaginable, above all thought, beyond all knowledge. It can only be described by God through revelations and can only be apprehended by a negative apophatic theology. This recalls the Deus absconditus, the unknowable that forms the hidden, esoteric level of God, the level of the absolute abscondity of God. A Companion to Augustine.

With the assistance of Shelley Reid. Selected Writings. Mahwah, New Jersey : Paulist Press. World Digital Library. Retrieved 6 March Hidden God and Hidden Self pp. Histories of the Hidden God. Abingdon-on-Thames : Routledge. The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church.

The Vision of God. Leighton Buzzard : Faith Press. Michelangelo's Finger. An Exploration of Everyday Transcendence. The Digital God. How Technology Will Reshape Spirituality. Jefferson, North Carolina : McFarland. In Herbermann, Charles ed. Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton. Light from the Christian East. An Introduction to the Orthodox Tradition.

Training in Christianity, and the Edifying discourse which 'accompanied' it. Oxford University Press. Kierkegaard as Negative Theologian illustrated, reprint ed. Oxford : Clarendon Press.


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Re-figuring Theology. The Rhetoric of Karl Barth. In Ellenbogen, Josh; Tugendhaft, Aaron eds. Idol Anxiety. Holiness pp. A Companion to Philosophy of Religion. Philosophical Hermeneutics and Biblical Exegesis. The Universe as Communion. Bloomsbury : Bloomsbury Publishing. Lewis — Revelation, Conversion, and Apologetics. Eugene, Oregon : Wipf and Stock. Retrieved 5 May Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms. Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans. First Principles.

Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Between Eternities. Lanham, Maryland : Lexington Books. The Guardian. Guardian News and Media.

The God Delusion

Retrieved 7 April The Experience of God. Being, Consciousness, Bliss. Encyclopaedia of Islam New Edition. Volume X T-U. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill. A Dictionary of Islam. Chicago: Kazi Publications. Retrieved 3 May Columbia University. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Encyclopedia of Islam. New York City: Infobase Publishing. Rosemont Publishing and Printing Corp, Derrida and Negative Theology. State University of New York, Paulist Press, The Ineffable, Inconceivable, and Incomprehensible God. The fourth-century Cappadocian Fathers [note 9] stated a belief in the existence of God, but an existence unlike that of everything else: everything else that exists was created, but the Creator transcends this existence, is uncreated.

The essence of God is completely unknowable; mankind can know God only through His energies. John of Damascus c. Maximus the Confessor took over Pseudo-Dionysius' ideas, and had a strong influence on the theology and contemplative practices of the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Romanides and Georges Florovsky. Lossky argues, based on his reading of Dionysius and Maximus Confessor, that positive theology is always inferior to negative theology which is a step along the way to the superior knowledge attained by negation.

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According to Lossky, 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. Negative theology has a place in the Western Christian tradition as well.

The 9th-century theologian John Scotus Erigena wrote:.


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We do not know what God is. God Himself does not know what He is because He is not anything [i. Literally God is not , because He transcends being. When he says " He is not anything " and " God is not ", Scotus does not mean that there is no God, but that God cannot be said to exist in the way that creation exists, i. He is using apophatic language to emphasise that God is "other". Theologians like Meister Eckhart and John of the Cross San Juan de la Cruz exemplify some aspects of or tendencies towards the apophatic tradition in the West.

In apophatism became the official position of the Catholic Church , which, on the basis of Scripture and church tradition , during the Fourth Lateran Council formulated the following dogma :.


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Between Creator and creature no similitude can be expressed without implying an even greater dissimilitude. Thomas Aquinas was born ten years later and, although in his Summa Theologica he quotes Pseudo-Dionysius 1, times, [71] his reading in a neo-Aristotelian key [72] of the conciliar declaration overthrew its meaning inaugurating the "analogical way" as tertium between via negativa and via positiva : the via eminentiae see also analogia entis.

According to Adrian Langdon,. The distinction between univocal, equivocal, and analogous language and relations corresponds to the distinction between the via positiva , via negativa , and via eminentiae. In Thomas Aquinas, for example, the via positiva undergirds the discussion of univocity, the via negativa the equivocal, and the via eminentiae the final defense of analogy.

According to Catholic Encyclopedia , the Doctor Angelicus and the scholastici declare [that]. God is not absolutely unknowable, and yet it is true that we cannot define Him adequately. But we can conceive and name Him in an "analogical way". The perfections manifested by creatures are in God, not merely nominally equivoce but really and positively, since He is their source.

Yet, they are not in Him as they are in the creature, with a mere difference of degree, nor even with a mere specific or generic difference univoce , for there is no common concept including the finite and the Infinite. They are really in Him in a supereminent manner eminenter which is wholly incommensurable with their mode of being in creatures.

We can conceive and express these perfections only by an analogy; not by an analogy of proportion, for this analogy rests on a participation in a common concept, and, as already said, there is no element common to the finite and the Infinite; but by an analogy of proportionality. Since then Thomism has played a decisive role in resizing the negative or apophatic tradition of the magisterium. Lewis , in his book Miracles , advocates the use of negative theology when first thinking about God, in order to cleanse our minds of misconceptions.

He goes on to say we must then refill our minds with the truth about God, untainted by mythology, bad analogies or false mind-pictures. The midth century Dutch philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd , who is often associated with a neo-Calvinistic tradition, provides a philosophical foundation for understanding why we can never absolutely know God, and yet, paradoxically, truly know something of God. Most of the discussion of knowledge of God presupposes theoretical knowledge, in which we reflect and try to define and discuss.

Theoretical knowing, by its very nature, is never absolute, always depends on religious presuppositions, and cannot grasp either God or the law side. Pre-theoretical knowing, on the other hand, is intimate engagement, and exhibits a diverse range of aspects. Pre-theoretical intuition, on the other hand, can grasp at least the law side. Knowledge of God, as God wishes to reveal it, is pre-theoretical, immediate and intuitive, never theoretical in nature.

Ivan Illich , the historian and social critic, can be read as an apophatic theologian, according to a longtime collaborator, Lee Hoinacki, in a paper presented in memory of Illich, called "Why Philia? According to Deirdre Carabine , negative theology has become a hot topic since the s, [90] resulting from a broad effort in the 19 and 20th century to portray Plato as a mysticist, which revived the interest in Neoplatonism and negative theology.

Karen Armstrong , in her book The Case for God , notices a recovery of apophatic theology in postmodern theology. The Arabic term for "negative theology" is lahoot salbi , [93] which is a "system of theology" or nizaam al lahoot in Arabic. The lahoot salbi or "negative theology" involves the use of ta'til , which means "negation," [94] and the followers of the Mu'tazili school of Kalam , founded by Imam Wasil ibn Ata , are often called the Mu'attili , because they are frequent users of the ta'tili methodology.

Shia Islam adopted "negative theology". In The Guide for the Perplexed , Maimonides stated:. God's existence is absolute and it includes no composition and we comprehend only the fact that He exists, not His essence. Consequently it is a false assumption to hold that He has any positive attribute [ Hence it is clear that He has no positive attribute however, the negative attributes are necessary to direct the mind to the truths which we must believe [ According to Fagenblat, it is only in the modern period that negative theology really gains importance in Jewish thought.

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This must be so because Leibowitz thought that God cannot be described, that God's understanding is not man's understanding, and thus all the questions asked of God are out of place. There are interesting parallels in Indian thought, which developed largely separate from Western thought. An expression of negative theology is found in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad , where Brahman is described as " neti neti " or "neither this, nor that".

Whenever we deny something unreal, it is in reference to something real. Buddhist philosophy has also strongly advocated the way of negation, beginning with the Buddha's own theory of anatta not- atman , not-self which denies any truly existent and unchanging essence of a person. Madhyamaka is a Buddhist philosophical school founded by Nagarjuna 2nd-3rd century CE , which is based on a fourfold negation of all assertions and concepts and promotes the theory of emptiness shunyata. These currents of negative theology are visible in all forms of Buddhism.

In Advaita, Brahman is defined as being Nirguna or without qualities. Anything imaginable or conceivable is not deemed to be the ultimate reality. Yet the Hindu scriptures often speak of Brahman's positive aspect.

For instance, Brahman is often equated with bliss. These contradictory descriptions of Brahman are used to show that the attributes of Brahman are similar to ones experienced by mortals, but not the same. Negative theology also figures in the Buddhist and Hindu polemics. The arguments go something like this — Is Brahman an object of experience? If so, how do you convey this experience to others who have not had a similar experience? The only way possible is to relate this unique experience to common experiences while explicitly negating their sameness.

Even though the via negativa essentially rejects theological understanding in and of itself as a path to God, some have sought to make it into an intellectual exercise, by describing God only in terms of what God is not. One problem noted with this approach is that there seems to be no fixed basis on deciding what God is not, unless the Divine is understood as an abstract experience of full aliveness unique to each individual consciousness, and universally, the perfect goodness applicable to the whole field of reality.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Religious concepts. Ethical egoism Euthyphro dilemma Logical positivism Religious language Verificationism eschatological Problem of evil Theodicy Augustinian Irenaean Best of all possible worlds Inconsistent triad Natural evil. Theories of religion. Philosophers of religion. Iqbal M. Related topics. Criticism of religion Ethics in religion Exegesis Faith and rationality History of religions Political science of religion Religion and science Religious philosophy Theology.

Main article: Middle Platonism. Main article: Neo-Platonism. People by era or century. Desert Fathers. Contemporary papal views. Aspects of meditation Orationis Formas , Mosaic of Christ Pantocrator , Hagia Sophia. Autocephalous jurisdictions. Noncanonical jurisdictions. Evangelical Orthodox Western Orthodoxy. Celts France Gaul. Ecumenical councils. Liturgy and worship. Liturgical calendar. Major figures. Other topics. Main article: Eastern Orthodox Church.

See also: Credo ut intelligam and Fides et ratio. See also: Philo. Anatta Sunyata Vipassana. Neti neti Self-enquiry. Existence of God Fideism Limit-experience. Geldard: "[M]ore than any other pre-Socratic thinker, Heraclitus embodies the apophatic method. He "unsaid" the myths of the Archaic tradition on his way to transforming the ideas of divinity through the divine Logos. It was a transformation affirmed by Plotinus years later. Chinul: What has just asked me this question is precisely your mind of void and calm, numinous awareness.

Why not trace back its radiance rather than search for it outside? For your benefit I will now point straight to your original mind so that you can awaken to it. Clear your minds and listen to my words. Bible et Proche-Orient. Quoted by Lasine, Stuart Weighing Hearts. Character, Judgment, and the Ethics of Reading the Bible. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. This is said to be forever inconceivable, unimaginable, above all thought, beyond all knowledge. It can only be described by God through revelations and can only be apprehended by a negative apophatic theology.

This recalls the Deus absconditus, the unknowable that forms the hidden, esoteric level of God, the level of the absolute abscondity of God. A Companion to Augustine. With the assistance of Shelley Reid. Selected Writings. Mahwah, New Jersey : Paulist Press.

Related books and articles

World Digital Library. Retrieved 6 March Hidden God and Hidden Self pp. Histories of the Hidden God. Abingdon-on-Thames : Routledge. The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church. The Vision of God. Leighton Buzzard : Faith Press. Michelangelo's Finger. An Exploration of Everyday Transcendence.

Altar to an Unknown Love: Rob Bell, C.S. Lewis, and the Legacy of the Art and Thought of Man Altar to an Unknown Love: Rob Bell, C.S. Lewis, and the Legacy of the Art and Thought of Man
Altar to an Unknown Love: Rob Bell, C.S. Lewis, and the Legacy of the Art and Thought of Man Altar to an Unknown Love: Rob Bell, C.S. Lewis, and the Legacy of the Art and Thought of Man
Altar to an Unknown Love: Rob Bell, C.S. Lewis, and the Legacy of the Art and Thought of Man Altar to an Unknown Love: Rob Bell, C.S. Lewis, and the Legacy of the Art and Thought of Man
Altar to an Unknown Love: Rob Bell, C.S. Lewis, and the Legacy of the Art and Thought of Man Altar to an Unknown Love: Rob Bell, C.S. Lewis, and the Legacy of the Art and Thought of Man
Altar to an Unknown Love: Rob Bell, C.S. Lewis, and the Legacy of the Art and Thought of Man Altar to an Unknown Love: Rob Bell, C.S. Lewis, and the Legacy of the Art and Thought of Man
Altar to an Unknown Love: Rob Bell, C.S. Lewis, and the Legacy of the Art and Thought of Man Altar to an Unknown Love: Rob Bell, C.S. Lewis, and the Legacy of the Art and Thought of Man

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