Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion

2020 Edition
| Editors: David A. Leeming

Via Negativa

  • Philip Browning HelselEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-24348-7_727

The Latin term, which means the “way of negation,” refers to the stream of Christian theology which emphasized the unknowability of God and the inability of positive theological attributes to define God. Also known as apophatic (literally “denial”) theology, this way of thinking can be seen in the writings of those who would later be known as mystics. The vianegativa paradoxically uses language to describe what is indescribable but prefers adjectives of cancellation to those of positive attribution, claiming that positive attributes drawn from human experience cannot reflect the divine. This stream of thought, far from being divorced from what preceded it in Christian theology, was present throughout Christian theology and could be seen as a direct reflection of a strong emphasis on the transcendence of God (Turner 1995, p. 1). Rejecting the positive naming of God found in Bonaventure and Aquinas, apophatic theologians emphasized the ineffability of God. Drawing from Pseudo-Dionysus,...

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Pastoral Care and CounselingBoston College School of Theology and MinistryChestnut HillUSA