The Kataphatic Drift of Keller’s “Cloud” – Cloud of the Impossible Book Event

As a second year doctoral student at Drew University, I have the privilege of studying theology with Catherine Keller. Probably like a few other bloggers at AUFS who have also been Keller’s students, I cannot pretend to lack a bias in favor of her work – perhaps especially in the case of her Cloud of the Impossible. But I do hope that my perspective as one of her students enables me to make a worthwhile contribution to this discussion. For this post, I would therefore like to share my sense of the way that Keller’s Cloud panentheism seemed to evolve over the last year of the book’s composition. Hopefully this consideration of her philosophical theology will stimulate some discussion for those interested in such themes.

During my first semester at Drew, I enrolled in Keller’s course on apophatic theology in which we read a draft of her Cloud. Although my overall response to it was positive, this early manuscript also caused me to question what she really meant by “God.” In my reading, she was extremely cautious in making any affirmative statements about the divine. While this is partly understandable for a book on negative theology, apophatic and kataphatic theology go together (as Keller often points out). Without a kataphatic moment or two, apophasis would seem to function as a mere wrecking ball. I also wondered if constructive God-talk had become a distraction from her seemingly more urgent interests, such as climate change. Does she really affirm panentheism – and if so, why? Is it on purely pragmatic grounds to provide support for her ethical and political concerns? Might she be persuaded by some contemporary argument for the existence of God? Could it be her fidelity to Whitehead’s philosophy, which includes a “divine element” that performs crucial metaphysical functions? Or would she affirm God because of certain mystical experiences that she couldn’t explain away? Continue reading “The Kataphatic Drift of Keller’s “Cloud” – Cloud of the Impossible Book Event”