Marrying the Theological Anthropology of David Bentley Hart to a More Compelling Systematic Theology

Metaphysically, we must resist proving too much. We shouldn’t pretend that we can somehow a priori and rationally unscramble reality’s epistemic-ontic omelet of in/determinacies. This is to recognize that we can’t always specify which of reality’s levels of aboutness and/or layers of aporia represent entities and processes that are variously in/determinable and/or in/determined and to what extent. Neither can we specify which of these are primitive and which emergent, as well as which are atomic and which aggregate.

 

A vague phenomenological survey does reveal different types of aboutness or teloi: teleopotent or veldopoietic, teleomatic or cosmopoietic, teleonomic or biopoietic, teleoqualic or sentiopoietic and teleologic or sapiopoietic.

Theologically, we must resist telling untellable stories, philosophically. We shouldn’t pretend that we can somehow a priori and rationally unscramble reality’s theological-metaphysical casserole of teloi. This is to recognize that we don’t know enough about reality’s initial, boundary and limit conditions to determine which of the prevailing equiplausible accounts is more probable (e.g. mereologically, which explanatory account necessarily commits or avoids a fallacy of composition).

 

From a high theoretical altitude, ignoring the cultivars (or weeds) of metaphysical nuance, those philosophical theological accounts essentially reduce to nihilism, pantheism, deism, panen-theism, pan-entheism and classical theism.

 

A nihilism can derive from either a thoroughgoing determined reality of primitives, forces & laws or a thoroughgoing indetermined reality of dynamical, energetic contingencies or even some blend of such necessity & contingency, pattern & paradox, order & chaos. In any case, such outlooks will unavoidably reduce to epistemic nominalism, evaluative voluntarism, normative relativism, interpretive skepticism and existential nihilism, at least, in terms of eternal & ultimate concerns. (Arguably, temporally & proximately, there most certainly can be evaluative & normative, including moral, realisms, as well as weak, epistemic foundationalisms.) Such outlooks remain inescapably brute vis a vis any PSR (principle of sufficient reason) in that they a priori suggest that reality as a whole might, some day, be sufficiently explained, i.e. by an exhaustive account of its parts, as well as ontologically in/determined.

 

The prevailing theistic accounts approach reality as – not brute, but – the fruit of an eminently personal deity, Who sufficiently explains as well as ontologically causes the whole of determinate reality.

 

Some are motivated to embrace one worldview versus another based on various indispensable methodological presuppositions like, for example, naturalism or a PSR (weak or strong versions). HOWEVER –

 

Just because naturalism is an indispensable methodological presupposition doesn’t mean it necessarily holds, metaphysically, it only means that we will be unfortunate if it does.

 

Just because some (weak) Principle of Sufficient Reason is an indispensable methodological presupposition doesn’t mean it necessarily holds, metaphysically, it only means that we will be unfortunate if it does not.

 

One opts for an ultimate nihilism or naturalism, deism or theism, then, with other than apodictic certainty and on other than a priori rational presuppositions or metaphysical foundations. Does that necessarily implicate an unavoidable fideism? No.

 

All human epistemology boils down, in my view, to a pragmatic, semiotic realism, which is essentially fallibilistic and consistent with a number of reasonable, even though contradictory, metaphysical accounts, including eminently defensible minority positions alongside more common-sensical majority positions and folk psychological approaches.

 

In my view, since a pragmatic semiotic realism accounts for most human value-realizations, no mere fideism need account for one’s leap of faith past an ultimate nihilism. Faced with otherwise equiplausible approaches to reality writ large that are both a/theologically consistent and metaphysically coherent, why not opt, existentially, for that approach to human value-realizations which is, ultimately & eternally, the most meaningful & least absurd, anthropologically?

 

And, especially, why not thus opt if there are reliable, credible, authoritative and trustworthy voices across millennia, who’ve given witness to such approaches, wherein & whereby certain human value-realizations have presented and which, moreover, have appeared to be effects otherwise proper to no known determinate causes? That’s not fideism but fides et ratio par excellence!

 

Anthropologically, then, I commend the stance of David Bentley Hart, which, from one perspective, might be portrayed in terms of a theological suite of apophatic eschewals, which negate

1) instrumental accounts of evil, suffering & pain

2) evidential theodicies

3) libertarianisms

4) compatibilisms

5) intellectualisms

6) voluntarisms

7) consequential (& instrumental) disproportionalities and

8) frozen human potentialities (limited potencies) post-mortem.

 

Systematically, while there are coherent accounts under classical theism, which can be sustained consistent with certain logical defenses regarding the problem of evil, in my view, unless one employs a nuanced incarnational divine omnipathy in that defense (as I’ve elaborated elsewhere), merely relying on such distinctions as divine antecedent & consequent wills and on such as privation theories to account for all evil just doesn’t render accounts that are sufficiently persuasive, rhetorically, or satisfying, existentially, to many minds & hearts because, however consistent they may be logically, they don’t square with our common sense & sensibilities vis a vis our quotidian personal interrelational dynamics. Others have well inventoried such shortcomings.

 

On the whole, though, a suitably nuanced version of a doctrine of divine simplicity will have much to commend it, especially if it properly distinguishes between the divine nature and will, between divine esse naturale and intentionale, allowing for a thin passibility and recognizing a wide Pareto front of equipoised optimalities (rather than any singular best world scenario). For their part, determinate realities would variously reflect vestigia, imagines & similitudines Dei, all with varying degrees of incipient teloi, intentionalities and freedom.

 

There could be a multiversal plurality of different tehomic, formless voids, each a prevenient & uncreated chaos, representing all manner of eternal and/or ephemeral teloi of varying degrees of in/determinedness, constituting structured (some more so & some less so) fields of activity, each inherently (although variously) receptive to all manner of divine invitations (creatio ex profundis) to participate in novel teloi (creatio ex nihilo).

 

 

Each new Imago Dei would be soteriologically eternalized (thus divinely & radically determined) and sophiologically poised for growth in intimacy as a Similitudino Dei (per one’s radically free response in every participatory space opened by divine kenotic indeterminacies).

 

Such an approach would remain phenomenologically vague, hence metaphysically agnostic. One couldn’t specify the precise nature of any tehomic chaos vis a vis, for example, its degrees of incipient telos, intentionality or freedom versus what novelty was introduced by the creative divine esse intentionale, beyond insisting that the latter, in terms of being, only ever introduces what’s ameliorative, therapeutic, invitatory & eternalizing, where truth, beauty, goodness, unity and freedom are concerned, all over against what would otherwise be metaphysically (inherently) unavoidable in the way of tehomic pain, suffering, natural evil and moral evil. The divine will would thereby always reveal that truth, beauty, goodness, unity and freedom greater than which could not otherwise be conceived without introducing metaphysical incoherence, theological contradiction or anthropological absurdity.

 

Such a dynamical, divine matrix (as that of Joe Bracken) in dialogue with classical theism and a personalist Thomism (as that of Norris Clarke) would escape the flirtations with nominalism & determinism that inhere in many process theisms.

 

Because my account remains metaphysically agnostic (e.g. vis a vis a given root metaphor), poised between process & classical approaches but inspired by Peirce’s pragmatic semiotic realism, I call it a Tehomic Pan-semio-entheism: creatio ex nihilo ex profundis.

 

It ambitions no metaphysic and no evidential theodicy, but offers a logical defense to the problems of pain, suffering and natural & moral evils. This would all be consistent with a radically, divinely determined, soteriological apokatastasis, where each Imago Dei enjoys an aesthetic freedom gifted by an emergent abductive inference, anthropologically, as well as with radically indetermined relational & moral freedoms, whereby each Similitudino Dei can grow in divine intimacy, sophiologically.

This is all more fully explicated in Retreblement.

 

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

 

The Vestigia, Imagines & Similitudines Dei per Universalism & Apokatastasis

Human reality fully transcends the teleo-potent, -matic, -nomic, -qualic as teleo-logic

beyond the essential, dynamical human being/becoming (acting per existential, material & final human potencies), as vestigia Dei (autopoietic, but as more determined, less indetermined)

w/a distinctively human abduction as it transcends abductive instinct w/abductive inference, fostering a more versatile, plastic behavioral repertoire, aesthetically, i.e. vis a vis choosing among divine teloi & logoi w/an enlightened self-interest (erotically & proto-ethically), e.g. Bernardian love, Ignatian degrees of humility, Kohlberg’s stages, imperfect contrition, etc, of human persons as imagines Dei … every distinctively personal act constitutes a volitional disposition re both what to freely will (among divine logoi) and whether to (freely) will at all (i.e. choosing not just instinctively but inferentially), so as less determined, more indetermined

next (at age of reason) realizing a more versatile, plastic behavioral repertoire, ethically, i.e. vis a vis choosing among even more divine teloi & logoi by transcending self-interests (agapically & ethically), e.g. Bernardian love, Ignatian degrees of humility, Kohlberg’s stages, perfect contrition, etc, of a person becoming (virtuous and/or vicious 2nd natures), thereby with a more expansive aesthetic scope, too, as similitudines Dei, as much more indetermined

Considerations of human volition, a freely willing human, must avoid absolute notions of in/determinism, for the personal freedom of humans presents only in terms of degrees, whereby we are free-enough to truly enjoy meaningful (good-enough, beautiful-enough, dayenu) value-realizations.

It seems to me that human persons are determined enough so as to be radically unable to thwart the divine logoi ordered toward our personal being (essential nature as imagines Dei) but are indetermined enough so as to be radically able to thwart those divine logoi ordered toward our personal becoming (secondary nature as similitudines Dei).

All other conceptions of human freedom are facile & simplistic, and fall prey to tautological nonsense and analytical paradox, anthropologically, either indeterministically reducing to all sorts of ridiculous voluntarisms & libertarianisms or deterministically yielding silly intellectualisms & compatibilisms.

Neither Thomist nor Scotist nor Molinist theological anthropologies, properly approached, fall prey to such anthropological nonsense, essentially, because their explicit/implicit “theories of everything” embrace a priniciple of “sufficient” reason, which is neither the idealist monist PSR of Spinoza, which reduces to pantheism, nor a materialist monist PSR, which reduces to nihilism. There are various physicalist & naturalist approaches that vary in their interpretations of necessity & in/determinacy, but they go beyond the heuristic of a suitably nuanced Aristotelian hylemorphism to prove too much, in my view.

How one conceives human freedom vis a vis ultimate realities will always boil down to one’s stipulations re mereological (whole-part conception), metaphysical (root metaphor) and teleological (PSR version) primal realities.

Below are some reflections evoked by:

Despairing into Gehenna: Manis, Kierkegaard, and the Choice Model

One upshot of divine simplicity [DDS] and actus purus, when understood in terms of apophatic negation, would be that one way determinate being differs from divine being is that the former can act only in relationship to limited potencies.

The human being, constitutively, enjoys a freedom that phylogenetically (in its evolutionary lineage) presented with the emergence of symbolic language. Prior to the age of reason, where new freedoms (moral & spiritual) will emerge, ontogenetically (in its individual development), a human child already enjoys a freedom of choosing among equally optimal self-interested choices with a behavioral plasticity that differs – not only quantitatively, but – qualitatively from other primates.

Specifically, as a child matures, its (aesthetic) scope of self-interested choices is not limited to mere abductive instincts, which many animals exhibit, but is expanded by abductive inference, an if-then calculus driven by an early imagination that’s growing exponentially. This exponential expansion of behavioral plasticity precisely results from an unmooring of the nonarbitrary range of instinctive responses by the child’s growing repertoire of arbitrary symbol conventions.

I emphasize this constitutive freedom of choosing among equally optimal goods per a young human’s first order desires (what they want) to note its relationship to human eros, what St Bernard distinguished in terms of love of self for sake of self and love of God and/or others for sake of self. From this eros, young (and old) humans experience imperfect contrition, i.e. expressing sorrow due to our just punishment and growing in enlightened self-interest (choosing being over nonbeing). I mention this in the context of reminding all that such an imperfect contrition is all that’s ever been required “to be saved” and to observe that I was taught that it would be heretical to suggest otherwise.

Thus, it seems to me that, soteriologically, human beings are intrinsically constituted by all that’s both necessary and sufficient to be saved?

Furthermore, this elemental human freedom possesses a distinct proto-moral and proto-spiritual character, which means that it can potentially progress beyond its constitutive & soteriological essential nature to realize a more robustly elective & sophiological secondary nature, which might determine – not its eschatological destiny, but – its beatitudinal scope. By that, I mean to suggest that it could progress in Bernardian love, beyond the erotic to the agapic, i.e. love of God & others for their own sake, thus expanding its original frontier of equally optimal choices (what some would call a Pareto front), thus enjoying an expanded aesthetic scope of choosing among even more goods, albeit always acting within limited potencies.

Thus we can parse human freedom, constitutively & electively, soteriologically and sophiologically, erotically & agapically, in terms of aesthetic scope expansion, moral progress & growth in intimacy (theosis).

Thus we can distinguish between 1) willing among equally optimal goods, aesthetically; 2) whether we will or not, morally & spiritually; and 3) what we will. Our “willing among” goods and volitional option “between” willing or not (choosing between being & nonbeing, good & evil) refer to human freedoms. “What we will” has been determined by divine logoi, teloi, intentionale, etc.

Coming full circle to the DDS & Actus Purus, might this portrait of the imago Dei not illuminate our understanding of divine being? If we properly distinguish between the divine nature and will, esse naturale and intentionale, might we not glimpse a thin divine passibility, where the divine will chooses – never between good and evil, being and nonbeing, but – along an eternal Pareto front of equally optimal “best” worlds, no such choices entailing either improvements or impairments of an ever-perfect divine nature’s aesthetic intensity but only “affecting” a divine aesthetic scope? Would this not account, exegetically & Christologically, for the distinction between Jesus’ natural will and the Father’s will as He prayed for the passing of that particular Cup? Would this not account for human second order desires, theotically, for example, such as when we grow with holy indifference in Ignatian degrees of humility, from image to likeness, praying for our transformation even in “what we want to want”? That’s to say – not only regarding second order desires pertaining to our choosing “between” being and nonbeing, but – our longing to please others and God in our choosing “among” equally optimal goods in holy submission to wills not our own?

Of course, we differ from Jesus in that our natural wills have a gnomic character due to our temporal epistemic distancing, which may even perdure in some manner post-mortem for some duration. If my apokatastatic intuitions are correct, our gnomic willing affects and effects – not soteriological realities of our essential natures vis a vis the imago Dei, but – our sophiological trajectories as we grow our secondary natures in intimacy and beatitude.

These implications of my universalism thus turn on this distinction:

A single will to raise up the image, but two to make the image into a likeness. ~ Lossky

This implicates another distinction – that between our essential & secondary natures. Human freedom determines only WHETHER one chooses to will at all & not WHAT one wills (in participating with divine logoi), incrementally forming a virtuous or vicious secondary nature or various degrees of both.

Vicious choices are privative of being, hence eternally self-annihilating as God honors human freedom. This is to suggest that, whatever reality they exhibit temporally, will not perdure eternally (much less be eternalized instantaneously & proleptically like our virtuous acts).

Virtuous natures are eternalized, both proleptically (i.e. harvested, instantaneously, is every trace of human goodness, every beginning of a smile, all wholesome trivialities) & eschatologically, by virtue of necessarily being joined to divine intentionale.

Even if, hypothetically, a given person’s eternal being was, in the end, constituted only by their essential nature as an imago Dei, having developed no virtuous secondary nature whatsoever (even after all epistemic distancing has been closed, whether temporally or even post-mortem), there can be no talk of self-annihilation for an imago Dei’s not self-determined (cf Lossky’s one will). Neither would God’s perfect will annihilate such an imago Dei, for that would amount to a divine self-contradiction.

What’s at stake, then, would be the nature of one’s eternal beatitude, perhaps in terms of aesthetic scope, which would be self-determinedly wider for one who’s developed a virtuous secondary nature.

Dogmatic Presuppositions of my theological anthropology

In a way, the answers — to such questions as

1) “libertarianism or compatibilism?”

2) “intellectualism or voluntarism?” and

3) “will or intellect or character?” — aren’t even wrong (regarding either divine or human natures).

For human persons, this is because there are 3 indispensable acts, limited by potentialities, involved in every human choice. These include

1) existence in potency to being,

2) efficient to material (will) and

3) formal to final (intellect), each necessary, none alone sufficient. Of course, this part wouldn’t apply to Actus Purus.

Character (habitus) stands halfway between those acts and potentialities, like iron forged into

1) leg braces, facilitating and/or

2) a bear trap, crippling the potentialities,

although in the latter case, never able (either temporally or eschatologically) to kill them, as they’re, in principle, inherently realizable (both temporally and eternally).

God does not punish habits, only acts, ergo, God allows misery only as a punishment for acts.

Why Suffering in God’s Presence doesn’t make sense to me

I am grateful for these conversations. They make me scratch my head and help me process my muddled thoughts. If anyone catches my drift, that’s a blessing for me. If anyone challenges me to be more artful in expression, that helps me, too. Most of all, any challenges to the substance of my views has, eventually, brought me closer to the truth and our God. In that spirit, then:

Even once casting aside the classical libertarianism & compatibilism framings as nonsensical category errors (what I mean by saying such “answers aren’t even wrong” but are gibberishtic anthropological caricatures), I have strived, awkwardly, to more intuitively grasp how to avoid the notion that a human person’s eternal destiny isn’t wholly determined.

In other words, while it may be logically valid and internally consistent to argue, analytically, that humans are created as “freely willing the Godly-determined” by using definitions of freedom that, to many, sound paradoxical (but make perfect sense! In terms of virtu-osity!), I still want more than a syllogism.

I want a story in which I can participate, holistically and imaginatively. Good news? From the online lectures (youtube) of DBH, one can tell that he will be gifting nourishment for both head & heart in _That All May Be Saved_.

Still –

If the will is located in efficient causation, free in the sense of WHETHER one chooses to will at all, and also in the sense of choosing AMONG goods, that, in my view, offers an eminently satisfying account of freedom, not just cognitively but emotionally. In these senses, persons are manifestly self-determined, created as freely willing.

There is another sense of freedom, which imagines a person’s capacity to choose WHAT is good, in other words to self-determine and to define and to appropriate being & goodness as they imagine same. In this sense, then, some view freedom in terms of choosing BETWEEN good & evil (apparent good), being & nonbeing (apparent being), virtue & vice. This view falls into incoherence because WHAT is good and constitutes being has indeed already been wholly determined by God and we are not free to determine or define same.

What about the “freedom” to choose otherwise, though, to opt for evil or nonbeing? That’s nonsensical on the grounds that evil or nonbeing, as privation, doesn’t successfully refer, ontologically. That definition of freedom lacks an ontic reference and entails an epistemic error, propositionally.

Nevertheless, dispositionally, our choices can, indeed, be culpable & such habits, clearly, vicious.

Under the true definition of freedom, to refrain from choosing among goods when acting, i.e. giving no “consideration” to what God has determined, is intuitively recognized by most as “inconsiderate” behavior. While such can be just a plain mistake rooted in finitude, it can also be culpable (sinful refusal). Such a willful and culpable blindness, in my view, constitutes a self-determined behavior, “freely” chosen in the “whether & among sense” even though not the “what & between” sense. And it can habitually accrete into a vicious nature. I just believe that God honors such free choices through eternal annihilation, which we can self-determine vis a vis our “second nature” or acquired dispositions.

And I doubt anyone wholly lacks some measure of a virtuous nature, which will indeed be eternalized.

Even a person’s essential imago Dei — if largely bereft of any significant growth (2nd nature) from that particular image to likeness, if primarily wholly determined, if self-determined to the most meager degree conceivable and if not even discernibly responsive to some post-mortem epistemic-closure & beatific illumination — would not experience the Presence in misery, precisely because God has wholly determined otherwise. In God’s governance, punishment ensues only from sin (moral choices).

1) Because our moral nature emerges as a second nature from our essential nature, and
2) because, eschatologically, there are no longer moral acts, and
3) because acts not natures are punished under any circumstances,
no such misery can be experienced.

However one approaches the reality of innocent suffering in a cosmos fallen into dis-order by sin, temporally, such a disorder will, by definition, be eschatologically repaired.

voluntarism, intellectualism, libertarianism & compatibilism – Oh my!

Any proper transcendence of the category errors of voluntarism, intellectualism, libertarianism & compatibilism won’t entail a dissolution of in/determinacies.

What we can will (among) has been determined, while whether we will at all has not, the former as formal acts in limited potency to final causes, the latter as efficient acts in potency to material. Halfway between such acts & potency, habitus presents as virtuous & vicious 2nd natures, able to facilitate or cripple, but never to kill, potentialities.

This is why Thomas Talbott can say: Personally, I seriously doubt that God causally determines every event that occurs, whether it be the change of state of a radium atom, a dog’s leaping this way rather than that while romping in the yard, or the free choice of an independent rational agent.

https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2016/06/09/free-will-theodicies-of-hell/

Why should such an irrational choice, even if not causally determined, be any more compatible with genuine moral freedom than a rigorous determinism would be? ~ Talbott

In our temporal affairs, we routinely impute guilt to those deemed willfully blind. In criminal law, we employ such terms as willful neglect, reasonable diligence, reckless indifference, knew or should have known, should reasonably have known, etc In our quotidian affairs we refer to willful blindness or ignorance and self-deception. Moral theologians distinguish in/vincible ignorance and nescience, more crass when deliberate than affected, blameworthy in either case, more gravely wrong for serious matters.

That all such behavior is irrational to various degrees, nevertheless, it retains its inculpating character. That’s why so many irrational choices, even if not causally determined, are universally deemed more compatible with genuine moral freedom than any rigorous determinism.

My rule of thumb in theological anthropology is to preserve, as far as practicable, our common sense & sensibilities, so as not to violate the integrity of the freely willing person. Therefore, tautologically concluding that all irrational behavior is, in principle, exculpating, does not sufficiently square with our ordinary moral intuitions. Our universalist apologetics, then, best appeal to infinite mercy & forgiveness rather than argue for a counterintuitive analytic, syllogistic innocence. Having deftly avoided the shoals of voluntarism, we must similarly steer clear of intellectualistic appeals, which ignore the vicious habitus that can impede the efficient cause of the will in realizing its potentialities.

Whether a vicious nature stands halfway between the acts & potentialities of the will or intellect, still, it can in no way, temporally or eternally, extinguish them, as they remain inherently realizable.

Pastor Tom Belt has persuasively argued a Maximian irrevocability thesis: “Hart’s view is an argument for the impossibility of the will foreclosing upon all possibility of Godward becoming. Such foreclosure would be teleological foreclosure.”

Again, invoking my rule of thumb in theological anthropology – to preserve, as far as practicable, our common sense & sensibilities, so as not to violate the integrity of the freely willing person – Belt’s Maximian irrevocability thesis squares better with our human experience than the overly speculative account of any putative irreversibility theses vis a vis avoiding such conceptual discontinuities between now & the eschaton as would render our anthropology unintelligible.

Now, if I may presume to paraphrase Talbott: Add to Belt’s Maximian irrevocability thesis the condition of minimal rationality and it seems impossible that anyone rational enough to qualify as a free moral agent would freely embrace an objective horror forever.

That’s as close as one can come to splitting the difference between a hopeful, practical universalism & an affirmation of a robustly theoretic universalism.

It seems to me that it’s quite possible a our viscious 2nd natures may not transist into the eschaton, especially if considered as privations of becoming. They may well thus be annihilated as God honors one’s choice for a self-determined non-becoming (refraining from growth in likeness). There can otherwise be no annihilation, in principle, for an imago Dei, as no one can freely self-determine non-being for an intrinsically good & absolutely valuable creation. The imago Dei plus any inklings of our virtuous 2nd natures (no one has none, whatsoever?) are eternalized, as God honors our self-determined choices for becoming (theotic realizations of divine & creaturely wills together).

Notes:

Calvin, Luther, Aquinas & Scotus

The Antecedent and Consequent Will of God: Is This a Valid and Useful Distinction? by Andrew Hussman

Perhaps St. Anselm was on the right track when he classified the scriptural concepts under discussion here not as antecedens et consequens, but as misericordiae et iustitiae. This comes close to another distinction of God’s will, legalis et evangelicus. Law and gospel are found on every page of Scripture.

The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Biblical Interpretation edited by Paul M. Blowers, Peter W Martens

Bonaventure & Scotus on 1 Timothy 2:4

W

Gloria Frost: When the passages in which Aquinas and Scotus explicitly discuss the origin of contingency in creation are read in context with attention to the kind of contingency each is discussing, similarities between their views can be identified and the objections raised against their respective views can be solved.

In sum, for Aquinas the proximate reason for why an effect is contingently caused is the fact that it was produced by a contingently operating secondary cause. The ultimate reason, however, for why the effect was contingently caused is the efficacy of God’s will which willed for the effect to come about through a contingent mode of causation and thus, willed a contingent cause for it. Regarding the contingent mode of existence that belongs to all created effects, Aquinas says that the proximate reason for why every created effect is contingently existing is the fact that God freely causes every created effect.

In sum, when Scotus identified God’s contingent mode of causation as the source of the contingency of creatures, he was referring to the contingent mode of existence that belongs to all creatures. Like Aquinas, he thought that the capacity of the divine will to cause creatures contingently was founded on the fact that the divine will only necessarily wills the divine goodness, which is complete and self-sufficient.

Similarly, Scotus would have agreed with Aquinas’s position that effects are contingently caused by their proximate causes because of the efficacy of the divine will which chooses which kind of causes exist in creation.

Scotus, however, thinks that although the effects produced by God alone and those produced by both God and contingently operating secondary causes both follow from contingently operating proximate causes, they are fundamentally different in their modal features. The former effects have a single potency for non-existence, while the latter have double possibility for nonexistence. Thus, in Scotus’s view contingently operating secondary causes are a necessary condition for God to introduce into creation a secondary contingency, which adds an additional layer of indeterminacy to the contingent mode of existence which all creatures enjoy.

Scotus’s point is that God necessarily wills only those things that are necessary for what God loves in himself (i.e. his goodness). Thus, no creature is willed necessarily, since what is lovable in God does not require any creature for its existence. Like Aquinas, Scotus thought that God’s freedom not to create stemmed from the self-sufficiency and completeness of what is good, and therefore lovable, in God himself. If God’s contingent mode of causation with respect to creatures is traced to the self-sufficiency of the divine goodness, then the contingent mode of existence that belongs to creatures will similarly have this as its ultimate foundation.

Aquinas and Scotus on the Source of Contingency, Oxford Studies in Medieval Philosophy, 2014 by Gloria Frost

At Academia: Retreblement – A Systematic Apocatastasis & Pneumatological Missiology

At Scribd: Retreblement – A Systematic Apocatastasis & Pneumatological Missiology

More Eschatological Anthropology

I resonate with certain central elements of Dr Manis’ approach, e.g. that in *some* sense the divine will can be thwarted, that annihilation is incompatible with divine presence & that creaturely moral freedom’s a logically necessary condition of communion.

I also resonate with Fr Aidan’s recognition that no metaphysical necessity’s imposed on God. It is from both general & special revelations that we have been gifted with some knowledge of the logic that onto-logically inheres and theo-logically coheres in the divine’s relationship with determinate realities. That relationship, of course, has ensued from – not metaphysical necessity, but – a self-determinate, divine kenosis.

Our knowledge of same, at the same time, remains fallible & inchoate. Regarding the problem of evil, for example, I reject (even recoil from) theodicies re the *evidential* problem, instead opting for Job 38 (where were you???!!!), but I do embrace a divine presence solution to the *existential* problem, i.e. (Be not afraid! I AM with you!).

More directly bearing on this discussion, though, I personally experience much consolation from many of the defenses to the *logical* problem of evil, ranging across the theological spectrum (from classical to process approaches).

To be fully coherent, then, it seems we must aspire to pull together a solution that satisfies the problem of evil in a way that’s — not only *logically* consistent (and even the best atheistic philosophers now concede that accomplishment, which is why they focus on *evidential* theodicies), but — *existentially* satisfying.

Such a solution, then, must be neither evidentially pretentious (re: why God allowed this particular evil) nor soteriologically presumptuous (re: why God must do this) in addressing divine reality (e.g. suggesting definite metaphysical and/or moral divine necessities).

Thus it is that the more nuanced universalist stances will, in my view, aspire to reconcile the best classical defenses with the best existential intuitions, the latter grown — not propositionally from logical argumentations, but — dispositionally from theotic participations.

Beyond the arguments of Athens & energies of Athos, those participations will also include such quotidian realities as, for a prime example, the raising of children.

There is, then, in all authentic human loving, a trans-rational apophaticism, which, beyond all proposals of speculative affirmations & negations, disposes one via a movement of the will (e.g. including a will graced with a virtuous habitus)? Such a movement of the will, whether of parental, spousal or other communal loves, pretty much inevitably & in principle, will come up short in what it can articulate via its co-causal movement of the intellect, which falters in its effablings regarding life’s truly ineffable experiences.

It is from my experience as a parent & grandparent, then, coupled with my gratuitously gifted formation & sacramental participation in a healing, reconciling & loving community of faith, that I want to proclaim “THAT all may be saved,” even as I struggle to give a metaphysical or theological account of *why* or *how*.

Yet, I’m here to learn how to better defend that hope, which is indeed within me, that I and others might move more swiftly, with less hindrance & greater consolation on our temporal journeys into eternity.

Another of my feeble efforts to defend my hope follows, but I am more sure regarding why Fr Aidan’s and others’ intuitions truly matter, much less sure that I can convey my own in a sufficiently artful & accessible manner.

I use a lot of question marks, below, not to solicit answers but to indicate my own intellectual tentativeness. My hope is firm but my expression falters.

While I find it problematic to conceive how there could ever be a definitive teleological foreclosure (cf. Pastor Tom Belt), neither would I want to deny the necessity of a creaturely freedom to refrain from willing. Further, properly understood, both the Thomistic and Scotistic anthropologies, in my view, suitably avoid the libertarian, compatibilist, voluntarist & intellectualist incoherencies. Human acts can indeed, at the same time, be irrational & culpable or impassioned & culpable, because the reality of human freedom presents in degrees.

Admittedly, we find it hard to define & difficult to discern exactly how and precisely when such thresholds get crossed in terms of degrees of both affectivity & rationality as they impinge on various degrees of culpability.

Still, if we deny our common sense & sensibilities regarding our experiences of human freedom, whether temporally or eschatologically, we risk abandoning what little intelligibility we enjoy regarding same. We inescapably must rely on that same intelligibility that we must employ in our daily approach to the realities of our dynamical human transformation (including moral conversion, spiritual formation & theosis).

Therefore, what?

While creaturely moral freedom’s a logically necessary condition of communion, what if, like freedom, the reality of communion also presents in degrees?

Is there not a modicum of communion, even in that imago Dei, who’s not crossed the threshold into the human moral life, whether due to age, illnesses or deformative dynamics? Or, who enjoys little in the way of theotic participation in the human spiritual life, i.e. little or no growing in likeness? Or, who’s even culpably developed a vicious second nature, but undeniably remains divinely indwelled and teleologically oriented, eternally & inherently?

What *is* a vicious nature but a habit of refraining from whether one wills to will at all regarding — not *be-ing* per se, but — one’s *be-coming*? To refrain, that is, from whether one wills to will at all regarding — not one’s essential nature or very existence, but — one’s growing from image to likeness?

What if one could only self-determinedly choose — not to be or not to be, but — to become or not become?

What if, in the same way we mustn’t ontologize evil, perhaps, neither should we reify the concept of a vicious nature, which habitually chooses non-becoming?

What if we should otherwise also, in part, conceive of such an imago Dei in terms of what it has freely & definitively determined not to *become*, even though it would & must, nevertheless, thus persist in *being* for all eternity? Even that putatively definitive determination *not to become*, though, should be approaching the threshold of a practical inconceivability, at least for those of us who couple Belt’s irrevocability thesis with Talbott’s virtual impossibility thesis (my description of the latter)?

Even stipulating to such an eschatological anthropology, as would remain an essentially hopeful — not a theoretically necessary — universalism, there remains a question regarding how such an imago Dei, bereft of any robustly moral & spiritual becoming, might subjectively experience the Eschaton.

To what extent might its experience be tortuous, whether formatively, restoratively or retributively?

In my view, once determinate reality has been made whole, cosmically reconciled, in principle, creatures would not be susceptible to existential deprivations or depredations. An imago Dei, not grown into divine likeness beyond its irrevocable, essential nature, might, rather quietistically, enjoy a minimalist reverie of aesthetic scope, while others enjoy, in various degrees, more expansive scopes (as I’ve discussed elsewhere), continuing to exercise their freedom in an eternal fugue of choosing among divine goods.

So, perhaps, authentic freedom entails relational, just not existential, self-determination?
Perhaps one’s self-determined choice to refrain from becoming could, in principle, be exercised irrevocably & eternally, hence never definitively?

Perhaps such a choosing might best be conceived in terms similar to that of a sacred, precious imago Dei, as one who, prior to the age of reason, possesses the same absolute, intrinsic value as that shared by all innocent children?

Perhaps such a self-determined refraining (including post-mortem, even after all epistemic closures), eschatologically, no longer could involve a culpable refraining from the consideration or not of goods in one’s acts, in principle, since any such neediness as would have motivated such acts, temporally, will have been obviated, eschatologically, by the cosmic reconciliation?

In other words, such an eschatological reordering would be metaphysically incompatible with such deprivations & depredations as would’ve formerly been compatible with the old temporal, lapsarian dis-order?

Eschatological freedom would thus entail only whether one wills to will at all, i.e. one’s *choosing* or not (in & of itself) among eternal goods & becomings, as well as any choosing *among* such potentialities (that array of divinely determined goods & becomings)? It could not otherwise involve a choosing *between* divinely determined goods and reified evils (by disordered appetites or inordinate attachments), which would be ontologically nonsensical. Nor could it involve refraining from a choice from/for non/being, which has never been an existential prerogative of the imago Dei over against the divine will, anyway.

Eternal annihilation of any imago Dei remains off the table as conceptually incompatible with its essential nature and theologically incoherent, as it would constitute a reversal of the eternal divine intentionale?

I believe, therefore, that God honors the freedom of human persons by eternalizing all self-determined acts of human becoming (as synergetic divine participations) and by refraining from any eternalizations of our non-participatory acts (such as we refer to in terms of vicious 2nd natures) i.e. our choices “not to become.” As such, our virtuous 2nd natures transition into eternity along with our essential natures, while our vicious 2nd natures will self-determinedly perish (a virtual self-annihilation), which certainly remains, to an extent, and in *some* way, a lamentable thwarting of the divine will. What it would not amount to is an unmitigated loss. Such choices would (self-punitively & consequently) cost one tremendous but nonessential opportunities, but, in the end, no loss of an original & essential goodness. Such choices would amount to a gratuitous superabundance foregone, but with no loss of an abundant life redeemed, that’s to say, reoriented, saved, healed, sanctified & empowered, as a new creation.

Our participatory imaginations gift us, integrally & relationally, unity, beauty, goodness, freedom & truth, forming our dispositions (senses & sensibilities) toward various ways of belonging, desiring, behaving, transcending & believing, as expressed in our attitudes regarding & personal commitments to others, the cosmos, God & even our own selves, as told & retold in our stories.

One, who’s thus properly disposed & committed, can then imaginatively engage others thru inspired storytelling, thereby, in turn, fostering others’ healthy participations, dispositions & commitments.

Such storytelling may, more or less, lend itself to a more rigorous cognitive map-making, foundationally, which is to say, historically, exegetically, scientifically, philosophically & metaphysically. Theologically, such foundations can then systematically underwrite our ecclesiologies, soteriologies, sacramentologies, sophiologies & eschatologies.

There are countless pastors, homilists & spiritual directors from diverse faith traditions, who’ve articulated robustly pneumatological ecclesiologies, radically inclusive soteriologies, profusely incarnational sacramentologies, remarkably polydoxic sophiologies & universally efficacious eschatologies – as awakened & enlivened by human solidarity & compassion & retold in personal stories, thus implicitly grounded in their collective participatory imaginations.

Some are better than others, when it comes to explicitly mapping such dispositions, systematically & foundationally. Make no mistake, though, it can be done, especially, it seems to me, by those who recognize certain resonances between Franciscan, Scotist sensibilities & Eastern Orthodox sophiological approaches.

For example, however harshly one might wish to critique certain of Fr Richard Rohr’s explicit foundational apologetics, far more importantly & deserving of way more emphasis, implicit in the collective oeuvre of his lifetime’s ministry, is precisely such an ecclesiology, soteriology, sacramentology, sophiology & eschatology that I would to defend in my Retreblement: A Systematic Apocatastasis & Pneumatological Missiology.

This is to suggest that one shouldn’t ever miss the concrete, dispositional, participatory theophanic, theopoetic, theopoietic & theotic forests for the abstract, propositional, cognitive theological, metaphysical trees. As it is, robustly metaphysical descriptions & rigorous theological formulations necessarily elude us, in principle, while vaguely semantical references & broad heuristical contours guide us, in practice.

Following Ignatius, we must charitably presuppose the most orthodox interpretations of our theological interlocutors, not reflexively & habitually construing ambiguities & inadequate or inartful expressions against them.

Integrally, Fr. Rohr’s robustly pneumatological ecclesiology, radically inclusive soteriology, profusely incarnational sacramentology, remarkably polydoxic sophiology & universally efficacious eschatology are grounded in his Franciscan (common) sensibilities, Scotistic meta-heuristic (common) sensicalities & Eastern sympathies, both Orthodoxy’s sophiological tradition as well as the Orient’s nondual traditions. All of these presuppose, then, certain outlooks, theologically (i.e. paterological, Christological, pneumatological & Trinitological approaches) and anthropologically (as, continuous with all vestigia Dei & uniquely as imagines Dei, theotic intimacization invites each person to progress via similitudo Dei).

To wit:

A. implicatory trinitarian theology (of divine esse naturale):

  • 1) interpersonal propria
  • 2) intimate idiomata
  • 3) invitatory (ad intra ur-kenosis) relata

B. intertwined temporal missions of creation, conservation & consummation (mutually entailing acts of ad extra kenosis) via tri-personal presences (multi-form unitive revelations, i.e. mutual intimaci-zations not mani-fold encounters of separate exemplifications), where

C. inseparable “opera ad extra” are tri-personal while also especially revealing of particular exemplifications via their “proper roles” where the

D. immensity of the divine universal presence, which is variously im/mediate, in/visible & intense, the effects of which are tri-personally operative as well as personally appropriated in the theophanic operations of our creaturely “exitus” or production from God in divine creation, i.e. trinitologically & anthropologically … or as an

E. intensity of the particular divine presence via hypostatic extensions, the effects of which are – not only tri-personally operative & personally appropriated, but – personally “proper,” i.e. united to a given divine exemplification, in the theotic missions of our creaturely “reditus” or return to God in divine consummation, i.e. sophiologically & eschatologically … with the

F. immediacy (Emmanuel, God is with us!) of the divine mercy & urgency of its prompt succor, bringing about manifold & multiform proleptic creaturely realizations of the divine telos, as it’s entailed in these theotic missions. Such realizations anticipate & guarantee the divine missions’ universal efficacy, ecclesiologically & sacramentally, thereby effecting – in this eternal now – our creaturely salvation, redemption & reconciliation by God through divine conservation, i.e soteriologically.

G. implicated theological anthropology (of divine esse intentionale):

  • 1) indwelling vestigia
  • 2) imaginal uniqueness (essential nature of imago Dei)
  • 3) intentional & incremental theosis (dynamical & progressive intimaci-zation of secondary nature of kenotic similitudo Dei)

tags: interreligious dialogue, polydoxy, panentheism, pansemioentheism, retreblement, john sobert sylvest, richard rohr, universal christ, pneumatological missiology, apocatastasis, apokatastasis, david bentley hart, russian sophiology, joseph bracken, divine matrix, norris clarke, personalist thomism, charles sanders peirce, donald gelpi s.j., amos yong, palamas, duns scotus, logical problem of the trinity, richard rohr, michael morrell, perichoresis, universalism, universal salvation, free will, libertarian free will, cappadocians

Ur-kenosis & Ur-analogy in a Trinitarian, Kenotic Panentheism – Bracken’s Peircean approach can bring Hegel, Bulgakov & others together

One might appropriate Hegel & Bulgakov through Peircean lenses, using, for example, Joe Bracken’s panentheism.

One can thereby also avoid any apparent (Hegel) or latent (Bulgakov) nominalist tendencies (thick in Whitehead, thin in Hartshorne) and affirm a robustly Trinitarian & kenotic panentheism.

Hegel (too deterministic? I’m not so sure. See thought experiment, below.), perhaps, needs an appropriation of Peirce (no nominalism) & Schelling (personalist, more freedom) for his panentheism to be distinguished from Aurobindo’s, and to conform more to Bracken’s panentheism, which is more consistent with Classical Theism.

The following makes sense within such a stance:

Clayton cites Hegel’s recognition that the logic of the infinite requires the inclusion of the finite in the infinite and points towards the presence of the world in God (Clayton 2004b, 78–79). Clayton, along with Joseph Bracken (1974; 2004), identifies his understanding of panentheism as Trinitarian and kenotic (Clayton 2005, 255). It is Trinitarian because the world participates in God in a manner analogous to the way that members of the trinity participate in each other although the world is not and does not become God. God freely decides to limit God’s infinite power in an act of kenosis in order to allow for the existence of non-divine reality. The divine kenotic decision results in the actuality of the world that is taken into God.
https://stanford.library.sydney.edu.au/archives/spr2012/entries/panentheism/

It seems that, as long as we don’t misconceive Logos & logoi (e g. of Maximus, Neo-platonists, etc) as universals, thoughts or ideas, i.e. abstractly, in essential or formal terms, but think of them in concrete terms of a freely acting Person with intentions or wills, reasons or purposes, to Whom some end is “fitting,” —

Then, we can apply the Anselmian principle, potuit, decuit, ergo fecit: ‘twas possible & “fitting,” ergo accomplished – to all Trinitarian missio ad extra, both vestigia of the gratuity of creation and oikonomia of soteriology & theosis of the gratuity of grace, without attributing such contingent effects to a *necessity* as would be grounded in God’s nature, divine esse naturale, but, instead attributing same to an *inevitability* grounded in God’s Will, divine esse intentionale.

As a thought experiment, how might Hegel’s determinism be cast in (or reconciled to) Maximian terms of logoi, Peircean realist (not nominalist) terms & a Scotist libertarian will, all in defense of a strong apocatastasis, e.g. consistent with Hart, perhaps.

If one conceives of both Scotus & Maximus as libertarians, for whom the intellect’s necessarily operative but not wholly determinative in volition, where self-determinative volitional acts remain limited in potency to the logoi of being, well-being, and eternal being, then, the creature self-determines – not its depth, but – its breadth of being.

The creature self-determines the kenotic scope of its theotic participation (perhaps even choosing to annihilate much of it), while God, alone, determines the kenotic intensity of that participation (in an aesthetic teleology).

Whatever one’s eschatological anthropology, any irreversibility could only refer to one’s self-determination of scope, i.e. in terms of foregoing superabundant being. Existence, itself, abundantly & gratuitously, partakes of being over against nonbeing, limited in potency to divine logoi (rather than, e.g. merely uncreated essences or universals).

If appetitive movements cease in some instance, e.g. due to closure of a creaturely epistemic distance, at some moment like a particular judgment, then, per the determinative Maximian logoi, this could not entail a cessation of ardor vis a vis the depth of one’s desires & loves, i.e. the very fact that one desires & loves per an intrinsic orientation, but only could refer to a self-determination regarding the breadth of those ardors.

Some may call this eternal ill-being, if they must, but ill*being* would strike me as a paragon of oxymorons, i.e. once considering the intrinsic goodness of any and all participation in Being, itself, beyond all being.

The thought that some of us might populate the firmament like a tiny votive candle, while others might shine forth like a blazing helios, would not likely be off-putting to anyone, who’s ever been a parent, whose love for each child knows no bounds, no limits, and differs in neither depth nor breadth, intensity nor scope, from one to the next, however much they participate or reciprocate in family-being, however differently abled regarding, or disposed toward, same.

So, as parents, we’ll always pray: That our children & grandchildren may become holier than us, provided that we may become as holy as we should, Jesus, grant us the grace to desire it.

At any rate, that’s where I was headed, when suggesting:

I conceive the afterlife as a state wherein the will remains, eternally, in relation to an extrinsic aesthetic scope, however otherwise unsurpassable the realization of one’s intrinsic aesthetic intensity. (This is an imago Dei riff on the divine esse intentionale.) This requires a conception of volition, whereby one, while only ever freely willing that which is suited both to one’s advantage & justice (& never freely pursuing privatio boni or evil for evil), also enjoys the radical freedom to choose – from among the infinity of aesthetic options as they’ll lay before us in eternity, none, in any way, suboptimal (an eternal Pareto Frontier). This requires my Scotist conception of quasi-libertarian freedom, which would include the power to refrain from willing one optimal choice, while willing another (equally optimal), both choices self-interested & both just.

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …
That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

Litany of Humility
Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930),
Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X

A Further Defense of my Eschatological Anthropology

In further defense of this apocatastatic hypothesis, let me further defend its eschatological anthropology, which employs an analogy of divine and determinate esse naturale & intentionale, the determinate as imago Dei.

By aesthetic depth or intensity, I refer to the ontological density of the human person’s essential nature, which, in the great chain of being, transcends (but includes) all teleo-potent, teleo-matic, teleo-nomic & teleo-qualic realities as a teleo-logic reality, as the symbolic species.

From the anthropological account of a Peircean axiological epistemology, this entails an holistic epistemic suite, marked by an aesthetic primacy (no more voluntarist than the Scotist’s primacy of will). As such, we distinguish the determinate esse naturale and intentionale only formally, as integrally related, inseparable aspects of the human person.

God gifts this reality, an imago Dei, an absolute, intrinsic value, the perfection of which cannot be enhanced or diminished by extrinsic changes in the aesthetic scope of its esse intentionale.

Aside from the gifts of its existence & redemption, where this makes some sense, what are we to make of theotic realizations, of Lonergan’s secular & religious conversions, of our journeys to Authenticity & Sustained Authenticity, of mystical theology’s Ways of Perfection, of Ascetic Theology’s path from the false to True Self, where this makes less sense?

In other words, to what does Transformation refer in terms of any reality’s movement from vestige to image to likeness?

Transformative movements, in my view, refer to all manner of self-transcendence, a by-product of which is self-actualization.

Such movements, per Bernardian love, move us from

  • love of self for sake of self,
  • love of God for sake of self,
  • love of God for sake of God, to
  • love of self for sake of God.

Ignatius similarly gives account of this journey in his Degrees of Humility.

More simply put, we move from imperfect to perfect contrition, from the eros of self-enlightenment to the agape of Gospel love.

Imperfect contrition is necessary and sufficient, however, for increased beatitude!

Even love of self for sake of self, that most basic of desires, the storge’ & eros of Lewis’ Four Loves, remains both necessary & sufficient in a human reality that’s already essentially & absolutely, intrinsically valuable to God, as an imago Dei, which comprises a perfection, which cannot be enhanced or diminished by such extrinsic changes as could never increase its dignity or worth, only its beatitude.

We might, therefore, introduce a distinction between more perfect redemptions & salvations (as Scotus introduced for the Immaculate Conception, which I, then, analogously applied to post-mortem, eschatological anthropology) and more perfect creatures, in and of themselves, ontologically. The former apply, beatitudinally, while the latter would apply, essentially & existentially, except for the fact that it does not, since the intrinsic value of persons is already & ever absolute.

Transformation, therefore, refers to sanctification & glorification, growing as holy as He would desire & passing from glory to glory in eternal beatitude, as one’s will might self-determine vis a vis its desired aesthetic scope.

Does this trivialize mortal sin? Does it sanction quietism? Does it amount to an insidious indifferentism? Does it obviate soteriological discourse?

Let’s foreground the distinctions I’ve introduced above.

As St John of the Cross pointed out, God’s creatio continua holds the soul in existence even in mortal sin. What’s placed in jeopardy is never the absolute intrinsic value of the person’s existence, only its own extrinsic realizations of other values (that are also of absolute intrinsic value, in and of themselves, i.e. Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Love & Freedom, the pursuits of which are their own rewards).

Here, the quest, itself, becomes one’s grail, the journey – one’s destination, the sitting – one’s consolation.

This is because, naked personal existence, itself, only ever pursues any values, via transformative value pursuits, because, in and of itself, it already constitutively & necessarily possesses them in goodly measure, precisely by already abundantly participating in that & Whom it would to possess, but is already possessed by. Thus it’s really only aspiring to be (and do) who it abundantly is already, only ever more fully, i.e. superabundantly.

A person, eternally being, could never be annihilated through self-determination & wouldn’t so be since the divine fiat, which has deemed it intrinsically good, has already deemed its existence fitting per divine esse intentionale. In so doing, such a personal act of existence was limited by divine logoi, one of which mirrors, via its determinate esse intentionale, a radical freedom – not of ontological density or aesthetic depth or intensity, but – of aesthetic breadth or scope.

Whether or not, after having crossed a sufficient (or even closed an essential) epistemic distance, this aesthetic scope remains irrevocably intact (a Maximian hypothesis) or irreversibly frozen (a Thomist hypothesis), the naked personal existent nevertheless “enjoys” its constitutive & abundant possession of and participation in Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Love & Freedom, by virtue of an essential (naturale) participation, always journeying (intentionale) in Being, itself, beyond all being, because it’s never self-determined in its esse naturale, whether or not it happens to also be self-determined in its intentionale (via irrevocability or irreversibility).

It would seem exceptional, when anyone would forego (or appear, somehow, indifferent to) superabundance, settling into a quietistic stance. At the same time, a nevertheless abundant life would be sustained precisely by the soteriological efficacies that reach all, for all have been redeemed. Some do enjoy, via a self-determined aesthetic scope (limited in potency only by divine logoi) a superabundant beatitude.

What, then, of mortal sin? Even if that state somehow irreversibly freezes one’s determinate esse intentionale (foreclosing the possibility of any expansion of an essential, minimalist aesthetic scope), such as via an epistemic closure in a particular judgment, it cannot annihilate one’s essential existence or its absolute intrinsic value, personal dignity & extrinsic worth, as eternally loved by God & others, all expecting absolutely nothing in return.

Primal ur-kenosis, ad extra kenosis and the kenotic self-emptying of parents & lovers has always been this way?

We even recoil at every insidious form of ableism, which would value our children based on developmental milestones or setbacks, whether due to genetic, perinatal or accidental dis-ease, whether from deformative influences or the pangs of addiction, whether due simply to age or through their unfathomable dispositions & puzzling personality differences.

Who values a child at 20 more than one at 2?

Who loves a child, who’s a model of social grace, athletic grace or academic grace, more than one who’s on some spectrum, physically awkward or mentally struggling?

It’s all grace!

Who tells a child, if you don’t come to Thanksgiving Dinner, I will hire a hit man to take you out? Well, yeah, right. I guess that has been done, in so many ways, but it was with the best of intentions and highly nuanced.

No, I can buy that some will be votive candles in eternity, on fire with the same flame, ontologically, as others, who’ll outshine the sun. After all, life seems very much like that here and now. A lot of us quite rather be votive candles, truth be told. And I imagine that some earthly luminaries, who compete with the stars, themselves, may well be but votive candles in eternity, once their dross burns off.

What I can’t imagine is that any fire, whomsoever, will be extinguished, by one’s self or Another’s determination.

See ya on the other side.

Exploring the Other Side (well, one part, anyway)

Scotus locates the will in efficient causation. For many, this represents a conceptual relocation from the formal.
Conceiving the free will as efficient cause (in limited potency to material) implicates a volition that determines only WHETHER one exercises (or refrains therefrom) one’s will but not to WHAT it chooses, i.e. it must not refer to why this or that is chosen but only to why the will wills at all, because it does remain free not to act.

As such, the will refers to the sole rational potency, never acting without the intellect, which is co-causally operative (in bringing the Maximian logoi to bear) even though not finally determinative.

The will determines neither the act of existence in potency to essence nor the formal generically determinative act in potency to one’s final cause, which makes a human existent what one truly is, e.g. a human person, the symbolic species, an imago Dei, a beloved child of God, a sister of Jesus, a brother of the Cosmos.

Taken seriously, this has enormous soteriological and sophiological implications, which is to say, regarding redemption, justification & sanctification, i.e. intiation into communion, adoption into the Kingdom, on one hand, and, on the other, beatitude & glorification, i.e. ascetically & mystically or theotically, further establishing the Kingdom via communal collaboration.

In my view, Scotus would worry about the risk of any full blown liberty of indifference [1], i.e. including not just one’s aesthetic scope or efficient acts in limited potency to divine logoi, materially, but also, vis a vis aesthetic intensity (ontological density), existential acts (self-annihilation) in limited potency to divine logoi, essentially, as well as formal acts (generic self-determination) in limited potency to divine logoi, finally (as if we could become other than what we already are, what C.S. Lewis might call a “dismantling of humanity”). This amounts to what M. M. Adams would call a low doctrine of human agency [2], although I am not wholly familiar with her precise formulation and how it might comport with my own, above.

Any such exercise and actualization of rationality makes one’s efficient acts good and increases the being of the Kingdom, ecclesiologically, both proleptically & eschatologically. But does that also increase one’s own being, intrinsically, as per a Thomistic metaethic, per se changing one’s esse naturale per a generic determination? [3]

Or does it only change, per an agential extrinsic denomination, one’s esse intentionale?

Does moral evil frustrate an increase in the being of one’s esse naturale, even to the point of its full diminishment, so to speak undoing one’s intiation into communion and adoption into the Kingdom, denying one’s very aesthetic intensity & ontological density?

Rather, might it frustrate an increase in being only vis a vis one’s esse intentionale, foregoing further communal collaboration in the Kingdom, restricting one’s aesthetic scope, limiting one’s ecclesiological participation, as one neglects spiritual exercises and practices of presence? [4]

I’m not suggesting my anthropological categories & applications measure up with anthropological rigor or even capture the points of disagreement between, for example, Eleonore Stump & Marilyn M. Adams. Even if they amount to an ahistorical, eisegetic account of Aquinas & Scotus, though, perhaps they still have some normative integrity all their own?

If stable dispositions, derived from habitual spiritual exercices and practices of presence, to act in accordance with or contrary to one’s nature, i.e. virtues or vice, do produce second natures, whether virtuous or vicious, do those ontologically negate or just phenomenologically mask our primal human nature, hide the imago Dei?

In my view, our primal being and goodness is both unalienable, due to divine esse intentionale, & inalienable, not a capacity of determinate esse intentionale.

Eternally, are we dealt with in accordance with both or either of our natures, primary &/or secondary, however one conceives these volitional loci, as esse naturale or intentionale?

If the goodness of our being is thus light, will our existence in Hell thereby be unbearable?

Let’s consider Hart:
[T]he wrathful soul experiences the transfiguring and deifying fire of love not as bliss but as chastisement and despair. [5]

Does not this refer to the transformative & theotic dynamisms that I addressed, above. Will not those dynamisms cease post-mortem or in some eschatological closure of epistemic distance, such as in a particular judgment & life review? Hart doesn’t take this into account, when describing the tortures of hell, but only because he otherwise ultimately rejects an infernalist stance, not inconsistent with Bulgakov’s surmise that those dynamisms might continue post-mortem, finally rejecting eternal torment as a moral absurdity.

So, if those dynamisms terminate post-mortem, wouldn’t we necessarily only be dealt with in accordance with our primary nature, which would comport with Maximian being, eternal being and well-being?

Might ill-being only ever be a transitory, purgative state? Or even a misconstrual of an eternal esse intentionale, which remains volitionally indifferent to any aesthetic scope, beyond its original endowment, not inconsistent with a Scotistic free will, located in efficient not telic causes?

Bishop Barron [6] writes: If there are any people in Hell (and the church has never obliged us to believe that any human is in that state), they are there, not because God capriciously “sent” them, but because they absolutely insist on not joining in the party.

This isn’t wholly inconsistent with the view of volitional indifference to a self-constrained aesthetic scope, but, again, what of my point that human volition is not otherwise constituted by self-constraints regarding aesthetic intensity (ontological density), existentially or generically, regarding THAT one is or WHAT one primally is (whatever one believes regarding self-constructed secondary natures)?

How, then, would we psychologize that eternal disposition? I’m asking for a friend, who’s a social wallflower, who prefers to watch the mirrorball & swirling dervishes beneath, who doesn’t mind others coming over to sit in silent presence (90% is showing up, only 10% is dancing, perichoretically or otherwise?), while they keep the finger sandwiches & beers coming. One person’s modus ponens is another’s modus tollens?

As John O’Brien observers: Concerning the detailed specific nature of hell … the Catholic Church has defined nothing. … It is useless to speculate about its true nature, and more sensible to confess our ignorance in a question that evidently exceeds human understanding. [7]

Fr Richard Rohr writes: To be frank, I think that perhaps no single belief has done more to undercut the spiritual journey of more Western people than the belief that God could be an eternal torturer of people who do not like him or disobey him. And this after Jesus exemplified and taught us to love our enemies and forgive offenses 70 x 7 times! The very idea of Hell (with a capital ‘H’), as Jon Sweeney explains in this magnificent book, constructs a very toxic and fear-based universe, starting at its very center and ground. Hatred, exclusion, and mistreatment of enemies is legitimated all the way down the chain of command.” [8]

Jon Sweeney writes: “Ultimately, I choose not Dante’s vengeful, predatory God who is anxious to tally faults, to reward and to punish. Instead I choose the God who creates and sustains us, who is incarnate and wants to be among us, and the God who inspires and comforts us. That God is the real one, the one I have come to know and understand, and that God has nothing to do with the medieval Hell.” [9]

Conclusions

Following Scotus, I intuit that no eternally self-constrained aesthetic intensity is possible, neither existentially (THAT) nor generically (WHAT).

And with Rohr & Sweeney, I’ll simply insist, apophatically, on what an eternally self-constrained aesthetic scope simply must NOT be like.

Then, with O’Brien, I’ll confess ignorance, kataphatically.

Notes:

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

How Scotus’ Univocity of Being Grounds a Metaphysics of Participation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Semiotic Eucharistic Cycle

Liturgy of the Word

  • Iconic theo-poetic nomination of divine names

  • Indexic theo-logic attribution of divine locations

Liturgy of the Eucharist

  • Symbolic doxological & theotic engagement of divine participations

Offertory – Ecstasis & Proodos as self-transcendence

Communion – Enstasis & Mone as union

Post Communion – Epecstasis & Epistrophe as self-reception

Dismissal (Ecstasis & Proodos)

Unitive Living (Enstasis & Mone)

ReturnIntroibo ad Altare Dei (Epecstasis & Epistrophe)

Liturgy of the Word – repeat the cycle

There’s Nothing Ontological About Scotus’ Univocity of Being

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s Nothing Esoteric About Apophasis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From a separate conversation, I’d written:

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

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

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

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

Dissimilarities abound!

Apophasis thus redounds!

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

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

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

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

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

Flipping the Semantic Script for Determinate & Divine Being

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

Determinate syllosistics are derived from divine syllogistics.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further Nuancing Apophasis

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

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

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

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

An Afterward Regarding Univocity, Analogy & Apophasis

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a concrete application as an example:

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

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

Divine Modes of Identity – Bulgakov, Balthasar & Bracken with Scotus & the Greek Fathers

Some analytic theologians would charge all trinitarian defenses with ad hoc philosophizing?

Nyet!

I intuit a general amenability of Abelardian-like syllogistics to reality writ large, i.e. beyond trinitarian logic.

It seems to me that essential, hypostatic & formal modes of identity could be applied in any noncomposite, monist ontology, e.g. materialist monism, pantheism or even a mereological panen-theism.

Aristotelian syllogistic logic can be recovered from the Abelardian-like approach precisely because the distinction between modes of identity & modes of predication collapse for composite realities, where all predications are of formal identity.

The more widely embraced pan-entheism, like classical theism, employs an ontological distinction between humans & God, where God donates & communicates creatively as we participate & are liberated imitatively.

The panen-theistic parsing employs a mereological distinction between humans & God, where God donates & communicates diffusively as we participate & are liberated substratively.

My own pan-semio-entheism, in bracketing ontology, conceives divine donation & communication both creatively & diffusively and creaturely participation & liberation both imitatively & substratively.

Because I precisely nurtured such intuitions in dialogue with Bulgakov, Balthasar & Bracken (due to my own sophiological, aesthetic & Peircean sensibilities), I was delighted to encounter Brandon Gallaher’s reflection:

The Problem of Pantheism in the Sophiology of Sergii Bulgakov: A Panentheistic Solution in the Process Trinitarianism of Joseph A. Bracken?’ in Seeking Common Ground: Evaluation and Critique of Joseph Bracken’s Comprehensive Worldview (A Festschrift for Joseph A. Bracken, S. J.), eds. Gloria Schaab and Marc Pugliese (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2012), 147-167.

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In a divine syllogistic of modes of identity, we’ve conceived the individual essences of the divine hypostases as originating in the Father and interrelating – not causally, but – as essentially dependent, hence, not subordinationist.

[re: not causally, arche, when regarded as an hypostatic idioma of the Father, in my view, can felicitously be conceived in a causal sense; it would refer to a personal cause, paternally, i.e. ad intra, a person via nature causing persons & ad extra, persons via will causing energeia & oikonomia? To be avoided would be any misconception of an impersonal and/or abstracted essence as variously causal, as well as any conceptions of either cause or person that aren’t suitably nuanced, apophatically, analogically, etc, eg I like supremely personal, trans-causal & trans-formal! I shy away from qualifying divine causalities with “quasi,” e.g. quasi-formal. I prefer, instead, to imagine that it’s we contingent, determinate beings & realities who act “quasi” on the way to becoming authentic & eternal!

For, you see, the essential, personal & formal modes of identity of divine syllogistics reflect three integrally related types of divine unity – substantial, hypostatic & dynamical – each correlatively presupposing the others. And yet, it’s the Father, as absolute unoriginate, Who secures the Trinity’s unity?

For, is it not this very monarchy that, in principle, precedes (not temporally, but in the order of intelligibility) & makes meaningful perichoresis, in the first place (pun intended)? Over against any subordinationist charges, I would simply suggest that, if there is anything like that, it’s nothing personal & isn’t substantial (puns, again, intended!).]

We have acknowledged THAT this account has ontological implications without suggesting HOW.

In Abelard’s first two modes of identity, the essential & personal, paralogisms (modalism & tritheism) present if we conceive the hypostases & ousia, respectively, as primary & secondary substances in the same Aristotelian sense that we apply to determinate being.

Happily, in the third mode, formal identity, we do have an epistemic bridge between the syllogistics of divine & determinate being.

This has all been addressed here:
Gödel & the End of Physics and Abelard et al & the End of Trinitology

Having acknowledged that there must be ontological implications for the first two modes of identity, the essential & personal, can we similarly build a bridge between the syllogistics of divine & determinate being?

Scotus has already constructed that bridge & it rather uncannily accommodates the thought of the Greek Fathers!

I have previously addressed other resonances between, for example, Scotus & Palamas.

See:

How Gelpi’s Inculturated North American Theology “Graced” my encounter with Eastern Orthodoxy

My Mon-Arche-I-tectonic Shift

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.

Simply Divine or a Divinity Fudge? Cooking with Dionysius, Scotus, Peirce, Aquinas & Palamas

But how might Scotus further resonate with the approach of the Greek Fathers, beyond my previous preoccupations with divine energeia & formal modes of identity?

How might Scotus demonstrate a resonance with the Greek Fathers for the first two modes of identity, also?

How, exactly, has Scotus bridged the syllogistics of divine & determinate being?

No one more elegantly answers that question than does Richard Cross:

Duns Scotus on Divine Substance and the Trinity

Cross asserts that, by employing a conception of the immanent universal, Scotus constructs an account of the doctrine of the Trinity that is conceptually compelling, philosophically coherent & closer to that found in the later Greek Fathers, from Gregory of Nyssa onward, than the Augustinian approach (predominant in Aquinas’ own) to the divine essence.

Per Cross, Scotus flips the metaphysical script in considering – not the divine persons, but – the essence as – not a secondary, but – a first substance.

In fact, Scotus doesn’t consider the divine persons substances at all, whether primary or secondary, because they are incommunicable.

The relations between the persons are nonetheless real – as exemplifications of the divine nature.

Thus, apart from the Scotistic insights into the divine energeia, economy & formal identities, which I’d focused on previously (the links above), Cross well articulates how Scotus’ doctrines also have intrinsic value & address the divine nature & persons.

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To me, the most interesting meta-metaphysical questions posed to any given metaphysic include –

Is reality, writ large,

  • 1) non|un/composite?
  • 2) non|in/determinate?
  • 3) non|in/finite?
  • 4) non|im/personal?

We can, a priori, envision (abductively) competing answers that are logically consistent & internally coherent, but, unavoidably incomplete, both axiomatically (deductively) & evidentially (inductively). Ergo, there’s an inevitable leap of faith involved in any existential opting for one or the other of these options.

What both religious & Enlightenment (e.g. Dawkins, Dennett) fundamentalists have in common is that they all fail to look over their epistemic shoulders to recognize their own leaps.

More concretely, then –

Some (e.g. materialist monists) view reality writ large as uncomposite & indeterminate, in the sense that, as a whole, the One’s simply brute & the Many dynamical causes just infinitely regress.

Others (e.g. idealist monist pantheists) view reality writ large as uncomposite & wholly determinate, in the sense that, as a whole, it’s sufficiently caused in a most thoroughgoing way. They answer the riddle of the One & the Many with The One “is” The Many.

Finally, there are various ontological dualists & pluralists, who are all over the map w/their, mostly both-and, answers to those questions & generally theistic. A lot of them are on Twitter & politely advocating all sorts of unitarian & trinitarian hypotheses!

My purpose in setting forth those meta-metaphysical questions in rather sharp relief was not just philosophical.

For sure, many “leap” existentially past materialist & pantheist construals because the first does violence to our innate aspirations to enduring values, the latter – to our universal volitional experience, each nihilistic (but in a various senses).

I want to further suggest that our philosophical categories of non|un/composite & non|in/determinate remain very much in play, theologically, for the trinitarian tensions that present, as we strive to defensibly thread the needle between tritheism & modalism.

Tritheism presents obvious problems as, exegetically & historically, we’re precommitted to the One (noncomposite deity). The more stringent a strategy for avoiding tritheism, however, the more a spectre of modalism will threaten one’s trinitology.

It is less obvious how a modalist (determinate) deity would necessarily do violence to our notions of divine & human volition, however, especially granting that the deity, modally, would still be self-determinate, humans contingently so. But, again, exegetical & historical contours circumscribe for us a much more eminent conception of the divine will, which is to say, with an intrinsically nondeterminate aspect to the divine nature that, certainly, constitutively entails self- determinate attributes, but in a way that’s essentially kenotic.

That kenotic aspect affords us a much more robust notion of freedom vis a vis the divine will & a much more eminent conception of the divine nature?

At stake in each metaphysic, then, whether philosophically or theologically, are conceptions with practical implications for the logical consistency (exegetical & historical), internal coherence & external congruence of our creedal stances toward the One & the Many (divine & determinate) and of all authentic conceptions of Freedom (divine & human).
Pneumatological kenosis: the Spirit immanentized in the gratuity of creation & Christological kenosis: the Son incarnated in the gratuity of grace, both, implicate a Paterological ur-kenosis of the Father in the generation of the Son & procession of the Spirit.
ur-kenosis entails an unoriginate, nondeterminate, principium, an idioma of the Father, eternally self-emptying in (self)determinate relating thru eternal generation of Son & procession of Spirit. Nothing modal. Hypostatic & personal in gratuitous ad intra & ad extra dynamism.

Father-Son-Holy Spirit [FSH]

FSH denotations, while epistemic denotations, have ontic not modal connotations (neither phenomenal nor noumenal).
A concurrent noumenal modalism suggests that the Persons are “three ways that God really is.”
Rahner’s “distinct manners of subsisting” derives from the Summae’seach of them subsists distinctly from the others in the divine nature” and in continuity with Gregory of Nyssa.

Hence, there are three subsistences, lacking the same formal identity, not one formal identity taking on three different manners of subsisting, i.e. ‘three ways that God really is.”

FSH denotations refer to divine hypostatic realities or idiomata like nondeterminate persons (EO), exemplifications (Scotist) or subsistences (Thomist) that are analogous to determinate persons (psychological), haecceities (Scotist) or instantiations & primary substances (Thomist).
FSH denotations do not refer to divine substantial realities or propria like nondeterminate ousia, essence or primary substances (Scotist) that are analogous to determinate essence, form, quiddity (Scotist) or secondary substances (Thomist).

As the most fecund metaphysics have rejected this phenomenal-noumenal distinction, the best systematic theologies have, too.

Such classical, disjunctive, dyadic conceptions as the phenomenal vs noumenal, epistemic vs ontic, essentialism vs nominalism, idealism vs realism, logical vs efficient causes, etc all represent two sides of the same bankrupt coinage of our metaphysical realm. If it has no metaphysical currency, that’s precisely because it presupposes the impossibility of metaphysics.

In the most robust metaphysical systems (classical realisms), the structures of objective knowledge remain – not dyadic, but – irreducibly triadic, introducing a third category – mediation (variously, but indispensably, accounted for & articulated). I’ve no space to explicate that here, but, classically, we encounter this triadicity in Aristotelian-Thomist & Scotist accounts and, more recently, in Peirce’s semiotic realism. Various triadic thought systems have indeed presented ubiquitously across cultures & throughout history.

The chief problem with any radically apophatic, trinitarian ignosticism is that it’s epistemically corrosive. It inevitably & successively will reduce to theological & metaphysical ignosticisms, which, in turn, will, necessarily & correlatively, also annihilate our highly speculative theoretical sciences.

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Metaphysical Account of Substantial (Being or Esse) & Hypostatic (Existant or Subject) Modes of Determinate Being
Modal temporality categories include possible, actual, probable & necessary.
Modal adequacy categories include mereological (whole/part/noncomposite) & non|in/finite.
Modal ontology categories include descriptions & references to specific hypostatic realities (determinate persons, instantiations or haecceities or primary substances) with attributions to their precise properties (determinate essence, form, quiddity or secondary substance).
Semantic Univocity & Ontic Analogy of Being
logical categories for dogma e.g. ‘distinct manner of subsisting’ (subsistenzweisen)
ontic categories for systematics
Metaphysical Account of Substantial (Being or Esse) & Hypostatic Modes of Identity of Nondeterminate Being
Modal indentity categories include apophatic references (idiomata) to specific hypostatic realities (nondeterminate persons, exemplifications or subsistences) with apophatic attributions (propria) to their precise properties (nondeterminate ousia, essence or primary substance)
Formal Modes of Identity of Nondeterminate & Determinate Being
Theopoetic Account of Substantial (Being or Esse) & Hypostatic Modes of Nondeterminate Identity
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