God’s got nothing to do with death or gratuitous evil

As always, there are some depthful conversations going on here: https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2021/01/20/if-god-is-going-to-deify-everyone-anyway-why-not-deify-everyone-immediately/

While no systematic theology can avoid all mysterian appeals or some degree of skeptical theism, those strategies should be reserved for matters involving divine modal identities & ontologies (that, what, this, where & when), as Christianity remains in search of a metaphysic.

We should not engage them in our existentialist & personalist understandings of God (how = Who) or of His operations (why), as gifted by revelation.

So, I thus hold fast to the belief that the divine nature remains sufficiently intelligible in terms of humanity’s shared aesthetic sensibilities & moral intuitions. To remain existentially satisfying for & rhetorically persuasive to me, no theological anthropology should sacrifice such intelligibility.

Pastor Tom Belt has well explicated what he calls DBH’s moral argument or what I refer to as his game theoretic analysis, which is an element integral to DBH’s multi-pronged defense of universalism. It demonstrates why the infernalists cannot coherently invoke the antecedent – consequent divine will distinction without sacrificing God’s moral & aesthetic intelligibility, eschatologically.

Faced with a choice between consistency & completeness, our accounts must remain consistent with revelation (e.g. per exegetical & patristic sources) vis a vis God’s moral & aesthetic intelligibility. We must otherwise accept the incompleteness of our metaphysical explanations.

To otherwise pretend that we have consistent metaphysical accounts, e.g. henologically & ontologically re the trinity, creation & incarnation, but an inadequate account of God’s moral character, seems bassackward to me.

Now, some seem to be arguing that what’s good for the game theoretic eschatological goose seems to be good for the morally inculpatory temporal gander.

Admittedly, on its face, that argument would appear to ignore the difference between an infinite & eternal quasi-Manichean parasitic evil and a finite & temporal one. But, even once stipulating to that quantitative & qualitative difference, the more salient takeaway that’s being urged is that the antecedent – consequent will distinction can’t salvage God’s moral intelligibility vis a vis finite, temporal parasitic evils, either. And I’m wholly sympathetic to that stance: God’s got nothing to do with death or gratuitous suffering. FULL STOP.

What we do not adequately grasp is not God’s moral & aesthetic intelligibilty. Rather, we lack formal definitions for the other Anselmian divine attributes, all in terms of “that which is greater than which cannot otherwise be conceived without falling into theological contradiction, anthropological absurdity & metaphysical incoherence.”

Our creedal contours define apophatic constraints on the God-references of our exploratory meta-heuristics. They don’t pretend to provide formal God-definitions in terms of explanatory metaphysics. That’s a feature – not a bug – of any coherent systematic theology.

Guess what. A materialist monist nihilism is also a mere exploratory meta-heuristic & not a robustly explanatory metaphysic. It, too, must avoid mereological contradiction & metaphysical incoherence, even as it asserts anthropological absurdity.

There are Gödel-like constraints on ALL theories of everything. Given the ineluctable equiplausibility of many competing worldviews, it’s eminently reasonable to choose among them based on their varying degrees of existential actionability.

God is love – yesterday, today & forever. He has nothing to do with death or gratuitous evil, eschatologically or temporally, instrumentally or permissively, antecedently or consequently. Death & evil did not ensue in the wake of some ontological rupture located in the past, even though they indisputably interfere with our teleological strivings oriented to the future.

We do profess an adequate understanding of divine omnibenevolence & omnipathy, theologically, even as our grasps of divine omnipotence, omniscience & omnipresence remain rather inchoate, metaphysically. Such a theoretic metaphysical incompleteness is no more fatal to classical theism than it is to a nihilistic materialist monism (which apparently prefers to grapple with gratuitous beauty).

I wrote the following (link below) musing before encountering DBH’s game theoretic analysis in TASBS. While the arguments in TASBS aren’t advancing a theodicy, I appropriate them as an indispensable prerequisite to any coherent logical defense or evidential theodicy, as well as for any exegetical & patristic inventory of the divine character (the latter sufficing for me).


Addendum – my contribution to a related thread at EO

I am deeply sympathetic with the earnest affective dispositions toward and grateful for your thoughtful probity of the problem of evil by various contributors at EO. That said, I do most strongly resonate with the stances shared by Robert, DBH & Jordan DW.

What eventually got God out of the dock for me, to use a criminal law metaphor, wasn’t mostly based in case theory (logical defenses, soul-making, evil as privation, free will) or circumstantial evidence (theodicies). Juries are instructed that they can rely on character witnesses, alone, for not guilty verdicts. Ergo, revelation satisfied me, existentially, i.e. Jesus revealing God as Daddy, Romans 8, etc

I can’t explain why God’s not guilty given the circumstantial evidence but do tenaciously hold THAT He simply can’t be morally culpable.

I still vacillate regarding – not only whether evidential theodicies could succeed, but – whether they’re even morally defensible, as they can risk trivializing the enormity of human suffering & immensity of human pain. So, I mostly take refuge in a skeptical theism.

BUT – I have speculated, nonetheless, looking for something – not just sufficiently compelling for me, but – more widely compelling to other earnest seekers.

This is not a suitable forum to go into the details but, generally, I adhere to versions of divine simplicity, although weakened, & impassibility, except with a thin passibility.

If creation is Incarnation, then, per an eternal simultaneity, God will have self-determinedly & kenotically opened Himself to a divine omnipathy. God will have known, then, how every creature will have felt, retro|pro-spectively vis a vis Romans 8, i.e. eternally aware that every scintilla of any Karamazovian nyets will have been replaced by Marian fiats, once affectively energized by the realities of universal restoration. God thus knows, eternally, via divine omnopathy, that no tickets will have been returned by Ivan, by any lion or lamb, by any quake or quark.

Beyond that, I have speculated, re creatio ex nihilo & ex Deo, that they needn’t necessarily be conceived as incompatible with a co-eternal prevenient  chaos or tehomic  profundis. Why must a co-eternal void (or abyss or  tohu va bohu or chaos or  tehom), whatever else its ineluctable logic might necessarily entail, be conceived in absolutely dualistic terms, i.e. as if any quasi-Manichean residue would have to remain eschatologically?

The exnihilating dynamics of creatio ex nihilo & Deo may also be operating ex chaos & profundis across a multiversal plenitude of incipiently telic realities?

It seems coherent to me to conceive of a dualistic, even pluralistic reality, without conceiving it in robustly Manichean terms. The bigger caveat would be the need to avoid a wimpy, nominalistic process God. I believe that folks like Joe Bracken & Norris Clarke navigate such conceptual shoals. And they can precisely accommodate the brilliance of those who anticipated them, e.g. especially Maximus, Bulgakov, Bonaventure, Eriugena, etc

I more exhaustively address such matters in my notes:


To be clear, I rely on neither my putative accounts of divine omnipathy (which doesn’t impair intrinsic perfections) nor of creatio ex chaos (non-Manichean dualism) to resolve the problem of evil, nor on logical defenses or evidential theodicies.

But I’m not wholly dismissive of such attempts & haven’t desisted from same, myself. Rather, I essentially take refuge in revelation and a nuanced mysterianism.

It is my fervent prayer that all may attain the consolations I have come to enjoy and avoid the desolations that can afflict us all, when beset by doubt, deep suffering or the existential angst that can set many on such a theodical quest.

Hypostatic Logic from the Capps, Cyril & Maximus to Bonaventure & Scotus – or why a Franciscan, Neo-chalcedonian Cosmotheandrism


We best distinguish the postmodern heuristic as – not a system, but – a critique. Any system that adopts a thoroughgoing anti-metaphysical ignosticism will self-subvert. It otherwise suffices that we distinguish our theories of truth & knowledge to recognize that, while we’re fallible in our metaphysics, they indubitably converge on some Absolute.

The Absolute could lie, nondeterminately, beyond all possibilities, including intelligibility and being, itself, while self-determining as an infinite whole of being & intelligibility, which presupposes, in principle as a corollary, many finite manifestations:

a) manifold determined participations in being [1ns*],

b) coinherences of relatively self-determined actors [2ns*] &

c) synergies of jointly-determined, hence relatively in|determined, operations (e g. via pneumatological ex|in|halations) [3ns*].

*Peircean categories


a) primary nature: indicative apokatastenai or universal restoration of natural beautitude per determined aesthetic intensity

b) everlasting perichoretic epektasis;

c) secondary (theotic) nature: subjunctive apokatastasis per self-determined aesthetic scope.

RETREBLEMENT: watch for the irreducible triadicity

Below is a follow to this thread, which I do not want to otherwise derail: https://twitter.com/CorbyAmos/status/1347730739819917312?s=09… 1/

When I first read Jordan Daniel Wood’s thesis, especially together w/his retrieval of Bonaventure, I saw some of the same themes in play w/my own (mis?)appropriation of Zizioulas. 2/

How Scotus Might Gift Zizioulas Coherence

What I observed was that there’s a certain idiomatic felicity in tracing Christology from the Capps & Cyril to Maximus with Scotus. One can get to a Neochalcedonian Christology w/Aquinas, but they need JDW’s thesis & Bonaventure paper. 3/

If hypostases refer to persons who ground, existentially, as irreducibly brute thatnesses & who distinguish (or differentiate or individualize) themselves by properties that refer to “how” they “act” … 4/

(i.e. not “what” they “are,” even indifferent to whatness, essence or nature, although inseparable therefrom) … and

If perichoresis refers to hypostases & “how” they relate, while participation refers to natures & “what” hypostases share per variously non/in/determined modes 5/

Then, we can properly “Behold the paradox to contemplate a composed hypostasis without thereby predicating a composed nature of that hypostasis, as if of a species.” ~Maximus

For Scotus, divine hypostases are – not primary substances, but – exemplifications. 6/

re exemplification

Again, note the semiotic language, consonant w/Eriugena’s theophanic stance, w/Bonaventure, even Bulgakov via manifestation, signification & revelation. Because we speak of hypostases using semantic references, not ontological descriptions, 7/

Scotus thus proposes a Univocity of Predication “In Quale” & Analogy of Predication “In Quid.

Basically, we’re just trying to avoid category errors between propria, idiomata & energeia, natures, hypostases & opera, etc 8/

David Bentley Hart & Duns Scotus Walk Into a Bar, See Radical Orthodoxy & Ask: Why the Long Face?

At any rate, when I first introduced my meta-heuristic of panSEMIOentheism in a paper (2010) w/Amos Yong, I did not realize that my approach was consonant w/or even implicated a Maximian Neochalcedonism, but the OFMs work well w/ Byzantine Neoplatonism. 9/


re Aquinas & Bonaventure

The comments on this post at Faber’s “The Smithy” are interesting: http://lyfaber.blogspot.com/2007/12/ss-thomas-and-bonaventure-compared.html?m=1… 10/

Part of my interest in having a consistent grammar of hypostases (and ousia) of both divine & creaturely (non/determinate, self-determinate & in/determinate) realities is to go beyond analogy & apophasis of ousia to better refine our references to participation & perichoresis.

IOW, what do we mean by humanization & divinization, Logos-logoi, creatio ex Deo, synergetic acts in terms of divine-creaturely agential interaction?

I’m pressing toward a mereological panentheism of – not beings & whats, but – doings & hows of actors (nonrepeatable, nonformal).

re how I feel about some antinomies.

We re-cognize them b/c we are “embodied antinomies” (intentional-absential) that exist for eternal I-Thou epektasis. Identity & difference are unitive & harmonious – not violent.

Because creaturely identities are primordially grounded in differences between relative & divine perfections, the natures of all creaturely autonomies are essentially & ineluctably harmonious with & participate in the Logos and so manifest various degrees of freedom as proportional to each tropos. Any metaphysic (or ecology or politics) that otherwise grounds those identities nihilistically, i.e. in differences between nonbeing & being,will conceive all creaturely autonomies as unavoidably competitive due to natures that are essentially & inescapably violent, b/c they view evil’s existence as substantial, when it is rather a parasitic subcontrary. In no measure, then, is evil necessary to the eternal act of creation or for eternal acts of incarnation (One Pure Act, really). This discussion pertains also to differences like those of epistemic distance.

God Ordains Epistemic Distancing toward the end of Our Co-creative Self-determination but that…sylvestjohn.org

Whither divine vestige, image, likeness & identity?

Persons reduce the

1) essential potencies of their primary nature via participatory existential acts by being images of God (divine esse naturale);

2) im/material potencies of their hypostatic nature by perichoretic efficient acts by doing, thereby reducing any inherent material potencies, cosmically, as vestiges of God, & immaterial potencies, theandrically, as identities of the will of God (divine esse intentionale);

3) final potencies of their secondary nature by participatory formal acts by becoming likenesses of God (divine energeia). consistent w/Cosmotheandrism & Neo-Chalcedonism.

Eschatologically, primary & secondary natures participate, respectively, in apokatastenai (essential beatitude) & apokatastasis (theotic beatitude); hypostatic “natures” in a perichoretic & inexhaustible deeping of intimacy expand their aesthetic scope of beatitude in epektasis.

Note: I like Gelpi’s Lonerganian-Peircean conception of grace as “transmuted experience,” which, using my wording, is gifted us gratuitously, both by creation & special revelation. I’m especially consoled in knowing it comes via – not only assent, but – absence of refusal! PTL!

A Pansemiotic Hypostatic Logic? – panSEMIOentheism

How is each divine person constituted? distinct from the others?

What principle individuates, differentiates or particularizes persons?

What theory of idiomata applies?

And what theory of universals?

Is there a logic that might apply to both the ad intra trinitarian taxis and the hypostatic union?

If so, then, why wouldn’t it extend to anthropology?

And, if that is so, how could it not extend to cosmology?

That is to ask, wouldn’t this logic apply to – not just personal, but – all hypostatic realities?

To which realities must we refer with proper nouns and which with common? And which are particular and which generic?

How might we best refer to that infinite reality than which no greater can be conceived? How might we best refer even to the Monarchy of the Father in terms regarding both His person & his nature?

What insights to these questions might we glean from Peirce’s “secondness” or Scotus’ “haecceity” or Maximus’ “λόγος“?

Why is Peirce’s modal ontology and semiotic pragmatism irreducibly triadic? Whether regarding ontic possibilities, actualities & probabilities – necessities or epistemic icons, indices & symbols? Each category with its unique application of the principles of noncontradiction & excluded middle?

The underlying dynamics of both my appropriation of Peirce’s semiotic as well as of the Neo-Chalcedonian hypostatic logic is foundationally one of emergence without supervenience, the emergence of novel entities in terms of thatness, thisness & howness but with neither epistemic nor ontic reducibility from whatness.

To be clear, my Peircean semiotic approach only provides a metaheuristic that bookmarks reality’s ontological aporia and asserts epistemic irreducibility.  Any stances regarding ontological irreducibility, themselves, go further, inviting an exploratory direction without aspiring to a complete metaphysical explanation. They involve, then, a leap of faith, albeit in no way an unreasonable one, rather the product of a practical reasoning under uncertainty regarding ultimate concerns that are (per James) forced, vital & live, hence, eminently actionable, existentially, & defensible, evidentially & rationally.

Might it be because, primordially & emergently, an ineffably nondetermined person beyond being self-determinedly, eternally & kenotically donates all being, self-emptying by communicating all possibilities & actualities – not arbitrarily, but – with mediating nomicities?

Divine perichoresis is “exemplified” by the dance between that which is nondetermined in & self-determined by divine persons. All creation “signifies” divine perichoresis in the dance between that which, in each person, remains divinely determined & that which, in each person, is self-determined.

Creation’s overdetermined possibilities are not arbitrarily reduced by hypostatic self-determinations without mediation by an underdetermined range of probabilities, a range (scope) which has been necessarily & wholly determined.

The divine fontal plenitude, the abyss of anarchical nondetermination,  self-determinedly manifests as an eternally, freely willing loving person, Who communicates His being (nongeneric “whatness”) as revealed by each divine person.

Each person freely & willingly loves, both self & each other, in a way that’s different from “how” each other person manifests love per each’s own  ineffable, irreducible & brute “thisness.” A person’s identity is that existential thatness presenting with “this” unique “howness” that’s otherwise indifferent to & irreducible to any given whatness.

So, while a participatory metaphysic of being still obtains, it seems that freely, willing, loving divine persons
are individuated – not by matter or accidents, i.e. “what,” but – per a perichoretic metaphysic of goodness, which provides an account of “how” each loves. The anthropological implications are that all human persons freely & willingly love – not only via natural participation in Being, but – via hypostatic coinherence with divine operations.

The perichoretic concept used in late Patristic Trinitology  conveyed mutual interpenetration or permeation without merging or mixing. But, the concept was first employed in early Patristic Christology by the Cappadocians.

So, while the Trinitarian perichoresis refers to homogenous, consubstantial realities, the Christological refers heterogenously & heterosubstantially, thus, again, indifferent to & irreducible from any nature, ousia or essence.

The practical upshot?

There’s no reason it can’t refer cosmotheandrically!

Beyond Christological perichoresis, the Logos-logoi identity of Maximus further emphasizes how we as creatures perichoretically coinhere relationally (albeit participatorily proportional to our being) – not only creature to creature, but – with divinity, for the very same logoi that humanize the divine also divinize the human.

Christ, for Bonaventure, is the centre of the entire created order. This echoes Origen of Alexandria, the Cappadocians, Maximus the Confessor,
Gregory Palamas, and would be deepened and enriched by Duns Scotus and his doctrine of the Primacy of Christ. ~ Mulholland

Perhaps relational accounts of MOF can be characterized as ‘only personal’ (weaker) or ‘also emanational’ (stronger)?

While it’s in Christology (via its epistemic primacy) that the meanings of various types of coincidence of mutually affirming complementary
opposites are revealed, it’s in Paterology that we locate their intrinsic structural foundation per hypostatic logic in terms of innascibility & fecundity. That
Bonaventurian architectonic busts several moves:

Cappadocian emphasis
on persons (more so than substance);

Nazianzen & Damascene mutual coinherence;

Dionysian self-diffusive goodness;

Victorine highest good as
love; hence, a

Neoplatonic ’emanation, exemplarity & consummation’
perichoretic metaphysic of goodness (more than just a participatory metaphysic of being).

for Aquinas persons are both constituted & distinguished per relations

for Nyssen persons are distinguished causally but he’s silent re constitution

for Scotus, personal relational properties constitute the persons but aren’t their only unique properties;

we might add Bonaventure’s emanational relations or something analogous to Scotus’ haecceities

They’ll all assert the indivisibilty of the essence & incommunicability of
hypostatic properties to avoid, respectively, tritheism & modalism, using analogies to different substance – universal accounts or idioms to show via
similarities what divine essences & hypostases are like, but as soon as those analogies lead to unhappy inferences, they’ll assert dissimilarities, then get confronted with the combined challenges of loss of intelligibility & charges of mysterian adhockery, which can be defended in various ways to various degrees.

identificatory vs constitutive?

Three possess the one indivisible divine essence, and are constituted as distinct persons by certain incommunicable properties, not common in one with the other two.

Personal relational properties constitute the persons but aren’t their only unique
properties (those properties aren’t communicable).

Bonaventure’s Christ illuminates the hypostatic & essential logics that inhere in paterological uniqueness (MOF), essential unicity, unitary energeia, hypostatic union, hypostatic unity & sophiological union, as well as trinitological, Christological, cosmological (vestiges),
anthropological (images) & theotic (likenesses) perichoreses.