→History and Development in the Eastern Church
==History and Development in the Eastern Church==
One of the first to articulate the theology in [[Christianity]] was the [[Apostle Paul]], whose reference to the Unknown God in the book of [[Acts of the Apostles|Acts]] (Acts 17:23) is the foundation of works such as that of [[
Pseudo Dionysius]] . This is as Pseudo Dionysius so describes. The [[Cappadocian Fathers]] of the 4th century, exemplars of this ''via negativa'', said that they believed in God, but they did not believe that God exists, at least in the same sense that man exists (notwithstanding the Incarnation). In contrast, making positive statements about the nature of God, which occurs in most other forms of Christian theology, is sometimes called [[cataphatic theology]]. Adherents of the apophatic tradition hold that God is beyond the limits of what humans can understand, and that one should not seek God by means of intellectual understanding, but through a direct experience of the love (in Western Christianity) or the [[Energies of God| Energies]] (in Eastern Christianity) of God. Apophatic theology can be also seen as an oral tradition. "It must also be recognized that 'forgery' is a modern notion. Like Plotinus and the Cappadocians before him, Dionysius does not claim to be an innovator, but rather a communicator of a tradition." [http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pseudo-dionysius-areopagite/]
Apophatic theology played an important role early in the [[Timeline of Church History|history of Christianity]]. The [[Three Holy Hierarchs]] all emphasized the importance of negative theology to an orthodox understanding of God. Later [[John of Damascus]] employed it when he wrote that positive statements about God reveal "not the nature, but the things around the nature." In addition, [[Maximus the Confessor]] maintained that the combination of apophatic theology and [[hesychasm]]—the practice of keeping stillness—made [[theosis]] or union with God possible. All in all, apophatic statements are crucial to much theology in [[Orthodox Christianity]]; the opposite tends to be true in Western Christianity, though there are a few exceptions to this rule.