One of my favorite theological sayings is “God in all things; all things in God.” This statement reflects the lively omnipresence of God, who can be experienced in everything from toddlers and fireflies to galaxies, soy burgers, mystery novels, and enchiladas. Every place is a divine center and although God doesn’t cause all things and cannot be identified with everything that happens (omnipotence or pantheism), you can find divine inspiration in joyful souls and cancer cells.
This is the good news of kataphatic theology and spirituality. But, there is also good news to the contrasting image of divine dazzling darkness, the negative theology, of apophatic spirituality and theology.
The apophatic way is deconstructive in nature. God is always “not this and not that.” In a world in which the idolatry of place, time, and dogma is always a temptation, apophatic theology is theological Lysol – the prophetic cleansing of all images of God. God is always more than we can imagine. This calls us to humility and agnosticism. In a universe of 125 billion galaxies and a 14 billion year evolutionary journey, nothing we can say can be more than pointing to the moon. God can be glimpsed in all things, but our experiences of God, as life transforming as they are, must always be seen as limited and one of many possibilities. The divine iconoclast calls us to theological iconoclasm.
In many apophatic and kataphatic balance each other. Kataphatic is the great “yes” that inspires our journey. We are at home in the kataphatic world. Apophatic is the “but” that challenges our temptation to localize or absolutize our religious experiences, doctrines, and rituals. It reminds us that we can be content with evolving “good enough” theologies. Apophatic theology invites us to theological and spiritual restlessness. More than that, apophatic – like kataphatic – invites us in true post-modern fashion to explore the many faces of God.
Both apophatic and kataphatic invite us to be theological and spiritual adventurers – always venturing beyond the known theological and experiential world. Like yin and yang, they invite us to always be on the move, challenging the frontiers of the known in quest of God’s presence in small and large.