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Philosophy and Theology

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published on August 10, 2017

David Efird, David Worsley

What an Apophaticist Can Know
Divine Ineffability and the Beatific Vision

For an apophatic theologian, the doctrines of divine ineffability and of the beatific vision seem, on first glance, to contradict each other. If God is beyond knowledge (as we are taught in the doctrine of divine ineffability) how can we come to know Him, fully and completely (as we are taught in the doctrine of the beatific vision)? To resolve this problem, we argue that, if there are at least two qualitatively different kinds of knowledge, namely, propositional knowledge and knowledge of persons, then there are at least two qualitatively different kinds of ineffability, namely, propositional ineffability and what we will call personal ineffability. By postulating that God is propositionally ineffable but personally effable, we argue that the contradictory doctrines of divine ineffability and of the beatific vision can be reconciled. Thus, the apophatic theologian can know nothing God, but they can still come to God, fully and completely.

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