Gödel & the End of Physics and Abelard et al & the End of Trinitology

In my trinity-talk, I try to mindfully inhabit one mode of discourse at a time.

I approach creedal trinitology as a rather formal subject, where there seems to be a great deal of consensus, phenomenologically, regarding the requisite vague categories and their rules of predication (e.g. essence, existence, hypostasis, person, relation, energeia, oikonomia, univocal, analogical, distinctions: real, conceptual, formal; causes: formal, final, efficient, material; determinacies & necessities, etc). This consensus sets our theological contours, metaphysically, without specifying a given metaphysic.

In a systematic trinitology, staying with those contours, many specify a given metaphysic employing an apt root metaphor: substance, process, experience, social, relational, etc All such metaphors eventually collapse & paradoxes ensue. This is no less unavoidable in trinitology than it is in quantum interpretations or philosophies of mind. Alas, we press on in search of that meta-idiom.

Most of us, beyond our essential creedal formulae, engaged liturgically & explicated catechetically, are otherwise familiar with what I call trinitophany or trinity-talk in various common sense idioms, which are largely informal. In our local idioms, we employ metaphors but not as root metaphors and not in any formal syllogistic sense. Here our metaphors cascade & collapse and usually, but not always, change from one to the next. Here our discourse is poetic, celebratory, prayerful. Trinitophanies don’t aspire to universal models, only believable imgages.

In the consideration below, I’m trying to focus on a creedal trinitology.

Some of my favorite thinkers wonderfully integrate dogmatic, philosophical & sacramental-poetic discourse and/or creedal & systematic trinitological and theophanic approaches, e.g. Bulgakov & von Balthasar.

When we use concepts like consubstantial to refer to determinate secondary substances or essences, all 3 modes of being are in play, temporal acts in potency – of existence to essence and efficient to material & formal to final causations. There’s a LOT going on!

But we must check ALL of that conceptual baggage at the epistemic door, as we board the divine essence sleeper car, meta-ontologically, or we’ll derail our trinitarian train of thought, for NONE of that is going on!
None of that needs to go on for divine realities b/c they ALREADY ARE whatever they’re willed to be, while we are, instead, BECOMING what we’re willed to be.
We can thus identify & refer to an object as God if we know either its essence OR its person OR its energeia-oikonomia.
To completely identify & describe a determinate creature, we must know its essence AND its haecceity AND its relations (e.g. generalities, regularities, in/determinacies).
Note: Both determinate modes of being & meta-ontological modes of identity remain irreducibly triadic, the former an ontological subcategory of the formal mode of identity, which applies to both divine & determinate realities.


The meta-ontological modes of identity in divine syllogistics merely assert (analytically) THAT there’s 1 ousia & 3 hypostases.

Unlike the modes of being in Aristotelian syllogistics, neither the essential propria nor the hypostatic idiomata of the divine modes of identity intimate (ontologically) HOW divine realities are variously nondeterminate, self-determinate, noncomposite, unoriginate, begotten, etc.

Tritheism, subordinationism, modalism & various paralogisms can appear as valid conclusions when ontological rather than meta-ontological categories are applied to classical trinitarian discourse. They thus amount to category errors.

A separate concern typically arises regarding the degree of intelligibility conveyed by modes of identity & it must be conceded that they gift us far more dispositionally than propositionally. Such gifts, however, remain eminently actionable, existentially, and particularly indispensable, theopoetically & theo-poi-etically.


Consider 5 major aporia of determinate reality re types of origins: quantum, cosmic, life, consciousness & language. Not only do they defy explanatory adequacy, physically, they resist any adjudicatory attempts between competing metaphysical heuristics.

Still, even without a specific ontology or metaphysic, meta-ontologically, we can reasonably infer & successfully refer to such realities in terms of putative unknown causes.

From definitive determinate effects, which are proper to no known causes, we can identify such putative causes even though we’re unable to comprehensively describe them.

We vaguely refer to quantum gravity, dark matter, hidden variables, qualia & such, not unreasonably speculating that, like the long-hypothetical Higgs boson, those or related hypotheses could be experimentally confirmed (or not).

Such inferential, metaphysical reasoning from known effects to unknown causes (via relational reality) refers to a meta-ontological mode of – not being, but – identity, specifically, the mode of formal identity.

Formal identity thus includes both robust descriptions & vague references. Some such references (e.g. quantum gravity) have perennially resisted, while others (Higgs boson & field) have eventually yielded to, comprehensive description in terms of meta/physical properties (e.g. precise quiddities & specific regularities).

This meta-ontological, formal mode of identity maps to that relational, ontological subcategory, which, in a modal ontology, would include those laws, regularities & in/determinacies that mediate between quiddities & haecceities, possibilities & actualities, essences & substances.

This formal mode of identity applies, meta-ontologically, to both the divine syllogistics of nondeterminate & self-determinate realities as well as the Aristotelian syllogistics of determinate realities. Its ontological subcategory applies to all determinate effects, whether their putative causes are, themselves, determinate, or otherwise non- or self- determinate.

In addition to formal identity, nondeterminate & self-determinate divine realities exhibit two other modes of identity: the essential (re ousia) & personal (re hypostases). These apply ONLY in the syllogistics of divine realities, meta-ontologically, but do not map, for example, to such ontological subcategories of determinate realities, where, per Aristotelian syllogistics — re: essences, the act of existence remains in potency to essence; re: hypostases, efficient acts in potency to material causes; & re: relations, formal acts in potency to final causes — all such temporal dynamics are totally foreign to divine ousia & hypostases, which are eternal.

So, while there’s a semantical univocity & minimalist analogy of the meta-ontological categories of being, realities & relations, which apply in both created & Uncreated spheres, the modes of identity for the Uncreated categories of being (ousia) & realities (hypostases) not only do not map to any ontological subcategories in the sphere of creation but also remain silent, ontologically, in the Uncreated sphere.

Any univocity and/or analogy of beings & realities, created vs Uncreated, remain strictly meta-ontological in both essential & hypostatic/personal modes of identity.

A univocity and/or analogy of relations, however, can map, ontologically, the determinate effects within a modal ontology to putative causes, both created & Uncreated, and do so, meta-ontologically, via the formal mode of identity.

Thus natural theology reasons from the divine vestigia in the gratuity of creation back to certain attributes or propria of a divine essence and/or idiomata of, for example, a pneumatological hypostasis.

Thus special revelation reasons from divine theotic effects in the gratuity of grace, from the energeia back to the propria of divine ousia & from the oikonomia back to the idiomata of trinitological hypostases.

While such divine propria & idiomata successfully refer to putative causes of Uncreated realities, non- & self-determinate, those realities remain, at once, utterly incomprehensible & infinitely intelligible.

This is not unrelated to the constraints we encounter for determinate realities:

Some people will be very disappointed if there is not an ultimate theory that can be formulated as a finite number of principles. I used to belong to that camp, but I have changed my mind. I’m now glad that our search for understanding will never come to an end, and that we will always have the challenge of new discovery. ~ Stephen Hawking



A more concrete take on the practical upshots of divine essence-talk might unpack these dense theoretical abstractions.

In our temporal reality, however it may be that we conceive essences, universals, properties, ie as nominalists, conceptualists, realists, etc, we can still manage to successfully describe realities & reason formally about them with terms, sentences & propositions. One mustn’t imagine that – by invoking a univocity & analogy of being, even mindfully tending to apophatic vs kataphatic predications – we can similarly reason about the Trinity.

We aspire, then, not to robustly ontological, theoretical descriptions w/propositional significance for divine-discourse, but to merely semantical, heuristical references w/dispositional impetus for divine-intercourse.

So, even without fully comprehending what it could possibly entail to be infinite, unoriginate, nondeterminate, noncomposite, etc vis a vis being, truth, beauty, goodness, freedom, etc, these otherwise meager conceptions can help properly dispose us – theopoetically, in our life of prayer, liturgies & devotions, also theo-poi-etically, fostering our ongoing theotic transformations.


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

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

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

That’s pretty much it.

One can dig deeper, though.

To wit:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the –

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

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

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

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

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

Essence, Hypostasis, Person, Relation, Energy & Economy

Many New Testament statements by Jesus are interpreted by some in terms that are – not just ontological and/or economical, but, also – relational (e.g. mutual interabiding or indwelling). In my tradition (informed by the Pontifical Biblical Commission), when in doubt, even re John 10, for example, they assume no one in the NT is talking metaphysics, in general, much less a substance ontology, in particular. Rather, they say such verses refer to economic mission & relational indwelling, i.e. w/implications for us. Even conceding that, all such verses when taken together in their NT context as well as in early liturgical traditions will certainly have metaphysical implications, theologically. Most Fathers thought they were ontologically suggestive (&, I’d add, meta-ontologically decisive)?

Hypostatic Asymmetries & Subordinationism

There’s an asymmetry of the homoousion imputed to Athanasius that, seems to me could, involve the distinction between individual vs general essences, qualities that identify hypostases vs properties that identify ousia, any asymmetry applying only hypostatically. Athanasius didn’t employ Cappadocian-like nuances, so, if we plausibly interpret him as talking about individual essences, hypostatically, that asymmetry isn’t truly subordinationist, because such an essential dependence is – not causal, but – merely definitional.

It seems that hypostatic order or taxis, for some, won’t involve originations &/or causes but – ways of self-revealing. For example, maybe active/passive revelatory “images,” while unique for each hypostasis, needn’t entail unique “ways of relating” to the essence. Whatever the case, hypostatic idiomata, whether originationist or revelatory, might best be interpreted in definitional terms of essential dependence & individual essence, not without ontological implications but merely metaphysically (meta-ontologically), bracketing any specific metaphysic (ontologically).

One practical upshot of trinitarian modes of identity seems to me to be that hypostatic asymmetries needn’t imply subordinationism because essential dependencies aren’t causal (not saying they don’t have other ontological implications).

Preserving analogy does seem indispensable to any theotic approach that suggests we can participate in or partake of the divine nature? And, of course, it implies, also, dissimilarities, since divine realities “be what they are” & we “become” what we are. What about dissimilarities between hypostases in relating to essence?

Hypostatic Kenoses

For Bulgakov & Balthasar’s kenotic models, the same activity engaged by each hypostasis would be possession through dispossession. That hypostatic activity can otherwise be uniquely identified as we consider whether a given relation is active, passive, mediated, inverted, etc? Such essential dependencies & interdependencies could still be expressed in terms of individual not general essence.

We have to distinguish between ontological attempts to describe how the hypostases might variously relate to the divine nature & meta-ontological references to same.

The former employ root metaphors of substance, process, social experience or other relations & are less interesting to me because they aspire to say more, in principle, than we can prove. But I affirm those who strive to formulate better idioms.

The latter are “merely metaphysical” and more “vaguely phenomenological.”

I can’t always readily tell which approach people are taking.

For example, Neville’s hypothetical neo-Whiteheadian process approach seems clearly ontological; it would interpret the divine nature, itself, as a product of the Father’s creatio ex nihilo – a rather radical conception of principium sine principio?

In a merely metaphysical approach (perhaps), von Balthasar would kenotically differentiate the hypostatic relations to the divine nature in terms of 1) stripped of 2) thankful for and 3) bridged by, respectively, Father, Son & Spirit.

See: https://mobile.twitter.com/John_S_Sylvest/status/1084862911758168064


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

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

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

see Note Below
See: https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2018/12/04/classical-theism-doesnt-really-compete-tautologically/

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

I believe so.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Abelard originally distinguished extensional from intentional identity.)

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

My modal schema, influenced by Peircean categories, where

Being > Reality > Relations > Existents

roughly & analogously maps to these modes of identity

Essential | Personal | Formal | Creatures

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


Also see:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Note re: leaps of faith


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

pan-entheism (uncreated tehom)

Appendix – application to physical systems

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

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

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

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

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

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

massless/massive particles

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

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

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

Meaningful God-talk

I’ve been through the Desert Fathers on an Ousia with No Name. It felt good to get out of the Reign (of Rationalism) with the help of the Cappadocians.

Many concepts, taken ahistorically, to me, have often seemed to converge syntactically, semantically & contextually. But, I slowly came to realize that, unless studied historically, it’s seldom going to be readily discernible which such concepts authors have
• clearly derived from others,
• formulated after being merely influenced by others, or
• otherwise developed quite independently of others.

It was back when I was trying to unscramble epistemic-ontic omelets (puzzles such as presented when I was casually reading about quantum interpretations, cosmogonies, philosophies of mind, or life & language origins) that I got introduced to the essentialism-nominalism conundrum. And my first exposure to a solution was Peirce’s semiotic, pragmatic realism. I didn’t use it as a metaphysic to unscramble any epistemic-ontic omelets or to disabuse me of my metaphysical agnosticismJoseph O’Leary. (although I certainly have sneaking suspicions that variously incline me, ontologically). I did, however, find that Peirce’s categories provided a helpful architectonic heuristic, a vague meta-ontological phenomenology, within which I could bracket ontological root metaphors (e.g. substance, process, relations, experience, persons), while framing up questions via
• linguistics (e.g. icon, index, symbol & syntactical, semantical, contextual),
• speculative grammar (e.g. per first principles, PNC, PEM),
• probability theory (e.g. in/determinacies),
• critical logic (abductive, inductive, deductive) and
• speculative rhetoric (pragmatic principle & modality of 1ns, 2ns, 3ns).

Questions regarding a/historical conceptual convergences have most often presented regarding the essentialist-nominalist & realist-idealist conundra, unity-multiplicity & necessity-contingency distinctions, the natures of divine & human freedom, all which especially arose in various forms, for example, when I began reading about the Doctrine of Divine Simplicity.

Using my Peircean lenses, every trinitological problem and/or solution that I’d encounter, suspiciously, would look like a question and/or answer that had been framed in terms of a pragmatic semiotic realism. That obviously not being the case, explicitly, suggested to me that, nevertheless, implicitly, as long as various schools of thought were realist, i.e. moderately not naively, both their epistemes as well as their theotics would tend to largely converge. It has certainly seemed that way to me when considering Neoplatonic, Dionysian, Augustinian, Cappadocian, Palamitic, Bonaventurean, Scotistic, Thomist & Peircean approaches to various conceptual distinctions pertaining to essences, existents & relations, whether nondeterminate, self-determinate or determinate. Prominent examples include distinctions like created grace, habitus, Peirce’s thirdness, Scotus’ formal distinction, real metaphysical (vs physical) distinction of some Thomists, Palamas’ energies, Rahner’s quasi-formal cause, Basil’s hypostatic idiomata & essential propria and such.

Diverse in many ways, then, most theological schools that have remained moderately realist, historically, have naturally tended to otherwise converge in both their epistemic & theotic approaches.

Many who’ve exaggerated the differences between Neoplatonists, Cappadocians, Augustinians, Scotists, Thomists & Palamites, or have charged them w/incoherence re the Trinity, have often eisegetically projected onto those schools either their own naive realism or nominalism. Such fundamentalists have ignored the metaphysical subtlety & theological nuance of those schools (e.g. such as in their predications of essences, existents & relations – nondeterminate vs self-determinate vs determinate).

From revelation, contextually, we can take away certain essential meta-ontological implications from the non-metaphysical, quidditative God-talk of its Scriptural narratives & liturgical Traditions.

We can even argue those take-aways syllogistically, employing vague phenomenological categories, which articulate a rough syntactical mapping of divine & human beings, realities & relations (ad intra & ad extra) and which employ a modicum of semantical univocity.

This meta-ontological mapping of syntactical, semantical & contextual categories is precisely what renders our analogical God-talk meaningful.

We can also argue syllogistically when engaging in ontological God-talk, whether onto-theologically or theo-ontologically, but can only employ apophatic predications, which afford us successful references but not robust descriptions.

Most of our God-talk is otherwise kataphatic, analogical, metaphorical, non-metaphysical, common-sensical, dispositional, theopoetic & theopoietic, as found in the forms of our Scriptures & Traditions, our dogma, doctrines & disciplines, the theotic efficacies of all which supply the norms by which we can gauge the degrees of meaningfulness that we aspire to derive from any novel distinctions that we put forth in our speculative systematic theology, meta-ontologically or ontologically.
In other words, how might any given distinction better foster our ongoing participation in divine activities & incorporation into the Body of Christ?

For example, if one might suggest:

Hypostatical identities are derived relationally (from status & activity/passivity) and not ontologically (from being), thus not mereologically (as parts). e.g. Father’s unbegotten, an identity derived from no cause; Son’s id derived from generation & Spirit’s from procession.

We can draw a distinction between the Trinity’s unoriginate, noncomposite being (what) & its un/originate persons (un/begotten hypostases or who).

Mereological distinctions don’t apply to noncomposite being, so questions re fallacies of composition and/or division don’t arise.

Then, how might we evaluate that?

To avoid category errors of God-talk, for any given discussion, one must clarify precisely what’s under consideration:

1) normatively & syntactically – incl modal phenomenological categories (e.g. first principles)



relations (ad intra & extra)

2) descriptively & referentially – incl predications (e.g. semantically & methodologically)





informal & common-sensical

formal & syllogistic
(root analog or metaphor?)

3) interpretively – incl meta-ontological aporia




theological – incl theopoetic, theo-ontological & onto-theological

4) evaluatively & liberatively -theopoietic



Analytical Theology?

I’m all for analytical theology as long as it properly attends to all of Lonergan’s methodological categories, including Biblical, exegetical, historical, dogmatic & systematic approaches.

And as long as it tends to all distinctions that make a difference before employing its syllogisms, which can otherwise devolve into facile, sylly argumentation that engages mere caricatures of classical theology.

For example:

How do we distinguish those attributions we predicate of determinate acts & relations from those we predicate
• of determinate being (existents)?
• or of nondeterminate acts & relations?
• or of nondeterminate and/or self-determinate being?
• much less acts w/nondeterminate and/or self-determinate being as source but w/a temporal or determinate terminus?
• aspiring to successful referentiality vs description
• or to intelligibility vs comprehensibility?

For example, Robert Neville’s ontology specifies how God can be referred to both as unchanging, as in the eternal act of creating, as well as dynamic, as inclusive of the life of creation. The divine includes the nondeterminate source of the creative act, its determinate terminus & the creative activity that mediates the source-terminus relation. God’s intelligibility resides in our knowledge of these determinate effects. That a metaphysical model might captures only those determinate dynamics & termini but not their nondeterminate source displays epistemic virtue not vice.

For the hypostases of the Trinity, a person refers to a subsisting relation, as they are constituted by a relation. Ad intra relations are thus attributed “of” the divine persons not “between” them, hence, as a pure act of relating. For nondeterminate and/or self-determinate divine persons, divine simplicity thus entails no constitutive distinction between -not only essence & subsistence as self-subsisting esse, or quiddity & haecceity, or ousia & hypostases, but – the acts of being & relating.

For Peircean accounts, nondeterminate analogs of firstness, secondness & thirdness would lack temporal modality. For Aristotelian accounts, they would lack act-potency relations such as between efficient & material causations or formal & final causations.

These are strictly meta-ontological implications, apophatically predicated of divine being, reality & relations to increase referential accuracy, employing an heuristic that logically models divinity without metaphysically explaining it (i.e. increasing descriptive accuracy). Such heuristics are employed for other metaphysical aporia of emergent realities, e.g. quantum origins, cosmic origins, life origins, sentience origins, language origins. Such aporetic approaches don’t reflect mysterian sensibilities, only a suitable metaphysical fallibilism grounded in a proper epistemic humility.

Over against, on one hand, any radical apophaticism (e.g. an excessively speculative encratism or affective quietism), or, otoh, radical kataphaticism (e.g. excessively speculative rationalism or affective pietism), all which too narrowly conceive knowledge in terms of either successful descriptions, speculatively, or relational encounters, affectively —

A great many human values of deep meaning & profound existential significance are realized from a knowledge grounded in successful references, speculatively, mediated by our shared aesthetic, ethical & logical norms and experiences.

For example, I conceive of epinoia in terms of an epinoetic epistemic method, which employs propria, substantially, and idiomata, hypostatically, to successfully refer to nondeterminate divine relations ad intra, while an ananoetic epistemic method employs the energies, substantially, and the economy, hypostatically, to successfully refer to determinate divine relations ad extra.

Epinoia vs propria or idiômata are discussed in Andrew Radde-Gallwitz’s _Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa and the Transformation of Divine Simplicity_ (Oxford University Press, 2009) as reviewed by David Bradshaw and by Joseph O’Leary.

The best trinitological articulations of classical theism exemplify all of the epistemic virtues of both our best metaphysics & best speculative sciences. So a trinitarian ignosticism’s main methodological objections to these trinitologies can’t reasonably be such as adhocery, mysterianism & doxastic irresponsibility or it will self-subvert from parody as, in it’s anxiety to annihilate trinitarianism, it will also vanquish – not only metaphysics, but – our theoretical sciences.

Those who object to trinitarianism must ground their objections elsewhere, e.g. history, Biblical exegesis, systematics. Good luck with that.

Integral Human Episteme

descriptive & exploratory
• perinoetic|empirical,
• epinoetic|apophatic

normative & evaluative
• dianoetic|aesthetical, ethical & logical

interpretive & explanatory
• diastemic|aporetic
• ananoetic |metaphysical

liberative & transformative
• kinetic|dynamical (strivings for actualization)
• metanoetic|transformative

For future development:

Trinitarian Distinctions of Systematic Theology for Interreligious Dialogue

  • Ousia signify common nouns, propria
  • Hypostases indicate proper nouns, idiomat
  • Dynamis & God refer via idiomata hypostatically not substantially
  • Dynameis include Energeia (ad extra) of the Ousia (ad intra) and Economy (ad extra) of the Hypostases (ad intra)
  • Epinoia as epinoetic process, abductive inference, wherein propria & idiomata descriptively constitute – not definitions of, but – successful references to, respectively, ousia & hypostases (ergo, not nominalist but fallibilist realist re both propria & idiomata, normed by infallible special revelation).
  • • being, reality & relations
  • • substantial, hypostatic & energetic-economic
  • • ad intra & extra relations
  • • esse naturale & intentionale
  • • essential & relational
  • • singular energies & economy
  • • logical (e.g. dogma) & ontic (latitude) explanations
  • • gratuity of creation & grace
  • • universalized & particularized hypostatic presence
  • • creative-imitative & diffusive-substrative
  • • efficient causality, e.g. creation & trans-formal causality, e.g. grace
  • • temporal & eternal authenticity
  • • status (relations of origin) & proper roles (e.g. missions)
  • • Paterological – Cappadocian monarchia & Augustinian principium
  • • inseparable operations, appropriations & missions
  • • Inseparable in what they are, the divine persons are also inseparable in what they do. But within the single divine operation each shows forth what is proper to him in the Trinity, especially in the divine missions of the Son’s Incarnation and the gift of the Holy Spirit
  • • Economy w/activities or roles (temporal)
  • • missions of Word & Spirit (mutually related & nonsubordinate)
  • • appropriated via theophanic, theopoetic mediations, discerned by exegetical-historical encounters of general (vestigia) & special revelations (scriptures, traditions, prayers, liturgies)
  • • obediential potencies of secular conversions & prevenient union of religious conversion
  • • created & uncreated grace
  • • participation & incorporation
  • • analogical claims of systematic theology must be sufficiently demonstrable
  • • the economic trinity, epistemologically, models the immanent trinity (no vice versa of the grundaxiom)
  • • Yong examines the act of creation from a Trinitarian perspective using a metaphor developed by the 3rd century theologian Irenaeus who described the Trinitarian missions of the divine Word and Spirit as the “Two hands of the Father”
  • • vestigia Trinitatis of general revelation
  • • real-hypostatic distinctions (that aren’t otherwise substantial) afford successful references not descriptions
  • • appropriation, an epistemic method, selectively employs references to various essential attributes, otherwise substantially common to all hypostases, only to help distinguish the hypostatic roles, missions or activities of each in the divine operation & economy
  • • To imagine we can make relational distinctions between hypostases, successfully describing them (in some ontological sense), i.e. non-appropriated or proper attributions, rather than merely successfully (real-ly) referring to them & their ontic implications (in only an epistemic sense), i.e. appropriated attributions, seems to be proving too much, saying more than we could possibly know.
  • • ground – nondeterminate
  • • ad intra relationality
  • • eternal creative act production
  • • ad extra relationality
  • • temporal creative act terminus 1
  • • determinate being
  • • temporal creative act production
  • • temporal creative act terminus 2
  • • economic trinity – the HOW of the nondeterminate ground as it becomes determinate
  • • father = source
  • • son = product or end point or terminus
  • • spirit = creative act
  • • nondeterminate
  • • self-determinate – necessary
  • • determinate – contingent

Draw on these Thinkers:
• Dionysius
• Augustine
• Hugh of St Victor
• Richard of St Victor
• Bonaventure
• Ruusbroec
• Julian of Norwich
• Scotus
• Charles Sanders Peirce
• von Balthasar
• Cappadocians
• St Basil
• Palamas
• Vladimir Lossky
• Robert C. Neville
• Amos Yong

For further study:
The Logical Problem of the Trinity
Metaphysically, synergy predicates hypostases. Semantically, “is God” predicates actus & dynamis, e.g. divine power, energies & economy or act-ivity (not ousia or nature) and the number of token energeia done numerically predicate God (not the number of hypostases, i.e. as source, terminus & mediating activity).

Apart from creation, divine energeia tokens have no individuating idiomata.
Divine Mutualities – ad intra: substantial (purus as singular type – weaker Cappadocian claim- dynamis-actus) & relational-dynamical (singular token – stronger Nyssen claim – power) & ad extra: energies & economy (singular token – stronger Nyssen claim – action), where singular token invokes synergy of hypostatic source, terminus & activity

The “Apparent” Tension Between Divine Simplicity & Divine Freedom

The apparent tension between divine simplicity & divine freedom results from the conflation of two distinct categories, the metaphysical & existential with the nonmetaphysical & quidditative.

Especially Cf. The Formulation of Thomistic Simplicity: Mapping Aquinas’s Method for Configuring God’s Essence, JETS 57/2 (June 2014): 371–403.

Other aporia remain but are located elsewhere.

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. [1]

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

Modal Adequacy
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:

actualities, act –> efficient & potency –> material;

regularities, act -> formal; potency –> final.

existentially, act -> existence; potency -> essence.

Finally, we distinguish with Peirce, reality from existence. Gary E. Kessler describes Peirce’s distinction:

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.

Applying this distinction to God, then, in his excursus on Peirce’s Neglected Argument, [2] Kessler continues:

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?

See Addendum below regarding a “dispositional” metaphysic.

I argue that, in both cases, the answer is no.

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 BeingImago 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


Theological Communications

pastoral, homiletics, catechesis, evangelization, missiology, apologetics, Gospel inculturation & moral enculturation

Let’s unpack a Dionysian-like Logic, where:

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 & theopoetics 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

• sapiopoietic – teleologic or end-intended

Cf. https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2017/12/13/contemplative-being-behaving-believing-belonging-desiring-becoming-an-outline-of-foundations/

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

For Peirce,

Being > Reality > Existence

We can successfully reference the

Being of God

Reality of God

Will of God

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

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

Philosophically …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But they accomplish only so much.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another parsing:

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

Propositionally, then –

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

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

Dispositionally, then –

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

See also:




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.

Please see:


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.

Click to access 1234.pdf

“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.

2) A Neglected Argument for the Reality of God (1908) by Charles Sanders Peirce

Regarding the Neglected Argument, Gary E. Kessler writes:

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.

Conversations that touch upon my take above:

Mapping Metaphysical Distinctions: Aristotelian, Thomist, Scotist, Peircean & Palamitic

The “Trans-Formal Distinction” between the Divine Essence & Energies

Divine Simplicity and Modal Collapse

The Krueger-McHugh Debate: Theism or Atheism (2003)

The Formulation of Thomistic Simplicity: Mapping Aquinas’s Method for Configuring God’s Essence, JETS 57/2 (June 2014): 371–403.

Divine Simplicity and the Formal Distinction, Part 2


Philosophical god-talk, Theology of Nature God-talk, Dialogical God-Talk & Polemical GOD-TALK

There’s god-talk and then there’s God-talk.

Philosophical (or natural) theology, or god-talk, refers to the hypothetico-deductive propositions, which take philosophy as their starting point, then argue to establish the reasonableness of various a/theological presuppositions, more generally speaking. Beyond conceptual consistency and internal coherence, which help demonstrate a/theological possibilities, logically, they also rely on a modicum of external congruence, which helps to demonstrate a/theological plausibilities, to generate reasonable suspicions, evidentially.

The propositions of god-talk, then, are essentially tautological in that, while they may or may not be true, they add no new information to our systems. Since not all tautologies are equally taut (plausibilistically), we do aspire to construct them as congruently as we can with the empirical evidence we have available.

Generally speaking, while not all a/theological propositions are equally virtuous, epistemically, we can rest assured that, if we do dig deep enough, we will discover that philosophy, which includes common sense, has long ago demonstrated that both theological and atheological stances can be eminently defensible and not unreasonably held. Most popular a/theological debates engage caricatures of those stances, are not philosophically interesting and are a sad waste of time.

There are other hypothetico-deductive propositions, which take a given creed as their starting point, then argue to establish the reasonableness of various theological conceptions, more particularly speaking. Rather than a natural theology, starting outside the faith, these represent various theologies of nature, which begin within the faith and employ the facts of natural science and interpretations of various metaphysics to better express how the universe, as a general revelation, is related to the God of one’s creed, a special revelation.

In god-talk, philosophy enjoys primacy. God-talk, though, proceeds beyond one’s presuppositional god-talk, while remaining consistent with its general theological priors, to better articulate one’s creedal commitments. In a theology of nature, we don’t appeal to science and philosophy to prove creedal dogma. Instead, we use their concepts – along with the ideas, languages, values and interpretations of other cultures – in a process of inculturation to better share our faith, which norms our God-talk.

Another type of God-Talk, the dialogical, includes both interreligious and ecumenical dialogue, including apologetics, where we can deepen our self-understanding using other stances as a foil, deepen our understanding of others via active listening and possibly discover common grounds.

Finally, we often encounter the polemical GOD-TALK, where others are effectively shouting and proselytizing, argumentatively.

Notes re: philosophical theology to be fleshed out later

  • modal contingency refers to 1ns (EM w/o NC or Possibility or Past), 3ns (NC w/o EM or Probability or Future)
  • modal temporality refers to modal contingency
  • modal adequacy refers to in/finitude
  • trans-modal necessity refers to brute 4ns (Necessity or Atemporality)
  • dependent contingency refers to 2ns (NC + EM or Actuality or Present), where fallacy of composition may or may not apply from case to case

from blog comment:

I no longer enjoy natural theology as most popular conversations engage only caricatures of history’s greatest a/theological thought. As it is, most of its suggestions can be evaluated in a single parlor sitting.

I am really put off by any proselytizing or polemical theology, whether a/theological or internecine.

I have a deep appreciation for dialogical theology, both interreligious and ecumenical. It gives me hope — for peace.

Finally, I really support good theologies of nature, which are mostly about inculturation processes and making the Good News more recognizable using the languages, ideas and interpretations of different sciences, philosophies and cultures to better express the kerygma.