Manoussakis and his Pear Tree

by David Bentley Hart

John Panteleimon Manoussakis has written a “review” of That All Shall Be Saved: “Salva­tion à la Hart.” I did not find it to be germane to my book when I first saw it, and so had no inten­tion of responding to it. But, at the urging of certain former students, I have come to realize that silence can be a discourtesy when someone has taken the trouble to say some­thing meaningful about one’s work, positive or negative. And I suppose I really must be grateful to Manoussakis for having at least attempted to write a serious review of the book. Given the passions that the topic of universal salvation tends to provoke, I have been obliged to endure more than a few petulant screeds scarcely bothering to disguise them­selves as reviews, and so far have seen no critiques of any solvency. And so the effort to do better is greatly appreci­ated. That said, however, whatever Manoussakis may have intend­ed to write, what in fact he has succeeded in producing is an engagement with arguments I have never made, while entirely failing to follow the ones I did. Perhaps this is partly my fault; my manner of exposi­tion might be a touch too labyrinthine for him. But I suspect that the real problem is that he read the text only superficially, having already in his imagination superimposed upon it some other text he had expected to find there, and so failed to notice what was really in front of him. At numerous junctures, in fact, his inattentiveness to what the words on the page are actually saying is almost painfully obvious.

For instance, he claims that I myself believe that, according to Christian tradition, angels are entirely bodiless intelligences (something I have repeatedly denied in all my scholarly writ­ings on the matter). He has entirely missed my point here. It is a Thomist orthodoxy that angels are disembodied intelligences (and hence each its own species), and I merely point out that Thomists therefore contradict themselves in claiming both that immaterial beings cannot alter their intentions and that angels fell. Elsewhere he claims that I interpret the word aiōnios in the New Testament in light of Plato’s use of the word in the Timaeus; in fact, I mention Plato’s use of the word as one episode in a larger history of the word’s applications down the centuries; but I quite clearly state that, as found in Christian scripture, it is proba­bly best understood as a reference to the olam ha-ba, the age to come (this is why the Nicene-Constantinopolitan creed appears to employ the phrase zōē tou mellontos aiōnos as a fair equivalent of the biblical phrase zōē aiōnios). More bizarrely still, Manoussakis seems to think that somewhere in the book I deny that sin can or will be punished by God, and even that I deny that there is a hell. I have no idea how he could have reached that conclusion, unless he believes (for reasons known only to him) that there is no such thing as a punish­ment that does not go on forever and ever, or that hell is not hell if it is remedial rather than merely retributive, or that punishment is by definition only retributive and never remedial, or that retribution must be eternal … (or something along those lines). In any event, this is all a tissue of misprisions.

In the end, the result of Manoussakis’s casual habits as a reader is that his characteriza­tions of my book are repeatedly and even absurdly inaccurate, and his attempts to respond to it correspondingly vacuous. This is a pity. The actual case made by the book has the very great virtue of being formally irrefutable. That is not to say, I hasten to add, that it is necessarily true. By formally irrefutable I mean only that, given the premises from which I am working, the conclusions I draw—even those that require the most elaborate deductive argumentation—follow ineluctably. If one understands the book’s argument completely, one cannot fail to see that its conclusions are necessary logical entailments of that argument. So, if one is to defeat the case I make, one must both understand it in its entirety and then successfully demonstrate that its premises are false. Manoussakis, alas, has done neither.

Actually, what is probably most surprising about Manoussakis’s take on the book are the unexpectedly enormous gaps in his own understanding of philosophical and theological history it appears to expose, as well as a remarkable logical haziness on some fairly crucial philosophical loci. He seems especially confused on the issue of the relation between freedom and reason in classical Christian thought. At one point, in fact, he tries to correct me on this matter by way of Augustine—the stolen pears story from Confessions II in particular—which is surpassingly odd, since my position is entirely drawn from Augustine. True, it is also the position, in varying form, of all the Platonists, of Aristotle, of all the major Church Fathers, of Aquinas and the great scholastics, of Nicholas of Cusa, of both Florovsky and Bulgakov—even of Kant and Iris Murdoch—but it is Augustine who gave it its deepest and richest elucidation. (I would advise Manoussakis to look up the phrase non posse peccare, to re-read the story of the pears, and then, just for further elucidation, look at Thomas’s very Augustinian treatment of the matter in the Summa Theologiae I-II, qu. 78.) Admittedly, Augustine does not (as I do in my book’s Fourth Meditation) employ his understanding of rational freedom to refute the popular “free-will defense” of everlasting perdition; but that is only because such a defense would never have occurred to him in the first place. That is all matter for another time, however (I shall be publishing on the matter in the near future).

By far the most maladroit of Manoussakis’s misreadings of my text is his conflation of my argument in my First Meditation with some of form of theodicy, of the sort one finds discussed by Leibniz or Bayle. It would be hard for him to have missed the mark more wildly than that (in fact, the arrow would almost have to fly backward from the bow). I have, it is true, written on the topic of the problem of evil in relation to divine benevolence and omni­potence, in The Doors of the Sea and elsewhere. But my argument in the current book has nothing to do with that issue at all, and a careful philosophical reader ought not to have made so obvious an error. Why does God permit evil? Well, for any number of reasons perhaps—most likely it has something to do with the forging of spiritual natures possessed of free will. But that is not the issue in That All Shall Be Saved. There my question has nothing to do with contingent evils of any kind; it is rather a very specific query, very clearly delin­eated, regarding the relationship between God’s ultimate intentionality in creation and the metaphysics of creatio ex nihilo. It is only the final form of creation in its fullness, as judged by God and as either affirming or denying God in turn, that this intentionality is expressed. Only then will the final calculus of what God is or is not willing to “pay” to bring his intended ends about come into view. Moreover, as the argument shows, in the case of eschatology uniquely, no distinction in the moral nature of that intention can be drawn in terms of a difference between what God decrees directly and what he merely permits (thus the “game-theory” logic I employ in the text); hence that final intentional horizon is of necessity a revelation not only of the nature of creation but of the eternal identity of God. At no point, does this argument advance—nor does it even imply—any conclusions regarding the means to the ends God intends (whether these include the possibility of transient evils or not). The problem of evil is not addressed. Neither is it relevant. The argument I am making in those pages is quite a new one, quite substantial, and quite easily followed if one has the will and capacity to pursue a logical point to its lair. I am genuinely shocked that Manoussakis made this mistake.

Had Manoussakis grasped the real argument, moreover, he might not have ended his review with a series of rhetorical questions that have no pertinence to my book at all. Yes, my Third Meditation argues that our personhood could never be fully intact—which is to say, as persons we could never be saved—in the absence of those other persons who make us what we are. I will not rehearse the argument here, however, as it is fully laid out in the book. I will simply note that Manoussakis has gotten himself somewhat lost in the weeds by making this an occasion for suggesting that—by my reasoning—the very memories of past evils would darken the joys of heaven. He seems to think my point is that it our memories of others that make us who we are and that therefore the memories of what we have lost would, should those others be absent, be a torment to us (which I make clear—for instance, on p. 153—is not my point). Again, the question is the very possibility of being a person at all except in relation to the whole totality of persons throughout time. And, also again, the argument is made in the text and needs no recapitulation here. All I would add, to help Manoussakis understand, is this: the memory of evil can be healed, and even redeemed; the real absence from our lives of those we love and who love us in turn, and who therefore make us who we are, cannot; even in reconciling ourselves to it, something of ourselves would be irrevocably lost.

In any event, I am still grateful for any attempt to engage the book at other than an emo­tional or dogmatic level. But the quality of Manoussakis’s review—both exegetically and as a feat of reasoning—is surprisingly unimpressive. So, as of yet, nothing has changed: the book’s argument remains formally impeccable and its premises have still not been credibly challenged. In one sense, this naturally pleases me. But, for someone who enjoys real debate over substantial arguments, it is also something of a disappointment.

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104 Responses to Manoussakis and his Pear Tree

  1. “But I suspect that the real problem is that he read the text only superficially, having already in his imagination superimposed upon it some other text he had expected to find there, and so failed to notice what was really in front of him. At numerous junctures, in fact, his inattentiveness to what the words on the page are actually saying is almost painfully obvious.”

    This seems to be a quite common difficulty; I have encountered it many times myself – most of those times not on issues directly related to the question of apokatastasis. A recent and rather long one occurred in an article on my blog about who/what is the God I believe in and what belief in Him or allegiance to Him means. It seems people have a really hard time acknowledging – seeing – new-to-them understandings or beliefs. I would like a way for it to happen less.

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  2. Maximus says:

    “The actual case made by the book has the very great virtue of being formally irrefutable. That is not to say, I hasten to add, that it is necessarily true.”

    I admit I am glad to hear the admission in the second statement, Dr. Hart. However, and with all due respect, the Dortian doctrine of predestination is also formally irrefutable. The only way to disprove it is on “an emotional or dogmatic level,” levels on which, you admit, you would rather not engage.

    I agree your book’s argument possesses internal logical consistency. Your premises, however, do not seem to be axiomatic. Indeed, at least some of the premises from which the argument flows seem to be draw from emotional (e.g. moral intelligence, conscience) and dogmatic sources (the canon of Western philosophy). Hence, an unwillingness to engage at these levels seems a bit disingenuous, making your argument not only formally irrefutable but, from your own vantage, absolutely so. Is this a fair assessment?

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    • DBH says:

      No. Nonsense.

      Of course Dortian Calvinism is internally irrefutable. Its premises, however, are easily pulled apart, for reasons I give in the book (such as the problem of equivocity) and others I do not.

      My premises are drawn from the logic of rational freedom, the rules of meaningful analogical predication, the finitude and relational nature of personhood, a mens rea understanding of culpability, the logically necessary difference between absolute and relative goods, orthodox Christology, the nature of intentionality, classical theism (with all its logical apparatus), and clear scriptural claims about the will of God. All of those are contestable, but not in the easy way that Dort’s premises are. Moreover, if my premises are false, arguably so are many essential Christian claims.

      As for conscience and moral intelligence, they are of course necessary aspects of reason. If they are not taken as more than arbitrary and emotional, then we are back to the reign if equivocity, and all Christian language is meaningless.

      So, again, no.

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      • DBH says:

        I should repeat—for those whose feathers are ruffled by talk of irrefutability—that the book’s very specific claim is that Christianity is incoherent in its own terms if the misericordes of old were not the ones who got it right. I am not claiming that I have reasoned my way to a proof about the ultimate nature of reality. I mean only that the vision of Christ’s saving work found in, say, Gregory of Nyssa or Isaac of Nineveh is the one version of Christian adherence that holds together from beginning to end without at some point lapsing into logically destructive equivocation.

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        • TJF says:

          Dr. Hart, I ultimately agree with you, but I’m wondering how you would respond to the charge that you are reliant on a System of thought, similar to the one you accuse Feser of being reliant upon in your article Romans 8:19-22. I think Maximus here believes that you are just using a different system, but still reliant on one that may or may not be valid. What separates the System of Gregory and Isaac from Aquinas? Is it that theirs is more biblical and makes better sense of biblical, moral, and logical claims? If I understand correctly, it seems like that is what you are suggesting.

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          • DBH says:

            Yes, of course, theirs are logically more coherent, scripturally more warranted, morally more sane…

            Actually, I am relying on Aquinas too, metaphysically. As I explain in Experience of God, it is simply classical theism that I presume. My additional claim is that Aquinas’s own thought should have precluded the theological conclusions he felt he was obliged to affirm as a result of what he took to be dogmatically required of him.

            There is a difference between adopting a whole system (like Thomism) that mixes dogma, metaphysics, ethics, and throughly speculative material, on the one hand, and simply concluding that the basic tenets of classical theism are logically the most persuasive. You see this in the very article you mention. For instance, the Thomist who thinks he knows that animals lack any rational nature is relying not on logic, but on quod Thomas dixit. The Thomist who denies that all of creation, transfigured and restored, glorified in its every dimension (mineral, vegetal, animal, spiritual) will be resent in the Kingdom, and instead asserts (as Thomas did) that all of the mineral, vegetal, and animal creation will simply pass away, is once again relying not on logic, but on the empty authority of a theologian, and is also defying the clear language of scripture. And so on. There is no analogy here.

            Remember, when I speak of rational freedom in the book, I give reasons why the definition of such freedom I presume is the only one that appears to make sense. I am not simply repeating some tiresome orthodoxy that I presume without reason.

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    • Robert Fortuin says:

      Maximus, it’s the premises about which one can have reasonable and worthwhile arguments (and differences of opinion are myriad on the subjects touched upon). So, for instance, the premises, or one can argue assumptions, Dr Hart employs in regards to the nature, meaning, and conditions of free will can be challenged and critiqued. But one will have to be clear as to what those premises are before one can proceed.

      So far I have not seen much n the way of substantive arguments addressing employed premises.

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      • Maximus says:

        Thanks, Robert. Yes, that was why I pointed out that, in this case, the premises are not axiomatic. They *are* refutable, in principle, as Dr. Hart admits. I had in mind, actually, his adherence to Thomistic classical theism. And as we’ve discussed before, I don’t buy into either actus purus or a philosophical simplicity in which distinction = division. Yet everything in Dr. Hart’s apokatastasistic “system” flows from this vision of the divine. I have personally been convinced by scholars like Bradshaw and Farrell that there are more biblical and patristic (i.e. Orthodox) ways to speak of God. And if this is true, then it seems Dr. Hart’s argument is seriously undermined.

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        • Robert Fortuin says:

          That’s a huge, colossal ‘IF’ in the last sentence, Maximus. 😉

          I believe I have yet to encounter in patristics, be it east or west, a rejection of God as simple and as all act. But that is irrelevant really, as in any case positing a distinction between being and doing in the divine results in the conception of a god which is neither scriptural nor logically coherent.

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          • Ben says:

            Indeed. American analytic philosophers who have become Orthodox have invented a brand new Orthodoxy of their own, which is both ahistorical and illogical, but, damn it, at least it isn’t Latin!

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          • Maximus says:

            Robert, thanks for the gracious pushback. Always a pleasure to interact. Of course, you know I take the opposite view on what you say. Yet, I certainly agree that, of course, the fathers don’t reject divine simplicity. It is thoroughly assumed from the beginning, so much so that they don’t attempt to parse the notion for centuries. Thus, I certainly agree that God is simple, but just not in the Origenistic-Augustinian-Thomistic sense, a doctrine propounded by a chorus of philosophical theologians channeling (haphazardly, I think) Plotinian metaphysics.

            Let me just say again that if DBH’s “metaphysics of the Absolute” falls, then so does his particular argument for apokatastasis; for this theology proper is a major premise of his argument. I’ll share just a few thoughts on why I think this is the case. Though, I already expect no applause from the gallery. 🙂

            If God’s being and doing are identical, then several things follow. First, contingent divine action disappears from the scope of reality. All of God’s acts are necessary to who God is. Closely related to this, creation becomes co-eternal with God, coming about through a natural emanation from the divine being, something which DBH all but admits in the book. God’s freedom (i.e. the ability to do otherwise: a definition of freedom which pervades the tradition) is thus reduced to nil.

            Moreover, within the actus purus doctrine, nothing in creation can impinge upon God—nothing can condition God in any way—lest creatures somehow add to his perfections. But several nasty fallouts follow. Were this the case, we would be left only with monergism in the economy; synergism would be precluded, i.e., no free engagement with God in a process of theosis. Why? Because election would be arbitrarily based not on divine foreknowledge (a teaching which, strangely enough, DBH teaches in his NT translation) but based solely on God’s will and activity alone. Basing election on foreknowledge would condition God from within the creaturely realm, and actus purus cannot allow that. Thus, election is pristinely unconditional and completely arbitrary.

            This leads to the final move, the reason why Thomistic-styled classical theism guides DBH’s argument like a rudder. On this view, in order to be consistent, salvation must be understood as either monergistic double-predestination (hey, at least Augustine was consistent with his theology proper here) or monergistic apokatastasis in which all *shall* return to the One. Either one of these options precludes man doing otherwise—a la, hard determinism. When Augustine taught, “He is what he Has,” the teaching of the two eternally-predetermined cities was implicit in such a view of simplicity. The only escape which remained faithful to St Plotinus would have been universal restoration; but Augustine knew his Bible too well for that. 🙂

            I think DBH was right to sense the illogic in the tradition, especially in Thomism, between theology proper and personal eschatology. I had sensed a similar incoherence: Thomists *say* they believe in divine freedom and *say* that salvation is synergistic; they say they do not hold to double-predestination, but…just look at their view of God. Noticing something similar, I think DBH rightly pegged the incongruity in such a system, but instead of correctly returning to a more biblical view of God, he wrongly deduced an unorthodox doctrine of personal eschatology.

            Again, I don’t expect much doctrinal camaraderie in this forum. But when people respond to your posts with comments like “total babble,” and those who know better dismiss patient and careful scholars like Bradshaw with blankets statements and a hand wave, it would seem that honest converse has degenerated into the passionate pursuit of power. For that reason, I’ll probably exit this comment thread for now. But I appreciate the friendly dialogue, Robert (and Fr Aidan), even when we disagree.

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          • Robert Fortuin says:

            Maximus,

            Lest you think that the replies by us were dismissive – there are not. For the conclusions that you say follow from pure act and simplicity (i.e. that “contingent divine action disappears”, “creation becomes co-eternal with God”, and “nothing in creation can impinge upon God”) we claim demonstrate a fundamental (and, I should add, theologically fatal) misunderstanding. And we have good reason for doing so. So if you haven’t already, I would urge you to carefully read the posts Fr Kimel cited in his reply.

            While this misunderstanding is quite critical (and I see how it would mislead you in thinking it has relevance) divine simplicity is not germane to the claims furthered in TASBS.

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          • DBH says:

            Maximus

            You are merely misunderstanding the traditional metaphysics of actus purus and repeating certain elementary errors that Bradshaw too has made. Your criticism, if it were germane or accurate, would equally preclude the metaphysical claims made by Denys, Maximus, and Damascene (among countless others).

            But it does not matter. It is entirely irrelevant to the arguments in my book. The claim that my argument stands or falls on that metaphysics is clearly and objectively false. What you are saying is simply wrong.

            So give it up.

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          • DBH says:

            I am not sure why Maximus thinks I’m a Thomist. The only aspects of Thomas’s metaphysics that I affirm are those common to all classical theism, Pagan, Christian, and other, East and West, ancient and mediaeval, all of which are logically inseparable from the belief that God is the transcendent source of all being.

            That Maximus has, sadly, followed David Bradshaw’s deeply defective account of the Christian metaphysical tradition, which makes a shambles of the traditions of both East and West, is a shame, as he seems a good fellow. For those who don’t know, Bradshaw has invented a number of distinctions between the traditions and come up with a version of “Orthodoxy” that is an odd species of analytic theism or deism (or what I call monopolytheism in The Experience of God). It has caught on among Orthodox who want to believe that the Greek and Latin traditions are irreconcilable, but not because it makes sense or is accurate.

            But, in the end, this simply has no bearing on my argument in the book. The only metaphysical claims of any importance there are that God is transcendent, God is the source of all things, God is Good, and evil is privative. All these claims about my argument being tied to some narrow tradition in Thomist metaphysics are simply nonsense. Even if I were a neo-Palamite, my argument would be exactly the same.

            I will add this, only in the hope that Maximus will widen his research in classical Christian philosophy beyond the eccentric American philosophers he has cited. Synergism–real synergism–is precisely what is made possible by the metaphysics of “actus purus,” precisely because what is fully actual in God is precisely what is fully possible for creatures. If God were not actus purus (properly understood) he would be a competing agency with creatures. In any instance, either his act or the creature’s would be determinative. Instead, as Paul assures us, God works within–makes actual–our working out of the fullness of his actuality, and so we are truly free to work out our salvation in fear and trembling. It is precisely the metaphysics of actus purus that precludes hard determinism.

            To imagine, moreover, that my argument is determinist is simply to misunderstand it. My argument is that universalism follows from the most robust possible defense of the real freedom of spiritual creatures.

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          • Robert Fortuin says:

            I concur.

            Let us not forget that God as pure act follows from the denial of unactualized potential in God. And what is the alternative? It is the univocal ‘god who becomes’ – made in our image. Such is far from o/Orthodox – we have now landed smack-dab in the middle of modernity.

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          • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

            Maximus:

            If God’s being and doing are identical, then several things follow. First, contingent divine action disappears from the scope of reality. All of God’s acts are necessary to who God is. Closely related to this, creation becomes co-eternal with God, coming about through a natural emanation from the divine being, something which DBH all but admits in the book. God’s freedom (i.e. the ability to do otherwise: a definition of freedom which pervades the tradition) is thus reduced to nil.

            But what if I told you, Maximus, that St Thomas emphatically denied the consequence that you have posited, as I note in my article “Aquinas and Divine Freedom.” Few have plumbed the metaphysics of divine simplicity and creatio ex nihilo as deeply as he, so how is it that he did not see the logical entailment of necessary creation? Read through my entire series and identify for me the flaws in his argument. Don’t rely on Bradshaw’s reading of Aquinas. Read Thomas himself.

            FWIW, I personally believe that Thomas’s apophaticism renders the necessary/voluntary distinction moot when speaking of God. God transcends the distinction, which only applies to creatures. We can think of ourselves as choosing between different courses of action, because we are finite beings that exist in relationship with other finite beings; but it doesn’t make any sense to think of God in this way. We are not “other” to God in the way creatures are other to each other; we can’t be. This is why Thomas insists that God knows creatures in knowing his essence. Thomas, of course, can speak of God as “a” being, but this is merely a figurative manner of speech and accommodation to our finitude. For Thomas, God is more accurately described as Being, or more precisely, the act of Being. Or to put it in the Platonic language of St Dionysius, God is beyond being. To put it another way, thinking of God as libertarianly “choosing” between creating and not creating the world is a category mistake, analogous to asking, when did God create the world? We can’t speak of a “when” because the when presupposes time. And this is true whether we think of the world as always existing or as coming into existence in a big bang moment. In either case, the world exists by God’s free eternal decision.

            The simple fact is, we cannot conceive of the world as not existing. The nothing cannot be thought (just try it). The metaphysical nothing is too radical in its absolute nothingness. How then does Aquinas infer the freedom of creation? By reflecting on the aseity of the Creator. Given that God does not need anything to be God in the fullness of his Being, his creation of the world ex nihilo must be a non-necessary, utterly gratuitous act comprehended within his eternal willing of himself as the Good. Anyway, I think that is how Aquinas thinks about the matter. If I am wrong, please show me.

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          • Robert Fortuin says:

            not bad for a mere blogger

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          • DBH says:

            What is odd is that the Orthodox philosopher who denies that God is actus purus would affirm that he is impassible. But, of course, in metaphysical terms impassibility is the same thing as pure act. He would also call God immutable. Again, the same thing. And infinite. Bradshaw has argued that there is unrealized potency in God because he could have created a different world. The number of confusions there is truly frightening.

            The moral of this is that the militant resolve always to find huge differences between Western and Eastern Christian tradition invariably produces absurdity. Some day we’re all going to have to bite the bullet and actually deny ourselves the pleasure of hating one another.

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          • David says:

            Fr Kimel

            Forgive me for again polluting this blog with my thoughts on simplicity (you will no doubt have noticed by now that I occasionally drop in my thoughts on these matters wherever it is raised tangentially, usually confusing myself in the process)

            (also I hope I am at least addressing the correct labyrinthine comment chain)

            Your strategy here (and in the series you link to) for avoiding the implication that the contingency of the world means that God has accidents, seems to me to primarily be pointing out that one cannot run God through the possible worlds calculator, and that instead God as the infinite transcends all notions of ‘necessity’ and ‘contingency’.

            To me this implies that God’s willing of the world and awareness of it are indeed in some way ‘intrinsic’ to God and as such identical with his being – such that God willing the world and knowing the world just ‘is’ God (I am not sure whether ‘comprehended within his act of willing himself’ means that his act of willing himself is identical, but it sounds like it to me!) So there is something in God that corresponds to the fact that he is the world’s creator, it is just that you would not characterise this as a separate thing that imposes some necessity on God, or as an accident in God’s nature that could be different in a different possible world – for there are no such things as ‘possible worlds’. So there is no real distinction between God willing himself and willing the world. Is that a fair summary of your position?

            Whereas Thomas (the one in this comment chain… it’s above my competence to judge whether *the* Thomas is in agreement or not!) and perhaps Robert’s others’ argument sound at least to me, to be more that while God is indeed identical with willing himself, this act is not in fact identical with his act of willing or creating the world – instead, these acts are only spoken of God by ‘extrinsic denomination’. So on this view it seems correct to say there *is* a real distinction between God willing himself and God willing the world – but this it not a problem because God willing the world is just convertible to the world’s existence and being contingent, i.e. it is not God. So there is also no real distinction in God.

            (or maybe you do agree with this position… but if so, why bother with all the talk about hypotheticals not applying to God, so there is no ‘possible world’ where God does not create? Because if Thomas is right and God creating the world is actually just identical with the world’s dependency, but does not correspond to anything real in God, then it doesn’t matter whether that could hypothetically be different or not, does it? Because on this scheme God’s essence would be the same regardless of whether he willed the world or not? I take it that Thomas is arguing that God could have done otherwise, but what God does (or doesn’t do) is not in fact identical with God, so it is not a problem that what God does could be different. Whereas I take it you think this would be a problem, else you would not go to the trouble of arguing God transcends necessary/voluntary distinctions and that there are no hypotheticals with respect to God creating or not).

            This is further complicated, I think, by the ambiguity in the concept of ‘extrinsic denomination’. It is basically about saying that the relation between God and the world exists on the world’s side, but not God’s, right? *But that could mean two things:

            1) God’s knowledge of the world is just identical with the extrinsic creation of the world, i.e. it is not God. We can in some sense predicate ‘God knows that Fr Kimel did X today’ of God, but in fact this is a relation on the side of the world, not God. So God knowing what Fr Kimel today is not really an intrinsic item of God’s consciousness, identical with God’s awareness of himself. It is just another way to signify the dependency relation that the world has on God; or
            2) God’s knowledge of the world is identical with his Being – it is just that God does not need to exist in relation to the world in the sense of ‘looking at the world’ to know what is out there. Rather God knows God’s essence, and God’s essence is what God is doing – and what God is doing is creating the world. There is not an act of God looking at himself and then a separate act of looking at the world, but just one act of looking at what God is doing. So God knowing what Fr Kimel today is in fact an intrinsic item of God’s consciousness, identical with God’s awareness of himself – because ‘himself’ includes what God is doing, and what God is doing is creating Fr Kimel. There is therefore something intrinsic to God that marks him off as Fr Kimel’s creator – so in a sense we could say that God would be different *if* God has not created Fr Kimel – but in fact there is no possibility of God not being Fr Kimel’s creator because possible worlds do not apply to God and he transcends the necessary/voluntary distinction.*

            Could you please confirm which of those two views you think most fairly represents your position? Or are they, in some way I am not yet seeing, compatible? I am perhaps confused about both positions or imagining differences that are not there, but I’m afraid my failure to understand is rather driving me around the twist, so any assistance would be greatly appreciated! Alas the limitations of comment threads when compared to instant messaging and real life discussion – if only I knew some people who actually cared about such things!

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          • David says:

            So, for example, Matthews Grant – endorsed a few times by Thomas (and perhaps Robert?) argues for an “extrinsic model of divine knowing, according to which God’s contingent knowledge, which varies across worlds, does not involve any intrinsic variation in God.”

            i.e. on Grant’s view God does have contingent knowledge, and this contingent knowledge does in fact vary across worlds – so it seems that he hold that the notion of ‘possible worlds’ DOES apply to God’s contingent knowledge and will to create the world. If God’s knowledge/creation-act is something that can vary across possible worlds, then presumably this means it is part of creation – otherwise they would be accidents in God, which God cannot have. And so below Thomas claims straightforwardly that ‘God’s actions with respect to the world are identical with the conditioned actualities of the universe, and not something in God’

            Robert, I know that you have liked Thomas’ comment here, but I think I can remember you and others criticising Malcolmsnotes for claiming that God’s contingent knowledge is something he’s created. But I’m not really sure how Matthews Grant / Thomas’ view differs from this.

            This perhaps another terminology ambiguity: one could sign up to Fr Kimel’s claim that one cannot put God through the possible worlds calculator in two opposed ways. Either:

            1) God transcends ‘possible worlds’ – because while God’s knowledge does in fact vary across possible worlds, God’s knowledge is really just a relation on the side of the creature and is convertible to the conditioned actualities of the universe, i.e. not-God. So variances across possible worlds do not affect God, because God is not part of ‘possible worlds’, only God’s worldly knowledge is.
            2)God transcends ‘possible worlds’ – in the sense that God’s knowledge of the world is intrinsic to God but God, but this is not a problem because by definition this worldly knowledge transcends necessary/voluntary acts, it is just is.

            Anyone who can help me understand? I am really sorry if it’s a bit rude to reference comments from other times or threads, but from my perspective, it very often seems like contradictories are being affirmed, but I’m not sure if there’s some subtle distinction I am not grasping. I am really aching to uncover the truth, and aching at least to understand what is actually being asserted.

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          • Robert Fortuin says:

            David,

            I am not sure I fully understand your question. However, the fundamental point is that God does not know as a subject among other subjects/objects, nor does God know by acquisition. The implications run quite deep and wide – such that notions of possible worlds, external vs. internal, changing states of awareness, and so forth, simply do not hold as applied to God’s knowledge of creation. Is that helpful, does that address your concern at all? It is impossibly abbreviated, but perhaps a good starting point to see if this can be teased out (and perhaps this should be a post on its own, as I am not sure this is relevant to Dr Hart’s post here).

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          • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

            David, thank you for your two long comments. I need to give them some thought, but cannot do so today, as I’m working on another Ezekiel article. When I do, I’ll restart the discussion (in other words, no indentation) to make it easier for us.

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          • David says:

            Thank you Fr Kimel for indulging me. If it’s permitted, I’ll just quickly respond to Robert – which I hope will more helpfully condense my thoughts for both of you.

            Robert, I agree that God does not know the world by acquisition, and that he does not have changing states of awareness etc.

            However it seems to me that there are still two ways to go from here. On the one hand, one could argue that God’s knowledge of the world is *intrinsic* to God’s nature, i.e. God’s nature just *is* to create the world. God’s willing himself is identical to his willing creatures. But this is not an accident because, from the perspective of eternity, there is only one actual world and one act of knowledge – God transcends our notions of ‘could be’ and ‘has to be’ because God just ‘is’. One could perhaps say that, hypothetically, God’s nature would be different if God had different knowledge of the world – but in fact this is disallowed because there is no hypothetical, there is no ‘could be’, God just is what he is. God knows God’s nature, and God’s nature is what God is doing – and what God is doing is willing the world.

            But on the other hand, you could also argue that God’s knowledge is *extrinsic* to God – and that while this knowledge varies across possible worlds, this is not an issue because it does not imply any variance in God’s *intrinsic* nature. Below Thomas claims that it is incorrect to hold that ‘God is identical with his act of creating the world’, and he argues elsewhere that ‘God’s free choice to create the universe entails no difference whatsoever in God than had he not chosen to create the universe.’ Lonergan writes “God is immutable. He is entitatively identical whether he creates or does not create. His knowledge or will or production of the created universe adds only a relatio rationis [mental relation] to the actus purus” And Matthews Grant argues that ‘God’s contingent knowledge, which varies across worlds, does not involve any intrinsic variation in God’. So on this view there is variance across possible worlds, but it is not *intrinsic* variance (I suppose one might hold that on this view God still transcends necessity/possibility, but in the more limited sense that he is intrinsically the same across all possible worlds).

            So basically one can either hold 1) that God’s worldly knowledge is something like an intrinsic knowledge state that is identical to God’s intrinsic being (but hold these are not accidents in God because, transcending necessity and possibility, is never anything other than what he is) OR 2) that God’s worldly knowledge is actually just extrinsic to God, and so is something that varies across possible worlds (but hold these are not accidents in God because, as Thomas says, God’s worldly knowledge and worldly acts are ‘identical with the conditioned actualities of the universe’ rather than God in himself).

            Both of these seem compatible with the idea that God is not a being amongst beings, that God is immutable, that God does not know the world through observation, etc. So it’s certainly an essential insight to bear in mind whilst thinking about this issue, but it doesn’t seem obviously decisive either way without further argument.

            Hope that helps in clarifying my confusion!

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        • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

          Maximus, I’d like to push you on the above. Let’s assume, for the moment, that Hart is a follower of St Gregory of Palamas. How is his argument for apokatastasis rendered incoherent? how is it undermined? Convince me!

          Liked by 2 people

        • DBH says:

          Bradshaw? Oh, dear. Bad scholarship, bad reasoning, and bad theology. And certainly not Orthodox. American analytic deism masquerading as Orthodoxy. Actus purus is just Latin for a view of God that is affirmed by all the Eastern fathers, and without which the very language of God is nonsense. You can do better.

          Anyway, that still in no way would diminish the force of my argument. It does not depend on a particular view of divine simplicity. You’re talking in irrelevancies. Unless you deny that God is the Good, is omnipotent and omniscient, and is the eternal source of all things…?

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        • DBH says:

          None of my argument depends on those principles. You’re just talking now; you’re not saying anything.

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        • Ben W says:

          Mr. Maximus,

          That’s just total babble. Nothing in Hart’s argument depends on a specifically Thomistic view of anything. He assumes God is God rather than a god, so isn’t a changeable being or a psychological subject. That’s it. Give me an address. I’ll send you $1000 if you can explain cogently how Hart’s argument is undermined.

          Uncle Wiggly

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          • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

            Ben, I need to ask you to please maintain civility in your comments. No one likes to be told that what they are saying is babble, and it does not advance the discussion. Thank you.

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        • TJF says:

          Maximos, it seems like you are saying that the Fathers were corrupted by Greek philosophy. That sounds far more Protestant than Orthodox to me. How far are you willing to go to make the illogical sound logical? American analytical philosophy is a far cry from ancient philosophy, so why choose it over the metaphysics espoused by your very namesake?

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    • Thomas says:

      Maximus:

      > First, contingent divine action disappears from the scope of reality. All of God’s acts are necessary to who God is. Closely related to this, creation becomes co-eternal with God, coming about through a natural emanation from the divine being, something which DBH all but admits in the book. God’s freedom (i.e. the ability to do otherwise: a definition of freedom which pervades the tradition) is thus reduced to nil.

      I won’t attempt to speak for Dr. Hart here, but at least with the Thomist metaphysics you mention, this is a fundamental misunderstanding, though a common one. Because Thomists follow Aristotle’s theory of agency, God’s action involves a change only in the effect of that action, not in God. The operating of causes is in the effect, not in the cause. In fact, the cause’s causing is really identical with the patient’s being affected.

      Because God’s creating the world is not necessitated by anything in God (given that all there is in God is essential), it is not a natural emanation. Because God’s actions with respect to the world are identical with the conditioned actualities of the universe, and not something in God (whose act is unconditioned), God is neither identical with nor determined by the act of creation. It is a misunderstanding to say, for instance, that God is identical with his act of creating the world, or that creating the world requires some intrinsic difference in God.

      God’s freedom follows from the fact that i) he is intelligent, ii) he caused the world to be, and iii) he could have not made the world, or made another in its place. Divine freedom is not a process in which God determines himself in one way, but could have determined himself in another way (as we do when we make up our minds to do something). Divine choice is identical with its extrinsic execution.

      No matter how many journal articles Thomist scholars drop on the subject, this mistaken understanding persists. RT Mullins has based a series of articles and books almost entirely grounded in this misapprehension.

      Liked by 1 person

      • David says:

        On this line of thinking is it also correct to say that God’s knowledge of the world (i.e. contingent knowledge) is identical with the conditioned actualities of the universe? If so, is it not problematic that God’s contingent knowledge is extrinsic to God – doesn’t that make God’s contingent knowledge a created thing?

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      • David says:

        And could I also check – does this also prevent us from saying something like ‘in willing himself, God wills the world’? I take it as denying as you also deny that ‘God is identical with his act of creating the world’ but are in fact ‘identical with the conditioned actualities of the universe’.

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      • Thomas says:

        > On this line of thinking is it also correct to say that God’s knowledge of the world (i.e. contingent knowledge) is identical with the conditioned actualities of the universe? If so, is it not problematic that God’s contingent knowledge is extrinsic to God – doesn’t that make God’s contingent knowledge a created thing?

        David:

        Roughly, knowledge is the immaterial actuality of intelligibility. There is no intelligibility outside the ambit of an infinite, immutable act of intelligibility. It follows that there is nothing God does not know, despite being intrinsically unchanged. This is a point at which St. Thomas’ apophaticism and technical analysis, far from being opposed, come together. We can know that this is true (assuming God is infinite act), but not know what it is like.

        In slightly more detail, there are three elements to put together: God’s act, the created thing, and propositions about God’s knowledge of the created thing. God’s act is unconditioned. The created act is conditioned on God. The proposition “God knows things” is conditioned on i) the nature of God as unrestricted act (which will never change), and ii) on the conditioned actualities of created thing. If X in fact is, God knows it, because there is nothing that God does not know, and X is not nothing.

        So propositions about God knowing the world are contingent, created things are contingent, but neither God nor the act of knowledge by which he is omniscient is contingent. This, of course, hinges on an account of knowing that denies that the subject-object distinction is fundamental to knowing.

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        • David says:

          Thank you Thomas. So I think this means then that, on your view, while God’s intrinsic act by which he knows the world is invariable across possible worlds, what God in fact knows *is* variable across possible worlds. And also that there is no intrinsic mental state in God that would be different if God knew different wordly things – and we could therefore not look at the divine nature and from that ‘work out’ what God knows, because that divine nature would be the same whether God whether X contingent state occurred or not, and whether God knew X or Y. Is that fair?

          Now I am no expert in the Thomistic account of knowing. When you say that God’s knowledge transcends the subject-object distinction, do you mean that God knows the world not by looking at the world, but by knowing himself? If so I would agree, although I am not certain how we can say that God knows the world by looking at himself if we also hold, as you do, that there is nothing intrinsic to God that would vary

          Matthews Grant, in his extrinsic model of divine knowing, holds that “God’s cognitive state, his act of knowing, extends out beyond God to embrace the contingent things in themselves, and those contingent realities, in turn, directly inform God’s acts of knowing.”. Isn’t that saying that God knows things by virtue of them being present to him, rather than through his one act of willing himself? (or rather, through a composite of those two things?)

          Or would you say that the act *by which* God knows the world is God’s one act, but the actual ‘God knowing’ the world is extrinsic? Is God’s *knowledge* that David does X today identical with God’s being? Or is it identical with God’s being + the extrinsic state of my act being related to God? Or is it identical just with my act?

          Liked by 1 person

        • Thomas says:

          David:

          > When you say that God’s knowledge transcends the subject-object distinction, do you mean that God knows the world not by looking at the world, but by knowing himself? If so I would agree, although I am not certain how we can say that God knows the world by looking at himself if we also hold, as you do, that there is nothing intrinsic to God that would vary

          I think the difficulty with St. Thomas’ answer here comes not so much from his claim about God’s knowledge, so much as his general account of knowledge. His theory of knowledge rejects the idea that knowing is looking. So if we are asking the question “does God look at the world or himself in order to know?”, we are asking (from a Thomist perspective) the wrong question. We would equally be asking the wrong question were we to ask what it is that we look at (or intuit, intend, represent, etc) in order to know (things directly? sensations? concepts?). Knowing is not looking; it is not seeing what is there to be seen.

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        • David says:

          Thanks Thomas.

          To avoid confusion, it might be worth saying that I detect an ambiguity in what is meant by what needs to be the case ‘in order to know’ something. Do we mean by this simply what state of affairs need to be the case in order for the definition of knowingssomething to be met OR do we mean what is the cause of one knowing.

          To illustrate, with respect to the definition of knowing, I have rather tended to think of ‘knowing X’ as something like an intrinsic belief state (this may not be right and may not be the Thomistic account of knowledge, but bear with me!) On this view it is not that the belief state CAUSES me to know something; rather, that belief state just IS knowing. Knowledge just is awareness, so if I know X, that means I am aware that X is the case – I have an intrinsic, conscious ‘belief state’ that X is the case. And one might imagine that there is something analogous to this in God also.

          Whereas as to what *causes* this knowledge, I would tend to think that, for human beings, we acquire those intrinsic knowledge states – we know things – by virtue of those states being caused by something in the world.

          So on this account, when I hear the claim that the world does not make a difference to what God knows… one might imagine that the claim is simply that God does not need the world in order to cause the intrinsic belief states necessary for knowledge, but still assume that God’s knowledge is indeed an intrinsic belief state identical with God himself… instead those intrinsic belief states are simply identical with God and transcend the duality of necessary/contingent. Alternatively, one might take the claim as stronger, as meaning that the definition of God knowing X does not in fact require any intrinsic belief state that would be different if something else was known whatsoever (I think this is your view)

          Anyway, with that ambiguity noted… could I ask what knowing is then on the Thomistic account? And specifically how does God knowing the world differ from God knowing himself? As I quoted above, Grant argues that “God’s cognitive state, his act of knowing, extends out beyond God to embrace the contingent things in themselves, and those contingent realities, in turn, directly inform God’s acts of knowing.” Is that your view? And if so, if God’s knowlege just is those things standing in a certain relation to God… then isn’t that different kind of knowing to God just knowing himself? i.e. God is not in relation to something else that means we can say God knows he is the Good, infinite, wise, etc. Sorry if that’s badly put, but basically if God knowing that David does X is *not* an intrinsic state… well, isn’t God knowing that God is God at least an intrinsic state?

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        • David says:

          Btw, a related question that might help clarify the Thomist position: if God’s knowledge of the world is extrinsic, why do we insist that this knowledge cannot vary/change over time? I thought the concern problem was that this would attribute change to God himself, but if God only knows the world extrinsically, and different beliefs do not mean a different intrinsic belief state, what is the problem?

          And we would normally say that human beings undergo change when they learn things and gain knowledge, right? What is the difference with God?

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        • David says:

          Sorry, the focus of that last question should really be more that if a human being knows X, it seems that there is some inrinsic difference (namely their conscious belief state?) that would be intrinsically different if they knew Y instead. Change over time is not the issue, but intrinsic variation of states.

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        • Thomas says:

          David:

          Even if knowing were constituted by a belief state, I would simply deny that knowing X requires a specific belief state directed at X. I can understand the entire series of whole numbers by grasping the operation of addition; I need not have a specific belief directed at, say, 19,205.

          But I would deny that God has any intrinsic acts directed at the world. If I hold “John is playing soccer” to be true, my mental act is specified by the intended state of the world. The mental act is constituted by, at least in part, the hypothesis that John plays soccer. Were I to hold instead “John relaxes with a book”, I would have a different mental act. Were there no such thing as soccer, I couldn’t even have the thought.

          But God’s act of being is not contingent on the world, so it cannot be specified by the world. Nor can there be anything in God in addition to his act, since if there were additional acts, God’s act of being would be finite and potential. (In addition to what God must be to be what he is, there is also what he may be.)

          One cannot get away from this by saying that God contingently knows the world, but that this contingency is not real but mental. As Lonergan pithily put it, “‘Mental’ is opposed to ‘real’ only inasmuch as one prescinds from the reality of mind.”

          The problem is actually much worse for Christians. God’s act does involve the procession of a concept or word — the Word. Were God to have multiple thought acts with their own discrete concepts, there would be a multiplicity of inner words in God. Were, instead, we to say that the procession of the Word is specified by the world, we would take up an Arian position. I take it both of those positions are outside the bounds of orthodoxy.

          On the broader issue, I don’t think belief states are the way to define knowing. For dynamic knowing, I’d recommend Lonergan’s article Cognitional Structure. For non-dynamic knowing, the concluding article in Lonergan’s Verbum series is very dense, but it’s the thing that comes to mind.

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        • David says:

          Thanks Thomas.

          With respect to your comment that one ‘can understand the entire series of whole numbers by grasping the operation of addition’ and that one ‘ need not have a specific belief directed at, say, 19,205.’ – I would point out that 19,205 is implicit in the nature of what numbers are. A multiplicity of different pieces of knowledge are implicit within that one act of knowledge. But the divine nature – especially on your view – absolutely does *not*. So it does seem to me that, if knowledge *is* in some sense a conscious belief state, then it does not solve the problem, because God’s nature does not ‘include’ or ‘imply’ the states of the world. One could not understand the concept of the operation of addition *without* implicitly understanding the nature of all numbers, including 19,205 – whereas God *could* understand ‘the Father loves the Son’ and ‘I am omnipotent and eternal’ without understanding ‘David does X’ or some other contingent act. Or is that not right?

          But of course you hold that knowledge is not an intrinsic belief state. Thank you for the Lonergan articles – they are very dense but I will struggle to work my way through them.

          Could you respond to any of the specific questions I have put? Specifically, why is it that theists tend to say that we cannot say that God’s knowledge changes over time? If God’s knowledge of the world is *not* an intrinsic belief state, then why can this not change over time? God cannot change in his intrinsic being. But if God’s worldly beliefs do not consist in his intrinsic being, and if God’s beliefs could vary across different possible worlds without implying any difference in his intrinsic being, then why can we not say that God’s beliefs vary over time, without implying a change in his intrinsic being?

          Also you have said that, if one were to believe John plays soccer, one would have a different mental act to believing that he does not. Could I ask why that is? i.e. Why do human beings have to have a mental act directed at the world in order to believe something, but God does not? I thought you said previously that the problem is solved through a general Thomistic theory of knowledge, rather than through something special about God. You are saying that human beings knowledge consists in, or at least involves, intrinsic states that would be different if the knowledge was different, but God can have different knowledge while having the same intrinsic state? Isn’t that quite a big difference?

          Finally, could you please explain the difference between God’s beliefs about who God is intrinsically, and God’s beliefs about the world? i.e. you say God’s worldly knowledge does *not* consist in having an act specified towards the world, and does not require a particular intrinsic state. But when God knows/thinks/is aware ‘the Father loves the Son’ or ‘I am omnipotent’, is it not the case that this also does not involve a particular intrinsic state? After all, something with a different intrinsic state, i.e. not-God, could not think ‘I am omnipotent? And is God’s act of knowledge not in some way specified by the divine nature (identical to the act)? If God’s knowledge of himself is specified by his own nature, how come his knowledge of worldly things are not similarly specified by them? It sounds like there are two different types of knowing going on (even if it is one act)? How would Lonergan’s dynamic theory of knowledge, or Thomistic knowledge theories more broadly, explain what is going on here?

          p.s. there is no such thing as soccer, it’s called football 😉

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        • David says:

          But from looking at the links, it sounds like God’s knowledge is not ‘dynamic’ – indeed Lonergan asserts that human knowledge is dynamic in the sense that multiple different acts into enter what it is.

          How does God know then? In the ‘non-dynamic’ knowledge piece Lonergan asserts that Aquina avoids the problem of resolving God’s contingent knowledge of the world with divine simplicity by avoiding the Platonic idea that ‘knowledge is confrontation’. I don’t see how this holds. Okay, I don’t need to be ‘confronted’ by X to know that X is the case. Perhaps I just know that X is the case, without X causing something in me, or producing a sensation by which I infer that X exists, or whatever. God could know everything in the world without having to reach out and touch the world to find out. But it still seems like knowledge is a mental act – knowledge *is* awareness, and awareness *is* consciousness, and being aware seems to be nothing more than having an intrinsic conscious belief that X is the case, which is not the same thing as having an intrinsic conscious belief that Y is the case. I’m not sure how Lonergan’s theory of knowledge deals with this.

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        • Thomas says:

          David:

          > Why is it that theists tend to say that we cannot say that God’s knowledge changes over time? … Why can we not say that God’s beliefs vary over time, without implying a change in his intrinsic being.

          Because God does not have real accidents. By accidents, I simply mean what something is in addition to its essence. And by essence I mean simply what it is that is grasped in answer to the question “what is x?” or “why is x a y?” – “what is Socrates?” or “why is Socrates a man?”

          If God has accidents, then he is conditioned. He cannot be identical with his essence obviously, for he is something in addition to his essence (e.g., a knower of the fact that Caesar crossed the Rubicon).

          God as he actually is then conditioned. His accidents cannot be explained by his essence, else they would be parts of it, and not accidents. What he in fact is depends both external conditions (Caesar) and internal conditions (his essence, perhaps a potentiality to know).

          But of course, God’s essence is likewise conditioned by a distinct reality: for if the concrete God who knows Caesar crossed the Rubicon did not exist, there would be no real counterpart to the question “What is God?”.

          And if God is conditioned, he depends on an ultimate reality like all other conditioned realities. (I’ve argued for this here, but it’s worth looking at Robert Spitzer’s book I’m summarizing.) Since I take it that it is outside the bounds of Christian orthodoxy to say that God is dependent on higher realities, we are bound to deny that God has accidents, whether these be mental states or spatio-temporal location.

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        • David says:

          Sorry Thomas, my comment got lost in the thread below. But basically: you are just telling me why God can’t have accidents. Fine. But I am asking why you think that God’s worldly knowledge changing over time would count as an accident, when you also think that God’s worldly knowledge can vary across possible worlds but that these differences would not count as an accident. Why do you think that God’s worldly knowledge changing over time would count as an accident, when you think that God’s worldly knowledge is just an extrinsic relation and not something real in God?

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        • Thomas says:

          David:

          I’m not avoiding your question; the trouble is that most of them are predicated on misapprehensions about what the position is. I’m not saying that to be critical; it’s definitely not a common sense account. Were I to ask, say, how far Newtonian space extends, I might feel unsatisfied at first on being told, not whether it is infinite or some finite length, but that space is not actually Newtonian and then have to endure explanations about things like Minkowski space when I’m just asking for a number.

          For instance, the most recent question is predicated on the belief that I think divine knowledge is an extrinsic relation. But from what I have said, this cannot be the case. I distinguished three elements: divine knowledge, the created known, and propositions about divine knowledge of the created known. The first is unconditioned, the latter two conditioned. The first is intrinsic, the second an extrinsic reality, and the third true by extrinsic denomination.

          And previously I emphasized that knowledge is a perfection of the knower in which the intelligible exists immaterially and is not essentially a relation between subject and object. So the position is not that God’s knowledge is an extrinsic relation, for it is neither extrinsic nor a relation (at least, to things).

          Divine knowledge is not something that exists merely in a proposition or in the created thing. It is not extrinsic. Were there conditional cognitive acts God performs, they would be intrinsic. And because they are conditional, they would be accidental, unless God is himself conditioned.

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        • David says:

          Thanks Robert. I am doing my very best to ask questions which make sense in light of your observations, so please bear with me.

          First question: Could one then say that the proposition that ‘God knows X’ could change over time, if this can vary across possible worlds? If not, why not? If so, what does it mean to say that ‘God knowing X’ is invariable, but the proposition ‘God knows X’ is variable?

          Second question: You say that three elements are involved in an account of God’s knowledge ‘ – God’s knowledge, the proposition that God knows X, and the reality known.
          But is not correct to say that God’s act of knowing is *identical* with God’s knowledge?

          So does that mean that you say that God’s *knowledge* does not vary across possible worlds? If that’s right, it is obviously (as you admit) counter-intuitive to believe that God’s knowledge is invariable, but that this knowledge would be the same even if X happened rather than Y. To me, it is unclear what is actually being said here. Being aware of X does not appear to be identical with being aware of not-X. Could you please try to explain this? You have given me some Lonergan articles, but as I have already stated, the first one deals with ‘dynamic knowledge’ and explicitly discusses how dynamic knowledge is a *composite* of different things, which appears to be hardly compatible with divine simplicity, so I presume that this account does not help us.

          The second article did not, to my mind, tell me anything that is obviously relevant to reconciling God’s invariable knowledge with the variability of the things known. In fact, the only thing I could see of obvious relevance, which I have already pointed out, is Lonergan’s aside that supposedly Aquinas achieves this reconciliation by not signing up to a Platonic account of knowledge as confrontation – but this needs to be unpacked as this not obviously answer the question for me. It seems that a being, or at least God, could know something is the case by infallibly causing it to be the case – perhaps on account of one’s intrinsic nature – without having to ‘confront’ the effect, see it, view it, whatever. But what has this got to do with the intuition that there needs to be some unique intrinsic state by which the proposition ‘I know X’ makes sense? Just to be really clear, my intuition is not that there needs to be some unique intrinsic state to CAUSE my knowing X. I am claiming that the standard intuition is that this unique intrinsic state just IS my knowing X. I am not assuming that is definitely the case, and am trying to be open to different accounts of what knowing is, but I am not seeing one yet. Lonergan’s point here does not seem to address why there need not be such an intrinsic state. He is just pointing out that we need not have some external reality to cause knowledge. But the issue is not how God gets knowledge, but with the definition of knowing.

          Could you help me connect the dots?

          Third question: Could I also ask why, if God’s knowledge is identical with his act of knowing, and that God’s knowledge is invariable across possible (only the thing known and propositions about God’s knowledge are vaiable, you say) then why you think that Matthews Grant is happy to say exactly that – “God’s contingent knowledge, which varies across worlds, does not involve any intrinsic variation in God”. Not that you have to agree with him of course, but you cite him approvingly elsewhere. Is this just a question of different terminology?

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        • David says:

          Also I’m sure you’ll be aware of the analogy that the act by which the fire hurts my hand (namely, by being hot) remains the same, whether it not my hand is there to be hurt or not. There is no intrinsic variation in ‘the fire being hot’ whether or not it happens to hurt my hand.’ Similarly, or so I have heard various Thomists argue, the act by which God knows remains the same, but the actual knowledge is different. So ‘God knows contingent state X’ is just an extrinsic relation, and presumably so is God’s knowledge. So just as the fire can remain intrinsically the same, even though it hurts my hand one moment and doesn’t the next, so to could not God remain the same knowing one thing one moment, another thing the next? If not, does that mean the fire analogy is not right?

          Btw, Matthew Grant also denies that God’s beliefs are intrinsic. In fact he argues that it is at least plausible to say ‘all God’s acts of believing contingent propositions consist in relations to propositions outside God”. Is that in any tension with your view?

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        • Thomas says:

          David:

          I wasn’t complaining; I don’t have the expectation that from what I can say here in the comments a full and satisfying picture of the view I’m defending will emerge. I can answer objections and provide some indication of the larger picture. But for a complete and compelling argument, a longer format is required.

          With respect to your first question, I’m not sure I follow what you’re asking.

          With respect to the second question, it is correct “that God’s act of knowing is *identical* with God’s knowledge”, at least in the sense that what God grasps is himself, and he is his act of understanding.

          Your objection seems to rest on the supposition that if one can be said to know X, there is some intrinsic difference in the act of knowledge were X not the case. But that begs the question.

          St. Thomas tended to put things like this in metaphysical terms. Let an act of knowing be the immaterial actuality of intelligibility. God is infinite intelligibility. If he knows himself, there is no further intelligibility to be known, else he wouldn’t be infinite. If his act of intelligibility could be otherwise than it is, it would likewise not be infinite. Given that he is immaterial and intelligible, simply by existing he knows himself. It follows that there is nothing he does not know.

          Each step of that argument follows from the one before. If you object to the conclusion, I’d like to know where you find the argument to be invalid. That is not the account that accords with everyday common sense, I’d happily grant. Common sense is suited to changing flat tires or remembering the umbrella, not philosophy or theology as Socrates found out the hard way. That it doesn’t yield a comprehension of God’s understanding, I’d also happily grant — for to do that is to be God.

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        • David says:

          Thomas, I did not realise that my second question was not begging the question because I did not assert that it or was wrong or a contradiction to claim that God’s knowledge is identical with his act of knowing, and would be identically the same even if the things known varied across possible worlds. All I did was invite you to explain your account of knowing that allows this to be the case.

          So thank you for telling me that knowledge is “an immaterial actuality of intelligibility”, but you’ll have to give simple minds like mine a little more to go on than that! It is not immediately transparent what that means. To be very honest, my most intuitive reading of that would be that this refers to exactly the kind of interior, intrinsic mental state that is intrinsically different depending on what is known, that you of course deny – so obviously your reading must be different.

          I agree with you that God must know everything, and that God has no potential. But note that some who are committed to knowledge as an intrinsic state bite the bullet here, and argue God’s nature necessitates the creation and causal knowledge of this world. Others, like Stump, suggest God’s knowledge varies across possible worlds, and that this knowledge is intrinsic, but that this does not count as an accident because from God’s perspective all is fixed and there is no live potential to change, i.e. there is a kind of accidental necessity, or suppositional necessity, to God’s contingent knowledge and acts. Still others make a similar move (perhaps Fr Kimel and Robert fit into this category, or perhaps not) and claim that God’s intrinsic knowledge of the world in some sense pre-exists or transcends all notions of possible worlds and the necessary/contingent paradigm. I am not arguing for any of those options, just pointing out that some appear to find them compelling.

          But please forgive me if I am appearing impatient (if there is anything I am impatient with, it is my own lack of understanding). I am not seeking to contradict your position – and I too feel the pull to assert the trans-world simplicity of God as robustly as possible – I am just seeking to understand it
          So I feel that if you could respond to my question about the fire hurting the hand example, that would really help clear up your views. Similarly I have asked why a Thomist like Grant can say that God’s knowledge varies across possible worlds, but you, also a Thomist, say that God’s knowledge – being identical with God’s act of knowing and the divine nature – is invariable across possible worlds. Is this a disagreement or just different terminology?

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      • David says:

        Thomas, forgive me, but I’m not sure you’re engaging with my question – I’m sorry if I am not being clear, which is likely.

        I understand why theists want to avoid saying that God has accidents, the reason for which I think you lay out very nicely. And of course it seems intuitive that, if X changes with respect to knowledge, then X is undergoing some intrinsic change, which is actualised a previously unactualised potential, which would mean X had accidents. So obviously theists want to avoid saying that God changes in knowledge.

        However I am making the point that you are saying that different ‘knowledge states’ do NOT involve differences in intrinsic states, or at least not in God’s case. You say that in one possible world God could know X, and in another possible world God could know not-X, but these two contradictory states of knowing would NOT involve any difference in God’s intrinsic being.

        So if God’s worldly knowledge makes no difference to God’s intrinsic being, why can we not say that God’s knowledge of the world changes over time? Why would that be incompatible with simplicity, if God’s knowledge of the world is a matter of extrinsic relation, rather than intrinsic difference?

        So I was not asking for a rehearsal of why classical theists want to avoid saying that God has accidents. I was asking why, if classical theism apparently teaches that God’s contingent knowledge is extrinsic, can we not say that God’s extrinsic knowledge changes over time? i.e. why would God’s worldly knowledge changing over count as an accident in God, if God’s wordly knowledge is in fact reducible to an extrinsic relation?

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  3. Matthew Hryniewicz says:

    Pardon me if this is tangential to what this post is mainly about, but does anyone know of any theologians who use universalism as a significant part of their theodical reasoning? It seems to me that universalism is insufficient to solve the problem of evil, but that the problem of evil cannot be solved without universalism. I’ve read a few people gesture in that direction (I believe Reitan & Kronen do so in God’s Final Victory), but I’m not aware of a theodicy that is worked out with universalism as a key premise.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Drew Garrison says:

    Could you point me in a direction where you have defended your use of classical metaphysics? By that I suppose I mean pre-Heideggarian metaphysics? I know Manoussakis and Marion are closely bound in the post-metaphysical phenomenological tradition. Have you offered critiques of such tradition?

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  5. Tom says:

    JPM (Manoussakis) has a problem with the idea that proper choice would follow as a matter of course from dispelling lies and misinformation. He’s offered 2 counter examples to this idea: (1) Rom 7 where Paul admits his ‘knowing the good’ (and even desiring it!) doesn’t free him from sin, and (2) the idea that an idyllic primordial beginning in which consciousness was (presumably) unclouded by error and possessed only of the truth, and yet consciousness still fell from the right. So – he argues – knowing the good is not guarantee that one will choose the good.

    I think his objections miss something important, namely, the difference between ‘knowing what is right to do’ and ‘seeing the good as such’ (or perhaps, ‘seeing the good in doing what’s right’). The two aren’t quite the same, but I’m not sure how to tease out the proper distinction.

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    • DBH says:

      Obviously. I clearly say that in the book that one can choose to do what one knows to be morally wrong. I simply deny that one can do so in perfect freedom. Which is, after all, EXACTLY what Paul is saying. Therefore the free-will defense of hell is inadequate to compensate for the moral problems hell poses.

      Moreover, the notion of some idyllic beginning in which rational creatures possessed the truth fully is a nonsense, obviously.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Grant says:

      I also take that there is a distinction between just having some intellectual notion something is wrong or hurtful and not good, and truly knowing intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and physically in a whole unity of mind, heart, body and spirit in full personhood where the Good in something including outselves is.

      So someone self-harming might have some intellectual notion that they are harming themselves and are not doing a good thing, but to their emotions and spirit and even body in terms of neurochemistry they do not apprehend it as wrong but their good especially when they do it. They need healing which is illumination at the same time to begin to truly know their good.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Tom says:

    Hey, at least JPM spoke Hart’s language by working in some French into the title of his review.

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    • DBH says:

      That was the best part. Things began to go downhill thereafter.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Tom says:

        Dr. Hart,

        One issue that motivates JPM’s objections is your claim that “God can so order all conditions, circumstances, and contingencies among created things as to bring about everything he wills for his creatures while still not in any way violating the autonomy of secondary causality…including free will.” This brings up his questions: Why wait? What history at all? Why a ‘fall’ at all? if it be the case that God can so order all conditions to bring about everything he wills, then surely a perfectly loving God would thus always ‘bring about’ the good he wills without threat or possibility of privation.

        Was it your point to say that given the transcendental structure and orientation of created wills, God can so act within the order of creation’s temporal unfolding to ultimately/finally bring about what he desires?

        It’s one thing to say God can so constitute the beginning and the means of becoming that creation is incapable of finally escaping its end in God. There’s room in that for additionally supposing that reaching that final end requires the possibility of evil and privation, which are not willed by God as such. But it’s another thing to say God can so constitute all things at all times in all conditions as to always get precisely the good he wills.

        Merci,
        Tom

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  7. Tom Talbott says:

    I must confess that I couldn’t get past the first paragraph of Manoussakis’ review of Hart’s book, which includes the following: “And yet, if [all] sinners shall [eventually] be saved, then this statement implies that their sins and their sinning made no difference with respect to their salvation, since all, sinners too and all sinners at that, shall be saved. Insofar as there is no difference between sinning and non-sinning, one cannot but conclude that, in that sense, there is no sin. If, however, there is no sin, [then] that means that there are no (more) sinners to be saved . . .”

    Could someone, preferably Manoussakis himself, explain this apparent nonsense to me in a way that makes coherent sense? Compare the above quotation with the following verbiage in which I have altered the subject slightly even as I have tried to follow a similar train of thought: “And yet, if all of those with mistaken beliefs will eventually be corrected, then this statement implies that their mistakes and their mistaken beliefs made no difference with respect to their being corrected, since all, all of those with mistaken beliefs too and all of them at that, shall be corrected. Insofar as there is no difference between being mistaken and not being mistaken, one cannot but conclude that there are no mistakes. If, however, there are no mistakes, that means that there are no (more) mistaken people to be corrected . . .”

    Or, compare the above quotation with the following bit of verbiage: “And yet, if all sick people shall eventually be cured of disease, then this statement implies that their diseases and their sickness made no difference with respect to their being cured, since all, sick people too and all sick people at that, shall be cured. Insofar as there is no difference between being sick and being non-sick, one cannot but conclude that, in that sense, there is no sickness. If, however, there is no sickness, that means there are no (more) sick people to be cured . . .”

    Does any one of these examples make more coherent sense than do the other two? I am certainly open to the suggestion that I am the one who is confused here. But if that is indeed the case, I would sure like to see an explanation of why it is the case.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Iain Lovejoy says:

      This is, I suspect, not reasoned argument at all but an emotional one, and one that invariably eventually crops up whenever apokatastasis is mentioned. It may be more briefly summarised, and is more commonly phrased as: “If everyone gets to go to heaven, how come I have to be good?”

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      • Grant says:

        And one which is there inherently with the Gospel itself, the unmerited forgiveness of all in Christ, grounded in God’s unconditional love and mercy, freely given without reference to our deeds, and in which we can never make ourselves good enough for forgiveness and redemption but it is freely given (it’s not really forgiveness otherwise).

        Aftersll even for infernalists if someone repents at the point of death (say Jack the Ripper did) they are and will be saved. It seems that many to defend the gates of hell are prepared to give up the basic truth of the Gospel itself (at which point they have essential would have the Gospel rejected) or simply haven’t really understood the scandal of Christ.

        As I have said before on thing Christians have the most problem with is the concept of forgiveness and grace, despite talking about it so much. A real revalation of love and forgiveness would transform Christians into a truly powerful force.

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        • Bob Sacamano says:

          Honestly I think the difficulty is less to do with “guarding the gates of hell” and lacking forgiveness and grace than the suspicion that justice becomes “cheapened.”

          There are, after all, unrepentant sinners who commit especially heinous crimes without remorse and without any desire for your grace or forgiveness. We can say he is enslaved to demonic powers, that he knows not what he does, that he is no less a child of God than we are…but, if we are being honest, the more “natural” (and I think understandable) reaction is to demand the perpetrator be severely punished for his crimes.

          I get the sense that, for those uninitiated with the discourse of univeralism, the salvation of all is objectionable because it presumes such crimes are left “unpunished,” and the victim is never fully “compensated” for his suffering.

          But, as we know, hell is still a central part of apokatastasis. It is still that terrible, frightening place which we ought never hope to encounter, even if most of us surely will, to some degree or another. For the skeptics, perhaps that is the message they need to hear to ease their conscience; the only concession they would have to make is that of an eternal hell, which of course is itself an unjust notion. An eternal punishment for a temporal crime is no more just than no punishment at all.

          In short, some people need to hear the message that all will be saved. And some people need to hear the same message, but in a different key and with a different emphasis.

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          • Grant says:

            Oh no, I’m fairly convinced of the former, because to my point, the scandal of Gospel, even if someone holds that people can be lost to eternal torment or destruction, is that if someone repents at some (in these systems usually some arbitrary) point before they somehow can’t anymore, say at death, even having lived a destructive and mostly evil life, they are forgiven. That is the Gospel even that they are already signed up to believe and proclaim, at it’s this very attack against some perceived injury to ‘justice’ that non-Christians attack. So to see this very concept evoked against universalism just seems like they aren’t paying attention to the scandal of the Gospel itself, and would in attacking universalism are essentially denying a central part of the Gospel itself.

            St Issac is the God is not just as we fallen ones perceive justice, which is often a somewhat wicked thing among humans, in relation to His dealings with us. Not at all, and any forgiveness that has be somehow earned isn’t forgiveness at all, we don’t do anything to get God’s forgiveness in Christ, and our salvation is wholly and utterly an act of unmerited, unconditional and unconstrained love, just like our creation is. It is all love and grace.

            And I remain convinced after many years in Christian circles that forgiveness is something that Christian have the biggest problem getting or wanting to get, and of God’s free act of love, and in just how He relates to us, and consequently how we should relate to others. We are labourers complaining that other labourers coming later are getting the same pay, rather then realizing our notions of justice are horribly twisted and often bear no or little relation to God and the life in Christ at all. We are often altogether cold and very much of this world and make our theology reflect it rather then who the Father is reflected in Christ, and bring forgiveness and grace down to the corrupt and fallen systems that enslave us rather then be liberated in the freedom given in the Gospel (and I’m just as bad most of the time as most other Christians too, so I’m not immune for this cold-heartedness and hardness of heart either).

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      • Tom Talbott says:

        By the way, Iain, Paul’s interlocutor raised essentially the same question, namely, “Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?” (Rom 6:1). Nor did Paul ever reject the assumption behind the question: namely, that the more we sin, the more grace will indeed abound. To the contrary, he endorsed this very assumption a few sentences earlier when he wrote: “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom 5:20). One source of confusion here is the failure to appreciate that even God’s severity towards sin is itself an expression of divine grace.

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        • George Domazetis says:

          This is incorrect – Paul says that by no means should we sin so grace may abound. Indeed sin brings death, and repentance and faith in Christ saves, and this is by the grace of God.

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          • Tom Talbott says:

            Of course Paul says this, George. Paul raised his question in the first place (“Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?”) precisely because he had already endorsed the claim that the more we sin, the more grace will indeed abound (see Rom. 5:20). So the question you need to address is this: why does he also reject as absurd the faulty inference that we should therefore continue sinning? Here is the way I put it in The Inescapable Love of God, p. 194:

            “So why, then, did Paul answer his own question, correctly, with his characteristic “By no means”? He did so because of his firm conviction that sin is utterly irrational and utterly contrary to our own best interest. For how, he in effect asked, could those who have “died to sin” and therefore understand its true nature continue to sin (6:2)? Is not sin (or anything that separates us from God) precisely the problem, the very thing making our lives miserable? That the pain I experience when I thrust my hand into a flame may serve a beneficial purpose—because it enables me to avoid an even greater injury in the future—hardly entails that I have a good reason to thrust my hand into the flame again and again. And similarly, that the misery and discontent that sin brings into a life can serve a redemptive purpose—because it can provide in the end a compelling motive to repent—hardly implies that one has a good reason to keep on sinning and to continue making oneself more and more miserable in the process.”

            Liked by 3 people

    • Matthew Hryniewicz says:

      Such a clear way to show the problem with that line of reasoning. And it sounds like fun:

      And yet, if [all] water shall [eventually] reach the ocean, then this statement implies that its different physical states made no difference with respect to its reaching the ocean, since all, solids & gases too and all solids & gases at that, shall reach the ocean. Insofar as there is no difference between solids & gases and liquid water, one cannot but conclude that, in that sense, there are no phases. If, however, there are no phases, [then] that means that there are no (more) different phases of water to be brought to the sea . . .

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  8. Doug Fox says:

    Hart’s response to Manoussakis was helpful to me in a number of ways. I can let go of my indignation with JPM’s misrepresentations of TASBS, I am relieved of some doubt JPM had sowed about my own understanding on a couple points (e.g., freedom-rationality). And I am very grateful for several lines in the response that brought greater clarity to what I should have already understood, e.g. “In the case of eschatology uniquely, no distinction can be drawn…”

    I’m still missing at least one concept, only barely related to JPM’s review: Are there two types of “salvation?” One for each “eschatological horizon?” The first through the mechanism of the incarnation and resurrection, and the second through the teleology of our reason and will? If so, what is the relationship between the two mechanisms of salvation? In the end, would the teleological nature of our reason and will have brought us to the God without the Incarnation?

    Please, nota bene, “I’m an agriculture professor, dammit, not a theological blogger!”

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  9. George Domazetis says:

    Tom, I have been reluctant to make comments on universalism for a number of reasons, including not reading Hart’s book, and my background is the physical sciences and not theology. I also find myself agreeing with many comments, but I maintain that there may be a difference in how we discuss awareness (knowledge) of the Good within repentance and grace. I am willing to be corrected, but only if I am in error on some point.

    In the case of an awareness that arises as a response of reason to the revealed goodness, this can be considered as lawful, as principles, and the equivalent of verified knowledge (i.e. believably true). The finest example of this is the great law, of loving God with all of the heart, mind and soul, and the second law, which is similar, in that we would love our neighbour as ourselves, which sum the Ten Commandments. These articulations (and the prophets, the gospels etc.,) are the eloquent wording of the ideal, the response of reason to the revelation of God, contain examples of the life-activities of those filled with the goodness that comes from God (culminating in the life of Jesus Christ) and are therefore wordings synonymous with the meaning of the word God. These remarks would also apply to human weakness and faults, in that the Bible would also contain examples of these faults to teach us that God also realises our wrong choices and acts and wants us to be sufficiently self-aware to be able to repent. This is a way of saying that repentance is total heart, mind and soul. Paul shows us the onerous burden the law brings and that Christ has provided the way to salvation – thus it is by grace that we are saved within the context discussed. I do not want to add detail here.

    The goodness of life is within the completeness of life and the resulting continuation of life. Revelation is that God reveals himself within the possibilities of the goodness of life and its continuation; revelation is presented to human beings within such goodness and revealed things become meaningful. Furthermore, because revelation is comprehended as goodness, it can be argued that this leads to an increase in reasonableness. Revelation is in harmony with reason and removes the antimony found in reason and may be said to add to the reasoning aspects of a human being. The possibilities within human beings regarding revelation arise from both the responses of reason to revelation, in that each person may respond according to his reason and heart, and also because revelation can be comprehended within the framework of life and death, thus within good and bad. Since our reasoning shows that God is comprehended as good to life, then God is synonymous with good and life. Death is comprehended as either cessation of life, and fear and anxiety becomes part of self, or death is equated with that which is contrary to God and is outside of the meaning of God. The remarks concerning the idea(s) of god(s) and the capacity for human beings to conceptualise such entities within the context of human attributes, provides many possibilities that reason may ponder and consider as the meaning of god within the human context. Because of these many possibilities that confront reason, the necessity of faith naturally follows this discussion.

    So faith is central to repentance and salvation. Sin brings death, and faith/grace bring renewal – the new man. If universalism includes these aspects, then what is left for debate is the notion that some may not be saved. The Gospel provided much discussion on salvation, while warning us of the alternative, which is loss and darkness. These matters are profound and finally are for the judgment of God, and imo defy the judgment of man.

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  10. Tom Talbott says:

    Thanks for your further reflections, George. You wrote: “So faith is central to repentance and salvation. Sin brings death, and faith/grace bring renewal – the new man. If universalism includes these aspects, then what is left for debate is the notion that some may not be saved.”

    Are you claiming here that Paul himself left this open for debate in the context in which he raised his question about continuing to sin in order that grace might abound? I ask this because in this very same context, he also wrote: “So, then, just as through one transgression came condemnation for all human beings, so also through one act of righteousness came a rectification of life for all human beings” (Rom. 5:18–DBH’s translation). Does this seem to you to leave open “for debate . . . the notion that some may not be saved” in the end?

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  11. George Domazetis says:

    Thanks Tom; the point made in this exchange is that we are warned of the possibility of falling away and losing our salvation (this is not a rhetorical device), as in indicated in Heb 3 ….. Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, when you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
    on the day of testing in the wilderness, 9 where your fathers put me to the test
    and saw my works for forty years. 10 Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
    and said, ‘They always go astray in their hearts;
    they have not known my ways.’ 11 As I swore in my wrath,
    ‘They shall never enter my rest.’” 12 Take care, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day…

    This warning given in the OT and NT, and references to Gehenna/grave/hell, is real and we need to be mindful that we are inclined to sin, and we require faith and diligence, to obtain salvation so freely offered to us by God.

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    • Tom Talbott says:

      Here is what puzzles me about your latest response, George. I asked whether Romans 5:18 seems “to you to leave open ‘for debate . . . the notion that some may not be saved’ in the end.” But instead of answering that question, you have now switched to the warning against unbelief in Hebrews 3, and, of course, there are a multitude of similar warnings throughout the Bible. May I presume, then, that in your opinion Hebrews 3, whatever might be said about Romans 5:18, requires the possibility, at least, that some people might be lost forever? If so, then I must ask two further questions. First, why do you think that this latter text requires such a possibility to be left open? And second, if it does require such a possibility to be left open, how would you reconcile this text in your own mind, assuming you would want to do so, with Romans 5:18?

      I agree with you, by the way, that the warning in Hebrews 3 is no mere “rhetorical device”; it is instead a way of recognizing that the immediate consequences of sin and rebellion are incompatible with entering into the rest that God has to offer. But this hardly entails that Jesus Christ will never achieve a complete victory over such sin, rebellion, and death in the end.

      In any case, my strategy in any such discussion as ours is always to proceed very slowly, taking one tiny baby step at a time. Thanks for your continued interest.

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  12. George Domazetis says:

    Tom, it is easier for me to respond to you by stating where we are in agreement.

    “….recognizing that the immediate consequences of sin and rebellion are incompatible with entering into the rest that God has to offer.” agreed.

    Christ has achieved the victory completely and is Saviour …. agreed.

    Also, are people/souls destined for an eternity of horrific pain? No (but my view of eternity differs as scientifically, I regard the term as meaning the absence of time).

    I replied to the notion that “should we sin that grace may abound”, to which Paul say by no means.

    So what are we debating? In attempting to avoid comments that may appear to deal with Hart’s book, I have tried to show that we human beings may fall away from the faith and may be in danger of suffering God’s wrath, especially if we knowingly reject God’s grace after believing. This requires detailed discussion, as we may repent again and seek forgiveness. So I state a possibility and not a certainty – I am certain of Christ, but recognise my weaknesses. Thus an important fact regarding our salvation is the need to repent and ask forgiveness and enjoy God’s grace until we are all with God.

    I understand why you may be puzzled, but I too prefer to try and keep these discussions to relatively simple points.

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    • Tom Talbott says:

      You are right, George. It is often the best strategy in a fruitful discussion to explore areas of agreement. I had thought you disagreed with me about something because your initial response began with the words, “This is incorrect.” But I now begin to wonder whether that’s true at all.

      Here is why. Iain Lovejoy had just referenced a common, albeit confused, question that some have put to supporters of Christian universalism, namely this one: “If everyone gets to go to heaven, how come I have to be good?” And in response, I wrote: “By the way, Iain, Paul’s interlocutor [the hypothetical person he argues against] raised essentially the same question, namely, ‘Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?’ (Rom 6:1). Nor did Paul ever reject the assumption behind the question: namely, that the more we sin, the more grace will indeed abound. To the contrary, he endorsed this very assumption a few sentences earlier when he wrote: ‘where sin increased, grace abounded all the more’ (Rom 5:20).”

      Now clearly, neither Iain, nor I, nor Paul would agree with Paul’s interlocutor that we really should continue in sin in order that grace may abound. So may I now presume that you in fact had no objection to either claim I made in my response to Iain?

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      • George Domazetis says:

        Tom, The answer Paul gave was “by no means”. To keep this simple. Paul shows that God’s grace is greater than any sin Jew or gentile may commit, but he also insists that we make every effort to avoid sin. As other parts of scripture show, once we are partakers of grace, we must do all we can to avoid sin.

        So again I voice objection to the notion that somehow we sin so that grace may abound. I feel that we may agree on the substance of the question (we are saved by the grace of God), while we may disagree on the question(s) related to sin after repentance. Perhaps I have misunderstood your position?

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        • Tom Talbott says:

          Well George, perhaps we are now in a position to bring this little exchange to a close. So, barring something unexpected, I’ll make this my final contribution to it.

          I have understood from the beginning that you object “to the notion that somehow we [should continue to] sin so that grace may abound.” So does Iain object to this, so do I, and, most importantly, so did Paul himself; hence his expression (in translation) “By no means.” In my post at 9:22 pm on November 8, 2018, I thus tried to explain that Paul’s question arose in the first place because he had just endorsed the idea that the more we sin, the more grace abounds (see Rom. 5:20). But I also tried to explain why this in no way justifies the faulty inference that we should indeed continue in sin in order that grace may continue to abound (see the referenced post for the details).

          So far, then, I see no grounds for any disagreement between us. You do suggest that “we may disagree on the question(s) related to sin after repentance.” But I remain unclear what such a question might be, and, so far as I can recall, I have addressed no such question here.

          Anyway, my thanks for your continued interaction, and I’ll look forward to any further thoughts you might have to share if you should choose to express them.

          Liked by 1 person

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  14. mary says:

    I must begin by admitting that much of this conversation is over my head and/or beyond what I have the time and patience to unpack. (Dammit, I’m a psychologist not a theologian!) But I have a question based on the Gospel of Luke (Chapter 20) which was read today during my RC liturgy. Forgive me if it is too far afield or has been dealt with elsewhere.

    When the Sadducees tried to trip up Jesus with the hypothetical scenario of 7 brothers all marrying the same woman and dying childless, Jesus replied: “The children of this age marry and remarry but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.”

    Should one interpret this is meaning that some people will not get to the resurrection of the dead at all because they are not worthy? Generally we are led to believe that all arrive at the resurrection of the dead and then experience judgment. I was recently reading about humanity’s fear of nothingness and wondered if some people are just dropped from the whole process. (That would constitute eternal death, i.e. not rising from the dead but staying dead, rather than eternal life or eternal torment.) It would not be a desirable outcome for the unworthy but in keeping with God’s mercy.

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    • Iain Lovejoy says:

      David Bentley Hart would probably be your man for the most accurate understanding of the Greek, but in my amateurish way I believe this is an aorist participle with the article, which would translate better in English as “those who have been deemed worthy etc” – it implies that no-one will be resurrected until they are deemed worthy, but says nothing about whether anyone will never be. What it doesn’t do is fit the notion anyone will be raised from the dead only to be cast back down into hell again.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. John H says:

    Mary,
    If you are asking whether annihilationism is a permissible theological position for a Catholic to hold, I would recommend Decreation by Paul Griffiths, which addresses that question in detail. Father Aidan did a series of posts on that book a while back.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Maximus says:

    Dr. Hart,

    Please forgive this late response to your remarks above, but I’d like to comment on/question several things you said.

    You write, “Actually, I am relying on Aquinas too, metaphysically. As I explain in Experience of God, it is simply classical theism that I presume. My additional claim is that Aquinas’s own thought should have precluded the theological conclusions he felt he was obliged to affirm as a result of what he took to be dogmatically required of him.”

    This is precisely why I stated that Thomistic-styled classical theism guides your argument for apokatastasis like a rudder. Aquinas’ thought (actus purus; his version of simplicity) leads logically either to apokatastasis (in your case) or to double predestination. St. Augustine was consistent with simplicity, and so are you, each ending up at the only two logical conclusions. So, when you write, “The claim that my argument stands or falls on that [Thomistic-styled] metaphysics is clearly and objectively false,” one can’t help but wonder, with all due respect, what you are hiding. Because *surely* this has not escaped your notice. It’s almost as if TASBS naturally emanated from The Experience of God. 🙂 The whole system fits perfectly and has an elegant beauty, really. And I’m not the only one noticing these connections. But again, as you’ve admitted, systematic elegance doesn’t = truth.

    You write, “Synergism–real synergism–is precisely what is made possible by the metaphysics of “actus purus,” precisely because what is fully actual in God is precisely what is fully possible for creatures….Instead [of a competing agency with creatures], as Paul assures us, God works within–makes actual–our working out of the fullness of his actuality, and so we are truly free to work out our salvation in fear and trembling.”

    Here are some old questions, but ones that are perennially relevant to the Augustinian-Thomistic metaphysics of actus purus in relation to synergy: Would you say that it’s the essence of God with which we participate in synergistic cooperation? In other words, does God’s grace = God’s essence? If so, how would we avoid becoming God essentially in theosis? Shall we affirm that we partake of God’s essence in the Eucharist? Or, would you say that grace is a divinely created effect in the believing person? But if that were true, how is it that St. Paul says that it is very *God* who works in you? In your view, do we work together with God’s essence or with a created effect? Because those are the only two choices within your metaphysic. St. Augustine as well as Thomists are consistent here with their view of simplicity: God does not reveal Himself, i.e. His essence, directly in the created order, and thus grace *as we participate in it* must be created (for Thomas, by formal causality). True synergy and theosis thereby become impossible.

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  17. DBH says:

    Max,

    Please stop. There are so many conceptual problems in your question that I would have to devote a year to untangling them. All these issues have been dealt with billions of times in the literature. Stop reading Bradshaw snd start reading real scholars of Thomas. If you think theosis and synergy are collaborations between two agencies making separate contributions on the same level of action, you’re thinking in crude and mythological terms. It’s akin to thinking that the divinity and humanity of Christ are extrinsically related to one another in some third term. You are simply repeating crude errors.

    But I don’t care. The conceptual confusions are gigantic but also quite trivial here. Once again, absolutely none of this is remotely relevant to the argument of my book. None. Nada. Ouden. Nihil. This is a massive non sequitur.

    Liked by 1 person

    • DBH says:

      Oh, but one thing, even if it is of no relevance to my book: To say that God is impassible (that he cannot be modified or qualified by an extrinsic pathos) is the same thing as saying he is actus purus. To say that God is immutable is to say he is actus purus. To say that he is the source of all things is to say that he is actus purus. Basically, to say that God is God is to say he is actus purus. If he is not actus purus, then he is a contingent being, a bring in whom possibility exceeds actuality, a god—but not God. When Bradshaw or anyone else, bizarrely imagining he id speaking for Orthodox tradition, denies that God is actus purus, he is not saying something interesting or incisive or even meaningful. He is simply demonstrating shocking ignorance.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Maximus says:

        Thanks, Dr. Hart, for your feedback. I will sincerely consider your statements as I continue to study. I do regret, however, mentioning Dr. Bradshaw’s name earlier, since everything I said afterward has seemingly been attributed to his influence on me. I have tried to cull my knowledge from various sources and put the pieces together for myself, within traditional Orthodox bounds. Perhaps I’ve failed.

        I do wonder how Bradshaw would respond to the claim that he endorses “monopolytheism,” or as you say above, “American analytic deism masquerading as Orthodoxy.” My guess is that he’d respond calmly and humbly as usual. From what I can tell, he always treats his sources carefully and backs up his claims with textual evidence. And I don’t think his thesis (in AEaW) has really been answered yet.

        Anyway, I will continue to seek truth. Probably read Clarke on Thomism soon (but Josef Pieper is probably my favorite in that category). All the best to you, sir.

        Liked by 1 person

        • DBH says:

          Your experience of David B. differs from mine considerably. As for his thesis in AEaW, you need to go through the reviews in the best peer-reviewed journals. It has been answered devastatingly. I recommend the various responses you can find from Andrew Radde-Gallwitz to begin with

          As for how Bradshaw might respond to being classed among monopolytheists… Well, anyone who thinks that there is unactualized potency in God belongs in that category whether he understands it or not.

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          • Maximus says:

            Thank you. Yes, I need to interact more with Radde-Gallwitz (though he wouldn’t accept that Sts. Basil and Gregory Nyssen taught the “identity thesis,” that God’s essence and properties are identical). It seems, however, that Radde-Gallwitz misread Palamas. At least according to Norman Russell. See see his Gregory Palamas and the Making of Palamism in the Modern Age (Oxford, 2019).

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          • Robert Fortuin says:

            Maximus,

            While it is true that medieval scholastic language and formulations are not found in the Cappadocians, there is no mistaking that for them what God is and what God does are identical. For instance the Nyssen marks in CE 1 that it is a heresy to suppose that ‘God is not all His attributes always’ and elsewhere affirms that properties such as wisdom, power, goodness, along with other attributes are ‘rooted in the divine nature’, and adds, for good measure, that one cannot suppose God to be one thing and God’s properties (qualities the Nyssen calls them) as yet another thing.

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          • DBH says:

            If God’s essence and properties are not one, then he is not God. As Gregory quite clearly understood, in his critique of Eunomius.

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          • Robert Fortuin says:

            Yes indeed, it comes up time and again is his arguments against Eunomius and demonstrates the absurdity to suppose a difference between what God does and what He is (or, to put it in another way, that God is something other than His actions). In CE III-7 Gregory quotes Eunomius’ claim that “God controls his own power” to which St Gregory responds, and this is worth quoting at length:

            “What is it, tell me, that controls what? Being something other than the power, he absolutely controls the power, which is something else. So power is weaker than powerlessness! For what is something other than the power, is surely not the power; so he is found controlling power just insofar as he is not power! Perhaps, however, God, being power, has one power within himself, and by it he subdues the other one. But then, what is this battle and conflict, such that God divides the strength that exists in him, and with one part of his power masters the other? For he would not
            control his own power, if he were not supported in this by a greater and more forceful power. Such is Eunomius’ God: duplex or multiplex, himself divided against himself, having his power out of harmony with his power, so as with one to thrust outwards towards disorder, with the other to check the impropriety of the movement. With what purpose, too, he controls the power as it starts towards generating (γέννησις), and what the evil is, which might befall if the act of generation is not prevented, or rather what it is by nature that at an earlier stage is being controlled, is for him to explain. The statement suggests a motion of initiative and purpose, envisaged as having a characteristic movement of its own. It is one thing that controls, another that is controlled by
            necessity. What is the power, which God controls, a nature with free will of its own, or something else? Does it press towards action, or stay motionless? If it is suggested that it stays still, that which is quiet needs none to control it; and if he says it controls, obviously it is movement and initiative that he controls. Yet he will surely say that it is something by nature other than him that exercises
            control. What he thinks that is, then, he ought to make clear in his book. Is it thought of as something with real existence (ὑπόστασις) other than God? Then how could something alien be in God? Or is it a state, thought of as in the divine nature without real existence? He could hardly say that: for what has no real existence simply is not, and what is not, is neither controlled nor
            released.”
            (trans. Stuart Hall)

            Mind you this is not Gregory’s treatise on divine simplicity or God as pure act (there’s no such work, this was not a contention) – the subject rather is filial consubstantiality. Coincidentally, there are many passages such as these in Gregory’s work which reveal his vehement affirmation of divine simplicity, the above is just a sample.

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          • Robert Fortuin says:

            Maximus,

            I don’t see support for the argument that there is a difference between the claim that the divine energies are God, and that the divine propria are identical to God’s essence. I would like to see support for that in St Gregory, for one.

            Andrew Radde-Gallwitz has frequented this site, so perhaps he can better explain his position. However, this is his latest take on the Nyssen’s teachings on divine simplicity (note that Andrew has made a radical “about turn” revision on this – he admits this!), to sum up, “for Gregory the truth of our ascription to God of various non-synonymous perfections does not depend on there being distinct extra-mental realities corresponding to each, whether we call these propria or energies. Our concepts are diverse ways of apprehending what is inherently true of God in virtue of his essence.” (Modern Theology 35:3 July 2019).

            What evidence do you have that Gregory does not affirm the convertibility of existence and act in God? Where in fathers are you getting this from?

            And to clarify, since you brought it up and seem to ascribe this to my position, I am not claiming to know a definition of the essence. You are all over the place on this Maximus.

            Explain to me how the propria are knowable but the essence is not – what do you know about God’s power? On what credible evidence do you take it that “the propria are also mutually distinct” and distinct in what sense?; and on what patristic support can you claim that “God is still simple because the propria are not ‘parts’ of the divine nature”?

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          • Maximus says:

            Thanks, Robert. Since I was only drawing from Radde-Gallwitz’s major monograph (Oxford, 2009), it’s informative to hear his latest reading. And I was honestly only seeking to convey what he said, not make my own argument. I cannot marshal any evidence from Gregory to answer the questions you pose, which are all reasonable. However, concerning “the argument that there is a difference between the claim that the divine energies are God, and that the divine propria are identical to God’s essence,” I would just say, logically speaking, that as long as you’re assuming God = God’s essence, there is no difference. But I do not make that assumption, so I wouldn’t assert that God’s energies = God’s essence. The energies are distinct and not identical to the essence. Assumptions are key here. I hope that clarifies, even if we do not share the same assumptions.

            Again, I was seeking to faithfully convey Radde-Gallwitz’s points (though perhaps I failed in that), so I wasn’t claiming that you know a definition of the essence. But I would add—and we’ve been down this path before—that within your theology, it seems the only choices for knowing/experiencing God which obtain are knowing/experiencing the essence or knowing/experiencing created manifestations. It seems to me (and others) that this is where the actus purus philosophical reading of the Fathers leads. But there are other readings, I believe, more faithful to Scripture and the patristic consensus. Ultimately, however, it’s really not up to me to rationally construct a theological reading for myself. I endeavor to submit to what my leaders teach me. If this seems like false humility, please know that I *daily* realize my thickness in these matters, especially among you guys on this blog! I would stumble (and have stumbled) into dark places without spiritual and theological leadership.

            My own bishop, Bp. Alexander (Golitzin), has wisely communicated the thought of St. Dionysius as less of a hardcore Neoplatonist (pace Perl) and more in line with Scripture, the Greek Fathers, and the monastic tradition. This is only one example, but I believe he would speak similarly about Sts. Athanasius, Basil, Maximus, and John of Damascus, to name a few. If St. Gregory of Nyssa indeed taught what you say about actus purus, that still does not compel me to believe it as true teaching. Individual saints can err, though I’m making no judgment concerning whether he did on this doctrine. Honestly, I’m nowhere near as well-read in his works as you are. I offer this as a concession, asking for your continued guidance in reading Gregory. You are indeed an expert! I am still in the process of learning, however, the balance between listening to academic expertise, and submitting to my teachers who watch over my soul. I will continue to do both, hopefully while standing firm in the teaching of the Church.

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          • Maximus says:

            Robert, thank for this. I appreciate the lengthy quotation to give some context. I would just add that what Gregory is claiming would be heartily agreed upon by those who assert even the “hardest” real distinction between essence and energies in God, i.e., that the divine energies just *are* God. That seems to be all Gregory is arguing, and I would certainly agree. God’s attributes are “rooted in the divine nature,” as you stated above.

            But that which Radde-Gallwitz calls the identity thesis puts a sharper point on the issue. It states that God’s propria are identical to God’s essence (ousia). This thesis Gregory does not affirm. Thus, characteristics such as light, wisdom, power, life, truth, and goodness which are indeed intrinsic to the divine essence, nevertheless still do not constitute its definition. Moreover, the propria are knowable but the essence is not. The propria are also mutually distinct. But God is still simple because the propria are not “parts” of the divine nature.

            So goes Radde-Gallwitz’s argument, as I understand it. Perhaps he provides a good counterweight to your reading.

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        • Thomas says:

          > I do wonder how Bradshaw would respond to the claim that he endorses “monopolytheism,” or as you say above, “American analytic deism masquerading as Orthodoxy.” My guess is that he’d respond calmly and humbly as usual.

          In my experience, I’m confident he would gently offer a counter-argument. I’ve disagreed with Bradshaw quite a bit on some of his most central theses and he’s always responded gently (though once with genuine concern for my soul — I was overly impressed with Heidegger and the post-structuralists at the time). I obviously don’t agree with some of his positions, but the charitable and patient way in which I’ve seen him advance them is something at least I could do better to emulate.

          Liked by 1 person

          • apoloniolatariii says:

            Oh gosh…the usual popular theology of the neopalamite distinction of essence/energies is so boring!

            But it’s actually just simple. Even if the “thomistic” view of divine simplicity logically entails universalism, it doesn’t mean that the neopalamite distinction doesn’t entail that either. As Hart keeps saying, it’s just so irrelevant.

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  18. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    David,

    I have read through the two lengthy comments you directed to me on divine simplicity. I suspect I would need to read through all the comments to really grasp your concerns, and I’m afraid I just cannot do that right now. My apologies. More decisively, I am well beyond my competence. I think I had a better grasp of this stuff two years ago when I was immersed in Dionysius but so much of it has slipped away.

    But let’s think through my apophatic understanding of God a bit, capsulated in the statement that God transcends necessity and freedom, finite and infinite, etc. I use this way of talking (not original to me) to point us to the absolute mystery of God. He is not a determinate being we can grasp, define, or comprehend. He is Being and beyond being, pure actuality, the infinite plenitude of reality, ipsum esse subsistens. Hence to speak rightly of this Mystery, we must employ negative attributes: infinite, immutable, impassible, eternal, incomposite, incomprehensible. God does not belong to our universe but is simultaneously its transcendent source and immanent ground–etc., etc., etc. (you know the drill).

    Because God is all the above and infinitely more, because he is radically different from all he has made, we cannot, I propose, speak meaningfully of his freedom to create. As soon as we raise the question, we are treating God as if he were a being confronted by finite choices, and we find ourselves trying to imagine the unimaginable God without the world. We even speculate about that possibility as if we knew what we were talking about. But of course we don’t! (Theologians should spend five years immersed in the writings of Dionysius the Areopagite [and Plotinus] before daring to write anything about God. They need to internalize the apophatic grammar.)

    If you get the above, then you already see why God is said to have an asymmetrical relationship to the world. The world necessarily enjoys a real relationship to God because it is totally dependent upon God for its existence; but God, classical theologians say, only enjoys a logical relationship to the world. Why? Because if he enjoyed a real relationship to the world (a relationship, in other words, like creatures enjoy with one another), then he would no longer no longer be the infinite and transcendent Creator, no longer be immutable, impassible, incomposite, etc. God would be reduced to one object alongside other objects.

    And this, by the way, is why God’s knowing of the world cannot and must not be understood as observational. God does not passively sit back and watch what creatures do. He creates them in their doing. To use Thomist language, God’s knowledge of the world is causal.

    My series on Dionysius probably took me as far as I can go with this. Maybe there’s something in there that might be helpful.

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    • apoloniolatariii says:

      Maximus,

      I’ve read Golitzin and was helpful for me in the past, even close to publishing an original article on Dionysius, but then glad I didn’t since I don’t agree with my interpretation anymore. The more I understood neoplatonism, the more I could not help but see that Golitzin’s view is very one sided. You need to read Prosperi’s “Al di la della parola” which refutes Palamite theology (especially that of Lossky’s) through Dionysius. Then read Ysabel de Andia. You cannot really deny Proclus’ influence on Dionysius. You need to stop reading theologians who insert Palamite worldviews to Dionysius.

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