God Ordains Epistemic Distancing toward the end of Our Co-creative Self-determination but that doesn’t make sin necessary

God fittingly determines that the essential nature of human persons necessarily includes that measure of epistemic distancing sufficient to allow for our choosing among rationally desired eternal goods.

God thereby permits each of us to co-creatively self-determine our unique charismatic character, spiritually.

One thing such an epistemic distancing necessarily entails is the axiological ordering of higher & lesser goods, for it’s in our very deliberations between them that we will learn which of God’s gifts we most deeply desire to both receive & give back, thereby developing our unique spirituality.

For if loving is the answer, then who’s the giving for? ~ Noel Paul Stookey

Now, it is necessarily the case that, because of such an epistemic distancing, at times, out of ignorance, we will unavoidably choose lesser goods. But, it is also the case that, eventually & inevitably, we can overcome such ignorance, precisely through this process of choosing.

What has never been the case, however, is that an ignorant choice of a lesser good is either necessarily culpable or ever irremediable, for to err, in & of itself, is not to sin and every mistake or sin lies within the scope of God’s mercy (cf. Romans 8).

Our human finitude, however radical, does not by design make sin necessary, although it does make its possibility unavoidable.

In pursuing our rational desires, even when we err, we can thereby erase a modicum of ignorance, or, in other words, close a measure of epistemic distance. It is only when one, with both sufficient knowledge & freedom, chooses a lesser good that one sins.

So, that very same epistemic distancing, which allows for our choosing among rationally desired eternal goods, thereby becoming who we co-creatively & self-determinedly choose to be, charismatically or spiritually, is also necessary for the growth of our freedom in choosing higher over lesser goods, virtuously or morally.

When we choose lesser goods, we sin in a measure commensurate to our current epistemic distance, ie some sufficient degree of freedom & knowledge.

So, the essential nature of human persons includes that epistemic distancing necessary for becoming free when deliberatively choosing both between lesser & higher goods as well as among eternal goods.

Beyond the co-creative self-determination of our unique charismatic character, spiritually, epistemic distancing allows us to grow a wholly virtuous character, morally.

A finally free person will only ever deliberate among rationally desired eternal goods, choosing in a way that fits one’s spiritual character.

How did Jesus experience His finitude or axiological-epistemic distancing?

Spiritually, He fully & perfectly expressed every charism. Humanly, He deliberated – not only among eternal goods, but – between lesser & higher goods and learned from His mistaken choices, progressively closing His kenotic epistemic distancing. He thereby even grew His human freedom, even as His need to deliberate between lesser & higher goods diminished with every epistemic closure.

Never did Jesus choose a lesser over a higher good with degrees of human knowledge & freedom sufficient to constitute a sinful refusal, a self-denial of Goodness, Himself.

Afterthoughts or Prologue or Whatever

Generally, I purposefully remain radically agnostic re probabilistic & evidential approaches to the problem of evil, but I’ll share my provisional “feelings.”

I would say that we’re sufficiently distanced, epistemically, to realize, operatively if not gnoseologically, Who & What we are as imagoes Dei sans mortality.

I could, however, imagine nonphysical, eg relational, forms of death being pedagogically indispensable to our fully realizing, both operatively & gnoseologically, who we most truly are, ie participants in a concrete, social Absolute.

BUT – would we be sufficiently distanced to realize, operatively if not gnoseologically, Who & What we can become theotically as similitudines Dei sans mortality?


Further reflections

I reckon Hick & Wykstra borrowed the term epistemic distance (dang, can’t use “ED” as it’s already taken) from applied linguistics (e.g. pedagogy) & probabilistic epistemology, where the concept of epistemic distancing refers to a linguistic modality re semantic meaning, pragmatic interpretation & cognitive learning.

Personally, I receive Augustinian & Irenaean approaches, including evil as privation, soul-making & free will defenses, as establishing a mere logical compatibility between classical theism & evil.

HOWEVER, I reject all evidential theodicies in their attempts to further develop such defenses probabilistically b/c they tend to trivialize the immensity of human pain & enormity of human suffering.

YET – I do provisionally accept Stephen Wykstra’s systematic, skeptical theistic reply to evidential arguments, precisely b/c he grounds it in the epistemic distance between us & God, for it at least succeeds in showing that our failure to explain evil doesn’t confirm atheism.

A choice is forced upon us: imagining either it’s the existence of evil or God’s character that must remain unintelligible.

BECAUSE OF – DBH’s game theoretic disposal of the antecedent-consequent decree distinction is decisive over against any eternal residue of evil’s parasitic existence … and because of

God’s character revealed in Jesus & discerned by the Fathers, who embraced apocatastasis …

God’s sufficiently intelligible … and

THAT gives me all the hope I need.

Still, what place might death & other horrendous evils have in our lives?

I can only say that – from the Logos, Who’s been eternally spoken – the only logoi going forth remain those of being, well being & eternal being.

Ergo, God’s got no-thing to do with & no place for death apart from its eternal vanquishment.

THAT, not how, all this may be true, I insist!

Finally, what gets God out of the dock needn’t be based in case theory (logical defenses, evil as privation, free will) & shouldn’t be circumstantial evidence (theodicies). Juries are instructed that they can rely on character witnesses, alone, for not guilty verdicts.

Thus surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, a holy host of others standing ’round

Who do YOU say …?

panSEMIOentheism as an ontological pan-entheism of creatio ex nihilo & a mereological panen-theism of creatio ex deo

Of the three Abelardian divine modes of identity, it is the formal mode from which an Aristotelian syllogistic can be derived to thus define the identities of creatures formally (and not inconsistent with the irreducibly triadic modal ontology of Peirce’s methodological & semantic pragmatisms).

In neither divine nor creaturely formal modes of identity would a person ever be considered constituted as an hypostasis bereft of an essential nature, as if the essential whatness of persons did not necessarily inhere along with the hownesses of each whoness.

Neither would a secondary personal nature ever not necessarily inhere along with both the whoness, hence peculiar howness, of a person’s hypostatic nature and the whatness of their essential nature.

Natures, both as hypostatic whonesses & hownesses as well as both essential & secondary whatnesses, are only ever, i.e. eternally, enhypostasized. The concept of an anhypostatic nature does not successfully refer.

Not only should we neither reify (anhypostasize) the essence nor hypostasize the energeia, but – we shouldn’t reduce the persons to mere idiomata.

To that extent, then, any temporal distribution of logoi will necessarily be – not only an emanation of formal whatnesses, but – a procession of hypostatic hownesses.

Creation, then, processively enhypostasizes the created natures – hypostatic, essential & secondary – through, with & in the Logos as eternally incarnated (enhypostasized or assumed) by Him.

This would be consistent with my panSEMIOentheism which affirms both an ontological pan-entheism of a creatio ex nihilo & a mereological panen-theism of a creatio ex deo, wherein the hypostatic & essential natures of every freely willing creature have been eternally determined, called forth ex nihilo, and invited to co-creatively self-determine their secondary natures, beckoned forth ex Deo.

Per ipsum, et cum ipso, et in ipso, est tibi Deo Patri omnipotenti in unitate Spiritus Sancti, omnis honor et gloria per omnia saecula saeculorum.

Divine Communications, Communicators & Communions – differentiating incarnation, embodiments & presences

the concrete analogia entis is the old green deal, the whole green deal, the proto-eschato-logical green deal

The person of Christ eternally & incarnationally contains (already) – not only the thatnesses, whatnesses & hownesses, but – even the very thisnesses that each & every particular creature becomes (not yet) through its synergistic co-operation with divine energeia.

Do the many presences of the embodiment-realizing Logos differ only in degree, per univocal conceptions of presence, or modally, evoking metaphorical conceptions?

Appropriated within a semiotic heuristic, we can certainly distinguish divine communications per iconic, indexical & symbolic modes, which, ordinarily, could be thought to differ in communicative power (eg icons, mantras, rituals, sacraments, etc).

However, there’s FAR more going on in divine-creaturely agential interaction than ordinary semantic communications.

Beyond the modal semantic differences of diverse embodiments,  communicatively, Incarnation also has performative significance, a pragmatic dimension, effecting divine-creaturely communion.

The eternally, incarnate Word, Who self-reveals – not only iconically, indexically & symbolically, but – personally, invites robustly performative engagements, which, pragmatically, will not return empty, for the Word utters no ordinary communications, but always offers Her very self.

While divine-creaturely communications (as embodiments) proceed semantically, it is in the pragmatic dimension that divine-creaturely communicators, i.e. hypostatic processions (of embodiers), realize communion, ie Real Presence, every creature becoming identical to its logos as eternally contained by the Word.

So, while there are diverse divine embodiments, semantically, there’s but one multiply-realized Incarnation, pragmatically, ie the eternal Word, Who contains every logoi, hypostatically, while otherwise eternally transcending creatures both naturally (per idiomata & propria) and energetically (per energeia).

Meta-heuristic Implications

There’s a semantical univocity & ontological analogy of the ur-kenotic acts (revealed per propria, appropriations, energeia, etc) of divine & human persons.

There’s a semantical & ontological univocity of the kenotic acts of divine & human persons.

Divine & human persons both have primary & secondary essential natures, as well as irreducibly unique hypostatic natures.

The human (indeed, all creaturely) primary & secondary essential natures are identical to the divine secondary essential nature.

Christ’s divine personhood includes an irreducibly unique hypostatic nature (haecceitas-like, idiomata, etc) in addition to a nondeterminate primary essential nature & self-determinate secondary (assumed) essential nature.

Human personhoods include irreducibly unique hypostatic natures (haecceities) in addition to divinely determined primary essential natures plus, potentially & self-determinedly, can become  (acquire) secondary essential natures, both such essential natures (primary & secondary), again, identical to the divine secondary essential nature.

Divine & human personhoods are thus semantically univocal & ontologically analogous – not only because they’re infinite vs finite, but also – because, while each is, in part, self-determined vis a vis their secondary essential natures (variously by assuming or becoming), they’re otherwise alternately nondetermined vs determined vis a vis their primary essential natures.

The Maximian Logos-logoi Identity can still be enriched by Sophiological Heuristics

As Royce’s concrete Absolute modified Peirce’s semeiotic; Aurobindo’s integral Absolute modified Advaita; so Maximus’ Logos-logoi identity modified Neoplatonism. In each case, the concept of the Absolute became both concrete & social?

If one wants to approach questions re Maximus’ multiple incarnations thru semiotic lenses (Peirce, Royce, Scotus, Bonaventure, etc), of special interest would be Eriugena’s take on Christological participation, for, like CSP, he framed creation in terms of theophany.

re: creation as incarnation, exchanges between Blowers & Wood

Neither a vertical hypostatic descent nor a horizontal hypostatic multiplication present theological problems in my view.

Taken together, as the same economic mission, ISTM, the horizontal procession aspect ontologically foregrounds composite hypostases, haecceities, actualities, concrete particulars as dynamical, autopoietic entities.

These entities “are” acts that are, at once, existential, efficient & formal, thereby reducing potencies, respectively, per various essential, material & final limitations.

Locating the Logos-logoi identity hypostatically properly avoids both reifications of essences (natures don’t process as ‘that’s or ‘who’s) & hypostatizations of energies (which are not ‘that’s but ‘how’s).

If there’s a scandal, it’s not theological but metaphysical, for this emergentist perspective offers no robustly ontological account of such brute actualities or naked haecceities, such as we encounter in this multiplication of composite hypostases. Still, other emergentist accounts only pretend, for supervenience  explains no-thing.

There are still Neoplatonic-like semiotic dynamics like exemplification, manifestation & signification, but, as with any semiotic realism, the symbolic implicates the pragmatic, so interpretation implicates participatory acts (existential, efficient & formal). The logoi do act formally, but that follows from the hypostatic grounding of identity in difference, existentially & relationally (the mutuality of I-ness & Thou-ness).

Need we distinguish ad intra & extra processions in terms of esse naturale & intentionale, necessity & freedom, ur-kenosis & kenosis?

Well, the Incarnation so well ‘fits’ the God, Who’s been revealed, that it’s inevitability, hypostatically, doesn’t in any sense entail that, essentially, it’s ‘naturally necessary.’

At least, this creation as incarnation approach seems not inconsistent with my own affirmation (pan-SEMIO-entheism) of both

a pan-entheistic vertical distinction, where, via creatio ex nihilo, God donates & communicates creatively as we participate & are liberated imitatively, as well as

a panen-theistic horizontal distinction, where God, via creatio ex Deo, donates & communicates diffusively as we participate & are liberated substratively.

The practical upshot of an in/finite hypostatic participative distinction –

As composite hypostases, substratively, potentially, we can act the very same way Christ does when He’s acting kenotically, while imitatively, we can act like Christ does when He’s acting ur-kenotically.

Law of Retreblement (irreducible triadicity) of participation (hypostatic synergy)

1) energetikon of similitude = operativities or essential natures or participabilities

2) energon of otherness = operators or hypostases or participants

3) energia of dynamic manifestations = operating or participating

Any generation of novel opposites will be necessarily triadic, hence, will include – not only formal emanations & dynamic manifestations, but – hypostatic processions. Thus are energema created & incarnated.

4) energema = opera or new creative & co-creative participants participating in participabilities

So, hypostatic actors (generated opposites) via synergic acts participate in energeia.

And, different types of hypostatic-synergic coinherences involve vectors of both similitude (horizontal) & otherness (vertical).

These include:

horizontal trinitological tri-hypostatic-synergy; perichoresis of the trinity per monarchy of the father

vertical christological hypostatic-synergy, a kenotic descent of energema;  hypostatic union per perichoresis of the One

horizontal cosmotheandric pluri-hypostatic-synergy, a creative diffusion of energema; perichoresis of the Many

Importantly, we best consider perichoresis and/or coinherence in terms of apophatic metaphors that convey both “no confusion& “no commingling.”

Furthermore, we must realize that the above trihypostatic, hypostatic & pluri-hypostatic perichoreses are analogical. Therefore, less than positive metaphysical explanations, they set meta-heuristic contours regarding what is manifestly not going on, whether trinitologically, Christologically or cosmotheandrically.

While hypostases & natures are formally distinct (irreducible to each other), both are really distinct from energeia. We even distinguish hypostases or signify persons with negative metaheuristic contours of incommunicability, which, itself, entails two negative conditions – being not repeatable & not a form. This would apply constitutively, then, to both the mutual relations of divine persons and haecceities of created hypostases.

Whatever theory one holds regarding how idiomata individuate numerically distinct hypostases, for example, imagining that they refer to

a) properties that are simple, non-shareable & non-coinstantiable, or, perhaps,

b) shareable in-principle but as a uniquely combined bundle of properties, or even

c) some  combination of non-shareable & uniquely (or not) bundled shareable properties

the haecceity-like bruteness of each hypostasis sets limits, both logically & constitutively, on how we conceive the Maximian Logos-logoi identity.

Not only do human & divine essential natures relate analogically, so, too, do divine & human hypostatic idiomata (One to the many). Not only that, both all human persons per their haecceities, as well as all other pluri-hypostatic creaturely entities, relate analogically, not just per essential but also per hypostatic natures (many to many).

We best locate, then, the Logos-logoi identity in terms of whatness of an energetikon & howness of energia, as each & every hypostasis, thisness or whoness, remains – not only not a form, but – not repeatable.

The ontological & teleological takeaways of the immanent Logos-logoi identity remain utterly provocative in that what each becomes & how each participates incarnationally entails a divinization of each creature per the identical logoi involved in the incarnational humanization of the Logos.

The essence & energies of creatures, as instantiated by persons & the cosmos, are relationally constituted per the logoi, which are the very same created immanent universal that’s assumed by the Logos, all via enhypostasization of an eternal essence, which was never anhypostatic.

This panentheistic account has some mereological-like features, perhaps something like a set theory for hypostatic idiomata. It can still be enriched by Sophiological conceptions, including distinctions between uncreated & created Sophia.

Sophia, Energies & Logoi in a Neo-Chalcedonian Cosmotheandrism

Some implications of the Law of Retreblement in my panSEMIOentheism are participatory.

We participate in the Logos via acts that are – not just existential (reducing primary natural potencies) & formal (reducing secondary natural potencies), but – efficient (reducing hypostatic natural potencies, which are neither formal nor repeatable).

Hypostatic natures, here, are conceived per a bundle theory of idiomata, some, in-principle, shareable & others not (haecceitas-like). A set theory-like approach to uniquely bundled idiomata parses out acts (as variously identical or unique), not predicable forms.

The Eschatological Presuppositions of Balthasar & Maritain Unavoidably Entail Universalism

The eschatological presuppositions of both HuvB & Maritain lead implicitly & inevitably to apokatastasis. Neither of their (pious but ad hoc) attempts to variously stop short of same, in my view, can successfully escape their own logic.

The presuppositions of Balthasar’s universalist hope lead to an indicative – not subjunctive – universalism, for his critique of the antecedent & consequent wills distinction leads inevitably to the former, as he’s thereby inchoately anticipated & adopted DBH‘s game theory analysis.

The presuppositions of Maritain’s eschatology lead to – not only apokatastenai, but – apokatastasis, for his admission of miraculous interventions in the ordinary rules of being, also, leads inevitably to the reversibility of rejections of grace.

Is there no basis in tradition for Maritain’s theory, which Balthasar himself propounded?

Maximus the Confessor interprets Gregory of Nyssa in Questiones et dubia 13, PG 90, 796AC cited in Balthasar, Dare We Hope 245-46 n. 21 [G 93 n. 36]

The above represent – not Brotherton’s conclusions, but – my thoughts after reflecting on Joshua R. Brotherton’s article in Theological Studies, vol. 76, 4: pp. 718-741.  November 30, 2015.


As Royce’s concrete Absolute modified Peirce’s semeiotic; Aurobindo’s integral Absolute modified Advaita; so Maximus’ Logos-logoi identity modified Neoplatonism. In each case, the concept of the Absolute became both concrete & social?

Speculative Angelology – some caveats

As theological realists, we can establish semantical, ontological & epistemological contours for our meta-heuristics.

Employing the hypostatic union as our cosmological cipher, we then recognize those contours via a

semantical univocity of persons,

ontological analogy of natures &

meta-heuristical univocity of logoi.

As metaphysical realists, we can prescind from any given metaphysical root metaphor (substance, relational, process, experience, field, etc) to a phenomenological meta-heuristic.

Even while thus remaining metaphysically agnostic regarding the givens of determinate being, i.e. its primitives, forces & axioms, we can hermeneutically cycle through Lonergan’s functional specialties, following his transcendental imperatives.

And we can thereby harvest the value-realizations of our philosophical, historical & exegetical foundations and of our creedal doctrines, when we live as we pray & grow in authenticity.

We recognize, however, that these universal foundations & doctrines must be pastorally & sacramentally communicated to all in ways that are otherwise particular to each cultural milieu.

Our receptions of these creedal doctrines & celebrations of these liturgical gifts will have necessarily been preceded by systematic interpretations & idiomatic translations, which will have fostered the manifold & multiform Gospel inculturations & moral enculturations we encounter in our world today.

Christianity thus certainly implicates realist meta-heuristics, both phenomenological & theological, grounded in both general & special revelation.

Systematically, though, it remains in search of a metaphysic, whether such “explanations” reflect the deliverances of time-honored, commonsensical folk-psychologies or modern philosophies of mind.

Highly speculative medieval angelologies well framed many of the ongoing anthropological “explorations” in the modern philosophies of mind. We should all eschew the hubristic “consciousness explained” shtick of today’s eliminative materialists, even as we vigorously & laudably explore our angelologies.

We should recognize, too, when engaging in these angelologicalexplorations,” that our “explanatory” conclusions will often flow from – neither the consistency of our logic nor rigor of our premises, but – their tautological embeddedness in our very terms, i.e. chosen root metaphors.

The truths of our faith do not require the refutation of metaphysical ignosticisms, as those self-subvert. Neither do they hinge on whether or not consciousness is a primitive, along side space-time & matter-energy, or emergent therefrom per a nonreductive physicalism.

While I neither reject nor hold any given philosophy of mind, angelology or cosmology, I do applaud & encourage others’ explorations, only ever insisting that they not be confused with explanations and not be overinvested in terms of normative impetus. In other words, their deontological implications should be held, at least, as modestly as their ontological conclusions are tentative, which is very.

Semiotic Appropriation of Cyril, Maximus & Bulgakov in terms of cosmotheandric self-revelation

Might we semiotically appropriate Cyril, Maximus & Bulgakov per a heuristic of cosmotheandric eternal divine self-revelation, manifestation, exemplification & signification – to interpret the eternal ad intra in processio per the Monarchy of the Father & the personal taxis and the eternal ad extra in missio per the Incarnation & Creation?

The divine will has satiated each human person’s intellect & will with His primal Truth & Goodness, as He constitutes each of us, originally, as everlastingly abiding images of God.

We thus come into the world already drinking from our saucers of God-possession because our cups of subjective beatitude have overflowed from the very beginning for each of us.

As such, our primary nature is gifted with an intrinsically absolute lovability that can neither be enhanced nor diminished. We thus mirror the immutable intrinsic perfection & aesthetic intensity of the divine esse naturale.

Whatever else may be going on, self-constitutively, as we co-creatively cooperate in growing our secondary natures per degrees of virtuosity from image to likeness, there’s a revelatory dynamic, whereby we manifest Christ ever more clearly, signify Christ ever more consistently, glorify Christ ever more brilliantly, thereby participating ever more illuminatively in objective beatitude.

We thereby reflect the mutable self-revelatory exemplifications & aesthetic scope of the divine esse intentionale’s incarnational manifestations of – not only 

the Christo-Pneumatological particular presences mediated by special revelations via the missions of the Logos, which assumes creation’s forms that it might exemplify divinity through enhypostatic embodiment, icons, names & symbols in the divine gratuity of grace, but –

the Pneumato-Christological universal presence mediated by general revelations via the logoic processions, which in-form creatures that they might signify divinity through their shadows, vestiges & images of & likenesses to Him in the divine gratuity of creation.

That’s the Precis for my

PanSEMIOentheism –
A Neo-Chalcedonian, Franciscan, Cosmotheandric Universalism

In a sense, I actually adopt a neo-Báñezian stance re the primary nature of human persons as imagoes Dei, on whom Providence acts – not only formally & existentially, but – in an efficiently causal way that radically determines, i.e. predestines, us for everlasting life, eschatologically. There would be no hint of eternal conscious torment, as my move entails the same logic as Oliver Crisp’s Reformed universalism (cf Deviant Calvinism).

It’s otherwise in regard to our theotic trajectories where divine kenotic condescension prescinds from acting via efficient causes on our wills as each personal act either grows our secondary virtuous natures & is eternalized via synergy w/Energeia/logoi or is otherwise destined to lapse into a self-annihilating nothingness, when evil’s parasitic existence loses its hosts, leaving no eternal residue.

What’s at stake in these relatively free choices (acts limited by potencies; Scotistic & Maximian libertarian conception) are the degrees of virtue eternalized in our secondary nature, the aesthetic scope of our own objective beatitude, where we’ve grown in likeness to God. Whether that scope can grow post-mortem or not, I have no a priori reason to suggest why not. Nor any reason to insist it must (due to libertarian personal freedom). It may be, under any scenario, that we’ll begin our eternal sojourn, in terms of glory, by variously populating the firmament as tiny votive candles or blazing helioss and every degree of objective beatitude in between.

The Incarnation, then, however soteriologically efficacious it remains, was in the cosmotheandric cards from the get-go & not occasioned by some “felix” culpa. What’s at stake is the divine will’s freely loving expansion of aesthetic scope (not intrinsic perfection) by our free creaturely participation with energeia & logoi, correlatively growing our objective beatitude. The eschatological synergistic marriage of that divine aesthetic scope (Sophia) & creaturely objective beatitude (sophia) constitutes the Wedding of the Lamb.

There was no divine dice roll or counterfactual discursive analysis by the divine intentionale discerning a best possible world, a clear category error, as any divine mutable acts & passible relations only ever determine alternative outcomes from among an infinite array of aesthetically equipoised optimalities.

Go ahead, ask, and you shall receive – blessings in a manner greater than which can not be conceived without sacrificing or exhausting the integrity & coherence of the character of our infinitely merciful God as revealed, even now, by Mary’s boy, Jesus.


natures aren’t self-subsistent

infinite divine & finite human natures are ontologically analogous

divine & human persons are semantically univocal

persons are integrated, singular wholes, whose natures don’t compete

participable logoi of humanization & deification are metaphysically identical

Christ assumes, what we become, in the fullest expression of human nature

Christ exemplifies, but we signify, divine nature


Who and what was Mary?

If Origen, Athanasius, CappBros, GNaz, Cyril, Cyrillian Chalcedonians including the Neo-Chalcedonians, Leontius of Jerusalem (enhypostaton, communicatio idiomatum, double birth, theopaschism) & Justinian (Logos) & Maximus (Life of the Virgin) were correct, then, of course,

Mary was the Mother of God.

Feast days and elaborate prayers to Mary abounded in Constantinople, after she was declared God-Bearer in 431, and veneration of the Theotokos was at its peak in the reign of Justinian, builder of the great Hagia Sofia, not long before Maximus was born.

Maximus’s Mary, A Minister, Not Just an Icon, by the late Sally Cunneen

A Sweet Theological Autobiography

This is my theo-story. This is my song.

Nearly a half-century ago, I spent my undergraduate & graduate years immersed in radically reductive neuroscientific pursuits. I pursued the physiological & biochemical precursors of behaviors – from flatworms to rodents.

Eventually, I narrowly focused on avian neuroendocrinology. For example, we knew what to inject when to make birds fly north or south.

Any philosophical interpretations of such empirical findings have only ever been a lifelong avocational pursuit, which has included philosophies of mind.

Investigations into philosophical, anthropological & systematic theologies came much later, after I retired from banking.

Those led me to Peirce, Maritain & Lonergan, thanks to a couple of friends who, like me, were Catholic Charismatics, one of whom introduced me to a similarly minded Pentecostal friend & collaborator.

Isn’t life strange?

Otherwise, I mostly explored ALL of these interests w/friends, who self-described as religious naturalists (non-militantly agnostic, nontheist & atheist), contributors to journals like Zygon.

It was those friends who reinforced my Peircean-bent & shared my emergentist stance. What differentiated our stances was that my reading of the book of nature was temperamentally Franciscan.

B/c of Bonaventure & Scotus, mine was a radically emanationist emergentism, somewhat innoculated from facile analogies & spurious reductionisms by Dionysius, Eriugena, Abelard, the Victorines, Franciscans & Cusanus.

So, I’m suspicious of distinctions like weak vs strong emergence & supervenience.

All the way up & down the great chain of being we encounter aporetic layers of trans-semiotic realities, including such horizons as quantum, cosmic, life, sentience & language origins.

To navigate these horizons, our
semantic references, ineluctably, must variously include terms that are analogical, univocal, apophatic, indefinite, vague & mediating, to frame heuristics for such as probabilistic causalities, statistical regularities & dis/continuities. If this is true proximately & temporally, then, trust me, it’ll be true in spades for ultimate & eternal realities.

Our phenomenological meta-heuristics, ergo, best ontologically bracket reality’s manifold & multiform aporia & eschew rushes to metaphysical closure.

I emphasized “mediating” not only as a nod to Peirce, Cusanus, Dionysius & the early Neoplatonists, philosophically, but as an embrace of the Christology of Cyril & Maximus. These folks gifted me my Cosmotheandric PanSEMIOentheism.

Now, don’t get me wrong or take umbrage as I insist that our sylly syllogisms often prove too much, say more than we can possibly know & tell untellable stories. This is not to say that every analytic pursuit’s an epistemic pretense. We only engage analytic conceits if we imagine that such formal deliverances gift us indubitable conclusions, when, instead, they suggest a pragmatic reasonableness.

And, while I still happily enjoy the fruit of Trinitological excursions, contemplating the emanating One, & so thoroughly enjoyed my early reductionist pursuits of the Many, I’ve now returned, philosophically & theologically, to that Mediator, Whom I encountered in my First Holy Communion, where I realized in my little heart & will, what I would only later better apprehend in my head & intellect: the hypostatic union, coincidentia oppositorum & communicatio idiomatum of our Eternally Creating Triune Creator.

How Bonaventure’s Trinitology jives with the Monarchy of the Father, Cosmotheandrism & the Kitchen Sink

Innascibility doesn’t constitute the Father for Bonaventure. It’s the logically unavoidable positive implication of same, the reality of The Sourcer, which does.

And that neither excludes nor presupposes an idioma like paternity.

The F’s primal act of sourcing would be logically but not temporally prior to the essence.

The Sourcer does refer as a logically prior agential verbal nominalization of that hypostasis, naming Who. But vis a vis the essence, innascibility or Unsourced refers, instead, as a logically prior verbal participle, an adjective qualifying Who in terms of how.

That’s to say that it provides semantic meaning logically (not temporally) prior to the ousia and apart from the semantic job it indeed does, further in our logical (not temporal) sequence, as a differentiating hypostatic idioma.

For Trinitarian logic, it helps me to think more consistently if I restrict my thoughts to verbals, since we’re referring to a noncomposite Actus Purus.

Also, I default to the more active & present forms, like gerunds, infinitives & nominalizations for the “whats” of hypostases & adjectival participles for the “hows” of hypostases, i.e. idiomata, & “hows” of ousia, ie propria.

All predications of hypostases in quid (what) must be analogical; in quale (how) – semantically univocal & infinite.

It helps, too, to ditch all verbals derived from “is,” including the infinitive “to be” and “being,” ie employ E-Prime. Or, when too dang hard, at least, to qualify such predications with Dionysian distinctions.

To say that hypostases = ousia, then, is like saying that “they are how they do.” Not bad. That qualifies a noun with an adjective, where the = represents some form of is or to be. However, ineluctably implicit in such grammatical constructions, there is a conception of potency reducing to act (as if it could be or have been otherwise). That implication’s not just imprecise but contradictory. Typically, while idiomata have been said to be “carried by” and propria “added to” hypostases, that erroneously implicates idiomata as entities and propria as potencies.

So, we best resort to E-Prime and also refer to the F considering the innascible or unsourced using

a) gerunds or nominalizations as agential, proper nouns w/definite articles for subjects – individual hypostases; e.g. hypostatically, The Sourcer;

b) participles as adjectives for essential propria & hypostatic idiomata; e.g. idiomatically, Unsourced;

c) direct objects for relations, including to Oneself, as action recipients; e.g. relationally, The Sourcer (self) or the sourced (others); and

d) the underlying action verb of those gerunds & participles; e.g. actively, Sources.

Thus, coherently, with no reference to paternity, “the Unsourced Sourcer sources the sourced” (but Unsourced needn’t exclude Self-Sourcing).

Using a quasi-Dionysian formulation, where:

God is | not x | is true apophatically & literally;

God is | x | is true kataphatically & trans-analogically; and

God is neither | x | nor | not x | is true relationally & really.

The F is | not sourced | is true apophatically & literally, as an idioma, adjectivally.

The F is | The Unsourced Sourcer | is true kataphatically & trans-analogically, as an hypostasis or agential nominalization.

The F is neither | The Unsourced Sourcer | nor | not sourced | is true, for we can also refer to the F as The Self-Sourcing Sourcer, both in self-relation to The Sourcer and in relation to all sourced realities, both divine (non-determinate & self-determinate) and determinate.

Might innascibility have positive implications beyond pure negation?

It must.

Some constitutive relation(s) must be added to our grammar of hypostases & idioma, otherwise we’ll unavoidably implicate the reduction of some potency to act.

Any articulation of a beginning can’t avoid begging questions due to either a circular reference, causal disjunction or infinite regression. Our unavoidably triadic account relies on the validity of self-reference. For we’re otherwise precisely about the business of avoiding causal disjunctions and halting infinite regressions. And, just because we’ve constructed a tautology doesn’t mean it’s not true. It only means we’ve added no new information to our system. So, our Trinitological heuristics remain semi-formal, suggesting that our God-conceptions are not unreasonable, not demonstrating proofs.

One reason I struggle with translation of others’ Trinity talk is that I don’t interpret it from the same angle, because, out of habit, I’m unreflectively translating it on the fly.

For starters, my default bias is to presuppose that the Capps, Cyril, Pseudo-Dionysius, Maximus, Eriugena, Scotus, Bonaventure, Aquinas, Palamas & Bulgakov (w/fewer tweaks than many imagine) can be reconciled – not just creedally, but – in their speculative systematic opinions, though not ruling out exceptions.

Note on properly conceiving the Monarchy of the Father

Gregory of Nyssa: If you transfer to the divine
dogmas the principle of differentiation, which you recognize in human affairs,
between ousia and hypostasis, you will not go astray. (EpPet. 3)

Well, we’ll get the general idea, anyway. But if we don’t recognize the infinite analogical interval between nondeterminate & determinate being, we’ll push the analogy too far.

I previously brought up the Scotistic idiom of ousia as primary substance, saying it was more felicitous in that it foregrounded how the ousia was “like” and “unlike” both primary & secondary substances.

While all agree natures subsist in hypostases (aren’t floating around as abstractions or entities), there’s a difference between the immanent universals exemplified by divine being & those instantiated in determinate being, reduced from potencies to acts, formally.

Grammatically, we typically refer to such reductions in terms of indefinite common nouns being delimited by definite proper nouns. Hence, our conversations: Is God like a substance sortal or just an attribute among attributes when predicating divine hypostases? As a proper name, can God denominate only the F or each person?

What might change, however, when there are no reductions from potency to act, eternally so? Our analogy between divine & human persons must recognize a difference between irreducibly immanent & reducibly instantiated universals. There’s no indefinite potency becoming definite, whether essential propria (attributes) or hypostatic idiomata (e.g. relation, haecceity, emanation, + ?).

If one wants to apply an analogue of common (god) & proper nouns (The God), that’s intuitive, maybe preferable in some contexts. But, since via eternally pure acts, the divine persons exemplify an immanently universal essence, also analogously, as a primary-like substance, the ousia’s like a subject in that sense, justifying a proper signification, God.

Creedal Trinitology is not:

a) tritheistic, b/c, when it comes to how & what the persons do, those aspects constitute intrinsic perfections that are identical in each & every Person, both ontologically & axiologically; hence, the One God-ness of the Divine Nature;

b) modalist b/c, when it comes to Who does those intrinsically perfect things, there are three
persons doing them Who are really different in ways (aetiologically & economically) that don’t otherwise constitute perfections of God-ness; e.g. the relational aspects of the emanational Divine Singularity & personal MOF and incarnational aspects of the S & HS;

c) subordinationist, b/c, creedally, the persons are absolutely identical, ontologically &
axiologically, and their only real differences are aetiological & economic, which don’t involve
intrinsic perfections.

A Divine Singularity Ontologically Prior to even the MOF, logically not temporally … perhaps consistent w/our Bonaventuran stance

I can conceive The Father as The Self-Sourcing Sourcer, relationally constituted emanationally, which would be logically prior to personal relationality (opposing relations) and as analogous to that essentially ordered causal series we invoke vis a vis creation. I say analogous to distinguish between those intratrinitarian, aetiological ur-kenotic acts of the divine esse naturale and those of the economic kenotic acts divine esse intentionale.

That primal emanational relation could be a self-relationality, which wouldn’t be a pious ad hoc exception, b/c Trinitarian personal relational conceptions necessarily include the persons sharing their love for the essence as an object of their love fully in each Subject, hence, in the other Subjects as well as in Oneself.

For the Father, as Primal Font, emanationally, His logically prior constitutive relation would include His love for the essence in Himself.

This would be more of a Divine Singularity than the MOF, which is intrinsically other-relational, although still a logical not temporal ontological distinction. And it would still not be a great-making shared property of the Divine Nature, only an aeitiological superordination. It would be accounted as an idioma marking a real distinction from other divine persons even as the F, eternally, remains identical to the other persons, essentially, in shared nature.

This divine singularity, like the MOF, would be an unshared idioma, in principle, so like a really distinct Subject, Who’s not otherwise Subjectively distinct re any substantial (natural or essential) intrinsic perfections shared, in principle, as divine propria.

Consistent with the view that the One God of MOF & Divine Nature entails equivocations of Oneness and not of the term, God, which admits of virtual not real distinctions between the Trinity & the Divine Nature:

Blocking inferences to subordinationism suggests the persons are identical in great-making properties or intrinsic perfections.

Idiomata, unshareable in principle, would not be great-making.

Simplicity would refer to pure acts of intrinsic perfection, i.e. involving no reductions to potency of the divine esse naturale & no change in the divine aesthetic intensity.

DDS need not refer to the divine esse intentionale, which would determine changes only in the divine aesthetic scope.

This would allow for a (thin) divine passibility, i.e. divine responses, for example, to creaturely supplications, as chosen from ‘among’ an array perfectly good equipoised optimalities (ergo, no all or nothing “best possible world” reality choosing in an either-or manner ‘between’ higher & lesser goods) via divine energeia (formally distinct from essence).

What would further differentiate the nature and propria from the persons and idiomata, then, is not any HOW that marks intrinsic perfections, aesthetic intensities or great making properties, but only aetiological ontological distinctions like emanational & personal relations, which refer to the persons logically not temporally and implicate no differentials in dignity. The persons are thus constituted relationally, identified by a relative indentity, making them really different, hypostatically. These refer to aetiological distinctions.

But, as far as intrinsic perfections go, HOW they act is in an absolutely identical way. This refers to an ontological distinction.

So, the One God of the MOF might best be thought of in terms of relative identity, both emanational & personal, moreso per an ordinal logical (but not temporal) reference, iow, aetiologically.

While the One God of the DN might best be thought of in terms of absolute identity between the Trinity & DN, moreso per a cardinal scale referring to their shared greatness of perfection, iow, ontologically.

When the S assumes human nature, that refers economically. Terms of rank or status refer axiologically.

So, re subordinationism, the creed eschews any ontological & axiological subordination, while aetiological & economic don’t present dogmatic problems.

NeoChalcedonian Cosmotheandric Universalism

Because the Incarnation eternally proceeds from – not the divine nature as an essential necessity, but – the divine will as a volitional inevitability, therefore 

occasioned – not by some felix culpa, but – from the cosmotheandric get-go,

apocatastasis less so seems intended as some “restitutio in pristinum statum” and moreso seems to me

an indefeasible proto-logical entailment, hence eschato-logical inevitability.

Finite persons are constituted via acts in potency, divine persons by pure act. As such, Jesus eternally humanizes the Logos and deifies human nature via the cosmotheandric incarnation, thereby implicating several types of participation per distinct but analogous forms of dynamical perichoreses:

1) trinitological between the divine persons;

2) Christological in the hypostatic union;

3) cosmological in vestigia Dei;

4) anthropological in imagoes Dei; &

5) theotic in similitudines Dei.

Through those Trinitological & Christological perichoreses, divine persons “exemplify” the divine nature.

Through those cosmological, anthropological and theotic perichoreses, human persons “signify” the divine nature.

These eternal cosmotheandric realities thus constitute the proto-logical contours of all paterology, Christology, pneumatology, Trinitology, anthropology, ecclesiology, soteriology, sacramentology, sophiology, missiology and eschatology.

These proto-logical contours logically advert to no such reality as “evil.”

While, temporally & ephemerally, privations of goodness can obtain ontologically via a “parasitic existence,”  eternally, no coherent accounts of oikonomic condescension or kenotic tzimtzum could abide same and remain logically consistent and existentially congruent with the integrally related  & inherently consonant divine logics as are revealed in our Scriptures, celebrated in our Liturgies & Devotions and realized in our Theoses.

Eternally perduring parasitic existences would render unintelligible every divine logic: proto-, Christo-, anthropo-, soterio-, ecclesio-, sophio- and eschato-

This is all developed systematically in:

Retreblement – a Systematic Apocatastasis & Pneumatological Missiology per a Neo-Chalcedonian Cosmotheandrism


By existentialist & personalist, I mean that the predicate of existence (entitative existential quantification) will precede any of essence & energy & that any theory of triadic naming (semiotic-like) will be more fundamental than any emergentist theory of triadic terms.

So, any entity, person or hypostasis is more fundamental than essences or energeia (relations).

Absolute and nonstrict identities re determinate realities will have derived from a more fundamental relative identity re nondeterminate & self-determinate realities in our realist metaphysic.

Similarity & difference must be dynamically related via constitutive functional relations of formal identity, which is quidditative for determinate realities but not nondeterminate.

Three name theory will employ both existential & universal quantification but no universal qualification for nondeterminate & self-determinate realities.

Three term theory employs existential & universal quantification; also – the universal qualification of our irreducibly triadic propositional modal ontology; as well as propositional object in/determinacy for determinate realities.

ERGO, per our emergentist (participatory) dynamic, neither essences nor relations will infinitely regress for they will have ultimately derived from, participated with and been formally identified in relation to primal energeia or primal relations or primal logoi of a primal Logos.

This avoids both a pantheism and theopanism because the determinate realities of this emergentist account will have derived – neither from primal entities, themselves, nor a primal essence, but – the primal will of Persons, Whose divine haecceity refers (indexically) to hypostases in their otherwise indescribable, unqualitative, indefinite hereness & nowness.

What, then, of the “stuff” we’re made of, much less the stuff of which divine persons were begotten (& not)?

Well, it’s not as if our account has no antinomial residue. It’s consistent but incomplete, which is an architectonic feature not a positivistic bug.

While for material determinate realities, matter, alone, suffices to individuate hypostases, even when only metaphorically & analogically, the taxonomy of immaterial determinate realities (human persons, because we are analogical images of the divine persons), can only employ a naming strategy that recognizes “that, when & where” each of us, ultimately, came to be in our thisness, hereness, nowness (even in some form of eternal simultaneity).

Who each person is remains, ultimately & ineluctably, indescribable, unqualitative and indefinite!

A contemplative pause, then gaze, then stance with respect to any beloved accesses this truth.

What we do profess is that we know from Whom and Why we emerged.

And our participatory metaphysic suggests, with its inescapably vague (in/definite) and inescapably general (not specific) terms and modal ontology, How.

Some of us learned this in our catechisms when we reached the “age of reason” prior to our Holy Communion:

“Who made us?” and “Why?”.

Only a participatory process of Anamnesis (concelebration), which facilitates forgetting, at least, some of what we learned in our Age of Enlightenment, will get us back in touch with those fundamental truths, which are more so Christological, much less so philosophical.

I’ll now turn to making a list of things to forget.

Feel free to submit. For starters:


God Out the Dock

All the talk of defenses & theodicies vis a vis the problem of evil, which are more vs less on point (though not reckoning in my universalist logic), bring to mind an analogous criminal paradigm.

A general theory of crime, classically,
must involve a rational will. A given crime involves a set of facts, evidentially. A
particular case theory interprets those facts.

Logical defenses can represent interpretive case theory arguments, including whether or not there was a crime.

Theodicies represent evidential arguments
for specific facts, which might beg explanations.

An incredibly weighty form of substantive, positive evidence is good character. It needn’t be weighted in the context of other matters. That is to say that it needn’t be considered in the context of other evidence but is an independent factor that can, by itself, engender reasonable
doubt or produce a conclusion of innocence.

Jury instructions make clear that the law recognizes that a person of good character is not likely to commit a crime contrary to that person’s nature, so, that person’s character or nature can
require a verdict of not guilty.

So, while theodicies are repugnant & defenses can be merely adequate
(understandably, nevertheless, important to many), neither are necessary to take God out of the dock, if He can assemble great cloud of (character) witnesses.

I suspect that’s how many of us roll.