Apophatic Aspects of Theological Conversation

in Essays in Ecumenical Theology I
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This chapter offers a more detailed look at how, within the hermeneutics of Christian tradition, we can leave the central space for the subversion of ready-made schemes, for the divine Other as other. This subversion needs to be made present in human relations as well, including ecumenical, intercultural and inter-religious relations. Its aim is to purify, to convert and make space for a more grounded form of communion in process. In the following pages that subversion is called the apophatic way. While the concept is usually associated with Orthodox theology, here its more contemporary Western forms are also investigated. The text was first written as part of a research project investigating the relationship between Hermeneutics of Suspicion and the Apophatic Way,1 and presented at the third Leuven Encounters in Systematic Theology conference in 2001, and subsequently published in the collective monograph which came out of the conference.2 This version of the text is expanded with the inclusion of Vladimir Lossky’s concept of apophaticism,3 which was influential in the French context in which all three Western thinkers who are examined operated. Otherwise there are only minor changes in headings and bibliography, and in the concluding part.