Litanies of ad hominems betray the shrill rationalistic tenor
Of the quod erat demonstranda some would serve for theo-dinner
Where rogue Orthodox berate baroque Thomists and the Rad-O’s scold broke Scotists
They’re all a burger short of a happy meal, just take the time to notice
That they’re not strange bedfellows, at all, good ole Scotus and Palamas
So, rather than Feser and Hart, when you put on your pajamas
Take Bonaventure, Balthasar and Bulgakov to bed
To nurture mind and heart and soul, more peaceably, instead!
I offer the above with tongue firmly planted in cheek, for, truth be known, I am deeply sympathetic to that chorus of DBH apologists, who, most every time he gifts us new reflections, commend the tenor of his ruminations, while begging our indulgence of the tone of his fulminations.
By temperament, I typically recoil from coercive rhetoric in an initial visceral reaction. But, I’ve slowly learned to be more discerning so as not to mute what may indeed be Spirit-inspired voices of prophetic protest, especially those coming from the ecclesial margins.
After all, I’ve bought-in to a Tradition that inherently nurtures a healthy self-criticality, even if, from a secular perspective, its corrective advances may seem way too glacial. But that’s always reflected a pace that’s more so been governed by an astute pastoral sensitivity, of practice, which remains appropriately attuned to the complex, dynamical & developmental nature of humankind’s manifold and multiform advances. This is to suggest that such a pace has in no way ever reflected a wholesale capitulation, of theory, to history’s otherwise vulgar zeitgeists.
Rather, to those with eyes to see and ears to hear, the seeds of truth, beauty, goodness, unity and freedom have long grown in this Tradition, even if certain shoots and fruits have, at times, sprung more visibly from the roots of our orchard’s margins. So as not to miss such a bountiful harvest, the Tradition has always nurtured a preferential option for the marginalized and has purposefully cultivated minority opinions, for example, whether of Franciscans, Scotists or Palamites, or the words of its Prophets, even those written on subway walls and tenement halls.
While our subsidiarity principles reflect a proper bias for the least coercive influences, they also precisely include any necessary escalations from softer to harder powers, when discerned, communally, with prudential reason. Such escalations can certainly include those of harsh rhetoric, which can take many forms, even if some seem more ostensible, e.g. scathing and/or acerbic criticisms, others more subtle, e.g. clamors for political correctness.
I’ve indulged my own highly coercive, rhetorical strategies over the years, no less impolitic, really, than those that might seem mean-spirited, by habitually resorting to an intemperate volubility, likely all the more off-putting due to my idiosyncratic, impenetrable prose. I don’t bring this up to invoke anyone’s indulgence on the off-chance I’m some prophet. But neither do I bring it up in mere passing, but rather by way of owning my shadow and publically apologizing to any and all ever affected by such an offense of charity. Introspectively, I know this has grown from some neurotic desire to make a difference and neurotic fear that I have not, what Merton described as a crisis of creativity. The other major crisis we all must resolve, per Merton, is that of continuity, i.e. death in all its forms and guises. So, point is, I am sorry and ask for everyone’s forgiveness.
Back to the main focus, so as to avoid any pretentiousness, it’s on entirely different grounds that I commend any indulgence of David Bentley Hart. He may not be perfect, only One Prophet ever was, but I do believe he’s one of the most important prophets of our times. And I encourage all those baptized as priests, prophets and kings, as well as all baptized by desire, to contribute to the conversation, which is about to escalate in the coming weeks. And don’t fail to contribute on any silly pretense that your contribution won’t be perfect, as if it ever could be. The conversation is too important and needs your voice — if not that of your head, then, perhaps even more importantly, that of your heart.
I know that much of the underlying tenor of DBH’s harsh rhetoric seems to betray a type of rationalistic preoccupation, as if one could merely logically and syllogistically get this all correct by merely thinking straight. But that analysis would be way off because, while good thinking remains indispensable per his appeal, he precisely adverts that such remains necessary but insufficient. Much of the tenor of the book, instead, he’s very deliberately aimed at our hearts regarding love and at our souls regarding beauty and at our instincts regarding goodness. Hart, in way better words than I could contrive, acknowledges that, finally, in my words, it will be on the wings of beauty and goodness, lifted by the Spirit’s winds of love, that truth will coming flying in. Those were my words but they came from Merton’s thoughts.
In conclusion, an abbreviated Litany of Humility:
Jesus, from the desire to be esteemed, exalted, consulted or celebrated, deliver me, Lord.
Jesus, from the fear of being ridiculed, insulted, corrected or humiliated, deliver me, Lord.
Jesus, that others may grow holier than me, grant me the grace to desire it, Lord, provided I may grow as holy as I should.
A Roundup of Relevant URLs regarding the upcoming release of That All Shall Be Saved by David Bentley Hart
Below, I’ve encountered no novel, serious objections to universal salvation that cannot be overcome or that could, in my view, disestablish it as a valid theological opinion. At the same time, DBH does prove too much in some of his categorical dismissals of other opinions.
Below is an unindexed, unannotated compilation of stuff that I think is worth pondering, even thought I don’t agree with it all:
From early reviews and liberal previews of David Bentley Hart’s That All Shall Be Saved it does not appear that DBH will be offering a sylly syllogism grounded in some neatly interwoven exegetical, philosophical argumentation, which pretends to prove too much. Rather, he will offer an informal, rhetorical appeal to our common sense & sensibilities, grounded in our messy shared experiences, respecting the analogical interval between anthropological & divine realities while paying dutiful heed to certain participatory efficacies. Those would include the joyous, luminous & glorious effects of which are proper to no known determinate causes, as they transcend the mysteries of all suffering & the realities of all sin. Protologically & proleptically those efficacies constitute all manner of incarnational guarantees, seals, earnests, down payments & first fruits. Yes, we realize them now, in part, hence, we confidently believe & mandatorily proclaim their utter fulfillment, eschatologically.
Below are interwoven threads of – not formal premises with coerced conclusions, but – shared human experiences and intuitions, which might weave a story, a tellable story, that would best resonate with the Greatest Story Ever Told. Below are my words, my interpretations, of what I imagine DBH to be saying. His rhetoric entices me, more like getting caught in a web of meaning, a tad tangled but happily so, less like getting caught in a trap of logic, where the axioms are supposedly self-evident (although anything but).
• God doesn’t need evil, suffering or pain. While those can be redeemed in His economy, any essential epistemic distancing can otherwise be closed via theosis. Hence we reject morally repugnant evidential theodicies, while satisfied with unavoidably vague logical defenses & sustained by robustly pastoral existential consolations.
• Those theotic processes don’t absolutely determine reality since they require the synergetic cooperation of freely acting human persons. Hence we reject compatibilisms.
• Human acts aren’t absolutely free; however, since all (trans-)formative processes, whether theotic or redemptive, are necessarily ordered toward truth, beauty, goodness & unity, our participations in same will grow that freedom, our practicing of same will grow virtuosity. Hence we reject libertarianisms.
• The will and intellect, respectively, as efficient acts in potency to material causes & formal acts in potency to final causes, are integrally related, in human volition. Hence we reject voluntarisms & intellectualisms.
• Our secondary natures, both virtuous and vicious, are situated between such acts (efficient & formal) and limited potentialities (material & final), reinforcing or impeding their telic realizations but never extinguishing those human potentials. Hence any notion of frozen potentialities, post mortem, is anthropologically incoherent.
• Human persons are often guilty of willful blindness or vincible ignorance. But as finite, fallible persons, we will never attain such an absolute knowledge of either temporal or divine realities, such that we could be absolutely culpable for any, much less all, remnants of our ignorance. Hence even a vincible ignorance could never warrant an absolute punishment, as that would be disproportionate to our inescapably finite offenses.
• It’s inconceivable that, given sufficient time, divine telic processes (theotic and/or redemptive) would not close enough epistemic distancing to situate every last person, beatifically, in proper relationship to God, others, cosmos & self as ordered toward truth, beauty, goodness & unity with an authentic freedom. Hence we can not only hope for but can be confidently assured that all may be saved.
If that last point sounds more like a tepid, practical, hopeful universalism, rather than a clarion, theoretic, dogmatic proclamation, I mean it more so as a virtual universalism.
Over against DBH’s complaint regarding some hopeful universalisms, let me suggest that not all taken to be paradox is necessarily intended to be exploited for its creative tensions. Some paradox we can resolve dialectically. Some eventually dissolves from paradigm shifts. And some paradox we simply evade, for all practical purposes, perhaps due to an intuitive reductio ad absurdum.
Conclusion – I’m drawn to this theological anthropology of DBH. Curiously, while it works well enough in a classical framework, especially when tweaked by a more personalist Thomism (e.g N. Clarke), I can also square it with a process approach (e.g. D. Griffin, Joe Bracken), particularly one that eschews nominalism. Likely this is due to the inherent adaptability of an informal narrative vs a strict argument.
In the final analysis, though, while I consider certain classical and process approaches to be legitimate opinions within the theological contours of the first seven or so ecumenical councils, I find a creatio ex nihilo ex chaos process approach to be more pastorally consoling, existentially satisfying and rhetorically persuasive than even Hart’s classical articulation.
Human persons are determined-enough to enjoy value-realizations and free-enough for those to be deeply meaningful.
So, to Einstein and the compatibilists, I reply: “Yes, God does play dice.”
And to the nihilists and libertarians we retort: “But they’re loaded.” Or, if not, still, at the very least, you must admit, they have only six sides.
To all, I’d observe: “One may, quietistically, refrain from playing and remain, essentially, an imago Dei. Or one may continue playing and, continuously crapping out, increasingly become an imago Similitudino.”
Divine Communications – musings regarding the participatable logoi
Note: Below, please do not be put off by my seeming reification of the divine essence. I should have written what’s below more artfully & rigorously, but please charitably interpret it within the context of my entire oeuvre until I take the time to rewrite it (as well as rewrite most everything else I’ve ever written, as this has never been my primary vocation, nor a discerned charism). What I am talking about, below, are personal acts, whether regarding the Monarchy of the Father (ur-kenotic) or the temporal Missions of the Spirit & Son (kenotic), and am observing which divine communications ensue pursuant to the divine nature and/or will.
Divine ur-kenosis of divine esse naturale gifts divine persons (nondeterminate being) participation in a mutual reciprocity of triune relationship (essence).
Analogously, divine kenosis of divine esse intentionale freely communicates Christ (self-determinate being) via both a theandric humanization and a theandric deification and also gifts determinate being (variously recognizable as vestigia, imagines and/or similitudines Dei) participation in divine realities (energies) via both universal and particular incarnational presences.
Some activities of the divine essence have been revealed via general and special revelation. Furthermore, certain divine attributes have even been divinely decreed as participatable (logoi).
I distinguish the ur-kenotic generativity from the kenotic creativity as analogous —not only because the former’s ad intra, the latter – ad extra, but — in order to emphasize that, while the logoi or energies are participatable by determinate being, the essence is not.
Further, while one might interpret special revelation as proclaiming that acts of divine communication (e.g. expression, disclosure, revelation, kenosis, etc all vaguely understood) are essential to the divine nature, their precise forms are not. That is to suggest that even if there’s no question regarding WHETHER & WHY divine communications are necessary per the divine nature, the to whom, what, where, when and how elements of same are freely determined per the divine will.
As divine communications go, then, it’s been revealed that ad intra generative communications are essential, while ad extra creative communications are freely willed.
There’s an ontological plurality of ad extra divine creative communications regarding both their precise natures and the various degrees of indeterminacy attendant to those ontological categories (per divine kenotic decrees). This is to recognize, then, that the actualizations or realizations of participatable divine logoi will be fulfilled differently by the vestigia Dei, imagines Dei & similitudines Dei of determinate being and also by the theandric humanization & deification of self-determinate divine being.
Is this to suggest that those divine logoi will not only be fulfilled differently but perhaps even to different degrees or extents? Which is also to ask whether they might be variously frustrated, whether temporally and/or eschatologically?
In my view, each Imago Dei necessarily realizes (and cannot frustrate) its divine logoi, whether temporally or eschatologically, while the perfect divine will allows each person to actualize whatever degree of Similitudino Dei to which s/he individually aspires, all of this consonant with God’s perfect nature & will and reflective of the perfect efficacies of all ad extra divine communications. In this last case, both the manner and degree of actualization that each Similitudino Dei realizes, beyond constituting a mere Cambridge property of the divine esse intentionale, will affect God’s will via a thin passibility, whereby a divine responsivity freely determines such actualizations & realizations per an infinite Pareto front (novel equipoised optimalities) of communicable Divine Eros, which varies in its aesthetic teleological scope, while remaining otherwise immutable in its eternally perfect aesthetic intensity. Analogous to this divine freedom, we might say that the human person’s essential nature, as an Imago Dei, enjoys a pre-moral erotic aesthetic scope, while any degree of a virtuous secondary nature, as a Similitudino Dei, enjoys an trans-moral agapic aesthetic scope, along with a commensurate degree of beatific aesthetic intensity.
Whether we so happen to magnify the Lord as Mary in our own fiats or otherwise give God AMDG, doesn’t variously affect but only variously reflects His perfect nature. The theandric humanization & deification, of course, fully realized the efficacies of every divine communication & communing.
I began my life’s work in philosophical theology herein:
And have completed (at least, it feels so, for now) that work herein:
With some clarifications of my theological anthropology here: