Theopoetic Norms – Do they subversively overturn or conversively overcome metaphysics?

If, in our foundational (exegetical & historical, dogmatic & philosophical) creedal trinitologies, we establish theological contours within which our systematic trinitologies & theopoetic trinitophanies are to navigate …

Where those contours are comprised by a given consensus regarding the relevant vague, dogmatic & metaphysical categories that are in play, each with its rules of predication & terms of art …

Where those systematic trinitologies are comprised by a given metaphysic (root metaphor & formal ontology) with a given idiom with further rules of predication & terms of art for the inferential propositions of our cognitive map-making

Where those theopoetic trinitophanies are comprised, mostly informally, often with beautiful cascading metaphors, engaging interrelational drama & believable sacramental-poetic images, all gifting an excess of communal meaning to our embodied evaluative dispositions & transformed participatory imaginations

And, further, if our systematic trinitologies can largely be normed by their external congruence & logical consistency with those creedal trinitologies, as well as by their own internal coherence …

Then, by what methods & metrics are we to otherwise norm our theopoetic trinitophanies?

Do they aspire to subversively overturn or conversively overcome metaphysics?

Broadly speaking, we might suggest that, generally, right behaving (orthopraxic – good) mediates between right believing (orthodoxic – true) & right belonging (orthocommunal – unitive) to realize right desiring (orthopathic – beautiful), all transformatively fostering a sustained human authenticity (orthotheotic – liberative).

Each such probe (true? beautiful? good? unitive? liberative?) of reality’s values remains methodologically autonomous & necessary. However, none, alone, is sufficient as they remain, together, axiologically integral.

An authentic theopoetics, orthopathically, will integratively contribute to our ongoing transformation & sustained authenticity to the extent it helps foster a community of the true, beautiful & good, liberating its members to partake of the divine nature & incorporating them into Christ.

More concretely, see:

Perichoresis as Vehicle Negativa in Rohr’s Divine Dance – a polydoxic trinito-phany in continuity with an orthodoxic trinito-logy

Do we have Norms to Evaluate Trinitological Distinctions – like Fatherhood?

Syntactical References to Nondeterminate Being, meta-ontologically (neither physical nor metaphysical) — include

Being, Esse Naturale, Ousia & Quiddity, some say substantial or secondary substance

Reality, Esse, Hypostasis & Haecceity, some say primary substance or personal

Relations, Esse Intentionale, Energeia of Ousia-Economy of Hypostases & Trans-Formal Distinction, some say ad extra relational

And they roughly map, syntactically, via references to Determinate Being, ontologically (physical and/or metaphysical).


We can refer to the substantial (abstract), personal (concrete) or relational distinctions of determinate beings, but we distinguish divine hypostases not substantially (as they’re nondeterminate) but relationally.

For example, ad extra & relationally, theosis implies a twofold theopoietic distinction, whereby energeia foster our creaturely participation in divine activities and the divine economy fosters our creaturely incorporation into Christ by nature?

And as we turn from a consideration of ad extra relations per Esse Intentionale, Energeia of Ousia-Economy of Hypostases & Trans-Formal Distinctions, what about trinitarian ad intra relations?

What can we meaningfully say of divine immanence, hypostatical plurality & character, personal distinctions, eternal generation & procession (necessarily & via esse naturale not intentionale), etc, as we next turn to such a question as:

What is distinctive of the Fatherhood?

We realize this how – through

• doxastic belief of what?

• epistemic understanding of what?

• gnostic participation & incorporation in what?

Of what regarding –

• Being? that’s nondeterminate, nontemporal, noncausal, nonoriginate, noncomposite?

• Hypostatic & Personal Properties? Derived – not being, but – identity?

• Relations ad extra & ad intra? energies of ousia? economic activities of hypostases?

Whatever relational distinctions (ad extra and/or ad intra) we aspire to articulate, meta-ontologically, whether onto-theologically or theo-ontologically, their meaningfulness should be evaluated by how well those distinctions foster the above mentioned theopoietic dynamics?

And we should employ norms that will gauge the degrees of effectiveness of those dynamics in terms of the very same secular & religious conversions that have been fostered by our Scriptural narratives & Liturgical traditions?

Haven’t those narratives & traditions, from of old, long oriented, empowered, consecrated, saved, healed & sanctified God’s People?

So, when we engage in speculative, systematic trinitology, in addition to our syntactical, semantical & syllogistic methods, we must also reason, contextually, from the trinitophanic encounters and theopoietic participations & incorporations gifted us by our time-honored theopoetic narratives & prayers?

Otherwise, we risk reducing our theology to sterile exercises in abstract logic, mere puzzles for intellectual musement?

Indeed, we aspire to pastorally elevate systematic theology, reaching for its mystical fruits, precisely by concretely grounding it in its mystical roots, or what William Johnston called the Science of Love?

Some prayers, hymns & readings do articulate, sometimes more or less explicitly or implicitly, meta-ontological arguments, trinitologically (or paterologically, christologically or pneumatologically), but those vague & general theological contours often leave a great deal of space for theological opinions?

To the extent such opinions aspire to offer meaningful (e.g. theotic) distinctions, we can ask of their authors what difference their distinctions might make in the life of prayer & dynamics of conversion, fostering believers’ participation in divine activities & incorporation into the Body of Christ?

Oremus – The Who, What & How of God-talk or Let Us Pray!

Our scriptures, sacraments, sacramentals, psalmody, hymns, liturgies, devotionals, oblations, works of spiritual & corporal mercy, when all embodied, dispositionally, in the unitive strivings of our sophiological trajectories, will grow our loving intimacy with God, others, the cosmos and even each in our relationship to one-self!

Little of that growth requires a depthful propositional grasp, onto-theologically or theo-ontologically, beyond the barest common sense understandings of our creeds, dogmas & general precepts, which certainly impart some meta-ontological implications per their general contours, though nothing requiring a specific ontology or given metaphysic.

Meta-ontologically, for those who do like to “go there,” while I could not begin to relate what Scotus, Palamas, Aquinas & Peirce ever really said or intended, for me these definitions will apply:

Freedom as authenticity, infinitely realized or progressively actualized

Univocity as semantic, applied to Peircean 1ns, possibilities (not real actualities), where noncontradiction folds but excluded middle holds in an indeterminacy of vagueness.

Formal distinction as applied to Peircean 3ns, probabilities, a final cause (potency) & formal cause (act), where noncontradiction holds but excluded middle folds in an indeterminacy of generalities.

Actualities as Peircean 2ns, a material cause (potency) & efficient cause (act), where noncontradiction & excluded middle hold

This modal ontology with its grammar applies to determinate realities that participate in being, reality & existence, where freedom & authenticity are temporally & progressively realized and potencies actualized.

Freedom & authenticity are infinitely realized only in the reality of the Ens Necessarium to which only a trans-formal distinction would successfully refer (as neither an act of existence nor other act-potency dynamics would apply).

Syntactical categories of essence (ousia or what?), esse (hypostases or who?) and activities (e.g. divine energies or how?) could successfully refer to both the Ens Necessarium & determinate realities and a semantic univocity even applied to their essence-talk, allowing for a modicum of meaningful, theopoetic God-talk (an infinite intelligibility), while otherwise precluding all but apophatic references (not only vis a vis who? & what? but also how? in an utter incomprehensibility) both onto-theologically & theo-ontologically, especially given our lack of a successful root metaphor, metaphysically (e.g. whether substantialist, personalist or relationalist).

It does seem that there’s a wealth of things we can meaningfully say metaphorically & theo-PO-etically, especially as we attend to the works & activities of God (esse intentionale) theo-POI-etically, as we participate in the manifold ways & means fostered by the activities of Uncreated Grace (esse naturale), observing how they transmute our experiences by infusing created grace, all ordered to theotic ends.

Primarily, then, what we can meaningfully say … are our prayers!

For those who do like to “go there,” seldom will you come across blog discussions better than these:

Simply Divine or a Divinity Fudge? Cooking with Dionysius, Scotus, Peirce, Aquinas & Palamas

Let’s unpack a Dionysian-like Logic, where:

God is | x | is true kataphatically & trans-analogically;

God is | not x | is true apophatically & literally; and

God is neither | x | nor | not x | is true relationally & really.

Compare that to a Scotist- Peircean abduction of the Reality of God, where:

Being > Reality > Existence

The apophatic & literal statements work by metaphysically identifying God via such effects as would be proper to no known causes.

Because kataphatic & trans-analogical statements refer to God existentially, they must employ theophanic & theopoietic idioms, which don’t reduce to formal philosophical & metaphysical categories, as existence can’t be predicated of God, but which do express reality’s excess meaning in our stories & myths, liturgies & devotions.

While such statements offer no onto-theological, metaphysical leverage for our natural theology, descriptively & propositionally, they can still do theo-ontology, accomplishing a great deal of heavy lifting, normatively & dispositionally, discovering & crafting the idioms for our theologies of nature, whereby we affirm that our stories & myths, liturgies & devotions, “really relate” to God.

Therefore, we best formulate our real relational idioms of God in E-Prime (employing no verb forms of ‘to be’ or their equivalents), because, existentially, relational predicates will not successfully refer. With a Palamitic turn, real statements thus require the active voice as we refer to the manifold & multiform works done by God, energeia.

The statement “God is | x | is true kataphatically & trans-analogically” refers to Being, theophanically & theopoietically.

“God is | not x | is true apophatically & literally” refers to Existence, onto-theologically & metaphysically.

“God is neither | x | nor | not x | is true relationally & really” refers to Reality, theo-ontologically & intimately.

For moderate realists like Aquinas, Scotus & Peirce, the categories of Existence & Reality include, respectively, both entitial & relational created realities, i.e. the efficient acts & material potencies of entities and the formal acts & final potencies of teloi.

The category of Reality would also include the uncreated relational reality of Primal Telos, which, as Pure Act, sources created reality’s polydoxic teloi

energetically diffusing divinizing finalities into divine substrative forms …

thereby synergistically harmonizing the instrumental, efficient acts & material potencies of created, entitial existents that they might imitate the divine esse intentionale, growing dispositionally in an ever-deepening relational intimacy.

Divine Simplicity, metaphysically, refers to the apophatic, metaphysical abduction of the Reality of God as Ens Necessarium, esse naturale.

Divine Freedom, theophanically, refers to the uncreated energies of the Reality of God, which invite transformative effects (dis-positions) as would be proper to no known causes, hence from putative theotic participations, both entitial, creative & imitative, and relational, diffusive & substrative.

Any tension between Divine Simplicity & Divine Freedom does not arise onto-theologically in natural theology, for freedom refers to Divine Esse Intentionale trans-analogically (descriptively weak, propositionally, but normatively strong, dispositionally).

While denying a strictly metaphysical impasse between divine simplicity & freedom and while suggesting we’ve thus avoided any logical inconsistencies (e.g. due to parodies grounded in conceptual incompatabilities), it’s not to suggest we’ve also thereby eliminated the aporetic confrontations that inescapably attend to all theo-kataphasis. At the same time, it’s just no small victory to dismiss the facile caricatures & snarky parodies of “devastating” neo-atheological critiques?

A theology of nature, following these speculative grammars, can affirm divine simplicitly as a natural theological argument, philosophically, going beyond it, theo-ontologically – not only invoking Thomistic distinctions between efficient & instrumental causes, primary & secondary causations, to preserve creaturely agencies & avoid modal collapse, but – to affirm a real & robust divine-nature interactivity, pneumatologically, thereby also going, coherently, beyond a mere deism.

Theophanies & theopoetics aspire to successfully reference entitial realities, existentially, employing the ever-cascading & collapsing metaphors of our stories & myth, signs & symbols, liturgies & devotions, alternately revealing the concealed, then concealing the revealed, Who remains always timid but ever coy.

Theo-ontologies & theologies of nature aspire to successfully reference relational realities, personally, relating the uncreated Primal Telos of divine esse intentionale & the polydoxic teloi of creation (note below), which culminate in human intentionality. The seductions of divine intentionale remain ineluctably unobtrusive but so utterly efficacious in the wooing of Sophia (created).

Cf. regarding methodological distinctions of God-talk, see:

the Spirit woos creation forth•
makes this way south & that way north•
invites each blade of grass to green!

horizons, boundaries, limits, origins•
perimeters, parameters, centers, margins•
we’re given freedom in between!

thus truth & beauty & goodness grow•
thus lizards leap & roosters crow•
and dawns break with each new day!

good news is ours to be believed•
love freely given if received•
the Spirit in our heart will stay!

very old poem of mine

N.B. regarding polydoxic teloi

• Veldo-poietic (field-like) entities present as teleopotent or end-unbounded;

• cosmopoietic – teleomatic or end-stated;

• biopoietic – teleonomic or end-directed or end-coded;

• sentiopoietic – teleoqualic or end-purposed; and

• sapiopoietic – teleologic or end-intended


God knows the “future of nature” but – just what is the “nature of the future”? anthropopathic projections or theopathic interpretations?

That God omnisciently knows the future of nature, there should be no doubt. On the other hand, the nature of the future must be properly understood.

Peter Geach held that apart from present trends and tendencies there is no future to be known. This squares with a divine omniscience of peircean thirdness.

See, for example: Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion (vol. III), ed. Jonathan Kvanvig (OUP, 2011), pgs 222-251. Geachianism

A truly Catholic open theism, as would be consistent with many of the thoughts of Norris Clarke and Peter Geach (Roman) or John Polkinghorne (Anglican), could make for a very generic version.

In addition to the distinction between esse naturale and esse intentionale

See, for example: William Norris Clarke and Robert A. Connor on Person as Thomistic Esse

we can also distinguish between an essential impassibility and affect passibility (and certainly affirm both).

See, for example: Graham A. Cole, The God Who Wept a Human Tear: Some Theological Reflections

In light of the imago Dei, one needn’t interpret the Biblical depiction of divine suffering as some anthropopathic projection, but can interpret human suffering as theopathic or God-like.

See, for example: Graham A. Cole, The Living God: Anthropomorphic or Anthropopathic? Reformed Theological Review, 59 (1, 2000), pp. 16-27

Also, see:

Marcel Sarot (2001) Does God Suffer?, Ars Disputandi, 1:1, 53-61

Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, The Gaze of Mercy: A Commentary on Divine and Human Mercy, Frederick, Maryland: The Word Among Us Press, 2015

Walter Kasper, Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to the Christian Life, Paulist Press, 2014

Divine Attributes per Greg Boyd

Divine Omniscience

Divine Omnipathy

Divine Omnibenevolence

Divine Omnipotence

Divine Omnipresence

Divine Immutability

Divine Necessity & Contingency


We should take the theological stances, above, as opinions, even better, as questions!

God knows the future of nature but we don’t fully know the nature of the future.

At bottom, our philosophical theologies, beyond some rather vague phenomenological commitments, only frame our questions but should not pretend to have answered them, proving too much, telling untellable stories, saying way more than we could possibly know. Instead, we abide with paradox, tolerate ambiguity, nurture 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! There is, after all, a certain wisdom in distinguishing between a legitimate plurality of theologoumena and matters that are de fide?

Any kataphatic theopoietic, which aspires to articulate our theopoiesis (our divine cooperations via kenosis, katharsis & synergia) and theosis (our ineffable, unitive divine participations via theurgy & theoria), will necessarily quickly unsay itself, apophatically. Above all, suitable analogical predications must be employed.

What we can say, then, for example, is that …

God suffers impassibly.

Norris Clarke critiques Hartshorne, whose process approach ignores the possibility of a rich, inner life of divine plenitude, thereby overemphasizing ad extra divine relations.

At the same time, in the same way that he employs the esse naturale vs intentionale distinction, which seems consistent with open theism, he similarly draws a distinction between

God’s infinitely intense interior joy (never rising higher in intensity of perfection) and its relational expressions, which do entail a divine enrichment via novel determinate modalities of expression of those joys, such finite modalities being limited participations in that infinite Source.

This reminds me of Boyd’s distinctions between the intensity and scope of aesthetic experience as well as between definitional and constitutive (relational) dispositions, all consistent with my appreciation of the essence-energies distinctions.


Clarke affirms divine contingency. I interpret his reference to the “eternal now” not so much as an argument for or against a/temporality but as his attempt to remain modally agnostic, temporally speaking.

In other words, in affirming the THAT of divine contingency, i.e. openness, at the same time (ha ha), he’s saying that that affirmation is nontemporal, that it’s not taking a stance on HOW temporally thick or thin God’s now might be.

For Clarke, the question of divine foreknowledge springs from a category error re: god-talk (needs to be decisively analogical). He otherwise certainly seems on board with the “open future” conception of the open theists.

Clarke wouldn’t object to a temporal view of the divine relational consciousness, i.e. God as changing, as long as we’re only referring to esse intentionale and as long as God’s only affected — not improved — by relations with the world.

In my view, each such formal distinction (not quibbling with thomistic real-logical relations as the logical can refer — not just to conceptual distinctions, but — to noninherent but inseparable relations) may or may not reflect a divine contingency, for example, vis a vis the future (properly conceived!), mutability (of this or that attribute), im/passibility, a/temporality, or even enrichment. At least the necessity and/or contingency of each attribute or energy would have to be argued separately. One could, for example, affirm open theism vis a vis omniscience but still deny passibility.

Fr Clarke could be interpreted to be, using Boyd’s terms, affirming an enrichment of the divine aesthetic scope while denying same regarding intensity, especially given his recognition of one Source of value — thus supporting a thin notion of enrichment or a thin passibility vis a vis the divine esse intentionale.

Regarding most theological opinions (vs de fide), I don’t have a dog in such hunts. I’m still trying to understand the questions they raise.

It seems to me that Orthodox approaches to panentheism (as indwelling w/sufficient ontological distinctions beyond just mereological distinctions) do not threaten classical theistic approaches to divine attributes, immutability, impassibility and so on.

Because open theism entails no theologic amendments to omniscience and only metaphysical reconceptions re: temporality, i.e. the nature of the future, it should be compatible with Anglican, Roman & Eastern Catholicisms and Orthodoxy, whether via a classical theism or proper panentheism.