Theological language should always be apophatic. It should not claim to exhaust the truth in its expression. Words can only indicate the truth, they can never substitute it. By understanding the expression we do not necessarily recognize the truth, because truth is not simply intellectual like the Platonic logoi of beings. Truth in ecclesiastical theology is unrestricted by time, space, and the corruption of death: it is the persons and the energies of the persons, the otherness of the word or logos of what is brought about by the personal energy. And this truth can only be known in the experiential immediacy of relation.
Language signifies relation, invites relation, and serves relation, but cannot replace the universality of relation, the experiential knowledge which creates relation. Linguistic expression can therefore only mark the limits of truth; it is always relative and suggestive of truth, functioning through poetic images. It does not obey rules of methodology and formal logic. In the language of ecclesiastical theology, mutually contradictory concepts can lead to their transcendence. By accepting contradiction, humanity can participate in reality, not just its representation.
Apophaticism differentiates Orthodoxy from the West in clear, striking language. The West denied the apophaticism of theological expression, understanding truth as the "coincidence of meaning with the object of thought." It identified the power of knowing truth with the individual's capacity to understand concepts, with the capacity for correct thought. And it shaped a theological language utterly subject to this priority of individualistic intellectualism, which is the complete opposite of the Church's way of expressing truth in apophatic language and images.
This did not come about by chance. Behind the denial of apophatic expression we may discern all the fundamental Western deviations from the Church's Gospel. The denial of apophaticism implies the rejection of the real nature of the Church, a falling away into an individualistic religiosity. The proclamation of salvation is no longer a call or invitation to change one's mode of existence, to withdraw from individualism and participate in the communion of personal relations, in the authentic life of the eucharistic kingdom. The proclamation of salvation in the language of individualistic intellectualism alienates it, turning it into a religious teach-ing which through the comprehension of individuals aims at an individualistic faith and an individualistic conformity to its moral requirements.
The denial of apophaticism implies a reversal of the terms of Orthodox ontology, a reliance on the priority of the divine essence, which is accessible only intellectually, and not on the priority of the Person, who is known only in the experiential immediacy of relation and historical revelation. The denial of apophaticism implies a rejection of the distinction between essence and the essence's energies, a rejection of the creature's participation in the grace of the energies of the Untreated, in the Uncreated's mode of existence. Without apophaticism salvation only adds an inexplicable (created but "supernatural, grace to existence, which cannot explain how life is released from the bounds of nature, how existence is drawn from the freedom of relation.
Briefly, a theological language without apophaticism, such as is characteristic of novel Western doctrines, can overturn the Church's Gospel. The language of individualistic intellectualism cannot express an empirical participation in the ecclesial reality of salvation. Apophatic language inoculates the Church from heresy and theology from ideology.
From the book Orthodoxy and the West