Via negativa

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  • Via negativa
    • Strengths
      • Pseudo D. says that mystery is important for faith
      • Doesn't limit God to physical world
      • Avoids anthropomorphism conveying mystery of God
      • Negative descriptions are literal fact and thus can be universally understood across cultures, language and time.
    • Weaknesses
      • Hard to have a personal relationship.
      • W. R. Inge: not being able to describe God leads to an 'annihilation of both God and humanity' God needs a relationship as humans depend on this.
      • G. K. Chesterton and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin talk about the 'divination of matter'
    • Scholars
      • Pseudo-Dionysius
        • Early Christian mystic who wrote that the soul had to go on beyond the realms of normal experience and become one with God by entering a 'cloud of unknowing' from which God can be approached.
          • People can only become truly spiritual once they have accepted that there are limits of human logic and argument.
      • Moses Maimonides
        • Jewish thinker that supported the via negativa. He used his example of describing a ship negatively.
          • Brian Davies (critic)
            • Only saying what something is not doesn't indicate what something is. Maimonides's ship could equally be a wardrobe.
      • Anthony Flew
        • If we go on to describe God as invisible, soundless, incorporeal, there is little difference between our definition of God and nothingness. By this process, we then argue God out of existence by 'a thousand qualifications'
    • Key ideas
      • -God is described using negatives (i.e. timeless, immortal)         - These are factual terms rather and avoid misleading and limiting God (heretic)  - God is mysterious and cannot be pinned down
      • - Human descriptions of God are inadequate as they refer to finite imperfect things;            -It can be argued that God is beyond our understanding so we often limit or misinterpret God;                  -We should only say what God is not - via negativa / apophatic way


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