Cataphatic (sometimes spelled kataphatic) theology
is the expressing of God
or the divine through positive terminology. This is in contrast to defining God
or the divine in what God is not, which is referred to as negative or apophatic theology. The word cataphatic itself
is formed from two Greek words, "cata" meaning to descend and
"femi" meaning to speak. Thus, to combine them translates the word
roughly as "to bring God down in such a way so as to speak of him
Apophatic theology (from Ancient Greek:
ἀπόφασις, from ἀπόφημι – apophēmi, "to deny")—also
known as negative theology, via negativa or via negationis
"negative way" or "by way of denial")—is a theology that
attempts to describe God, the Divine Good, by negation, to
speak only in terms of what may not be said about the perfect goodness that is God.
It stands in contrast with cataphatic theology.
A startling example can be found with
theologian John Scotus Erigena (9th century): "We
do not know what God is. God Himself does not know what He is because He is not
anything. Literally God is not, because He transcends being."