Denying Divinity: Apophasis in the Patristic Christian and Soto Zen Buddhist Traditions

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1 Oxford Scholarship Online You are looking at 1-10 of 38 items for: keywords : Teaching career relwor relthe Denying Divinity: Apophasis in the Patristic Christian and Soto Zen Buddhist Traditions J. P. Williams Published in print: 2000 Published Online: ISBN: eisbn: acprof:oso/ The classical texts of Christianity and Zen Buddhism contain resources with potent appeal to contemporary spirituality. The apophatic, or negative, may offer a means to integrate the conservation of traditional religious practices and beliefs with an openness to experience beyond the limits of doctrine and of rational thought. This book argues for a new understanding of what is meant by apophatic theology, supported by extensive analysis of the texts of Dionysius the Areopagite, St Maximus the Confessor, and Zen Master Dogen. It demonstrates how an apophatic spirituality might inform personal and communal spiritual development, and sketches out the contribution it can offer to modern debate on theology and postmodernism, entropy, and interfaith dialogue, and to development of an active theological commitment to humanity. Religion and Creation acprof:oso/ This book is the second part of a major project of comparative theology begun with Religion and Revelation, which was published in 1994, which looks at major concepts of faith in all four of the main scriptural religions of the world. This book explores the idea of a creator God in the work of 20th-century writers from Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Christianity. He develops a positive concept of God which stresses God's dynamic and responsive relation to the temporal structure of the universe, and the importance of that structure to the self-expression of the divine being. He goes on to present a Trinitarian doctrine of creation, drawing inspiration Page 1 of 5

2 from a wider set of theistic traditions and recent discussions in physics in the realm of cosmology. Religion and Human Nature Published in print: 1998 Published Online: ISBN: eisbn: acprof:oso/ Continuing the author's series on comparative religion, this book deals with religious views of human nature and destiny. The beliefs of six major traditions are presented: the view of Advaita Vedanta that there is one Supreme Self, unfolding into the illusion of individual existence; the Vaishnava belief that there is an infinite number of souls, whose destiny is to be released from material embodiment; the Buddhist view that there is no eternal Self; the Abrahamic belief that persons are essentially embodied souls; and the materialistic position that persons are complex material organisms. Indian ideas of rebirth, karma, and liberation from samsara are critically analysed and compared with Semitic belief in the intermediate state of Sheol, Purgatory or Paradise, the Final Judgement and the resurrection of the body. The impact of scientific theories of cosmic and biological evolution on religious beliefs is assessed, and a form of soft emergent materialism is defended, with regard to the soul. In this context, a Christian doctrine of original sin and atonement is presented, stressing the idea of soterial, as opposed to forensic, justice. Finally, a Christian view of personal immortality and the end of all things is developed in conversation with Jewish and Muslim beliefs about judgement and resurrection. Conclusion in Religion and Human Nature Published in print: 1998 Published Online: ISBN: eisbn: acprof:oso/ This concluding chapter sums up the key findings of this study on the varying views of different religions on human nature and destiny. The analysis of four main religious views and one non-religious view reveals that the differences between religious traditions are nowhere clearer than in their views of human nature and that there are a number of variant positions that can be taken concerning the place of human life in Page 2 of 5

3 the universe. At the general level, most religious views seek liberation from the self and the attainment of a blissful and compassionate experience. This book concludes that views of nature will continue to remain diverse given the fact of human finitude, partiality, and obstinacy. The Hebrew Bible acprof:oso/ This part of the book explores the four scriptural traditions: the Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and Christian, and the way in which they are interpreted by theologians. The chapter attempts to articulate and reconceptualize existing beliefs by a positive interaction with those of others. The Jewish tradition is one of the oldest, from which sprang Christian and Muslim views. Tracing the history of this tradition should give a greater understanding of some of the strands of belief which continue to shape later formulations, and which may significantly influence them. The New Testament acprof:oso/ Twentieth-century theologians have attempted to reconceive the classical tradition of the Christian concept of God and interpret biblical sources in a different light. This chapter highlights the work of Karl Barth considered by many to be the most outstanding 20th-century Christian theologian as representative of attempts to provide a more dynamic and relational doctrine of God. The object is to bring out the distinctiveness of the idea of God as Trinity which stems from the New Testament, and at the same time drawing attention to some striking agreements between major modern theologians working across religious spectrum. Page 3 of 5

4 The Koran acprof:oso/ This chapter discusses a Muslim view of God as expounded by Mohammed Iqbal, one of the most renowned 20th-century poetphilosophers of Islam. Iqbal set out to construct a Muslim doctrine of God and creation that would be free of the classical, Greek philosophical influences which had marked the work of the great medieval Muslim philosophers. His claim is that the central message of the Koran is the spiritual nature of reality, coupled with an urgent insistence upon the unitary nature of reality. According to the chapter, Iqbal's threefold God, who is the Infinite, the Cosmic Ego or Self, and the creative coworker with and guide of finite selves, by no means reflects the Christian doctrine of the Trinity exactly. The Upanishads acprof:oso/ This chapter deals with one of the central revealed texts of orthodox Hinduism, the Upanishads, and with one major 20th-century commentators upon it, Aurobindo Ghose. The aim is to draw parallel to the chapter's treatment of the Semitic faiths, and to bring out the extent to which both traditions have been affected by the emphasis on temporality, creativity, and evolution. The central concept of the Upanishads is the concept of Brahman, or the Supreme. A key Upanishadic concept is the Self (Atman) it is one beyond duality and diversity of all sorts, immeasurable, unlimited in existence, beyond space and time. The Upanishads are concerned with the origin of all things, and offer various opinions about it. Sometimes it is said that all originates from Death or Hunger, a primal Nothingness which generates from itself all that is. Page 4 of 5

5 The Objective Reality of God acprof:oso/ The distinctive world-views would claim to be based on revelation, on discernments of the nature of God as the prophets and sages have articulated in their own developing traditions of worship and prayer. Such revelations articulate the sense of an ultimate power on which humans feel themselves to depend and a supreme value which they can, to some degree, apprehend. But it is precisely a belief in the existence of an ultimate power and supreme value which is held to be suspect or even irrational by many contemporary thinkers. There are many reasons for this, but a major one is a commitment either to a strong form of empiricism or to a strong form of materialism. Metaphor and Analogy acprof:oso/ Many metaphors can be used to help the mind to create images of God which inspire devotion and a practical response. But it is not the case that all talk of God must be metaphorical or symbolic. Even though the divine being in itself must remain beyond the grasp of the human mind, there are still many literal statements which are true of it in its relation to the created universe. If the theist is committed to speaking of God, as a reality of supreme power and value, the theist is also committed to providing some literal, if analogical, description of the reality of God. What theologians like Paul Tillich fear is that the concept of God provided by speculation will be so inadequate to its object, so anthropomorphic, that it will be positively misleading. Page 5 of 5

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