A Logo-centric Account of Apophasis with a quick nod to Lossky & Staniloae

How Scotus’ Univocity of Being Grounds a Metaphysics of Participation

Scotus’ univocity somewhat entails Anselm’s ontological proof, where “pure perfections,” which are predicable of God alone, refer to being none greater than which can be conceived. Thus, from aspects of determinate being, which self-evidently make creatures better, we can devise composite concepts that apply only to God. Such aspects are transcendentals, because they are coextensive with being, transcending this finite and infinite division of being.

Scotus’ proper attributes (one, good & true) are also transcendentals. The supercategory of disjunctive transcendentals, like finite & infinite and contingent & necessary, for Scotus, prove God’s existence.

The less perfect member of each disjunction are possibilities that may or may not be actualized, creation being contingent and dependent on the divine will and not a necessary & inevitable emanation. The pure perfections, which don’t presuppose some limitation, are transcendentals but, of course, not coextensive.

The above conceptions of being, for Scotus, are predicable in quale and not in quid, hence are predicable denominatively (essential difference or nonessential property) not determinatively (what is it? genus? species?).

In Peircean terms, qualia correspond to possibilities (firstness or 1ns) and not genera-lities (thirdness or 3ns) and can refer to properties (qualia not quiddities) we may conceptually abstract from actualities (secondness or 2ns). This distinction is crucial, for it distinguishes between a semantical univocity, which follows a grammar of naming, and what would otherwise be an ontological univocity, which follows a grammar of categories of existence, i.e. regarding features or properties possessed as formal acts in potency to a final telos. While every quiddity is an essence, not every essence is a quiddity. Scotus’ univocity refers to qualia not quiddities.

Scotus’ univocity still supports a distinction, however, between theo-poetic nomination & theo-logical attribution, but not the vicious form of attribution DBH laments in a univocal ontology. The distinction lies, instead, in that between icons, images, diagrams & metaphors, on one hand, and similes & analogies, on the other, the latter as explicit & literal, the former as implicit, all as possibilities, not generalities.

The reason these subtle distinctions of the Subtle Doctor are crucial, in my view, is that they set forth how both theo-poetic nomination (idiomata) & theo-logical attribution (propria), more modestly conceived, are consonant with our metaphysics of participation.

Indeed, triadically and semiotically, participatively, we are drawn beyond our iconic (peircean 1ns) & indexical (2ns) SIGN-ifications of divine names & locations, and thereby led to our robustly relational symbolic (3ns) engagements, spanning the infinite interval – not just theopoetically & theologically, but -doxologically & theotically!

No, the Divine Economy is Not Trickle Down! — The Flipping of the Divine Donative Script

What’s the nature of our participation in the divine oikonomia?

The trinitarian paterological ur-kenosis, via the divine nature, opens up the eternal distance (economically & intimately) that the Son & Spirit may truly be. (Bathasarian)

The pneumatological kenosis, via the divine will, opens up the infinite analogical interval between God and the gratuity of creation that determinate creatures could truly be. (Hartian)

The Christological kenosis, via the divine will, opens up the infinite possibilities that determinate persons could truly be-come love via the gratuity of grace. The Trinity thereby flipped the divine donative script, when, via the hypostatic union, Jesus participated in human nature. And He did this as a real personhood (enhypostasis), which belonged to Him, alone (anhypostasis).

These divine kenoses, via epektasis, open up an infinite human desire (aesthetically), and via ekstasis, open up the space for one to stand outside one’s self (relationally & personally). (Bulgakov, Balthasar, Hart & Zizioulas?)

I explain later, below, that human persons traverse these distances theopoetically, theologically and relationally. DBH would say rhetorically (via theological nomination) and epistemologically (via philosophical attribution).

And we might all agree that, by relationally, we mean Eucharistically (liturgically & sacramentally, doxologically & theotically).

In the personal and relational sense, in all forms of kenoses, including the paterological, pneumatological, Christological and our Eucharistic participations, we might see, in sharp relief, Zizioulas’ conception of person playing out, i.e. that of other & communion, economy & intimacy, epektasis & ekstasis.

If our analogia gift us, semantically, icons & indexes (signs & locations) of divine encounters (knowledge about God), it is finally a Eucharistic participation that will symbolically & efficaciously (semiotic pragmatism) gift us divine Communion (knowledge of God).

Our determinate oikonomia are the divine oikonomia & the economic trinity is the immanent trinity, just not vice versa, as the Trinity perpetually opens eternal distances (ad intra) and infinite intervals (ad extra), precisely that we might be, might become & might commune, forever & ever! Amen?

Now, has this not opened up the eternal space & infinite interval where we may all reasonably hope for ἀποκατάστασις ?

The Semiotic Eucharistic Cycle

Liturgy of the Word

  • Iconic theo-poetic nomination of divine names

  • Indexic theo-logic attribution of divine locations

Liturgy of the Eucharist

  • Symbolic doxological & theotic engagement of divine participations

Offertory – Ecstasis & Proodos as self-transcendence

Communion – Enstasis & Mone as union

Post Communion – Epecstasis & Epistrophe as self-reception

Dismissal (Ecstasis & Proodos)

Unitive Living (Enstasis & Mone)

ReturnIntroibo ad Altare Dei (Epecstasis & Epistrophe)

Liturgy of the Word – repeat the cycle

There’s Nothing Ontological About Scotus’ Univocity of Being

Because Scotus’ univocity of being refers to a semantic not ontological thesis, it’s – not only not over against analogy, but -tacitly relied upon on by, thereby integral to, analogy. It’s a thesis about language or how we think & talk about God and not about ontology or what God is.

So, does analogy with its implicit univocity still take back all the meaning it ostensibly gives?

It takes back a LOT but not ALL because our God-concepts are, at least, grounded empirically.

Like icons, images, similes & metaphors, both our univocal & analogical terms are likenesses or similarities of the realities they SIGN-ify or bring to mind, prior to conveying any complete meaning, which may or not be “fixed.”

For example, whiteness (Scotus’ example, in fact) is such a concept as can signify more than one reality irrespective of their generic ontological differences. And it can do so with a fixed meaning, too, even though it conveys nothing, in and of itself, ontologically, about different white things, i.e. neither what they are nor how they came to be white. (Scotus is not nominalist but moderately realist regarding universals, but that’s another conversation.) It’s thus a mental construct that’s been abstracted away from the things it variously signifies, while otherwise “proper” to none of them.

Once modalized as a white sheep or white Corvette, we have two new “composite” concepts.

Substitute “loving” for whiteness, “finitely” for sheep & “infinitely” for Corvette and one can see that the meaning of loving is fixed and so has some empirical bearing on our understanding of God, but the composite concept “infinitely loving” is qualitatively different & refers only to God.

Such an understanding remains rather meager, to be sure, but nevertheless sufficient to avoid wholesale equivocation, thereby rescuing the syllogisms of natural theology’s Analogia Entis from fallacy. It gifts us an imperfect knowledge and a small amount at that, but it’s an empirical – not just semantic & conceptual – knowledge of a very BIG & ULTIMATE reality, so, can have profound existential import, doxologically & theotically.

It’s only an ontological univocity of being, as a generic category, that should draw anyone’s metaphysical fire or raise anyone’s theological ire.

There’s Nothing Esoteric About Apophasis

One afternoon, one notices that the glass vase, which normally rests on an outdoor table in their backyard, has been shattered into so many pieces & that one of the bricks on the house’s rear wall has been cracked. One immediately infers that a projectile from over the back fence did the damage, then tries to muse to the best explanation, unable to find the offending object.

Taking out one’s compass, protractor & sliderule, estimating the projectile’s velocity, angle of trajectory, distance travelled, putative weight & such, the resident rules out the object having been thrown, fired from a potato cannon, tossed by a pitching machine, flung by a lawnmower and so on. For now, the determinable effects remain proper to no known causes.

Those effects were not entirely dissimilar to those one might expect from zinged marbles, fired potatoes, thrown baseballs or flung rocks, but, at bottom, were inconsistent with such acts even though, in certain other ways, very much like them.

The resident cleans up the mess & replaces the vase. It happens again! The resident, again, does forensic measurements, cleans up the mess & replaces the vase. It happens a third time! Still, the effects remain proper to no known causes. But, now, the resident starts to take the cause “personally.”

What kind of person is doing this and how? Well, it can’t be the sweet little old childless widow, who lives there. Of course, then, not any grandchild. And it’s positively not her yardkeeper, house-cleaner or physical therapist. It must be a neighborhood prankster, but one without a name or motive.

We’ve talked very intelligibly about this unknown personal cause, only able to make successful semantic references but unable to make good ontological descriptions of the actor or the actor’s specific machinations. We have employed analogies that apply literally, qualifying them with all manner of apophatic negations.

You see, there’s nothing occult or gnostic about apophasis. It’s quite quotidian in application, with a positive epistemic valence, even, as a supplemental way of increasing descriptive accuracy by saying what something is not or is not like.

Pip did this in Great Expectations, searching for – not a malefactor, but – benefactor. Ralph McInerny has described us as Characters in Search of Their Author.

Not just the fast & frugal heuristics of common sense employ such abductive inference, ananoetics & apophasis, as this has long been the tradecraft of our highly speculative theoretic sciences, of quantum interpretations & philosophies of mind, of undiscovered elements on the Periodic Table & putative genes carrying the traits of Mendel’s peas.

Yes, our God-talk traffics only in successful references not ontological descriptions and takes back, apophatically, more than what it gifts, analogically. But that’s just the philosophical part of our human episteme. It, at least, renders our beliefs reasonable, partly intelligible even if not wholly comprehensible.

For some, that serves as the praeambula fidei to making the existential leap in responding to special revelation, musing that, if Jesus of Nazareth & his People Gathered are that loving, that beautiful, that good, that liberative, then, maybe just maybe, I can reasonably hope He & They are also that True!

That’s what this entire blog is really all about, reconciling Plato, Plotinus, Proclus, Palamas & Peirce, Bulgakov & Bracken, Zizioulas & Scotus.

When I say “successful reference” to God, I mean that literally in a robustly ontological sense.

From divine vestigia of the gratuity of creation via general revelation & energeia-oikonomia of the gratuity of grace via special revelation, I say we can infer from those divine effects, which are proper to no known causes, a putative Actus Purus.

Because the nondeterminate divine ousia & hypostases involve Act sans potency, similarities to the acts of determinate beings are far outnumbered by dissimilarities.

From a separate conversation, I’d written:

A practical take-away from Neville (following Peirce’s semantics):

Modally, if one takes an analogy to be a type of possibility (e.g. along w/ icons, images, diagrams, similes & metaphors, which are similarity-invoking), then, as a form of indeterminacy, it might be treated as a case of vagueness, where noncontradiction [PNC] wouldn’t apply?

We’d thus distinguish it from that form of indeterminacy, modal generality, where excluded middle wouldn’t apply but a continuum of probabilities could (scalar).

Without PNC, a great deal of epistemic humility‘s warranted in all analogy-discourse!

Dissimilarities abound!

Apophasis thus redounds!

When DB Hart gets outdone with some neo-scholastics, it’s because they apparently give more weight to the Analogia than it can epistemically bear. <<<

We believe, then, that nondeterminate divine realities cause determinate effects – vestigia, energeia & oikonomia & invite our participation. But what is the “nature” of our participation, considering divine acts are nondeterminate and/or self-determinate & ours determinate? Is there anything univocal going on?

It seems to me that when we cooperate with the divine gratuities of creation & grace, we as creatures foster the very same doxological & theotic effects as the Trinitological Synergy, soteriologically, sophiologically, ecclesiologically, eschatologically & sacramentally. We do this imitatively & instrumentally, by actively surrendering, kenotically, thereby becoming passive conduits, pneumatologically.

Correcting Bulgakov w/Bracken, I imagine a panentheistic, divine matrix, which, participatorily, not only involves us creatively & imitatively, but, which neo-platonic-like, also influences us diffusively & substratively, as the divine telos gently coaxes us toward the fulfillment of our human nature (sustained authenticity).

I guess I’m suggesting that there’s a participatory univocity of loving effects via our determinate kenosis, imitating Jesus’ self-determinate kenosis, unleashing the Spirit’s gifts, charisms & universal salvation.

Flipping the Semantic Script for Determinate & Divine Being

Turning this thing on its head has been precisely how I’ve come to approach this all. The more jargonistic way of condensing my above contributions is to wit:

Determinate syllosistics are derived from divine syllogistics.

If one begins with the Athanasian Creed, then formalizes it, one gets Abelard’s 3 modes of identity: essential, personal & formal.

The first 2 modes do not apply to determinate being, precisely due to radical dissimilarities in predications of ousia & exemplifications of hypostases.

For determinate realities, the only mode of identity is formal & we can consider it a derivation of divine syllogistics (rather than taking them to be an ad hoc strategy of our Aristotelian-like syllogistics).

Of course, for determinate realities, essence, hypostases & forms (the last = generalities, laws, regularities) reflect modes of being.

This doesn’t gift us a formal systematic accounting but it very much entails a rather robust semi-formal heuristic. This is the intersection where determinate effects interact, inter-participatively, as they variously ensue from divine nondeterminate or self-determinate realities or from creaturely determinate realities, either which can, variously, generate “effects proper to no known causes” whether putatively theological, metaphysical, scientific or common sensical.

It’s from the synergistic divine vestigia, energeia & oikonomia that we abductively infer a putative divine cause, Actus. We can thus affirm Rahner’s axiom that the economic trinity is the immanent trinity, even though many of us would hesitate regarding any vice versa. At least, I can’t go there.

Rahner spoke of a divine quasi-formal cause. Inverting the script, though, perhaps it’s better said that it’s our Aristotelian-like categories that are quasi, not the divine categories:

  • quasi-formal in potency to quasic-telic,
  • quasi-actus (efficient) in potency to quasi-substantial (material),
  • quasi-existential in potency to quasi-essential,

whereby, imitatively, we realize our authentic human nature as we grow from mere image (quasi) to clear likeness (REAL-ly), co-creatively fulfilling our created potential.

Not sure I’ve connected any dots or successfully unpacked my divine imaginary, but those are my categories, their semantic rules & implications for intelligible god-talk.

Further Nuancing Apophasis

Some Orthodox theologians point out that both the via positiva and via negativa are RATIONAL approaches, both sharing the same trajectory of increasing descriptive accuracy, whether through affirmation of what something is, ontologically, or is like, analogically, or through negation of what something is not or is not like. That’s how kataphasis and apophasis are largely conceived in the West, often through radically logo-centric lenses.

When Lossky employed an apophatic, perichoretic strategy, though, he referenced a transrational mystical experience moreso in terms of ineffability. He aspires merely to a successful relational reference but does not ambition a successful metaphysical description. (This distinction applies, by the way, to so much of nondual teaching in Buddhist & Hindu traditions, as they aren’t doing metaphysics as much as they are leading us into experiences or real-izations).

The Orthodox priest, Dumitru Staniloae, according to some, was more rigorous and nuanced than Lossky. He would refer to our ineffable experiences as transrational and trans-apophatic.

Such distinctions ground others, for example, a trinito-logy vs a trinito-phany.

An Afterward Regarding Univocity, Analogy & Apophasis

Our irreducibly triadic inferential cycling of abductive hypothesizing, deductive clarifying & inductive testing can fall into a sterile, nonvirtuous dyadic cycling of abduction & deduction, never gaining the realist traction that can only come from, at least, some inductive rubber hitting the epistemic road.

To be sure, sometimes, despite our mindful exploratory excursions, this happens because we’ve encountered a genuine explanatory aporia. In such cases, our alternating univocity, analogy & apophasis can make a salutary contribution to enhanced intelligibility by presenting then discarding one heuristic device after another in the form of more icons, images, diagrams, similes, metaphors & analogies.

This is analogous to our Popperian alternation of conjecture & criticism in the falsification of our abductive hypotheses via inductive testing, but unlike falsification in that, unable to critically engage inductively, it simply generates more hypotheses, more potential pathways to serve as candidates for testing, sometimes via rather weak forms of inference &, if lucky, sometimes using more robust methods.

So, the role of univocity, analogy & apophasis might best be conceived as an inference generator, souping up the abductive engine we already have. It can be thought of, too, as a meta-heuristic device, which keeps churning out heuristics.

  • When it does this using icons, images, diagrams & metaphors, our heuristics are poetic (e.g. theopoetic).
  • When using univocity, apophasis, similes & analogies, our heuristics are logocentric (e.g. theological).
  • When actively engaged by our participatory imaginations (e.g. liturgically, doxologically, theotically), such heuristics can foster interpersonal relations, trans-rationally, trans-apophatically & axiologically.

In my view, then, we best engage our Scotist, Thomist, Palamist, Aristotelian & Peircean approaches – not as explanatory metaphysics, but – as exploratory heuristics, setting forth metaphysical contours in the same way that our creeds define the theological boundaries of essential dogma.

Here’s a concrete application as an example:

An Aristotelian hylomorphism, properly conceived in a triadic semiotic sense, doesn’t compete as an explanatory metaphysic (i.e. aspiring to explain consciousness in competition with eliminativism, nonreductive physicalism, cartesian dualism, etc) but, instead, serves as an exploratory heuristic, which can guide empirical research, keeping relevant questions alive & foregrounded. It might suggest, for example, that one mustn’t conflate materialism with physicalist accounts. Instead, we best distinguish that conception of consciousness, which we properly take to be immaterial (i.e. for materialist approaches are prima facie absurd) from that of any physicalist conception of same, which needn’t necessarily be absurd (e.g. inconsistent with freedom).

The musing, above, dialogues with this conversation at Pastor Tom Belt’s Open Orthodoxy blog.

Apocatastasis, Apokatastasis, the Eternalization of All Wholesome Trivialities – where there’s a will (divine Telos) there’s a way (to Heaven)

I’m committed to no particular theo-cosmogony and no cosmo-metaphysic, either, but it’s always seemed plausible to me that there could have been an uncreated, co-eternal formless void (in no sense some dualistic co-equal of divine forces, e.g. Manichean or otherwise).

There are ongoing scholarly debates (linguistic, etymological & exegetical) regarding cognates like tohu wa bohu and tehom, so, I don’t mean to specifically invoke them, but those debates have certainly evoked some of my thoughts, so, when I employ such concepts, I only intend to co-opt them as helpful metaphors.

To wit, then, we might well imagine neither a classical creatio ex nihilo nor a neo-classical creatio ex profundis, where the tehom refers to a primary creation (early exegesis of Augustine). And, under any circumstances, we best elide the exegetical debates, receiving Biblical accounts theopoetically not metaphysically, anyway.

But, certainly, our theopoetic narratives, theophanic encounters & theopoietic participations gift us some onto-theological & theo-ontological contours?

One such speculative take-away, I’d propose, is that our references to divine Telos must be predicated apophatically, whenever we engage in onto-theo- or theo-onto-speak. While there may indeed be a modicum of univocity, semantically, between a divine Telos, theopoetically, and our cosmic teloi, metaphysically, still, ontologically, like divine Simplicity, divine Telos “essentially” must remain a negative concept, an apophatic reference, a metaphysical placeholder for categories of Being, Reality & Relations that correspond only syntactically (i.e. not ontologically) to categories of determinate being, reality & relations.

So, while believing THAT determinate beings, realities & relations, with their cosmic teloi, participate in divine Telos, we can’t begin to proffer HOW this could be so!

Cosmic teloi might include various emergent “about-nesses” regarding the multiform “ends” of determinate realities:

end-unbounded via teleopotent veldo-poiesis (e.g. quantum fields);

end-stated via teleomatic cosmopoiesis (e.g. thermodynamics, gravity, etc);

end-directed via teleonomic biopoiesis (e.g life origins);

end-purposed via teleoqualic sentio-poiesis (e.g. what is it like to be a bat?)


end-intended via teleologic sapio-poiesis (e.g. origins of symbolic language).

Many recognize these multiform teloi within a strictly materialist monist account of determinate reality, accepting the inescapable nominalist, voluntarist &, ultimately, nihilist consequences.

Other monists recognize them within an idealist framework, accepting the pantheistic consequences, which include a principle of sufficient reason on deterministic steroids.

Ignoring the manifold & multiform aporia and question begging bruteness that unavoidably will afflict such emergentist accounts of determinate beings, realities & relations, such an infinite regression of dynamical efficient-material causes as determined by only the most ephemeral of teloi, in my view, might precisely describe a formless void, an eternal abyss wherein no formal or final causes “necessarily” perdure, otherwise merely probabilistically presenting in various degrees of in/determinacy, in an epistemic-ontic omelet never to be unscrambled.

What if, however, the divine Telos of the Ens Necessarium, substratively, super-stratively & circum-stratively, via a divine matrix, was diffused into this tehomic, formless abyss of determinate being, reality & relations, somehow inviting a creative & imitative participation in its eternal forms & finalities, its activities & works, its Love? (think divine energeia)

Might there ensue an Incarnation?

Might not every trace of human goodness, every beginning of a smile, all wholesome trivialities be eternalized?

Might we all not, apokatastatically, variously populate the firmament, whether as a tiny votive candle (e.g. that altar boy, Hitler) or as blazing helios (e.g Mother Teresa)? Overflowing our capacity, growing per eternal teloi, moving from glory to glory, beatitude to beatitude?

For every eternal Telic potency actualized would thus pierce the heavenly veil as a perfect participatory prayer or oblation, even as every merely ephemeral, tehomic teloi otherwise self-annihilates, not participating in the authentically True, Unitive, Beautiful, Good & Liberative.

A dog shaped by a trace of human goodness & desired by a human person, who’s in turn shaped by Divine Goodness, might well go to heaven, thus eternalized?

All traces of true sin (not mere finitude) might otherwise be washed white as snow, every tear wiped away?

Such a panentheistic account could square nicely with classical theism, even a neo-Platonist approach, with no need for Whiteheadian accounts that, themselves, flirt with nominalism.

Or not.

Just thinking aloud with no metaphysical horse in the theistic race.

Truly Apophatic Negations of Divine Being

I prefer the prefix non– for apophatic negations that refer to divine being, essence or esse naturale, & trans– to refer to divine reality, energies or esse intentionale, eg. non- vs trans-in/determinate, modal, analogical, formal, etc b/c non-
better conveys that I have no idea!

The above refer, respectively, to the Peircean, Palamitic & Neo-Classical distinctions.

God knows the “future of nature” but – just what is the “nature of the future”? anthropopathic projections or theopathic interpretations?

That God omnisciently knows the future of nature, there should be no doubt. On the other hand, the nature of the future must be properly understood.

Peter Geach held that apart from present trends and tendencies there is no future to be known. This squares with a divine omniscience of peircean thirdness.

See, for example: Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion (vol. III), ed. Jonathan Kvanvig (OUP, 2011), pgs 222-251. Geachianism

A truly Catholic open theism, as would be consistent with many of the thoughts of Norris Clarke and Peter Geach (Roman) or John Polkinghorne (Anglican), could make for a very generic version.

In addition to the distinction between esse naturale and esse intentionale

See, for example: William Norris Clarke and Robert A. Connor on Person as Thomistic Esse

we can also distinguish between an essential impassibility and affect passibility (and certainly affirm both).

See, for example: Graham A. Cole, The God Who Wept a Human Tear: Some Theological Reflections http://ojs.globalmissiology.org/index.php/english/article/view/612/1538

In light of the imago Dei, one needn’t interpret the Biblical depiction of divine suffering as some anthropopathic projection, but can interpret human suffering as theopathic or God-like.

See, for example: Graham A. Cole, The Living God: Anthropomorphic or Anthropopathic? Reformed Theological Review, 59 (1, 2000), pp. 16-27

Also, see:

Marcel Sarot (2001) Does God Suffer?, Ars Disputandi, 1:1, 53-61


Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, The Gaze of Mercy: A Commentary on Divine and Human Mercy, Frederick, Maryland: The Word Among Us Press, 2015

Walter Kasper, Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to the Christian Life, Paulist Press, 2014

Divine Attributes per Greg Boyd

Divine Omniscience


Divine Omnipathy


Divine Omnibenevolence






Divine Omnipotence


Divine Omnipresence


Divine Immutability




Divine Necessity & Contingency



We should take the theological stances, above, as opinions, even better, as questions!

God knows the future of nature but we don’t fully know the nature of the future.

At bottom, our philosophical theologies, beyond some rather vague phenomenological commitments, only frame our questions but should not pretend to have answered them, proving too much, telling untellable stories, saying way more than we could possibly know. Instead, we abide with paradox, tolerate ambiguity, nurture creative tensions, seek out the antinomies, resist rushes to closure and admonish the voices of certitude … but move forward, anyway, in humility, with hospitality, doing what we’ve discerned we must and saying what we believe we should, dialogically, boldly and imaginatively! There is, after all, a certain wisdom in distinguishing between a legitimate plurality of theologoumena and matters that are de fide?

Any kataphatic theopoietic, which aspires to articulate our theopoiesis (our divine cooperations via kenosis, katharsis & synergia) and theosis (our ineffable, unitive divine participations via theurgy & theoria), will necessarily quickly unsay itself, apophatically. Above all, suitable analogical predications must be employed.

What we can say, then, for example, is that …

God suffers impassibly.

Norris Clarke critiques Hartshorne, whose process approach ignores the possibility of a rich, inner life of divine plenitude, thereby overemphasizing ad extra divine relations.

At the same time, in the same way that he employs the esse naturale vs intentionale distinction, which seems consistent with open theism, he similarly draws a distinction between

God’s infinitely intense interior joy (never rising higher in intensity of perfection) and its relational expressions, which do entail a divine enrichment via novel determinate modalities of expression of those joys, such finite modalities being limited participations in that infinite Source.

This reminds me of Boyd’s distinctions between the intensity and scope of aesthetic experience as well as between definitional and constitutive (relational) dispositions, all consistent with my appreciation of the essence-energies distinctions.


Clarke affirms divine contingency. I interpret his reference to the “eternal now” not so much as an argument for or against a/temporality but as his attempt to remain modally agnostic, temporally speaking.

In other words, in affirming the THAT of divine contingency, i.e. openness, at the same time (ha ha), he’s saying that that affirmation is nontemporal, that it’s not taking a stance on HOW temporally thick or thin God’s now might be.

For Clarke, the question of divine foreknowledge springs from a category error re: god-talk (needs to be decisively analogical). He otherwise certainly seems on board with the “open future” conception of the open theists.

Clarke wouldn’t object to a temporal view of the divine relational consciousness, i.e. God as changing, as long as we’re only referring to esse intentionale and as long as God’s only affected — not improved — by relations with the world.

In my view, each such formal distinction (not quibbling with thomistic real-logical relations as the logical can refer — not just to conceptual distinctions, but — to noninherent but inseparable relations) may or may not reflect a divine contingency, for example, vis a vis the future (properly conceived!), mutability (of this or that attribute), im/passibility, a/temporality, or even enrichment. At least the necessity and/or contingency of each attribute or energy would have to be argued separately. One could, for example, affirm open theism vis a vis omniscience but still deny passibility.

Fr Clarke could be interpreted to be, using Boyd’s terms, affirming an enrichment of the divine aesthetic scope while denying same regarding intensity, especially given his recognition of one Source of value — thus supporting a thin notion of enrichment or a thin passibility vis a vis the divine esse intentionale.

Regarding most theological opinions (vs de fide), I don’t have a dog in such hunts. I’m still trying to understand the questions they raise.

It seems to me that Orthodox approaches to panentheism (as indwelling w/sufficient ontological distinctions beyond just mereological distinctions) do not threaten classical theistic approaches to divine attributes, immutability, impassibility and so on.

Because open theism entails no theologic amendments to omniscience and only metaphysical reconceptions re: temporality, i.e. the nature of the future, it should be compatible with Anglican, Roman & Eastern Catholicisms and Orthodoxy, whether via a classical theism or proper panentheism.