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Negative Theology and Meaningless Suffering

Kilby, KE

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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 futureā€oriented eschatology, a real – if unimaginable – eschatological hope.


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

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 9, 2018
Online Publication Date Nov 10, 2019
Publication Date 2020-01
Deposit Date Oct 9, 2018
Publicly Available Date Nov 10, 2021
Journal Modern Theology
Print ISSN 0266-7177
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 36
Issue 1
Pages 92-104


Accepted Journal Article (675 Kb)

Copyright Statement
This is the accepted version of the following article: Kilby, K E (2020). Negative Theology and Meaningless Suffering. Modern Theology 36(1): 92-104, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance With Wiley Terms and Conditions for self-archiving.

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