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Denys Turner: The Unknowability of God


In this paper I examine some theological accounts of "indeterminacy", generally associated with what is called the "apophatic": the proposition that we do not and cannot know what God is. In some forms, for example, in Aquinas, this is the view that whatever demonstrates the existence of God demonstrates thereby that, as of God, we have lost our grip on the meaning of "exists". The interest of this construal of theology's ultimate indeterminacy for us today is that in our times, and especially since Nietzsche, the indeterminate is more generally thought to follow from an atheist position: as Nietzsche says, "we are not getting rid of God because we still believe in grammar". So we are left with the question: is there today the possibility of a post-Nietzschean theism which links, in some way, the "post-modern" "indeterminist" agendas with pre-modern forms of apophaticism?