The hypostatic union of Px = an eternal protological, incarnatonal reality = an eschatological blueprint re how uncreated & created hypostases proportonally participate, each per their particular ranges of tropoi, in the very same uncreated logoi (incl all creaturely teloi).
My late friend Jim Arraj a Maritain scholar in conversatons w/Norris Clarke deciphered the Thomist conception of forms (as distinct from Aristotles’s) in terms of a participation in limitation motif tracing it in part to Plotinus & neo-Platonic sources.
A formal cause exists in a much more dynamic way in St. Thomas than it could in Aristotle. Arraj would go on to reconceive same in terms of deep & dynamic formal fields (like Joseph Bracken’s neo- Whiteheadian use of field as a root metaphor).
Bracken’s field conception of the Divine Matrix b/c of its affinity to Classical Theism & Trinitarian doctrine seems a fruitful way to imagine how Maximian logoi interplay among uncreated & created hypostatic tropoi as interpenetrating fields humanize &/or divinize them.
A mutual interpenetration of deep & dynamic formal fields an account for an exnihilating dynamic that creates novel creaturely teloi.
Such a creatio ex amore ex nihilo would be consistent even w/any incipiently telic fields of eternal prevenient chaos (Griffin) or of a tehomic profundis (Keller).
As divine hypostatic realities, the logoi of all finite, determinate creaturely becoming proceed from the infinite, nondeterminate Logos-Spirit hypostases-exemplifications,
pneumato-christologically in the gratuity of creation, christo-pneumatologically in the gratuity of grace, incarnationally in both, per the divine esse naturale.
The logoi (hows) carry the divine esse intentionale (will & intentions), both freely affecting creatures & freely affected (per energeia) by the aesthetic scope of all telic creaturely becoming, although divine realities are never affected in aesthetic intensity.
The divine esse naturale-intentionale is thus affected by more than mere Cambridge properties, but without any change in intrinsic perfection. Does this weaken DDS? Yes. Trivially, so.
As it is, since we neither reify the essence (natures aren’t “existing things,” whether divine or created) nor hypostasize energeia, why ontologize the intentionale, inquiring about its mode of being, determinatively –what, rather than of identity, denominatively –how?
Finite creatures proportionally participate (through a univocity of loving determinate effects or synergy) in the Logos-logoi identity, which, itself, grounds the differences of in/finite natures (through an analogia entis).
This in/finite disjunction doesn’t quantitatively differentiate Being & beings through a multiplication of quiddities (determinative nouns, genera, species, i.e. whats) by infinity. Instead, it multiplies qualia (denominative modifiers & participles, hows, etc.) by infinity, recognizing the qualitative differentiation of divine & determinate hypostases, i.e. via propria-idiomata-relata vs essentially-existentially-relationally.
Such a differentiation, then, entails no alienation from some Wholly Other, but, instead, fosters otherness & intimacy, participation via donativity-receptivity, & immanence in transcendence, all theotically.
Cosmotheandric participation entails more than the mere growth in resemblances of vestigia & imagoes Dei into similitudines Dei, from image to likeness.
Generally, participation further requires a participant to freely choose to (in various ways to various extents) “take possession” of WHAT the participated, as a whole, “IS.”
Specifically, regarding God as Actus Purus, as participants, we, the Many, must freely choose, therefore, to “take possession” of HOW the Participated One, as the Whole, “DOES.”
If we don’t go beyond an analogy of being, ontologically & determinatively, to a univocity of doing, semantically & denominatively, we can’t bust the Maximian move, theologically or anthropologically or cosmogonically, in an authentically Neo-Chalcedonian fashion.
Cosmotheandric participation entails more than the mere growth in resemblances of vestigia & imagoes Dei into similitudines Dei, from image to likeness. It entails each participant’s progressive realization of facility in freely choosing to kenotically participate … in how the ur-kenotic Participated One Acts, which is, naturally, Purely Loving.
There can be no Shakespearean soliloquy: “To Be or Not to Be,” for that remains decidedly decided for every intrinsically valuable imago Dei, ensuing from its essential nature. Rather, the transcendental imperatives in-form-ing our existential orientations include both “To Be Like God or not?” and “To Do How God Does or Not?”.
All of this is articulated in Lonergan’s imperatives, the Degrees of Humility of Ignatius, & Therese’s Little Way.
A proper interpretation of the Capps Bros, Cyril, Maximus & Severus, et al, helped along by idioms like those of Scotus, Palamas & Peirce, et al, might say it the best?
So, finally, re the Logos-logoi identity, while it’s “just” a semantic predication, the reference remains eminently realist. Still, in the same way we eschew any overapplications of an analogia entis, we’d desist, here, from any over-specifications of peircean generals, whether created or uncreated, nomicities or probabilities, etc b/c, for DBHartians, if there’s anything more frightening than an unwitting infernalism, that would be – not a spinozan modal collapse, but – an accidental baroque thomism via a báñezian praemotiophysica! (just kidding)
This universalist vision is systematically argued in the monograph below:
The personalist approach with which I most resonate can be found in what’s been called cosmotheandrism.
While I find the “cosmo-theo” part of Raimon Panikkar’s cosmotheandrism very inspirational, for the “theandric” part, there’s a very old Eastern Orthodox account that, in my view, can hardly be improved upon, i.e. Maximian Logos & logoi.
These would both seem consistent with DBH’s intuitions as were articulated during his back & forth with Ed Feser re animals in heaven.
On page 172 of An Emerging Cosmotheandric Religion?: Raimon Panikkar’s Pluralistic Theology Of Religions, Brill, 2005, Jyri Komulainene discusses the “personalism” in Panikkar’s “ecosophy.”
I’ll paraphrase & summarize the highlights here.
Per Komulainene, while Panikkar’s personalist idiom does convey his intent to avoid a “sheer monism,” he also approaches all of being in terms of communicatio, communio & communality.
The Divine donates via “pure communication.”
All creatures thus engage dialogically. While, per Panikkar, human persons do communicate per a particular interiority & consciousness, we best dialogue (dia-logos, thru the logos) with all of reality without losing sight of its “thou dimension” or else we’ll “excommunicate” ourselves from nature, God & each other, i.e. cosmotheandrically.
The old EO approach with which I most resonate is Dionysius’ account of “theandric activity” as spoken of by Severus and as interpreted by Maximus per a Cyrillian Christology.
At the link below, Rebekah Earnshaw summarizes a theology seminar presentation by Dr Brandon Gallaher entitled “The Word, the Words and the Trinity: A Preliminary Exploration of the Relationship of Eastern Orthodoxy to World Religions.” It touches on both Panikkar & Maximus.
Understanding the historical account & development of the terminology employed in Trinitology & Christology remains crucial for tge proper interpretation of Severus.
I find the concept of the immanent universal [IU] to be very interesting, e.g. C. Kappes has a take re IU of Damacene & Nazianzen; Zachhuber & Cross differ on IU of Nyssan; IU of Scotus.
We might ask why that distinction between the divine IU, as a primary substance, & the universals of determinate beings, as secondary substances, did not leave questions begging for many re, e.g. how “consubstantial” must refer differently in the hypostatic union to the divine vs human natures?
If one allows Severus to define his own terms & properly reads him as a thoroughgoing Cyrillian, then he goes beyond not w/o Chalcedon. Christ remains consubstantial, divinely & humanly, respectively, via immanent & shared universals.
Cyril, ergo Severus, applied the Cappadocian trintological distinction, ousia vs hypostasis, to Christology.
Christ’s divine ousia = immanent universal (an extreme realism) & created ousia = shared universal (a moderate realism). For Cyril & Severus, one nature referred to – not ousia, but – hypostasis.
A Note on my reconceptions of Logoi, Tropoi & Teloi
Determinism doesn’t follow from immediate causality, whether divine or created.
Concurrent co-causes are necessary but not sufficient to bring about a given effect.
Concurrent co-causes can be a) accidentally ordered, as in the case of needing two mules to pull a wagon, or b) essentially ordered, as in needing a male & female to produce offspring.
When essentially ordered, even if one co-cause gives more toward an effect than another, the lesser cause can still be the total immediate cause of an effect, e.g. creatio continua vs creaturely volitional acts.
Scotus further distinguishes essentially ordered partial co-causes as
1) participative, requiring a sharing of power, &
2) autonomous, requiring inter-dependent cooperation thru coordinated, complementary lines of efficient causality e.g. how the will & intellect co-cause volition, how divine & created wills co-cause created volitions.
God’s immediate, efficient causality (uncreated) suffices for God’s knowledge in an extensional sense, as knowledge of His own act suffices for knowledge of the effect.
Here, one might remain content to establish the fact of God’s role as a partial co-cause without delving into the mysteries of God’s inner life.
Others aspire to travel further, explanatorily, with Suarez & Molina (middle knowledge), Baήez (premotion) or Scotus (attendant decision).
The account above squares with how an Aristotelian God creates, conserves & knows.
Beyond that, though, what manner of divine “dialogue” (dia-logos) with the world would implicate a more providential relation between God & creatures, beyond a divine general or universal concurrence,
1) accounting for more of a theandric, even cosmotheandric, intimacy? via 2) a more personalist conception of divine & creaturely inter-relationality? or 3) a more robust account of participation in uncreated divine energeia, logoi & tropoi by creaturely teloi?
Speculating further, the accounts of Thomistic physical premotion, Jesuit middle knowledge & Scotistic attendant decision aspire to explain more than just how it is that God creates, conserves & knows, as they even explore beyond how it is the divine influences creatures via uncreated logoi & tropoi & created teloi. That’s to say they go beyond the divine-created concurrent, co-causal account, as elaborated above, to propose yet other distinct aspects of divine immediate causation.
For example, divine premotion would act “within” secondary causes, reducing material potencies to efficient acts, elevating instrumental causes to produce agapic (self-transcendent, loving, theotic, etc) effects proper to no known causes, so due to actual grace. God would thus act, however, without violating an agent’s causal integrity, still allowing those operations to be contingent & free, for God created not only necessary but contingent realities, including personal freedom. God moves (applies to act) necessary causes to cause necessarily & contingent causes to cause contingently according to their created natures. So, even if every reduction of material potencies to efficient causes should properly be interpreted as divinely caused & determined, that wouldn’t entail divine necessitation, except in the case of miracles.
Still, must a divine reduction of material potencies to efficient causes necessarily be interpreted as a bridging of physical causes & effects such that, if God wasn’t as such always determining, He’d otherwise have to be considered always determined?
I don’t see why that must necessarily be so. There’s nothing, in principle, to suggest that, to whatever extent that God might ever be variously determined by creatures, His intrinsic perfection would necessarily thereby be diminished (due to some divine impoverishment). Rather, such a divine affectivity might simply reflect a divine condescension (via a weakened DDS) that reflects divine changes in – neither aesthetic intensity nor intrinsic perfection, but – only aesthetic scope & kenotic relationality.
Furthermore, the will, itself, should be located, at least in part, in efficient causation. Scotus would have us recognize a form of volition that determines whether one exercises one’s will (or refrains therefrom). It’s the volitional question that asks why the will wills at all, because it does remain free not to act, notwithstanding all logoi, tropoi & physical premotions.
Proposed solution: If we relocate grace to an uncreated formal cause (like E. Stump), it could still be effected through the uncreated physical premotion of efficient causes that will have brought about circumstances that, after creaturely semiotic interpretation, will necessitate certain dispositions of a given person’s will, inviting (even urging but not compelling) it to participate in a divine effecting of various agapic & theotic realizations .
Note: Situating Zizioulas Systematically in Tillich per My Retreblement
I don’t interpret Zizioulas’ existentialist & personalist approaches as developed out of classical existentialisms & personalisms, which are individualistic philosophies, b/c Z’s personalist conception is intrinsically relational, as difference in communion.
We’d need to distinguish aspects of Z’s philosophical anthropology, which might be implicit & inchoate, from those of his theological anthropology.
ISTM doubtful that the former could do anything other than to establish the reality of a person, that the “meaning” of a person must be imported from one’s worldview. There’s no doubt where Z’s concept of person gets its meaning & that freedom in the context of communion necessarily plays a constitutive role in person for him (think MOF).
One might also appropriate everything that’s useful in Tillich (e.g. Biblical personalism, pneumatology par excellence, ground of being), while correcting his insufficiencies (e.g. Christology) in order to bolster Z’s personalist hermeneutic. While Z pursued a similar project to Tillich, substituting neo-Patristic for Biblical sources, his patristic interpretations have been harshly criticized.
I don’t interpret Z’s thrust as anti-essential but as non-essential, so, retrieving Scotistic substance-talk into his hermeneutic needn’t explode it, but could, instead, better equip it to block unacceptable trinitological inferences. Also, Scotus’ eschewal of secondary substance-talk, trinitologically, would give Z an ontological idiom a tad more compatible with his preferred vocabulary vis a vis ousia, substance, hypostasis, person, etc
So, to best advance a systematic project sympathetic to Zizioulas’ concerns, I’d retrieve Tillich’s Christian existentialism & Biblical personalism, with the added bonus being that their dialectical character is very reminiscent of Panikkar’s cosmo-the-andrism. And I’d retrieve a Scotistic ontology (at least to articulate trinitological grammatical contours).
Finally, consistent with my triadic, axiological epistemology, as developed from Neville’s Peircean systematics, I’d turn to Peirce, Neville & Tillich for their conceptions regarding impersonal accounts of the Ground of Being to systematically situate Zizioulas’ causal-relational personalist interpretation of MOF.
Because Z asserts that the personal existence of the Father constitutes his own existence, the F thus causes not only the Trinitarian unity but the divine ousia, so, not only imparts His being but causes it, characteristics like divinity derived from, because identical to, His personhood.
In my own approach, I have not adopted but have adapted conceptions of the One & the many from Peirce, Tillich & Neville, often referred to with impersonal terms like Ens Necessarium and Ground of Being.
I employ distinct categories like nondeterminate emptiness (analogous to ground of Tillich & Neville, Ens Necessarium of Peirce), nondeterminate nothingness (real but not existing) and indeterminate being (existing).
There’s a certain paradoxical feel to juxtaposing Zizioulas’ MOF personalist approach with such impersonalist conceptions as Tillich’s Ground of Being, Infinite Abyss & Being-Itself?
But, following the Tillichian dialectical methodology, orienting our existential orientations to ultimate concerns, coloring our anthropology theologically, we can theologically gift meaning to what are otherwise bare philosophical conceptions. For me, & why not for Zizioulas, why couldn’t “freely relating” constitute the Ground of Being, Who is the Freely Willing Loving One God, the Father?
Note on Situating Zizioulas Systematically in Bracken in my Retreblement
Pannenberg moved away from just a “relations of origin” MOF interpretation to include a “diversity of relations” dimension, e.g. handing over of Lordship. Even then, some conception of the Father as “unoriginate originator” remains intact, istm.
B/c there’s so much affinity between Pannenberg’s & Joseph Bracken’s metaphysical approaches, appropriating such a modified MOF element in a Bracken-like approach seems a fruitful path forward.
The reason I adapted rather than adopted the Ground of Being conceptions of Tillich & Neville is that it’s important for my systematic consistency to remain faithful to Peirce, e.g. Ens Necessarium abduction.
Toward that end, the last element in my situating of Zizioulas, systematically, involves going beyond, but not without, Scotus, in a more robustly Peircean direction that’s also explicitly Trinitarian.
That is why I turn to the metaphysic of Joseph Bracken, a Peirce scholar and neo-Whiteheadian. What makes Bracken further amenable to this project is his faithful retrieval of Classical Theism and his conscious Peircean avoidance of nominalistic tendencies, such as in Whitehead’s process approach, or, to some extent, adumbrations in Hartshorne’s neo-Classical theism.
My favorite Bracken book remains God: Three Who Are One, 2008, Liturgical Press.
I also commend 1) The Divine Matrix: Creativity as Link between East and West, 1995, Orbis Books; 2) The One in the Many: A Contemporary Reconstruction of the God-World Relationship, 2001, Eerdmans; and 3) Does God Roll Dice? Divine Providence for a World in the Making, 2012, Liturgical Press.
The above thread contextualizes how I situate Scotus, Peirce & Bracken with a sympathetic eye toward Zizioulas in my own Pan-SEMIO-entheism.
Notes re Predications of Ousia, Hypostatic Idiomata & Energeia in my Retreblement
There are different theories of idiomata. And different idioms for substance talk. As long as one is consistent, such different types of God-talk needn’t separate us.
Do they merely secure the reference of proper names?
Do they just identify things, epistemologically, or describe their properties, constitutively, defining them essentially? or both?
When idiomata individuate numerically distinct hypostases, do they refer to properties that are: 1) simple, non-shareable & non-coinstantiable; or 2) shareable in-principle but a uniquely combined bundle of idiomata?
How might we distinguish between metaphysically individuating idiomata & epistemic gnorismata, which epistemolsecure references through names?
How might we best distinguish between the semantic “signification” of the common nouns & natures of the ousia & semantic “indications” of the proper nouns & peculiar qualities of hypostases?
Does “God” predicate any subject which shares divine nature?
Does “God” signify the divine ousia in particular, as a kind or nature?
Does “God” signify certain types of energeia or activities?
Is the word “God” a substance-sortal at all, a special predicate expressing the divine nature itself? Is the word “God” just another predicate among predicates, attribute among attributes? Are natures or ousiai otherwise individuated by energeiai?
Whether the word “God” signifies the divine nature or not (per Cross, yes; per Branson, no),
if one employs an idiom wherein the ousia’s a secondary substance, the word “God” most certainly can be predicated of all the hypostases; and
if one eschews substance-talk & denominatively (connotatively) names the Father, “the One God” – not just as an epistemic gnorismata securing one’s reference via signification, but determinatively (denotatively) – as a metaphysically individuating idioma that differentiates the Father via some robustly personalistic, causal-relational indication, still, “the One God” as arche & aitia, would ontologically subordinate neither God the Son nor God the Holy Spirit.
This is precisely because, even if the sole arche & aitia entails some type of analogous aseity, whether via such a God-conception as would be signified either thru 1) predication & instantiation; or 2) attribution & exemplification; or 3) a supremely personal causal-relational activity —
such an imparting of divine nature is shared as “God from God” and ergo must be clearly & emphatically distinguished from creation’s reception of “finite determinate being from God,” Who is Being Beyond being.
Historically speaking, I take no position re how the Nyssan best be interpreted re God signifying the ousia (Cross) or not (Branson) and, similarly, no position re the basis of divine unity per the Nazianzen, the ousia (Cross) or the MOF (Beeley).
Normatively, my own approach coheres with the views that “God” does not signify ousia & the MOF does secure divine unity.
So, if Branson & Beeley are correct in their respective interpretations of the Nyssan & Nazianzen, then my position thus coheres with the Capps.
Accordingly, “is God” predicates – not the divine nature (ousia), but – engagements in a certain type of activity (energeia), not in terms of quiddity or “what,” but in terms of doing or “how.”
Hence “God” refers as is defined not in terms of the divine nature, but as a doer of a certain kind of energeia. In other words, “God” refers as an agent noun (like butcher or baker or candlestick maker).
Although some approaches are nominalist re both ousia & idiomata, my own is realist re both idiomata & ousia.
Re: how idiomata individuate numerically distinct hypostases, in my approach, they refer to properties that are shareable in-principle but in a uniquely combined bundle of idiomata.
If one’s idiom refers to ousia as a secondary substance, God can thus be predicated of each divine hypostasis, as a property that’s shareable in-principle but within an otherwise uniquely combined bundle of idiomata.
If one’s idiom refers to ousia as a primary substance, i.e. an indivisible immanent universal, the attribute, God, can thus be exemplified by each divine hypostasis, as a property that’s shareable in-principle but within an otherwise uniquely combined bundle of idiomata.
In my approach, wherein ousia’s a primary substance & hypostases are exemplifications, I distinguish between semantic “significations” of the common nouns & natures of the ousia & the semantic “indications” of the proper nouns & peculiar qualities of hypostases. And “God” can signify certain types of energeia or activities. So, the word “God” is not a substance-sortal at all, i.e. not a special predicate expressing the divine nature, itself, but is just another predicate among predicates, attribute among attributes.
Because natures, or ousiai, are individuated by energeiai as shared by all the hypostases, we can infer that they all share the same nature & that “God” can be predicated of each hypostasis even as “God” doesn’t otherwise signify the divine nature per se.
The stances articulated above represent phraseology & paraphrases from Beau Branson’s LPT.
The Vestigia, Imagines & Similitudines Dei per Universalism & Apokatastasis
Human reality fully transcends the teleo-potent, -matic, -nomic, -qualic as teleo-logic
beyond the essential, dynamical human being/becoming (acting per existential, material & final human potencies), as vestigia Dei (autopoietic, but as more determined, less indetermined)
w/a distinctively human abduction as it transcends abductive instinct w/abductive inference, fostering a more versatile, plastic behavioral repertoire, aesthetically, i.e. vis a vis choosing among divine teloi & logoi w/an enlightened self-interest (erotically & proto-ethically), e.g. Bernardian love, Ignatian degrees of humility, Kohlberg’s stages, imperfect contrition, etc, of human persons as imagines Dei … every distinctively personal act constitutes a volitional disposition re both what to freely will (among divine logoi) and whether to (freely) will at all (i.e. choosing not just instinctively but inferentially), so as less determined, more indetermined
next (at age of reason) realizing a more versatile, plastic behavioral repertoire, ethically, i.e. vis a vis choosing among even more divine teloi & logoi by transcending self-interests (agapically & ethically), e.g. Bernardian love, Ignatian degrees of humility, Kohlberg’s stages, perfect contrition, etc, of a person becoming (virtuous and/or vicious 2nd natures), thereby with a more expansive aesthetic scope, too, as similitudines Dei, as much more indetermined
Considerations of human volition, a freely willing human, must avoid absolute notions of in/determinism, for the personal freedom of humans presents only in terms of degrees, whereby we are free-enough to truly enjoy meaningful (good-enough, beautiful-enough, dayenu) value-realizations.
It seems to me that human persons are determined enough so as to be radically unable to thwart the divine logoi ordered toward our personal being (essential nature as imagines Dei) but are indetermined enough so as to be radically able to thwart those divine logoi ordered toward our personal becoming (secondary nature as similitudines Dei).
All other conceptions of human freedom are facile & simplistic, and fall prey to tautological nonsense and analytical paradox, anthropologically, either indeterministically reducing to all sorts of ridiculous voluntarisms & libertarianisms or deterministically yielding silly intellectualisms & compatibilisms.
Neither Thomist nor Scotist nor Molinist theological anthropologies, properly approached, fall prey to such anthropological nonsense, essentially, because their explicit/implicit “theories of everything” embrace a priniciple of “sufficient” reason, which is neither the idealist monist PSR of Spinoza, which reduces to pantheism, nor a materialist monist PSR, which reduces to nihilism. There are various physicalist & naturalist approaches that vary in their interpretations of necessity & in/determinacy, but they go beyond the heuristic of a suitably nuanced Aristotelian hylemorphism to prove too much, in my view.
How one conceives human freedom vis a vis ultimate realities will always boil down to one’s stipulations re mereological (whole-part conception), metaphysical (root metaphor) and teleological (PSR version) primal realities.
One upshot of divine simplicity [DDS] and actus purus, when understood in terms of apophatic negation, would be that one way determinate being differs from divine being is that the former can act only in relationship to limited potencies.
The human being, constitutively, enjoys a freedom that phylogenetically (in its evolutionary lineage) presented with the emergence of symbolic language. Prior to the age of reason, where new freedoms (moral & spiritual) will emerge, ontogenetically (in its individual development), a human child already enjoys a freedom of choosing among equally optimal self-interested choices with a behavioral plasticity that differs – not only quantitatively, but – qualitatively from other primates.
Specifically, as a child matures, its (aesthetic) scope of self-interested choices is not limited to mere abductive instincts, which many animals exhibit, but is expanded by abductive inference, an if-then calculus driven by an early imagination that’s growing exponentially. This exponential expansion of behavioral plasticity precisely results from an unmooring of the nonarbitrary range of instinctive responses by the child’s growing repertoire of arbitrary symbol conventions.
I emphasize this constitutive freedom of choosing among equally optimal goods per a young human’s first order desires (what they want) to note its relationship to human eros, what St Bernard distinguished in terms of love of self for sake of self and love of God and/or others for sake of self. From this eros, young (and old) humans experience imperfect contrition, i.e. expressing sorrow due to our just punishment and growing in enlightened self-interest (choosing being over nonbeing). I mention this in the context of reminding all that such an imperfect contrition is all that’s ever been required “to be saved” and to observe that I was taught that it would be heretical to suggest otherwise.
Thus, it seems to me that, soteriologically, human beings are intrinsically constituted by all that’s both necessary and sufficient to be saved?
Furthermore, this elemental human freedom possesses a distinct proto-moral and proto-spiritual character, which means that it can potentially progress beyond its constitutive & soteriological essential nature to realize a more robustly elective & sophiological secondary nature, which might determine – not its eschatological destiny, but – its beatitudinal scope. By that, I mean to suggest that it could progress in Bernardian love, beyond the erotic to the agapic, i.e. love of God & others for their own sake, thus expanding its original frontier of equally optimal choices (what some would call a Pareto front), thus enjoying an expanded aesthetic scope of choosing among even more goods, albeit always acting within limited potencies.
Thus we can parse human freedom, constitutively & electively, soteriologically and sophiologically, erotically & agapically, in terms of aesthetic scope expansion, moral progress & growth in intimacy (theosis).
Thus we can distinguish between 1) willing among equally optimal goods, aesthetically; 2) whether we will or not, morally & spiritually; and 3) what we will. Our “willing among” goods and volitional option “between” willing or not (choosing between being & nonbeing, good & evil) refer to human freedoms. “What we will” has been determined by divine logoi, teloi, intentionale, etc.
Coming full circle to the DDS & Actus Purus, might this portrait of the imago Dei not illuminate our understanding of divine being? If we properly distinguish between the divine nature and will, esse naturale and intentionale, might we not glimpse a thin divine passibility, where the divine will chooses – never between good and evil, being and nonbeing, but – along an eternal Pareto front of equally optimal “best” worlds, no such choices entailing either improvements or impairments of an ever-perfect divine nature’s aesthetic intensity but only “affecting” a divine aesthetic scope? Would this not account, exegetically & Christologically, for the distinction between Jesus’ natural will and the Father’s will as He prayed for the passing of that particular Cup? Would this not account for human second order desires, theotically, for example, such as when we grow with holy indifference in Ignatian degrees of humility, from image to likeness, praying for our transformation even in “what we want to want”? That’s to say – not only regarding second order desires pertaining to our choosing “between” being and nonbeing, but – our longing to please others and God in our choosing “among” equally optimal goods in holy submission to wills not our own?
Of course, we differ from Jesus in that our natural wills have a gnomic character due to our temporal epistemic distancing, which may even perdure in some manner post-mortem for some duration. If my apokatastatic intuitions are correct, our gnomic willing affects and effects – not soteriological realities of our essential natures vis a vis the imago Dei, but – our sophiological trajectories as we grow our secondary natures in intimacy and beatitude.
These implications of my universalism thus turn on this distinction:
A single will to raise up the image, but two to make the image into a likeness. ~ Lossky
This implicates another distinction – that between our essential & secondary natures. Human freedom determines only WHETHER one chooses to will at all & not WHAT one wills (in participating with divine logoi), incrementally forming a virtuous or vicious secondary nature or various degrees of both.
Vicious choices are privative of being, hence eternally self-annihilating as God honors human freedom. This is to suggest that, whatever reality they exhibit temporally, will not perdure eternally (much less be eternalized instantaneously & proleptically like our virtuous acts).
Virtuous natures are eternalized, both proleptically (i.e. harvested, instantaneously, is every trace of human goodness, every beginning of a smile, all wholesome trivialities) & eschatologically, by virtue of necessarily being joined to divine intentionale.
Even if, hypothetically, a given person’s eternal being was, in the end, constituted only by their essential nature as an imago Dei, having developed no virtuous secondary nature whatsoever (even after all epistemic distancing has been closed, whether temporally or even post-mortem), there can be no talk of self-annihilation for an imago Dei’s not self-determined (cf Lossky’s one will). Neither would God’s perfect will annihilate such an imago Dei, for that would amount to a divine self-contradiction.
What’s at stake, then, would be the nature of one’s eternal beatitude, perhaps in terms of aesthetic scope, which would be self-determinedly wider for one who’s developed a virtuous secondary nature.
Dogmatic Presuppositions of my theological anthropology
In a way, the answers — to such questions as
1) “libertarianism or compatibilism?”
2) “intellectualism or voluntarism?” and
3) “will or intellect or character?” — aren’t even wrong (regarding either divine or human natures).
For human persons, this is because there are 3 indispensable acts, limited by potentialities, involved in every human choice. These include
1) existence in potency to being,
2) efficient to material (will) and
3) formal to final (intellect), each necessary, none alone sufficient. Of course, this part wouldn’t apply to Actus Purus.
Character (habitus) stands halfway between those acts and potentialities, like iron forged into
1) leg braces, facilitating and/or
2) a bear trap, crippling the potentialities,
although in the latter case, never able (either temporally or eschatologically) to kill them, as they’re, in principle, inherently realizable (both temporally and eternally).
God does not punish habits, only acts, ergo, God allows misery only as a punishment for acts.
Why Suffering in God’s Presence doesn’t make sense to me
I am grateful for these conversations. They make me scratch my head and help me process my muddled thoughts. If anyone catches my drift, that’s a blessing for me. If anyone challenges me to be more artful in expression, that helps me, too. Most of all, any challenges to the substance of my views has, eventually, brought me closer to the truth and our God. In that spirit, then:
Even once casting aside the classical libertarianism & compatibilism framings as nonsensical category errors (what I mean by saying such “answers aren’t even wrong” but are gibberishtic anthropological caricatures), I have strived, awkwardly, to more intuitively grasp how to avoid the notion that a human person’s eternal destiny isn’t wholly determined.
In other words, while it may be logically valid and internally consistent to argue, analytically, that humans are created as “freely willing the Godly-determined” by using definitions of freedom that, to many, sound paradoxical (but make perfect sense! In terms of virtu-osity!), I still want more than a syllogism.
I want a story in which I can participate, holistically and imaginatively. Good news? From the online lectures (youtube) of DBH, one can tell that he will be gifting nourishment for both head & heart in _That All May Be Saved_.
If the will is located in efficient causation, free in the sense of WHETHER one chooses to will at all, and also in the sense of choosing AMONG goods, that, in my view, offers an eminently satisfying account of freedom, not just cognitively but emotionally. In these senses, persons are manifestly self-determined, created as freely willing.
There is another sense of freedom, which imagines a person’s capacity to choose WHAT is good, in other words to self-determine and to define and to appropriate being & goodness as they imagine same. In this sense, then, some view freedom in terms of choosing BETWEEN good & evil (apparent good), being & nonbeing (apparent being), virtue & vice. This view falls into incoherence because WHAT is good and constitutes being has indeed already been wholly determined by God and we are not free to determine or define same.
What about the “freedom” to choose otherwise, though, to opt for evil or nonbeing? That’s nonsensical on the grounds that evil or nonbeing, as privation, doesn’t successfully refer, ontologically. That definition of freedom lacks an ontic reference and entails an epistemic error, propositionally.
Nevertheless, dispositionally, our choices can, indeed, be culpable & such habits, clearly, vicious.
Under the true definition of freedom, to refrain from choosing among goods when acting, i.e. giving no “consideration” to what God has determined, is intuitively recognized by most as “inconsiderate” behavior. While such can be just a plain mistake rooted in finitude, it can also be culpable (sinful refusal). Such a willful and culpable blindness, in my view, constitutes a self-determined behavior, “freely” chosen in the “whether & among sense” even though not the “what & between” sense. And it can habitually accrete into a vicious nature. I just believe that God honors such free choices through eternal annihilation, which we can self-determine vis a vis our “second nature” or acquired dispositions.
And I doubt anyone wholly lacks some measure of a virtuous nature, which will indeed be eternalized.
Even a person’s essential imago Dei — if largely bereft of any significant growth (2nd nature) from that particular image to likeness, if primarily wholly determined, if self-determined to the most meager degree conceivable and if not even discernibly responsive to some post-mortem epistemic-closure & beatific illumination — would not experience the Presence in misery, precisely because God has wholly determined otherwise. In God’s governance, punishment ensues only from sin (moral choices).
1) Because our moral nature emerges as a second nature from our essential nature, and
2) because, eschatologically, there are no longer moral acts, and
3) because acts not natures are punished under any circumstances,
no such misery can be experienced.
However one approaches the reality of innocent suffering in a cosmos fallen into dis-order by sin, temporally, such a disorder will, by definition, be eschatologically repaired.
Any proper transcendence of the category errors of voluntarism, intellectualism, libertarianism & compatibilism won’t entail a dissolution of in/determinacies.
What we can will (among) has been determined, while whether we will at all has not, the former as formal acts in limited potency to final causes, the latter as efficient acts in potency to material. Halfway between such acts & potency, habitus presents as virtuous & vicious 2nd natures, able to facilitate or cripple, but never to kill, potentialities.
This is why Thomas Talbott can say: Personally, I seriously doubt that God causally determines every event that occurs, whether it be the change of state of a radium atom, a dog’s leaping this way rather than that while romping in the yard, or the free choice of an independent rational agent.
Why should such an irrational choice, even if not causally determined, be any more compatible with genuine moral freedom than a rigorous determinism would be? ~ Talbott
In our temporal affairs, we routinely impute guilt to those deemed willfully blind. In criminal law, we employ such terms as willful neglect, reasonable diligence, reckless indifference, knew or should have known, should reasonably have known, etc In our quotidian affairs we refer to willful blindness or ignorance and self-deception. Moral theologians distinguish in/vincible ignorance and nescience, more crass when deliberate than affected, blameworthy in either case, more gravely wrong for serious matters.
That all such behavior is irrational to various degrees, nevertheless, it retains its inculpating character. That’s why so many irrational choices, even if not causally determined, are universally deemed more compatible with genuine moral freedom than any rigorous determinism.
My rule of thumb in theological anthropology is to preserve, as far as practicable, our common sense & sensibilities, so as not to violate the integrity of the freely willing person. Therefore, tautologically concluding that all irrational behavior is, in principle, exculpating, does not sufficiently square with our ordinary moral intuitions. Our universalist apologetics, then, best appeal to infinite mercy & forgiveness rather than argue for a counterintuitive analytic, syllogistic innocence. Having deftly avoided the shoals of voluntarism, we must similarly steer clear of intellectualistic appeals, which ignore the vicious habitus that can impede the efficient cause of the will in realizing its potentialities.
Whether a vicious nature stands halfway between the acts & potentialities of the will or intellect, still, it can in no way, temporally or eternally, extinguish them, as they remain inherently realizable.
Pastor Tom Belt has persuasively argued a Maximian irrevocability thesis: “Hart’s view is an argument for the impossibility of the will foreclosing upon all possibility of Godward becoming. Such foreclosure would be teleological foreclosure.”
Again, invoking my rule of thumb in theological anthropology – to preserve, as far as practicable, our common sense & sensibilities, so as not to violate the integrity of the freely willing person – Belt’s Maximian irrevocability thesis squares better with our human experience than the overly speculative account of any putative irreversibility theses vis a vis avoiding such conceptual discontinuities between now & the eschaton as would render our anthropology unintelligible.
Now, if I may presume to paraphrase Talbott: Add to Belt’s Maximian irrevocability thesis the condition of minimal rationality and it seems impossible that anyone rational enough to qualify as a free moral agent would freely embrace an objective horror forever.
That’s as close as one can come to splitting the difference between a hopeful, practical universalism & an affirmation of a robustly theoretic universalism.
It seems to me that it’s quite possible a our viscious 2nd natures may not transist into the eschaton, especially if considered as privations of becoming. They may well thus be annihilated as God honors one’s choice for a self-determined non-becoming (refraining from growth in likeness). There can otherwise be no annihilation, in principle, for an imago Dei, as no one can freely self-determine non-being for an intrinsically good & absolutely valuable creation. The imago Dei plus any inklings of our virtuous 2nd natures (no one has none, whatsoever?) are eternalized, as God honors our self-determined choices for becoming (theotic realizations of divine & creaturely wills together).
Perhaps St. Anselm was on the right track when he classified the scriptural concepts under discussion here not as antecedens et consequens, but as misericordiae et iustitiae. This comes close to another distinction of God’s will, legalis et evangelicus. Law and gospel are found on every page of Scripture.
The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Biblical Interpretation edited by Paul M. Blowers, Peter W Martens
Bonaventure & Scotus on 1 Timothy 2:4
Gloria Frost: When the passages in which Aquinas and Scotus explicitly discuss the origin of contingency in creation are read in context with attention to the kind of contingency each is discussing, similarities between their views can be identified and the objections raised against their respective views can be solved.
In sum, for Aquinas the proximate reason for why an effect is contingently caused is the fact that it was produced by a contingently operating secondary cause. The ultimate reason, however, for why the effect was contingently caused is the efficacy of God’s will which willed for the effect to come about through a contingent mode of causation and thus, willed a contingent cause for it. Regarding the contingent mode of existence that belongs to all created effects, Aquinas says that the proximate reason for why every created effect is contingently existing is the fact that God freely causes every created effect.
In sum, when Scotus identified God’s contingent mode of causation as the source of the contingency of creatures, he was referring to the contingent mode of existence that belongs to all creatures. Like Aquinas, he thought that the capacity of the divine will to cause creatures contingently was founded on the fact that the divine will only necessarily wills the divine goodness, which is complete and self-sufficient.
Similarly, Scotus would have agreed with Aquinas’s position that effects are contingently caused by their proximate causes because of the efficacy of the divine will which chooses which kind of causes exist in creation.
Scotus, however, thinks that although the effects produced by God alone and those produced by both God and contingently operating secondary causes both follow from contingently operating proximate causes, they are fundamentally different in their modal features. The former effects have a single potency for non-existence, while the latter have double possibility for nonexistence. Thus, in Scotus’s view contingently operating secondary causes are a necessary condition for God to introduce into creation a secondary contingency, which adds an additional layer of indeterminacy to the contingent mode of existence which all creatures enjoy.
Scotus’s point is that God necessarily wills only those things that are necessary for what God loves in himself (i.e. his goodness). Thus, no creature is willed necessarily, since what is lovable in God does not require any creature for its existence. Like Aquinas, Scotus thought that God’s freedom not to create stemmed from the self-sufficiency and completeness of what is good, and therefore lovable, in God himself. If God’s contingent mode of causation with respect to creatures is traced to the self-sufficiency of the divine goodness, then the contingent mode of existence that belongs to creatures will similarly have this as its ultimate foundation.
I resonate with certain central elements of Dr Manis’ approach, e.g. that in *some* sense the divine will can be thwarted, that annihilation is incompatible with divine presence & that creaturely moral freedom’s a logically necessary condition of communion.
I also resonate with Fr Aidan’s recognition that no metaphysical necessity’s imposed on God. It is from both general & special revelations that we have been gifted with some knowledge of the logic that onto-logically inheres and theo-logically coheres in the divine’s relationship with determinate realities. That relationship, of course, has ensued from – not metaphysical necessity, but – a self-determinate, divine kenosis.
Our knowledge of same, at the same time, remains fallible & inchoate. Regarding the problem of evil, for example, I reject (even recoil from) theodicies re the *evidential* problem, instead opting for Job 38 (where were you???!!!), but I do embrace a divine presence solution to the *existential* problem, i.e. (Be not afraid! I AM with you!).
More directly bearing on this discussion, though, I personally experience much consolation from many of the defenses to the *logical* problem of evil, ranging across the theological spectrum (from classical to process approaches).
To be fully coherent, then, it seems we must aspire to pull together a solution that satisfies the problem of evil in a way that’s — not only *logically* consistent (and even the best atheistic philosophers now concede that accomplishment, which is why they focus on *evidential* theodicies), but — *existentially* satisfying.
Such a solution, then, must be neither evidentially pretentious (re: why God allowed this particular evil) nor soteriologically presumptuous (re: why God must do this) in addressing divine reality (e.g. suggesting definite metaphysical and/or moral divine necessities).
Thus it is that the more nuanced universalist stances will, in my view, aspire to reconcile the best classical defenses with the best existential intuitions, the latter grown — not propositionally from logical argumentations, but — dispositionally from theotic participations.
Beyond the arguments of Athens & energies of Athos, those participations will also include such quotidian realities as, for a prime example, the raising of children.
There is, then, in all authentic human loving, a trans-rational apophaticism, which, beyond all proposals of speculative affirmations & negations, disposes one via a movement of the will (e.g. including a will graced with a virtuous habitus)? Such a movement of the will, whether of parental, spousal or other communal loves, pretty much inevitably & in principle, will come up short in what it can articulate via its co-causal movement of the intellect, which falters in its effablings regarding life’s truly ineffable experiences.
It is from my experience as a parent & grandparent, then, coupled with my gratuitously gifted formation & sacramental participation in a healing, reconciling & loving community of faith, that I want to proclaim “THAT all may be saved,” even as I struggle to give a metaphysical or theological account of *why* or *how*.
Yet, I’m here to learn how to better defend that hope, which is indeed within me, that I and others might move more swiftly, with less hindrance & greater consolation on our temporal journeys into eternity.
Another of my feeble efforts to defend my hope follows, but I am more sure regarding why Fr Aidan’s and others’ intuitions truly matter, much less sure that I can convey my own in a sufficiently artful & accessible manner.
I use a lot of question marks, below, not to solicit answers but to indicate my own intellectual tentativeness. My hope is firm but my expression falters.
While I find it problematic to conceive how there could ever be a definitive teleological foreclosure (cf. Pastor Tom Belt), neither would I want to deny the necessity of a creaturely freedom to refrain from willing. Further, properly understood, both the Thomistic and Scotistic anthropologies, in my view, suitably avoid the libertarian, compatibilist, voluntarist & intellectualist incoherencies. Human acts can indeed, at the same time, be irrational & culpable or impassioned & culpable, because the reality of human freedom presents in degrees.
Admittedly, we find it hard to define & difficult to discern exactly how and precisely when such thresholds get crossed in terms of degrees of both affectivity & rationality as they impinge on various degrees of culpability.
Still, if we deny our common sense & sensibilities regarding our experiences of human freedom, whether temporally or eschatologically, we risk abandoning what little intelligibility we enjoy regarding same. We inescapably must rely on that same intelligibility that we must employ in our daily approach to the realities of our dynamical human transformation (including moral conversion, spiritual formation & theosis).
While creaturely moral freedom’s a logically necessary condition of communion, what if, like freedom, the reality of communion also presents in degrees?
Is there not a modicum of communion, even in that imago Dei, who’s not crossed the threshold into the human moral life, whether due to age, illnesses or deformative dynamics? Or, who enjoys little in the way of theotic participation in the human spiritual life, i.e. little or no growing in likeness? Or, who’s even culpably developed a vicious second nature, but undeniably remains divinely indwelled and teleologically oriented, eternally & inherently?
What *is* a vicious nature but a habit of refraining from whether one wills to will at all regarding — not *be-ing* per se, but — one’s *be-coming*? To refrain, that is, from whether one wills to will at all regarding — not one’s essential nature or very existence, but — one’s growing from image to likeness?
What if one could only self-determinedly choose — not to be or not to be, but — to become or not become?
What if, in the same way we mustn’t ontologize evil, perhaps, neither should we reify the concept of a vicious nature, which habitually chooses non-becoming?
What if we should otherwise also, in part, conceive of such an imago Dei in terms of what it has freely & definitively determined not to *become*, even though it would & must, nevertheless, thus persist in *being* for all eternity? Even that putatively definitive determination *not to become*, though, should be approaching the threshold of a practical inconceivability, at least for those of us who couple Belt’s irrevocability thesis with Talbott’s virtual impossibility thesis (my description of the latter)?
Even stipulating to such an eschatological anthropology, as would remain an essentially hopeful — not a theoretically necessary — universalism, there remains a question regarding how such an imago Dei, bereft of any robustly moral & spiritual becoming, might subjectively experience the Eschaton.
To what extent might its experience be tortuous, whether formatively, restoratively or retributively?
In my view, once determinate reality has been made whole, cosmically reconciled, in principle, creatures would not be susceptible to existential deprivations or depredations. An imago Dei, not grown into divine likeness beyond its irrevocable, essential nature, might, rather quietistically, enjoy a minimalist reverie of aesthetic scope, while others enjoy, in various degrees, more expansive scopes (as I’ve discussed elsewhere), continuing to exercise their freedom in an eternal fugue of choosing among divine goods.
So, perhaps, authentic freedom entails relational, just not existential, self-determination?
Perhaps one’s self-determined choice to refrain from becoming could, in principle, be exercised irrevocably & eternally, hence never definitively?
Perhaps such a choosing might best be conceived in terms similar to that of a sacred, precious imago Dei, as one who, prior to the age of reason, possesses the same absolute, intrinsic value as that shared by all innocent children?
Perhaps such a self-determined refraining (including post-mortem, even after all epistemic closures), eschatologically, no longer could involve a culpable refraining from the consideration or not of goods in one’s acts, in principle, since any such neediness as would have motivated such acts, temporally, will have been obviated, eschatologically, by the cosmic reconciliation?
In other words, such an eschatological reordering would be metaphysically incompatible with such deprivations & depredations as would’ve formerly been compatible with the old temporal, lapsarian dis-order?
Eschatological freedom would thus entail only whether one wills to will at all, i.e. one’s *choosing* or not (in & of itself) among eternal goods & becomings, as well as any choosing *among* such potentialities (that array of divinely determined goods & becomings)? It could not otherwise involve a choosing *between* divinely determined goods and reified evils (by disordered appetites or inordinate attachments), which would be ontologically nonsensical. Nor could it involve refraining from a choice from/for non/being, which has never been an existential prerogative of the imago Dei over against the divine will, anyway.
Eternal annihilation of any imago Dei remains off the table as conceptually incompatible with its essential nature and theologically incoherent, as it would constitute a reversal of the eternal divine intentionale?
I believe, therefore, that God honors the freedom of human persons by eternalizing all self-determined acts of human becoming (as synergetic divine participations) and by refraining from any eternalizations of our non-participatory acts (such as we refer to in terms of vicious 2nd natures) i.e. our choices “not to become.” As such, our virtuous 2nd natures transition into eternity along with our essential natures, while our vicious 2nd natures will self-determinedly perish (a virtual self-annihilation), which certainly remains, to an extent, and in *some* way, a lamentable thwarting of the divine will. What it would not amount to is an unmitigated loss. Such choices would (self-punitively & consequently) cost one tremendous but nonessential opportunities, but, in the end, no loss of an original & essential goodness. Such choices would amount to a gratuitous superabundance foregone, but with no loss of an abundant life redeemed, that’s to say, reoriented, saved, healed, sanctified & empowered, as a new creation.
Our participatory imaginations gift us, integrally & relationally, unity, beauty, goodness, freedom & truth, forming our dispositions (senses & sensibilities) toward various ways of belonging, desiring, behaving, transcending & believing, as expressed in our attitudes regarding & personal commitments to others, the cosmos, God & even our own selves, as told & retold in our stories.
One, who’s thus properly disposed & committed, can then imaginatively engage others thru inspired storytelling, thereby, in turn, fostering others’ healthy participations, dispositions & commitments.
Such storytelling may, more or less, lend itself to a more rigorous cognitive map-making, foundationally, which is to say, historically, exegetically, scientifically, philosophically & metaphysically. Theologically, such foundations can then systematically underwrite our ecclesiologies, soteriologies, sacramentologies, sophiologies & eschatologies.
There are countless pastors, homilists & spiritual directors from diverse faith traditions, who’ve articulated robustly pneumatological ecclesiologies, radically inclusive soteriologies, profusely incarnational sacramentologies, remarkably polydoxic sophiologies & universally efficacious eschatologies – as awakened & enlivened by human solidarity & compassion & retold in personal stories, thus implicitly grounded in their collective participatory imaginations.
Some are better than others, when it comes to explicitly mapping such dispositions, systematically & foundationally. Make no mistake, though, it can be done, especially, it seems to me, by those who recognize certain resonances between Franciscan, Scotist sensibilities & Eastern Orthodox sophiological approaches.
For example, however harshly one might wish to critique certain of Fr Richard Rohr’s explicit foundational apologetics, far more importantly & deserving of way more emphasis, implicit in the collective oeuvre of his lifetime’s ministry, is precisely such an ecclesiology, soteriology, sacramentology, sophiology & eschatology that I would to defend in my Retreblement: A Systematic Apocatastasis & Pneumatological Missiology.
This is to suggest that one shouldn’t ever miss the concrete, dispositional, participatory theophanic, theopoetic, theopoietic & theotic forests for the abstract, propositional, cognitive theological, metaphysical trees. As it is, robustly metaphysical descriptions & rigorous theological formulations necessarily elude us, in principle, while vaguely semantical references & broad heuristical contours guide us, in practice.
Following Ignatius, we must charitably presuppose the most orthodox interpretations of our theological interlocutors, not reflexively & habitually construing ambiguities & inadequate or inartful expressions against them.
Integrally, Fr. Rohr’s robustly pneumatological ecclesiology, radically inclusive soteriology, profusely incarnational sacramentology, remarkably polydoxic sophiology & universally efficacious eschatology are grounded in his Franciscan (common) sensibilities, Scotistic meta-heuristic (common) sensicalities & Eastern sympathies, both Orthodoxy’s sophiological tradition as well as the Orient’s nondual traditions. All of these presuppose, then, certain outlooks, theologically (i.e. paterological, Christological, pneumatological & Trinitological approaches) and anthropologically (as, continuous with all vestigia Dei & uniquely as imagines Dei, theotic intimacization invites each person to progress via similitudo Dei).
A. implicatory trinitarian theology (of divine esse naturale):
1) interpersonal propria
2) intimate idiomata
3) invitatory (ad intra ur-kenosis) relata
B. intertwined temporal missions of creation, conservation & consummation (mutually entailing acts of ad extra kenosis) via tri-personal presences (multi-form unitive revelations, i.e. mutual intimaci-zations not mani-fold encounters of separate exemplifications), where
C. inseparable “opera ad extra” are tri-personal while also especially revealing of particular exemplifications via their “proper roles” where the
D. immensity of the divine universal presence, which is variously im/mediate, in/visible & intense, the effects of which are tri-personally operative as well as personally appropriated in the theophanic operations of our creaturely “exitus” or production from God in divine creation, i.e. trinitologically & anthropologically … or as an
E. intensity of the particular divine presence via hypostatic extensions, the effects of which are – not only tri-personally operative & personally appropriated, but – personally “proper,” i.e. united to a given divine exemplification, in the theotic missions of our creaturely “reditus” or return to God in divine consummation, i.e. sophiologically & eschatologically … with the
F. immediacy (Emmanuel, God is with us!) of the divine mercy & urgency of its prompt succor, bringing about manifold & multiform proleptic creaturely realizations of the divine telos, as it’s entailed in these theotic missions. Such realizations anticipate & guarantee the divine missions’ universal efficacy, ecclesiologically & sacramentally, thereby effecting – in this eternal now – our creaturely salvation, redemption & reconciliation by God through divine conservation, i.e soteriologically.
G. implicated theological anthropology (of divine esse intentionale):
1) indwelling vestigia
2) imaginal uniqueness (essential nature of imago Dei)
3) intentional & incremental theosis (dynamical & progressive intimaci-zation of secondary nature of kenotic similitudo Dei)
tags: interreligious dialogue, polydoxy, panentheism, pansemioentheism, retreblement, john sobert sylvest, richard rohr, universal christ, pneumatological missiology, apocatastasis, apokatastasis, david bentley hart, russian sophiology, joseph bracken, divine matrix, norris clarke, personalist thomism, charles sanders peirce, donald gelpi s.j., amos yong, palamas, duns scotus, logical problem of the trinity, richard rohr, michael morrell, perichoresis, universalism, universal salvation, free will, libertarian free will, cappadocians
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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:
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.
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-determinateCreator gifts (originates or speaks) …
the uncreated, transcendent, trans-determinateLogos (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.
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
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:
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.
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.
Sanders said: And my long—forgive me—review has one main point: it’s that The Divine Dance isn’t about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It’s a book about an alternative spirituality of Flow, committed to a metaphysic that refuses to recognize a distinction between God and the world. <<<<<
Shouldn’t somebody on Sanders’ team have checked the heterodoxy equivalent of Snopes.com before concluding that Rohr’s committed to a metaphysic that refuses to recognize a distinction between God and the world?
As Walter Cardinal Kasper suggests: As Christians, we should keep to the rule of St. Ignatius of Loyola, and instead of ridiculing each other we should interpret each other in the best possible orthodox way. If we don’t, meaningful theological dialogue becomes impossible and sacra theologia turns into a political and ideological battlefield.
Rohr’s famously known to be a self-described panentheist, wholly within his Roman Catholic tradition, which precisely maintains ontological distinctions between God and the world, coupled with robust conceptions of creaturely participations/partakings.
The best orthodox interpretation, then, would have been that Rohr was not doing ontotheology or metaphysical modeling but theopoetics or a metaphorical trinitophany (like Panikkar’s christophany).
Sanders wrote: Church Fathers weren’t talking about dancing when they used the word “perichoresis,” which isn’t the origin of our word “choreography” (that would be choreuo, not choreo). Is it a bit pedantic to point out that Rohr is guilty of spreading etymological urban legends? Probably so. <<<<<
Definitely so, especially since, again, the best orthodox interpretation would be that Rohr was not departing from LaCugna, who knowingly employed dance vis a vis perichoresis — precisely not from philological warrant, which she clearly said it lacked, but — due only to metaphorical effectiveness.
Anticipating the harshness of his critique and the devastating pastoral conclusions that would ensue, did Sanders not have a greater responsibility to ensure the best orthodox interpretation, to consider the possibility that, at worst, Rohr was being inartful but certainly does not hold and has not historically taught something so egregiously wrong (pantheism, Sanders’ MAIN POINT) that it would get him into trouble with the Vatican, even?
RE: And my long—forgive me—review has one main point: it’s that The Divine Dance isn’t about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It’s a book about an alternative spirituality of Flow, committed to a metaphysic that refuses to recognize a distinction between God and the world. <<<<< Fred Sanders
Well, no. It’s not.
Human perichoretic participation refers to neither the Trinity’s essence (ousia) nor its persons (hypostaseis) but to the uncreated energies (energeiai), which are loving, saving and deifying. Thus our human union with God is neither substantial nor hypostatic.
Classical ontological distinctions between creatures and Creator are maintained, as humans don’t participate in God’s essence!
As per Walter Cardinal Kasper:
As Christians, we should keep to the rule of St. Ignatius of Loyola, and instead of ridiculing each other we should interpret each other in the best possible orthodox way. If we don’t, meaningful theological dialogue becomes impossible and sacra theologia turns into a political and ideological battlefield.
These distinctions pertain even to eucharistic theology. Apophatic theology doesn’t convey objective knowledge (episteme) but leads, trans-apophatically and trans-rationally, to subjective experience (gnosis) of God as its goal.
These understandings of theotic (deifying) sanctification and glorification are wholly compatible, soteriologically, with notions of justification, many would contend, even those of reformed traditions.
Previously, I purposefully used vehicle negativa as distinct from via negativa, as the latter refers to a rational mode and a form of kataphasis, while the former refers to a transrational experience or participation, a form of apophasis, which does not proceed through essentialist negations but, instead, through ineffable existential experiences or REALizations. The latter are robustly relational in an interpersonal sense, experiences beyond words. Such is the reality to which perichoresis vaguely refers without robustly describing.
A vehicle negativa transports and trans-forms us, while a via negativa in-forms us, such as the distinction between knowledge of and knowledge about, the latter a problem to be solved, the former a lover to be loved. Both are necessary but one is a means, the other an end.
To be more clear, some Orthodox theologians point out that both the via positiva and via negativa are RATIONAL approaches, both sharing the same trajectory of increasing descriptive accuracy, whether through affirmation of what something is, ontologically, or is like, analogically, or through negation of what something is not or is not like. That’s how kataphasis and apophasis are largely conceived in the West, often through radically logo-centric lenses.
When Lossky employed an apophatic, perichoretic strategy, though, he referenced a transrational mystical experience moreso in terms of ineffability. He aspires merely to a successful relational reference but does not ambition a successful metaphysical description. (This distinction applies, by the way, to so much of nondual teaching in Buddhist & Hindu traditions, as they aren’t doing metaphysics as much as they are leading us into experiences or real-izations).
The Orthodox priest, Dumitru Staniloae, according to some, was more rigorous and nuanced than Lossky. He would refer to our ineffable experiences as transrational and trans-apophatic. That’s why I prefer to refer to
trinito-logy vs trinito-phany.
The difference between a metaphysical image and a model does not lie in how exhaustively it is employed in different contexts as a basic metaphor. An image does symbolic and metaphorical work, poetically and aesthetically. A model, though, is based on a root metaphor, which serves as an heuristic device, metaphysically, employed systematically, ordinarily, in terms of classical Aristotelian causes — material, efficient, formal and final, setting forth putative relationships to bridge emergent phenomena such as in natural theologies, quantum interpretations, cosmogonies, biopoietics, philosophies of mind and symbolic language origins.
While exhaustively applied, Rohr’s images aren’t doing the work of models, metaphysically or onto-theologically, only the work of metaphors, theo-poetically, aesthetically. Rohr’s images already presuppose a classical Scotistic-Palamatic metaphysical frame of distinctions, a model of divine essence, hypostatic persons and divine energies, panentheistically interpreted. There is another method in play here, theopoetically, at the intersection between theology and spirituality.
Once we define the applicable methodological contours of the development of doctrine from historical exegetical and polemical environments, through what additional methods might we authenticate their spiritually transformative efficacies?
We abide with the paradox, tolerate the ambiguity, nurture the creative tensions, seek out the antinomies, resist rushes to closure and admonish the voices of certitude but move forward, anyway, in humility, with hospitality, doing what we’ve discerned we must and saying what we believe we should, dialogically, boldly and imaginatively!
As Scott Holland suggests: Good theology is a kind of transgression, a kind of excess, a kind of gift. It is not a smooth systematics, a dogmatics, or a metaphysics; as a theopoetics it is a kind of writing. It is a kind of writing that invites more writing. Its narratives lead to other narratives, its metaphors encourages new metaphors, its confessions more confessions . . .
If all too certain theological understandings get undermined and theopolitical modes of historical discourse challenged, theo-poetics will have a chance to successfully advance the spiritual efficacies of otherwise sterile abstract doctrines, bringing them alive in the concrete lives of the faithful through fruitful ortho-relational, orthocommunal, orthopathic and orthopraxic realizations.
As Roland Faber puts it: One moves into an “undefined land” in which one experiences differently, begins to think differently, and is encouraged nor just to adopt to, but to create new theological language. Today, I think that not only can we not control this field or region in fact, but that it is of the essence of process theology to be an uncontrollable undertaking in the infinite adventure of God-talk, and consciously so, in modes that I came to name “theopoetics.”
Rohr is merely the latest in a long pedigree of people who want to run with the Trinity (or dance, as it were) to — not draw conclusions, but — to create new theological language, encourage new metaphors, and to help us experience differently those historical realities that were developed with our traditions out of what we might call the “formations contexts” of the Trinity within the pro-Nicene polemical and exegetical environment.
I would even call my own writings regarding Rohr’s ouvre a systematic theophany and not systematic theology.
Still, for Rohr, onto-theology would be descriptive but not pejorative. After all, one could argue that his fellow Franciscan, the medieval Scotus, was among the first, great onto-theologians! That said, again, that’s not what he’s doing in this book.
The Divine Dance does not amend classical ad intra, ontological accounts of the immanent, essential Trinity (vis a vis questions of who and what). Arguably, neither does it amend the traditional ad extra, divine communication accounts of the revealed, economic Trinity (vis a vis when, where and how). Instead, it addends these approaches, supplementing them with a theopoetic, trinito-phanic, perichoretic critique.
Some have invoked perichoresis — not as a kataphatic, root metaphor of onto-theology, but — as an apophatic, more properly trans-apophatic, theopoetic critique. Such theologians, while very much affirming the indispensable noetic trajectory of logos in every theo-logos, employ perichoresis as a vehicle negativa, which serves to remind us that all symbols, whether sacramentals or metaphors — not only reveal, but — conceal the realities, which they reference.
Accordingly, a perichoretic critique, evoking the poetry of dance, doesn’t at all deny ontological root metaphors, much less substituting its own (e.g. flow) but, instead, invites us to keep the trinito-phanic metaphors coming!
Orthodox freedom arises from ecstasis and self-transcendence, going beyond ourselves (Lacugna 1991:261). The freedom spoken of here is based on the communion of persons, not the fulfillment of autonomous individuals. Zizioulas draws the distinction between the individual and the person noting that the individual becomes a person by loving and being loved (Zizioulas 1985:48-49). True human freedom means going beyond our individual self and becoming open to others which finds its ultimate fulfillment in union with Christ and life in the Trinity.
Eastern Orthodoxy’s emphasis on the person (hypostasis) leads to freedom and relationality.
The fact that God exists because of the Father shows that His existence, His being is the consequence of a free person; which means, in the in the last analysis, that not only communion but also freedom, the free person, constitutes true being. True being comes only from the free person, from the person who loves freely–that is, who freely affirms his being, his identity, by means of an event of communion with other persons (Zizioulas 1985:18; emphasis in original).
This in turn opens the way for perichoresis, the idea that the three Persons of the Trinity mutually inhere in one another (LaCugna 1991:270 ff.). Perichoresis lays the foundation for the idea of persons in communion, both in terms of intradivine relations within the Trinity and our being invited (elected) into that interpersonal communion. (See John of Damascus’ De Fide Orthodoxa Chapter VIII (NPNF Vol. 2 page 11 Note 8).)
end of quote
Assuming such a theopoetic critique, then, one must avoid the category error of employing such perichoretic references (e.g. dance, flow or relating) as kataphatic and onto-theological root metaphors, when, indeed, they are precisely otherwise intended to serve as artistic conceptual placeholders. This is to say that such placeholders, apophatically and phenomenologically, deliberately bracket such metaphysics. They much less so deny old models, interpretations and metaphors and much more so encourage ever new, always deeper, understandings!
Bottomline, I knew Rohr wasn’t doing onto-theology or metaphysics precisely because, as a Roman Catholic and panentheist, he’s manifestly not committed to a metaphysic that refuses to recognize a distinction between God and the world.
Also, when reading Rohr and Morrell’s references to divine energies, I relexively put on the Orthodox lens and thought of Gregory of Palamas and, in turn, interpreted their perichoretic references as apophatic, theopoetic critiques, for example, consistent with Vladimir Lossky’s approach. Any implicit metaphysic would be Scotistic, trinitarian distinctions consistent with his Eucharistic, Christological and Incarnational approaches, some representing minority reports but not otherwise unorthodox.
This is all to point out that I knew before reading the Divine Dance that Rohr’s approach to the Trinity with Morrell would be neither some ad hoc poetic musing nor some fanciful flight of a superficial theological imagination. Rather, I am poised, here, to harvest the fruits that will have emerged organically from a theological crop that’s been long cultivated in the ground of
Scotistic intuitions (in continuity with Peirce),
Franciscan sensibilities (often a minority account within larger traditions),
Patristic outlooks (apokatastasis and practical universalism, oh my!),
polydoxic sophiologies (others are on efficacious wisdom trajectories?! e.g. Gregory of Palamas),
a generous ecclesiology (preferential option for the marginalized, even),
a pluralistic pneumatology (the Spirit ‘s also over there?! in her?!),
a Goldilocks anthropology — neither too pessimistic (e.g. total depravity) nor optimistic (ergo, no facile syncretism, no insidious indifferentism, no false irenicism) and, paramount,
a contemplative stance that affirms a most robust, participatory relationality, beyond a mere propositional, problem-solving preoccupation.
None of this wouldn’t a priori be inconsistent either with various Arminian, Molinist or Open approaches, with various logical defenses or evidential theodicies to problems of evil (whether Augustine, Plantinga or Oord), with various creation accounts (ex nihilo, profundis, multitudinae, tehomic) or various wisdom traditions vis a vis their shared soteriologic trajectory of human authenticity (an implict pneumatological, Christological inclusivism via Lonergan’s transcendental imperatives and conversions) and diverse sophiologic trajectories of sustained authenticity (via being in love).
The late Don Gelpi, SJ had a saying: “orthopraxy authenticates orthodoxy.”
Gelpi had Lonergan’s conception of authenticity in mind as he so related “right practice” to “right belief. ” And Gelpi expanded Lonergan’s authenticity to include what he called five “conversions.” Those conversions refer to intellectual , affective, moral, social and religious transformations. We might, then, think of them, respectively, in terms of
right believing, right desiring, right behaving, right belonging and right relating.
Rohr and Morrell address these in spades! more appropriately, HEARTS!
Following Lonergan and immersed in the pragmatism of Charles Sanders Peirce, Gelpi would offer that any authentication of the various dogma, practices, liturgies, rituals and doctrines — not just of Christianity, but — of any of the world’s great traditions, as well as indigenous religions, could be cashed out in terms of how well they foster ongoing human transformation.
Now, this doesn’t invoke that vulgar pragmatism of “if it’s useful, then it’s true,” but it does suggest that, wherever, whenever and in whomever we witness
right belonging ,
right behaving and/or
right relating, then we will more likely also encounter
It’s no accident, then, that systematic theology will typically address five integral human value-realizations:
1) truth via creed, as articulated in beliefs about reality’s first and last things, in what we call an eschatology, which orients us;
2) beauty via cult-ivation, as celebrated in life’s liturgies, rituals and devotions, in what we call a soteriology, which sanctifies us;
3) goodness via code, as preserved in codifications and norms, in an incarnational or sacramental economy, which nurtures and heals us;
4) unity via community, as enjoyed in familial and faith fellowships, in what we call an ecclesiology, which empowers and unites us; and
5) freedom via contemplation, as realized through radical self-transcendence, in a given sophiology, which will ultimately save and liberate us.
Rohr and Morrell, right up front, ask:
“If Trinity is supposed to describe the very heart of the nature of God, and yet it has almost no practical or pastoral implications in most of our lives… if it’s even possible that we could drop it tomorrow and it would be a forgettable, throwaway doctrine… then either it can’t be true or we don’t understand it!”
As prologue, they introduce the pragmatic critique, inquiring whether orthopraxy has authenticated Trinitarian orthodoxy!
They make the point: “Remember, mystery isn’t something that you cannot understand— it is something that you can endlessly understand!”
They don’t confuse a lack of comprehensibilty with a lack of intelligibility. Thomas Oord similarly resists a retreat into theological skepticism when it comes to our God concepts vis a vis the problem of evil and thereby has articulated a theology of love (considering putative God-constraints, such as essential, metaphysical or kenotic). Similarly eschewing a radical skepticism regarding Trinitarian doctrine, Rohr and Morrell are on their way to articulating — spoiler alert — a theology of love!
Here comes the leit motif of Rohr’s lifelong emphasis on the fruit of the contemplative stance: “Whatever is going on in God is a flow, a radical relatedness, a perfect communion between Three— a circle dance of love.”
They ask: “Instead of God watching life happen from afar and judging it… How about God being inherent in life itself? How about God being the Life Force of everything? Instead of God being an Object like any other object… How about God being the Life Energy between each and every object (which we would usually call Love or Spirit)?”
This reminds me of the Orthodox hesychastic conception of Divine Energies as well as Joe Bracken’s process notion of the Divine Matrix. In some ways, it speaks to Scotus’ univocity of being.
Whether one employs a root metaphor like substance, process, experience, energy or flow, mystics and philosophers have long intuited some type of unitary being, some type of interconnectedness that allows objective interactivity across what may otherwise be ontological gulfs, which would be logically necessary to account also for the intrasubjective integrity of each unified self, who then participates in those glorious unitive strivings of all loving intersubjective intimacies.
I’m willing to bet, though, that those above references to life forces and energies will have many exclaiming a heterodoxic: “Game! Set! Match!” That is, they will filter the rest of the book through the cloudy lens of their facile, hence errant, metaphysical presuppositions — that Rohr articulates a pantheism!
So few traffic in the nuances required to distinguish between pan-en-theism, pan-entheism, panen-theism or cosmotheandrism, theocosmocentrism, between an objective unitary identity and a subjective unitive intimacy or between epistemic, ontic and interpersonal nondualities. I won’t tease out all the relevant nuances, here, but I can only suggest from a rather long acquaintance with both Rohr and Morrell that they aren’t playing theology without a suitable philosophical net! Keep reading!
Here comes another minority opinion grounded in a long established Scotistic Franciscan sensibility – that the Incarnation was not occasioned by some human felix culpa but was in the Divine pneumatological cards from the cosmic get-go: “This God is the very one whom we have named ‘Trinity’— the flow who flows through everything, without exception, and who has done so since the beginning.”
Yes, indeed, for God so loved the world!
“But divine things can never be objectified in this way; they can only be ‘subjectified’ by becoming one with them! When neither yourself nor the other is treated as a mere object, but both rest in an I-Thou of mutual admiration, you have spiritual knowing. Some of us call this contemplative knowing.”
There it is – — the distinction between the objective and subjective, the merely propositional and the robustly relational!
Ultimately, beyond the truth, beauty, goodness and unity, in which all creation participates, there emerged a freedom gifted by that contemplative faculty found in the human imago Dei: “But we have to be taught how to ‘gaze steadily into this law of perfect freedom, and make this our habit,’ as James so brilliantly intuits it.”
Love and freedom remain integrally related to the extent that in addition to any essential and metaphysical constraints God may even kenotically self-constrain toward the end of augmenting our freedom, amplifying our love!
The following is so poignantly put:
“Did you ever imagine that what we call ‘vulnerability’ might just be the key to ongoing growth? In my experience, healthily vulnerable people use every occasion to expand, change, and grow. Yet it is a risky position to live undefended, in a kind of constant openness to the other—because it would mean others could sometimes actually wound you (from vulnus, ‘wound’). But only if we choose to take this risk antie also allow the exact opposite possibility: the other might also gift you, free you, and even love you. But it is a felt risk every time. Every time.”
Did you ever imagine that God might take risks? Felt risks? Precisely to free you? That beyond any omniscience, omnibenevolence, omnipotence, omnipresence — all suitably (apophatically) nuanced as capacities greater than which could not otherwise be conceived without falling into either metaphysical incoherence or theo-logical contradictions — God passionately experiences, also, a divine omnipathy? precisely through the Incarnation!
How does one merit this type of love?
“Jesus never has any such checklist test before he heals anybody. He just says, as it were, ‘Are you going to allow yourself to be touched? If so, let’s go!’ The touchable ones are the healed ones; it’s pretty much that simple. There’s no doctrinal test. There’s no moral test. There is no checking out if they are Jewish, gay, baptized, or in their first marriage. There’s only the one question: Do you want to be healed? If the answer is a vulnerable, trusting, or confident one, the flow always happens, and the person is healed. Try to disprove me on that!”
Here we encounter the wisdom of an authentic formative spirituality, where right relating precedes right belonging which fosters right desiring which encourages right behaving and sees right believing much more so as a participatory orthocommunal, orthopathic and orthopraxic response, much less so as an orthodoxic proposition, which, truth be told, more often presents in polydoxic sophiologies, which entail the wisdom of love (beyond our philosophical love of wisdom).
While the Dance perichoretically circles around truth, beauty, goodness, unity and freedom, each of these divine imperatives integrally intertwined with and leading to the others, because of our radical human finitude we will ordinarily follow a transformative path conveyed first in community and gifting us, even, our deepest desires. The pro-positional, apart from the participational and relational, will lack normative impetus unless those norms derive, first, from some energizing evaluative dis-positions.
It’s beyond the scope of this consideration but modern semiotic science with roots in medieval Scotism very much resonates with this emphasis on relationality, which need rely on no robust metaphysic, no particular root metaphor, only a vague phenomenology (Christianity can remain in search of a metaphysic!):
“What physicists and contemplatives alike are confirming is that the foundational nature of reality is relational; everything is in relationship with everything else. As a central Christian mystery, we’ve been saying this from the very beginning while still utterly failing to grasp its meaning.”
My favorite quite from the Divine Dance:
“God does not love you because you are good. God loves you because God is good. I should just stop writing right here. There’s nothing more to say, and it’ll take the rest of your life to internalize this.”
Merton once lamented that our churches do a great job helping socialize people but a terrible job transforming them. He was not using my broadly conceived notion of transformation, which includes Lonergan’s conversions, like the social. Instead, he was talking about that growth in intimacy with God, self, others and cosmos that lays in store for those who properly relate, contemplatively. Rohr and Morrell touch on this: “Most Christians have not been taught contemplation. Contemplation is learning how to abide in and with the Witnessing Presence planted within you, which of course is the Holy Spirit, almost perfectly symbolized by the ark of the covenant. If you keep ‘guard,’ like two cherubim, over the dangerous, open-ended space of your transient feelings and thoughts, you will indeed be seated on the mercy seat, where God dwells in the Spirit. The passing flotsam and jetsam on your stream of consciousness will then have little power to trap or imprison you. The only difference between people that matters is the difference between those who allow this space to fill iith flow— and those who don’t, or won’t, allow it. Like Mary, the model for contemplatives, ‘it is done unto you,’ and you can only allow. Always.”
If the kind reader can grasp these fundamental distinctions from Part I of the Divine Dance and thereby realize that Rohr and Morrell are supplementingnot rewriting Trinitarian doctrine, they’ll be readily disposed to receive the gifts of the book’s remainder, which are participational, contemplative, pastoral or, in other words, distinctions that can make a transformational difference in one’s life!
The crux of the Sanders critique was: “And my long—forgive me—review has one main point: it’s that The Divine Dance isn’t about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It’s a book about an alternative spirituality of Flow, committed to a metaphysic that refuses to recognize a distinction between God and the world.”
Beyond either classical theism or panentheism (broadly conceived, as it has many versions variously heterodox), Rohr was being charged with PANtheism.
Long story short, he’s NOT a pantheist.
I’ve seen panentheist flirtations even in Reformed, Calvinist notions (the great Edwards!) and have drawn great inspiration from Wesleyan Arminian theologians in the same direction! We’re talking about LOVE here, so, I’m confident this misunderstanding will resolve, happily!
RE: essence (ousia) vs (hypostaseis) vs uncreated energies (energeiai)
One way of interpreting these distinctions would be to consider the first two metaphysically and the last mystically. That’s been partly my thrust in distinguishing trinoto-logy from trinoto-phany, rational from trans-rational, kata/apo-phatic from trans-apophatic, speculative from relational, philosophical from contemplative, ontotheology from theopoetic, episteme from gnosis, science from art.
My case in favor of Rohr’s project has been to emphasize it as an exercise in post-experiential effabling about ineffable contemplative encounters, drawing on reflections of our contemplative community and tradition.
Clearly, though, Rohr has never advocated an arational contemplative stance, as if mysticism gifted a gnosis unconstrained by doctrine, tradition, philosophy or science. The contemplative, relational, mystical approach goes beyond these other epistemic approaches but clearly never without them.
So, too, the distinctions between essence (ousia) vs (hypostaseis) vs uncreated energies (energeiai) are much more subtle than I’ve let on for fear of going too deep into the metaphysical weeds. But, I’ll set those fears aside.
Distinguishing the divine energies from the divine essence does, of course, have a philosophical and doctrinal angle in addition to the mystical, all which must be expressed in continuity. There’s a question of how much continuity vs how much free rein to be answered. It’s hard to put this succinctly without coming across too bluntly, but the old essentialism vs nominalism, Thomism vs Scotism, analogy vs univocity of being, tensions come into play. This problem cannot be satisfactorily addressed using essentialistic approaches.
One must honor Fr Rohr’s Franciscan sensibilities and contemplative approach and turn to Scotus, placing him in dialogue with Gregory Palamas regarding divine energies in the Orthodox tradition. The distinction between the divine essence is neither what Scotus would call real nor merely conceptual but is, instead, a formal distinction, not wholly unrelated to what Peirce came to call thirdness in his modal ontology. There is a great deal of continuity between Scotus and Palamas, Peirce and Hartshorne, and panentheism (broadly conceived).
Just for the record, my point is that Rohr did not elaborate a trinito-phanic interpretation wholly apart from an eminently defensible Scotistic-Palamic metaphysic-theology. He went theo-poetic-ally beyond but not without an onto-theo-logic.
Some my have confused his not being sufficiently Thomist with his not being doctrinally sound. Those are two wholly different considerations. There is great promise for bridging East and West, Catholic and Orthodox, divine essence and divine energies, if we pay more attention to real vs conceptual vs formal vs modal distinctions, if we open our hearts and minds to both Scotus and Palamas.
Rohr would probably affirm divine passibility while denying mutability (cf. Denis Edwards). His trinitarian approach might be influenced by Joe Bracken, who expanded on Whitehead and Hartshorne (Bracken deliberately mindful, too, of orthodox notions of transcendence) using a field theoretic approach (social ontology employing fields). At least, it seems Rohr often uses such field metaphors and he has referenced a divine matrix, too. Not all Catholics think any of this succeeds or that it or panentheism is necessary (Norris Clarke).
Amos Yong, with whom I most resonate, shares some of Bracken’s insights regarding reality’s pervasive interrelationality, interactivity and intersubjectivity. But he derived those insights from a pneumatological reading of creation narratives, not from a process cosmology.
Footnote regarding Sanders’ hyper-Critique:
Being immersed in Rohr’s spirituality and theology for decades, I gathered his meaning easily and implicitly. I would be unable to easily discern where he might have more artfully been more explicit in his presupposed onto-theo-LOGY to keep the uninitiated reader, one as intelligent as Sanders, from misinterpreting anything. I just don’t know but my sneaking suspicion is that Sanders will accept any needed clarifications and place part of the blame on Rohr. At the same time, as a scholar, Sanders could’ve inquired further into Rohr’s body of work to equip himself with better hermeneutical lenses, especially once he realized how hypercritical his review would be, if only not to embarrass himself, but also to avoid offending charity.
In “Divinization: A Lost Pearl” Fr Rohr writes: If you want to do your own research here, the fathers of the church to study are St. Clement of Alexandria, Origen, St. Basil, St. Athanasius, and St. Irenaeus in the West; and St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Maximus the Confessor, Pseudo Macarius, Diadochus, and St. Gregory Palamas in the East. The primary texts are in the Philokalia collection and the teachings of the Hesychastic monks. https://cac.org/divinization-lost-pearl-2016-04-14/
In “The Univocity of Being” Fr Rohr quotes Bonaventure: Christ has something in common with all creatures. With the stone he [sic] shares existence, with the plants he shares life, with the animals he shares sensation, and with the angels he shares intelligence. Thus all things are transformed in Christ since in the fullness of his nature he embraces some part of every creature. —Bonaventure  https://cac.org/the-univocity-of-being-2016-11-14/
Deeper into the theological woods, I wanted to mention that, in reconciling Fr Rohr’s reading of Catherine Mowry LaCugna’s trinitarian theology to his own Franciscan sensibilities, which employ robustly participatory accounts of communion, I found palamite distinctions helpful, especially amenable to scotistic distinctions.
LaCugna, herself, would not make this move because she does not similarly interpret palamite distinctions. The following article supports my reconciliation of scotistic and palamitic approaches in a manner consistent with how I conceive Fr Rohr’s implicit metaphysical and theological presuppositions (which, however, were not what Divine Dance was explicitly about as it was otherwise a trinito-phanic theopoetic and an exquisite one, at that!).
Modern Theology 32:1 January 2016 ISSN 0266-7177 (Print) ISSN 1468-0025 (Online)
COMMUNION WITH GOD: AN ENERGETIC DEFENSE OF GREGORY PALAMAS by D. GLENN BUTNER, JR.
Regarding perichoresis, Rohr has spoken and written rather extensively regarding divine interpenetration and indwelling, all in fidelity to its patristic etymological roots. Of course its not uncontroversial to univocally predicate such a perichoretic dynamism of persons, both divine and imago Dei, but its eminently defensible.
What’s not defensible, though, is the presupposition that Rohr’s use of dance imagery was grounded in philological warrant, though, rather than metaphorical effectiveness, which was precisely LaCugna’s position.
As it is, again, the apophatic and theopoetic evocation of perichoresis refers to a relational reality and not an ontotheological modeling attempt. The dance metaphor thus belongs to Rohr’s trinito-phany and is not over against classical trinito-logy. As such, it doesn’t tell us how to think about the immanent Trinity in terms of essence, but how to experience the economic Trinity in terms of divine energies (or other psalmodic not philosophic metaphors).
Rohr’s inviting us into a robustly relational, contemplative, mystical experience and not rewriting classical trinitarian formulae.
As to Fr. Richard Rohr, I’ve been getting excited with his every new publication, tape, mp3, video, webcast or daily e-mail for almost 40 years now. I can never resist hyperbole and superlatives as I commend each new work to family and friends. Why stop now?
I have always unwrapped each new gift from Fr Rohr anticipating its practical, pastoral significance, looking for changes I can make in my relationships to God, others, the world, even myself. He’s never trafficked in idle, academic speculation (nothing wrong with that, just not his theo-schtick) but has engaged us with invitations to new ways, dis-positions, of seeing, imagining, participating, giving, receiving and experiencing Love, moreso than any new pro-positions.
The Divine Dance, in all of the above ways, in my view, represents Fr Richard’s magnum opus!
In a nutshell, right away, I thought: Fr Richard and Mike Morrell have done regarding the Trinity precisely what Panikkar did regarding the Christ!
That’s to suggest that in the same way that Panikkar elaborated and related his Christo-phanyto classical Christo-logy, they’ve, in effect, elaborated and related their beautiful Trinito-phany to classical Trinito-logy.
Enough of my words. But, to my point, I used the glossary entry for Christophany at the Panikkar website and did word substitutions — Trinity for Christ, Trinito-logy for Christo-logy and Trinito-phany for Christo-phany.
Below’s what fell out.
It’s eerily on the mark???!!!
Trinito-phany is the Christian reflection that the third millennium must elaborate.
– It does not claim to offer a universal paradigm, nor even necessarily a model to adopt, but rather simply to offer to all humanity a believable image of Trinity.
– It is a Christian word yet opened to the universal problematic in a concrete and thereby limited way.
– The word is used in the sense of “phaneros of the Christian scriptures”, visible and public manifestation of a truth. Divine energies are a direct manifestation of God to human consciousness and represents an experience.
– Trinito-phany does not ignore nor claim to abolish the preceding trinito-logy, but trinito-phany rather tries to situate itself in a continuity with trinito-logy in order to deepen it.
– Trinito-phany “suggests that the encounter with Trinity can not be reduced to a mere doctrinal or intellectual approach”; it wants to elaborate a reflection on the economic Trinity and the human being with clear reference to the immanent Trinity: “The logos is also the Logos of God, but the Logos is not “all” of the Trinity.”
– The Trinito-phany does not take anything away from the Trinito-logy, but shows itself opened to the reality of the Spirit.
– This contemplative, mystic attitude situates trinito-phany in a more receptive posture, in contrast to the more aggressive search on the part of reason.
– This notion of Trinity must include both the figure from the historic past as well as the present reality.
– Trinito-phany is a reflection opened to the Christian scriptures, but is in dialogue with the other religions; opened to dialogue with the past (even the pre-Christian) and with the present (even the non-Christian) and in particular the contemporary scientific mentality.
– Trinito-phany, therefore, does not exclude a priori any epiphany of the sacred or the divine when searching for an integration of the image of the Trinity in a more spacious cosmovision.”
To get properly immersed in a 4-D IMAX Rohrian theo-phanic adventure, one needs a set of 3-D lenses, which implicitly provide Rohr’s indispensable theo-logic vision.
“Of a hundred writers who have held Duns Scotus up to ridicule, not two of them have ever read him and not one of them has understood him.” ~ Etienne Gilson
Perhaps the same could be said of Richard Rohr?
Occasionally, it does seem to be the case that his Franciscan, Scotistic sensibilities, which have long yielded minority — not unorthodox — reports, leave him misunderstood, and …
precisely by those who, only having engaged him sparingly, have engaged him superficially, thus rashly judging him, even while stridently recommending to others that he best go unread!
Those who fail to trade-in their hermeneutically polarized theo-logical shades before entering Rohr’s perichoretic theater will not only find his motion picture of our relationship to the Trinity blurry, but might feel theologically poked, jolted and shaken in their seats from a lack of that hermeneutical context, which otherwise allows his imagery to theophanically stoke, ignite and fire-up others of us!
Rohr’s hermeneutic — not only neither blurs nor ignores, but — manifestly employs very robust notions regarding identity (strict and nonstrict), separability and distinction.
For those searching for his onto-theo-logical, trinito-logical model, it’s not articulated explicitly in The Divine Dance, which explicates Rohr’s theo-poetic, trinito-phanic imagery. But it is nevertheless implicated and rather pervasively!
This is to recognize that Rohr’s mystical imagery has always most certainly represented a trans-rational, trans-apophatic, experiential and relational over-flow and precisely from the rational, kataphatic-apophatic, modalities with which they confluently stream, existentially model-ing the doctrinal and liturgical continuities, which they theo-phanically transcend but do not theo-logically transgress.
Rohr employs a robustly relational Hermeneutic of Presence:
We encounter Rohr’s Implicit Hermeneutic (Scotistic & Palamatic) of Presence vis a vis the ways he addresses:
Incarnation (Christological & panentheistic) and
Eucharist (people gathered, word proclaimed & sacred species), which then onto-theo-logically extends to the
Trinity (perichoretic), trinito–logically, for those searching for his model, which takes:
essence as ousia
persons as hypostaseis
energies as energeiai
eucharist as christ’s transfigured, life-giving, but still human, body, en-hypostasized in the Logos and penetrated with divine energies
participation, as methexis — not partaking of divine essence, but — partaking of met-ousia
metousiosis as a multifaceted presence that involves
semiotic (sign and symbol),
dynamical (efficacious via divine power and activity),
None of this is to claim that such a hermeneutic is either unproblematic or uncontroversial, only that, at least in Catholic circles — Anglican, Orthodox and Roman — it is not unorthodox. I don’t see why it would necessarily be incompatible in Arminian, Wesleyan or other traditions. Indeed, many of its elements can foster ecumenical and interreligious dialogue across all of our great traditions, East and West, pneumatologically, panentheistically and polydoxically!