Friday, September 17, 2021

Not this, not that …

Lao Tzu’s negative theology. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

There is paradox here, but no contradiction.  What Lao Tzu is telling us is that while of course the Tao can be named or spoken of in onesense – that’s the point of saying what we’ve so far heard him say, after all – what we are speaking about is something that ultimately cannot adequately be captured in language, because it is so radically unlike the temporary, changing, differentiated, dependent things of our experience.  In that sense it is nameless.  The best we can do is to suggest the ways in which it is not like the things of our experience – it is not temporary, not changing, not differentiated, not dependent, and so on.

It is perhaps worth taking note of the Chinese translation of John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Tao, and the Tao was with God, and the Tao was God.” Regarding anthropomorphism, it seems to me that the Incarnation is as anthropomorphic as it gets.

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