How Classical Theism Avoids certain Sylly Syllogisms & Category Errors of some analytic & process theologians (& nihilists, too)

For starters, one mustn’t confuse meta-ontological phenomenologies and metaphysical ontologies, or quite simply that which is beyond being & being.

For another, one mustn’t confuse epistemic attributes and ontic properties.

Importantly, one must also not confuse nondeterminate, self-determinate, kenotically determinate & contingently determinate realities. In that regard, it might be best to engage Divine syllogistics by speaking in terms of essences, hypostases & formalities, while, analogically, employing quiddities, haecceities & quasi-formalities, when engaging Aristotelian syllogistics.

That’s pretty much it.

One can dig deeper, though.

To wit:

Meta-ontological categories of modal identity apply to nondeterminate, self-determinate & kenotically-determinate objects and include the essences, hypostases & telicities of such necessary realities.

This could include the ens necessaria of any meta-architectonic (e.g. materialist, pantheist, panentheist, classical theist, etc).

Such a necessary object can be identified either essentially or hypostatically or telically (formally) as attributes of any of those categories are, alone, sufficient to successfully identify such objects.

For determinate realities, only the meta-ontological category of telic (formal) modal identity applies. To successfully identify such contingent objects, essential, hypostatic & telic properties are all necessary, none – alone – sufficient.

For nondeterminate, self-determinate & kenotically-determinate objects, essential & hypostatic properties are epistemically unavailable, ontically occulted, in principle.

Hence, only vague attributes can be applied, such as, for example, divine propria, essentially, or divine idiomata, hypostatically.

For nondeterminate, self-determinate, kenotically-determinate & contingently determinate objects, telic (formal) attributes & properties afford, respectively, successful references & descriptions.

Hence, vague attributes can be applied, such as, for example, divine energeia, essentially, or divine oikonomia, hypostatically, in order to successfully refer to divine realities.

Also, for contingently determinate objects, precise essences & specific telicities can be applied in order to properly identify the (meta)physical properties that are necessary to successfully describe individual hypostases.

For such objects, beyond their modal identity & description, a dynamical modal ontology can be applied as various ontological categories represent different temporal acts in potency, for example, 1) hypostatic act of existence in potency to essence; 2) hypostatic efficient causation in potency to material causation; 3) telic formal causation in potency to final causation.

For nondeterminate, self-determinate & kenotically-determinate objects, beyond their modal identity & reference, their determinate effects ensue – not from acts in potency, temporally, but – from eternal acts.

Because of these distinctions, I prefer to distinguish eternal necessities from temporal contingencies by referring to the former in terms of essences, hypostases & telicities or formalities, the latter in terms of quiddities, haecceities & quasi- telicities or quasi-formalities. This approach flips that script which refers to divine telicities as quasi-formal (e.g. Rahner). It renders our metaphysical-talk metaphorical & our meta-ontological references as primally real. The path to authenticity thus involves eternalization or the transformation of quasi-telic temporal ends to the eternal ends of Divine Telos.


I think of modal identity in primarily epistemic terms, but it certainly also entails at least some vague ontological specifications (even when only via apophasis) & imparts some dispositional axiological implications.

This is to say that I believe that divine syllogistics regarding essential propria (e.g. truth, beauty & goodness) & hypostatic idiomata (e.g. Father, Son & Spirit) very much matter for our worship, our transformation & such.

Meta-ontologically, I conceive divine being as nondeterminate and/or self determinate, while contingent being presents as variously (in terms of degrees) in/determinate. I categorize in/determinate realities per a modal ontology, which recognizes its radical temporality.

Divine syllogistics & Aristotelian syllogistics intersect determinately, only in the category of formal modal identity. Otherwise, regarding modal identities, it’s a clear category error to equate divine essences & hypostases, for example, with contingent quiddities & haecceities, because they are otherwise distinguished as eternal vs temporal, as non- & self-determinate vs variously in/determinate, and so on.

In the category of formal modal identities, however, we can consider determinate effects, whether their causes are nondeterminate, self-determinate or in/determinate. Even allowing for divine determinate causes, still, those would be distinguishable from ordinary contingent determinate causes by their kenotic natures.

Divine determinate causes would include incarnational realities.
Divine determinate effects would originate from divine realities, including nondeterminate, self-determinate & kenotically determinate and would include, for example, vestigial effects in the gratuity of creation & theotic effects in the gratuity of grace, such effects as would otherwise be proper to no known contingent, determinate causes & which would be communicated via general & special divine revelations.

The Word remained what he was when he became flesh so that he who is over all & yet came among all through his humanity should keep in himself his transcendence & remain above the limitations of creation…he was alive even when his flesh was tasting death. (Cyril of Alexandria)

In the –

paterological ur-kenosis, the Father remained what He was in the generation of the Son & procession of the Spirit;

pneumatological kenosis, the Spirit remained the Holy Breath, when immanentized/presented in the gratuity of creation;

Christological kenosis, the Son remained divine, when incarnated/presented (via dyo/mia-physitism) in the gratuity of grace.

So kenosis has only ever entailed a qualified self-limitation or tzimtzum (not self-annihilation but self-contraction).

Formal identities of divine determinate realities (e.g. oikonomia & energeia) present via kenotic & synergistic trinitarian acts of the divine hypostases (personal identities), whether unoriginately nondeterminate, eternally self-determinate &/or kenotically determinate.


In what amounts to my pan-semio-entheistic theory of truth, I conceive five transcendentals per terms of an Ens Necessarium as Necessary Truth, Necessary Beauty, Necessary Goodness, Necessary Unity (Love) & Necessary Freedom. These five categories map to my conceptions of Lonergan’s conversions & imperatives as well as to a fivefold missiology, both pneumatological & Christological.

This is neither a Kantian nor transcendental Thomist approach, however, but grounded in a semiotic realism and advanced abductively from that naturalized epistemology, deriving from those participatory engagements with reality that rely on an axiological epistemology (per my Peircean-like theory of knowledge).

There’s a leap of faith required, to be sure, at an existential disjunction where nihilism, pantheism & classical theism present.

see Note Below

Can one take my pan-semio-entheistic leap, within the contours of a classical theism, employing a logic that wouldn’t be considered adhocery & unamenable to normal syllogistic logic?

I believe so.

Conceiving my approach as a fallibilist abduction, then formalizing its phenomenology via a consistent predicate & propositional logic, employing modes of identity, we could establish that its reasoning regarding existents (creatures) would be a special case or reduction of the phenomenological syllogizing of my putative transcendentals.
Put more simply, creature-talk would employ metaphors of our normative Creator-talk, not vice versa.

My five transcendentals, then, will be imported into a classical trinitology. The conceptual bridges between it and Aristotelian logic have already been built by Sara Uckelman.

See: Uckelman, Sara L. (2010). Reasoning About the Trinity: A Modern Formalization of a Medieval System of Trinitarian Logic. In Logic in Religious Discourse. Schumann, Andrew Ontos. 216-239.

I will try to summarize her discourse below & apply it to my heuristics.

In avoiding both modalism & tritheism, while remaining consistent in trinitarian predication, one must recognize three modes of identity. Unlike modalism, which refers to a single object existing in one of these modes, a modal identity entails one object as being the same as another object in one of the modes of identity.

  • Essentially identical objects share the same essence (extensional identity).
  • Personally identical objects share the same properties & definitions (intentional identity).
  • Formally identical objects share a genus, sufficiently similar to be placed therein.

(Abelard originally distinguished extensional from intentional identity.)

The above modes of identity can be applied to the trinitarian logic of the Athanasian Creed, but this divine syllogistics collapses when applied to existents, where Aristotelian syllogistics, instead, apply.

My modal schema, influenced by Peircean categories, where

Being > Reality > Relations > Existents

roughly & analogously maps to these modes of identity

Essential | Personal | Formal | Creatures

employing a predicate or propositional logic, which is meta-logical (while Aristotelian syllogistics employ a term logic).


Also see:

So, Trinitarian discourse can be affirmed as formally consistent and roughly maps, heuristically, to our meta-logical categories.

Still, that affords us only analytical conceivability, a rather minimalist intelligibility?

Can a bridge be constructed to Aristotelian syllogistics? that we might gain some additional modicum of intelligibility?


First, we would recognize that, for existents (creatures), only the formal mode of identity obtains and essential & personal predications do not (i.e. in Aristotelian syllogistics).

So, can Aristotelian syllogistics yet be extracted from the mode of identity framework mindful of where such predications obtain or not?

If so, our trinitarian logic needn’t be considered adhocery & unamenable to normal syllogistic logic. Instead, our reasoning regarding existents (creatures) would be a special case as a reduction of trinitarian syllogizing.

We should remain mindful that, in relating propria of the essence, idioma of the hypostases & energeia of the Trinity, per Abelardian modes of identity (essentially, personally & formally), even if we suitably predicate these realities using apophasis, analogy, gerundives & such and remain otherwise consistent —-
still, because we only ever use partial references and not exhaustively complete definitions, a radical incompleteness will still afflict our trinitarian discourse.
For example, even when we’ve managed to avoid paralogisms by properly attending to our modes of identity, in order to disambiguate our categorical predications of divine terms (thereby making explicit identity types essencialiter vs personaliter vs formaliter), while we will have saved some of our most meaningful intuitions, still, mystery will perdure.

While our Peircean-like categories analogously map to our Aristotelian, Scotist & Thomist categories (like quiddity, haecceity, ousia, hypostasis and such), it’s not counterintuitive that the dissimilarities — between all of our approaches to temporal being (Peirce, Scotus, Thomist, etc) and our approach to nondeterminate & self-determinate being (with three modes of identity) — will be located essentially & hypostatically vis a vis the modes of identity.

The categories of essential-hypostatic nondeterminate being (ad intra), where an act-potency distinction will not obtain, simply will not, by definition, correspond to temporally modal categories of essential-hypostatic determinate being.

It makes perfect sense, otherwise, to draw on the formal mode of identity to locate the similarities between, on one hand, the determinate effects of the divine energeia (essentially or substantially of ousia) & economy (personally or hypostatically of haecceities), and, on the other, those of created, determinate beings.

Is that not precisely what we find in the Palamitic distinction between essence & energies, Thomist distinction between esse naturale & intentionale, Scotus’ formal distinction and Peirce’s thirdness?

There’s a divine-creaturely nexus, a semiotic locus, where we can reason, abductively, from effects that are proper to no known causes, to putative causes, whether the Actus Purus of nondeterminate & self-determinate divine causes, or the acts in potency of in/determinate creaturely causes, both physical & metaphysical.

While we are often epistemically constrained, methodologically, unable to exhaustively define such putative causes, whether divine, metaphysical or even physical, this moderate realism affords us the prospect of nevertheless, really, making successful references – per a univocal mode of identity vis a vis effects.

That’s what my project has been about — establishing that our God-talk, including a classical trinitology, remains robustly intelligible & coherent:


Note re: leaps of faith


panen-theism (dipolar or whole-part relation)
classical theism (created tehom – staged vs lapsarian)

pan-entheism (uncreated tehom)

Appendix – application to physical systems

1ns, 2ns, 3ns applies to particles & to systems, or to particles as triadic systems, and to systems of systems or meta-systems

As isolated quanta variously rest & interact, isolated systems variously rest & interact, formatively (1ns – entropic), trans-formatively (3ns – telic) & in-formatively (2ns – equilibric).

1ns or the virtual or intrinsic characteristics of an energy system = system energies’ “forming” = system energies’ intrinsic spontaneous changes of placement and/or of time = spatio-temporal waveform-ing or self-visualization or self-potentialities; approaching & realizing massless energy

2ns or the actual or characteristics of an energy system = system energies “resting” or existing or being or instant-aneously at an “instant” in time & place in space or materio-energetic characteristics (efficient/material) or self-actualization or self-actualities of authenticity of Here I Am, Lord or nonstrict identity; approaching nonenergetic mass but there is no energyless mass (asymmetry there, converse or transitivity not in play as energy is THE fundamental)

3ns or the real or extrinsic characteristics of an energy system = system energies “interacting” or “trans-forming” or be-coming or system energies’ extrinsic con-temp-oraneous changes of placement and/or of time or relating or the invitatory-participatory or spatio-temporal characteristics (formal/final) or “hold on, I’m coming!” or “I be coming!) as the I = true self or self-real-ization or self-realities of sustained authenticity of “I will go, Lord” or ultimate eternalization; approaching unique or designated mass-energy specifications

energy system = wave-particles
isolated, resting together, interacting

massless/massive particles

1ns isolated = no signal, only carrier or baseband-ing or pure potentiality or epistemically unmanifest &/or ontically isolated; approaching massless energy (e.g photon) – no frame in which an isolated photon has mass, i.e. no rest mass & no rest energy

2ns resting = signal or decoding or demodulation or epistemically manifest & ontically actual or acting/efficacious or approaching nonenergetic mass (e.g. rest mass or invariant mass) — all relative to an observer

3ns interacting = signal + noise or disturbance or modulation, or codes & errors, encoding or epistemic-ontic omelet of in/determinacy; eternalized as near-pure act or quasi- actus purus vis a vis approaching unique or designated materio-energetic specifications (e.g. )

My Mon-Arche-I-tectonic Shift

The reflection, below, is in dialogue with Eclectic Thoughts on Holy Trinity: Person, Essence, Energy, and Stuff Like That .

Thanks for generously sharing, Robert, and Father for providing this forum for all, including us nonacademic anawim. I love grappling with this stuff as hard as it is for, on my daily walks, it feels very much like prayer.

Your essay evokes analogies to the way I have appropriated Charles Sanders Peirce. I say analogy because his modal ontology applies to finite, determinate being. His category of firstness or possibilities roughly maps to essence or ousia or quiddity. He’s no essentialist but neither does he countenance nominalism. As a moderate realist, that essence would only ever be encountered in his category of secondness or actualities, roughly mapping to existents or hypostases or haecceities (think act = efficient & potency = material cause). His realism comes in via thirdness, a category of generalities, which maps roughly to probabilities or relations, which actually mediate (think teloi, where act = formal & potency = final cause) between firstness & secondness. One can see from those act|potency dynamics why this only applies analogically to Actus Purus.

No divine ousia could be abstracted, as it’s only ever eternally instantiated in divine hypostases, where the act|potency analog is pure act.

Of course, the determinate being of creation, as a whole & even in rational creatures’ theotic realizations, would, as vestigia & imago Dei, present as effects proper to no other known causes, leading us to our abductions of the Ens Necessarium, to Whom, aided by both general & special revelation, we could only make successful references but could not fashion definitions (think idioma of hypostases & propria of ousia). Our essential references would be strictly apophatic negations: nondeterminate, noncomposite, nonfinite, etc, predications we casually toss around as if we comprehend them, when their intelligibility, propositionally, barely leads to an analytic conceivability. But GOD is such a LARGE reality (Peirce says we should avoid the fetish of saying He “exists”), that a meager informative intelligibility can go a long way performatively & dispositionally (like on my prayerful walks or when I first prayed the Credo in Latin as an altar boy). Discussions like these, even disagreements within dogmatic contours, to me, aren’t arguments but prayers. Think pragmatic semiotic realism.

Whether the unity is substantial via ousia, hypostatic in the Father via principium or dynamical in the Trinity via synergy or all of the above, our logical analytics, which manipulate propria & idiomata, energeia & economies, remain strictly epinoetic & ananoetic, propositionally, but our metanoetic & theotic encounters in Word & Sacrament & Creation lead us to partake of the divine synergy & to be incorporated in the divine nature, where trinitology yields to trinitophany, evoking psalms, hymns, prayers, creeds, all manner of worship & all types of ongoing conversions.

But good worship & good conversion, good fellowship & good behavior, will only ever best be fostered if we get good Trinity-talk right. That’s why I defer & demur. (Think of a fugue of orthodoxic, orthocommunal, orthopathic, orthopraxic & orthotheotic dispositions. Oremus!

Another evocative analog to me between Peircean approaches & trinitology comes from his speculative grammar, wherein, for his modal ontology, one can map – not only the act-potency dynamics, but – at least, insofar as this grammar is applied to determinate being, to our applications of first principles (noncontradiction & excluded middle or PNC & PEM).

For possibilities, PNC folds & PEM holds; actualities, PNC & PEM both hold; probabilities, PNC holds & PEM folds.

This all prescinds from a metaphysic of necessity to a more vague-general phenomenology or meta-ontology to guide syntax, semantics & contextual realities that present indeterminately (viz. in an epistemic-ontic omelet, where we can’t always say, a priori, whether our ignorance derives from the methodological advances & constraints of in/determinability or ontological revelations & occultings of in/determinedness.)

Anyone, who’s ever toyed with alternate cosmogonies, quantum interpretations or philosophies of mind, will recognize these epistemic-ontic omelet phenomena and how those competing interpretations represent our analytic-semiotic attempts to technologically unscramble those phenomenological eggs.

What of necessity as a modal category? Wherein all of the first principles would hold, including identity, with variously weak or strong versions of the principle of sufficient being [PSR]?

Here we reach the threshold of the abduction of the Ens Necessarium? Here we see Russell & Copleston debating primordial mereology viz. fallacy of composition? Here we encounter Leibniz and a pantheism that derives from a PSR on steroids?

Next we see Hawking taking the square root of imaginary numbers (axiomatized by taking the square root of negative one) to predicate a finite but unbounded universe, as well as others, who propose a plurality of worlds, a multiverse or even an ultimately thoroughgoing formless abyss?

But we also find Anselm, Augustine & Aquinas, Basil, Bonaventure & von Balthasar, Cappadocians, Chalcedonians & Christmas!

How we axiomatically predicate putatively non/determinate realities, hopefully looking over our epistemic shoulders at Godel-like constraints, Agrippa’s trilemma & a robustly aporetic intuition, will algorithmically steer us away from either, on one hand, an unmitigated nihilism, which “grounds” an ultimate epistemic idealism, ontic nominalism, evaluative voluntarism, vulgar pragmatism & moral relativism (you recognize the litany of bogeymen of a radically deconstructive postmodernism), or, on the other hand, a thoroughgoing pantheism, with its mindboggling implications for all notions of – not only divine, but -creaturely freedom.

What’s most at stake, then, for those who properly thread the needles of non/determinate & in/determinate realities, are precisely our notions of freedom.

And how we ground them primordially & ultimately, as well as dispose ourselves to them, contingently, will profoundly impact our quotidian existence.

It seems to me that many arguments – regarding what precisely was and remains at stake in those tensions still playing out between our patristic, scholastic & modern schools – turn on whether or not we imagine the Fathers & Medievals were mostly trying to solve, on one hand, the One & the Many, or, on the other, the Mystery of Freedom, both divine & creaturely, as all we most deeply cherish derives from its putatively coinherent gratuities, what we celebrate in our lives as Love.

I hope I have unpacked enough to hint that such a tension represents a false dichotomy.

Let me unpack a few more trinitological implications of my Peircean architectonic.

Numerically, if not ontologically, I suggest that (where > indicates a conceptual greater than vis a vis a sheer number of putative concepts to be limned existentially)

  • Being (possibilities, essence, ousia, quiddity, epistemic vagueness) >
  • Reality (actualities, existents, hypostases, haecceities) >
  • Relations (probabilities, necessities, teloi, ontic generalities, non/determinacies & in/determinacies) >
  • Existence (determinate & composite beings)

If we reify a sphere of pure being, we might predicate its ontic extremes either in terms of a formless void or tehomic abyss or in terms of a platonic plenitude of forms, neither “essentially” a no-thing-ness but, instead, a realm of infinite possibilia or potentialities not otherwise in potency to act.

“Potentialities not in potency” makes for a great analytic conception until one recognizes it’s inherently self-contradictory, unsurprisingly though if, per one’s speculative grammar, noncontradiction has folded, leaving only the implicit ontological imperatives of the excluded middle: Choose! Determine! Act!

“To Be or Not To Be,” that is the question!

Here we, the Many, are faced with the Existential Disjunctive, but only proximately & derivatively.

Ultimately & primordially, there must be some One, a Who, a Person, a Pure Act, existentially & hypostatically, to freely answer that call, then, to donatively gift being to One-self, pivoting from nondeterminate emptiness as the unoriginate Source of – not being, itself, but – relationality, itself, as self-determinate, which is one’s relationship to one’s self, one’s very existence, One’s hypostasis choosing One’s essence.

Alternatively, I suppose a tehomic realm of dynamical nondeterminate material is certainly conceivable. It would perdure in an eternal flux of ever-emergent but merely ephemeral teloi, for example, presently in a radically entropic, materio-energetic, spatio-temporal configuration, as might just so brutely happen. (See unmitigated nihilism, above).

Or, of course, there’s pantheism.

That’s the Existential Trilemma of our three mereological-metaphysical-sufficient reason tautologies: nihilism, pantheism & all manner of needle-threading theistic conceptions, switching metaphors, trying to navigate the radically nondeterministic nihilistic or radically deterministic pantheistic existential shoals, trying to adjudicate, with some modicum of epistemic warrant, between those equiplausible worldviews and various competing theistic stances.

At least, some suggest they’re equiplausible, but those, in my view, seem to subscribe to either a thoroughgoing nominalism or a radically naïve realism, both which, per my pragmatic semiotic realism, caricature our otherwise inherently axiological epistemology.

I address, elsewhere, how such forced, vital existential options become “live” through a combination of epistemic warrant & normative justification. And it doesn’t involve epistemic adhocery, just the ordinary furnishings of our epistemic suite: perinoetic, ananoetic, epinoetic, metanoetic, etc

Confronted with “Why is there not rather nothing?” or “Whither the One & Many?” or “Of whom & how can we predicate ‘freedom’ or even define it?” — I’ve suggested they reduce to a single question, even though there are many putative answers.

Wise guys know that, for The Answer, all roads lead to Bethlehem, prior to Cappadocian & Roman excursions. And our responses begin, dispositionally, in a gnosis discovered on our knees, before the post-experiential processing of our episteme of participatory imaginations, long before the cognitive map-making of our doxastic propositions.

What flows algorithmically from such a Mon-Arche-itectonic as I hinted at above?

We set aside both a nondeterminate nihilum of ultimate nothingness & a wholly determinate one-thing-ness of necessary being or being-itself and consider – not a nondeterminate ground of nothingness, but – a nondeterminate ground of emptiness (a Christological intuition from The Tomb), freely choosing (in absolute ontological freedom) to Supremely Be (a Paterological intuition from both general & special revelation, onto-theologically & theo-ontologically), freely or Self-determinately (substantially unoriginated) originating & spirating, on One hand a generated Son & on One hand a processing Spirit, as Trinity donatively gifting both the gratuity of creation and, to rational creatures, the gratuity of grace (Pneumatological intuitions from both the coeternal via vestigia & our theotic realizations and sans filioque).

Elsewhere, I address grace as transmuted experience, following my late Jesuit friend, Don Gelpi.

All of our theophanic & trinitophanic sensibilities & intuitions, taken together, would reflect how our theotic transformations, while they are not patterned after Ascensions, are exemplified in the Assumption (a Mariological intuition).

As I begin to close, now, I would summarize by suggesting that the substantial, hypostatic & relational unity of the One — known, however imperfectly, in divine propria, idiomata & synergies, experienced as divine energy & economy as we partake in One Mission & are incorporated into One Bread, One Body, One Lord of the Many — is communicated to us via a quintessential semiosis – what Peirce would call icons, indexes & symbols. But others, like Andrew Robinson & Christopher Southgate, have told that story.

What I have set forth are my Peircean Trinitophanic Preambulae, which remain meta-ontological, bracketing any root metaphors du jour, as I remain, substantially, in search of a metaphysic, just like the rest of Christianity, at least, those who bring an aporetic sense and apophatic sensibility to the Divine Essence, because, really, it’s no-thing.

Much Ado About Nihil – a taxonomy of in/determinacies

Nondeterminate Emptiness (e.g. ground of Tillich & Neville, Ens Necessarium of Peirce)

Nondeterminate Nothingness (e.g. nihilum, ex nihilo)

Indeterminate Being (e.g. tehom)
• uncreated
• created
• lapsarian

Determinate Being (e.g. probabilistic in/determinacies as variously in/determinable and/or in/determined in degrees; as absolutely and/or relatively self-determinate)

A Cajun Credeaux – as believed consistent with any number of theo-cosmogonies, metaphysics & trinitologies

Hypostasis of the Father = idioma of the unoriginate originator (principium)

necessarily (per esse naturale) or, alternatively, freely (cf Eclectic Orthodoxy), originating (as self-determinate dynamis-actus),

possessing divine ousia as referenced, not defined (via negativa), via apophatically predicated propria &

gratuitously (per esse intentionale) creating determinate being, thereby

revealing Himself as Creator, including both pneumatologically (idioma of Spirit proceeding) from the via vestigia in the divine gratuity of creation (per general revelation) & Christologically (idioma of Son begotten) from the via positiva in the divine gratuity of grace (per special revelation), thereby

communicating with determinate being via the Godhead’s singular trinitarian synergy and

offering special intimacy (Abba) to rational beings via theotic participation in that divine economy & incorporation into that divine nature, illuminated by divine energeia.

More is fleshed out here in my collaboration with Amos Yong.



A new phase in the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church began formally with the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and the Pan-Orthodox Conferences (1961-1968), which renewed contacts and dialogue. From that time, a number of theological issues and historical events contributing to the schism between the churches have begun to receive new attention. In this context, our own North American Orthodox-Catholic Consultation was established in 1965, and the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches was established in 1979. Although a committee of theologians from many different Churches, sponsored by the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches, studied the Filioque question in depth in 1978 and 1979, and concluded by issuing the “Klingenthal Memorandum” (1979), no thorough new joint discussion of the issue has been undertaken by representatives of our two Churches until our own study. The first statement of the Joint International Commission (1982), entitled “The Mystery of the Church and of the Eucharist in the Light of the Mystery of the Trinity,” does briefly address the issue of the Filioque, within the context of an extensive discussion of the relationship of the persons of the Holy Trinity. The Statement says: “Without wishing to resolve yet the difficulties which have arisen between the East and the West concerning the relationship between the Son and the Spirit, we can already say together that this Spirit, which proceeds from the Father (Jn. 15:26) as the sole source of the Trinity, and which has become the Spirit of our sonship (Rom. 8:15) since he is already the Spirit of the Son (Gal.4:6), is communicated to us, particularly in the Eucharist, by this Son upon whom he reposes in time and eternity (Jn. 1:32).” (No. 6).

Trinity & Metaphysics

McInerny sees us as Characters in Search of Their Author. Like Pip in Great Expectations, we are beneficiaries in search of a Benefactor. Like the Empty Tomb, our Empty Mangers during Advent instill — not lost meaning or unintelligible references, but – Great Expectations!

Practical upshot is that neither revelation nor metaphysics gift us with an exhaustive, descriptive definition of the divine hypostases. But the former gifts us w/adequate character references, while the latter aspires to adequate phenomenological references w/categories that – even if only intelligible to a modest degree, propositionally, are profoundly impactful, dispositionally, & eminently actionable, existentially.

Apophatic references to divine esse, metaphysically, only ever clear the epistemic stage of half-gods that God may appear.

Noncomposite esse or simplicity tells us, ergo, what God is not as well as not like. Such attributes, even taken together in a cluster concept, increase descriptive accuracy, only by eliminating impostors & idols, not by providing terms to be used in sylly syllogisms.

Our successful references, then, both metaphysical & revelational, allow us to distinguish relations, ad intra & ad extra, impersonal & personal, re both propria & energies of ousia as well as idioma & economies of hypostases, as the causes of otherwise inexplicable vestigial & theotic effects, respectively, in the divine gratuity of creation, generally, & gratuity of grace, specially.

Like the Empty Tomb of Triduum & Empty Manger of Advent, as unoriginate originator & sole source of the Trinity, the Godhead – the Father has a freedom grounded in – not an indeterminate nothingness, but – a nondeterminate emptiness, that eternally implicates the Son & Spirit.

The Metaphysics of Authentic Freedom

Probabilities refer to formal causes as acts in potency to final causes, where, modally, noncontradiction [PNC] holds & excluded middle folds [PEM], while actualities refer to efficient in potency to material, where PNC & PEM both hold.

Via probabilities, we prescind from both logical & ontological necessities & take a fallibilist stance to each indeterminacy we encounter, not a priori casting it as an epistemic in/determinable or ontic in/determinedness, recognizing each may contribute in terms of degree.

Emergent complexities confront this moderate realism, presenting it w/novel properties & indeterminacies. We then disambiguate any vague conceptions of telos into teloi, recognizing that different forms may be variously im/potent re the actualization of their associated ends.

Formal actualizations of various ends or finalities might be conceived in terms of traveling epistemic distances to overcome ontic privations, the latter conceived in terms of an entity’s freedom “to be” what it “ought” via a real-ization of ought-henticity, no longer deprived.

Conceptions of teleonomy thus needn’t be taken as deflationary of teleology, but neither are they sufficient to distinguish the more robustly telic realities from the weaker forms (double entendre) & less complex ends, e.g. end-stated “whereby”s vs end-intended “in order to”s.

Somewhat paradoxically, then, authenticity cast as freedom translates – not into auto-nomy of being, but – into the oughts of being, which, for a human, who aspires to real-ly be, will then get actualized only if one heeds certain imperatives of be-coming.

Habitual practices, often counterintuitively, gift freedom. Good habits “form” virtues, which may take on the outward appearance of enslavements, but otherwise truly indicate the fullest realization of an inner freedom that allows one to effortlessly & self-forgetfully be _____.

Habits marked by such an effortlessness & self-forgetfulness distinguish the robustly teleo-logical from the merely teleo-nomic & teleo-matic habits, which, divorced from divine logics of transcendental imperatives, will devolve into those self-indulgent efforts known as vices.

Thoroughgoing nominalists remain ignostic re teleology, having no need for that hypothesis, a stance ultimately dissolving into nihilism. Essentialistic naive realists, w/a fully deterministic telos & no epistemic distance to travel, in their own way, deny authentic freedom, too.

re PNC & PEM in the “actualizing condition” of generality

cf Bradley, James (2009) Beyond Hermeneutics: Peirce’s Semiology as a Trinitarian Metaphysics of Communication. Analecta Hermeneutica, 1. pp. 56-72. ISSN 1918-7351

Over-coming not Over-turning Metaphysics: A Peircean Trinitophany of Divine THATness, WHATness & HOWness

For Peirce,

Being > Reality > Existence

We can successfully reference the

Being of God

Reality of God

Will of God

But the Peircean category of Existence does not refer to God, only to creation.

Peircean categories can help us avoid the category errors that can easily arise in our references to distinctly different types of trinitarian properties, haecceities & relations, e.g. what we attempt to predicate of ousia, hypostases & energeia.

Philosophically …

from the HOWness (primary & secondary relations) of certain effects as would be proper to no known causes …

we reason to the THATness (primary substance) of the Reality of God, as such effects …

evoke the WHATness (secondary substance) of the Being of God – as another “kind” of being, an Ens Necessarium (Peirce), which only special revelation can qualify.

Divine aseity, kataphatically & quidditatively, describes the Being of God as a secondary substance or essence (Aristotelian) or quiddity (Scotistic WHATness), i.e. the Father’s revealed, concrete unoriginateness (e.g. Rahner), all corresponding to Peircean firstness.

Divine simplicity, apophatically & nondescriptively, references the Reality of God as a primary substance (Aristotelian) or haecceity (Scotistic THATness), i.e. God’s philosophically knowable unoriginateness (e.g. Rahner), all corresponding to Peircean secondness.

Ergo, the divine hypostases of revelation refer to the trinitarian relations of three primary substances, while the divine ousia refers to the trinitarian relations in one secondary substance or essence.

Divine energeia, participatably & experientially, diffuse the Will of God as esse intentionale (Thomist) or relationality (Cappadocian HOWness), i.e. the personhood of the Eucharistic divine-human communion (e.g. Zizioulas), all corresponding to Peircean thirdness.

Of course, all of this presents over against Arianism, modalism, tritheism, etc

How do we understand the content of special revelation, as our analogical & doxological predications of God, employing ever-cascading but always-collapsing metaphors, seem to challenge Thomas’ doctrine of analogy?

Aquinas denies univocism & equivocism prior to, apparently, affirming their amalgamated version, some might suggest, in an ad hoc manner, i.e. not defending that leap or deriving its logic?

It seems to me, however, that his trans-analogical, amalgamated analogia, derives in the same way that Christopher McHugh derives his God argument. McHugh improves Anselm, Gödel & Hartshorne’s ontological proofs by employing only apophatic predications, while otherwise still following formal modal logic. Any logical inconsistencies are thereby guaranteed not to derive from conceptual incompatibilities, thereby immunizing the argument from any susceptibility to a subversion by parody.

So, properly predicated, our quidditative probes do employ a complete cycling of triadic inference, abductively hypothesizing, deductively clarifying & inductively testing our knowledge of God.

But they accomplish only so much.

Onto-theologically, regarding God’s primary substance, we abduct the Reality of God’s THATness.

Theo-ontologically, regarding God’s secondary substance, we deduct the Being of God’s WHATness, our kataphasis necessarily translated into apophasis.

Avoiding a sterile, nonvirtuous cycle of dyadic inference, i.e. of rationalistic hypotheses & syllogisms …

In other words, not over-turning but over-coming metaphysics

Theopoetically, beyond our abductive onto-theologizing regarding the Reality of God’s primary substance or THATness, and deductive theo-ontologizing regarding the Being of God’s secondary substance or WHATness …

regarding the Will of God’s HOWness, then, we inductively participate in the theophanic Divine Energies.

We existentially engage their connatural, eudaimonistic invitations ever-aspiring to embody their entelechies.

While often inchoately & confusedly, these participations via engagements & embodiments can serve to implicitly authenticate the ortho-doxic formulations of our onto-theologies & theo-ontologies …

through their ongoing transformative realizations of manifold & multiform ortho-communal, ortho-aesthetic, ortho-pathic, ortho-praxic & ortho-theotic efficacies.

Another parsing:

Presupposing 1) a root metaphor (substantial &/or relational) 2) reasoning formally & 3) predicating apophatically (albeit constrained by indeterminacies of vagueness & generality)

Propositionally, then –

Onto-theologically, we abduct the Ens Necessarium w/a successful reference to the Reality of God’s divine esse via philosophy, i.e. THATness or hypostasis.

Theo-ontologically, we increase the accuracy of our theological references to the Reality of God’s divine essence, apophatically, saying what God is not (univocally &/or literally) &/or not like (equivocally &/or analogically), i.e. WHATness or essence or ousia.

Dispositionally, then –

Theo-poetically, we increase the accuracy of our theological descriptions of the Reality of God’s divine energies, kataphatically & apophatically, via myth, storytelling & liturgy w/ever-cascading, always-collapsing metaphors, norming our responses to divine relationality, i.e. its HOWness or teloi, as they re-positionally transform us (fostering what Peirce might call a quietus vis a vis admirability via the primacy of the aesthetic, what the mystics might call sweet repose).

See also:

The Re-Enchantment of a never, truly disenchanted Reality

It’s not so much choices of root metaphor, metaphysically, or whole-part stances, mereologically, that will logically force an a/theological conclusion or foreclose divine aseity & human freedom.

Rather, it’s facile conceptions of telos – not predicated equivocally as teloi.

Metaphysical & mereological choices merely leave different questions begging, eg “Why not rather nothing?” changes to “Why not rather something else?”

Causal realities require more nuance than generally employed, not only differentiating ultimate & temporal teloi, but even within the created order of determinate realities, recognizing the plurality of teloi presenting as different kinds of “aboutness.”

These telic realities will reflect various degrees of indeterminacy, which, while ontologically suggestive, remain epistemically undecidable.

Couple a much too facile & univocal conception of telos to the Principle of Sufficient Reason [PSR] with any metaphysic cum mereology du jour — and

that naive realism will morph mere methodological stipulations into full blown metaphysical philosophies, e.g. Spinozan (PSR on steroids), Denettian-Dawkinsian materialism & rationalistic theisms, which, being sylly, rely – not on faith, but – syllogisms.

A rigorous emergentism has now rehabilitated, semiotically, the never truly disabled formal-final causes, re-enchanting our never truly dis-enchanted reality.

These telic causal joints don’t present as metaphysical gaps into which we’d fideistically place our gods, but neither can the neo-Nietzscheans guard the metaphysical perimeters, where reality’s initial, boundary & limit conditions can’t a priori be declared brute rather than a donative fruit.

Is reality thus brute, fruit or mute?

For most persons & most of history, reality has been interpreted as – not at all mute, but – having spoken.

A robust existential actionability has been cashed out of that interpretation & normatively justified in terms of augmented unity, beauty, goodness & freedom.

Conceptions of divine interactivity have ranged between the remotest of deisms & most intimate of spousal mysticisms.

Such conceptions aren’t urged or constrained by our metaphysics, though, only by our theodicy-free theophanies!

Trinitarian Asymmetries: Ad Extra & Ad Intra

In the eternal generation of the Son & procession of the Spirit, the economic trinity manifests the immanent trinity.

The non-determinate Creator gifts (originates or speaks) …

the uncreated, transcendent, trans-determinate Logos (norms) mediated by …

the empowering Spirit to …

the determinate creation, the order of which thus presents as an harmonious, telic configuration of pluralities.

This manifestation of the economic trinity exhausts what can be said of the immanent trinity.

Apart from the creative act & divine energeia, which reveal an extrinsic, relational, trinitarian divine esse intentionale

we can attribute nothing determinate, intrinsically or essentially, to the trinitarian divine esse naturale in its aseity.

While being, reality & existence refer to creatures, only being & reality refer to the Creator, a non-existent.

The divine esse naturale (intrinsic, essential being of God) remains trans-formally distinct from the divine esse intentionale (extrinsic, relational reality of God).

I thus eisegetically adapt Neville’s creatio ex nihilo & Yong’s pneumatology in my own meta-heuristic.

Robert Cummings Neville‘s __God the Creator: On the Transcendence and Presence of God__ & Amos Yong‘s __Discerning the Spirit(s): A Pentecostal-Charismatic Contribution to Christian Theology of Religions__