A Goldilocks Theological Anthropology – between pessimism & optimism, natural & supernatural, nature & grace

We must resist an under-estimation of the significance of special revelation in growing humanity’s orientation to God, as it allows persons to move more swiftly & with less hindrance on their journeys, realizing both temporal & ultimate teloi.

We must also resist either an over- or under-estimation (of an extreme intrinsicism or extrinsicism) of humanity’s dynamic orientation to God & moral reality via natural theology & natural law.

Even among the intrinsicists of the Nouvelle Theologie, the blurring of distinctions between nature & grace didn’t remove anthropological tensions regarding the realities of sin & ecclesial accommodations to the world.

While the intrinsicists all agree in principle that we can discern what’s “common and accessible to all” and gradually move forward to the “highest data of theology,” some Thomists & Augustinians otherwise diverged precisely along the grounds for anthropological optimism & pessimism vis a vis both sin & worldly accommodations.

See:

Brandon Peterson, Critical Voices: The Reactions of Rahner and Ratzinger to ‘Schema XIII’ (Gaudium et Spes)

Peterson quotes a post-conciliar interview of Rahner: I would say that the dangers of a false adaptation of the Church to the modern world, or of falling into a purely secular humanism —which are real dangers in the Church’s attempt to open itself outwards to the modern world can invite as a defensive reaction the opposite danger, namely, to turn inwards and to make the Church a closed sect. Theology must help the preacher preach the gospel in such a way that it can really be understood and assimilated today; and theology also has a critical function in preventing the Church in its preaching or in its practice from becoming a ghetto or a sect within the contemporary world.

Peterson concludes: Christocentrism, anthropological methodology, and critical openness to the world stand in a creative tension which marks Gaudium et Spes itself, a tension which we must not relax if we are to be faithful heirs to this landmark council. For such a tension is an essential part of a theological approach which, executed properly, can proclaim the Gospel to a world that not only needs it, but needs to understand it.

How might we best exploit these creative tensions?

Reality emerges & gifts entities that present with different kinds of “aboutness” that suggest degrees of ontological density but which don’t definitively reveal metaphysical natures.

An emergentist heuristic might refer to these “aboutnesses” in terms of different degrees of telic influence.

  • Veldo-poietic (field-like) entities present as teleopotent or end-unbounded;
  • cosmopoieticteleomatic or end-stated;
  • biopoieticteleonomic or end-directed or end-coded;
  • sentiopoieticteleoqualic or end-purposed; and
  • sapiopoieticteleologic or end-intended.

In this profusely pneumatological reality, divine interactivity gifts the Spirit’s universalized presence via creatio continua, consistent with the Thomistic aphorism – “Quidquid recipitur ad modum recipientis recipitur.” This means that “whatever is received, is received according to the mode of the receiver.”

All reality participates, constitutively & relationally, responding to various formal & formative divine promptings of divine esse intentionale & energies, each entity according to its given telic modes.

Human persons interact with the Spirit’s universalized presence, constituted by & engaging in all of the above-listed modes of aboutness, but uniquely, as reality’s only sapiopoietic creature, via a teleological mode, in a robustly intentional way.

The sapiopoietic nature of human persons equips them to also interact with the Spirit’s particularized presence in special revelation.

Per Aquinas in the ST: It is befitting Holy Writ to put forward divine and spiritual truths by means of comparisons with material things. For God provides for everything according to the capacity of its nature. Now it is natural to man to attain to intellectual truths through sensible objects, because all our knowledge originates from sense. Hence in Holy Writ, spiritual truths are fittingly taught under the likeness of material things. This is what Dionysius says (Coel. Hier. i): “We cannot be enlightened by the divine rays except they be hidden within the covering of many sacred veils.” It is also befitting Holy Writ, which is proposed to all without distinction of persons — “To the wise and to the unwise I am a debtor” (Romans 1:14) — that spiritual truths be expounded by means of figures taken from corporeal things, in order that thereby even the simple who are unable by themselves to grasp intellectual things may be able to understand it.

Per Don Gelpi S.J.’s anthropology:

In an “experiential approach to human nature, any given human mind may or may not be oriented dynamically to God. Rather, each self must acquire such an orientation, either by fixing its personal beliefs on purely rational motives concerning the reality and nature of God, or by responding positively and graciously in faith to some event of divine self-revelation.”

The gratuity of creation, experienced by human persons as they interact with the Spirit’s universalized presence, can foster a rationally acquired dynamical orientation to God, gifting an awareness of & cultivating an aretaical disposition toward both temporal & ultimate teloi. It can thus foster – not only the secular conversions (intellectual, affective, moral & sociopolitical), but – an authentic theocentric religious conversion, which, while variously implicit & inchoate, cooperates with the obediential potencies formed by secular conversions.

The gratuity of grace, experienced by human persons as they interact with the Spirit’s particularized presence, can foster a dynamic reorientation of the self to God, if it responds positively and graciously in faith to some event of divine self-revelation.

If this dynamic reorientation of the self results from a response in faith to a particular divine self-disclosure, whether initially or subsequent to a previous reorientation fostered by the gratuity of creation, it constitutes an infusion of supernatural grace via the gratuity of grace.

Per Gelpi, supernatural grace “transmutes experience by endowing it with a new capacity to relate to God both correlative to God’s free act of self-disclosure and impossible apart from that self-revelation.”

A theocentric religious conversion orients a person via Lonergan’s transcendental imperatives as – beyond, temporally, being aware, intelligent, reasonable, responsible & in love with others, cosmos & even self – it also invites one into a relationship with a donative ultimate reality, much like Pip in Great Expectations as he related to his unknown benefactor or, perhaps, as Ralph McInerny put it, like characters in search of their Author. This represents the essential, orthodoxic, soteriological trajectory of the world’s great traditions & indigenous religions.

Consistent with Nostra Aetate, concerning the relationship of the church to non-Christian religions, in addition to that essential soteriological trajectory, various traditions & religions may otherwise diverge to various degrees in their polydoxic, sophiological trajectories, whereby persons grow in intimacy (theosis) with God.

See:
https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2017/04/30/%e2%80%8bwhat-the-contemplative-stance-means-to-me/

https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2016/12/23/democratizing-theosis-for-jesus-is-a-truly-cosmic-christ/

This is the Goldilocks anthropology that best exploits the creative tensions of the Nouvelle Theologie, which, when properly engaged, successfully sidesteps any sterile Neo-Scholasticism, transcendental Thomism or Augustinian radicalism.

Special Revelation clarifies what would otherwise remain indistinct in the logos of General Revelation.

First, in the order of logos:

Determinacies

We disambiguate ambiguities & define in/definite actualities, which are determinacies (in/definitive) that correspond to referenced or defined entities.

Indeterminacies

In/determinacies (in/determinable & in/determined) refer to generalities (probabilities & necessities) and vagueness (possibilities).

We determine in/determinacies by delimiting vague possibilities & specifying generalities, i.e. probabilities & necessities.

Beyond a mere propositional translation process (via our cognitive map-making) between noetic aspects of general & special revelations, as we move from natural to revealed theology or even between revealed traditions …

We must also engage in

dispositional interpretations (via the inhabitations of our participatory imaginations) of culturally embodied unitive, aesthetic, ethical & liberative norms, if we are to adequately appropriate the theological idioms required for our Gospel inculturation.

Then, beyond logos:

Beyond a creedal logos, we need participatory immersion in revelation’s other integral aspects: communal (topos), liturgical & devotional (pathos), moral (ethos) and ascetical & mystical (mythos).

Natural Theology shouldn’t be conceived in strictly logocentric terms, for even a theocentric religious conversion in the gratuity of creation, however inchoate, indistinct or implicit, propositionally, will dispositionally gift, both personally & culturally, embodied relationships to truth, unity, beauty, goodness & freedom.

As one cooperates with prevenient graces & obediential potencies via General Revelation, while these propositional & dispositional embodiments remain confused, imperfect & indistinct, due to the indirect nature of one’s knowledge of God, they reflect authentic existential orientations to the transcendental imperatives directly known via Special Revelation in the gratuity of grace.

To wit: https://dhspriory.org/thomas/ContraGentiles3a.htm#25

Since all creatures, even those devoid of understanding, are ordered to God as to an ultimate end, all achieve this end to the extent that they participate somewhat in His likeness. Intellectual creatures attain it in a more special way, that is, through their proper operation of understanding Him. Hence, this must be the end of the intellectual creature, namely, to understand God.

Further, see:

Amos Yong With John Sobert Sylvest, “Reasons and Values of the Heart in a Pluralistic World: Toward a Contemplative Phenomenology for Interreligious Dialogue,” Studies in Interreligious Dialogue 20:2 (2010): 170-93

https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2018/08/15/augustinians-thomists-nature-grace-politics-religion/

https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2018/12/03/how-gelpis-inculturated-north-american-theology-graced-my-encounter-with-eastern-orthodoxy/

https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2019/02/14/david-bentley-hart-duns-scotus-walk-into-a-bar-see-radical-orthodoxy-ask-why-the-long-face/

https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2018/08/20/peirces-semiotics-lend-philosophical-credibility-to-hans-urs-von-balthasars-idea-of-seeing-the-form-of-divine-beauty/

Humanity’s Growth is No Myth & its Declines are Greatly Exaggerated

Neither theocentric traditions, generally, nor Christianity, particularly, birthed any –isms of human economic & political orders, despite contrary claims. Their robustly & pervasively telic conceptions in every sphere of human concern have nurtured the growth of human reason, both speculative & practical, that has gifted the undeniable advance of human flourishing, both spiritual & material, as well as more refined conceptions of human dignity, itself.

The late Jesuit, Stanley Jaki, chronicled the growth of science, itself, from theocentric & Christian roots. Thomism, when properly & wholly appropriated, gives an anthropological account of the natural law as operative in all human virtues ordered to both temporal & ultimate teloi, even when its implicit theoretic principles are only inchoately explicated in various theocentric sociocultural milieu.

  • Jaki argued persuasively and profoundly that Enlightenment philosophes, thinkers and writers (on down to the present) have been mistaken about Christianity and science. For them, Christianity supposedly inhibited, and even oppressed, science. But Jaki, along with his great mentor Pierre Duhem, knew that the opposite had occurred. In The Savior of Science (2000), Jaki revealed the Christian foundations of modern science. He examined the failed attempts at a sustained science on the part of the ancient cultures of Greece, China, India, and the early Muslim empire. Christian monotheism alone provided epistemological underpinnings for scientific endeavour. In another booklet, Christ and Science, Jaki provided four reasons for the unique birth of modern science in Christian Western Europe. First, the Christian belief in the Creator provided a foundation-stone for thinking about nature. Only a truly transcendental Creator could be powerful enough to create a nature that incorporated autonomous laws without the Creator’s power over nature being diminished. Second, it put all material beings on the same level. There could be no divine bodies in the Christian cosmos (unlike the Greek cosmos). Third, humankind was created in the image of God, with a rationality that somehow shared in God’s own rationality. Fourth, humankind, created by God, cannot dictate to nature what it should be. Indeed, the rise of the experimental method owes much to this Christian matrix. The noted conservative thinker Russell Kirk stated, “Modern science, Father Jaki points humanity, generally, has progressed materially – not in spite of, but – precisely because of its overall moral & spiritual trajectories.out, rose from the natural theology of medieval Christian learning—a fact that philosophes and positivists sedulously ignore.” Father Jaki worked hard to refute those who asserted that Catholicism has been an enemy of science—has thwarted science. The opposite is the case, and Father Jaki worked boldly and strongly in order that the truth about this should come out and be known, as it must.

Various prudential approaches to human dignity, as proper to times & places, but not otherwise universally prescriptive, have allowed some sociological & ideological weeds to crop up among the spiritual wheat of the world’s otherwise pervasively theocentric societies & anthropologies.

Among those weeds are an Enlightenment fundamentalism, ideological liberalisms, practical nihilisms (even among so-called believers), militant secularisms & misconceptions of freedom. But to focus on the weeds when so much wheat has been harvested is wrong.

Neither various secularisms nor liberalisms, for example, logically follow as required ideologies for human flourishing. Rather, the essential philosophical takeaways are the principles of human dignity & conceptions of human freedom & its aretaically liberative dynamics. Secularity remains one of our tools, while secularism is for fools.

Over-against the apocalyptic doomsaying that we’re now living “after virtue,” advanced primarily by culture warriors, who are preoccupied with sex & gender issues, and by institutionalistic mindsets, who overidealize ecclesiocentric realities with an empirically unjustified nostalgia, the world has grown, materially & morally.

Christianity will be fine, especially if we don’t too narrowly construe it in institutional, hierarchical terms, just as the USA will be fine, especially if we don’t too narrowly conceive of it as a merely political reality.

Like the myth of the Post-Christian West, the decline of the Church and fall of the USA are as fanciful as the notion that God is Dead.

While I deemphasize institutional metrics, more broadly conceiving the Church in mystical, sacramental, herald & servant conceptions, still, even mere institutional metrics don’t reveal Christianity to be in decline per Gallup, Pew and other researchers.

See:

US polling switches from denominations to unaffiliated reflect decreased stigmatization per Gallup:

“Now, it is normatively much easier for a person who doesn’t attend religious services to simply tell interviewer ‘none’ when asked his or her religion. In other words, no change underneath, but a big change in reporting.”

None of this is to deny the threat of asymmetric warfare, but the fact – that there could some day be a technological unleashing of unprecedented destructive potentials by crazed, demented groups – is not dispositive of the question regarding whether or not humanity, generally, has grown & advanced materially – not in spite of, but – precisely because of its overall moral & spiritual trajectories.

Steven Pinker (TED2018) describes this undeniable trajectory: Is the world getting better or worse? A look at the numbers

Pinker (TED2007) earlier described the surprising decline in world violence.

As with others, Pinker goes on to make incredibly facile interpretations of his otherwise indisputable facts. It’s not secularism or an abstracted Enlightenment that accounts for such material & moral advances. After all, the world’s peoples remain decisively theocentric in their concrete practices of daily living & dying, working & playing, loving & learning & leaving of legacies. Furthermore, there’s nothing inevitable about these advances.

Growth is no myth. Decline has been greatly exaggerated. And few have properly come to grips with the real reasons for either, offering, instead, facile tautological apologetics to proselytize their exclusivistic ecclesiocentrisms & arrogant naturalisms.

Augustinians & Thomists, Nature & Grace, Politics & Religion

The following notes are in continuity with & supplemental to:

https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2018/06/18/maritain-murray-macintyre-milbank-a-medieval-integralist-walk-into-a-bar/

https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2018/08/09/the-pre-political-grounding-of-both-liberal-illiberal-regimes/

For responses to Nouvelle Theologie, Feser lists:

1) Lawrence Feingold’s The Natural Desire to See God According to St. Thomas Aquinas & His Interpreters

2) Steven Long’s Natura Pura

3) Ralph McInerny’s Praeambula Fidei

4) Bernard Mulcahy’s Aquinas’s Notion of Pure Nature and the Christian Integralism of Henri de Lubac

5) Serge-Thomas Bonino’s edited volume Surnaturel: A Controversy at the Heart of Twentieth-Century Thomistic Thought

I would add as a meta-critique of all the schools:

Don Gelpi’s The Gracing of Human Experience: Rethinking the Relationship between Nature & Grace

He names fallacies of Christian thinkers that have in the past skewed theological understandings.

In The Gracing of Human Experience: Rethinking the Relationship between Nature and Grace, Gelpi argues that Charles Sanders Peirce’s philosophy avoided those fallacies & provides a novel frame of reference for rethinking the theology of grace. While he eschews any artificial extrinsicism, he doesn’t underestimate secular conversions in the gratuity of creation.

In my (eisegetic?) take, Gelpi’s view is consonant w/both a faithful Augustinianism, the best of Existential Thomism & sympathetic to Nouvelle’s Communio, rejecting transcendentalist anthropologies (e.g. Whig Thomism) or those flirting w/depravist tendencies, as do some integralists (e.g. Political Augustinianism) & Augustinian radicalisms (Radical Orthodoxy & Benedict Option).

Per Thaddeus Kozinski: Both classical & new traditions neglect four realities:

1) mutually dependent relation of speculative & practical reason

2) subjectivity-shaping role of social practices

3) tradition-constituted-&-constitutive character of practical rationality

4) indispensability of divine revelation in ethical inquiry & practice. <<< end of Kozinski critique from Brandon Watson

While some may be justly criticized re 1-3, many feel caricatured.

Regarding #4, it mustn’t be coupled w/an ecclesiocentric exclusivism at odds with Nostra Aetate.

Elsewhere, Kozinski presses his critique vis a vis #4 against Maritain (& Rawls).

Among those claiming caricaturization, Feser responded to Kozinski.

Re: Macintyre’s criticism of Maritain, Ralph McInerny well notes that, even inadequate & false justifications have embedded in them an implicit recognition of the true ends of human nature & thus of the true basis for practical precepts.

We can thus distinguish between the natural law as operative in a plurality of largely theocentric societies (functionally personalist & communalist) & its theoretic grounding, both implicit & explicit. The operative is ontological, the theoretic — gnoseological.

Over against Alasdair MacIntyre’s social philosophy, Bryan Turner suggests its pessimistic view of the collapse of a common moral vocabulary is unfounded.

For one thing, MacIntyre creates a nostalgic picture of the coherence of past communities, & for another, MacIntyre neglects the growth of human rights & international law as instances of a shared moral system that is not based on emotivism.

Alasdair MacIntyre on morality, community & natural law, Journal of Classical Sociology 13(2) 239–253, 2013

We mustn’t overestimate natural law accessibility as we descend from the more general precepts to increasingly specific concrete norms, or underestimate its operative efficacies in, at least, provisioning a modicum of public peace, order, justice & morality.

So, there’s no reason that our world’s largely theocentric vision can’t explicitly, even if sometimes inchoately, affirm that freedom’s inherent duties are objectively & communally ordered to realize the aretaic & deontological ends (teloi) of eternal & natural laws.

Or that we grow in freedom through a formative & liberative process of learning, which will necessarily include the increasingly habitual practice of these duties.

While I am sympathetic to the rhetorical strategy regarding exaggerated “rights talk,” in & of itself, it’s not philosophically bankrupt as some suggest, for freedom’s rights remain correlative with & inseparable from its duties to be/come who & do what we ought. They are, therefore, rather precisely implicated.

Natural Theology & Natural Law -however otherwise weak, at least- defeat Nihilism

In science, faith & quotidian life, epistemic virtues should first vault our speculative claims over the threshold of equiplausibility, where we can normatively adjudicate any competing responses using the principles of reasoning under uncertainty.

The hermeneutical spiral, above, recapitulates Lonergan’s transcendental imperatives & functional specialties.

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

To wit:

De-liberatively, regarding our references, descriptively & interpretively, epistemic virtues should first vault our speculative claims over the threshold of equiplausibility, where we can adjudicate, normatively, any competing responses, using the principles of reasoning under uncertainty, evaluatively.

De-liberatively (cosmos & mythos – be free, be loving, be-loved per both temporal & ultimate teloi) …

regarding our references …

descriptively (logos or perceptionbe aware in research & communications) & …

interpretively (topos or understandingbe intelligent in interpretation & systematics) …

epistemic virtues should first vault our speculative claims over the threshold of equiplausibility, where we can adjudicate …

normatively (ethos or actingbe responsible in dialectics & foundations), any competing responses, using the principles of reasoning under uncertainty

evaluatively,(pathos or judging & decidingbe reasonable in history & doctrines).

I must stipulate with Hart & Milbank that any rivalry between ultimate worldviews, say nihilist vs theological, cannot be logically coerced. Reality remains far too ambiguous for us & way too ambivalent toward us to compel belief through speculative reason, alone.

With the Thomists, I would insist that, even stipulating that nihilism has not thus been refuted, philosophy well demonstrates the reasonableness of natural theology as an equiplausible competing worldview.

For me, Thomism’s reasonableness remains indispensable over against any thoroughgoing fideism, much less, nominalism, idealism, voluntarism or relativism.

I do not receive Milbank as coming from some Thoroughly [Post]Modern Millie, but, instead, take (eisegetically) his postmodern critique as an admonition to avoid the temptations of dueling hyper-formalisms in countering those insidious –isms.

This is to recognize that —

no essentialistic framing will finally foreclose nominalism, descriptively;

no naïve realism will convincingly defeat idealism, interpretively;

no intellectualistic speculation will logically overcome voluntarism, evaluatively;

no absolutistic insistence will compellingly obviate relativism, normatively; and

no rationalistic appeals will definitively refute fideism, existentially.

But what amount to epistemic misfires for some are but caricatures for others, whose

1) descriptive probes include semiotic & moderate critical realisms;

2) interpretive heuristics employ a metaphysical fallibilism;

3) evaluative dispositions engage an irreducible triad of logos-pathos-ethos, e.g. Aristotelian eudaimonia, Augustinian beatitudo or Thomist summum bonum;

4) normative propositions allow some degree of ethical pluralism grounded – not in an insidious relativism or vulgar pragmatism, but — suitable epistemic humility, metaphysical fallibilism & moral probabilism ; and

5) philosophical preambula vault fidei past the threshold of equiplausibility.

Thomism’s reasonableness thus gets vaulted philosophically past the threshold of equiplausibility by the valid & coherent arguments of natural theology & natural law. (And its deontological conclusions should be considered at least as modest as its ontological commitments are tentative). There, philosophy culminates in either the theological preambula fidei & its general precepts or a nihilistic cosmogony.

Any “competing” theological or nihilistic mythos would come after a normatively justified existential leap.

Past this threshold of epistemic warrant, speculative reason yields to practical reasoning under uncertainty. The speculative arguments between essentialism & nominalism, realism & idealism, intellectualism & voluntarism, absolutism & relativism and fideism & rationalism have previously been transcended by a fallibilist, critical realism.

Normative justifications commence and can lead either to the fideistic, voluntaristic dichotomy of a theological versus nihilistic mythos or to an existential disjunction, where rational equiplausibility principles, albeit often implicit, adjudicate a decision to “live as if” that which is (more so, perhaps, they who are) the most life-giving & relationship-enhancing, the most beautiful & good, the most unitive & liberative, will — first & proleptically, i.e. proximately & temporally, as well as eventually & eschatologically, i.e. ultimately & eternally — also happen to be the most true.

This constitutes meta-discourse, however inchoate or implicit, whether variously held provisionally or confidently, yes, prior to special revelations, and yes, on tradition-transcendent grounds. Importantly, this needn’t be formal discourse or what can sometimes devolve into sylly syllogisms, but more often, via our participatory imaginations, comes from our common sense & common sensibilities, from connaturality, an illative sense, a tacit dimension, intuitions & informal abductions.

The most problematical arguments of natural theology are rationalistically grounded in naïve rather than critical realisms. The most problematical arguments of the natural law are a prioristic, rationalistic, deductivistic, biologistic, physicalistic & infallibilistic, especially as they move from general precepts to specific concrete norms, particularly because of epistemic hubris and the lack of a more inductive, personalist relationality-responsibility approach. But the abuse of natural theology & natural law is no argument against their proper use.

The questions that beg?

What constitutes the most life-giving, existentially?

How do we define & measure the most relationship-enhancing? The most unitive, interpretively & orthocommunally?

Where’s the most beautiful instantiated, evaluatively & orthopathically?

And the most good realized, normatively & orthopraxically?

And the most liberative, metanoetically & orthotheotically?

These are not questions that yield to an armchair cognitive map-making but which must actively engage participative imaginations that are naturally embodied, historically situated, socially embedded, culturally bound, politically immersed & transcendentally horizoned.

Of course it’s incredibly problematical to apply our ortho-metrics to competing worldviews, precisely because their instantiations are so very particular & traditioned.

But I wouldn’t want to defend the notion that nihilism remains in that competition?

Finally, Between an overly pessimistic Augustinian interpretation & overly optimistic transcendental Thomism, perhaps a Goldilocks theological anthropology can be articulated:

/https://opcentral.org/resources/2015/01/12/donald-l-gelpi-two-spiritual-paths-thematic-grace-vs-transmuting-grace-part-1/

https://opcentral.org/resources/2015/01/12/donald-l-gelpi-two-spiritual-paths-thematic-grace-vs-transmuting-grace-part-ii/

Gelpi recognized both as donative realities – a gratuity of creation & gratuity of grace, the Spirit’s universal presence (e.g. nomicities) & particular presence, where Grace is mediated via transmuted experience, where, for example, Kerygma matter immensely.

This discussion continues here:

https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2018/08/15/augustinians-thomists-nature-grace-politics-religion/

Where in the World is Sophia? —a Sophiological footnote

The created grace Gelpi refers to would be constituted by reality’s actualized potencies, eternalized teloi (both temporal & ultimate teloi) of Peircean thirdness, efficient materialities of secondness, connaturalized indeterminacies of firstness, existentialized essences, formalized finalities, participatory intimacizations eternalized, all temporal realities coaxed forth Pneumatologically, Christologically & Paterologically via Divine Energies as would account for effects as would be proper to no known causes.

Every trace of human goodness, for example, eternalized, i.e. every beginning of a smile & all wholesome trivialities!

Whether interpreted in Platonic, Neoplatonic, Aristotelian, Thomist, Scotist, Palamitic or Peircean categories (and I cross hermeneutical bridges between them all), collectively & dynamically, these cumulative actualized potencies or eternally realized divine teloi may represent Sophia, who participates in the Divine Energies in a perichoretic Divine Dance.

In The Wisdom of God, Bulgakov spoke of two Sophias, one created and the other uncreated. She to whom I refer above would be the created Sophia in her participatedness. While I affirm the Divine Energies per a formal distinction, I must defer to others regarding the manner of viewing Sophia in Orthodoxy. And still wonder just how we might best account for ecstatic visions of Sophia.

See more re this theophany:

https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2018/08/14/essential-theophanic-putative-theo-ontological-aspects-of-human-divine-relations/

FINAL NOTE:

This body of work largely comprises my project, which I refer to as Pan-semio-entheism, because, as a systematic theology, while it is metaphysically realist, it prescinds from any given metaphysical root metaphor (substance, relational, process, experience, etc) to a phenomenological meta-heuristic.

See: Amos Yong With John Sobert Sylvest, “Reasons and Values of the Heart in a Pluralistic World: Toward a Contemplative Phenomenology for Interreligious Dialogue,” Studies in Interreligious Dialogue 20:2 (2010): 170-93

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

https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2018/03/23/mapping-metaphysical-distinctions-aristotelian-thomist-peircean/

https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2016/12/09/morrells-4-d-imax-rohrian-perichoretic-adventure/

https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2016/12/10/divine-dance-rohr-morrell-panikkar-oh-my/

https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2016/12/10/%e2%80%8bfrom-ontotheological-trinito-logical-is-ness-to-theopoetic-trinito-phanic-dance-ness-yes/

https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2016/12/10/perichoresis-as-vehicle-negativa-in-rohrs-divine-dance-a-trinito-phany-in-continuity-with-orthodox-trinito-logy/

https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2017/01/10/the-trans-formal-distinction-between-the-divine-essence-energies/

https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2017/01/10/epistemic-distance-the-greatest-good-as-divinely-willed-ends-in-an-anti-theodicy/

https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2018/06/18/maritain-murray-macintyre-milbank-a-medieval-integralist-walk-into-a-bar/

https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2018/07/10/a-semiotic-phenomenology-toward-a-more-ecumenical-trinitology-and-trinitophany/

https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2018/07/13/freedom-from-aquinas-to-modern-emergentist-semiotics/

https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2018/08/04/a-defense-of-metaphysics-to-be-or-not-to-be-or-to-e-prime-or-not/

https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2018/08/07/truth-broadly-conceived/

https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2018/08/09/the-pre-political-grounding-of-both-liberal-illiberal-regimes/

Integralism as a Pre-political Anthropology & Meta-political Norm Grounded Philosophically in Natural Theology – The Pre-political Grounding of both Liberal & Illiberal Regimes

Liberal & illiberal regimes may all have their times & places.

Licit regimes will share certain theoretical foundations, hence, criteria of liceity.

Consistent with such foundations, then, consider the following criteria:

Public laws serve as one of many means toward just ends.

We critique political strategies, diagnosis their deficits & prescribe their optimality by prudentially judging them per criteria defined by just ends.

Sufficient strategies will attain a modicum of justice as realized in public virtue, order & peace.

Confluent with other just ends, we exercise the end of freedom by being who & doing what we ought, i.e. properly forming & duti-fully exercising our consciences to flourish in & as community, where the necessary goods of a sufficient material progress serve as a means to higher moral & spiritual ends.

Freedom’s inherent duties, thus objectively & communally ordered, realize the aretaic & deontological ends (teloi) of eternal & natural laws.

We grow in freedom through a formative & liberative process of learning, which will necessarily include the increasingly habitual practice of these duties.

Freedom’s rights remain correlative with & inseparable from its duties to be/come who & do what we ought.

Radically finite, the concrete states of both individual & communal realities constantly evolve, so, continuously, we must prudently discern the means of their flourishing and adapt our public laws & political strategies to those states.

Laws & policies must variously prioritize & subordinate agreed upon (at least practically if not substantively) rights & interests and, when those rights unavoidably & truly compete, adjudicate them, balancing & reconciling them through accommodations that, foremost, preserve & foster the common good, but only ever limiting the rights & interests – or burdening the consciences – of individuals in the least restrictive manner practicable.

The abovementioned criteria obviously share certain theoretical foundations.

Even if only implicitly & inchoately, we can anthropologically & philosophically ground rather substantive (suboptimal but satisficing) agreements regarding theories of humanity & of the cosmos, of truth & of knowledge, of goodness & of beauty.

We thus abide some degree of ethical pluralism derived – not from an insidious relativism or vulgar pragmatism, but – from a moral probabilism consistent with an appropriate epistemic humility & suitable metaphysical fallibilism. Our de-ontologies should therefore be as modest as our ontologies are tentative.

A given community may well move beyond such an implicit & inchoate philosophical grounding, e.g. natural theology, to an explicit & definitive revealed theology. In that case, any agreed upon rights & interests may more optimally reflect humanity’s ultimate telos, condiligentes, i.e. as co-lovers with God.

In such a community, religious conversion can further foster, even trans-value, its members’ realizations of humanity’s proximate, erotic-agapeistic-eudaimonistic teloi.

Beyond a given community’s vision of ultimate teloi, transcultural realities & religious pluralism invite further excursus, e.g. regarding shared orthocommunal (topos), orthodoxic (or polydoxic logos ), orthopathic (pathos), orthopraxic (ethos) criteria.

Maritain, McInerny, Murray, MacIntyre, Milbank & a Medieval Integralist walk into a bar

Maritain, McInerny, Murray, MacIntyre, Milbank & a Medieval Integralist walk into a bar serving optimism & pessimism. Let Maritain & McInerny drive you home. The others are inebriated.

Regarding the following questions –What would Murray, MacIntyre, Milbank & Medieval Integralists Say?

Has a clearly successful civil polity (with articles of peace but not of faith) ever been founded in any pluralistic society based on some shared thematized natural law?

Has a fairly successful civil polity (with articles of peace but not of faith) never been founded in any pluralistic society, at least based on shared values, although not on shared justifications?

Has a lack of certain shared moral outlooks always necessarily ensued from some subjectivism, emotivism, voluntarism, relativism, utilitarianism, vulgar pragmatism, secularism or nihilism that precluded shared metaphysical commitments & axiological frameworks? What about Mortimer Adler’s account of humanity’s common sense & sensibilities and of certain self-evident prescriptive inferences that derive from our being immersed together in a similarly situated human condition, especially regarding major precepts?

Has a lack of certain shared moral outlooks never otherwise ensued from an ethical pluralism that included shared metaphysical commitments & axiological frameworks, but was derived with a suitable epistemic humility, metaphysical fallibilism & moral probabilism?

Murray, MacIntyre, Milbank or Medieval Integralists would each in their own way employ a theological anthropology that’s either excessively optimistic or pessimistic, based on (mis)conceptions regarding the relationship between nature & grace, variously implicating notions regarding the gratuity of grace.

A Goldilocks Theological Anthropology, neither too optimistic nor pessimistic, would be better reflected in the anthropology of Maritain, combined with Gelpi’s adaptation of Lonergan’s approach as modified by Gelpi’s account of grace as transmuted experience.

Per Maritain, humanity’s transcultural apprehension of the natural law is not robustly & discursively thematic but more so inchoately & connaturally intuitional. So, we can share evaluative dispositions, moral sensibilities & ethical intuitions that presuppose varying degrees of moral realism without sharing their justifications via deeper metaphysical commitments. Maritain would thus answer the above questions differently from his pub buddies.

If we adopt Gelpi’s Lonerganian adaptation in conjunction with Maritain’s account of humanity’s ubiquitous moral sensitivity to the natural law via connaturality, we can distinguish between the secular conversions (intellectual, affective, moral & sociopolitical) and religious conversion, whereby the former more properly reflect the gratuity of creation with its obediential potencies for grace, and the latter relate to the gratuity of grace, itself, to which one responds responsibly in faith (to some historical act of divine self-revelation & self-communication).

Certainly, from a pneumatological perspective, the secular conversions reflect the ordinary presence of the Holy Spirit in the world via its universality & prevenient connaturality. The particularity of the Holy Spirit’s action in the lives of Christian believers, however, reflects a radically transformative & extraordinary presence.

Afterthoughts

This does seem to be the crux. With Maritain we can’t deny that a prevenient connaturality hasn’t provided humankind’s inchoate realization of natural law via shared moral sensibilities & ethical intuitions, sufficient for a modicum of public peace, order, justice & morality? With Gelpi, we wouldn’t deny that humankind journeys more swiftly & w/less hindrance when secular conversions (intellectual, affective, moral & socio-political) are transvalued by religious conversions (radical & kerygmatic; yes, other religions w/degrees of truth & goodness) . So, no, there’s never been some edenic epoch of either a Whig Thomism (neocon or neoliberal) or an idyllic integralism (political Augustinianism). And monastic, anarchic & pacifist approaches have only ever been vocational & spirituality “options” not theopolitical norms (as in Augustinian radicalisms).

Too many conceive Catholic social & moral teachings as primarily intended to shape politics, reflexively thinking in terms of coercive polity in response to every papal utterance or episcopal exhortation, relegating their familial, social, civic & nongovernmental implications. They see government as the primary means of coordinating the initiatives of our better angels, which it sometimes can be, rather than for ameliorating the initiatives of our fallen angels. Gospel inculturation, moral enculturation & ministerial accompaniment aren’t coercive.

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Regarding a Supposed Natural Law Impotence

Impotent natural law arguments nonvirtuously cycle abductive hypothesizing and deductive clarifying without the benefit of inductive testing, unlike the church’s highly esteemed social teaching with its NL plus personalist approach. Too many NL theorists employ abstract, aprioristic, deductivistic, rationalistic, biologistic arguments that bear little resemblance to the concrete, lived experiences of people. Church social teachings have employed triadic inference w/inductive, personalist approach+NL and are widely received. For some, NL hasn’t been tried and found wanting but hasn’t even been tried. When it has been done properly, it has been highly esteemed and widely accepted. Flawed methodologies need fixing. Shared inchoate NL sensibilities and intuitions suffice for public order, public peace, public justice and public morality in a secular governmental polity. More robust NL methods are of course required for thornier moral objects (e.g. bioethical). The latter methods can result in an ethical pluralism due -not to relativism, but- metaphysical fallibilism and moral probabilism, ie epistemic humility not HUBRIS!
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Does faith shape our politics or is it too often the other way around?

From a formative spirituality perspective, “other way around” may happen more often among those in earlier stages. If we view progressive & traditionalist sensibilities as charisms of pilgrims & settlers, later on our faith journeys, those gifts may well shape our political ministries.

It does also seem that, even within denominations that accommodate a plurality of theological opinions regarding nature & grace, where one stands on the optimism-pessimism spectrum of theological anthropology (depravist & exclusivist vs inclusivist) often seems to shape political approaches.

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Yes, moral realities are transparent to human reason without reference to special revelation. BUT Prudential judgments evaluate conditions of MORAL legitimacy, presupposed within an established framework of values and priorities. For example, coercive measures mustn’t produce evils & disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated!

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I was heartened when the Religious Freedom Restoration Act here in US bolstered 1st Amendment protections regarding federal statutes (states would have to effect their own). While a generally applicable law advancing a compelling government interest could burden consciences, strict scrutiny requires that be done with the least restrictive means practicable.

The US approach to the Enlightenment employed a secularist political strategy that fairly well strengthened the influence of religion in citizens’ lives. On the Continent, however, a militant secularism marginalized religion; beyond a mere political strategy, it was driven from other spheres – civil, social, economic & cultural.

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Maritain recognized that prudential judgments must discern which civil polity is optimal from one location and concrete set of circumstances to the next, even from one epoch to the next. As the degrees of successful Gospel inculturation & moral enculturation thus vary, strategies advancing human dignity, common good, justice & peace must adapt.

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Throw tribalistic cultures into the mix, along with recent results regarding neoconservative democratization “strategies” (e.g. war) & Arab Springs unsprung, is it not clear that no one political shoe will fit all peoples?

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Prior to any political theology, one needs a Goldilocks theological anthropology, i.e. neither too optimistic (eg transcendentalistic) nor pessimistic (eg dialectical imagination or depravity), so, I commend the thoughts of my late fellow Yat (N’orleanian). For the convenience of any who may be interested, Don Gelpi on grace pt 2

Finally, I commend Amos Yong’s In the Days of Caesar: Pentecostalism & Political Theology, where he writes: Catholic Social Teaching is important less because of specifiable political proposals but because it articulates a theological vision of social & economic justice that has broad political implications.

I commend Yong’s book as in continuity with Gelpi’s theological anthropology and Maritain’s political philosophy.

From an anonymous reviewer:

Our political interaction, as expressed in our many different modes of public interaction, takes on a contextual expression that responds to the particular instances in light of the work of Christ. With this in mind, then, a Pentecostal political theology does not mandate a specific response that must be applied in all settings, but rather builds a framework of values and priorities which give freedom to those in each setting. This framework is not a wishy-washy approach, suggesting that whatever is done is always baptized in the Spirit, but instead offers freedom within the context of responsibility. We who are Christians, who seek to participate in this world in the power of the Spirit, do so in light of Christ’s own calling, and it is as such that Yong formulates his constructive theology.

Finally, I commend The Conservative Pragmatism of Charles Peirce by Thomas Short.

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Catholic Social & Moral Teaching – provides a framework of values & priorities to advance human dignity & the common good. Within that framework citizens apply their best prudential judgments to optimally realize those values & priorities. Such liberative strategies are not first and foremost coercive or political, but, when they do resort to political solutions, those have included most of the following:

Il-Liberalism

Integralism & Political Augustinianism

Augustinian Radicalism

Classical Liberalism

Neoconservatism

Neoliberalism

Libertarianism

Paleoconservatism

Political emphasis on negative rights & free exercise

Social, Economic, Fiscal, Political & Cultural conservatisms

Modern Liberalism

Social Democracy

Social Liberalism

Economic Statism & Keynesian Economics

Political emphasis on positive rights & nonestablishment

Social, Economic, Fiscal, Political & Cultural progressivisms

Socialism

Fascism

Communism

Totalitarian

Nontotalitarian

Just how could such manifold & varied political strategies, almost all, ever be deemed largely compatible with Magisterial teachings from place to place & time to time? That will be the subject of my next tweet, which I’ve been working on for the past decade. Since I’ve recently been afforded 280 characters, though, it’s going to take me a bit longer to compose it. I’ll give you a hint. Each of the above represents an ideology that variously over- and/or under-emphasizes one aspect of Church teaching or another. Foundationally, they can also be overly optimistic or pessimistic regarding their preconceptions of nature & grace vis a vis their implicit theological anthropologies.