David B. Hart on the Analogy of Being

Advertisements
This entry was posted in David B. Hart. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to David B. Hart on the Analogy of Being

  1. Robert Fortuin says:

    I cannot think of a more pivotal concept to Christian theology than Analogia Entis.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    Hart’s essay may be downloaded here.

    Like

  3. brian says:

    Note how Hart ties together the ontological difference and analogy of being, along with divine simplicity and Christology. At risk of inviting controversy, anyone detect any family resemblance between Alexandrian subordinationist Logos theologies and Palamite teaching on the energies? I mean specifically the radical apophaticism whereby an unbridgeable caesura is introduced between the essentially unknowable Father and Christic expression?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Robert Fortuin says:

      Yes, absolutely Brian.

      The complete unknowability, radical apophaticism, of the divine essence as supposed by Palamite theology amounts to an equivocity of being. Palamite apophaticism overcomes the absolute otherness of God (read: ‘God’s essence’) by the construal of a tertium quid which exceeds the difference between God and creation – say hello to the divine energies and their real, ad-intra distinction from the divine essence. Absolute apophaticism – negation – is the first and final metaphysical operating principle around which everything else revolves and must conform. God’s unknowable essence functions as the abstract category to which Hart points (pg 3) which is in its absolutely unknowability is ‘capacious enough to contain both him and his creatures under its canopy.’ But, as Hart notes, ‘true transcendence must be beyond all negation’. Apophaticism elevated to an absolute constitutes a theo-logizing along univocal/equivocal predication, opposed to true transcendence. Analogia Entis functions as a check on radical apophaticism and eliminates the need for tertium quid constructions, as Hart puts it, ‘the being of the creature must indeed be analogous to God’s pure act of being; otherwise all talk of God would be confined within an arid dialectical theology of the “Wholly Other.”’ The apophatic ‘Wholly Other’ is the elephant in the room of Palamite theology.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Have you guys read St. Gregory Palamas? I’m not expert, but to me it’s pretty clear that he avoids radical apophaticism (though I cannot speak for his modern-day followers) and thinks apophatic theology is used to make the point that we speak of God only analogically. Here is chapter 123 of the 150 Chapters:

        “Apophatic theology does not contradict nor does it deny cataphatic theology; rather, with respect to cataphatic statements about God, it shows that they are true and are made in an orthodox manner, and that God does not possess these things as we do. For example, God possesses knowledge of beings and we too possess this in some cases, but our knowledge refers to things in the present and in the past, whereas God’s does not, for he knows these no less even prior to their coming to be. Thus, the man who says that God does not know beings as such does not contradict one who says that God does know beings and knows them as such. There is a cataphatic theology which has the force of apophatic theology; as when someone says all knowledge is applied to some object, namely, the thing known, but God’s knowledge is not applied to any object, for in that very regard he says that God does not know beings as such and he does not possess knowledge of beings, that is, as we do. In this way God is referred to as non-being in a transcendent sense. But one who says this for the purpose of showing that those who say God exists are not speaking correctly is clearly not using apophatic theology in a transcendent sense but rather in the sense of deficiency to the effect that God does not exist at all. This is the acme of impiety, suffered alas by those who attempt through apophatic theology to deny that God possess both an uncreated substance and energy [i.e., Barlaam and his supporters].”

        Like

        • Robert Fortuin says:

          Georgios,

          There are a couple of things to note briefly. Reference to ‘Palamite theology’ is primarily to denote modern theologies which take the Essence-Energy-Distinction to be the interpretive key to all of Orthodox theology and as the superior distinctive which sets Orthodoxy apart from other Christian traditions. Hallmarks of such a take on EED are an anachronistic projection onto primitive Christian writings (EED is found everywhere) and an absolutizing apophaticism by means of construal of a real distinction within the Godhead. Secondly, in reference to radical apophaticism – this occurs when it is asserted that God’s essence is completely unknowable – absolutely nothing can be said about God’s essence in contradistinction to God’s energies. This is a self-contradiction and I suggest a result of a faulty epistemology. Apophatic theology does not primarily function as limitation on cataphatic propositions, but rather it signifies mode of knowledge as a function of our creaturely nature; that is to say that because God transcends both negation and affirmation, the mode of our theo-logizing is participation. This mode (of our knowledge of God) is our participation in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). In this context apophaticism is tied to ontology, understood to point to knowledge by measure of participation and as a gift of grace and not ours by nature. Most importantly, in our immediate context, apophatic theology then is not construed to denote a real distinction within God (as do proponents of EED).

          Liked by 2 people

          • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

            Robert, your last two comments have been helpful in clarifying how Hart’s construal of divine transcendence renders the Palamite essence/energies distinction moot. At least from Hart’s point-of-view (if I understand him rightly, which I probably am not), the Palamite distinction is unnecessary to speak of the ineffable transcendence of God and the wondrous gift of himself in theosis and creates all sorts of metaphysical problems. Does that sound right?

            Does Hart speak of theosis directly in any of his writings?

            Like

          • Robert Fortuin says:

            That is right. A real distinction introduces a host of insurmountable problems.

            I am not aware Hart has written anything directly on theosis/deification. It is often touched upon indirectly when he writes about teleology, God as the ultimate Good in who all things find their end, from ‘God, Creation, and Evil’, ‘as the transcendent Good beyond all beings, he is the transcendental end of any action of any rational nature; and then, obviously, the end toward which God acts must be his own goodness.’ The Palamite would agree with this, but with an important difference – that there always remains something more essential, more real, more divine than what is known. The essence/energy distinction signifies something essentially other beyond what is known in the energies. What this other may be, this is unknown. But what is known is that it must be distinct from, other than, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit revealed.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

            That remains my concern, Robert. Is there another, different “God” behind the back of Jesus? I’m sure that Lossky and others would say no, but the worry persists and will continue to persist (for me) as long as modern Palamites continue to insist that the essence/energies distinction is *real*, as opposed to nominal or formal.

            Liked by 1 person

  4. brian says:

    Balthasar voiced the same concern about Palamite theology, btw.

    Like

    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Do you remember where, Brian?

      Like

      • brian says:

        Well, I am getting old. I can’t seem to recollect. I need access to my library, Father. I’m sure I can find it, though, so I’ll let you know in due time.

        Like

      • Robert Fortuin says:

        I believe Theo-logic book 3 ‘Spirit of the Truth’ touches on the topic in regards to the trinitarian mode of subsistence.

        Liked by 1 person

        • brian says:

          Sounds plausible. I know there is a section where Balthasar directly touches on the issue with regards to Christology as well.

          Like

  5. elijahmaria says:

    What is meant here by “real” distinction. There can be a real distinction between essence and energy without being a sharp separation of essence and energy. It is pretty clear in St. Gregory Palamas that there is no sharp separation. In fact he makes that statement clearly, if his translators are to be trusted. This is not to argue any point but rather something that may help clarify.

    Like

    • brian says:

      The real distinction is between essence and existence. Creatures participate in existence; they do not intrinsically possess existence. God is unique in that essence and existence coincide. Existential Thomism stresses that this means that existence is not a bare concept of “being there” or being real as opposed to imaginary or hypothetical. Rather, existence is the plenitude of being, a dynamic richness that exceeds the entire “positive” capacities that we encounter in the universe.

      Like

    • thomas says:

      The terminology can actually be tricky here. Some medievals (e.g., Giles of Rome) talked about real distinctions as holding between things. Even among Thomists the answer is not always clear (see, for example, the debates between Joseph Owens and John Wippel about the real distinction in De Ente).

      The real distinction is clearest when contrasted with conceptual distinctions. For instance, I might think of my dog as an animal or as a collie. Both “animal” and “collie” refer to one particular being as a whole, but they differ in their degree of abstraction. Since it is my mind that does the abstracting, the distinction between “animal” and “collie” arises from my thought, not the existent.

      A real distinction is one that holds in the thing itself. Someone like Joseph Owens would want to maintain that a real distinction requires either a difference of nature (white and black are different in nature, for instance) or a potency/act distinction. Others, like John Wippel, would set the bar lower, simply saying that a real distinction is something that holds in a thing and is not produced by our thought. Thus, a power (such as reasoning) is really different than possessing a human nature, the one being an accident, the other a substantial form.

      If Palamas held that the distinction between God’s essence and energies holds in God himself, then he denies the real distinction, no matter how closely essence and energies may be related.

      Liked by 1 person

      • elijahmaria says:

        A real distinction, in those terms then, would be a separation or difference? This is what we run into also in discussions of the Trinity often. The impact of “real” and “conceptual” in God not always being clear with respect to Person and Nature. Yes?

        Like

        • thomas says:

          Elijah:

          I would say that holding the distinctions between the persons of the Trinity is merely conceptual is simply modalism. The moderate notion of the real distinction of the sort Thomists advance doesn’t necessitate separation, only non-identity.

          Like

  6. brian says:

    Father,

    Robert is correct that the most explicit discussion is a brief discursus in Theo-Logic Vol. 3, pp. 128 – 130. I regret that I cannot find the Christological comment I recollect, but the upshot was that one condemned Christ to a kind of “insincerity” if his revelation of the Father was somehow relativized so that the Father’s inner core remained permanently opaque. This is consonant with what Balthasar says here: “Trinity and the “energies” seem so closely linked that one is reminded of Eckhart: Trinity as the face of God turned toward the world, behind which the unknowable abyss of God’s unity remains hidden.”

    What is missing is any notion that the perduring Mystery is itself a function of a totally unreserved revelation. Unlike modern mystery that disappears when one “solves for X,” (Tom in the ballroom with the candlestick,) wonder increases the more you know. Gregory of Nyssa’s infinite discovery does not rely on incompleteness, on ever vanishing ignorance, but precisely on a genuine resting in knowledge of God. (I pull the covers a little to one side, there, perhaps. Gregory may not see a coincidence of resting and journey, but that is the truth of it.) This all comes back to deep deficiencies in modern ontology, metaphysics, epistemology. Theologies that carry over these deficiencies are bound to get God, revelation, world, love, personhood wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Robert Fortuin says:

      The concern that Eastern Orthodox have with lifting absolute apophaticism from God’s essence is that He is turned into a scrutable subject. The Christian tradition, east and west, throughout the ages is replete with explicit warnings against dead-end, and rightly so. A reserve, how it is that God remains God, has to be upheld. The problematic centers around how to conceive of this reserve. Some say this is done by means of marking off a ‘forbidden’ distinction, but this seems to me to based on a very deficient, univocal epistemology and ontology. If find knowledge as participation, the ever partial participation into the divine Triune life of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a more helpful (and more scriptural) approach. Participation, by definition, is by degree and measure, and into something prior to itself. And here is the distinguishing mark between the Uncreate and created being – only God self-exists without participation whatsoever. The hidden reserve is not a cordoned-off ‘area’, but in the infinite reality of self-existent existence of He whom we participate in. The reserve is that He is at once truly revealed whilst always ever remaining hidden. He is inscrutable in energy as in essence, without distinction. Infinity signifies the always ever inexhaustible truth and reality of the Triune life.

      Like

      • elijahmaria says:

        Robert, I have to break form here just to tell you that is one of the most lovely, and I believe to be true, descriptions of the unknowability of the divine: a hidden reserve. Very nice indeed….M.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Robert Fortuin says:

          M,

          The point being that the ‘hidden reserve’ of God I propose is best construed analogically. If we conceive of divine apophaticism univocally (God holding existence/being identically as creatures do) or else equivocally (God holding existence/being completely unlike creatures do), this ‘reserve’ will take on radically different meanings. Univocal construals will understand apophaticism as distinct reality within God in contradistinction to what can be known (the essence/energies distinction). Along equivocal lines apophaticism shrouds all of divinity in absolute mystery, resulting in a nihilistic mysticism. Analogical apophaticism (which I suggest adheres to scripture and tradition most faithfully) denotes the ever remaining, radical, and infinite hiddenness within God’s revelation of Himself. There is then no distinction between essence and energy, no ‘cordoned-off section of divine reality, no unknown entity behind the revealed God. God is truly revealed but remains truly hidden – in His works/energies and in His existence/essence.

          Like

          • elijahmaria says:

            Yes, I follow. And the truth of it rings clear, I think. In very prosaic terms I am often tempted to say to my Orthodox peers that we know God’s essence in his energies. And that really is my intent: We know a God in all the ways that he is revealed to us and he is whole and complete, hidden, as you say reserved, and known.

            Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.