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November 10, 2008
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v2.1 Reference

Speaking the Incomprehensible God

Thomas Aquinas on the Interplay of Positive and Negative Theology

How can the Church speak of the God who transcends all thought and speech? This book is a comprehensive retrieval of Thomas Aquinas's theological epistemology of the divine names, which is his profound contribution to that perennial question. His theology of the divine names is a rich and complex tapestry that weaves together the twin themes of negative and positive theology. Tempering any extreme agnosticism, Aquinas sets out a multi-layered negative theology respectful of God's incomprehensibility, while he also proposes a view of theological analogy that places it at the heart of his positive theology. Finally, he grounds his epistemology in the fundamental theological truth that God is the infinitely perfect and self-subsistent Creator.

Gregory Rocca's nuanced discussion prevents Aquinas's thought from being capsulized in familiar slogans and is an antidote to unilateralist or monochrome views about God-talk. Rocca laces Aquinas's negative and positive theology together, because only that intertwining can do justice to the mystery of God. This study finds that, contrary to the views of some, Aquinas's analogy is more a matter of judgment and truth than of concept and meaning; despite his own presuppositions, Aquinas bases his theological analogy more on the insights of faith than those of reason.

Aquinas's theology of the divine names encourages contemporary dialogue to keep the tensioned truth of God in view and to remember that only a fruitful interplay of positive and negative theology can do justice to the Elusive One who evades our linguistic capture and yet desires to be acknowledged and worshiped as Creator and Sustainer. The book will prove helpful to specialists in Aquinas and to others who are interested in the God-talk dialogue and can profit from an in-depth retrieval of Aquinas.

Gregory P. Rocca, O.P., is Professor of Philosophy and Theology and currently President of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.

WINNER OF THE 2005 CHARLES CARDINAL JOURNET PRIZE awarded by The Aquinas Center for Theological Renewal at Ave Maria University


"Despite the highly technical nature of the subject-matter, Rocca writes in an accessible and clear language. His work should be in every theological library. I also recommend it highly for a graduate seminar on Thomas and on theological epistemology." — Peter C. Phan, Catholic Books Review

"In Gregory Rocca's remarkable book . . . readers will find an account of Aquinas's theological epistemology that fully locates it within his overall theological enterprise and provides the most comprehensive analysis of this aspect of the Angelic Doctor's thought currently available. I know of no comparable work that demonstrates such a complete mastery of Aquinas's writings and of the relevant secondary literature in this area."—From the Foreword by J. Augustine Di Noia, O.P.

"Philosophers and theologians alike will be illuminated by this careful, thorough, and eminently readable elucidation of the skills and tools required for us to speak responsibly of the creator. While the focus is Aquinas, whose multiple statements receive astute comment, the focus is their contemporary impact, which this penetrating study will notably enhance."—David Burrell, CSC, University of Notre Dame

"This is an exceptional achievement of comprehension and depth in elucidating and explaining positions, principles, and rationales of Aquinas in unfolding contexts. No staid effort to merely portray the doctrines of a great thinker of the past, it is rather a truly creative exploration that reveals how Aquinas' insights might assist an ordered integration of truths about the divine nature within differing speculative traditions." — Michael Ewbank, Review of Metaphysics

The Catholic University of America Press

9780813215747 : speaking-the-incomprehensible-god-rocca
Paperback / softback
$39.95 USD

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