The Freedom to Create and the DBH Inquisition

One of the virtues of Fr James Dominic Rooney’s recent article “The Incoherencies of Hard Universalism” is that it has forced everyone to ask, Does David Bentley Hart teach the necessity of divine creation? Clearly Fr Rooney thinks that he does and has gone so far as to accuse Hart of heresy. As he sees the matter, the dogmatic teaching of the Roman Catholic Church on the freedom of divine creation requires the claim that the cosmos need not have been. God might have chosen otherwise. Here Rooney is following the teaching of St Thomas Aquinas: God necessarily wills himself as the Good and necessarily begets the Son and spirates the Spirit, but he voluntarily chooses to create the world (see my series “Aquinas and Divine Freedom“). Dr Edward Feser picked up on Rooney’s article and has elaborated his accusation in two articles “Divine Freedom and Heresy” and “Divine Freedom and Necessity.” Both philosophers have picked up on Hart’s statement in You Are Gods that “creation inevitably follows from who [God] is.” In their judgment the “inevitably” necessarily means “necessarily.” Hart, therefore, has contradicted himself. I hope in a future article to share my thoughts on this alleged contradiction; but at this point I offer the following observation: Given that Hart clearly asserts that (1) God’s creation of the universe is an expression of God’s absolute love, goodness, and freedom (the infinite plenitude of Being does not need to create) and (2) there’s nothing external to God that compels him to create (“before creation” there ain’t anything that could possibly constrain him), then Hart cannot mean that creation is necessary in the same sense that the Trini­tarian processions is necessary. The task of the reader, therefore, is to try to understand what Hart means when he says that the creation of the cosmos was “inevitable.” Neither Rooney nor Feser have done this. Instead they have assimilated Hart to their own Thomistic metaphysics (with Denzinger in hand), jumped to their conclusions, and initiated their inquisition, apparently forgetting that Hart is not a Roman Catholic and therefore not subject to the magisterial pronouncements of the Latin Church.

Those of us who have immersed ourselves in the writings of Hart over the past twenty years were surprised, if not shocked, by the accusations that Hart teaches the heresy of the metaphysical necessity of creation. The absolute freedom of divine creation has been a consistent theme in Hart’s books and essays, as the citations below will demonstrate.

In the combox I directly asked Hart if his views on divine freedom and creation have changed over the years. Here is his reply:

Nothing has changed. I’ve always maintained that “necessity” is not a meaningful concept in relation to God, and that his freedom does not consist in the (necessarily limiting) modes of deliberative choice. Creation is not necessary for God; but it is impossible that God—the Good as such—would not create, not because he must, but because nothing could prevent him from acting as what he is. Is a mother’s love for her child unfree because it flows necessarily from her nature, unimpeded by exterior conditions? In the case of a finite agent, there may be ambiguities. But if the “agent” is the infinite simple being of all that is…? If one cannot grasp that saying “Necessity cannot attach to him who is perfect infinite act” is not somehow to say “He who is perfect infinite act is bound by necessity,” then one just isn’t a good philosopher.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter how one parses the terms. A God who merely chooses to create–as one equally possible exercise of deliberative will among others—is either actualizing a potential beyond his nature (in which case he is not God, but a god only) or he is actualizing some otherwise unrealized potential within himself (in which case, again, he is not God, but a god only). Even Augustine—whose late theology comes as near volun­tarism as any ancient form of thought ever did—insists that creation exists not because God elected it out of a variety of equally good ends, but because he is Goodness and therefore does what is good, without hindrance. This just isn’t an interesting debate. Either you’re talking about God or a god; if the former, then what I’m saying is simply analytically true (like 2+2=4).

May I just point out, incidentally, that Rooney for some reason draws a connection between this issue and my arguments for universalism. One need only consult TASBS to see that, while the nature of rational freedom is important to the argument there, the nature of freedom and necessity in relation to God himself is not.

Keep Hart’s statement in mind as you peruse the following quotations. I have bolded sentences I judge particularly germane.

The Beauty of the Infinite (2004)

The God whom Genesis depicts as pronouncing a deliberative “Let us . . .” in creating humanity after his image and as looking on in approbation of his handiwork, which he sees to be good, is the eternal God who is the God he forever is, with or without creation, to whom creation adds absolutely nothing; God does not require creation to “fecundate” his being, nor does he require the pathos of creation to determine his “personality” as though he were some finite subjectivity writ large, whose transcendental Ego were in need of delimitation in an empirical ego; God and creation do not belong to an interdependent history of necessity, because the Trinity is already infinitely sufficient, infinitely “diverse,” infinitely at peace; God is good and sovereign and wholly beautiful, and creation is gift, loveliness, pleasure, dignity, and freedom, which is to say that God is possessed of that loveliest (and most widely misunderstood) “attribute,” apatheia. The absence of creation, the theater of the Trinity’s economy, would in no way alter how God is God; as Athanasius insists, with or without the world the Father has his Son (Contra Arianos 1.18 ). One might even say—as alarming as it may sound—that God does not even need us to be “our” God; all we are, all we can ever become, is already infinitely and fully present in the inexhaust­ible beauty, liveliness, and “virtue” of the Logos, where—as the infinitely perfect reflection of the divine essence that flows forth from the Father, fully enjoyed in the light of the Spirit—it is present already as responsiveness and communion; thus God indeed loved us when we were not, and that he then called us to be (Rom. 4:17) and to participate in the being he pours into us is an act of generosity wholly fitting to, but in no way determinative of, his goodness. Indeed, one should even say that all that Jesus of Nazareth was and is the Son of God was and is in the supereminent, timeless eternity of his act of being, and would have been and would be with or without a world. This may seem the height of theological austerity, even of hellenization, but it is actually quite the opposite. The freedom of God from ontic determination is the ground of creation’s goodness: precisely because creation is uncompelled, unnecessary, and finally other than that dynamic life of coinherent love whereby God is God, it can reveal how God is the God he is; precisely because creation is needless, an object of delight that shares God’s love without contributing anything that God does not already possess in infinite eminence, creation reflects the divine life, which is one of delight and fellowship and love; precisely because creation is not part of God, the context of God, or divine, precisely because it is not “substantially” from God, or meta­physically cognate to God’s essence, or a pathos of God, is it an analogy of the divine; in being the object of God’s love without any cause but the generosity of that love, creation reflects in its beauty that eternal delight that is the divine perichoresis and that obeys no necessity but divine love itself. (pp. 157-158)

God’s gracious action in creation belongs from the first to that delight, pleasure, and regard that the Trinity enjoys from eternity, as an outward and unnecessary expression of that love; and thus creation must be received before all else as gift and as beauty. (p. 249)

That God is not compelled to create, and is indeed free not to create at all, is a commonplace of patristic theology. (p. 257, n. 111)

If this all appears to be waxing either too assertively dogmatic or too buoyantly rhapsodic, it is only in order to return again to that cardinal axiom of any Christian theological aesthetics: that creation is without necessity. The Christian God is never a God of abstract subjectivity, an unexplicated simplicity requiring an “exterior” medium of determination, because God is Trinity, who explicates himself, utters himself, and responds eternally, and has all fellowship, exposition, and beauty in perfect sufficiency; and so creation can never be “necessary” for him. Of course, one would not want to suggest that the freedom of God in creating is merely the spontaneous, deliberative liberty of a finite subject, which would make God’s nature a slave of his will; true freedom—ontological freedom or apatheia—is the perfect and unimpeded fullness with which the divine nature is itself, with which God is God (just as true human freedom is the fulfillment of our nature in its union with God’s goodness). Thus we can say that, for God, there might just as well have been no creation (for creation adds nothing to God, but only participates in him), but assert nevertheless that creation is “necessary” in another, aesthetic sense: it has been from eternity fitting to God’s goodness to be a loving creator, mani­festing his trinitarian love in creatures. No statement could be more demeaning of God’s transcendence than the conjecture of Duns Scotus that God could, should he wish it, create a world entirely alien to his own nature (as though God were a limited subject possessed of a limited nature). But no statement could more thoroughly confine God to a metaphysical totality (or, as it happens, more thoroughly deprive creation of its expressive freedom) than Hegel’s “ohne Welt ist Gott nicht Gott“: The divine desire that constitutes created being ventures “beyond” the trinitarian dance only because that desire always possesses the generosity that gives difference, the beauty that declares itself. Hegel’s Idea goes forth from a poverty of immanent reflection, not from an interior beauty, and goes into its opposite, into nothingness (with which, in a sense, it is convertible). The beautiful, then, as the sign of God’s freedom and sovereignty, has no primary role in Hegel’s thought; beauty can figure in the system only secondarily, through the metabolism of negation. To see created being as in any sense a metaphysical necessity for God is inevi­ta­bly to see it as issuing from the sublime, as determining, articulating, negat­ing, or “beautifying” what in itself lacks determination, adequate expression, sufficient delight, or true beauty; creation as the wholly good (which is to say, primordially beautiful) expression of the good (which is also to say, beautiful) God can be grasped only as radical nonnecessity. The Christian God never goes out into his “opposite” because the entire motion of condescension—creation, covenant, incarnation—is already contained in the perichoretic motion of the Trinity: in the eternal going forth of the Son, the everlasting spiration of the Spirit, the eternal restoration of all things to the Father. Thus God, even in the midst of what is not God, is always the God who wants for nothing, who goes forth into what he freely loves and chooses: creation, Israel, the church. Creation, as creation, is free, unforced, apportioned, elected, known, and loved by God, and so is most originally an aesthetic moment to the divine, and a moment of peace; no defining violence of negation, no unexpressed potential in the divine nature brings the world to pass. And this is the special glory of creation: whereas Hegel sought to discover in worldly being the dignity of divine necessity, Christian theology ascribes to creation the still higher dignity of delight. Creation is good in itself, so good as to be pleasing to the infinite God even though he has no need of it; it is never a determina­tive play between negation and indifference, a vacillation between meaning and mere particularity. Because, for Christian thought, creation is a free and expressive display whose every detail declares God’s glory, and not an odyssey of divine self-determination, particularity is affirmed; and as there is no meaningful distinction between “essence” and exposition in created things—because creation is groundless, hanging upon God as an iridescence of his glory—there is nothing more basic than creation’s superficial sequences of beauty, and nothing to be “rescued” from particularity by that dialectical redoubling whereby what negates is in turn negated. And it is the absence of necessity that truly tells of God, that “corresponds” to the God who is always abundant in delight, fellowship, and love. (pp. 256-257)

In the Trinity the gift is entire, and entirely “exposed”: the Father gives himself to the Son, and again to the Spirit, and the Son offers everything up to the Father in the Spirit, and the Spirit returns all to the Father through the Son, eternally. Love of, the gift to, and delight in the other is one infinite dynamism of giving and receiving, in which desire at once beholds and donates the other. And creation is always already implicated in this giving of the gift becam1e it is—in being inaugurated by the Father, effected by the Son, and perfected by the Spirit—already a gift shared among the persons of the Trinity, in transit, a word spoken by God in his Word and articulated in endless sequences of difference by the Spirit and offered back to the Father. Creation is a gift already given and already restored, that is received back even as it is given, constituted by divine desire and pleasing to God in its constitution. The Trinity, in a sense, is the “economy” of the gift, from which individual instances of ethical subjectivity cannot be extracted. God has no simple subjectivity to guard, nor any that can accumulate credit; God is God in and only in the giving of the gift, in the establishing of “personality” in the extravagant giving away of his wealth—his ousia—and in the always delighted receiving of all his wealth, substance, essence, and life. As, in its every eventuation, a repetition of the motion of the gift that is the divine life, creation is an effect of desire, and its beauty is that which reveals the divine agape and the divine eros to be one and the same. Creation is, before all else, given by God to God, and only then—through the pneumatolog­i­cal generosity of the trinitarian life—given to creatures: a gift that is only so long as it is given back, passed on, received and imparted not as a possession but always as grace. This is indeed a “circle”—the infinite circle of divine love—and for that very reason capable of a true gift: one that draws creatures into a circle upon which they have no natural “right” to intrude. (p. 268)

Christian Century Interview (2006),
included in In the Aftermath (2009)

Unless one thinks that God’s act of creation is purely arbitrary—and it would be incoherent to attribute arbitrariness of any kind to a God of infinite goodness (an argument for another time)—then one must understand creation as a direct expression of God’s own Logos. God does not create like an omnipotent consumer choosing one world out of an infinity of possibilities that somehow stand outside of and apart from his own nature. Here’s one without cancer, there’s one without Bach, over there’s one with a higher infant mortality rate, and so on; this is the worst sort of anthropomorphism.

God creates the world of Jesus, the world conformed to his infinite love for his Son in the joy and light of the Spirit; he thereby also wills his goodness in all his creatures infinitely, which is to say he wills this world for eternal union with him in love, and he wills that we should become partakers of the divine nature.

There is no other world that God might have created, not because he is bound by necessity, but because he is infinitely free, and so nothing can hinder him from expressing his essential and infinite goodness perfectly, in and through the freedom of creatures created to be the fellows of his eternal Son.

That may seem obscurely phrased—it is, I know—but if one thinks through what it means to understand God as the transcendent source of all being, one must abandon the notion that God chooses to create in the way that I choose to buy blue drapes rather than red. God creates a realm of rational freedom that allows for a union between Creator and creature that is properly analogous to the Trinity’s eternal union of love; or, stated otherwise, God creates his own image in his creatures, with all that that may entail.

The Doors of the Sea (2011)

For God is infinite actuality, the source and end of all being, the eternally good, for whom mere arbitrary “choice”—as among possibilities that somehow exceed his “present” actuality—would be a deficiency, a limitation placed upon his infinite power to be God. His freedom is the impossibility of any force, pathos, or potentiality interrupting the perfection of his nature or hindering him in the realization of his own illimitable goodness, in himself and in his creatures. . . . The object of God’s will is his own infinite goodness, and it is an object perfectly realized, and so he is free. (pp. 71-72)

Notre Dame Lecture, “God, Creation, and Evil,”
Radical Orthodoxy (September 2015)

It [the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo] is chiefly an affirmation of God’s absolute dispositive liberty in all his acts: the absence of any external restraint upon or necessity behind every decision of his will. And, while one must avoid the pathetic anthropomorphism of imagining God’s decision to create as an arbitrary choice made after deliberation among options, one must still affirm that it is free, that creation can add nothing to God, that God’s being is not dependent on the world’s, and that the only necessity in the divine act of creation is the impossibility of any hindrance upon God’s expression of his goodness.  (p. 3)

Theological Territories (2020)

Bulgakov seems to me the sounder theologian and metaphysician here. For one thing, he presumes a more classical and logically coherent model of freedom: as consisting essentially in the full realization of a nature in its own true end. True, for any finite rational being, inasmuch as its essence is not identical with its existence, any movement toward this realization is attended by the shadow of unrealized possibilities and entails deliberative liberty with regard to proximate ends. This, though, is a necessary condition not of freedom as such but only of finitude. Every decision of the finite will is a collapse of indeterminate possibility into determinate actuality; but the very realm of possibility exists only because there is an inexhaustible wellspring of transcendent actuality sustaining it. God, by contrast, simply is that actuality, in all its supereminent fullness—infinite Being, the source of every act of being. As such, he is infinitely free precisely because nothing can inhibit or limit the perfect realization of his nature, and so, as Maximus says, he possesses no gnomic will; for him, deliberative liberty—any “could have been otherwise,” any decision among opposed possibilities—would be an impossible defect of his freedom. God does not require the indeterminacy of the possible in order to be free because he is not some particular determination of Being, some finite reduction of potency to act, but is instead that infinite actuality upon which ontic possibility depends. And in the calculus of the infinite—as Bulgakov so splendidly grasps—any tension between freedom and necessity simply disappears; there is no problem to be resolved because, in regard to the transcendent and infinite fullness of all Being, the distinction is meaning­less. God is not a being choosing his nature from among a range of options; he simply is reality as such. (pp. 61-62)

You Are Gods (2022)

All too often, this is obscured in theological discourse by such questions as whether we are obliged to think of creation either as a free act of God’s sovereign will or as a product of some necessity incumbent on his will. But this is a false dilemma. God is not a finite being in whom the distinction of freedom from necessity has any meaning.

Perfect freedom is the unhindered realization of a nature in its proper end; and God’s infinite freedom is the eternal fulfillment of the divine nature in the divine life. Needless to say, for any finite rational being, since its essence is not identical with its existence, any movement toward the realization of its nature is attended by the shadows of unrealized possibilities, and entails deliberative liberty with regard to proximate ends. This, though, is a condition not of freedom as such, but only of finitude. Every decision of the finite will is a collapse of indeterminate potentiality into determinate actuality, and therefore the reduction of limitless possibilities to the bare singularity of one reality. Yet that prior realm of possibility exists only because there is an inexhaustible wellspring of more original and transcendent actuality sustaining it. God, by contrast, simply is that actuality, in all its supereminent fullness: infinite Being, the source of every act of being. As such, he is infinitely free precisely because nothing can inhibit or limit the perfect realization of his nature, and thus, as Maximus says, he possesses no gnomic will; for God, deliberative liberty—any “could have been otherwise,” any arbitrary decision among opposed possibilities—would be an impossible defect of his freedom. God does not require the indeterminacy of the possible in order to be free because he is not some particular determination of Being, some finite reduction of potency to act; he is instead that infinite actuality upon which all ontic possibility depends.

And in the calculus of the infinite, any tension between freedom and necessity simply disappears; there is no problem to be resolved because, in regard to the transcendent and infinite fullness of all Being, the distinction is meaning­less. God is not a being choosing his nature from among a range of options; he simply is reality as such. And it is only insofar as God is not a being defined by possibility, and is hence infinitely free, that creation inevitably follows from who he is. This in no way alters the truth that creation, in itself, “might not have been,” so long as this claim is understood as a modal definition, a statement of ontological contingency, a recognition that creation receives its being from beyond itself and so has no necessity intrinsic to itself. (pp. 115-116)

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30 Responses to The Freedom to Create and the DBH Inquisition

  1. Robert Fortuin says:

    And why limit the charge of heresy to the act of creation? Why not ask if God is bound to love because he is love? I don’t see a difference. Of course one can object that creation is “outside” of God, but this misses the point. The creative act is “internal” to God no differently that the act of love is.

    I surmise the problem is that we are used to separate act from being. Such is a valid in creatures, but not so in God who, as Purus Actus, is what He does.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      You raise a critical point, Robert. Classical theist Norman Kretzmann, Eleonore Stump’s mentor, unashamedly argued that because of divine simplicity St Thomas should have affirmed necessitarian creation.

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    • DBH says:

      Very true.

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  2. Tom says:

    “Given that Hart clearly asserts that (1) God’s creation of the universe is an expression of God’s absolute love, goodness, and freedom (the infinite plenitude of Being does not need to create) and (2) there’s nothing external to God that compels him to create (“before creation” there ain’t anything that could possibly constrain him), then Hart cannot mean that creation is necessary in the same sense that the Trinitarian processions is necessary.”

    I’m trying to follow this, because viewing God’s determination to create as convertible with (or equivalent to, or of the same movement with), say, the begetting of the Son, is my main concern. But the two things you ennumerate don’t rule this out. Maybe I’m missing something. If God’s expression of himself in creation was in fact collapsed into the Trinitarian processions, then your (1) and (2) are what one would expect to be the case. So how does (1) and (2) being the case rule out that collapse?

    Sorry I’m being unclear – it’s my essential nature to be so. ;o)

    Tom

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      All I’m saying, Tom, is that given that David distinguishes the necessity of the Trinitarian processions and the freedom of creation, given the divine aseity, then it’s incumbent upon all of us to figure out how Hart understands the difference. After all, he goes out of his way to say that there is a difference, even though he also affirms the apparent “necessity” of creation because of God’s desire to manifest his Goodness and Love. Recall that in Beauty of the Infinite he terms divine creation an “aesthetic necessity,” which is clearly different from the metaphysical necessity that St Thomas, Rooney, and Feser are invoking. I remember somewhere Hart making precisely the contrast between the necessity of the Trinitarian processions and the freedom of divine creation, but I can’t remember where. Obviously, Hart does not believe he has contradicted himself.

      David, if you are reading this, I encourage you to carefully lay out the difference between metaphysical necessity and aesthetic necessity in a substack article, perhaps combined with a critique of Aquinas’ position. Is your aesthetic necessity akin to Thomas’s “fittingness,” though with a emphatic emphasis on the bonum est diffusivum sui, which seems to be lacking in Thomas’ thought? Is this why Thomas can genuinely imagine God not creating the cosmos, whereas you cannot? The problem here cannot lie in his weakness as a metaphysician.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Robert Fortuin says:

        Fr Kimel: Don’t tire DBH out! This has been explained elsewhere in detail, viz. the opposition of necessity and freedom in God doesn’t hold. It’s a modal mistake, an error of categories.

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        • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

          Haha! But it’s one thing to say this in a combox and another thing to elaborate it in a serious article. Besides, I think it would be helpful to compare his position with that of Aquinas. Aquinas does posit the possibility that God might not create. Is this because there are two different metaphysics at work?

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      • Tom says:

        Don’t mind me. I’ll catch up!

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  3. David says:

    Fr Rooney doesn’t just hold that universalists are heretics – he also thinks many of us are atheists and pagans.

    Academic disagreement is all well and good but it’s hard to know how to engage with this kind of language. In my view it shames us all.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Fr. JD, OP says:

      I can clarify that I meant it quite literally: many of my interlocutors were atheist philosophers of religion.

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      • David says:

        They’re not universalists then, are they? In which case I would ask you to please consider withdrawing your slanderous remarks.

        I think it’s also probably pretty obvious that suggesting that the (caricature of) universalist beliefs you are criticising are ‘deeply pagan’ is not a very kind thing to do.

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  4. Fr. JD, OP says:

    I think Dr. Hart has simply confused volitional necessity – ‘inevitability’ – with your choices being necessitated by your essence.

    [Logically speaking, however, ‘inevitability’ and ‘necessary’ are not so differentiated. A typical definition of necessity in, for example, possible world semantics is a valuation where a proposition is true in every logically possible situation (all possible ‘worlds’). If God creates inevitably, He creates in every possible situation. Then, if it is true in every possible situation that God creates, it is ‘necessary’ that God creates. That’s just what the term means in modal logic. I think Dr. Hart means something closer to a ‘volitional necessity,’ a term that comes from Frankfurt. These necessities, however, permit kinds of alternative possibilities and so are not strictly ‘inevitable’ in the way it would be if it were impossible that God would not create.]

    We would not call a mother ‘unfree’ who ‘cannot do otherwise’ than love their children, or a loving person who cannot contemplate kicking puppies.
    But these people are free in what they did. That’s because their character was in their control. There was a time that the mother *chose* to be a mother, the loving person *chose* to act so as to form their character that way.

    Either God chooses freely to be the sort of person that inevitably creates, or He creates by *natural* necessity, from what He is, but He has not chosen to be that sort of person.

    In a place like Walden II, where people are conditioned by psychological tricks from birth not to kick puppies, or the character of Alex in A Clockwork Orange being conditioned not to commit violence, would we think their refraining from violence to be the sign of a virtuous character or merely the result of brainwashing? This gives us a handle on the analogous case where God just acts necessarily, given who He is.
    If God chooses to be God, and this is why God has to create the universe, DBH would have a strictly incoherent and even worse image of the deity than one where God is necessitated by His essence to create.

    Hart is entirely wrong that God creating the universe inevitably or necessarily is a mainstream theological commitment. It is not. Maximus the Confessor’s claim that it is blasphemous to say God creates by natural necessity (‘just as God is good, He is creator’) is not compatible with Hart’s views.

    In the end, Hart’s response fails. If God creates by natural necessity, it’s a heretical view (heretical simply in the sense that it conflicts with defined Christian orthodoxy). If God creates by volitional necessity, He chooses to be God. This is heretical and incoherent too.
    —————————–
    A claim one’s theological position is or entails heretical beliefs is not a personal attack but a typical theological problematic. I have tried to be sensitive that Orthodox and Catholic commitments are not identical, which is why I encouraged submitting the work to Orthodox theological authorities in order to determine whether it is permissible for Orthodox theologians to hold or teach ‘hard’ universalism. Kallistos Ware and Arch. Golitzin denied that it was permissible in their public statements on the matter.

    A submission of these matters to authorities in Catholic practice, for a nihil obstat, is a typical and normal working requirement for publishing catechetical materials and other theological work that represents Catholic doctrine; it is not a witch hunt, but an ordinary process for certifying books can be used (for example) in seminary classes. I know Orthodoxy does not have a direct equivalent, but the Holy Synod of the OCA does issue theological statements and guidance on a regular basis; I thought it would be worthwhile for a theologian who thinks that this is an immensely important issue touching on the nature of God and His love would also find it important to submit this work to the pastors of his church for endorsement.

    I know, for myself, that I would not want to be teaching anything that the Church does not approve, because it is simply my job and mission as a theologian to hand on what I have received from Christ and His apostles, as the Church understands it. This is why I too seek this permission for my own work.

    God bless and keep Dr. Hart. He asked me to pray for and bless him at the end of our lunch he mentions. My prayers for him to the Divine Physician at our lunch were sincere and I find it very sorry that he has taken this turn in his attitudes toward me and others. I will keep praying for him, as I have been during our whole conversation.

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    • Fr. JD, OP says:

      [I forgot to add that God creating by natural necessity undermines God’s being ‘a se’ or the perfect Good in Himself, for the reasons I mentioned. So neither of my forks here is supposed to be a mere appeal to authority, although I point out that it does conflict with orthodoxy.]

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    • Jonathan K says:

      With all respect, this is a strawman. Inevitability might equate to “volitional necessity” for humans, but certainly does not for God. A being who can make a decision to change his character is not God, a principle I am confident Dr. Hart subscribes to. If he uses the word “inevitability” with respect to God, it is in another sense.

      More to the point, how is any of this distinct from the question of God’s love? Many of these supposed defenses of God’s freedom could be turned on their heads and used to argue that God could choose to not love us (because if God must love us, God is not free from necessity).

      No, God is love. It follows (inevitably) that God loves us. And isn’t creation simply an act of love?

      Liked by 1 person

      • DBH says:

        Of course.

        God is neither God by “necessity” nor does he create by necessity. Again, those are Rooney’s words, not mine, based on his decision to define necessity in the way he chooses to define necessity. Necessity is a meaningless concept in regard to the infinite, simple being of all things, who is pure act and pure freedom. Neither extrinsic nor intrinsic necessitation is possible in that context.

        This is not a debate. It’s just one fellow refusing to get a point that can’t really be missed except by willfully missing it.

        By the way, as for modern Orthodox positions on universalism, Ware and Golitzen both allow for the liceity of universalism as a valid theologoumenon; they have said it can’t be public dogma. The same is true of Evdokimov. Let’s get the details right.

        Liked by 5 people

    • Robert Fortuin says:

      Either God chooses freely to be the sort of person that inevitably creates, or He creates by *natural* necessity, from what He is, but He has not chosen to be that sort of person.”

      “In the end, Hart’s response fails. If God creates by natural necessity, it’s a heretical view (heretical simply in the sense that it conflicts with defined Christian orthodoxy). If God creates by volitional necessity, He chooses to be God. This is heretical and incoherent too.

      This seems silly to me. No one here is presenting such a false dilemma between being and willing in/to God. The claim is rather quite orthodox: that in God to will, to know, and to be are simply one. From this follows, relevant to this discussion, that elevating willing over being, nor being over willing, is an invalid move. God is the good and so wills to communicate himself perfectly. God wills as he is and as he knows, and he is as he knows and as he wills, and he knows as he wills and as he is. For anything but the Good Itself this would be fatal necessity, want, exigency. Paradoxically creation and the creative act as an expression of God’s being and willing and knowing himself is both perfectly free and without need while yet wholly unavoidable and necessary.

      Liked by 1 person

      • DBH says:

        I think it’s clear by now that Rooney is just wildly thrashing about. This isn’t even good gibberish. He started an argument he can’t win.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Iainlovejoy says:

      This is incoherent nonsense. If God could have chosen not to create, what is it that could have prompted such a choice? Either there is some external factor prompting such a choice (which is heresy) or God has a “creative” side and a “nihilistic” side warring within him, and between which two possible motivations God must choose (which is also heresy) or God has just gone “eeny, meeny, miny, mo” like some arbitrary reasonless baby (which is absurd, and also heresy).
      The problem you have is that you are the one that seeks to impose necessity on God, by requiring God to be bound by your own theology of eternal conscious torment. Faced with the point that free and unconstrained love simply does not do such things, you would declare freedom to be bondage, and bondage to be freedom. You assert that God is bound to go against his own free love and condemn sinners for ever, because if God acted only in accordance with his own free nature, that would somehow mean he wasn’t free.

      Liked by 2 people

      • DBH says:

        As I’ve been trying to point out, this isn’t a debate. Rooney just keeps trying to unwind the ridiculous knot he’s tied. By this point, it should be clear he’s not making any sense. You’re not going to get an intelligible answer.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. DBH says:

    Actually, Al, the distinction between freedom and necessity is inappropriate in regard to the Trinitarian processions too. That language has no meaning there either. True freedom is nature fully expressed. And the infinite admits of no such distinctions.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Myshkin says:

      “True freedom is nature fully expressed”
      And
      “To know the good is to desire it insatiably. . .”

      Dude, seriously, breathtaking, like scales falling away.

      Now when the preacher says “God is Good” I can say: All the time GOD IS GOOD!!!!!

      And mean it.

      Like

  6. dokow says:

    To keep the words by Barry Miller in mind: Choice is foreign to God, while willing is not.

    The way I see it, it perfectly encapsulates what David states as well. I have learned over the years that only Platonists really appreciate this thinking, it naturally follows from their metaphysics. Dogmatic Thomists too often constrain their own thinking through forcefully adhering to their own understanding of the dogma, they believe they have to follow.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      “Choice is alien to God because it entails potentiality, but willing is not. And, because it is not necessary that he will to create, his willing is entirely free, notwithstanding the absence of choice.” ~ Barry Miller (A Most Unlikely God, p. 105)

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Tom says:

    Not sure why this passage comes to mind in the midst of all this:

    The phenomenal realm is not, says Gregory, formed from any underlying matter at all, for “the divine will is the matter and substance of created things (υλη και ουσια των δημιουργηματων),” the “matter, form (κατασκευη), and power (δυναμις) of the world.” The here below, it seems, is like a mirror without tain, a depth that is pure surface, and a surface composed entirely of the light that it reflects.

    (“The Mirror of the Infinite: Gregory of Nyssa on the Vestigia Trinitatis,” Modern Theology 18:4 | October 2002)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Tom says:

    Lemme try this.

    Just a reflection on Hart’s notion that Creation is an “aesthetic necessity.” Think of great music or art.

    When I think of a particular Monet or Van Gogh masterpiece, I can admit the gratuity of this or that work. It ‘might not have been’ in the strict logical sense that we concede regarding contingencies. However, once the aesthetic moment presents itself, once beauty has arrived, standing in front of the work, it becomes impossible ‘aesthetically speaking’ to imagine ‘Artist’ without his ‘Art’. Once you’ve stood in front of Monet’s several paintings of the Rouen Cathedral, or Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” or sat attentively through Bach’s Chaconne for solo violin, or contemplated Bernini’s marble sculpture “The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa” (or ____ , fill in the blank with any number of masterpiece works of art/literature), it becomes impossible (again, aesthetically speaking) to imagine the artist without the work in question.

    Can we imagine Monet without his “Lady with a Parasol”? Not ‘aesthetically speaking’, no; not standing in front of it. You have to step out of the aesthetic moment, step away from the ‘Art’ itself, to manage a conception of the ‘Artist’ without the piece in question. This is not to say it can’t be done, just that to perform this abstraction one has to ‘stop seeing what is’, and that’s always a risky move.

    I wouldn’t want to say Van Gogh painted “Starry Night” ‘necessarily’. But I would say that once you see “Starry Night,” no concept of Van Gogh is possible without it. So, as strong a promoter of a qualified divine counterfactual re: creation as I may be, I have to admit that aesthetically/theologically speaking, I can’t imagine God not having created. And if I do manage the abstraction, I’m not longer seeing God see me, no longer mystically contemplating God.

    Tom

    Like

    • Tom says:

      Last sentence correction: “…no longer seeing…” Typos are not aesthetically allowable.

      Like

    • Myshkin says:

      Your comment is so satisfying, especially this:

      “I can’t imagine God not having created. And if I do manage the abstraction, I’m no longer seeing God see me, no longer mystically contemplating God.”

      Amen and amen

      Like

  9. Myshkin says:

    2 thoughts
    the first from the book of Wisdom, for you Papists out there, yes, the one from today:

    But you spare all things, because they are yours, O LORD and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things!

    Second thought: if universalism isn’t true the Omega part of Alpha and Omega is ghastly. Essentially, He created you in hell ( the moments in time between conception and death are only for you and me, for He inhabits the moment of your conception at the same instant He inhabits your damnation).

    What good is a love like that just because I might be saved. A hideous love, whether I’m saved or damned.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. John Grinnell says:

    We can largely thank the Dominicans for the Spanish and other Inquisitions

    Like

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