Divine Modes of Identity – Bulgakov, Balthasar & Bracken with Scotus & the Greek Fathers

Some analytic theologians would charge all trinitarian defenses with ad hoc philosophizing?

Nyet!

I intuit a general amenability of Abelardian-like syllogistics to reality writ large, i.e. beyond trinitarian logic.

It seems to me that essential, hypostatic & formal modes of identity could be applied in any noncomposite, monist ontology, e.g. materialist monism, pantheism or even a mereological panen-theism.

Aristotelian syllogistic logic can be recovered from the Abelardian-like approach precisely because the distinction between modes of identity & modes of predication collapse for composite realities, where all predications are of formal identity.

The more widely embraced pan-entheism, like classical theism, employs an ontological distinction between humans & God, where God donates & communicates creatively as we participate & are liberated imitatively.

The panen-theistic parsing employs a mereological distinction between humans & God, where God donates & communicates diffusively as we participate & are liberated substratively.

My own pan-semio-entheism, in bracketing ontology, conceives divine donation & communication both creatively & diffusively and creaturely participation & liberation both imitatively & substratively.

Because I precisely nurtured such intuitions in dialogue with Bulgakov, Balthasar & Bracken (due to my own sophiological, aesthetic & Peircean sensibilities), I was delighted to encounter Brandon Gallaher’s reflection:

The Problem of Pantheism in the Sophiology of Sergii Bulgakov: A Panentheistic Solution in the Process Trinitarianism of Joseph A. Bracken?’ in Seeking Common Ground: Evaluation and Critique of Joseph Bracken’s Comprehensive Worldview (A Festschrift for Joseph A. Bracken, S. J.), eds. Gloria Schaab and Marc Pugliese (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2012), 147-167.

######################

In a divine syllogistic of modes of identity, we’ve conceived the individual essences of the divine hypostases as originating in the Father and interrelating – not causally, but – as essentially dependent, hence, not subordinationist.

[re: not causally, arche, when regarded as an hypostatic idioma of the Father, in my view, can felicitously be conceived in a causal sense; it would refer to a personal cause, paternally, i.e. ad intra, a person via nature causing persons & ad extra, persons via will causing energeia & oikonomia? To be avoided would be any misconception of an impersonal and/or abstracted essence as variously causal, as well as any conceptions of either cause or person that aren’t suitably nuanced, apophatically, analogically, etc, eg I like supremely personal, trans-causal & trans-formal! I shy away from qualifying divine causalities with “quasi,” e.g. quasi-formal. I prefer, instead, to imagine that it’s we contingent, determinate beings & realities who act “quasi” on the way to becoming authentic & eternal!

For, you see, the essential, personal & formal modes of identity of divine syllogistics reflect three integrally related types of divine unity – substantial, hypostatic & dynamical – each correlatively presupposing the others. And yet, it’s the Father, as absolute unoriginate, Who secures the Trinity’s unity?

For, is it not this very monarchy that, in principle, precedes (not temporally, but in the order of intelligibility) & makes meaningful perichoresis, in the first place (pun intended)? Over against any subordinationist charges, I would simply suggest that, if there is anything like that, it’s nothing personal & isn’t substantial (puns, again, intended!).]

We have acknowledged THAT this account has ontological implications without suggesting HOW.

In Abelard’s first two modes of identity, the essential & personal, paralogisms (modalism & tritheism) present if we conceive the hypostases & ousia, respectively, as primary & secondary substances in the same Aristotelian sense that we apply to determinate being.

Happily, in the third mode, formal identity, we do have an epistemic bridge between the syllogistics of divine & determinate being.

This has all been addressed here:
Gödel & the End of Physics and Abelard et al & the End of Trinitology

Having acknowledged that there must be ontological implications for the first two modes of identity, the essential & personal, can we similarly build a bridge between the syllogistics of divine & determinate being?

Scotus has already constructed that bridge & it rather uncannily accommodates the thought of the Greek Fathers!

I have previously addressed other resonances between, for example, Scotus & Palamas.

See:

How Gelpi’s Inculturated North American Theology “Graced” my encounter with Eastern Orthodoxy

My Mon-Arche-I-tectonic Shift

I’ve been through the Desert Fathers on an Ousia with No Name — It felt good to get out of the Reign (of Rationalism) with the help of the Cappadocians.

Simply Divine or a Divinity Fudge? Cooking with Dionysius, Scotus, Peirce, Aquinas & Palamas

But how might Scotus further resonate with the approach of the Greek Fathers, beyond my previous preoccupations with divine energeia & formal modes of identity?

How might Scotus demonstrate a resonance with the Greek Fathers for the first two modes of identity, also?

How, exactly, has Scotus bridged the syllogistics of divine & determinate being?

No one more elegantly answers that question than does Richard Cross:

Duns Scotus on Divine Substance and the Trinity

Cross asserts that, by employing a conception of the immanent universal, Scotus constructs an account of the doctrine of the Trinity that is conceptually compelling, philosophically coherent & closer to that found in the later Greek Fathers, from Gregory of Nyssa onward, than the Augustinian approach (predominant in Aquinas’ own) to the divine essence.

Per Cross, Scotus flips the metaphysical script in considering – not the divine persons, but – the essence as – not a secondary, but – a first substance.

In fact, Scotus doesn’t consider the divine persons substances at all, whether primary or secondary, because they are incommunicable.

The relations between the persons are nonetheless real – as exemplifications of the divine nature.

Thus, apart from the Scotistic insights into the divine energeia, economy & formal identities, which I’d focused on previously (the links above), Cross well articulates how Scotus’ doctrines also have intrinsic value & address the divine nature & persons.

#############################

To me, the most interesting meta-metaphysical questions posed to any given metaphysic include –

Is reality, writ large,

  • 1) non|un/composite?
  • 2) non|in/determinate?
  • 3) non|in/finite?
  • 4) non|im/personal?

We can, a priori, envision (abductively) competing answers that are logically consistent & internally coherent, but, unavoidably incomplete, both axiomatically (deductively) & evidentially (inductively). Ergo, there’s an inevitable leap of faith involved in any existential opting for one or the other of these options.

What both religious & Enlightenment (e.g. Dawkins, Dennett) fundamentalists have in common is that they all fail to look over their epistemic shoulders to recognize their own leaps.

More concretely, then –

Some (e.g. materialist monists) view reality writ large as uncomposite & indeterminate, in the sense that, as a whole, the One’s simply brute & the Many dynamical causes just infinitely regress.

Others (e.g. idealist monist pantheists) view reality writ large as uncomposite & wholly determinate, in the sense that, as a whole, it’s sufficiently caused in a most thoroughgoing way. They answer the riddle of the One & the Many with The One “is” The Many.

Finally, there are various ontological dualists & pluralists, who are all over the map w/their, mostly both-and, answers to those questions & generally theistic. A lot of them are on Twitter & politely advocating all sorts of unitarian & trinitarian hypotheses!

My purpose in setting forth those meta-metaphysical questions in rather sharp relief was not just philosophical.

For sure, many “leap” existentially past materialist & pantheist construals because the first does violence to our innate aspirations to enduring values, the latter – to our universal volitional experience, each nihilistic (but in a various senses).

I want to further suggest that our philosophical categories of non|un/composite & non|in/determinate remain very much in play, theologically, for the trinitarian tensions that present, as we strive to defensibly thread the needle between tritheism & modalism.

Tritheism presents obvious problems as, exegetically & historically, we’re precommitted to the One (noncomposite deity). The more stringent a strategy for avoiding tritheism, however, the more a spectre of modalism will threaten one’s trinitology.

It is less obvious how a modalist (determinate) deity would necessarily do violence to our notions of divine & human volition, however, especially granting that the deity, modally, would still be self-determinate, humans contingently so. But, again, exegetical & historical contours circumscribe for us a much more eminent conception of the divine will, which is to say, with an intrinsically nondeterminate aspect to the divine nature that, certainly, constitutively entails self- determinate attributes, but in a way that’s essentially kenotic.

That kenotic aspect affords us a much more robust notion of freedom vis a vis the divine will & a much more eminent conception of the divine nature?

At stake in each metaphysic, then, whether philosophically or theologically, are conceptions with practical implications for the logical consistency (exegetical & historical), internal coherence & external congruence of our creedal stances toward the One & the Many (divine & determinate) and of all authentic conceptions of Freedom (divine & human).
Pneumatological kenosis: the Spirit immanentized in the gratuity of creation & Christological kenosis: the Son incarnated in the gratuity of grace, both, implicate a Paterological ur-kenosis of the Father in the generation of the Son & procession of the Spirit.
ur-kenosis entails an unoriginate, nondeterminate, principium, an idioma of the Father, eternally self-emptying in (self)determinate relating thru eternal generation of Son & procession of Spirit. Nothing modal. Hypostatic & personal in gratuitous ad intra & ad extra dynamism.

Father-Son-Holy Spirit [FSH]

FSH denotations, while epistemic denotations, have ontic not modal connotations (neither phenomenal nor noumenal).
A concurrent noumenal modalism suggests that the Persons are “three ways that God really is.”
Rahner’s “distinct manners of subsisting” derives from the Summae’seach of them subsists distinctly from the others in the divine nature” and in continuity with Gregory of Nyssa.

Hence, there are three subsistences, lacking the same formal identity, not one formal identity taking on three different manners of subsisting, i.e. ‘three ways that God really is.”

FSH denotations refer to divine hypostatic realities or idiomata like nondeterminate persons (EO), exemplifications (Scotist) or subsistences (Thomist) that are analogous to determinate persons (psychological), haecceities (Scotist) or instantiations & primary substances (Thomist).
FSH denotations do not refer to divine substantial realities or propria like nondeterminate ousia, essence or primary substances (Scotist) that are analogous to determinate essence, form, quiddity (Scotist) or secondary substances (Thomist).

As the most fecund metaphysics have rejected this phenomenal-noumenal distinction, the best systematic theologies have, too.

Such classical, disjunctive, dyadic conceptions as the phenomenal vs noumenal, epistemic vs ontic, essentialism vs nominalism, idealism vs realism, logical vs efficient causes, etc all represent two sides of the same bankrupt coinage of our metaphysical realm. If it has no metaphysical currency, that’s precisely because it presupposes the impossibility of metaphysics.

In the most robust metaphysical systems (classical realisms), the structures of objective knowledge remain – not dyadic, but – irreducibly triadic, introducing a third category – mediation (variously, but indispensably, accounted for & articulated). I’ve no space to explicate that here, but, classically, we encounter this triadicity in Aristotelian-Thomist & Scotist accounts and, more recently, in Peirce’s semiotic realism. Various triadic thought systems have indeed presented ubiquitously across cultures & throughout history.

The chief problem with any radically apophatic, trinitarian ignosticism is that it’s epistemically corrosive. It inevitably & successively will reduce to theological & metaphysical ignosticisms, which, in turn, will, necessarily & correlatively, also annihilate our highly speculative theoretical sciences.

#############################
Metaphysical Account of Substantial (Being or Esse) & Hypostatic (Existant or Subject) Modes of Determinate Being
Modal temporality categories include possible, actual, probable & necessary.
Modal adequacy categories include mereological (whole/part/noncomposite) & non|in/finite.
Modal ontology categories include descriptions & references to specific hypostatic realities (determinate persons, instantiations or haecceities or primary substances) with attributions to their precise properties (determinate essence, form, quiddity or secondary substance).
Semantic Univocity & Ontic Analogy of Being
logical categories for dogma e.g. ‘distinct manner of subsisting’ (subsistenzweisen)
ontic categories for systematics
Metaphysical Account of Substantial (Being or Esse) & Hypostatic Modes of Identity of Nondeterminate Being
Modal indentity categories include apophatic references (idiomata) to specific hypostatic realities (nondeterminate persons, exemplifications or subsistences) with apophatic attributions (propria) to their precise properties (nondeterminate ousia, essence or primary substance)
Formal Modes of Identity of Nondeterminate & Determinate Being
Theopoetic Account of Substantial (Being or Esse) & Hypostatic Modes of Nondeterminate Identity
############################

2 thoughts on “Divine Modes of Identity – Bulgakov, Balthasar & Bracken with Scotus & the Greek Fathers

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s