The Trinity, Monarchy & Filioque Implicate Scotistic Free Will

To say or not of G_d?

a that
b when-where
c how
d why
e what
2 theologically
a economic
b immanent
3 semantically who
4 cardinally & 5 ordinally
a hypostatic being
b essential being

MOF says there is (2b) a sole personal (4a) source (5a), Who (3) is the original (5a) freely-loving-willing One (4a).

In the MOF, the name, Father, names (3) neither the essential being (4 or 5 b) nor the economy (2a) but a relationship (5a).

The (in obliquo) unity of the essence (4b) can be deduced (in recto) from the relationships (2b) initiated (5a) by the willing One (4a).

Did Augustine, from that unity (4 & 5 a) & unicity (4b), deduce the plurality of relationships (2b), & even conceptually relate the economic (temporal missions – 2a) to the immanent (eternal processions – 2b)?


Indeed, Augustine conceived the Spirit’s eternal procession (5a & 2b) as gift, love itself, economically (2a), & seems to infer the filioque from the homoousion, all with an aim of further emphasizing both the personal unity (4 & 5 a) & essential unicity (4b) of the Trinity.

What Augustine did NOT do was deduce from the unicity (4b), alone, the plurality of relationships (2b), e.g. ignoring the hypostatic unity (4 & 5 a).

Nor did Augustine logically derive the immanent (eternal processions – 2b) from the economic (temporal missions – 2a).

Augustine was, instead, constructing, as a supplement, a theophanic pneumatology to further illuminate the Spirit’s procession.

Did it threaten the MOF or subordinate the HS?


Does it constitute the S as aition?


Does it necessarily methodologically invoke a strict correspondence between the immanent & economic?

If received as theologoumenon, no.

However, hermeneutical questions regarding whether a Scriptural term or text applies to God’s economic activity ad extra or to His inner life, ad intra – absolutely to God’s being, in a dogmatically normative way, that best be discerned ecumenically & formulated conciliarly?


Now, insofar as we are imago Dei of the freely-loving-willing One, wherein absolute freedom & love are inseparable aspects of the pure act of willing, would not our own freedom be similarly constitued, as it grows in that likeness?

Our freedom would thus not be constituted of that license to do merely what we want (Lord Acton) via a libertarian capitulation to the passive inclinations of our natural will (Scotus) with its necessary affections to our own advantage (albeit epistemically & axiologically distanced).

Our freedom would be constituted of that authentic liberty to do what we clearly must (Acton), as a volition that, while so free it can abstain from willing, when it does choose to will, cannot not will the highest good per its free appetite, which is actively inclined by affections toward justice, as always driven, in friendship & love, by desire of something for the sake of another (Scotus).

This Scotistic conception of free will (radically) relocates it from a telic (per Thomistic naturalism) to an efficient cause.

Scotus views moral goodness aesthetically, as a beauty of the soul, in line with sources in Platonic & Neoplatonic traditions, further evident in later Middle Ages thanks to Augustine, Dionysius, etc

Not arbitrary, but beyond the rational, divinely legislated moral laws harmonize with aesthetic patterns pleasing to God.

See: Bychkov, Oleg. (2014). “In Harmony with Reason”: John Duns Scotus’s Theo-aesth/ethics. Open Theology. 1. 10.2478/opth-2014-0005.

Human moral & theotic realizations embody aesthetic patterns pleasing to a God, Who “is truly, `really’, personally related to the world by relations of knowledge & mutual love.” And, because of this, through such embodiments of those aesthetic patterns, God’s “affected in consciousness, but not in abiding intrinsic perfection of nature,” that is in aesthetic scope, but not intensity.

[passibility phraseology borrowed from Norris Clarke ]


The coherence of any conceptions of divine freedom, human liberty and evil (ontological privation) are at stake.

Regarding human liberty, terms like voluntarist, intellectualist, compatibilist, determinist & libertarian have become so fraught as to be unhelpful.

The free will, generically speaking, inheres in human nature, formally, and is expressed as an efficient cause via active potency. As such, it’s a phylogenetically emergent reality. It represents a teleologic, sapient intentionality that’s distinct from and transcends our teleo-qualic sentience, teleo-nomic biological processes & teleo-matic physico-chemical constitution, all which contribute to what we refer to as our natural will.

The free (teleologic) will grows the strength of its inherent autonomous nature through habitual virtuous exercise. This growth in volitional virtue is enhanced as intellectual, affective, moral & social conversions transform our natural will, taming its teleo-matic, -nomic & -qualic passive potencies, formatively & developmentally, harnessing, then redirecting, their energies, in the service of ongoing religious conversion, as expressed in the love of God, others, cosmos, even self. With Bulgakov, there’s no reason this dynamic must necessarily cease post mortem.

In some sense, then, the ontogenetic development of the free will, analogously, recapitulates its phylogenetic emergence. It’s constitutive of, not added on to, human nature via the gratuity of creation and can be superabundantly elevated via the gratuity of grace, in both cases animated by the presence of the Spirit.

The free will also resembles God’s will, growing from image to likeness.

If we conceive God’s choices in terms of those that, on one hand, are logically necessary 1) as strict natural laws via 2) per se nota propositions 3) exercised in perfect goodness & 4) chosen with superabundant efficiency, on the other hand, represent choices on a multiversal Pareto frontier, allowing for diverse, harmonious aesthetic patterns to be realized, then no arbitrariness obtains. So, too, then for the human will, which can be either logically constrained, volitionally, or aesthetically equipoised, although any superabundant sufficiency is manifestly inferior in finite beings. Intelligent creatures remain always volitionally positioned with not choosing as an option.

To avoid a collapse into determinism & problems of evil, a proper tehomic panentheism can be invoked, which I have introduced elsewhere previously, a creatio ex profundis, where an ex nihilo conception still obtains via the invitation to novel teloi. Also, a neglected divine omnipathy of how creatures will have felt, given the illumination of final beatitude in the balance with lifetime sufferings, plays a role.

To imagine an exercise of the free will as independent of existential telic orientations is nonsense.
Volition involves the intellect & will. Any “libertarian” aspect of the will must not refer to why this or that is chosen but only to why the will wills at all, because it does remain free not to act. The will refers to the sole rational potency, never acting without the intellect. So any “voluntarist” aspect of the will must refer to such a primacy of the will that presupposes the intellect. Scotus meets these criteria, so could only be characterized, at most, as moderately libertarian and moderately voluntarist and most definitely not determinist.

Excerpts From:

Medieval Philosophy and Theology 10 (2001), 173–216. Letting Scotus Speak for Himself, MARY BETH INGHAM

The intellect always functions in tandem with the will as partial co-cause for volition.

We have to look not at why the will wills this or that, but rather why the will wills at all. In Scotist terminology, this means looking at the act of velle/non velle, not the act of velle/nolle, where Scotus holds that the non velle is indeed an act: it is an act of self-restraint within the will. This act reveals the will’s relationship to itself and, ultimately, why, when all conditions are present, the will is free not to act. One cannot, then, make the libertarian connection between the divine and human wills on the basis of the choice between “this or that” (in other words, the velle/nolle distinction). Any libertarian claim to be made from this sort of analysis would have to be moderate.

For Scotus, the divine nature is simple and the will is the sole rational potency. Therefore, any interpretation that either denies the will’s access to reason or attempts to defend a notion of freedom that does not entail rationality cannot be faithful to Scotus. For him, the will (whether human or divine) enjoys a freedom that is undetermined by external factors precisely because it is rational.

In the Lectura, Scotus presents this solution of partial cocausality as moderate, rejecting both the extreme voluntarism of Henry of Ghent and the extreme intellectualism of Godfrey of Fontaines. In this way, he attempts to save free will from the blindness of Henry’s position and the intellectual determinism of Godfrey. It is important to note that Scotus’s understanding of the will as sole rational potency is key to the sort of voluntarist he is.

Not Mutually Exclusive Conceptions for my Tehomic Pan-semio-entheism
Essential Elements:

Griffin’s creatio ex chaos (uncreated & prevenient)

Bracken’s divine matrix [a Peircean corrective to nominalism Whiteheadian (thick) or Hartshornean (thin)]

Clarke’s thin passibility of esse intentionale

Neville’s creatio ex nihilo & Tillich’s ground for nondeterminate divine being

Orthodoxy’s Monarchy of the Father for – Unoriginate Indeterminate Divine Being

Classical Theism’s Immanent Trinity – Indeterminate Being or Peirce’s Ens Necessarium

Peirce’s Being > Reality > Existence

Classical Theism’s Economic Trinity – Self-determinate Being

Meta-nomological Reality & Meta-ontological Existence

In/Determinate Reality – Peircean Thirdness

In/Determinate Existence – Peircean Secondness

Peircean Firstness – of both an Extreme Scotistic Realism for immanent universals & Moderate Scotistic Realism for universals

Keller’s creatio ex profundis (created chaos) which can exist along side Griffin’s uncreated prevenient chaos

Oord’s creatio ex amore, which as creatio continua (consistent w/conceivable cyclic cosmogonies) interacts with prevenient chaos (created & uncreated)

Scotistic Volition – moderately libertarian & moderately voluntarist free will

Scotism generally – cf Nielsen, Ingham, Cross, Wolster, Horan, Kappes

Theological Anthropology of Lonergan as corrected by Donald Gelpi replacing Transcendental Thomist approach with Peirce’s pragmatic semiotic realism

All as generally set out:

I’ve been through the Desert Fathers on an Ousia with No Name — It felt good to get out of the Reign (of Rationalism) with the help of the Cappadocians.

Many concepts, taken ahistorically, to me, have often seemed to converge syntactically, semantically & contextually. But, I slowly came to realize that, unless studied historically, it’s seldom going to be readily discernible which such concepts authors have
• clearly derived from others,
• formulated after being merely influenced by others, or
• otherwise developed quite independently of others.

It was back when I was trying to unscramble epistemic-ontic omelets (puzzles such as presented when I was casually reading about quantum interpretations, cosmogonies, philosophies of mind, or life & language origins) that I got introduced to the essentialism-nominalism conundrum.

And my first exposure to a solution was Peirce’s semiotic, pragmatic realism. I didn’t use it as a metaphysic to unscramble any epistemic-ontic omelets or to disabuse me of my metaphysical agnosticism (although I certainly have sneaking suspicions that variously incline me, ontologically).

I did, however, find that Peirce’s categories provided a helpful architectonic heuristic, a vague meta-ontological phenomenology, within which I could bracket ontological root metaphors (e.g. substance, process, relations, experience, persons), while framing up questions via
• linguistics (e.g. icon, index, symbol & syntactical, semantical, contextual),
• speculative grammar (e.g. per first principles, PNC, PEM),
• probability theory (e.g. in/determinacies),
• critical logic (abductive, inductive, deductive) and
• speculative rhetoric (pragmatic principle & modality of 1ns, 2ns, 3ns).

Questions regarding a/historical conceptual convergences have most often presented regarding the essentialist-nominalist & realist-idealist conundra, unity-multiplicity & necessity-contingency distinctions, the natures of divine & human freedom, all which especially arose in various forms, for example, when I began reading about the Doctrine of Divine Simplicity.

Using my Peircean lenses, every trinitological problem and/or solution that I’d encounter, suspiciously, would look like a question and/or answer that had been framed in terms of a pragmatic semiotic realism. That obviously not being the case, explicitly, suggested to me that, nevertheless, implicitly, as long as various schools of thought were realist, i.e. moderately not naively, both their epistemes as well as their theotics would tend to largely converge. It has certainly seemed that way to me when considering Neoplatonic, Dionysian, Augustinian, Cappadocian, Palamitic, Bonaventurean, Scotistic, Thomist & Peircean approaches to various conceptual distinctions pertaining to essences, existents & relations, whether nondeterminate, self-determinate or determinate.

Prominent examples include distinctions like created grace, habitus, Peirce’s thirdness, Scotus’ formal distinction, real metaphysical (vs physical) distinction of some Thomists, Palamas’ energies, Rahner’s quasi-formal cause, Basil’s hypostatic idiomata & essential propria and such.

Diverse in many ways, then, most theological schools that have remained moderately realist, historically, have naturally tended to otherwise converge in both their epistemic & theotic approaches.

Many who’ve exaggerated the differences between Neoplatonists, Cappadocians, Augustinians, Scotists, Thomists & Palamites, or have charged them w/incoherence re the Trinity, have often eisegetically projected onto those schools either their own naive realism or nominalism.

Such fundamentalists have ignored the metaphysical subtlety & theological nuance of those schools (e.g. such as in their predications of essences, existents & relations – nondeterminate vs self-determinate vs determinate).

From revelation, contextually, we can take away certain essential meta-ontological implications from the non-metaphysical, quidditative God-talk of its Scriptural narratives & liturgical Traditions.

We can even argue those take-aways syllogistically, employing vague phenomenological categories, which articulate a rough syntactical mapping of divine & human beings, realities & relations (ad intra & ad extra) and which employ a modicum of semantical univocity.

This meta-ontological mapping of syntactical, semantical & contextual categories is precisely what renders our analogical God-talk meaningful.

We can also argue syllogistically when engaging in ontological God-talk, whether onto-theologically or theo-ontologically, but can only employ apophatic predications, which afford us successful references but not robust descriptions.

Most of our God-talk is otherwise kataphatic, analogical, metaphorical, non-metaphysical, common-sensical, dispositional, theopoetic & theopoietic, as found in the forms of our Scriptures & Traditions, our dogma, doctrines & disciplines, the theotic efficacies of all which supply the norms by which we can gauge the degrees of meaningfulness that we aspire to derive from any novel distinctions that we put forth in our speculative systematic theology, meta-ontologically or ontologically.

In other words, how might any given distinction better foster our ongoing participation in divine activities & incorporation into the Body of Christ?

For example, if one might suggest:
Hypostatical identities are derived relationally (from status & activity/passivity) and not ontologically (from being), thus not mereologically (as parts). e.g. Father’s unbegotten, an identity derived from no cause; Son’s id derived from generation & Spirit’s from procession.

We can draw a distinction between the Trinity’s unoriginate, noncomposite being (what) & its un/originate persons (un/begotten hypostases or who).

Mereological distinctions don’t apply to noncomposite being, so questions re fallacies of composition and/or division don’t arise.

Then, how might we evaluate that?


To avoid category errors of God-talk, for any given discussion, one must clarify precisely what’s under consideration:

1) normatively & syntactically – incl modal phenomenological categories (e.g. first principles)

  • being
  • reality
  • relations (ad intra & extra)

2) descriptively & referentially – incl predications (e.g. semantically & methodologically)

  • kataphatic
  • apophatic
  • metaphorical
  • analogical
  • informal & common-sensical
  • formal & syllogistic
  • (root analog or metaphor?)

3) interpretively – incl meta-ontological aporia

  • non/determinate
  • physical
  • metaphysical
  • theological – incl theopoetic, theo-ontological & onto-theological

4) evaluatively & liberatively -theopoietic

  • worship
  • conversions

Analytical Theology?

I’m all for analytical theology as long as it properly attends to all of Lonergan’s methodological categories, including Biblical, exegetical, historical, dogmatic & systematic approaches.

And as long as it tends to all distinctions that make a difference before employing its syllogisms, which can otherwise devolve into facile, sylly argumentation that engages mere caricatures of classical theology.

For example:

How do we distinguish those attributions we predicate of determinate acts & relations from those we predicate
• of determinate being (existents)?
• or of nondeterminate acts & relations?
• or of nondeterminate and/or self-determinate being?
• much less acts w/nondeterminate and/or self-determinate being as source but w/a temporal or determinate terminus?
• aspiring to successful referentiality vs description
• or to intelligibility vs comprehensibility?

For example, Robert Neville’s ontology specifies how God can be referred to both as unchanging, as in the eternal act of creating, as well as dynamic, as inclusive of the life of creation. The divine includes the nondeterminate source of the creative act, its determinate terminus & the creative activity that mediates the source-terminus relation. God’s intelligibility resides in our knowledge of these determinate effects. That a metaphysical model might captures only those determinate dynamics & termini but not their nondeterminate source displays epistemic virtue not vice.

For the hypostases of the Trinity, a person refers to a subsisting relation, as they are constituted by a relation. Ad intra relations are thus attributed “of” the divine persons not “between” them, hence, as a pure act of relating. For nondeterminate and/or self-determinate divine persons, divine simplicity thus entails no constitutive distinction between -not only essence & subsistence as self-subsisting esse, or quiddity & haecceity, or ousia & hypostases, but – the acts of being & relating.

For Peircean accounts, nondeterminate analogs of firstness, secondness & thirdness would lack temporal modality. For Aristotelian accounts, they would lack act-potency relations such as between efficient & material causations or formal & final causations.

These are strictly meta-ontological implications, apophatically predicated of divine being, reality & relations to increase referential accuracy, employing an heuristic that logically models divinity without metaphysically explaining it (i.e. increasing descriptive accuracy). Such heuristics are employed for other metaphysical aporia of emergent realities, e.g. quantum origins, cosmic origins, life origins, sentience origins, language origins. Such aporetic approaches don’t reflect mysterian sensibilities, only a suitable metaphysical fallibilism grounded in a proper epistemic humility.

Over against, on one hand, any radical apophaticism (e.g. an excessively speculative encratism or affective quietism), or, otoh, radical kataphaticism (e.g. excessively speculative rationalism or affective pietism), all which too narrowly conceive knowledge in terms of either successful descriptions, speculatively, or relational encounters, affectively —

A great many human values of deep meaning & profound existential significance are realized from a knowledge grounded in successful references, speculatively, mediated by our shared aesthetic, ethical & logical norms and experiences.

For example, I conceive of epinoia in terms of an epinoetic epistemic method, which employs propria, substantially, and idiomata, hypostatically, to successfully refer to nondeterminate divine relations ad intra, while an ananoetic epistemic method employs the energies, substantially, and the economy, hypostatically, to successfully refer to determinate divine relations ad extra.

Epinoia vs propria or idiômata are discussed in Andrew Radde-Gallwitz’s _Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa and the Transformation of Divine Simplicity_ (Oxford University Press, 2009) as reviewed by David Bradshaw and by Joseph O’Leary.

The best trinitological articulations of classical theism exemplify all of the epistemic virtues of both our best metaphysics & best speculative sciences. So a trinitarian ignosticism’s main methodological objections to these trinitologies can’t reasonably be such as adhocery, mysterianism & doxastic irresponsibility or it will self-subvert from parody as, in it’s anxiety to annihilate trinitarianism, it will also vanquish – not only metaphysics, but – our theoretical sciences.

Those who object to trinitarianism must ground their objections elsewhere, e.g. history, Biblical exegesis, systematics. Good luck with that.

Integral Human Episteme

descriptive & exploratory
• perinoetic|empirical,
• epinoetic|apophatic

normative & evaluative
• dianoetic|aesthetical, ethical & logical

interpretive & explanatory
• diastemic|aporetic
• ananoetic |metaphysical

liberative & transformative
• kinetic|dynamical (strivings for actualization)
• metanoetic|transformative

For future development:

Trinitarian Distinctions of Systematic Theology for Interreligious Dialogue

• Ousia signify common nouns, propria
• Hypostases indicate proper nouns, idiomata
• Dynamis & God refer via idiomata hypostatically not substantially
• Dynameis include Energeia (ad extra) of the Ousia (ad intra) and Economy (ad extra) of the Hypostases (ad intra)
• Epinoia as epinoetic process, abductive inference, wherein propria & idiomata descriptively constitute – not definitions of, but – successful references to, respectively, ousia & hypostases (ergo, not nominalist but fallibilist realist re both propria & idiomata, normed by infallible special revelation).
• • being, reality & relations
• • substantial, hypostatic & energetic-economic
• • ad intra & extra relations
• • esse naturale & intentionale
• • essential & relational
• • singular energies & economy
• • logical (e.g. dogma) & ontic (latitude) explanations
• • gratuity of creation & grace
• • universalized & particularized hypostatic presence
• • creative-imitative & diffusive-substrative
• • efficient causality, e.g. creation & trans-formal causality, e.g. grace
• • temporal & eternal authenticity
• • status (relations of origin) & proper roles (e.g. missions)
• • Paterological – Cappadocian monarchia & Augustinian principium
• • inseparable operations, appropriations & missions
• • Inseparable in what they are, the divine persons are also inseparable in what they do. But within the single divine operation each shows forth what is proper to him in the Trinity, especially in the divine missions of the Son’s Incarnation and the gift of the Holy Spirit
• • Economy w/activities or roles (temporal)
• • missions of Word & Spirit (mutually related & nonsubordinate)
• • appropriated via theophanic, theopoetic mediations, discerned by exegetical-historical encounters of general (vestigia) & special revelations (scriptures, traditions, prayers, liturgies)
• • obediential potencies of secular conversions & prevenient union of religious conversion
• • created & uncreated grace
• • participation & incorporation
• • analogical claims of systematic theology must be sufficiently demonstrable
• • the economic trinity, epistemologically, models the immanent trinity (no vice versa of the grundaxiom)
• • Yong examines the act of creation from a Trinitarian perspective using a metaphor developed by the 3rd century theologian Irenaeus who described the Trinitarian missions of the divine Word and Spirit as the “Two hands of the Father”
• • vestigia Trinitatis of general revelation
• • real-hypostatic distinctions (that aren’t otherwise substantial) afford successful references not descriptions
• • appropriation, an epistemic method, selectively employs references to various essential attributes, otherwise substantially common to all hypostases, only to help distinguish the hypostatic roles, missions or activities of each in the divine operation & economy
• • To imagine we can make relational distinctions between hypostases, successfully describing them (in some ontological sense), i.e. non-appropriated or proper attributions, rather than merely successfully (real-ly) referring to them & their ontic implications (in only an epistemic sense), i.e. appropriated attributions, seems to be proving too much, saying more than we could possibly know.
• • ground – nondeterminate
• • ad intra relationality
• • eternal creative act production
• • ad extra relationality
• • temporal creative act terminus 1
• • determinate being
• • temporal creative act production
• • temporal creative act terminus 2
• • economic trinity – the HOW of the nondeterminate ground as it becomes determinate
• • father = source
• • son = product or end point or terminus
• • spirit = creative act
• • nondeterminate
• • self-determinate – necessary
• • determinate – contingent

Draw on these Thinkers:

• Dionysius
• Augustine
• Hugh of St Victor
• Richard of St Victor
• Bonaventure
• Ruusbroec
• Julian of Norwich
• Scotus
• Charles Sanders Peirce
• von Balthasar
• Cappadocians
• St Basil
• Palamas
• Vladimir Lossky
• Robert C. Neville
• Amos Yong

For further study:

St Gregory of Nyssa and the Power of God by Fr Aidan Kimel

Also see:

Beau Branson

The Logical Problem of the Trinity

Metaphysically, synergy predicates hypostases.

Semantically, “is God” predicates actus & dynamis, e.g. divine power, energies & economy or act-ivity (not ousia or nature) and the number of token energeia done numerically predicate God (not the number of hypostases, i.e. as source, terminus & mediating activity).

Apart from creation, divine energeia tokens have no individuating idiomata.

Divine Mutualities – ad intra: substantial (purus as singular type – weaker Cappadocian claim- dynamis-actus) & relational-dynamical (singular token – stronger Nyssen claim – power) & ad extra: energies & economy (singular token – stronger Nyssen claim – action), where singular token invokes synergy of hypostatic source, terminus & activity

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?

A Semiotic Phenomenology toward a more Ecumenical Trinitology and Trinitophany

If one breaks open a new category, semiotically, for an actus purus, such as with Peirce’s Ens Necessarium, one could, for example, apophatically negate such conceptions as temporal priority in trinitarian relations, even while kataphatically affirming that such relations are onto-logically fundamental (note below). Similarly, one could negate the conception of creativity vis a vis intra-trinitarian entities, while affirming an eternal generativity.

This semiotic move doesn’t force one into either a relational or substantive ontology, a theistic personalism or classical theism, Palamism or Thomism. It’s not trying to explain, much less prove, that much!

Its apophatic negations, metaphysically, would be literally true, saying, in essence (wink): “I know you’re familiar with conceptions of act & potency, but dis ain’t dat!”

Its kataphatic affirmations would be more trinitophanic, Biblically, than trinitological, systematically and/or philosophically.

Trinitophanic affirmations refer to intra-trinitarian eternality, generativity, relationality, koinonia, hypostasis, prosopon, ousia & physis.

However, prior to (though not without) their rational & intellectual apophatic metaphysical implications, they invite a more robustly mystical & experiential apophaticism.

Semantically, while such concepts may be vague & their full meaning elusive, that situation is, perhaps, less due to the limitations of our modeling power, epistemically & methodologically, and much more so due to the intra-trinitarian nature, ontologically & metaphysically.

We generally don’t a priori assume that any reality is necessarily permanently occulted, ontologically. Rather we suppose that we are otherwise being only temporarily thwarted, methodologically (e.g. principle of sufficient reason).

Still, the last aporiae we’d ever pass, in principle, due to sheer epistemic distance, will not be “what it feels like to be a bat” or “how to reconcile gravity & quantum mechanics” and such. If, with all due epistemic humility, we must nurture a healthy aporetic sense regarding quantum interpretations, philosophies of mind, and biologic & cosmogonic origins, how much more so, then, regarding divine energeia, much less divine ousia?

It often seems that the most we can aspire to rationally with such trinitarian affirmations & negations is a demonstration that, taken together, they aren’t logically contradictory, and that, while incomprehensible, they aren’t unintelligible. There’s sufficient rationality here to avoid fideism and sufficient mystery to avoid rationalism.

Historical & exegetical foundations (and general revelation) demonstrate the reasonableness of our creedal trinitarian affirmations & trinitology vis a vis the cognitive map-making of our epistemic modeling power (including our rational via negativa & positiva as well as our sustained authenticity via secular & kenotic conversions).

The ascetical, mystical & liturgical experiences (and special revelation) of our participatory imaginations foster our trinitophanic human value-realizations (truth, beauty, goodness, unity & freedom) via both connaturality & grace (including our mystical vehicle negativa or relational apophaticism as well as faith via our religious & theotic conversions).

The best theological anthropologies will primarily model Biblical theophanies not trinitarian ontologies.

Faith and mystical experience – not metaphysical understanding (via either philosophical or systematic theology) – ground our understanding of divine unity, which is not purely substantive but relational.


Saying that intra-trinitarian relations are onto-logically fundamental is a trinitophanic affirmation grounded in historical & exegetical realities of special revelation. As such, it invokes only vague, commonsensical (heuristic) conceptions and not robustly metaphysical specifications, e.g. re-ordering entities & relations, indicating substantive vs relational ontologies. The take-away is that we are somehow dealing with a mystery involving loving relationships. That stance has normative significance (ontological implications & suggestions of a heuristic) for any subsequent systematic expositions (ontological definitions of a theory) of doctrine, which different metaphysics will try to further articulate.


When I refer to what I (likely idiosyncratically) call my semiotic phenomenology, I am talking about the basic categories most often applied to entities & relations, including general realities like act & potency, Aristotelian-like causes, modal temporality, modal adequacy, various types of concepts, predications & distinctions, various evidentiary standards that impart different levels of normative impetus, triadic inference, types of triadic ellipsis, a plain vanilla emergentism (e.g. w/o supervenience) and a meta-heuristic architectonic with anthropological, epistemological, ontological, axiological (evaluative & normative), theological & mythological categories.

I engage the grammar of those categories & distinctions prior to choosing a root metaphor & w/o prioritizing either relations or entities. As such, this phenomenology is but a meta-heuristic of meta-metaphysical placeholders, which mostly brackets specific metaphysics, epistemologically modeling value-realizations prior to elaborating a metaphysic. The premise is that there are many values to be shared & realized inter-ideologically, inter-religiously & ecumenically, metaphysically & really, even while we all remain in search of a metaphysic. Good thing, huh?

See also:

I commend the article, below, for the best direction to pursue that search.

Wesley J. Wildman, “An Introduction to Relational Ontology,” in John Polkinghorne and John Zizioulas, eds. The Trinity and an Entangled World: Relationality in Physical Science and Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010): 55-73

Morrell’s 4-D IMAX Rohrian Perichoretic Adventure

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),

penetrative (indwelling) and

distinct (essentially, conceptually, adequately, formally and/or modally) realities.

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!

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