Is this the place to start: God as being, perhaps as over-being? I would visit the philosopher Paul Weiss in his old age, and coming in the door he would ask me, almost shouting: “How do you get from being to God?” A very good question, not an easy question, not one to be directly answered, as if there were a univocal path from one to the other.
Is God, or is God not? If God is, what is this “is”? What is it to say: God is? Nothing, it seems, more than an indeterminacy. We seem to be told (almost) nothing. What (or who) is God who is? Immediately we run into the difficulty that our sense of “what” is determinate. The origin is not a determinate being but rather gives them to be as being at all. If there is something idiotic about being there at all, does this mean a kind of hyperidiocy to the “being” of God? It seems we cannot say what God is, if “what” is a determinate characterization or essence. Can we even ask then what God is?
The question generates different responses, but two are noteworthy. On the one hand, God is said to be Being Itself. Thus Aquinas: verum ipsum esse. The name God is said to give in Exodus is seen as religiously converging with what metaphysics reasons out of God as Being. On the other hand, it will be said God is no being, we must rethink God without being. For instance, the Heideggerian ontological difference is appropriated and radicalized such that not only is Being different to beings, but God is neither Being itself nor a being (Marion?). This venerable response especially wants to take into account reverence for the excess of the origin: God will always be other, epekeina tes ousias, like Plato’s Good, and perhaps even further beyond, like Plotinus’s One epekeina nous kai episteme. Hyperessential: beyond essence, and the “to be.”
The rationale is clear with both these options. God’s difference is acknowledged, but as we must avoid univocity with the first, we risk equivocation with the second. In the first case, some community of God with the beings that are is at least implied in calling God Being itself, tempting one to enclose God and beings in one ontological totality, which then might seem to be the truer name for the ultimate. The difference of God would be compromised, and God as Being domesticated in terms of God’s necessary place in the one totality which is the whole of beings. Of course, this univocity of being is not the only possibility; the analogical conception is obviously relevant, for this clearly wants to keep open the space of transcendence, even while not blocking some relativity to the immanence of creation. The doctrine of analogy complexly qualifies the “is” of being with the “as” of similitude, such that the temptations to univocal reduction or assimilation are noted, guarded against, and transcended. It calls attention to the participation of finite beings in being, a participation first made possible as a gift of the origin, a participation pointing to both the intimacy of the origin and also to an asymmetry, since the gift is exceeded by the giver. There is something absolute in the asymmetry: if God is as unconditional in self, God also is as absolving, in letting the finite creation be as irreducibly other. God is absolute in the intimacy of its own being for self, and absolving in the releasing of creation that is the love of finitude of agapeic origination. God’s agapeic giving releases the creation into being its own open whole, and hence not just a part of a more inclusive totality. In this respect, the analogical “as” points us towards a metaxological understanding.
Relative to the second option, God’s very otherness tempts us to see the Being of the divine as not Being, but other than Being. The reasoning has its points of persuasiveness. The origin cannot be reduced to what it originates, and hence is always over and above. It is no thing, and hence a name for God might be Nothing, and perhaps God has no proper name. The point is not a merely empty nothing, but an originative nothing that is creative of the finite beings. Since we cannot think this in terms proportionate to finite beings, it is better to exceed or transcend the language of beings.