School of Theology and Seminary Graduate Papers/Theses

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Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Theology (Th.M)


School of Theology and Seminary

First Advisor

Columba Stewart OSB

Second Advisor

Shawn Colberg

Subject Categories

Aesthetics | Christianity | Religion | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion


Two fundamental principles for Gregory of Nyssa engage the complexities of theology in relation to anthropology: God is wholly other or infinite, and yet humanity was created to be and is in a relationship with God. If the purpose of humanity is to “see” or to know God and this God is somehow infinitely greater than humanity, then the capacity to encounter spiritual realities must play an inherent role in the way one understands humanity and God. This knowledge goes beyond the recalling of facts–the physical senses alone are incapable of fully encountering the Divine because it involves experience and love. This is expressed through apophasis focusing on the limited perspective of human knowledge and the senses, yet Gregory of Nyssa does not totally abandon kataphasis. Seeking to know God involves the intellect specifically because intelligence is a manifestation of the divine, and a central facet to theological anthropology, yet it must also include the whole person. Furthermore, faith and grace do not work against or apart from the intellect, but together in concert as one continues the pilgrimage towards the sacred tabernacle of the knowledge of God.

This thesis asserts that the intellect, as an anthropological locus of the imago Dei, connects both lived experience and theological discourse through the faculty of spiritual perception, in order to reclaim the place of spiritual sight proper to the intellect as a means of understanding the human capacity to encounter the Divine even through human limitations. It seeks to answer in what way “spiritual vision” plays in the journey to know God as the telos of human existence. This journey cannot be fulfilled with reason alone, but “spiritual vision” as understood by Gregory of Nyssa, allows one to continue the mystical ascent towards God, allowing the role of the intellect to maintain its integrity and importance while also recognizing its limitations and the need for divine help.


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