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Apophasis and the Trinity: On the Enduring Significance of Revelation for Theology

Morgan, Gabriel

Plato understood that describing God is impossible. However, according to Gregory of Nazianzus, to know God is even less possible. Gregory radicalizes apophaticism in this way as a critique of Eunomius and his claim to know the divine nature by definition as that which is without origin. However, one can take apophaticism in at least two very different directions. One direction might argue that because God is unknowable and ineffable, therefore, in the words of Sallie McFague, "all language about God is human construction and as such perforce ‘misses the mark'." Accordingly, one might argue that very few or even no religious or theological claims are any more inherently valid than another, and that such claims are to be evaluated by strictly moral or pragmatic considerations; theology should likewise progress from dogmatics to the methods of the general study of religion. However, another way of taking such radical apophaticism is precisely to recognize the enduring significance of revelation for theology. Rather than the final word, God’s ineffability and transcendence presupposes God’s condescension and revelation in the Trinitarian economy.

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Published In
Union Seminary Quarterly Review
Volume
65
Issue
1-2
Pages
96 - 113
Academic Units
Union Theological Seminary
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