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.

 

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

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

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

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

That’s pretty much it.

One can dig deeper, though.

To wit:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amplification:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I believe so.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Abelard originally distinguished extensional from intentional identity.)

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

My modal schema, influenced by Peircean categories, where

Being > Reality > Relations > Existents

roughly & analogously maps to these modes of identity

Essential | Personal | Formal | Creatures

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

See:
https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2018/08/26/simply-divine-or-a-divinity-fudge-cooking-with-dionysius-scotus-peirce-aquinas-palamas/

Also see:

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

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

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

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

Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See:
https://independent.academia.edu/SylvestJohn

https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2018/11/11/meaningful-god-talk/

https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2018/11/27/ive-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/

https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2018/11/28/much-ado-about-nihil-a-taxonomy-of-in-determinacies/

https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2018/11/29/my-mon-arche-i-tectonic-shift/

https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2018/12/02/in-dialogue-with-boyd-on-hartshorne-neville-on-divine-freedom/

https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2018/12/03/how-gelpis-inculturated-north-american-theology-graced-my-encounter-with-eastern-orthodoxy/
https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2018/12/04/classical-theism-doesnt-really-compete-tautologically/

https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2018/09/17/why-i-have-no-metaphysic/

Note re: leaps of faith

Monist
nihilism
pantheism

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

Pluralist
pan-entheism (uncreated tehom)

Appendix – application to physical systems

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

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

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

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

https://www.researchgate.net/post/What_are_the_worse_yet_enduring_misconceptions_about_mass_and_energy_in_special_relativity

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

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

massless/massive particles

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

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

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

Essential Theophanic & Putative Theo-ontological Aspects of Human & Divine Relations

A theophany might define essential donative, communicative, participative & liberative aspects of human-divine relations. It would preclude all fatalism & determinism, include a robust conception of agency & proper conception of freedom.

Would any of those dogmatic essentials necessarily be threatened in a theo-ontology that

pan-entheistically employs an ontological distinction between humans & God, where God donates & communicates creatively as we participate & are liberated imitatively?

panen-theistically employs a mereological distinction between humans & God, where God donates & communicates diffusively as we participate & are liberated substratively?

From lengthy, depthful discussions with a friend who followed Aurobindo & a limited study of Rāmānuja, all which evoked anew my own resonances with Pseudo-Dionysius, I would answer — no.

Of special interest, see:

Clayton, Philip. (2010). Panentheisms East and West. Sophia. 49. 183-191. 10.1007/s11841-010-0181-9.

After writing this, I came across this: Dionysian Ponderings: The God Who is Theophany by Fr Aidan Kimel

I heartily commend that whole series.

tags: creatio ex nihilo, creatio ex deo, creatio ex profundis, creatio ex amore, efficient & exemplary causes,