Gathering a few lines here and there from key previous posts, here are a few basics as I’ve come to embrace and in light of which I strive to live. As I transition out of MN and to a new life in CA, I’ve been trying to boil down some of our more important lessons here. Most of what Dwayne and I explore here can be reduced to one or more of these basic convictions. I don’t know why theologians feel it necessary to say things in Latin, but I’m sure the Latin of some of these phrases is horrible. Feel free to offer corrections!
God’s beauty is his beatitude – dei pulchritudo eius est beatitudo
God is the Beautiful, and that beauty is an experienced beatitude. Nothing outside of God makes him beautiful. He doesn’t derive his beauty from anything outside his own self-relations. If he’s the transcendent ground of ‘beauty’, nothing other than his own experience of himself (Father, Son, and Spirit) can be that which makes God beautiful, and that beauty is the experienced fullness of trinitarian love.
God’s beatitude is the summum bonum – beatitudo dei est summum bonum
The beauty of God which is his beatitude is itself the summum bonum (the ‘highest good’ or ‘supreme value’) and that from which all created experiences derive their value. This, we think, yields what we take to be a metaphysical rule: the greatest value in the universe is the greatest beatitude. All value is aesthetic value. God’s value is just the sheer beatitude of his triune experience. And an infinite value would be an infinite(ly intense) experience of beatitude. If I were pressed for a definition of apatheia as I understand and employ it, I’d say it is just the infinite value of the beatitude of God’s triune experience.
Creation from nothing – creatio ex nihilo
God creates freely and gratuitously.
Incarnation or nothing at all – incarnatione aut nihil
God either creates to bring all he creates to fulfillment in/through Incarnation, or he doesn’t create at all. Varieties of creation or created distinctions don’t constitute a range of options God chooses between. They are all potentialities inherent in the capacities and dispositions God breathes into his one determination to create for Incarnation. It should then be impossible not just to speak of this creation apart from Incarnation/Christology, but to speak of God’s creating at all apart from the intention to incarnate. Indeed, I’m suggesting that all possibilities for creation derive from and return to the one possibility of Incarnation. In the end, there is only one possible world to create—an initial state suitably fitted and sustained for the emergence of sentient-hypostatic/personal life for the sole purpose of Incarnation.
Living from nothing – vita ex nihilo
We want to mean something, to be something permanent. That’s our ‘natural’ will/desire at work. But for passibilist believers, this natural desire precedes rather than follows the truth that grounds it, and when that happens we misconstrue our ‘meaning’ as the difference we make to God rather than the difference God makes to us and so misinterpret our God-given desire to make-meaning. We may recognize that we “live and move and have our being in God” (Acts 17.28), but we live by construing our fullest meaning otherwise, partly at least, as the sense or measure in which God lives and moves and has his being in us. So to be in the presence of a beauty and delight that doesn’t need us, that isn’t improved upon or completed by us, ends up being viewed by passibilists not as the fulfillment of desire but as its denial and so as a kind of torment.
God wills our improvisation – deus vult nos improvisus
If the logoi of created beings can be analogously understood, then the divine will ends in defining the ‘scope’ without prescribing or determining the actual creative expressive ‘form’ which Truth, Beauty, and Goodness take in us—as us. But this means, I believe, that God’s will in sustaining creation as such embraces created improvisation on our part, which means—I’m afraid to utter it—the divine will (viz., logoi) is given to us to improvise upon. I mean, if you want to retain mystery, there you are. The endless possibilities are God’s, their final arrangement is ours. But if this is his will, then it seems to me that the mode of God’s knowing creation would reflect the mode of his willing; that is, God would know the improvisational form which divine logoi finally take in us as a knowledge of form ‘apprehended’ or ‘received’ and not only a knowledge of created being as ‘given’. What the world gives to God is what it gives back to God in improvisation upon and within the grace of being.