Silence and the Word: Negative Theology and Incarnation

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Negative theology or apophasis—the idea that God is best identified in terms of what we cannot know about him, in terms of "absence", "otherness", "difference"—has been influentiual in modern Christian thought, resonating as it does with secular notions of absence, otherness and difference developed in recent continental philosophy. Leading Christian thinkers now offer a range of important new perspectives on this tradition, both historical and contemporary, to show how a dimension of negativity has characterized not only traditional mysticism but most forms of Christian thought over the years.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[Davies and Turner's] contributions helpfully suggest ways in which the doctrines of the trinity and the incarnation, far from subverting negative theology, provide the conceptual framework within which Christians become most fully aware of language's inability to encompass or exhaust divinity." Religious Studies Review

"Almost every essay in this fine collection is worth reading, and some are worth intense study. Kudos to Davies and Turner for compiling a collection that shows that living into God means not dogmatic triumphalism but patient humility before the plenitude of a mystery of love that is always before us and behind us, holding us but never allowing us to kill her by holding too tightly to her with our merely human concepts." Modern Theology

"In terms of writing, intellectual penetration, and coverage of a topic, this is in every way a superior collection." - Cyril O'Regan, The University of Notre Dame

Christian theologians representing different fields of interest gathered in Birmingham, England in the spring of 1999 to engage with Christianity as an existential and dialectical religion. They agree that the dimension of negativity, or apophasis, most often associated with the canon of Christian mystical texts, also belongs to mainstream Christianity, and can be found in theological works not normally considered mystical. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521817189
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2005
  • Pages: 240
  • Lexile: 1520L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.67 (d)

Meet the Author

Oliver Davies is Reader in Philosophical Theology in the University of Wales and has written a number of studies of Christian mystical writers, including Meister Eckhart: Mystical Theologian (SPCK 1991). The first volume of his Systematic Theology in three parts appeared as A Theology of Compassion (SCM Press 2001), and the second volume, On the Creativity of God, is currently under preparation.

Denys Turner is the Norris-Hulse Professor of Philosophical Theology at the University of Cambridge and former H. G.Wood Professor at the University of Birmingham. He is the author of On the Philosophy of Karl Marx (Sceptre, 1969), Marxism and Christianity (Blackwell, 1983) and The Darkness of God (CUP, 1995). He is currently working on a book on Thomas Aquinas and the doctrine of God.

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Table of Contents

Preface; Notes on contributors; Introduction Oliver Davies and Denys Turner; 1. Apophaticism, idolatory and the claims of reason Denys Turner; 2. The quest for a place which is 'not-a-place': the hiddenness of God and the presence of God Paul S. Fiddes; 3. The gift of the name: Moses and the burning bush Janet Martin Soskice; 4. Aquinas on the Trinity Herbert McCabe; 5. Vere tu es deus absconditus: the hidden God in Luther and some mystics Bernard McGinn; 6. The deflections of desire: negative theology in Trinitarian disclosure Rowan Williams; 7. The formation of mind: Trinity and understanding in Newman Mark A. McIntosh; 8. 'In the daylight forever?': language and silence Graham Ward; 9. Apophasis and the Shoah: where was Jesus Christ at Auschwitz? David F. Ford; 10. Soundings: towards a theological poetics of silence Oliver Davies; Select bibliography.

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