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Dictionary

A modern dictionary of Catholic terms, both common and obscure. Find accurate definitions of words and phrases.

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NEGATIVE THEOLOGY

That approach to Christian thought which rises by way of negation to the infinite and nameless One who is beyond all finite comprehension. It is the favorite approach of those who favor a mystical experience of God in preference to a rational proof of his existence and understanding of his attributes. Meister Eckhart (1260-1327), a writer in mystical theology, is the best known extremist in negative theology, claiming, for example, that all creatures are an absolute nothing: "I do not say that they are a small thing or that they are nothing but that they are an absolute nothing" (Denzinger, 976). Eckhart was condemned by Pope John XXII in 1329. There is, however, a legitimate use of negative theology to sharpen a believer's sense of God's incomprehensibility. Negative theology is sometimes distinguished from positive theology, but the latter refers rather to a branch of dogmatic theology.

All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.

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