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Durham University

Department of Theology and Religion


Publication details for Professor Karen E. Kilby

Kilby, K E (2020). Negative Theology and Meaningless Suffering. Modern Theology 36(1): 92-104.

Author(s) from Durham


This article attempts an exploration of the limits of our capacity to weave suffering into patterns of meaning. I try to show that something like an apophatic moment in our response to some kinds of suffering is both necessary and difficult to sustain. From this emerges a question about the relationship between this ‘something like apophasis’ before suffering, on the one hand, and unknowing in face of the mystery of God, on the other. I argue against a tendency in some modern theology to elide one into the other – against a tendency to absorb the ‘mystery of suffering’ into the ‘mystery of God.’ The article concludes with the suggestion that in order to avoid such an elision, and other forms of false reconciliation with suffering, Christian theology needs to maintain a commitment to a future‐oriented eschatology, a real – if unimaginable – eschatological hope.