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/

Apart from the life of prayer, there can be no talk of doing theology.

We all engage, whether explicitly or implicitly, in a philosophical triad of saying, unsaying and weighing.

We aspire to descriptive accuracy of God in saying what He, analogically, is like, then unsaying what He, literally, is not, or analogically, is not like, weighing the cumulative evidence presented by tradition, only ever coming up with successful references to — but, not descriptions of — God.

This is often called natural theology or philosophical theology but it’s, essentially, philosophy. It provides no proofs. It frames up questions but gives no conclusive answers. It does demonstrate that our existential leaps in faith can be reasonable, a reality most seem to know, implicitly, in their very bones and via common sense, but which, for others, needs to be worked out, explicitly, in our heads.

A theological triad, however, engages in saying, unsaying and praying, telling stories about our encounters of divine immanence, quieted by our encounters of divine transcendence and reflecting on our experiences in prayer:

how our cooperating with the Spirit in synergia, loving God, others, cosmos and even self, has, theopoietically, taken us from image to likeness

how our surrendering in the loving contemplation of theoria has, theotically, gifted us unitive experiences of divine communions, partakings and participations in the activities, works and energies of God!

The divine antinomies of theology — as expressed in scripture, tradition and reason — are not finally resolved philosophically but get dissolved existentially by an Answer that arrives in the form of intimacy via a robustly, Personal relationship.

Apart from the life of prayer, then, there can be no talk of doing theology.

Now, there can be a philosophy-speak that takes place within the life of faith and after the leap of faith, a true theology of nature. But it’s much more closely related to psalmody and scriptural allegory than it is to philosophy. It’s moreso a prayer of the heart.

So much of the impulse for philosophical theology today seems animated by the search for a persuasive evidential theodicy, which, for all sorts of reasons, I believe is misguided. For one thing, theodicies seem rather cold, hence cruel, responses to many of life’s victims. For another, theodicies can be so summarily and cursorily dismissive of the enormity of human suffering and immensity of human pain. Let us eschew, then, specific theodicies in response to the evidential problem of evil and be content, rather, with general defenses in response to the logical problem of evil, as have been handed down and refined in our traditions.

The most effective response to a world disoriented, lost, hungry, wounded, marginalized and deformed, then, will come from a missiology, wherein we cooperate with the work of the Spirit in the fivefold Christological mission that will

  • orient us, eschatologically
  • save us, soteriologically
  • nurture and heal us, sacramentally
  • empower us, ecclesiologically, and
  • transform us, sophiologically.

The problem of evil doesn’t finally resolve, philosophically, but dissolves, existentially, through the realization that we are be-loved. Far more than any conceptual map-making, our participatory imaginations will gift us divine communion along with all the gifts it entails.

What return shall I make?