83.) The Apophatic and Kataphatic Ways - According to Christian theology, there are two main ways of approaching the mystery of God: apophatic theology, which seeks to describe God in the language of negation, of transcendence, of being “wholly other”; and kataphatic theology, which seeks a more positive sense in which to understand God—immanence, “God is love,” etc. I want to suggest that there are two corollary ways of relating to God and growing toward him in our partnership in the renewed human nature. The first, the apophatic way, is the one that has received more attention throughout Christian history—it is the way of self-abnegation, of disciplines, of fasting, of renunciation, of rigorous training in the work of prayer. This way recognizes that we still struggle with a proclivity towards sin, and that it is by hard work, by habit, by voluntary sacrifice that we can train ourselves to avoid sinful impulses. It understands that the natural pleasures of the human life are ones that can easily be pursued to excess and become self-centered, so it takes the way of caution and avoids the pleasures themselves, or at least puts strict limits on them. The second way, the kataphatic way, seeks not the negative road of avoiding sin, but the positive road of seeking God. It enters into the goodness of creation and intentionally sets out to discover the joy and love of God displayed there, and to respond in gratitude toward the Maker. This is the way of feasting, of dancing, of the pursuit of beauty, of understanding all of life as prayer; and these are “spiritual disciplines” just as much as are the disciplines of the apophatic way. But one must always remember: these two ways are complementary, and they are necessary checks on one another. The Christian life is the life of both ways, just as the understanding of God must be approached from both the apophatic and kataphatic directions if we are to even begin to understand him.
A Note to My Readers -
I've decided to remove my Sunday posts from the weekly cycle. Although I hope they've been of benefit to some of you, they are necessarily secondary to my regular work of sermon preparation each week. I've found that having that extra post to write simply added to the burden of my work. For those readers who would still like access to my weekly work in Scriptural exposition, I would ask them to access the podcasts of my sermons (available through a link in the sidebar), since that remains the primary form of my Bible teaching each week.