A contemplative posture orients one’s disposition toward reality more than it offers propositions about reality. It more so norms “how” we see and less so describes “what” we see.
Contemplation effects metanoia, which includes intellectual, affective, moral, social and religious conversions. While these conversion dynamics are distinct from developmental growth mechanisms (for example, as described by Piaget, Maslow , Kohlberg, Erikson and Fowler, et al), they are not unrelated as they do foster those processes.
The conversions gift us horizon-situated dispositions, which
1) open our perceptions via an awareness that there’s more to any given reality than our own thoughts can suggest; via logos;
2) open our minds to recognize the intelligence on display in other interpretations of any given reality outside of our own social and political circles; via topos;
3) open our souls by expanding what’s reasonable to expect regarding any given reality beyond what our own feelings might suggest; via pathos;
4) open our hands by enlarging our sense of responsibility toward any given reality beyond our own moral and practical concerns; via ethos;
5) open our hearts to being in love with and beloved by God, others, the cosmos and even one’s self; via mythos.
These conversions gift us with what Lonergan described as human authenticity, when he articulated his transcendental imperatives: be aware, be reasonable, be responsible and be intelligent.
Still, what theorists like Lonergan, Maslow, Gerald May, Viktor Frankl and others all eventually came to understand was that self-actualization was in fact a by-product of self-transcendence (not the end-product of self-interested strivings). Any pursuits of self-actualization, authenticity, Enlightenment and such for their own sakes, i.e. as sought after end-products, would be self-defeating, frustrating their own realizations. Any who would aspire to be aware, reasonable, responsible and intelligent — would best realize those values by, first, being in love!
Without following the imperative to be in love, one could not realize sustained authenticity. Without seeking Enlightenment out of solidarity and compassion, rather than for one’s own sake, Enlightenment would forever elude one.
The contemplative stance, then, while mostly dispositional, does entail one universal, even if vague, propositional posit, which is that reality’s origin and end, being and essence, value and appeal, meaning and purpose, is love.
Thus contemplation, as entailed in the spiritual practices, asceticisms and disciplines across traditions, expresses a singular, orthodoxic, soteriological trajectory. This orientation goes beyond the norms of authenticity or of a suitable epistemic humility, dis-positionally, to also include, pro-positionally, a belief that reality is robustly relational. It warrants an existentially actionable interpretation that, wholly and thoroughly beloved, we simply must be loving. (As the children sing why they love Jesus … because He first loved me).
In many cases, through interreligious dialogue, we are discovering that, beyond this singular, shared, orthodoxic, soteriological trajectory, the great traditions and indigenous religions will otherwise diverge with pluralist, diverse, polydoxic, sophiological trajectories, which, more simply put, correspond to different ways of being in love with different aspects of reality, including God, others, self and cosmos.
This is to recognize that, in many ways, as we move beyond the vaguely spiritual to embrace more specific religious paths, it will not necessarily entail competing interpretations of reality but only complementary approaches to reality, which can be variously more inchoate or developed, more or less inclusive, variously emphasizing our unitary being or our unitive strivings, more or less suited to foster conversions and to sustain authenticity, more or less perfectly articulating truth, enjoying comm-unity, celebrating beauty, preserving goodness and growing freedom & love. I mean to say all of that in full consonance with Pope Paul VI’s proclamation, Nostra Aetate.
When institutionalized religions fail in fostering conversions and in sustaining authenticity, many followers will, understandably, retreat into a spiritual but not religious stance. When religions are at their best, though, well, we “see how they love one another” as they foster open minds, open hearts and open hands!
And we see where the quest, itself, becomes our grail; the risks of faith, hope and love, themselves, become our rewards; the journey, itself, becomes our destination; the spiritual process, itself, becomes our transformational product; the next good step becomes the entire recovery program; the commitment, itself, becomes our outcome; the prayer and sitting, themselves, become our consolation.
Life’s highest goods, alone, can thus be enjoyed without moderation, as the pursuits of truth, unity, beauty, goodness and freedom are, intrinsically, their own rewards. The contemplative stance embodies that real-ization. Good religion enhances it.
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.
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 perception – be aware in research & communications) & …
interpretively (topos or understanding – be intelligent in interpretation & systematics) …
epistemic virtues should first vault our speculative claims over the threshold of equiplausibility, where we can adjudicate …
normatively (ethos or acting – be responsible in dialectics & foundations), any competing responses, using the principles of reasoning under uncertainty …
evaluatively,(pathos or judging & deciding – be 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:
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:
Where in the World is Sophia? —a Sophiological footnoteThe 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:
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
The architectonic set forth herein suggests philosophical norms & theological heuristics, the contours within which I methodologically approach systematic theology, comparative theology & Gospel inculturation.
With this pan-semio-entheism, I aspire to develop a polydoxic, pneumatological missiology for the planting of ecclesial gatherings that will invite, orient, unify, sanctify, heal, nurture, liberate & send forth dual-practitioners & even multiple-belongers.
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.
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;
• cosmopoietic – teleomatic or end-stated;
• biopoietic – teleonomic or end-directed or end-coded;
• sentiopoietic – teleoqualic or end-purposed; and
• sapiopoietic – teleologic 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.
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:
We disambiguate ambiguities & define in/definite actualities, which are determinacies (in/definitive) that correspond to referenced or defined entities.
In/determinacies (in/determinable & in/determined) refer to generalities (probabilities & necessities) and vagueness (possibilities).
We determine in/determinacies by delimiting vague possibilities & specifying generalities, i.e. probabilities & necessities.
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.
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.
Below are accounts of secular & religious conversions.
The architectonic, below, represents a hermenetical spiral, which proceeds successively & transformatively (via a divine gratuity of creation) through a cosmic, temporal chronos of logos, topos, pathos & ethos to a divine encounter with a mythic, eternal, kairos, whereupon, given a prevenient, obediential potency, a novel, foundational meta-ethos will donatively (via a divine gratuity of grace) emerge to thereafter norm, in reverse succession, the transformative dynamics of a doctrinal meta-pathos, systematic meta-topos & pastoral meta-logos.
This spiral presents, wholistically, in the overall soteriological trajectories of each transformative journey. It is also recapitulated, holonically, in every discrete axiological trajectory of each individual value-realization.
RIGHT BEING – PRESENCE
COSMOS of PENTAPARTITE ANTHROPOLOGY
GIFTED – authentic value-realizers – kairos of imago dei & chronos of cosmic evolution; an interpreting subject of a micro-cosmic mereological reality
- Intellectual – be aware
- Social – be intelligent
- Affective – be reasonable
- Moral & Practical – be responsible
- Religious – be in love
RIGHT BELIEVING – WORD BROKEN OPEN
LOGOS of PENTADIC METAPHYSICS & ONTOLOGY (WORD)
GIVENS – orthodoxic phenomenology of objects of interpretation, sacred kairos & secular chronos; secondness
- Unitary Being as Intraobjective Identity
- Unitive Striving as Intersubjective Intimacy
- Unified Self as Intrasubjective Integrity
- Ultimate Unicity as Interobjective Indeterminacy
- Ens Necessarium as Transjective Necessity
RIGHT BELONGING – COVENANT & PEOPLE GATHERED IN THANKSGIVING
TOPOS of PENTAPRAGMATIC COMMUNITY & MISSIOLOGY
THANKSGIVING – orthocommunal contexts & Eucharistic communities of interpretation (sacred kairos & secular chronos)
- Eschatological – historical & scientific as ordered by & to truth; Spirit-oriented
- Ecclesiological – sociological as ordered by & to unity; Spirit-empowered
- Soteriological – arts, humanities & cultural as ordered by & to beauty; Spirit-sanctified or dedicated
- Sacramental – economical & philosophical as ordered by & to goodness; Spirit-healed & nurtured
- Sophiological – political as ordered by & to freedom; Spirit-saved
Beyond the mere propositional translations (via cognitive map-making), engaged dispositional interpretations (via inhabitations of participatory imaginations) of culturally embodied noetic, aesthetic, ethical, unitive & liberative norms will reveal the theological idioms necessary for Gospel inculturation.
RIGHT DESIRING – ANAMNESIS & MEMORIAL
PATHOS of PENTALECTICAL AXIOLOGY
GIFTS – orthopathic value-realizations of proleptic kairos & evolutionary chronos; firstness & the primacy of esthetic interpretion
RIGHT BEHAVING – ITE, MISSA EST
ETHOS of PENTALOGICAL EPISTEMOLOGY (SPIRIT)
RECEIVING – orthopraxic value-pursuits through acts of interpretation, sacred & secular, pneumatological (kairos) & participatory imagination (chronos); thirdness
RIGHT BECOMING – MEAL – You are what you eat!
MYTHOS of PENTATARIAN THEOLOGY
GIVER – orthotheotic participations – theological manifestations as invitations from image to likeness for we are the Body of Christ indwelled by the Trinity & participating in the Divine Dance; interpreting subjects of a macro-cosmic mereological reality
- Jesusology & Epiphany
- Trinitology & Trinitophany
- Paterology & Theophany
- Pneumatology & Pneumatophany
- Christology & Christophany
DIVINE PROVISIONINGS & GRATUITIES
Gratuity of Creation – the divine provisioning of co/operative connaturality, where humanization & socialization lead to authenticity via 1) secular conversions (w/inchoate grasp of natural law) and intimacization leads to sustained authenticity via 2) kenotic conversions (w/kenotic relational dynamics of temporal ends).
Gratuity of Grace – divine provisioning of co/operative grace, where deification leads to transformative realizations via 3) religious conversions (w/polydoxic relational dynamics & inchoate grasp of natural theology) and christianization leads to transformative fruition of eternal ends via 4) theotic conversions (w/beatitudinal & beatific realizations).
There’s a progressive realization of virtues, as one’s experiences are transmuted by cooperation w/the Holy Breath, w/decreasing risks of perverted ends, whether temporal or eternal.
Sophia effected by Divine Energies will express immanent & divine entelechies (via various teloi) in the gratuities of creation & grace, in universal & particularized instances.
I. Natural Conversions – intellectual, social, affective & moral
A. descriptive – research/experiential perception – logos
B. interpretive – interpretation/intelligent understanding – topos
C. evaluative – history/judging – deciding – pathos
D. normative – dialectics/responsible acting – ethos
forced options –
II. Authenticity & Self-Transcendence – cosmos (self, others & world) via Spirit’s universal ordinary presence in the gratuity of creation (obediential potencies; prevenient/operative & cooperative connaturality). This gratuity involves the divine provisioning of temporal ends proportionate to Aristotle’s virtues of truth, beauty, goodness & unity (via humility) through operative (prevenient) & cooperative connaturality.
normative – foundations
live options – polydoxy
III. Religious Conversion – mythos (meta-cosmos or ultimate reality) via Spirit’s particularity & extraordinary presence in the gratuity of grace (response to special revelations via prevenient/operative & cooperative graces). This gratuity involves the divine provisioning of eternal ends (meta-ethos) proportionate to Aquinas’ theological virtues of faith, hope, love & unity (via communal oneness ) through operative (prevenient) & cooperative grace.
A. evaluative – doctrines (meta-pathos)
B. interpretive – systematics (meta-topos)
theology of nature
C. descriptive – communications (meta-logos)
Gospel inculturation & moral enculturation
Regarding Philosophical & Theological Distinctions
A distinction is not truly philosophical if it hasn’t been discerned to make a difference, existentially, helping one realize one’s true temporal ends. And it’s not truly theological if it hasn’t been discerned to make an existential difference, helping one realize one’s true eternal ends.
One can only authentically become fully human by realizing our divinely ordained temporal & eternal ends.
An anthropology may properly relate the perinoetic|empirical, dianoetic|logical, diastemic|aporetic, ananoetic|metaphysical, epinoetic|apophatic & kinetic|dynamical aspects of our human episteme, yet, without an holistic integration with the METANOETIC|transformative reality of human BECOMING, it’s not robustly philosophical, much less theological.
If taken beyond methodological stipulations to metaphysical presuppositions, beliefs in sufficient reason/causation & reality’s intelligibility will ontologically reduce to theism. Beyond that, dynamical questions re reality’s immanent & transcendent entelechies may beg.
One’s metaphysical stances, sometimes implicit, toward any of a wide variety of interpretations of various origins (e.g. field, cosmic, quantum, life, sentience, language) may often then implicate: pan-, panen-, pan-en-, open or classical theism, deism or theistic personalism.
Architectonic of Divine Gratuity
Orthodoxic Path: Gratuity of Creation
Polydoxic Path: Gratuity of Grace
Theotic Path: Gratuity of Grace
Architectonic of Participatory Divine Gratuities
The apparent tension between divine simplicity & divine freedom results from the conflation of two distinct categories, the metaphysical & existential with the nonmetaphysical & quidditative.
Other aporia remain but are located elsewhere.
We successfully reference God, metaphysically, only apophatically, e.g. divine simplicity & ousia, abducting THAT God is, existentially.
We successfully reference God, personally, per special revelation, variously employing kataphasis, apophasis, doxology, etc, inductively experiencing WHO God is, quidditatively, e.g. divine aseity & energeiai.
Revelatory references employ common sense rhetoric with ontological implications but not always strict metaphysical categories & predications, which, at any rate, wouldn’t, in principle, lend themselves to anything but apophatic, existential – not quidditative, essential – metaphysics. Logical consistency not subject to parody in modal ontological arguments requires apophatic predication.
That’s why I insist, for example, on labeling the essence-energies distinction as trans-formal.
Analogical predications of God exert much more normative leverage on our embodied dispositions – aesthetically, morally & relationally – as we participate in reality’s excess of meaning, making appropriate (e.g. Eucharistic) responses to ultimate reality via myth & storytelling, which aren’t always completely true, literally, or robustly effective, analogically, i.e. they exert little descriptive leverage on our abstract propositions or deductive argumentations.
I would thus urge any reference to a putative analogical god-talk to be restated as trans-analogical.
We judge that the Reality of God will somehow, ultimately, make existence far less ambiguous for, & ambivalent toward, us in ways we can neither prove nor fully express, because …
proleptically, we have participated through, with & in One, Who has loved us, Whose Spirit has gifted us first fruits, an earnest, a guarantee, a down payment, a seal, a promise, a confident assurance in things hoped for & conviction of glories unseen.
How, precisely, might we avoid a Spinozan modal collapse?
In my own Peirce-like modal ontology, first, we distinguish determinacies & indeterminacies. 
For determinacies, we must disambiguate any ambiguities (univocal, equivocal, analogical, apophatic, etc) & define any in/definite actualities, which are determinacies (in/definitive) that can correspond to vaguely referenced or robustly described entities.
In/determinacies (in/determinable & in/determined) refer to generalities(probabilities & necessities) and vagueness (possibilities). We determine in/determinacies by delimiting vague possibilities & specifying generalities, i.e. probabilities & necessities.
Next, we distinguish possibilities, actualities & probabilities in terms of Aristotelian causation.
A distinction may be real vs conceptual (re logical or virtual). Real distinctions can include modal distinctions (re temporality or adequacy).
Modal temporality can include a formal or metaphysically real distinction. This maps, somewhat, to both Scotus’ formal distinction & Peirce’s category of thirdness or 3ns.
Modal temporality as applied to Peircean categories can variously map to causes, where for:
2ns or actualities, where noncontradiction [PNC] & excluded middle [PEM] hold and act maps to efficient & potency to material causes;
3ns or regularities, where PNC holds but PEM folds and act maps to formal & potency to final causes;
1ns or possibilities, where PNC folds & PEM holds and act maps to our embodied connaturalities and potency to their indeterminacies.
Other real distinctions would include:
act – existence
potency – essence
whole/part or mereological
Real vs Conceptual (re logical or virtual).
Real distinctions include modal distinctions re temporality (above) or adequacy (in/finite or whole/part = mereological). Modal temporality includes a formal or metaphysically real distinction (PNC holds, PEM folds).
It could map like this:
Modal temporality can be applied to Peircean categories as mapped to causes, where for:
actualities, act –> efficient & potency –> material;
regularities, act -> formal; potency –> final.
existentially, act -> existence; potency -> essence.
Finally, we distinguish with Peirce, reality from existence. Gary E. Kessler describes Peirce’s distinction:
Reality is a broader term that encompasses what exists but is not synonymous with it. For something to be real it must have properties sufficient to identify it whether anyone attributes those properties to it or not. The existent, strictly speaking, is what interacts with things in a spatio-temporal environment.
Applying this distinction to God, then, in his excursus on Peirce’s Neglected Argument,  Kessler continues:
Since God is not another spatio-temporal object, it amounts to fetishism, Peirce remarks, to say that God exists. Hence his argument, strictly speaking, is not an argument for God’s existence, but for God’s reality.
Aaron Bruce Wilso writes, in Peirce’s Empiricism: Its Roots and Its Originality, Lexington Books, Oct 19, 2016
If the above- described distinctions refer to categories for spatio-temporal realities, how must they be modified to successfully reference the Reality of God, even if not successfully describe some putative Being of God?
Regarding the Reality of God:
Modal temporality would not successfully refer, much less describe God, because God’s
a) pure trans-actuality (actus purus or trans-efficient primal cause) lacks material potency as Ipsum Esse Subsistens.
b) God’s pure trans-formal act (primal telos) of Ens Necessarium lacks final potency; and
c) God’s pure trans-possibility lacks indeterminate potency.
Existentially, God’s pure act of existence lacks essential potency.
In terms of Modal Adequacy, the trans-infinite Reality of God lacks finitude.
Prior to theo-ontology, our theophany would define essential donative, communicative, participative & liberative aspects of human-divine relations. It would preclude all fatalism & determinism, include a robust conception of agency & proper conception of freedom.
Our dogmatic, relational essentials provide the theological contours within which we should remain as we aspire to our classical, neo-classical & other approaches.
The question of modal adequacy raises further whole/part or mereological considerations:
Would any of those dogmatic essentials necessarily be threatened in a theo-ontology that, for example:
pan-entheistically employs an ontological distinction between humans & God, where God donates & communicates creatively as we participate & are liberated imitatively?
panen-theistically employs a mereological distinction between humans & God, where God donates & communicates diffusively as we participate & are liberated substratively?
Bulgakov seems to echo Origen re: eternal creation, but Lossky – Athanaius, who deemed creation in time from God’s will rather than nature. Related to distinctions of Norris Clarke: esse naturale v intentionale & Palamas: essence v energies. Keller’s tehomic panentheism via creatio ex profundis makes sense to me as an eternal act, where the order of existence was the formless void of Genesis. CS Peirce affirms the atemporal Reality of God, where Being > Reality > Existence, denying God’s an existent. To that being:reality distinction, I impute naturale:intentionale & essence:energy distinctions. The Reality of God would freely proceed as energeia, per divine will, diffusing the tehom’s substrative forms w/divinizing finalities, that they may participate imitatively. Eternal creatio ex profundis & an in-time creatio continua preserve divine transcendence w/o sacrificing an intimate relationality, integral to a more robustly personalistic theology. (I’m trying to reconcile these approaches in resonance w/some of Staniloae’s intuitions.)
In the eternal generation of the Son & procession of the Spirit, the economic trinity manifests the immanent trinity.
The non-determinate Creator gifts (originates or speaks) …
the uncreated, transcendent, trans-determinate Logos (norms) mediated by …
the empowering Spirit to …
the determinate creation, the order of which thus presents as an harmonious, telic configuration of pluralities.
This manifestation of the economic trinity exhausts what can be said of the immanent trinity.
Apart from the creative act & divine energeia, which reveal an extrinsic, relational, trinitarian divine esse intentionale …
we can attribute nothing determinate, intrinsically or essentially, to the trinitarian divine esse naturale in its aseity.
While being, reality & existence refer to creatures, only being & reality refer to the Creator, a non-existent.
The divine esse naturale (intrinsic, essential being of God) remains trans-formally distinct from the divine esse intentionale (extrinsic, relational reality of God).
I thus eisegetically adapt Neville’s creatio ex nihilo & Yong’s pneumatology in my own meta-heuristic.
Robert Cummings Neville‘s __God the Creator: On the Transcendence and Presence of God__ & Amos Yong‘s __Discerning the Spirit(s): A Pentecostal-Charismatic Contribution to Christian Theology of Religions__
See Addendum below regarding a “dispositional” metaphysic.
I argue that, in both cases, the answer is no.
ALL of the Reality of God metaphysical formulations above set forth apophatic predications, where both PNC & PEM hold. Apophatic predications in modal ontological arguments preserve a logical consistency not subvertible by parody.
HOWEVER, it is one thing to set forth such distinctions syntactically & grammatically following semantic rules (e.g. univocity of being) that foster successful references, allowing us to formulate logically consistent modal ontological arguments that can be rather compelling philosophically & metaphysically, as we abduct the Reality of God or THAT God really effected this or that effect as would be proper to no known causes —
And quite another thing altogether to imagine that this great accomplishment of Natural Theology has also gifted us quidditative knowledge regarding to WHOM that Reality of God-concept refers in any robustly semantical or contextual (pragmatic) sense. It’s at this juncture we can begin telling untellable metaphysical stories, saying way more, metaphysically, than what can reasonably be known, proving too much metaphysically, abandoning all prudent aporetic sensibilities!
It’s at this juncture where, happily, having evaded a fideistic leap, we must next turn to special revelation, not so much propositionally at first but dispositionally, inhabiting & embodying its belongingness, its desirings, its participations — tasting & seeing the beauty & goodness imparted by the Divine Energies, prudently imagining that the Reality of Natural Theology’s God must be true!
Because the Reality of God successfully refers to the Ens Necessarium, not only God’s trans-actuality (essence) but also God’s trans-formal distinctions (energies) require a modal ontological grammar, where both PNC & PEM hold for the Creator.
For the created spatio-temporal order, whether in the formal distinctions of generalities or in the vagueness of possibilities, indeterminacies must be admitted to avoid falling into the hopeless paradoxes of essentialism vs nominalism, idealism vs naïve realism, asymmetric temporality, logical vs efficient causation, and so on.
PNC thus folds for temporal possibilities & PEM folds for temporal probabilities. This sharply distinguishes the modal grammars of metaphysical, apophatic, existential God-talk from those of spatio-temporal metaphysics?
Enough theological aporia present on their own without our generating more by conflating metaphysical grammars.
What sets Spinoza apart is his Principle of Sufficient Reason on steroids combined with an idealist monism, where an Ens Necessarium obviates all indeterminacies, where only one modal grammar operates.
What distinguishes some atheological conceptions is a mereological distinction, where the fallacy of composition is presupposed and the whole does not beg questions for its necessary being, a materialist monist approach to a brute reality. Here the PSR is methodologically provisional & a philosophical naturalism essential, but not necessarily inconsistent with libertarian freedom, consistent with a number of philosophies of mind.
Theological conceptions employ a nuanced PSR, essentially, with a methodological naturalism, provisionally. Conceiving God in classical or neoclassical, pan-entheist or panen-theist, conceptions, the Reality of God begs questions, either ontologically as asking “why not rather nothing?” or mereologically as asking “why not rather something else?”. The response to either question evokes an abduction of the Reality of the Ens Necessarium, which sharply distinguishes the Creator from the created order, metaphysically, but emphatically invokes participatory interactivity, whether creatively & imitatively or diffusively & substratively or perhaps even both. It could well be both, especially if the nihilo of creatio is, metaphysically, trans-existentiale & no-thing, thus avoiding the fetishism of saying that God exists.
In an irreducibly triadic reality, perhaps our entitial states or actualities entail creative & imitative interactions, while our relational states or telic matrices entail diffusive & substrative interactions (think deep & dynamic fields).
The move from the Ens Necessarium to donative participatory interactivity takes us from a natural (onto-theological) to a revealed (theophanic) theological methodology. A philosophical move to a theology of nature (theo-ontological) seeks embodied understandings & theological idioms as that method proposes distinctions like creative & imitative and/or diffusive & substrative.
experiential perception or research
Human Existence – entitial, esse actuale as 2ns
interpretation or intelligent understanding
“God is | not x | is true apophatically & literally” refers to Existence, onto-theologically & metaphysically.
From Natural Theology or Onto-theology:
Divine Being – actus purus (divine esse)
history & judging – deciding
Human Being – Imago Dei, created-imitative esse essentiale as 1ns, connaturality
From Theophany & Theopoietics:
The statement “God is | x | is true kataphatically & trans-analogically” refers to Being, quidditatively, theophanically & theopoietically.
From Theology of Nature or Theo-ontology:
“God is neither | x | nor | not x | is true relationally & really” refers to Reality, theo-ontologically & intimately.
Divine Reality – relational, creative-diffusive essentiale (divine esse naturale) & uncreated substrative energeia (divine esse intentionale)
dialectics & responsible acting
Human Reality – uncreated substrative energeia, created, relational, esse intentionale as 3ns
Theological Foundations – philosophical, historical & exegetical – explore a polydoxy of live options for our existential leaps
Theological Doctrines as existential landings
Theological Systematics with further refined theology of nature
Theological Communications pastoral, homiletics, catechesis, evangelization, missiology, apologetics, Gospel inculturation & moral enculturation
Let’s unpack a Dionysian-like Logic, where:
God is | x | is true kataphatically & trans-analogically;
God is | not x | is true apophatically & literally; and
God is neither | x | nor | not x | is true relationally & really.
Compare that to a Scotist- Peircean abduction of the Reality of God, where:
Being > Reality > Existence
The apophatic & literal statements work by metaphysically identifying God via such effects as would be proper to no known causes.
Because kataphatic & trans-analogical statements refer to God existentially, they must employ theophanic & theopoietic idioms, which don’t reduce to formal philosophical & metaphysical categories, as existence can’t be predicated of God, but which do express reality’s excess meaning in our stories & myths, liturgies & devotions.
While such statements offer no onto-theological, metaphysical leverage for our natural theology, descriptively & propositionally, they can still do theo-ontology, accomplishing a great deal of heavy lifting, normatively & dispositionally, discovering & crafting the idioms for our theologies of nature, whereby we affirm that our stories & myths, liturgies & devotions, “really relate” to God.
Therefore, we best formulate our real relational idioms of God in E-Prime (employing no verb forms of ‘to be’ or their equivalents), because, existentially, relational predicates will not successfully refer. With a Palamitic turn, real statements thus require the active voice as we refer to the manifold & multiform works done by God, energeia.
The statement “God is | x | is true kataphatically & trans-analogically” refers to Being, theophanically & theopoietically.
“God is | not x | is true apophatically & literally” refers to Existence, onto-theologically & metaphysically.
“God is neither | x | nor | not x | is true relationally & really” refers to Reality, theo-ontologically & intimately.
For moderate realists like Aquinas, Scotus & Peirce, the categories of Existence & Reality include, respectively, both entitial & relational created realities, i.e. the efficient acts & material potencies of entities and the formal acts & final potencies of teloi.
The category of Reality would also include the uncreated relational reality of Primal Telos, which, as Pure Act, sources created reality’s polydoxic teloi …
energetically diffusing divinizing finalities into divine substrative forms …
thereby synergistically harmonizing the instrumental, efficient acts & material potencies of created, entitial existents that they might imitate the divine esse intentionale, growing dispositionally in an ever-deepening relational intimacy.
Divine Simplicity, metaphysically, refers to the apophatic, metaphysical abduction of the Reality of God as Ens Necessarium, esse naturale.
Divine Freedom, theophanically, refers to the uncreated energies of the Reality of God, which invite transformative effects (dis-positions) as would be proper to no known causes, hence from putative theotic participations, both entitial, creative & imitative, and relational, diffusive & substrative.
Any tension between Divine Simplicity & Divine Freedom does not arise onto-theologically in natural theology, for freedom refers to Divine Esse Intentionale trans-analogically (descriptively weak, propositionally, but normatively strong, dispositionally).
While denying a strictly metaphysical impasse between divine simplicity & freedom and while suggesting we’ve thus avoided any logical inconsistencies (e.g. due to parodies grounded in conceptual incompatabilities), it’s not to suggest we’ve also thereby eliminated the aporetic confrontations that inescapably attend to all theo-kataphasis. At the same time, it’s just no small victory to dismiss the facile caricatures & snarky parodies of “devastating” neo-atheological critiques?
A theology of nature, following these speculative grammars, can affirm divine simplicitly as a natural theological argument, philosophically, going beyond it, theo-ontologically – not only invoking Thomistic distinctions between efficient & instrumental causes, primary & secondary causations, to preserve creaturely agencies & avoid modal collapse, but – to affirm a real & robust divine-nature interactivity, pneumatologically, thereby also going, coherently, beyond a mere deism.
Theophanies & theopoietics aspire to successfully reference entitial realities, existentially, employing the ever-cascading & collapsing metaphors of our stories & myth, signs & symbols, liturgies & devotions, alternately revealing the concealed, then concealing the revealed, Who remains always timid but ever coy.
Theo-ontologies & theologies of nature aspire to successfully reference relational realities, personally, relating the uncreated Primal Telos of divine esse intentionale & the polydoxic teloi of creation (note below), which culminate in human intentionality. The seductions of divine intentionale remain ineluctably unobtrusive but so utterly efficacious in the wooing of Sophia (created).
Cf. regarding methodological distinctions of God-talk, see:
the Spirit woos creation forth•
makes this way south & that way north•
invites each blade of grass to green!horizons, boundaries, limits, origins•
perimeters, parameters, centers, margins•
we’re given freedom in between!
thus truth & beauty & goodness grow•
thus lizards leap & roosters crow•
and dawns break with each new day!
good news is ours to be believed•
love freely given if received•
the Spirit in our heart will stay!
very old poem of mine
N.B. regarding polydoxic teloi
• Veldo-poietic (field-like) entities present as teleopotent or end-unbounded;• cosmopoietic – teleomatic or end-stated;
• biopoietic – teleonomic or end-directed or end-coded;
• sentiopoietic – teleoqualic or end-purposed; and
• sapiopoietic – teleologic or end-intended
What I have set forth above is a meta-heuristic, what I feel is an essential (pun intended) phenomenological grammar that is preambular to any metaphysic, substance or process, any natural theology, or any theology of nature, whether classical or neoclassical, pan-entheistic or panen-theistic, or even pantheistic or atheological. This represents the foundations of most of my musings.
After posting this, I happily discovered the work of Dr. Mariusz Tabaczek O.P., who has articulated a “dispositional” metaphysic. I commend his writings to all.
Below is an excerpt from his dissertation. It is the best example of a theology of nature as would be consistent with what I am struggling to articulate.
“A theory of emergence based on dispositional metaphysics would show a new explanatory potential as well. It would not only reconcile Aristotelianism with emergentism, but also have a significant impact on the view of divine action developed in reference to the theory of emergence. God’s action would no longer be conceived panentheistically as an influence on the totality of the world, which metaphysically assumes that the causation of God and creatures is of the same kind (univocal predication) and so runs the risk of collapsing into pantheism. The recovery of the plural notion of causation allows for a recapturing of the classical understanding of divine action as proposed by Aquinas. God is regarded as the ultimate source of forms, and the ultimate aim of all teleology in nature. With regard to efficient causation, God’s transcendence is protected by Aquinas’ distinction between the primary and principal causation of the Creator and the secondary and instrumental character of the causation of creatures. Therefore, God’s immutability, omniscience, omnipotence, infinity, eternity, and impassibility are not challenged, while his immanent and constant presence in all worldly events is by no means undermined.”
1) I say Peirce-like because I am not a thoroughgoing Peircean, metaphysically. I adapt, herein, his implicit modal grammar, importing Aristotelian, Thomistic & Palamitic distinctions.
Regarding the Neglected Argument, Gary E. Kessler writes:
I begin with some distinctions. First, Peirce distinguishes between an argument and argumentation. An argument is “any process of thought reasonably tending to produce a definite belief” while argumentation refers to an argument that proceeds “upon definitely formulated premisses” (6.456). We must note that Peirce’s Neglected Argument (hereafter referred to as NA) is an argument, but not argumentation.
Second, we must distinguish between reality and existence. Reality is a broader term that encompasses what exists but is not synonymous with it. For something to be real it must have properties sufficient to identify it whether anyone attributes those properties to it or not. The existent, strictly speaking, is what interacts with things in a spatio-temporal environment. Since God is not another spatio-temporal object, it amounts to fetishism, Peirce remarks, to say that God exists. Hence his argument, strictly speaking, is not an argument for God’s existence, but for God’s reality.
Conversations that touch upon my take above: