Do the quotes from Trinity & Process (TP) in the previous post describe a view of the triune persons and their relations compatible with Kenoticism? Can it be the case on the one hand that the divine persons necessarily relate in the fullness of mutual love and knowledge (as TP argues) and that the Son voluntarily removes himself from this experience (Kenoticism) on the other hand? Can it be that God’s essential triune ‘existence’ is identical to his essential triune ‘experience’ (as TP argues) on the one hand and that his triune experience ceases (Kenoticism)?
We think not. But it seems Greg presently does. He writes in response to us:
“I believe my thought has deepened since writing [Trinity & Process], but it has not essentially changed. The error I believe [Tom and Dwayne] make in [their] critique is that [they] assume a perfectly loving relationship must exhaustively be defined [as] a moment-by-moment unbroken experience of unity. What I’ve come to believe is that the relational unity of the Trinity is even greater than that [viz., greater than God’s own experience of Godself as Tom and Dwayne suppose] precisely because it is other-oriented and self-sacrificial. [Their] loving unity is so great, it is willing to suspend the ‘experience’ of unity for the other (us) who needs this. Yet because the horrific suspension is entered into out of love, the suspension expresses the most profound unity rather than abolishes it.”
As an analogy, Greg invites us to imagine a perfectly united husband and wife whose kidnapped son could be saved only if the wife enters into a state in which she felt forsaken by her husband. Once reunited with their son, the loving unity of the couple would be “all the more beautiful” because of their experienced separation. And the fact that they agree to experience mutual alienation demonstrates that their loving unity was an other-oriented, self-sacrificial unity as opposed to being a self-centered and self-serving unity. So too, Greg sees the loving unity of the Trinity as “all the greater” precisely because Father, Son and Spirit were willing to temporarily sacrifice their experience of each other for us. For Greg, God experiences his antithesis. Indeed, God becomes his antithesis.
But contrary to Greg’s evaluation, things are indeed essentially different. They’ve essentially changed because his arguments in TP regard what God’s experience is essentially and necessarily — i.e., the triune experience of unsurpassably intense satisfaction. But none of this survives Greg’s present kenotic view of God, as none of what he argues in TP are the necessary features (his ‘definitional disposition to be God’) of God’s essential existence remain necessary in his kenotic view. The eternal Son is instead transformed without remainder into the created finitude of a non-conscious, non-personal, non-experiencing zygote — not a subject of any sort of experience at all. Indeed, Greg is now without any conception of the metaphysical necessity of the divine persons. He simply supposes there is something to God’s triune existence and personal unity which is “greater than” God’s own triune experience and which holds God together.
We don’t know how to call this ‘trinitarian monotheism’ since immediately post-Incarnation there is no person of the Son to speak of. He doesn’t appear on any horizon Greg is willing to identify or even try to describe. He simply supposes:
“There is a relational unity [to] the Trinity which is greater than God’s own experience of it.”
This has to be the most objectionable theological claim we’ve ever heard Greg make. And it does nothing to save this as a genuinely ‘trinitarian monotheism’ to suggest that the cessation of experienced oneness by the triune persons is undertaken freely by the persons, or that it is undertaken out of other-oriented love, or that it is only temporary. How do these facts (being freely chosen, other-oriented, and self-sacrificial) constitute the “greater relational unity” that Greg now believes is the really necessary feature of divine existence in the absence of God’s own experience of it? This contradicts Greg’s conclusion in TP (ch. 6 in his appropriation of Edwards) that the Father’s very perfection is the (definitional) dispositional actuality to know his own ‘Image’ as the Son in unsurpassably satisfying love. If the Father ceases to know his own Image in terms of an experienced and loving unity, then something other than actual, experienced relations accounts for God’s unity. What would this be? What would now constitute, in Greg’s view, God’s abiding disposition to be triune if not God’s triune experience of Godself?
We argue that given Greg’s views in TP, one subject must simultaneously be subject to both the divine experience of unsurpassably intense aesthetic satisfaction and a human experience of surpassably intense aesthetic satisfaction. Greg’s (TP) metaphysics is incompatible with Kenoticism. It is not enough to identify in Jesus’ own embodied experience features one believes qualify his deity and others that constitute his humanity as if the divine definitional disposition to be God is fulfilled by created finitude. Greg’s already argued what sort of experience constitutes divine being (unsurpassable beatitude) and what qualifies as created being (surpassable beatitude). You can’t get an Incarnation of the divine Son with kenoticism.
What of Greg’s analogy of the parents who in love agree to suffer whatever form of temporary estrangement is needed to rescue their son? It’s hard to imagine the parents as “perfectly united” in the first place if their unity is diminishable and in the end “all the greater” and “all the more beautiful” because suffering interrupts it. If it’s “made greater” and “more beautiful” because of suffering a temporary failure, then Greg’s imagining something vastly unlike his previous work, for he has already argued that God’s freedom in creating the world is grounded in the experienced delight of mutually enjoyed relations. The very contingency of the world derives from this. So Greg’s analogy, as emotionally persuasive as it seems, nevertheless begins by assuming what he has elsewhere shown to be impossible, viz., that the experienced enjoyment of the divine persons is contingent and world-dependent.