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Denying DivinityApophasis in the Patristic Christian and Soto Zen Buddhist Traditions$
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J. P. Williams

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780198269991

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198269991.001.0001

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Introduction to apophasis

Introduction to apophasis

(p.1) 1 Introduction to apophasis
Denying Divinity

J. P. Williams

Oxford University Press

This book contributes to the budding renaissance of apophatic theology by providing an analysis of certain central source-texts and deriving therefrom a definition of apophasis that has clear support in the work of A. H. Armstrong and others. It demonstrates that the logic of apophasis is not only shared by Buddhism, constituting a resource not yet fully recognized by those engaged in Buddhist–Christian dialogue, but also contains the potential for a rich spirituality with especial attractions for the postmodern context. ‘Apophasis’ is the Greek for ‘negation’ or ‘denial’, and is the opposite to ‘kataphasis’, ‘affirmation.’ This book traces the development of the particular technique of apophasis from the broad and initially fairly undifferentiated stream of the negative tradition in Greece, as well as the parallel development within the Buddhist tradition. It discusses two competing theories of apophasis: first, a negation that is complementary to affirmation and is anterior to a transcendent or superlative affirmation about the divine; and second, a negation that is posterior to both affirmations and first-order negations about the divine.

Keywords:   Buddhism, apophasis, apophatic theology, A. H. Armstrong, spirituality, negation, negative tradition, Greece, divine, affirmation

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