“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12 NRSV.
We arrive with knowledge of God, the One, through Aristotle’s methods: “…as is possible for us in connection with sensible things” (29). Alternately, we begin to know God as Augustin posits “only insofar as God illumines the intellect” (29). Awareness, knowledge, of God comes to us through logos and rationale or faith and self-revelation. There is a third possibility of knowing God, according to the Middle Platonist, which is only achieved in the next life (47); this concept echoes Isaiah 55:8, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways.”
Because we cannot fully know the mind of God, we adapt our analysis and study and look to analogies or metaphors. In our finite, limited understanding of an infinite Being, we see what God is not, so we might arrive at what He is. Our analogies may be flawed: “They are comparable to reflections of objects seen on the surface of water, with the distortions and limitations of reflections” (83). However, “logic teaches us to reason rightly so as to gain knowledge” (86). Application of a metaphor assists us to comprehend the One. As we gain clarity, that clarity is in two distinct categories: practical matters and theoretical knowledge (99). When aptly combined, we achieve theoretical wisdom or sophia where “the highest part of [our] nature is fulfilled” (100).
However, this fulfillment cannot occur until the self is emptied or purged through kenosis. We must employ “the procedure for getting rid of our lower souls…to gain knowledge. We presently are between our higher souls and our lower souls” (54). “There is no intimate knowledge of God without such moral…change in the knower” (29). We must be changed first by faith, then the acquisition of knowledge will continue to purge self so that faith in knowledge will grow. Justin Martyr stated, “that such knowledge is not possible for anyone using only one’s natural capacities. It is only by faith in God’s revelation by the incarnate Word that such intimate knowledge of God is possible…”(27). Justin’s concept is contrary to Aristotle’s understanding of sensible things. However, it was Epictetus who envisioned the kenosis process: We have by nature been endowed with the faculties to bear whatever happens to us without being degraded or crushed…One can complain about such misfortune or bear whatever comes without degradation by seeing its necessity and yielding to it courageously and magnanimously” (43).
Ultimately, to achieve the theoretical wisdom or sophia and behave as the Cynics, “the wise person in action” (41), we must empty ourselves, use rationale as well as faith, and employ metaphors to comprehend what the mind cannot conceive.
Allen, Diogenes and Eric O. Springsted. Philosophy for Understanding Theology. Louisville:
Westminster John Know Press. 2007. 2nd ed.