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.
Just thinking aloud with no metaphysical horse in the theistic race.
My adolescent fascinations and undergraduate & graduate preoccupations were rather narrowly focused on the behavioral sciences. And not just at the macro-levels of ethology, ecology & comparative psychology, but at the nuts & bolts level of brain biochemistry.
One year, in high school, I advanced to and participated in the International Science & Engineering Fair, having constructed a rather colossal, rube-goldbergian perfusion apparatus, designed to keep rat livers alive, in vitro, while conducting biochemical experiments on them.
That same year, I had also worked with a friend on memory transfer experiments. She had already accomplished primitive memory transfers between classically conditioned & naïve recipient planaria (flatworms), so, I suggested we take that behavioral investigation to another phylogenetic level. You see, in what were to me the Disney-like stacks of the dark aisles of the LSU library, I had previously encountered the wondrous mysterium fascinans of mammalian memory transfer research.
So, we acquired the requisite hamsters, trained some in mazes, extracted their brain RNA and injected it into their untrained siblings. A half-century later, when I pass that little pine grove where we buried them all, I rather wistfully recall their sacrifice, less sure now than then whether it was truly for the sake of science.
Let’s just leave it at that.
In college, hyper-motivated to get out of the classroom and back into the boundless tremendum of those library stacks and the endless fascinans of the laboratory, I hardly knew where to focus degree-wise. No particular curriculum fully accommodated my feverish interest in being able to better account for animal and human behaviors, so to speak, reductively. I therefore accelerated my graduate school entrance by craftily employing a general studies degree program. Such programs “generally” foster a rather lax approach that allows one to optimally navigate past difficult subject matters, but I exploited its flexibility to pull off the informal equivalent of a triple major with roughly 30+ hours each in chemistry and psychology coupled with even more coursework in zoology, much of that in independent research. So, it was thereby that I had thus ended up spending more than three years of undergraduate & graduate work in a neuroendocrinology lab that had previously, for example, figured out certain of the physiological mechanisms of bird migration. Oversimplifying things, we could get these critters to fly north versus south with specifically timed hormonal injections!
It was also thereby that I had thus advanced my education with a veritable dearth of arts and humanities coursework.
“Advanced my education,” of course, if employed as a true term of art, would not really apply to one who, fifty years hence, has yet to take a single philosophy or theology course, although I did take a single course in literature, another perhaps in history, for what that’s worth.
No, for me, any employment of that phrase more so resembles the meaning behind the Bonnie & Clyde lyric, “advanced their reputation and made their graduation into the banking business.” Turns out, I retired from banking, having served on various venues as chairman, president & chief executive officer. I won’t suffer you that digression even though it would have deep spiritual implications, more than tangential to … what’s our topic? … oh, yeah, metaphysics.
Throughout these very same time periods, my other youthful preoccupations had me actively engaged with the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, youth retreat movements and liturgical music ministries, all great places, by the way, to meet nice girls, which was yet another major and mesmerizing preoccupation of mine. I mention my religious orientation only by way of emphasizing why I suffered neither existential angst about nor epistemic incongruities from my heavily reductionist behavioral bent. It wasn’t reductionistic by virtue of the fact that a Loyola Jesuit had already introduced me to the distinction between primary and secondary causality. That was the only metaphysics I needed to continue gleefully on my way while my more fundamentalistic friends were suffering crises of faith over little things such as … oh, let me think … evolution.
Throughout all of my coursework and research, especially when engaging the most highly speculative theoretical aspects of each scientific discipline that I had studied, I rather subconsciously and implicitly cultivated what I’ve now come to appreciate as a healthy aporetic sense. I became very aware that, in most every discipline, empirical research would inevitably be encountered by descriptive aporia, which, in turn, developed into various interpretive schools, each subscribing to an approach that variously over- and/or under- emphasized distinct aspects of phenomena, whether focused on specific entities, in and of themselves, or on their properties, or on their relations, inner or outer.
By distinct, I’d later come to appreciate, I mean to suggest that they were aspiring to develop speculative conceptions that make a practical difference.
The practical differences implied by various theoretical conceptions can take a long time in coming, empirically. I began to notice this pattern in college.
In physics, I saw how, while empirical quantum mechanics was indisputable, different schools of quantum interpretation proliferated. In cosmology, different cosmogonal models competed. In biology, different accounts of life’s origins grappled with the inexplicable leap from physics and chemistry to biology. In cognitive psychology, different philosophies of mind modeled the origins of animal sentience. In anthropology, semioticians devised conceptual distinctions in explanatory attempts to understand how symbolic language could arise from mere icons and indexes, taking us beyond a mere sentience to a robust sapience.
I never bothered to invest very much in one or the other interpretation. I was content, rather, to try to more so understand what their particular questions were ABOUT, less so what their proposed answers, sometimes pretentiously, suggested. My early grasp of the rudimentary distinction between primary and secondary causation, as conveyed by those happy charismatic Jesuits, who, to me, embodied both the epitome of erudition and pinnacle of evangelical joy, later evolved into more sophisticated intuitions, inchoate early on to be sure, but, later articulated in such heuristics as Gödel’s theorems, Agrippa’s trilemma, Peter Suber’s “problems of beginning” and other safeguards against epistemic hubris.
I had implicitly rejected any tidy epistemic compartmentalizations of supposedly non-overlapping magisteria and approached reality with a single, fallibilist epistemology. That’s to say that, to me, epistemology is epistemology is epistemology.
There are no such things as strictly religious or metaphysical or scientific epistemologies. My youthful reductive tendencies have not been shaken, but neither have they devolved into any unmitigated positivisms or vulgar pragmatisms.
None of this is to deny that certain ontologies, quantum interpretations, cosmogonal models, biogenetic theories, philosophies of mind or language origin anthropologies wouldn’t have even profound implications, existentially, regarding, for example, free will, or theologically regarding, the reality of God.
Those interpretations do introduce conceptual distinctions that can have profound practical implications. I just never got terribly engaged by arguments for or against such as solipsism or free will, much less first principles. Common sense abductions, reductio ad absurdums and methodological stipulations remain – not only necessary, but – sufficient for those types of realities without the further “benefit” of tautological deductions, formal proofs or metaphysical excursions.
My vague God-conceptions have always taken refuge – not in reality’s metaphysical gaps and theoretic aporia, but – at its perimeters, its initial, boundary & limit conditions, its axiomatic contours as defended by such epistemic bulwarks as, again, Gödel-like implications, Agrippa’s trilemma and Suber’s “problems of beginning.”
So, yes, I do rather pragmatically, not just a priori, eschew certain worldviews without feeling the need to engage in atheological mud-wrestling.
And I do very much appreciate that not all tautologies are equally taut vis a vis embracing epistemic virtue and avoiding epistemic vice. But even the best interpretations of our highly speculative theoretical sciences have not yet yielded a normalization of gravity and quantum mechanics, a biopoietic account of life origins, a sentiopoietic account of qualia, a sapiopoietic account of symbolic language.
So, I content myself by simply bookmarking these diverse aporia in terms of their ABOUTNESS that I can better inventory the nature of the questions they are asking in their methodological probes without overinvesting in the nature of the answers they pretend to proffer with their metaphysical conclusions. Such conclusions are too often not merely embedded in the premises and presuppositions of such metaphysical argumentation but in their very definitions.
The aboutnesses most often under consideration include (using some personal, idiosyncratic neologisms) the following aporia:
1) veldo-poietic regarding field origins that appear teleo-potent or end-unbounded;
2) cosmo-poietic regarding physical realities that appear teleo-matic or end-stated;
3) bio-poietic regarding life origins that appear teleo-nomic or end-directed;
4) sentio-poietic regarding sentience origins that appear teleo-qualic or end-purposed; and
5) sapio-poietic regarding language origins that appear robustly teleo-logic or end-intended.
In terms of aboutness, different interpretations at each emergent level employ metaphorical languages that are largely incommunicative in the other levels. This is to recognize, for example, that, if we reconciled quantum mechanics with gravity today, we’d be no closer, tomorrow, to delivering an adequate account of biogenesis, much less a philosophy of mind with a sufficient explanatory adequacy, much much less solve the riddles of indeterminacy that inhere in any account of free will.
Above, I referenced entities, properties and their inner & outer relations. In my encounters with different accounts of reality’s various emergent levels of aboutness, I noticed that, whichever chosen root metaphor, whether of substances, relations, processes, experiences or otherwise, each account variously dealt with those phenomenal categories as well as addressed the temporality of past, present & future, or possibilities, actualities, probabilities & necessities. Transcending the various root metaphors were vague conceptions like act & potency, which seemed to me like helpful placeholders for any ontology.
Because my passion had always been focused on the epistemic reduction of behavior, I was especially drawn to semiotic emergentist accounts that addressed human language origins. It was in my reading regarding same that I encountered for the first time, in a meaningful way, how indispensable were Aristotelian conceptions of formal & final causes, in addition to such as efficient, material, instrumental, exemplary & imaginal causes.
Nothing advanced my grasp of such teleodynamics more than my friendship with & generous tutelage by Ursula Goodenough, who’s long collaborated with her good friend Terrence Deacon regarding all things biologically emergent for decades. Introduced by a mutual friend, I recognized in their work the very same Peircean themes I had first grappled with when reading the philosophy & theology of the late Jesuit, Don Gelpi. Why was I reading him? Only because, fifty years ago, he was one of those crazy smart & crazy happy Jesuits, whom I saw every Friday night at Loyola prayer meetings.
So, there I was, outfitted with a triadic heuristic that approached vague phenomena, from the quantum through the mental, not with any metaphysic or root metaphor, but using placeholders like entities, properties & relations; possibilities, actualities & probabilities; past, present & future; act & potency; being, reality & existence; in/determined & in/determinable; and the full suite of Aristotelian causes, which was proving to be a useful epistemic heuristic for folks of otherwise diverse ontological persuasions, including physicalists. (I know that raises some questions for many but I’ve addressed it elsewhere at length and it’s not my purpose to flesh that out here). I will say this, however, as an emergentist, I do not subscribe to such distinctions as others often draw between strong & weak emergence, weak & strong supervenience. (I travel light, sans metaphysic, sans supervenience & sans filioque. It’s all of one fabric. Ha ha!)
Keep in mind, very little of the meta-metaphysical discussion consideration above had anything to do with my approach to theology, which, in my life, otherwise had focused on formative spirituality, the ascetical & mystical and interreligious dialogue. Instead, my biological interests had begun to intersect philosophy of mind (e.g. Deacon versus Dennett & Dawkins) and Aristotelian emergentist accounts made for a great heuristic.
I only ever employed such heuristics, as I mentioned above, to bookmark aporia, different types of aboutness, inventory the relevant questions & map concepts across competing interpretations. I otherwise remained and remain a metaphysical agnostic, a realist, to be sure, but with no interest in inhabiting any given system.
I suppose you could say that I’m putting off any serious metaphysical excitement and over-the-top ontological enthusiasm for any given theology of nature until I see how the ontology that underwrites same has normalized gravity & quantum mechanics, or proved empirically fruitful with its biogenetic stance or philosophy of mind deliverances.
So, my modest emergentist heuristic doesn’t really do natural theology. That task can be done with a Peircean-like abduction of the Ens Necessarium in a single afternoon’s parlor sitting, not explicitly employing Peirce, mind you, just competently engaging one’s common sense. We will typically bring three musements into play, whether inchoately or reflectively:
1) a mereological intuition regarding the relations between reality’s parts & wholes;
2) a metaphysical intuition reflecting some particular root metaphor for reality’s entities & their properties; and
3) an epistemic intuition (usually involving some version of the principle of sufficient reason) as to whether, regarding reality’s primitives & axioms, those are merely brute or clearly fruit about which reality, in principle or not, remains mute.
My own intuition suggests that, whichever stances one presupposes, mereologically, metaphysically or epistemically, will lead to an abduction of some Ens Necessarium, propositionally. Various quidditative attributes then get intuitively assigned, which can (presupposing an epistemic virtue not all attain) lead to competing equiplausible interpretations of reality writ large, which then get adjudicated mostly dispositionally by- not a vulgar, but – a semiotic realist pragmatism, wherein a plurality of defensible stances (metaphysical, even moral) can reasonably, hopefully peacably, coexist due to – not any relativism, emotivism or voluntarism, but – a metaphysical fallibilism.
Neither does my heuristic do theologies of nature. It only provides me some conceptual placeholders to map whatever it seems to me to be that competing stances happen to be talking about in terms of aboutness.
In other words, I’m rather content to say that something like Scotus’ formal distinction appears at stake, here; something like Thomas’ analogy of being, there; something like Peirce’s distinctions between Being, Reality & existence, here.
And I want to affirm, over against any silly ignosticism, that such talk is meaningful, existentially & theotically, even while insisting it has serious limits, speculatively.
I do rather believe that serious formal argumentation can take place, ontologically & modally, even syllogistically, as long as one guarantees the conceptual compatibility of one’s quidditative God-conceptions employing only apophatic predications. I think one can see, however, how that type of argumentation crosses only a very limited epistemic distance, rationally?
What about other positive God-conceptions? Can they be meaningful?
Well, semantically & univocally, I believe so. But with the caveat that, for dang sure, absent a robust root metaphor that travels up & down the great chain of being gifting us robustly empirical deliverances regarding our quotidian, finite, determinate & temporal realities, why in the world, much less out of this world, would we over-invest in their speculative conclusions regarding ethereal, infinite, indeterminate & eternal realities?
The same epistemic critique applies to any ontological analogy or semantical univocity of being. Our metaphors will collapse at pretty much the same velocity as they cascade.
I’ve addressed elsewhere why, beyond our onto-theological natural theologies & theo-ontological theologies of nature, which do aspire to systematic & syllogistic argumentation via root metaphors, most of our employment of analogies & metaphors otherwise more so amounts to the informal theophanic God-talk of our common sense & sensibilities.
And I’ve defended it as eminently actionable, existentially, and as soulfully dispositional, communally, aesthetically, normatively & liberatively, all which, integrally & confluently, can, over time, reasonably raise our confidence in all things hoped for, our convictions of things unseen and certainties regarding our practical & moral responses, relationally, to God, others, cosmos & even oneself.
Many seem to lose track, even in the very same conversations, of how they segue from onto-theology to theo-ontology to theophanic discourse and back, leading to all manner of category errors. Are we talking about God’s being, here? His ousia? And, there, a particular hypostatic thatness? Or, now, the divine energies? Or, then, the Reality of the Ens Necessarium? His will or intellect? Essential attributes or Cambridge properties? Determinate or indeterminate reality? Divine simplicity or freedom?
The categories in which we traffic, non-metaphysically via revelation, shouldn’t be facilely mapped to the theo-ontological categories of our metaphysics presupposing they can syllogistically overcome our theologically speculative aporia. These mapping exercises, rather, serve the missiological imperatives of Gospel inculturation, which presuppose a comprehensive epistemic journey, from start to finish, through Lonergan’s theological methods: research, interpretation, history, dialectics, foundations, doctrines, systematics and communications. The communication of an inculturated Gospel will often involve a translation between different metaphysical idioms. Not only that, as addressed above, even within a given metaphysic, manifold interpretations can compete. Further complicating translation efforts, the metaphysical idioms under consideration may be appropriated within any given culture more so implicitly and inchoately, less so explicitly and reflectively, all of this coming into play even in the etymological roots of each language’s concepts.
Why even expect our onto-theologies and theo-ontologies to overcome the aporia of our speculative, systematic theologies, before we’ve even see what Scotism & Thomism, Whitehead & Hartshorne, or, for that matter, Aristotle or Plato, have done with gravity & quantum mechanics or biogenesis?
So, when, at last, I did consciously engage natural theologies & theologies of nature, I had come from the world of the highly speculative, theoretical sciences, where I had learned of the time-honored efficacies of the long-banished Aristotelian formal & final causations and had become aware of the epistemic cul de sacs of logical positivisms & radical empiricisms. I had also learned of the tremendous heuristic value of the very vague categories of act & potency, determinacies & indeterminacies, vagueness & generality.
I came to theology already bearing the gift of my epistemic heuristic and discovered in its onto-theological & theo-ontological discourse that some of the vary same aboutnesses and causations and phenomenological categories were in play!
However, I also brought with me the same degree of epistemic humility that inhered in a fallibilist approach.
And, in theology, as in science, I encountered, in no too few theologians, the very same levels of unjustified epistemic hubris that I had witnessed among certain scientists.
But I had, still have, little interest in becoming a Scotist or Whiteheadian. And my introduction to Thomism was Maritain’s existential approach because it was the vehicle which had first taken me into serious interreligious dialogue. Thereafter, I soon learned there were Aristotelian, Transcendental, Analytic, Phenomenological, Process, Neo-Scholastic and Semiotic schools of Thomism, among others. I haven’t inhabited any of those either. Neither do I buy into Peirce’s metaphysical musings, only finding his phenomenological categories to be great conceptual placeholders.
I remain, therefore, for the most part, a thoroughgoing metaphysical agnostic.
Don’t get me wrong, though.
I do applaud those who engage fully any given school within onto-theological & theo-ontological enterprises, as well as regarding natural law deontologies.
I only ever insist, however, that …
any given metaphysic not be delivered with a confidence level that outruns its heuristic value in physics …
that our deontologies should be delivered at least as modestly as our ontologies are tentative …
that the normative impetus imparted to any epistemic stance be commensurate with the evidentiary standards it’s already met.
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!
A contemplative posture orients one’s disposition toward reality more than it offers propositions about reality. It more so norms “how” we see and less so describes “what” we see.
Contemplation effects metanoia, which includes intellectual, affective, moral, social and religious conversions. While these conversion dynamics are distinct from developmental growth mechanisms (for example, as described by Piaget, Maslow , Kohlberg, Erikson and Fowler, et al), they are not unrelated as they do foster those processes.
The conversions gift us horizon-situated dispositions, which
1) open our perceptions via an awareness that there’s more to any given reality than our own thoughts can suggest; via logos;
2) open our minds to recognize the intelligence on display in other interpretations of any given reality outside of our own social and political circles; via topos;
3) open our souls by expanding what’s reasonable to expect regarding any given reality beyond what our own feelings might suggest; via pathos;
4) open our hands by enlarging our sense of responsibility toward any given reality beyond our own moral and practical concerns; via ethos;
5) open our hearts to being in love with and beloved by God, others, the cosmos and even one’s self; via mythos.
These conversions gift us with what Lonergan described as human authenticity, when he articulated his transcendental imperatives: be aware, be reasonable, be responsible and be intelligent.
Still, what theorists like Lonergan, Maslow, Gerald May, Viktor Frankl and others all eventually came to understand was that self-actualization was in fact a by-product of self-transcendence (not the end-product of self-interested strivings). Any pursuits of self-actualization, authenticity, Enlightenment and such for their own sakes, i.e. as sought after end-products, would be self-defeating, frustrating their own realizations. Any who would aspire to be aware, reasonable, responsible and intelligent — would best realize those values by, first, being in love!
Without following the imperative to be in love, one could not realize sustained authenticity. Without seeking Enlightenment out of solidarity and compassion, rather than for one’s own sake, Enlightenment would forever elude one.
The contemplative stance, then, while mostly dispositional, does entail one universal, even if vague, propositional posit, which is that reality’s origin and end, being and essence, value and appeal, meaning and purpose, is love.
Thus contemplation, as entailed in the spiritual practices, asceticisms and disciplines across traditions, expresses a singular, orthodoxic, soteriological trajectory. This orientation goes beyond the norms of authenticity or of a suitable epistemic humility, dis-positionally, to also include, pro-positionally, a belief that reality is robustly relational. It warrants an existentially actionable interpretation that, wholly and thoroughly beloved, we simply must be loving. (As the children sing why they love Jesus … because He first loved me).
In many cases, through interreligious dialogue, we are discovering that, beyond this singular, shared, orthodoxic, soteriological trajectory, the great traditions and indigenous religions will otherwise diverge with pluralist, diverse, polydoxic, sophiological trajectories, which, more simply put, correspond to different ways of being in love with different aspects of reality, including God, others, self and cosmos.
This is to recognize that, in many ways, as we move beyond the vaguely spiritual to embrace more specific religious paths, it will not necessarily entail competing interpretations of reality but only complementary approaches to reality, which can be variously more inchoate or developed, more or less inclusive, variously emphasizing our unitary being or our unitive strivings, more or less suited to foster conversions and to sustain authenticity, more or less perfectly articulating truth, enjoying comm-unity, celebrating beauty, preserving goodness and growing freedom & love. I mean to say all of that in full consonance with Pope Paul VI’s proclamation, Nostra Aetate.
When institutionalized religions fail in fostering conversions and in sustaining authenticity, many followers will, understandably, retreat into a spiritual but not religious stance. When religions are at their best, though, well, we “see how they love one another” as they foster open minds, open hearts and open hands!
And we see where the quest, itself, becomes our grail; the risks of faith, hope and love, themselves, become our rewards; the journey, itself, becomes our destination; the spiritual process, itself, becomes our transformational product; the next good step becomes the entire recovery program; the commitment, itself, becomes our outcome; the prayer and sitting, themselves, become our consolation.
Life’s highest goods, alone, can thus be enjoyed without moderation, as the pursuits of truth, unity, beauty, goodness and freedom are, intrinsically, their own rewards. The contemplative stance embodies that real-ization. Good religion enhances it.
In science, faith & quotidian life, epistemic virtues should first vault our speculative claims over the threshold of equiplausibility, where we can normatively adjudicate any competing responses using the principles of reasoning under uncertainty.
De-liberatively, regarding our references, descriptively & interpretively, epistemic virtues should first vault our speculative claims over the threshold of equiplausibility, where we can adjudicate, normatively, any competing responses, using the principles of reasoning under uncertainty, evaluatively.
De-liberatively (cosmos & mythos – be free, be loving, be-loved per both temporal & ultimate teloi) …
regarding our references …
descriptively (logos or perception – be aware in research & communications) & …
interpretively (topos or understanding – be intelligent in interpretation & systematics) …
epistemic virtues should first vault our speculative claims over the threshold of equiplausibility, where we can adjudicate …
normatively (ethos or acting – be responsible in dialectics & foundations), any competing responses, using the principles of reasoning under uncertainty …
evaluatively,(pathos or judging & deciding – be reasonable in history & doctrines).
I must stipulate with Hart & Milbank that any rivalry between ultimate worldviews, say nihilist vs theological, cannot be logically coerced. Reality remains far too ambiguous for us & way too ambivalent toward us to compel belief through speculative reason, alone.
With the Thomists, I would insist that, even stipulating that nihilism has not thus been refuted, philosophy well demonstrates the reasonableness of natural theology as an equiplausible competing worldview.
For me, Thomism’s reasonableness remains indispensable over against any thoroughgoing fideism, much less, nominalism, idealism, voluntarism or relativism.
I do not receive Milbank as coming from some Thoroughly [Post]Modern Millie, but, instead, take (eisegetically) his postmodern critique as an admonition to avoid the temptations of dueling hyper-formalisms in countering those insidious –isms.
This is to recognize that —
no essentialistic framing will finally foreclose nominalism, descriptively;
no naïve realism will convincingly defeat idealism, interpretively;
no intellectualistic speculation will logically overcome voluntarism, evaluatively;
no absolutistic insistence will compellingly obviate relativism, normatively; and
no rationalistic appeals will definitively refute fideism, existentially.
But what amount to epistemic misfires for some are but caricatures for others, whose
1) descriptive probes include semiotic & moderate critical realisms;
2) interpretive heuristics employ a metaphysical fallibilism;
3) evaluative dispositions engage an irreducible triad of logos-pathos-ethos, e.g. Aristotelian eudaimonia, Augustinian beatitudo or Thomist summum bonum;
4) normative propositions allow some degree of ethical pluralism grounded – not in an insidious relativism or vulgar pragmatism, but — suitable epistemic humility, metaphysical fallibilism & moral probabilism ; and
5) philosophical preambula vault fidei past the threshold of equiplausibility.
Thomism’s reasonableness thus gets vaulted philosophically past the threshold of equiplausibility by the valid & coherent arguments of natural theology & natural law. (And its deontological conclusions should be considered at least as modest as its ontological commitments are tentative). There, philosophy culminates in either the theological preambula fidei & its general precepts or a nihilistic cosmogony.
Any “competing” theological or nihilistic mythos would come after a normatively justified existential leap.
Past this threshold of epistemic warrant, speculative reason yields to practical reasoning under uncertainty. The speculative arguments between essentialism & nominalism, realism & idealism, intellectualism & voluntarism, absolutism & relativism and fideism & rationalism have previously been transcended by a fallibilist, critical realism.
Normative justifications commence and can lead either to the fideistic, voluntaristic dichotomy of a theological versus nihilistic mythos or to an existential disjunction, where rational equiplausibility principles, albeit often implicit, adjudicate a decision to “live as if” that which is (more so, perhaps, they who are) the most life-giving & relationship-enhancing, the most beautiful & good, the most unitive & liberative, will — first & proleptically, i.e. proximately & temporally, as well as eventually & eschatologically, i.e. ultimately & eternally — also happen to be the most true.
This constitutes meta-discourse, however inchoate or implicit, whether variously held provisionally or confidently, yes, prior to special revelations, and yes, on tradition-transcendent grounds. Importantly, this needn’t be formal discourse or what can sometimes devolve into sylly syllogisms, but more often, via our participatory imaginations, comes from our common sense & common sensibilities, from connaturality, an illative sense, a tacit dimension, intuitions & informal abductions.
The most problematical arguments of natural theology are rationalistically grounded in naïve rather than critical realisms. The most problematical arguments of the natural law are a prioristic, rationalistic, deductivistic, biologistic, physicalistic & infallibilistic, especially as they move from general precepts to specific concrete norms, particularly because of epistemic hubris and the lack of a more inductive, personalist relationality-responsibility approach. But the abuse of natural theology & natural law is no argument against their proper use.
The questions that beg?
What constitutes the most life-giving, existentially?
How do we define & measure the most relationship-enhancing? The most unitive, interpretively & orthocommunally?
Where’s the most beautiful instantiated, evaluatively & orthopathically?
And the most good realized, normatively & orthopraxically?
And the most liberative, metanoetically & orthotheotically?
These are not questions that yield to an armchair cognitive map-making but which must actively engage participative imaginations that are naturally embodied, historically situated, socially embedded, culturally bound, politically immersed & transcendentally horizoned.
Of course it’s incredibly problematical to apply our ortho-metrics to competing worldviews, precisely because their instantiations are so very particular & traditioned.
But I wouldn’t want to defend the notion that nihilism remains in that competition?
Finally, Between an overly pessimistic Augustinian interpretation & overly optimistic transcendental Thomism, perhaps a Goldilocks theological anthropology can be articulated:
Gelpi recognized both as donative realities – a gratuity of creation & gratuity of grace, the Spirit’s universal presence (e.g. nomicities) & particular presence, where Grace is mediated via transmuted experience, where, for example, Kerygma matter immensely.
Where in the World is Sophia? —a Sophiological footnoteThe created grace Gelpi refers to would be constituted by reality’s actualized potencies, eternalized teloi (both temporal & ultimate teloi) of Peircean thirdness, efficient materialities of secondness, connaturalized indeterminacies of firstness, existentialized essences, formalized finalities, participatory intimacizations eternalized, all temporal realities coaxed forth Pneumatologically, Christologically & Paterologically via Divine Energies as would account for effects as would be proper to no known causes.
Every trace of human goodness, for example, eternalized, i.e. every beginning of a smile & all wholesome trivialities!
Whether interpreted in Platonic, Neoplatonic, Aristotelian, Thomist, Scotist, Palamitic or Peircean categories (and I cross hermeneutical bridges between them all), collectively & dynamically, these cumulative actualized potencies or eternally realized divine teloi may represent Sophia, who participates in the Divine Energies in a perichoretic Divine Dance.
In The Wisdom of God, Bulgakov spoke of two Sophias, one created and the other uncreated. She to whom I refer above would be the created Sophia in her participatedness. While I affirm the Divine Energies per a formal distinction, I must defer to others regarding the manner of viewing Sophia in Orthodoxy. And still wonder just how we might best account for ecstatic visions of Sophia.
This body of work largely comprises my project, which I refer to as Pan-semio-entheism, because, as a systematic theology, while it is metaphysically realist, it prescinds from any given metaphysical root metaphor (substance, relational, process, experience, etc) to a phenomenological meta-heuristic.
The architectonic set forth herein suggests philosophical norms & theological heuristics, the contours within which I methodologically approach systematic theology, comparative theology & Gospel inculturation.
With this pan-semio-entheism, I aspire to develop a polydoxic, pneumatological missiology for the planting of ecclesial gatherings that will invite, orient, unify, sanctify, heal, nurture, liberate & send forth dual-practitioners & even multiple-belongers.
We must resist an under-estimation of the significance of special revelation in growing humanity’s orientation to God, as it allows persons to move more swiftly & with less hindrance on their journeys, realizing both temporal & ultimate teloi.
We must also resist either an over- or under-estimation (of an extreme intrinsicism or extrinsicism) of humanity’s dynamic orientation to God & moral reality via natural theology & natural law.
Even among the intrinsicists of the Nouvelle Theologie, the blurring of distinctions between nature & grace didn’t remove anthropological tensions regarding the realities of sin & ecclesial accommodations to the world.
While the intrinsicists all agree in principle that we can discern what’s “common and accessible to all” and gradually move forward to the “highest data of theology,” some Thomists & Augustinians otherwise diverged precisely along the grounds for anthropological optimism & pessimism vis a vis both sin & worldly accommodations.
Brandon Peterson, Critical Voices: The Reactions of Rahner and Ratzinger to ‘Schema XIII’ (Gaudium et Spes)
Peterson quotes a post-conciliar interview of Rahner: I would say that the dangers of a false adaptation of the Church to the modern world, or of falling into a purely secular humanism —which are real dangers in the Church’s attempt to open itself outwards to the modern world can invite as a defensive reaction the opposite danger, namely, to turn inwards and to make the Church a closed sect. Theology must help the preacher preach the gospel in such a way that it can really be understood and assimilated today; and theology also has a critical function in preventing the Church in its preaching or in its practice from becoming a ghetto or a sect within the contemporary world.
Peterson concludes: Christocentrism, anthropological methodology, and critical openness to the world stand in a creative tension which marks Gaudium et Spes itself, a tension which we must not relax if we are to be faithful heirs to this landmark council. For such a tension is an essential part of a theological approach which, executed properly, can proclaim the Gospel to a world that not only needs it, but needs to understand it.
How might we best exploit these creative tensions?
Reality emerges & gifts entities that present with different kinds of “aboutness” that suggest degrees of ontological density but which don’t definitively reveal metaphysical natures.
An emergentist heuristic might refer to these “aboutnesses” in terms of different degrees of telic influence.
• Veldo-poietic (field-like) entities present as teleopotent or end-unbounded;
• cosmopoietic – teleomatic or end-stated;
• biopoietic – teleonomic or end-directed or end-coded;
• sentiopoietic – teleoqualic or end-purposed; and
• sapiopoietic – teleologic or end-intended.
In this profusely pneumatological reality, divine interactivity gifts the Spirit’s universalized presence via creatio continua, consistent with the Thomistic aphorism – “Quidquid recipitur ad modum recipientis recipitur.” This means that “whatever is received, is received according to the mode of the receiver.”
All reality participates, constitutively & relationally, responding to various formal & formative divine promptings of divine esse intentionale & energies, each entity according to its given telic modes.
Human persons interact with the Spirit’s universalized presence, constituted by & engaging in all of the above-listed modes of aboutness, but uniquely, as reality’s only sapiopoietic creature, via a teleological mode, in a robustly intentional way.
The sapiopoietic nature of human persons equips them to also interact with the Spirit’s particularized presence in special revelation.
Per Aquinas in the ST: It is befitting Holy Writ to put forward divine and spiritual truths by means of comparisons with material things. For God provides for everything according to the capacity of its nature. Now it is natural to man to attain to intellectual truths through sensible objects, because all our knowledge originates from sense. Hence in Holy Writ, spiritual truths are fittingly taught under the likeness of material things. This is what Dionysius says (Coel. Hier. i): “We cannot be enlightened by the divine rays except they be hidden within the covering of many sacred veils.” It is also befitting Holy Writ, which is proposed to all without distinction of persons — “To the wise and to the unwise I am a debtor” (Romans 1:14) — that spiritual truths be expounded by means of figures taken from corporeal things, in order that thereby even the simple who are unable by themselves to grasp intellectual things may be able to understand it.
Per Don Gelpi S.J.’s anthropology:
In an “experiential approach to human nature, any given human mind may or may not be oriented dynamically to God. Rather, each self must acquire such an orientation, either by fixing its personal beliefs on purely rational motives concerning the reality and nature of God, or by responding positively and graciously in faith to some event of divine self-revelation.”
The gratuity of creation, experienced by human persons as they interact with the Spirit’s universalized presence, can foster a rationally acquired dynamical orientation to God, gifting an awareness of & cultivating an aretaical disposition toward both temporal & ultimate teloi. It can thus foster – not only the secular conversions (intellectual, affective, moral & sociopolitical), but – an authentic theocentric religious conversion, which, while variously implicit & inchoate, cooperates with the obediential potencies formed by secular conversions.
The gratuity of grace, experienced by human persons as they interact with the Spirit’s particularized presence, can foster a dynamic reorientation of the self to God, if it responds positively and graciously in faith to some event of divine self-revelation.
If this dynamic reorientation of the self results from a response in faith to a particular divine self-disclosure, whether initially or subsequent to a previous reorientation fostered by the gratuity of creation, it constitutes an infusion of supernatural grace via the gratuity of grace.
Per Gelpi, supernatural grace “transmutes experience by endowing it with a new capacity to relate to God both correlative to God’s free act of self-disclosure and impossible apart from that self-revelation.”
A theocentric religious conversion orients a person via Lonergan’s transcendental imperatives as – beyond, temporally, being aware, intelligent, reasonable, responsible & in love with others, cosmos & even self – it also invites one into a relationship with a donative ultimate reality, much like Pip in Great Expectations as he related to his unknown benefactor or, perhaps, as Ralph McInerny put it, like characters in search of their Author. This represents the essential, orthodoxic, soteriological trajectory of the world’s great traditions & indigenous religions.
Consistent with Nostra Aetate, concerning the relationship of the church to non-Christian religions, in addition to that essential soteriological trajectory, various traditions & religions may otherwise diverge to various degrees in their polydoxic, sophiological trajectories, whereby persons grow in intimacy (theosis) with God.
This is the Goldilocks anthropology that best exploits the creative tensions of the Nouvelle Theologie, which, when properly engaged, successfully sidesteps any sterile Neo-Scholasticism, transcendental Thomism or Augustinian radicalism.
Special Revelation clarifies what would otherwise remain indistinct in the logos of General Revelation.
First, in the order of logos:
We disambiguate ambiguities & define in/definite actualities, which are determinacies (in/definitive) that correspond to referenced or defined entities.
In/determinacies (in/determinable & in/determined) refer to generalities (probabilities & necessities) and vagueness (possibilities).
We determine in/determinacies by delimiting vague possibilities & specifying generalities, i.e. probabilities & necessities.
Beyond a mere propositional translation process (via our cognitive map-making) between noetic aspects of general & special revelations, as we move from natural to revealed theology or even between revealed traditions …
We must also engage in
dispositional interpretations (via the inhabitations of our participatory imaginations) of culturally embodied unitive, aesthetic, ethical & liberative norms, if we are to adequately appropriate the theological idioms required for our Gospel inculturation.
Then, beyond logos:
Beyond a creedal logos, we need participatory immersion in revelation’s other integral aspects: communal (topos), liturgical & devotional (pathos), moral (ethos) and ascetical & mystical (mythos).
Natural Theology shouldn’t be conceived in strictly logocentric terms, for even a theocentric religious conversion in the gratuity of creation, however inchoate, indistinct or implicit, propositionally, will dispositionally gift, both personally & culturally, embodied relationships to truth, unity, beauty, goodness & freedom.
As one cooperates with prevenient graces & obediential potencies via General Revelation, while these propositional & dispositional embodiments remain confused, imperfect & indistinct, due to the indirect nature of one’s knowledge of God, they reflect authentic existential orientations to the transcendental imperatives directly known via Special Revelation in the gratuity of grace.
Since all creatures, even those devoid of understanding, are ordered to God as to an ultimate end, all achieve this end to the extent that they participate somewhat in His likeness. Intellectual creatures attain it in a more special way, that is, through their proper operation of understanding Him. Hence, this must be the end of the intellectual creature, namely, to understand God.
Below are accounts of secular & religious conversions.
The architectonic, below, represents a hermenetical spiral, which proceeds successively & transformatively (via a divine gratuity of creation) through a cosmic, temporal chronos of logos, topos, pathos & ethos to a divine encounter with a mythic, eternal, kairos, whereupon, given a prevenient, obediential potency, a novel, foundational meta-ethos will donatively (via a divine gratuity of grace) emerge to thereafter norm, in reverse succession, the transformative dynamics of a doctrinal meta-pathos, systematic meta-topos & pastoral meta-logos.
This spiral presents, wholistically, in the overall soteriological trajectories of each transformative journey. It is also recapitulated, holonically, in every discrete axiological trajectory of each individual value-realization.
RIGHT BEING – PRESENCE
COSMOS of PENTAPARTITE ANTHROPOLOGY
GIFTED – authentic value-realizers – kairos of imago dei & chronos of cosmic evolution; an interpreting subject of a micro-cosmic mereological reality
Intellectual – be aware
Social – be intelligent
Affective – be reasonable
Moral & Practical – be responsible
Religious – be in love
RIGHT BELIEVING – WORD BROKEN OPEN
LOGOS of PENTADIC METAPHYSICS & ONTOLOGY (WORD)
GIVENS – orthodoxic phenomenology of objects of interpretation, sacred kairos & secular chronos; secondness
Unitary Being as Intraobjective Identity
Unitive Striving as Intersubjective Intimacy
Unified Self as Intrasubjective Integrity
Ultimate Unicity as Interobjective Indeterminacy
Ens Necessarium as Transjective Necessity
RIGHT BELONGING – COVENANT & PEOPLE GATHERED IN THANKSGIVING
Eschatological – historical & scientific as ordered by & to truth; Spirit-oriented
Ecclesiological – sociological as ordered by & to unity; Spirit-empowered
Soteriological – arts, humanities & cultural as ordered by & to beauty; Spirit-sanctified or dedicated
Sacramental – economical & philosophical as ordered by & to goodness; Spirit-healed & nurtured
Sophiological – political as ordered by & to freedom; Spirit-saved
Beyond the mere propositional translations (via cognitive map-making), engaged dispositional interpretations (via inhabitations of participatory imaginations) of culturally embodied noetic, aesthetic, ethical, unitive & liberative norms will reveal the theological idioms necessary for Gospel inculturation.
RIGHT DESIRING – ANAMNESIS & MEMORIAL
PATHOS of PENTALECTICAL AXIOLOGY
GIFTS – orthopathic value-realizations of proleptic kairos & evolutionary chronos; firstness & the primacy of esthetic interpretion
RIGHT BEHAVING – ITE, MISSA EST
ETHOS of PENTALOGICAL EPISTEMOLOGY (SPIRIT)
RECEIVING – orthopraxic value-pursuits through acts of interpretation, sacred & secular, pneumatological (kairos) & participatory imagination (chronos); thirdness
RIGHT BECOMING – MEAL – You are what you eat!
MYTHOS of PENTATARIAN THEOLOGY
GIVER – orthotheotic participations – theological manifestations as invitations from image to likeness for we are the Body of Christ indwelled by the Trinity & participating in the Divine Dance; interpreting subjects of a macro-cosmic mereological reality
Jesusology & Epiphany
Trinitology & Trinitophany
Paterology & Theophany
Pneumatology & Pneumatophany
Christology & Christophany
DIVINE PROVISIONINGS & GRATUITIES
Gratuity of Creation – the divine provisioning of co/operative connaturality, where humanization & socialization lead to authenticity via 1) secular conversions (w/inchoate grasp of natural law) and intimacization leads to sustained authenticity via 2) kenotic conversions (w/kenotic relational dynamics of temporal ends).
Gratuity of Grace – divine provisioning of co/operative grace, where deification leads to transformative realizations via 3) religious conversions (w/polydoxic relational dynamics & inchoate grasp of natural theology) and christianization leads to transformative fruition of eternal ends via 4) theotic conversions (w/beatitudinal & beatific realizations).
There’s a progressive realization of virtues, as one’s experiences are transmuted by cooperation w/the Holy Breath, w/decreasing risks of perverted ends, whether temporal or eternal.
Sophia effected by Divine Energies will express immanent & divine entelechies (via various teloi) in the gratuities of creation & grace, in universal & particularized instances.
I. Natural Conversions – intellectual, social, affective & moral
A. descriptive – research/experiential perception – logos
B. interpretive – interpretation/intelligent understanding – topos
C. evaluative – history/judging – deciding – pathos
D. normative – dialectics/responsible acting – ethos
forced options –
II. Authenticity & Self-Transcendence – cosmos (self, others & world) via Spirit’s universal ordinary presence in the gratuity of creation (obediential potencies; prevenient/operative & cooperative connaturality). This gratuity involves the divine provisioning of temporal ends proportionate to Aristotle’s virtues of truth, beauty, goodness & unity (via humility) through operative (prevenient) & cooperative connaturality.
normative – foundations
live options – polydoxy
III. Religious Conversion – mythos (meta-cosmos or ultimate reality) via Spirit’s particularity & extraordinary presence in the gratuity of grace (response to special revelations via prevenient/operative & cooperative graces). This gratuity involves the divine provisioning of eternal ends (meta-ethos) proportionate to Aquinas’ theological virtues of faith, hope, love & unity (via communal oneness ) through operative (prevenient) & cooperative grace.
A. evaluative – doctrines (meta-pathos)
B. interpretive – systematics (meta-topos)
theology of nature
C. descriptive – communications (meta-logos)
Gospel inculturation & moral enculturation
A distinction is not truly philosophical if it hasn’t been discerned to make a difference, existentially, helping one realize one’s true temporal ends. And it’s not truly theological if it hasn’t been discerned to make an existential difference, helping one realize one’s true eternal ends.
One can only authentically become fully human by realizing our divinely ordained temporal & eternal ends.
An anthropology may properly relate the perinoetic|empirical, dianoetic|logical, diastemic|aporetic, ananoetic|metaphysical, epinoetic|apophatic & kinetic|dynamical aspects of our human episteme, yet, without an holistic integration with the METANOETIC|transformative reality of human BECOMING, it’s not robustly philosophical, much less theological.
If taken beyond methodological stipulations to metaphysical presuppositions, beliefs in sufficient reason/causation & reality’s intelligibility will ontologically reduce to theism. Beyond that, dynamical questions re reality’s immanent & transcendent entelechies may beg.
One’s metaphysical stances, sometimes implicit, toward any of a wide variety of interpretations of various origins (e.g. field, cosmic, quantum, life, sentience, language) may often then implicate: pan-, panen-, pan-en-, open or classical theism, deism or theistic personalism.
Architectonic of Divine Gratuity
Orthodoxic Path: Gratuity of Creation
Polydoxic Path: Gratuity of Grace
Theotic Path: Gratuity of Grace
Architectonic of Participatory Divine Gratuities
The apparent tension between divine simplicity & divine freedom results from the conflation of two distinct categories, the metaphysical & existential with the nonmetaphysical & quidditative.
We successfully reference God, metaphysically, only apophatically, e.g. divine simplicity & ousia, abducting THAT God is, existentially.
We successfully reference God, personally, per special revelation, variously employing kataphasis, apophasis, doxology, etc, inductively experiencing WHO God is, quidditatively, e.g. divine aseity & energeiai.
Revelatory references employ common sense rhetoric with ontological implications but not always strict metaphysical categories & predications, which, at any rate, wouldn’t, in principle, lend themselves to anything but apophatic, existential – not quidditative, essential – metaphysics. Logical consistency not subject to parody in modal ontological arguments requires apophatic predication.
That’s why I insist, for example, on labeling the essence-energies distinction as trans-formal.
Analogical predications of God exert much more normative leverage on our embodied dispositions – aesthetically, morally & relationally – as we participate in reality’s excess of meaning, making appropriate (e.g. Eucharistic) responses to ultimate reality via myth & storytelling, which aren’t always completely true, literally, or robustly effective, analogically, i.e. they exert little descriptive leverage on our abstract propositions or deductive argumentations.
I would thus urge any reference to a putative analogical god-talk to be restated as trans-analogical.
We judge that the Reality of God will somehow, ultimately, make existence far less ambiguous for, & ambivalent toward, us in ways we can neither prove nor fully express, because …
proleptically, we have participated through, with & in One, Who has loved us, Whose Spirit has gifted us first fruits, an earnest, a guarantee, a down payment, a seal, a promise, a confident assurance in things hoped for & conviction of glories unseen.
How, precisely, might we avoid a Spinozan modal collapse?
In my own Peirce-like modal ontology, first, we distinguish determinacies & indeterminacies. 
For determinacies, we must disambiguate any ambiguities (univocal, equivocal, analogical, apophatic, etc) & define any in/definite actualities, which are determinacies (in/definitive) that can correspond to vaguely referenced or robustly described entities.
In/determinacies (in/determinable & in/determined) refer to generalities(probabilities & necessities) and vagueness (possibilities). We determine in/determinacies by delimiting vague possibilities & specifying generalities, i.e. probabilities & necessities.
Next, we distinguish possibilities, actualities & probabilities in terms of Aristotelian causation.
A distinction may be real vs conceptual (re logical or virtual). Real distinctions can include modal distinctions (re temporality or adequacy).
Modal temporality can include a formal or metaphysically real distinction. This maps, somewhat, to both Scotus’ formal distinction & Peirce’s category of thirdness or 3ns.
Modal temporality as applied to Peircean categories can variously map to causes, where for:
2ns or actualities, where noncontradiction [PNC] & excluded middle [PEM] hold and act maps to efficient & potency to material causes;
3ns or regularities, where PNC holds but PEM folds and act maps to formal & potency to final causes;
1ns or possibilities, where PNC folds & PEM holds and act maps to our embodied connaturalities and potency to their indeterminacies.
Other real distinctions would include:
act – existence
potency – essence
whole/part or mereological
Real vs Conceptual (re logical or virtual).
Real distinctions include modal distinctions re temporality (above) or adequacy (in/finite or whole/part = mereological). Modal temporality includes a formal or metaphysically real distinction (PNC holds, PEM folds).
It could map like this:
Modal temporality can be applied to Peircean categories as mapped to causes, where for:
Reality is a broader term that encompasses what exists but is not synonymous with it. For something to be real it must have properties sufficient to identify it whether anyone attributes those properties to it or not. The existent, strictly speaking, is what interacts with things in a spatio-temporal environment.
Since God is not another spatio-temporal object, it amounts to fetishism, Peirce remarks, to say that God exists. Hence his argument, strictly speaking, is not an argument for God’s existence, but for God’s reality.
Aaron Bruce Wilso writes, in Peirce’s Empiricism:Its Roots and Its Originality, Lexington Books, Oct 19, 2016
If the above- described distinctions refer to categories for spatio-temporal realities, how must they be modified to successfully reference the Reality of God, even if not successfully describe some putative Being of God?
Regarding the Reality of God:
Modal temporality would not successfully refer, much less describe God, because God’s
a) pure trans-actuality (actus purus or trans-efficient primal cause) lacks material potency as Ipsum Esse Subsistens.
b) God’s pure trans-formal act (primal telos) of Ens Necessarium lacks final potency; and
c) God’s pure trans-possibility lacks indeterminate potency.
Existentially, God’s pure act of existence lacks essential potency.
In terms of Modal Adequacy, the trans-infinite Reality of God lacks finitude.
Prior to theo-ontology, our theophany would define essential donative, communicative, participative & liberative aspects of human-divine relations. It would preclude all fatalism & determinism, include a robust conception of agency & proper conception of freedom.
Our dogmatic, relational essentials provide the theological contours within which we should remain as we aspire to our classical, neo-classical & other approaches.
The question of modal adequacy raises further whole/part or mereological considerations:
Would any of those dogmatic essentials necessarily be threatened in a theo-ontology that, for example:
pan-entheistically employs an ontological distinction between humans & God, where God donates & communicates creatively as we participate & are liberated imitatively?
panen-theistically employs a mereological distinction between humans & God, where God donates & communicates diffusively as we participate & are liberated substratively?
Bulgakov seems to echo Origen re: eternal creation, but Lossky – Athanaius, who deemed creation in time from God’s will rather than nature. Related to distinctions of Norris Clarke: esse naturale v intentionale & Palamas: essence v energies. Keller’s tehomic panentheism via creatio ex profundis makes sense to me as an eternal act, where the order of existence was the formless void of Genesis. CS Peirce affirms the atemporal Reality of God, where Being > Reality > Existence, denying God’s an existent. To that being:reality distinction, I impute naturale:intentionale & essence:energy distinctions. The Reality of God would freely proceed as energeia, per divine will, diffusing the tehom’s substrative forms w/divinizing finalities, that they may participate imitatively. Eternal creatio ex profundis & an in-time creatio continua preserve divine transcendence w/o sacrificing an intimate relationality, integral to a more robustly personalistic theology. (I’m trying to reconcile these approaches in resonance w/some of Staniloae’s intuitions.)
In the eternal generation of the Son & procession of the Spirit, the economic trinity manifests the immanent trinity.
The non-determinateCreator gifts (originates or speaks) …
the uncreated, transcendent, trans-determinateLogos (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__
See Addendum below regarding a “dispositional” metaphysic.
ALL of the Reality of God metaphysical formulations above set forth apophatic predications, where both PNC & PEM hold. Apophatic predications in modal ontological arguments preserve a logical consistency not subvertible by parody.
HOWEVER, it is one thing to set forth such distinctions syntactically & grammatically following semantic rules (e.g. univocity of being) that foster successful references, allowing us to formulate logically consistent modal ontological arguments that can be rather compelling philosophically & metaphysically, as we abduct the Reality of God or THAT God really effected this or that effect as would be proper to no known causes —
And quite another thing altogether to imagine that this great accomplishment of Natural Theology has also gifted us quidditative knowledge regarding to WHOM that Reality of God-concept refers in any robustly semantical or contextual (pragmatic) sense. It’s at this juncture we can begin telling untellable metaphysical stories, saying way more, metaphysically, than what can reasonably be known, proving too much metaphysically, abandoning all prudent aporetic sensibilities!
It’s at this juncture where, happily, having evaded a fideistic leap, we must next turn to special revelation, not so much propositionally at first but dispositionally, inhabiting & embodying its belongingness, its desirings, its participations — tasting & seeing the beauty & goodness imparted by the Divine Energies, prudently imagining that the Reality of Natural Theology’s God must be true!
Because the Reality of God successfully refers to the Ens Necessarium, not only God’s trans-actuality (essence) but also God’s trans-formal distinctions (energies) require a modal ontological grammar, where both PNC & PEM hold for the Creator.
For the created spatio-temporal order, whether in the formal distinctions of generalities or in the vagueness of possibilities, indeterminacies must be admitted to avoid falling into the hopeless paradoxes of essentialism vs nominalism, idealism vs naïve realism, asymmetric temporality, logical vs efficient causation, and so on.
PNC thus folds for temporal possibilities & PEM folds for temporal probabilities. This sharply distinguishes the modal grammars of metaphysical, apophatic, existential God-talk from those of spatio-temporal metaphysics?
Enough theological aporia present on their own without our generating more by conflating metaphysical grammars.
What sets Spinoza apart is his Principle of Sufficient Reason on steroids combined with an idealist monism, where an Ens Necessarium obviates all indeterminacies, where only one modal grammar operates.
What distinguishes some atheological conceptions is a mereological distinction, where the fallacy of composition is presupposed and the whole does not beg questions for its necessary being, a materialist monist approach to a brute reality. Here the PSR is methodologically provisional & a philosophical naturalism essential, but not necessarily inconsistent with libertarian freedom, consistent with a number of philosophies of mind.
Theological conceptions employ a nuanced PSR, essentially, with a methodological naturalism, provisionally. Conceiving God in classical or neoclassical, pan-entheist or panen-theist, conceptions, the Reality of God begs questions, either ontologically as asking “why not rather nothing?” or mereologically as asking “why not rather something else?”. The response to either question evokes an abduction of the Reality of the Ens Necessarium, which sharply distinguishes the Creator from the created order, metaphysically, but emphatically invokes participatory interactivity, whether creatively & imitatively or diffusively & substratively or perhaps even both. It could well be both, especially if the nihilo of creatio is, metaphysically, trans-existentiale & no-thing, thus avoiding the fetishism of saying that God exists.
In an irreducibly triadic reality, perhaps our entitial states or actualities entail creative & imitative interactions, while our relational states or telic matrices entail diffusive & substrative interactions (think deep & dynamic fields).
The move from the Ens Necessarium to donative participatory interactivity takes us from a natural (onto-theological) to a revealed (theophanic) theological methodology. A philosophical move to a theology of nature (theo-ontological) seeks embodied understandings & theological idioms as that method proposes distinctions like creative & imitative and/or diffusive & substrative.
experiential perception or research
Human Existence – entitial, esse actuale as 2ns
interpretation or intelligent understanding
“God is | not x | is true apophatically & literally” refers to Existence, onto-theologically & metaphysically.
From Natural Theology or Onto-theology:
Divine Being – actus purus (divine esse)
history & judging – deciding
Human Being – Imago Dei, created-imitative esse essentiale as 1ns, connaturality
From Theophany & Theopoietics:
The statement “God is | x | is true kataphatically & trans-analogically” refers to Being, quidditatively, theophanically & theopoietically.
From Theology of Nature or Theo-ontology:
“God is neither | x | nor | not x | is true relationally & really” refers to Reality, theo-ontologically & intimately.
Divine Reality – relational, creative-diffusive essentiale (divine esse naturale) & uncreated substrative energeia (divine esse intentionale)
dialectics & responsible acting
Human Reality – uncreated substrative energeia, created, relational, esse intentionale as 3ns
Theological Foundations – philosophical, historical & exegetical – explore a polydoxy of live options for our existential leaps
Theological Doctrines as existential landings
Theological Systematics with further refined theology of nature
God is | x | is true kataphatically & trans-analogically;
God is | not x | is true apophatically & literally; and
God is neither | x | nor | not x | is true relationally & really.
Compare that to a Scotist- Peircean abduction of the Reality of God, where:
Being > Reality > Existence
The apophatic & literal statements work by metaphysically identifying God via such effects as would be proper to no known causes.
Because kataphatic & trans-analogical statements refer to God existentially, they must employ theophanic & theopoietic idioms, which don’t reduce to formal philosophical & metaphysical categories, as existence can’t be predicated of God, but which do express reality’s excess meaning in our stories & myths, liturgies & devotions.
While such statements offer no onto-theological, metaphysical leverage for our natural theology, descriptively & propositionally, they can still do theo-ontology, accomplishing a great deal of heavy lifting, normatively & dispositionally, discovering & crafting the idioms for our theologies of nature, whereby we affirm that our stories & myths, liturgies & devotions, “really relate” to God.
Therefore, we best formulate our real relational idioms of God in E-Prime (employing no verb forms of ‘to be’ or their equivalents), because, existentially, relational predicates will not successfully refer. With a Palamitic turn, real statements thus require the active voice as we refer to the manifold & multiform works done by God, energeia.
The statement “God is | x | is true kataphatically & trans-analogically” refers to Being, theophanically & theopoietically.
“God is | not x | is true apophatically & literally” refers to Existence, onto-theologically & metaphysically.
“God is neither | x | nor | not x | is true relationally & really” refers to Reality, theo-ontologically & intimately.
For moderate realists like Aquinas, Scotus & Peirce, the categories of Existence & Reality include, respectively, both entitial & relational created realities, i.e. the efficient acts & material potencies of entities and the formal acts & final potencies of teloi.
The category of Reality would also include the uncreated relational reality of Primal Telos, which, as Pure Act, sources created reality’s polydoxic teloi …
energetically diffusing divinizing finalities into divine substrative forms …
thereby synergistically harmonizing the instrumental, efficient acts & material potencies of created, entitial existents that they might imitate the divine esse intentionale, growing dispositionally in an ever-deepening relational intimacy.
Divine Simplicity, metaphysically, refers to the apophatic, metaphysical abduction of the Reality of God as Ens Necessarium, esse naturale.
Divine Freedom, theophanically, refers to the uncreated energies of the Reality of God, which invite transformative effects (dis-positions) as would be proper to no known causes, hence from putative theotic participations, both entitial, creative & imitative, and relational, diffusive & substrative.
Any tension between Divine Simplicity & Divine Freedom does not arise onto-theologically in natural theology, for freedom refers to Divine Esse Intentionale trans-analogically (descriptively weak, propositionally, but normatively strong, dispositionally).
While denying a strictly metaphysical impasse between divine simplicity & freedom and while suggesting we’ve thus avoided any logical inconsistencies (e.g. due to parodies grounded in conceptual incompatabilities), it’s not to suggest we’ve also thereby eliminated the aporetic confrontations that inescapably attend to all theo-kataphasis. At the same time, it’s just no small victory to dismiss the facile caricatures & snarky parodies of “devastating” neo-atheological critiques?
A theology of nature, following these speculative grammars, can affirm divine simplicitly as a natural theological argument, philosophically, going beyond it, theo-ontologically – not only invoking Thomistic distinctions between efficient & instrumental causes, primary & secondary causations, to preserve creaturely agencies & avoid modal collapse, but – to affirm a real & robust divine-nature interactivity, pneumatologically, thereby also going, coherently, beyond a mere deism.
Theophanies & theopoietics aspire to successfully reference entitial realities, existentially, employing the ever-cascading & collapsing metaphors of our stories & myth, signs & symbols, liturgies & devotions, alternately revealing the concealed, then concealing the revealed, Who remains always timid but ever coy.
Theo-ontologies & theologies of nature aspire to successfully reference relational realities, personally, relating the uncreated Primal Telos of divine esse intentionale & the polydoxic teloi of creation (note below), which culminate in human intentionality. The seductions of divine intentionale remain ineluctably unobtrusive but so utterly efficacious in the wooing of Sophia (created).
Cf. regarding methodological distinctions of God-talk, see:
the Spirit woos creation forth•
makes this way south & that way north•
invites each blade of grass to green!horizons, boundaries, limits, origins•
perimeters, parameters, centers, margins•
we’re given freedom in between!
thus truth & beauty & goodness grow•
thus lizards leap & roosters crow•
and dawns break with each new day!
good news is ours to be believed•
love freely given if received•
the Spirit in our heart will stay!
very old poem of mine
N.B. regarding polydoxic teloi
• Veldo-poietic (field-like) entities present as teleopotent or end-unbounded;• cosmopoietic – teleomatic or end-stated;
• biopoietic – teleonomic or end-directed or end-coded;
• sentiopoietic – teleoqualic or end-purposed; and
What I have set forth above is a meta-heuristic, what I feel is an essential (pun intended) phenomenological grammar that is preambular to any metaphysic, substance or process, any natural theology, or any theology of nature, whether classical or neoclassical, pan-entheistic or panen-theistic, or even pantheistic or atheological. This represents the foundations of most of my musings.
After posting this, I happily discovered the work of Dr. Mariusz Tabaczek O.P., who has articulated a “dispositional” metaphysic. I commend his writings to all.
Below is an excerpt from his dissertation. It is the best example of a theology of nature as would be consistent with what I am struggling to articulate.
“A theory of emergence based on dispositional metaphysics would show a new explanatory potential as well. It would not only reconcile Aristotelianism with emergentism, but also have a significant impact on the view of divine action developed in reference to the theory of emergence. God’s action would no longer be conceived panentheistically as an influence on the totality of the world, which metaphysically assumes that the causation of God and creatures is of the same kind (univocal predication) and so runs the risk of collapsing into pantheism. The recovery of the plural notion of causation allows for a recapturing of the classical understanding of divine action as proposed by Aquinas. God is regarded as the ultimate source of forms, and the ultimate aim of all teleology in nature. With regard to efficient causation, God’s transcendence is protected by Aquinas’ distinction between the primary and principal causation of the Creator and the secondary and instrumental character of the causation of creatures. Therefore, God’s immutability, omniscience, omnipotence, infinity, eternity, and impassibility are not challenged, while his immanent and constant presence in all worldly events is by no means undermined.”
1) I say Peirce-like because I am not a thoroughgoing Peircean, metaphysically. I adapt, herein, his implicit modal grammar, importing Aristotelian, Thomistic & Palamitic distinctions.
I begin with some distinctions. First, Peirce distinguishes between an argument and argumentation. An argument is “any process of thought reasonably tending to produce a definite belief” while argumentation refers to an argument that proceeds “upon definitely formulated premisses” (6.456). We must note that Peirce’s Neglected Argument (hereafter referred to as NA) is an argument, but not argumentation.
Second, we must distinguish between reality and existence. Reality is a broader term that encompasses what exists but is not synonymous with it. For something to be real it must have properties sufficient to identify it whether anyone attributes those properties to it or not. The existent, strictly speaking, is what interacts with things in a spatio-temporal environment. Since God is not another spatio-temporal object, it amounts to fetishism, Peirce remarks, to say that God exists. Hence his argument, strictly speaking, is not an argument for God’s existence, but for God’s reality.
There are many common phenomenological themes that present as we have encountered manifold & multiform aporiae throughout the great chain of being, beginning with whether or not being, itself, is a useful construct when predicated of existence writ large, mereologically, or even of a given existent.
An emergentist account has proved helpful as a heuristic device, which will strategically employ a suite of conceptual placeholders at each of reality’s causal joints in order to provide a lingua franca to alternate interpretations, typically, of emergent novel effects as will have appeared to have been proper to no previously known causes.
These aporiae have arisen and been addressed especially in the facts of quantum mechanics & the approaches of quantum interpretations, the facts of cosmology and interpretations of age-old & modern cosmogonies, the facts of biological realities and biogenetic interpretations, the facts of neurobiology and the interpretations of philosophies of mind, the facts of human sapience and the interpretations of brain & language evolution, the fact of human agency & freedom and the interpretations of free will.
The phenomenological lingua franca will typically be constructed using a familiar set of epistemic hygienes. I’m not suggesting this has always been consciously recognized as a rather universal epistemic suite, only that, having dabbled in these philosophies of science and some metaphysics over the years, although the terminology was different from one domain to another, I repeatedly encountered recurring themes.
A vague phenomenology will often:
1) prescind from necessities to probabilities
2) not a priori interpret probabilities as ontological vs epistemic
3) bracket ontologies, i.e. no root metaphor & no prioritization of entities or of relations or of static vs dynamical accounts
4) implicitly employ Aristotelian causes associated with acts & potencies
5) implicitly employ modal categories of both temporality & adequacy
6) navigate the shoals of essentialism & nominalism with a moderate realism
7) attend to predications (e.g. analogical, univocal, equivocal, apophatic, kataphatic)
8) attend to a conceptual typology (e.g. essentialist, fuzzy, vague, pluralist, cluster)
10) attend to evidentiary standards for normative impetus (e.g. scholastic notations)
11) follow the rubrics of triadic inference (e.g. abductive, retroductive, inductive, deductive)
12) attend to triadic ellipsis (e.g. syntax, semantic, pragmatic, contextual)
13) confront paradox w/o a priori approach to its dialectical resolution, pragmatic evasion, paradigmatic dissolution, exploitation of creative tensions
14) return to fast & frugal heuristics of common sense (e.g. reductio ad absurdum, existential actionability)
15) consistent with common sense and vital traditions, recognize the value-realizations of successful reference even when successful description evades us
16) attend to the normative significance & existential actionability even of inchoate meta-heuristic realities, which impart reasonable ontological implications & suggestions, even when meta-physical ontological specifications & definitions otherwise elude us (e.g. Whether in a modest moral deontology, grounded in a tentative ontology, which invites an ethical pluralism derived from a suitable moral probabilism, or in a dogmatic theology, grounded in diligent historical, exegetical & mystical hermeneutics, which invite diverse theologoumena & a theological (sometimes even a polydoxic) pluralism, this is to recognize that there are still lines within which we must color, time-honored, tradition-tested, boundaries within which we best remain)
I just inventoried the above meta-heuristic rubrics without elaborating on examples or engaging them in a robustly explanatory way because I don’t have the time and space or interest, presently. At the same time, I’ve indeed treated this emergentist approach exhaustively over the years, elsewhere. For one thing, most who’d have any interest will rather quickly recognize its general themes, anyway.
My particular purpose, above, is to set forth this rubric to better reveal how it applies to trinitarian theology, where I see similar dynamics, tensions, aporiae, antinomies, paradoxes presenting and where rigorous parsings and prayerful reflections continue even after millennia.
To the extent that intratrinitarian realities will, definitionally, represent humankind’s ultimate aporetic horizon, this is to suggest that the problematics that inhere in the rubrics above are of a different order of magnitude (of difficulty!), because the above-listed heuristic devices address spatio-temporal, materio-energetic realities, where Aristotelian causes, acts & potencies, and semiotic modal ontologies & ellipses, simply do not adequately address, for example, the ousia or hypostasis of a putative actus purus, where a modal ontology would represent a category error, where kataphatic predications are so vague that they more so implicitly entail the inference-blocking strategy of a rationally apophatic via negativa (thankfully thereby at least providing dogmatic lines within which to color).
This is not to suggest, however, that there are no legitimate fields of discourse regarding the immanent trinity, only to recognize that philosophy is neither their academic starting place nor their proper existential landing. Others will have to determine which beliefs represent authentic dogma and/or legitimate opinions, which impart normative impetus to our moral excursions and/or liturgical celebrations.
It is to say that there are authentic dogmatic lines within which theologians should color in their otherwise diverse theological disciplines …
including normative (ethos & mythos) foundations (historical, exegetical & philosophical);
evaluative (pathos) liturgical & devotional doctrines and dispositions;
interpretive (topos) ecclesiological & systematic expositions; and
descriptive (logos & cosmos) propositions, which include soteriological & sophiological, ascetical & mystical, moral & pastoral, anthropological & eschatological communications.
In my view, they all best follow Lonergan’s trajectory of methods & his imperatives of conversion.
This is also to recognize that the above-bracketing exercise will not issue forth deliverances regarding whether a primarily relational or substantive intratrinitarian account is more coherent, but that, even left bereft of robust definitions of entities & specifications of relations, the church has for millennia, nevertheless, enjoyed the fruits of the reasonably presupposed successful dogmatic references, as implicated in its celebrations of same liturgically & mystically! And these have sufficed at producing spiritual fruits, reaping myriad consolations and fostering authentic conversions!
Ortho-communal belongings have cult-ivated ortho-pathic desirings inculcating ortho-praxic behavings, which have, with varying empirically measureable degrees of success from one community of believers to the next, authenticated ortho-doxic beliefs, all through a process of becoming, i.e. who we are meant to be, thereby realizing the freedom called forth by our temporal & eternal ends (telos).
Much of this is appropriated and validated much more so via our participatory imaginations than by our cognitive map-making excurses. Most of us taste & see the goodness of our leaps of faith without employing classical or analytical theology.
Still, those systematic theologians who continue to wrestle with intractable metaphysical & theological aporiae, just like the many philosophers of science, can hygienically cleanse our epistemic hubris and therapeutically purge our insidious conceptual idolatries, many of which can needlessly & scandalously divide our community of faithful.
Done with a suitable metaphysical circumspection and not overinvested with a supposedly universal normative impetus, theological opinion-giving, even regarding the Divine Essence, needn’t a priori retreat behind a radically apophatic, rational via negativa, which can, ironically, reveal a rationalistic bent, albeit inverse. It just had better plant its seeds in the existential soil of a prayerful, mystical garden of an experiential apophaticism and genuine religious conversion. And the intellectual and affective excesses of rationalism, encratism, quietism, pietism, fideism, relativism, voluntarism, intellectualism and so on can thereby best be avoided.
What might we not unreasonably infer from our own telic realizations, both temporal & eternal, secular & religious, and the manner through which they progressively gift our freedom?
Realizations that advance our mere agency to a clear liberty?
That reduce our unrealized potencies through increasingly authentic acts that determine them via habitual virtue?
And through which we receive the beatitudinal & beatific consolations that ensue from that sustained authenticity, which has been born of our ever-enlarging circle of loving personal relationships?
If that donative gifting of freedom thus ensues via our telic realizations of our truest nature, whereby loving interpersonal acts determine otherwise indeterminate potencies of our human relational realities, then, even without being able to definitivelydescribe a divine entity or completely specify a divine relation, might we not reasonably infer that an Actus Purus (free beyond all freedoms imaginable, love beyond all loving conceivable) could be somewhat successfully referred to as having gifted such effects as would remain proper to no other known cause?
And also, at least, be somewhat successfully referred to as somehow & in some way (neither wholly describable nor robustly specifiable) a circle of loving personal relationships?
Fr. Al wrote “God’s activity as creator,” notes McCann, “operates in such a way that my integrity as an agent is exactly what it would have been if the subject of creation had never come up, and we had concluded that, as many libertarians believe, my decisions and actions have no determining cause of any kind, primary or secondary” (Creation, p. 105).
The only difference between his construal of human freedom and the typical libertarian construal, McCann tells us, is that his account presents our decisions and actions as grounded in God as primary cause, “whereas on the standard libertarian view their existence is grounded in nothing whatever” (p. 109). <<<<<
The approach to free will with which I most resonate precisely comes from philosophers and scientists who’ve grappled with a person’s “integrity as agent” apart from the “subject of creation.”
Some frame the issue less in terms of in/determinism, a reality that presents in degrees and better conceived in probabilistic terms like propensities, and more so in terms of reductionism and downward causations (e.g. whole-part constraints as well as formal and final).
For these theorists, among whom are believers, unbelievers and nonbelievers, the question of free will does not so much turn on the putative reality of neurobiological determinism (although some do speculate regarding quantum indeterminacies) but much more so on the question of neurobiological reductionism (both epistemic and ontological), which, long story short, remains phenomenologically indefensible.
Of course, I’m talking about those who, primarily informed by modern semiotic science, embrace an emergentist stance. I resonate with that perspective in its most generic sense, which affirms emergent teloi in nature but which doesn’t necessarily invoke further distinctions, such as between weak and strong emergence or supervenience. For example, even a nonreductive physicalism, in my view, proves too much.
These emergentists would all affirm — not only the teleomatic and teleonomic teloi of, respectively, inanimate (end-stated-ness) and sentient things (end-purposed-ness), but also — the robustly teleodynamic (end-intended-ness) consciousness of sapient persons, who enjoy genuine autopoietic agency or an authentic will or personal intentionality.
This emergentist stance remains a phenomenological, exploratory heuristic. This is to say that it does not ambition an explanatory metaphysic. It merely takes an inventory of nature’s emergent novelties, among which are different teloi, and affirms the most robustly downward causation observed as human, personal, intentional agency.
I say intentional agency as distinct from human freedom, which can sometimes more, sometimes less, characterize any given person’s agency. I draw that distinction partly out of sympathy for DB Hart’s conception of freedom and, also, from the perspectives of both human developmental psychology and formative spirituality, whereby true freedom must be grown in a radically social-relational milieu.
Fr. Al wrote: McCann thus seeks to move philosophical reflection beyond the ever-ellusive causal joint that ostensibly binds divine and human agency. Perhaps we should not even employ the notion of causality—hence his suggestion that we think of the relation between God and creatures as analogous to the relation between intention and content. <<<<<
The emergentist stance, as an exploratory heuristic, does not explain the novelties that present as the cosmos emerges from the quantum, as life emerges from stardust, as sentience emerges from early life forms, as sapience finally emerges from sentient consciousness. Nature’s causal joints remain ever-elusive.
Not only are nature’s causal joints for the emergentist ever-elusive, the emergent teloi, themselves, —- from the teleopotent quantum fields (veldo [field]-poietic) to the teleomatic thermodynamics and morphodynamics of physics and chemistry (cosmo-poietic) to the teleonomic life forms (bio-poietic and sentio-poietic) to the teleo-logical (sapio-poietic) person — remain only weakly analogical, as varieties of formal and final causations.
This is all to suggest that we are asking too much of any given metaphysic, presently, by requesting an explanation of nature’s causal joints. No root metaphor has yet reconciled gravity and quantum mechanics and the latter still admits several interpretations (epistemic and/or ontological). How much more so would we be telling untellable stories to pretend to describe the causal joints between divine and human agency?
This is to further suggest that our vague understandings of formal and final causations in nature’s emergent teloi require a great deal of analogical — not univocal — predication.
There are manifestly qualitative — not just quantitative — differences between the teleonomic sentience, which humans share with other animals, and the teleo-logic sapience, which is unique to Homo symbolicus. It’s no easy task to imaginatively answer the question:
What is it like to be a bat?
How much more would we be saying way more than we could ever possibly know by facilely imagining:
What is it like to be omniscient?
How much more careful we must be in our analogical predications between emergent teloi and the primal Telos of a self-subsisting esse?
All that said, then, absent any neurobiological reductionism, which many scientists and philosophers clearly would deny, if some don’t even see the threat (to human intentional agency and freedom) from a materialist monist determinism, atheologically, then I certainly don’t see one from a divine determinism, theologically.
Grounding our emergent teloi, in general, a robustly telic human agency, in particular, in God as primary cause, seems a very defensible move, and double agency a very reasonable conception.
God’s sovereign control over nature’s teloi or regularities would sustain or suspend them per the divine will but never to the extent that the emergent and robust telos of the human will (the apex of nature’s teloi) would be suspended.
Theologians might argue whether such a divine constraint would be essential (intrinsic), metaphysical (in/coherent logically) or kenotic, but, given the grounding of any human agency/divine constraint in the Source via creatio continua, who would not characterize it, per any of these scenarios, as sovereignly authored?