Apophatic BodiesNegative Theology, Incarnation, and Relationality

Apophatic BodiesNegative Theology, Incarnation, and Relationality

Chris Boesel and Catherine Keller

Print publication date: 2011

ISBN: 9780823230815

Publisher: Fordham University Press


The ancient doctrine of negative theology or apophasis—the attempt to describe God by speaking only of what cannot be said about the divine perfection and goodness—has taken on new life in the concern with language and its limits that preoccupies much post-modern philosophy, theology, and related disciplines. How does this mystical tradition intersect with the concern with material bodies that is simultaneously a focus in these areas? This volume pursues the unlikely conjunction of apophasis and the body, not for the cachet of the “cutting edge” but rather out of an ethical passion for the integrity of all creaturely bodies as they are caught up in various ideological mechanisms—religious, theological, political, economic—that threaten their dignity and material well-being. The book rethinks the relationship between the concrete tradition of negative theology and apophatic discourses widely construed. It further endeavors to link these to the theological theme of incarnation and more general issues of embodiment, sexuality, and cosmology. Along the way, the book engages and deploys the resources of contextual and liberation theology, post-structuralism, postcolonialism, process thought, and feminism. The result not only recasts the nature and possibilities of theological discourse but explores the possibilities of academic discussion across and beyond disciplines in concrete engagement with the well-being of bodies, both organic and inorganic. The volume interrogates the complex capacities of religious discourse both to threaten and positively to draw upon the material well-being of creation.

Table of Contents


Chris Boesel, and Catherine Keller

Negative Theology: Unfolding Traditions

Incarnations: Body/Image

More Mysterious Bodies: Veils, Voids, Visions

“The Body is No Body”

David L. Miller

Apophatic Ethics: Whose Body, Whose Speech?

Love Stories: Unspeakable Relations, Infinite Freedom

End Matter