“True divine transcendence transcends even the traditional metaphysical divisions between the transcendent and the immanent”

The dogmatic definitions of the fourth century ultimately forced Christian thought, even if only tacitly, toward a recognition of the full mystery—the full transcendence—of Being within beings. All at once the hierarchy of hypostases mediating between the world and its ultimate or absolute principle had disappeared. Herein lies the great “discovery” of the Christian metaphysical tradition: the true nature of transcendence, transcendence understood not as mere dialectical supremacy, and not as ontic absence, but as the truly transcendent and therefore utterly immediate act of God, in his own infinity, giving being to beings. In affirming the consubstantiality and equality of the persons of the Trinity, Christian thought had also affirmed that it is the transcendent God alone who makes creation to be, not through a necessary diminishment of his own presence, and not by way of an economic reduction of his power in lesser principles, but as the infinite God. In this way, he is revealed as at once superior summo meo and interior intimo meo: not merely the supreme being set atop the summit of beings, but the one who is transcendently present in all beings, the ever more inward act within each finite act. This does not, of course, mean that there can be no metaphysical structure of reality, through whose agencies God acts; but it does mean that, whatever the structure might be, God is not located within it, but creates it, and does not require its mechanism to act upon lower things. At the immediate source of the being of the whole, he is nearer to every moment within the whole than it is to itself, and is at the same time infinitely beyond the reach of the whole, even in its most exalted principles. And it is precisely in learning that God is not situated within any kind of ontic continuum with creation, as some “other thing” mediated to the creature by his simultaneous absolute absence form and dialectical involvement in the totality of beings, that we discover him to be the ontological cause of creation. True divine transcendence, it turns out, transcends even the traditional metaphysical divisions between the transcendent and the immanent.

David Bentley Hart

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5 Responses to “True divine transcendence transcends even the traditional metaphysical divisions between the transcendent and the immanent”

  1. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    David B. Hart, “The Hidden and the Manifest,” in Orthodox Readings of Augustine, pp. 204-205.

  2. whitefrozen says:

    Some criticisms of the more classical approaches to theology appear much weaker set next to statements like this. This bit is particularly interesting:

    ‘This does not, of course, mean that there can be no metaphysical structure of reality, through whose agencies God acts; but it does mean that, whatever the structure might be, God is not located within it, but creates it, and does not require its mechanism to act upon lower things.’

    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Thank you for quoting these sentences. How do you interpret them?

      • whitefrozen says:

        The first thing that came to my mind was that while (in this case) metaphysics may be congruent to the truth, the truth is not a matter of metaphysics or metaphysical method. As I see it, it protects against accusations like, ‘that’s just a metaphysical system’.

  3. Pingback: David Bentley Hart on Transcendence and Metaphysics « Theologians, Inc.

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