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  • Writer's pictureJ. Randall Stewart

58 - The Visible and Invisible

There are these two big words in Christian tradition that can help define the visible and invisible aspects of God.

Those words are; Cataphatic and Apophatic.

Wow! Those are big words. But what do they mean?

Cataphatic means "positive", and Apophatic means "negative".

Cataphatic represents what can be known about God, and Apophatic represents knowing God personally. Because God is invisible, being in relationship with a God we can't see is somewhat like walking in darkness. It's being in relationship with someone we can't understand or comprehend, and yet can still know in way unlike the ways we know everything else. That's why it's considered to be a king of negative knowledge, verses the Cataphatic, which is knowledge we can more easily digest and understand.

We can easily say God is love. But experiencing God's love in a real way is something much harder to understand and explain. In practical terms, we cannot explain it. We can only experience it.

In some ways, much of Christian understanding, tradition, and theology is mere metaphor and symbolism. God really is love, peace, goodness, righteousness, and holiness. But what does that really mean? These are character qualities of a person, not abstract ideas in our heads. Knowing about a person, and knowing that person are two different things. It's the different between reading a book about someone's life, and being in the same room with that person where you can get to know them through real, personal interaction.

The goal of Christianity, I believe, is to have that kind of personal interaction with God. And yet, God is invisible. What is visible points to the invisible, like a picture representing a place. But seeing the picture is not the same as experiencing the place. Everything we can know about God only gives us a picgture of who God is. Knowing God Himself is much different.

That's why we can't mistake what we know about God as knowing God Himself, and the visible aspects of Christianity for the intangible, eternal, and mystical reality of our ability to walk with a God we cannot see in our everyday lives.


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