October 21, 2008

Are you Apaphatic or Kataphatic?

Tuesday morning. Yesterday's class at ACU on Christian Spiritual Formation was very interesting. The first part of class we talked about scripture, then we were blessed to have Randy Harris come in and talk about his apaphatic journey. What is apaphatic? As a worshiper one generally either kataphatic or apaphatic. Kataphatic is when you focus on something, scripture, worship songs,...apaphatic is when you just be with God. One might associate this more with hermits or monks, and not generally with evangelical faiths. Randy told us he doesn't feel like one is exclusive of the other, although some people might disagree with him. I can see both being very important in my life, almost everything I do is kataphatic, but to be intentional and set time aside to be in silence and solitute and allow some space for quiet meditation in such a crazy world where there doesn't seem to be time to stand still seems like a breath of fresh air.

Apaphatic worshipers are also known as mystics. They don't have to put God in a box or rationalize Him to others, they just allow God to be mystical. I believe that God is mystical, there are certain areas that we might be able to get a glimpse of Him with in scripture, but until we join Him in heaven, our understanding of God is very incomplete. As I get older I am good with that. When I was younger I felt like I needed to understand everything, I certainly wanted to be able to explain God easily to someone who asked me about Him. I have realized that is no more possible than for me to create the universe. So I am learning to appreciate the mystical nature of God. What if someone asks me about God? It is bound to happen, I am going to resist the urge to try and sum Him up in a sentence, and just ask them to come and see. Spend time with me in scripture, spend time in worship at church, spend time with me in prayer. I love what Beth Moore said in one of her studies, (paraphrased) Any time we try and explain God with our human words, we are not doing Him justice, we are lessening who He really is, as he is too huge, too wonderful, too amazing for us to explain.

I have always found it easier to share what He has done in my life, and witness to that, than to give a succinct definition of who He is.

Through our Kataphatic worship we can know scripture, we can know Jesus's life on earth, we can clearly see the path that is set for believers, but to explain the Entirety of the Trinity would be to try and describe majesty in a foreign language.


Scriptures, God's words about Himself, is what shows closest who He is.

Some of my favorite names of God, which certainly do a better job of describing Him than I could do. There are so many more, it is easy to do a search on this on the internet or through a book study there are so many materials available on the names of God.
The Alpha and Omega - The Beginning and the End
Jehovah-Jireh - The Lord Will Provide
Jehovah-Rophe- The Lord Who Heals
Yeshua - Savior
Christ - The Anointed One

On our class field trip to the Christian Orthodox Church several weeks ago, which leans to the more Apaphatic side, the pastor told us that when one tries to explain God, put Him in our so-called boxes, if they get one thing wrong, or if there is a hole anywhere in their explanation and the listener finds it, it could lead to that listener not seeking God, or seeing God as flawed. And the person who didn't explain God correctly would have that burden to bear. (Again paraphrased)

So what I took away from that is I will only use God's words to explain God, or my personal testimony and witness as the how He has transformed me, but I will try never again to try and explain the I AM with my flawed description.