by Brian C. Moore, Ph.D.
The perfect being god of theistic personalism (or as David Hart prefers, mono-poly-theism) is the perfection of any possible creature times infinity. Yet because such a god is on the same plane of existence as that of creatures (univocal being), a divinity of that sort is part of the set that includes creaturely being. One does not get a true analogy of being from such a metaphysics, because analogy requires an infinite difference between Being that possesses existence as essence and being that is dependent and contingent. Note that any notion of analogy that would be rooted in univocal being can only understand analogy as a kind of hyperinflation of known qualities: power, goodness, knowledge times infinity (it’s a “geometric, mathematical” conceptualization). Analogy and metaphor requires a qualitatively differentiated notion of being, a crossing of genuine boundaries that is true transcendence.
Here is another implication. If god and creatures are both subsets of univocal being, being is the larger category that explains both god and creatures. Whatever necessity one might apply to the god, it must derive from a being that is shared by both god and contingent creatures. The relation between such a god and creatures would then also be relatively extrinsic. However, if one understands the absolute uniqueness of divine Being, such that in comparison to creaturely existence one could say (apophatically) that God does not exist, then it becomes possible to understand the relation between God and creatures as much more intimate, a creaturely participation in being that is granted as gift, a receptivity made possible by a constantly attentive and renewed loving origin.
The “brute fact” of the necessary supreme being of theistic personalism implies that for theologies based on such a view, the deep metaphysical question of why there is something and not nothing is not asked with sufficient perspicuity and wonder. The kind of being theistic personalists imagine that would include both god and creatures is not rich enough or mysterious enough to avoid the exact same kind of shrugging of the shoulders and lack of wonder that one discovers in modern positivism. As I say about fundamentalists, all these sort are moderns—their dissociation from classical Christian metaphysics is indicated in a deeply impoverished understanding of transcendence. Divine simplicity is one of the best “names” for transcendent Being. Those who find it puzzling, abstruse, unbiblical have not thought through the implications of Triune God and creation from out of nothing.
Perfection is an attribute of God, but those who espouse perfection within the context of univocal being are making a fundamental mistake. The whole point of the analogy of being is that there is a genuine connection between our finite, intelligible knowledge and the God who transcends all finite horizons. If one stays within the plane of univocity, there is not enough room for difference, mystery, growth into ever deeper appropriation of what one obscurely (yet truly) knows. The real live actual universe is never univocal. Univocity is a mode of perception one can adopt, but one is not limited to it and a more acute and reflective mind will recognize in “ordinary experience” a perduring mystery. What we know and experience has an in-built “vector towards transcendence” that is “always already” the trace of “many dimensions.” Identity, non-contradiction, all that, has its legitimate uses, but theo-logic will ask that one sometimes break the logic of the world. Chesterton’s paradoxes may become facile at times, but his basic sense that God must be approached through paradox is correct.
God’s similarity to His creatures is always contained within a greater dissimilarity, but the trace is nonetheless genuine. If our language for God doesn’t mean anything at all like what we know from creaturely existence, analogy is meaningless and one is left with nihilism.