Particular Good Podcast Interview with Jordan Daniel Wood
I have not yet listened to the podcast, but our Brian Moore has and recommends it highly.
Thank you, Father. I have some observations, comments, but I’ll wait for folks to have a chance to listen before sharing.
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I actually spoke with JDW right after he did this interview awhile back. He pointed me to it, and said that he thoroughly enjoyed doing it. It’s an awesome listen.
That’s 2 whole hours I set aside other stuff I had to do, Jordan! Totally worth it too.
The podcast gives a great summary of Jordan’s work.
I wanna affirm the most intimate relation between God & Creation (in Christ) as I possibly can. I still feel like Jordan overstates things (collapsing/equating the generation of the Logos with the divine act of creation), but that may be something that Maximus (assuming Jordan’s Maximus is Maximus) says which I’m simply unable to say. But I’m gonna hold off until I finish the book.
I think DBH would do professional and nonprofessional readers of Maximus a real service in writing a review of Jordan’s book (the book, not the dissertation behind it).
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Around 1:47:45 a last question comes, asking what the whole point is (of the research and the book). And in the answer that follows Jordan brings up the question of nature and/vs grace. And in there he says something interesting – that while it’s true there is no ‘pure nature’ (and living as if there was is just what we call Hell) to which grace is an addendum, it’s also true that ‘grace exceeds nature’ – which I take to mean that nature isn’t itself inherently capable of deification because deifying grace is irreducibly a hypostatic/personal event. It is God offering himself to us. And though the possibility of its reception is an irrevocable aspect of our nature, its personalizing/hypostatizing reception is not. So – while there’s no pure nature, there’s also no nature whose final end is accomplished purely by grace.
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Perichoresis is usually applied to Trinitarian relations. Placing the emphasis here in terms of Christology is interesting. The mystery of identity and difference is transposed from a Trinitarian focus in which one thinks the difference of persons juxtaposed against the sameness of divinity to Christological concern where the difference of human and divine natures finds dynamic identity through the sameness of person. In other words, a Trinitarian inflection locates difference in the unique Person which is itself an incommunicable relation. The common nature of divinity is specified by the Personal relation. In Christology, the polarity is reversed. The differences are encountered in the natures – and ultimately, the difference between human and divine encompasses the entire scale of creaturely difference, so that human nature “stands in” for every created nature. Thus, the entire cosmos is drawn into the generative action of the Logos. The Person of the Word is not only the unifying act that gifts being from nothing; if perichoresis is an identity of intimate exchange, then to make the Maximian move is to radically remove any gap between the metaphysics of creatio ex nihilo and theosis. Creatures simply are the body of Christ. But note carefully: because all this derives from the Person and Hypostasis is precisely what exceeds Nature, this is not at all a kind of Christologically shaded pantheism. The unity is not “from nature.”
Everything is personal gift, so while there is a way to talk of reality by making use of concepts, abstract ideas, talk of natures is not absurd, etc., it is a kind of inadequate second best that is never going to comprehend the mystery of reality which is never actually divorced from Person. Now, that seems to me the fundamental insight, or at least a basic proposal from which much follows. My further remarks do not aim at anything more than sketching out other thoughts that came to me as I was listening. Towards the end there is a discussion of Balthasar and analogy and whether or not Balthasar is entirely consistent throughout his oeuvre. I first read Balthasar a little over thirty years ago. The Prolegomena of the Theological Aesthetics were a godsend to me. Balthasar’s feeling for beauty, for the revelatory power of divine artistry indicated a path beyond various forms of religious praxis that seemed stultifying to me. So, I am inclined to read Balthasar generously, though I am not a Balthasarian. The reason I initially found Eclectic Orthodoxy amenable is that a synthetic appropriation of diverse approaches was simply natural to the way I think, and I suppose that creative manner is part of any living inquiry. In any event, I’ll only say that there is a thread of Balthasar’s sensibility that seems to me capable of accommodating the specific quality Jordan Daniel Wood finds in Maximus’ method of analogy. The article cited late in the podcast, The Fathers, the Scholastics, and Ourselves is one of those gems that stands out. I’d also advert to the tension between Przywara and Balthasar insofar as Przywara’s emphasis was strongly oriented in an apophatic direction whereas Przywara felt that Balthasar tended towards an analogical method compromised by a cataphatic resting in the image, as it were. I take that refusal to discard the positive quality of created being as disclosive of the divine as at least open to the kind of perichoretic identity Wood wants to accentuate.
My own inclination is to read the theosis of the creature in terms of Nyssan epektasis. One can interpret Przywara’s “ever greater difference” as a sign of radical openness to “ever greater participation” in divine plenitude. Balthasar’s suggestion that the immanent triune life is itself open to dramatic surprise and delight seems consonant with a narrative in which divine plenitude is nothing like Parmenidean surfeit. Beyond the antinomies of finitude, eschatological joy joins the erotics of desire to agapeic gift. And this brings in somewhat the question of how one is to understand Hegel. Wood has argued elsewhere for a rehabilitation of Hegel and David Bentley Hart has spoken in ways that read Hegel as open to Christian assimilation. (Hart’s upcoming text, You Are Gods, includes a compelling chapter on Hegel.) I have read Hegel through a lens of Balthasar, Desmond, Cyril O’Regan, Ferdinand Ulrich, and Bulgakov; hence, I am suspicious, though I think Hart makes persuasive arguments on the inappropriate use of the gnostic rubric to discredit Hegel. So, I’ll just say that if one takes a standard interpretation of Hegel as a rationalist who employs logic as a mode of self-divination that requires a necessary lack at the Origin, such a Hegel cannot be squared with an Origin of agapeic giftedness. Philip Sherrard remarks upon God’s desire for his creation, but this does not necessarily imply lack. Balthasar writes about the eschaton as proleptically fulfilled in Christ. The eschaton is both fulfilled and not yet. As creatures in time, as pilgrims, our state of becoming is mixed. We still bear the parasitic idols that impel sin and confusion. However, there may be a sense in which God has never been without his bride. From eternity, God is nuptially bound to his perfected other – and so the lack is always already anticipated and met. In this respect, Wood is correct to argue for an economy of plenitude as what is proper to the creature, though knowing this does not alleviate the evident existential struggles and excruciating crises of an economy of scarcity that confront us in history.
To reiterate something I’ve tried to indicate in some reflections on poetics I wrote about several years ago on EO, the creature is never “just a creature.” There is never a “secular reified object” bereft of eschatological depths except as a particular mode of perception. Christ is not only encountered in our human neighbor. The entire universe is seeded with Christ. What would happen to our ecological anxieties if this were to become more generally embraced by the Church? Epektasis is the antinomic becoming of plenitude, a flourishing “beyond nature” that is never done with discovery. It seems to me that theology needs a far more exploratory imaginary. Wood’s elucidation of the mystery of Christ’s cosmic expansiveness contributes to a more profound and daring understanding of mission. And if the creation is actually identical to Cross and Resurrection, if the six days of creation in Genesis are more deeply the triduum of the Passion, one is invited to step away from the typical cosmologies which in modernity tend to forget formal and final causalities, let alone a venture that stands altogether outside mere forms. The beginning in the middle or late or at least seemingly preceded by geologic ages, bespeaks an Origin tied to temporal non-linearity. Along with C. S. Lewis, I think science fiction, fantasy, genres that exceed narrow realisms, point towards the manner in which theology needs to try and articulate the mystery of the gospel.
Excellent commentary here, Brian. My sincere thanks for the engagement. I’m eager to get the book out so that folks such as you can subject it to the greatest scrutiny. (Your first paragraph especially gets at a core move in my estimation of Maximus’s significance, by the way).
I’m really looking forward to it. I’m originally from Buffalo, so it was cool that folks from those parts provided a forum for such intriguing discussion.
It’s worth noting, maybe, that perichoresis as *trinitarian* is itself largely a conceit of modern theology, most of which — following certain of the scholastics — take John of Damascus to be representative of patristic consensus. But historically it was *christology* where the logic was initially applied theologically — or reapplied, as it were, from the Stoa. (See, for instance, Gregory the Theologian, ep. 101.) The logic’s extension to trinity and theosis owes in no small part to Maximus’s own innovation, itself inextricable from his teaching on the univocity of hypostasis. And so Jordan’s proposal here forms a sort of radical(er) orthodoxy, to coin an ungrammatical phrase.
Fantastic discussion. The section wherein Jordan discusses the Christian revision of neoplatonic emanation raises an interesting question. Christ gives his own hypostasis to his created human nature by way of the Incarnation, identifying Himself with his own effects and inaugurating a kind of reciprocity between the One and the Many that is foreign to classical metaphysics. Very well, but how does this function when the creature in question is another hypostasis (a human person)? In such an instance, Christ does not identify his own hypostasis with created nature in the abstract, but with another distinct hypostasis. So what, then, is the nature of the boundary between Christ’s hypostasis and each of our own as unique persons? Is it something similar to His relationship to the hypostases of the Father and the Spirit in the Trinity? One and Many indivisibly distinct?
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