The Light of Christ Illumines All: Apophatic and Cataphatic Interplay in Dumitru Stăniloae and Maximus the Confessor

Apophatic theology has become a trademark of Eastern Orthodoxy in theological discourse. An internet search on the topic turns up a plethora of blog posts, articles, books, polemics, criticisms, etcetera. Even in catechetical texts apophatic theology can take up sections of a chapter, properly explaining the negative way of theology for the neophyte or inquisitor. It often assumes a monolithic character in Orthodox literature, where there is a negation of cataphatic theology which leads to a mystical experience with God. However, with a keener glance one can see that the coloring of apophaticism is not the same across Orthodox theologians, and at times can differ significantly. In this paper we will outline the apophatic-cataphatic relationship in the theology of Dumitru Stăniloae (1903-93) with reference to St. Maximus the Confessor’s tenth Amibguum to show that there is an interplay between apophatic and cataphatic theology. Finally, it will provide some concluding thoughts on the importance of this interplay for the place of rationality in Orthodox theology.

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