Monday, November 12, 2012

Mysticism / Apophatic / Dogma

Someone wrote this on a blog:

"Mysticism is an apophatic theological tradition–”knowing by unknowing.” There is a difference between knowing ABOUT God and knowing OF God. The first is conceptual, the latter is experiential.  Theology/dogmatic belief is faith seeking understanding, it is not faith. Faith and beliefs are complementary as long as the beliefs remain open to formation through new experience. It is dogmatic absolutism that is the enemy of trust/faith. Persons of mature faith have certitude, the conviction that God is Good and Loving even when circumstances inflict pain and suffering. In the words of Job, the prototypal OT example of faith, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him.” Certitude is the opposite of the certainty that God will always grant a temporal deliverance. Certitude comes from realizing that, although temporal existence is a relative good, Eternal Life is the Ultimate Good and that is what the Gospel promises."

This seems to me a blending of some scripture (Job) with Buddhism, where everything is about dealing with suffering and escaping it. The "apopathic" tradition, is brought up in contrast to the "dogmatic."  "Apopathic" apparently means the not knowing, the negative.  Instead of saying something about God, it says "I don't know this about God." 

It reminds me of the Chinese Christians I got to know recently.  They said to me:  "Confucius was a philosopher.  Buddah was a philosopher, etc...  None can tell you anything that's true about God.  But Christianity teaches the truth about God". (!)  --  It seems strange to me that one half of the world is just learning to know things about God, that they want to know, and the other half seems to want to reject what they have been taught about God.-- And what motivates us?  Always our own belly and / or glory.  In this way the dogmatic people can be the oppressive ones, but I accept all Ways, I am open to new experiences, I am (whatever it is you think is better about your approach)...

I wouldn't be surprised if followers of apophatic traditions consider others, as discussed last post, as "shallow" or "profane", or "imbecilic" along with not so charmingly dogmatic.  It is all looking to belong into one pot.  If I don't like this revelation of God, if I don't like the moral law, if I don't like redemption by the cross, I will go with the apophatic and call everyone else something unflattering. 

We, of course, know, that God is completely other, that he is hidden in many ways, absconditus and behind masks.  Luther talks about this aplenty.  Even we ourselves in exercising our gifts through our work are working on his behalf.  And as body and soul is not to be separated, neither is word, dogma and experience.  We know that.  But something else is being expressed in the quoted passage.  And as far as it goes against the theology of glory, it is also constructive. 

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