The Darkness of God

I came across the view of God as described by Pseudo-Dionysius (AKA Dionysios or Denys the Areopagite).  It reminded me of Thomas S. Hibbs use of Blaise Pascal’s theology to gain a deeper understanding of Noir.  Hibbs focuses on the idea of God as hidden.  This also connects to various other writers I enjoy who comment on Noir especially in terms of Gnosticism (to be specific Victoria Nelson and Eric G. Wilson).  Along with all of this is the ancient connection of the divine with fear and terror, the experience of God as an overwhelming force such as what Job faced.

However, trying to write in detail about all of that in a single post would be more effort than motivation and time at present allows.  So, I’ll just share the following passage from Denys Turner’s book The Darkness of God: Negativity in Christian Mysticism (pp. 24-25).

Denys is quite emphatic about this and he repeats the warning on several occasions, so fraught with dangers did he consider a limited theological vocabulary to be.  In a pioous vocabulary of unshocking, ‘appropriate’ names, lies the danger of the theologian’s being all the more tempted to suppose that our language about God has succeeded in capturing the divine reality in some ultimately adequate way.  Tactically preferable is the multiplicity of vulgar images which, because they lack any plausibility as comprehensive or appropriate names, paradoxically have a more uplifting efficacy: ‘Indeed the sheer crassness of the signs is a goad so that even the materially inclined cannot accept that it could be permitted or true that the celestial and divine sights could be conveyed by such shameful things’.

There is good practical sense in this.  A ‘golden and gleaing’ God is too like what we might choose to praise; a God ‘enraged’, ‘cursing’ and ‘drunk and hungover’ might have greater power to shock us into a sense of divine transcendence by magnitude of the metaphorical deficiency.