Greg on divine aesthetic expression

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Alan’s reply in the comments section of the preceding post (check ‘em out) sent me back to Trinity & Process to find a couple relevant passages which I thought would be a good place to start exploring. Anticipating precisely the discussion we’re having, in Ch 3, Greg (Boyd) writes:

We will do well to immediately forestall an obvious objection from a theistic perspective to our argument, an argument which is frequently employed by Process theologians in support of their position. This will not only remove one obstacle from our subsequent reconstruction of Hartshorne’s doctrine of God, but will further lay the groundwork for this reconstruction by articulating the relationship which we perceive to exist between this supposed unsurpassable divine instance of aesthetic enjoyment and the infinite compossibilities of finite relations.

The objection is this: it seems that if God is eternally characterized within Godself as an unsurpassable instance of aesthetic enjoyment, then the infinite compossibility of finite relations can mean nothing to God. It seems that if “God can be neither increased nor diminished by what we do,” then “our action, like our suffering, must be in the strictest sense wholly indifferent to him.” It seems that if we do not increase God’s enjoyment, then all talk about “serving God” is meaningless and “our existence is idle.” In short, it may seem that either our existences increase the value of God’s experience, or our existences are of no value to God.

In response, I believe a distinction can be made between the “subjective intensity” of an aesthetic experience and its “objective expression.” To attempt to make this distinction clear, we might return to our earlier example of listening to a symphony. Though the intensity of one’s enjoyment of a symphony does not increase once the acme of his or her possible aesthetic satisfaction has been attained, this does not render the remainder of the symphony unimportant. Rather, each changing harmonic progression continues to be enjoyed because of the continuance of novel variations it expresses. The aesthetic satisfaction of the listener under ideal conditions is constant (assuming that the acme has been attained and is sustained), but the occasion for its expression and enjoyment is changing—and indeed can, hypothetically, have an infinite variety of forms.

Perhaps an analogy which is more helpful in picturing the relationship between aesthetic satisfaction and aesthetic expression in God is that of an ideal artist. We may conceive of a factitious “ideal” artist who always accomplishes works of art so perfect that her aesthetic satisfaction in response to them is always unsurpassably intense. But this perfection, it seems, would in no way imply that all of her works after her first in which her zenith of aesthetic satisfaction was first attained had to be unimportant to her. They would be important, though not as objects to improve her ideal aesthetic satisfaction. Rather, they are valuable to her as novel expressions of this ideal enjoyment.

Why, one might ask, would such an artist want to arrive at a new expression of her aesthetic enjoyment if it was already ideal (assuming that this ideal artist would naturally sustain this ideal intensity without further works to produce it)? Would not her first ideal work suffice? Does not the production of new works signify that she is aiming at more intense satisfaction? And by analogy, does not the creation of the non-divine world signify that the divine artist is aiming at a more intense satisfaction? Why would God create the world if God had already (eternally) attained an unsurpassable aesthetic satisfaction within Godself?

This answer is, I believe, implicit in Hartshorne and Whitehead’s own views of beauty: the spontaneous expression of an aesthetic intensity is an end in itself. It needs no further justification. Fundamental to Process thought—and many other aesthetic theories as well—is the conviction that beauty is the one aim which by its nature is self-justifying. Indeed, as Kant, von Schiller, Valery and many others have recognized, aesthetic satisfaction is distinctly aesthetic precisely because it is wholly non-utilitarian: it is “purposiveness without purpose,” spieltrieb, a “drive-to-play.” If this is so, then it would seem that the on-going expression of an ideal aesthetic intensity would need no further purpose to explain it or justify it. Our ideal artist would, therefore, enjoy a variety of ways of re-expressing her aesthetic delight, even though these novel re-expressions could only re-express, and not increase, this delight.

We may state the matter in a different way, this time in the light of our previously articulated dispositional ontology. Our ideal artist is essentially constituted by the disposition to produce and enjoy with an unsurpassable intensity artistic works. But dispositions, we have argued with Hare and Madden, are not exhausted by their exercise. They are abiding orders of creativity, particularized laws of actualization, structured proclivities of being in its movement from possibility to actuality, and they remain (or at least may remain) even after any given instance of their exercising. What is more, dispositions, aesthetically understood, do not necessitate only one possible outcome. Spontaneity, we have argued for a number of reasons, is an inherent aspect of things.

This being the case, we can I believe, now understand why our ideal artist would be motivated to re-express her aesthetic aim and enjoy her aesthetic satisfaction in novel ways, though none of these ways increases the intensity of her (already unsurpassable) satisfaction. Her essential self is defined (at least in part) as a creative becoming towards an aesthetic satisfaction, and the reality of this self-defining law of concrescence abides so long as she exists. Her enduring self-identity, her “essence,” is thus defined by a futurity of creativity, and her actuality is defined at any given moment (at least in part) by an unsurpassable intensity of satisfaction resulting from this creativity. Thus, this hypothetical artist cannot but create, and she cannot but enjoy with maximal intensity her creativity, though the precise way she creates and enjoys it is in part spontaneously generated.

Her definitional disposition is an end in itself. Correlatively, the creative variety this disposition generates is an end in itself. And, again correlatively, her unsurpassable enjoyment of what her dispositional essence creatively produces is an end in itself. It is all beautiful, and is, as such, its own reason for being. And if Whitehead and Hartshorne are correct about this, we are all something like this ideal artist in every action we perform—and so is God.

Our distinction between the “subjective intensity” and “objective expression,” between the enjoyment of beauty which admits of a zenith, and the expression of beauty which does not, shall play an extremely crucial role in our reconstruction of Harshorne’s view of God. Along with our previous modifications of Hartshorne’s view of what is and is not a priori, this modification of Hartshorne’s system allows us to conceive of God as essentially constituted by an unsurpassable aesthetic experience of God’s own self-relationality. Like our ideal artist, we shall, on the basis of this distinction, argue that God is best conceived of as being at once unsurpassable in God’s definitional aesthetic disposition and actual eternal enjoyment of what this disposition produces within Godself, and yet as being essentially (though not necessarily) interested in, appreciate of, and involved in the creation, preservation, and ultimate salvation of the non-divine world. For this world, we shall argue, is destined to express ad extra, the eternal beauty and joy which characterizes the triune beauty of God ad intra.

We shall, in short, utilize the modification of Hartshorne’s foundational statements, combined with his theistic arguments, to arrive at a view of God which accomplishes what the classical view of God as actus purus accomplished—seeing God as self-sufficient, and thus creation and salvation as acts of grace—while yet avoiding the logical fallacies of the classical view and articulating a view of God which is, like the Process view, in accord with the dynamic categories of modernity.

Then again in Ch 6 (on “Moral and Aesthetic Arguments”), Greg writes:

If God is, as the theistic arguments all attempt to demonstrate, a being “greater than which none other can be conceived,” and if, as Hartshorne has argued, beauty is inherent in the idea of existence itself, then the unsurpassable reality of God must be an unsurpassable experience of beauty. What this means for the supposition that the unsurpassable reality is internally related and self-sufficient is that a) this internal relationality must be most fundamentally defined as an experience of beauty, and b) this experience of beauty must be utterly unsurpassable.

Yet, if God is to be genuinely related to the creation, this beauty must not be “closed in” upon itself. It must be encompassing of the world’s contingent beauty, and thus must be itself contingent in some respects. How then is the world not eternal? And how is God’s beauty not increased by God’s experience of the world?

Our previously argued distinction between the intensity of an aesthetic experience and the quantity of contrasts synthesized in an aesthetic experience renders these implications intelligible and explains their concomitant difficulties. God’s essential and necessary existence is, on this scheme, most basically defined by the unsurpassable intensity of aesthetic enjoyment which characterizes the triune sociality of God. God experiences Godself with an intensity which can under no circumstances conceivably be improved upon. As with Hartshorne, we are here most fundamentally defining God’s transcendence in terms of God’s aesthetic satisfaction.

But against Hartshorne we are also affirming that this aesthetic satisfaction is the same whether or not there is a non-divine world for God to enjoy. God is no “greater” for fellowshipping with the world, for it is God’s fellowship with Godself, not the world, which constitutes and characterizes the necessary unsurpassability of God’s aesthetic satisfaction. God’s gracious fellowship with the non-divine world simply expresses this primordial eternal fellowship.

To use Whitehead’s terminology, it is the “perfection of Subjective Form” defined in terms of “strength” (viz., intensity) which defines God as God ad intra. It is this qualitative category which expresses the necessary perfection of God. But, pace Whitehead, this God-defining intensity is not dependent on the “comparative magnitude” or “massiveness” of what is experienced. It is only Hartshorne’s (and Whitehead’s) insistence that the “perfection” of God must be defined quantitatively— which is itself derivative from their theory of aesthetic satisfaction—which prevents Hartshorne from seeing God’s aesthetic self-definition as being absolute in the same sense as is God’s ethical self-definition.

Once the necessary actuality and aesthetic perfection of God is understood in qualitative terms—once the “subjective form” of God is understood as the necessary unsurpassable intensity of an internally related sociality—the absoluteness and self-sufficiency of God can be asserted apart from any non-divine world. Does this then mean that the multiplicity of the non-divine world which God experiences means nothing to God? We have already seen that this does not follow. It is only Hartshorne’s belief that “intensity” and “massiveness” are necessarily correlated which leads him to suppose that (say) a work of art must be constitutive of an artist’s experience for the work to be genuinely related to, and significant to, that artist. Hence, too, the world, in his view, must be a constituent of God for the world to “matter” to God.

In contrast to this, however, we have maintained that a work of art can be significant to an artist not as a constituent of the artist’s experience, but as an expression of it. If the artist, under ideal conditions, has attained a zenith of his or her ability to intensely experience beauty, then it is as an expression of aesthetic intensity that the work will be experienced. The work cannot constitute an increase in the intensity of the hypothetical artist: it rather constitutes the occasion for the expression of the unsurpassable intensity which is already present.

So we may, I believe, conceive of God’s relationship to the world. Since God has freely chosen to actualize God’s potentiality to be Creator of a non-divine world, God can create and appreciate the aesthetic value (and hence the moral value) of a non-divine world. The world becomes part of God’s concrete contingent experience, and is, in this sense, constitutive of God. To this extent we side with Hartshorne over and against the classical tradition.

But, we further hold, this God-defining zenith of aesthetic intensity has been constituted in the triune sociality of God from eternity. This is necessary, and as such it is neither increased nor diminished by the contingent and temporal affairs of the world. Rather, God’s experience of the contingent world—indeed, the entirety of God’s “contingent pole”—serves to express the eternal divine intensity of God’s triune self-experience.

Hence, God enjoys the world—the world “means something” to God—not as an essential element in God’s necessary self-constitution, but as an expression of God’s self-constitution. The world provides a new occasion for the unsurpassable beauty of God, defined in terms of divine intensity, to be expressed and in a sense “repeated” in a novel form.

The entire process of the contingent, temporal order, then, can be said to be constituted by God’s aim at expressing Godself—the infinite delight of the triune sociality—ad extra. Since God’s deity-defining intensity of aesthetic satisfaction is infinite, the potential for expressing this delightful beauty is inexhaustible.

Hartshorne rightly argues that the possibilities for finite harmonies have no upper limit. But the endlessness of these possibilities does not necessitate the endless increase of the intensity of God’s self-defining experience: it rather necessitates the inexhaustible richness of the contingent ways in which God can express this One’s unsurpassing intensity. An eternity of progress shall not exhaust it.

Does this view that God is eternally and unsurpassably “satisfied” within God’s eternal triune sociality imply that God does not partake in the suffering of the world? Is the portrait of God we have here painted a view of God as insensitively independent in God’s own self-contentment? If God’s self-experience is unsurpassably intense, regardless of the state of the world’s state of affairs, is not the “virtuous mutability” of God undermined? Are we not back in the position of God as actus purus? I do not believe so.

In chapter IV, we utilized the analogy of an experiential subject who was composed of actual occasions with differing “specious presents” to argue that a subject—viz., God—could be both actually necessary and actually contingent in differing respects. Against Process thought, God’s absoluteness need not be only abstract. And against the classical tradition, it being perfect and actual need not rule out it also having contingent elements. We may now expand upon this in addressing this present issue of the relationship between God’s eternal satisfaction and temporal suffering.

There is, it seems, no contradiction in maintaining that a being can be self-content on one level, and yet suffer at another. For example, a person need not sacrifice their self-love, their contentment with who they are, their own internal “fullness of life” in order to genuinely enter into the sufferings of another. Indeed, it seems that the person who enters into the sufferings of others with a sense of internal fullness is in a better position to genuinely enter into these sufferings than one who lacks such “fullness.”

To speak more specifically, a person who suffers for another because she needs the other—e.g., needs this other to make her “feel good” about herself, to feel loved and needed, etc.—is more inclined to yet have herself as the object of concern, and thus more inclined to be, to that extent, shut off to the real needs of the other. In contrast, one who enters into solidarity with a sufferer but who is self-content, who loves herself, who possesses an internal fullness which is not destroyed by the suffering, is free to have the sufferer as the sole object of her concern. She is free, in a sense, to “forget herself” in devotion to another.

In the case of the former person, one who “needs” the other to arrive at her self-love, the act of entering into solidarity with a sufferer is an expression of her deficiency. In the case of the latter person however, the act of entering into solidarity with a sufferer is an expression of her wholeness. And the more whole she is, the more perfectly she can suffer with and for the other.

There are, of course, millions of humans who hold to a superficial form of self-contentment to the exclusion of, or even at the expense of, others’ happiness. In fact, the instances of an opposite disposition are unfortunately rare. The prevalence of this attitude, especially in first world countries, is no doubt one of the reasons why we have such difficulty in seeing God as being both eternally self-satisfied and also temporally self-abased. But, as we have argued, there is no necessary connection between self-contentment and insensitivity.

We may, then, conceive of God as one who is both unsurpassably self-content in God’s essential sociality, while being, at the same time, fully incarnated in the sin and suffering of the world in God’s expressive sociality. Indeed, implied in what we have argued thus far is the supposition that God is free to enter into and redeem the sufferings of the world fully precisely because God is eternally self-sufficient within Godself.

Greg’s distinction between “subjective intensity” and “objective expression” of an aesthetic satisfaction is interesting. I understand what’s being said. I may need more time to appreciate it. I have a few ideas that make it plausible to me, but I’ll leave it there for now and invite Dwayne and others to comment on the distinction.

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The difference God makes

image002We’d like at this point to begin summarizing a response to Alan’s proposal. Bits and pieces of our responses are found throughout the comments section on Alan’s post, but we’d like to begin consolidating our thoughts here. To begin with points of agreement, however, Alan’s Anselmian intuition, affirmation of creation ex nihilo (CEN), and Creel’s distinction between “impassible in nature but passible in knowledge” (though a bit convoluted in its construction) all seem right to us. But as discussion there revealed, the differences between us and Alan converge on his differential preference thesis which states (via the open view) that God prefers some outcomes over others and that outcomes in turn thus make a difference to God by affecting the felt quality of his experience. God feels differently given what occurs.

Our response has almost entirely to do with how this differential preference thesis is conceived. We don’t disagree that God prefers good outcomes over evil ones, or that we ‘mean something’ to God or ‘make a difference’ to God. Not only would denying this much contradict values open theists want to embrace, but it would fail as recognizably Christian in our view. But how this difference is best conceived in aesthetic terms (given other Anselmian intuitions we follow with Boyd’s Trinity & Process) is the question we’d explore. We’d disagree with an account of it that essentially describes God’s beatitude as the difference of an equation, i.e, preferred outcomes minus dispreferred outcomes = how happy God is.

At this point, then, we’ll begin with a first observation in response to Alan.

Aesthetic Value as transcendental a priori. The first and perhaps most important point for us is the notion that God is the transcendentals (which are, per definition, indivisible and mutually imply one another). Traditionally the transcendentals are held to be Truth, Beauty and Goodness. Others are contended for in addition. Hart advocates for Consciousness. Whitehead/Hartshorne (and Greg) argue for Aesthetic Value (as well as Relationality and Perspectivity). But even if Consciousness and Aesthetic Value are not recognized explicitly as transcendentals alongside Truth, Beauty and Goodness, they are nevertheless fully implied in the traditional three. Truth, Beauty and Goodness are inconceivable apart from some conscious experience of aesthetic value. There is no truth apart from an act of knowing, no goodness apart from some act of willing, no beauty apart from experienced beatitude or aesthetic appreciation. Greg sorts through the reasoning in his appropriation of Hartshorne’s aesthetic a priori in Trinity & Process.

The relevant question here has to do with the nature of God’s experience of aesthetic value as the transcendental ground of all valuation and aesthetic pleasure within creation. And the question seems to be, can it be the case that (the transcendentals in general, or) the transcendental of aesthetic value in particular (that divine experience of aesthetic value which grounds and establishes the value of all created valuations) suffer negation (depreciation or diminishment) as Alan is proposing? If we’re talking transcendentals, then it seems to us the answer is no. We attempted to approach this earlier (beginning here) by identifying God’s experience of beatitude as the summum bonum. Indeed, it seems to us (following Boyd) that apart from some such unchanging experience of value as the ground of all other valuations, those valuations (or ‘differential preferences’) simply never get off the ground. Without some summum bonum as ultimate ground and end of all finite ends, finite acts of valuing this or that end are relative and irrational. As we see it, you need something like an immutable, transcendent experience of beauty (God as summum bonum) to explain created experiences of beauty/value at all. As transcendental, God’s experience of aesthetic value is the antecedent necessary actuality which, to use Process categories, prescribes the divine subjective aim for all actual occasions.

Our essential difference with Alan, then, has to do with what is best thought to be involved in God’s trinitarian experience of beatitude, an experience we think (a) best explains what it is about God that makes his creating at all gratuitous and (b) grounds and prescribes the scope of beauty achievable/instantiable by finite subjects. Alan’s “unalloyed” experience of beatitude expresses it very well, but where (following Greg) we think (a) and (b) are best explained by the necessary character of such beatitude, Alan feels our meaning and significance to God can only be explained by its contingent character (that is, if this divine experience is vulnerable to increase and depreciation as part of God’s intending a benevolent relationship with an open and free creation).

That said, Alan does grant that though God’s antecedent intra-trinitarian undisturbed bliss can be made perturbable (vulnerable to diminishment and improvement), this depreciation/disappointment may be no more than “a drop in an infinite ocean of joy.” The metaphor is worth exploring, because even on Alan’s view this “ocean of joy” isn’t just the sum total of the world’s preferred outcomes experienced by God. God is his own (triune) source of delight. He experiences the world’s preferred and dispreferred outcomes within the scope of his own transcendental perspective on himself as Truth, Beauty, Goodness, and Aesthetic Value. It is this which is the “infinite ocean of joy” into which drops of disappointment descend. Our point is, Alan’s proposal involves the relativizing of created goods and evils within the scope of this triune perspective. Such relativization is what accounts for our deepest pains being, for God and within his own perspective, a drop of disappointment in an infinite ocean of joy. The analogy is worth thinking on long and hard.

True, the challenge for Dwayne and me is to find an acceptable way to ground our (even relative) meaning to God in something which is neither an appreciation nor a depreciating of that essential divine experience which is the transcendental of Aesthetic Value. Tough job. But we love it!

We’ll stop here for now. In an upcoming post we’ll comment on the ad intra/ad extra distinction that Greg uses to explain how it is the world means something, or makes a difference, to God, as well as try to describe differential preferences which needn’t involved depreciation of experienced value.

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The difference that a difference makes

make-a-differenceLet us say again how much we appreciate Alan’s recently proposed settlement for open theists on the (im)passibilist question. Alan is a wonderfully astute thinker and we’re grateful to be challenged by him to rethink through things. You can read his post and the conversation that followed at Alan’s blog.

Alan stretches the options out along a continuum with impassibilism on one end (which he defines as the thesis that we make “no difference” to God). On the other end of the continuum is a “strong passibilism” so thoroughly definitive of God’s experience that God is “functionally impaired,” essentially overwhelmed by debilitating emotions. Alan’s solution is the space occupied between these two extreme positions. We “make a difference” to God such that preferred outcomes constitute some improvement upon the felt quality of God’s experience while dispreferred outcomes constitute some depreciation (as “disappointment”) of the felt quality of God’s experience without God being functionally impaired. That is, God “feels differently depending on what happens” but this makes no functional difference to God. God’s triune bliss sans creation is perfectly “unalloyed” but contingent since God is free, should he wish, to make himself vulnerable to aesthetic depreciation and improvement in response to the world. This depreciation and improvement in the aesthetic (felt) quality of God’s experience is the ‘difference’ we make to God.

Finally, Alan grants that this ‘difference’ may be “infinitesimal” (“a drop of disappointment in an infinite ocean of joy”). Now, for the record, TC rejected this outright, arguing that it is not enough that we make only an infinitesimal difference to God. And to further express his confusion of the conversation, TC goes on to criticize Dwayne and me for “arguing with Rhoda” over our making even an infinitesimal difference to God, as if TC agrees with Alan (which he doesn’t). But Dwayne and I are in a far better position than TC to accommodate Alan on this point. In fact, for the sake of establishing a position open theists could agree upon, we’re fine with it being the case that God’s passibilism is compatible with the world’s being relativized “like a drop of disappointment in an ocean of joy,” i.e., that we make an infinitesimal difference to God’s aesthetic experience. If that would satisfy TC, let’s just go with that. But TC (not us) won’t have it.

Lastly, though we’d be willing to agree to Alan’s conclusion in this respect, we have problems with how he gets there. We’d disagree over the nature of God’s aesthetic experience and with what it is about God that relativizes worldly sufferings infinitesimally. Exactly what is God’s “infinite ocean of joy”? What constitutes its infinitude? How does Alan imagine this aesthetic infinitude to be contingent so that it is vulnerable to negation by us? There are important questions we’d love to hear Alan engage.  In an upcoming post we’ll try to specify what we think is problematic about Alan’s position.

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Like two ships…

il_570xN.192186301TC Moore was recently in San Diego for the AAR’s annual meeting and at its Open and Relational Theologies Group shared some excellent thoughts on the importance and role of the web and its relationship to open theism’s development and dissemination. TC has a great feel for the web’s role in marketing ideas and networking people and offers good advice for open theists in this regard. All good stuff.

However, TC’s web design skills aren’t the only reason we’re writing. In a paragraph lamenting the “dark side” of open theism’s emergence into the world wide web, TC notes the fragmentation of open theism that’s accompanied an increasing number of online discussion forums and personal blogs promoting diverse views. One lamentable fragmentation among open theists he laments is Dwayne and I:

“And in recent months, two well-known Open theists have even mounted a campaign to merge their version of Open theism with Eastern Orthodoxy, in an attempt to construct a theological compromise that Classical theists will deem ‘legitimate.’ This quest for respectability in Classical theist circles has led these self-professed Open theists to re-embrace the doctrine of impassibility that Open theists were rejecting long before 1994! The Web has had a double-edge sword effect on Open theism. While it has been leveraged to build a vibrant community online, it has also contributed to Open theism’s dilution and disintegration.”

My biggest surprise in this was not that TC was still popularizing the mistaken notion that Dwayne and I are after whatever respectability Orthodoxy’s legitimization of our open theism would give us (a ridiculous thought when you think about it), but that anybody thought Dwayne and I were “well-known.” With our teeming hordes of 25 to 30 visitors a day here and our virtual disappearance from the Facebook scene, we’re hardly well-known. But it’s nice to know somebody thinks otherwise!

Let us assure open theists that they have nothing to fear from Dwayne and me. If anything, they may want rather to be concerned about a perspective that views an honest and intentional search for truth like ours (whatever it is and wherever it takes us) as dark and threatening. If Dwayne and I were Muslims or Arians, TC might celebrate our open theism as an example of its diversity and broad appeal. But unfortunately we’re neither or those.

So in the interest of clarifying for conscientious readers, let us (again) correct TC on these issues:

First, we have zero interest in or expectation of ever affecting anything like the sort of “merger” of open theism and Eastern Orthodoxy that TC attributes to us. There’s no question that such a merger is impossible, and Dwayne and I have never “campaigned” for such a thing. All we set out to do here is explore a conversation between the two in the hope of situating open theism’s core claims within the core claims of historic, Trinitarian, Nicene Christianity. And all we intend this conversation to do is to get open theists to listen (certainly more carefully than they have at the popular level) to the Tradition as well as ask those on the Orthodox side to listen in and contribute. But there’s no “merger” in the works and none (least of all Dwayne and I) believes such a thing to be possible. Truth be told, so far as our stated goal of inspiring a conversation between open theists and the Orthodox is concerned, our blog has pretty much been a colossal flop. But Dwayne and I are learning, growing and are more deeply in love with Christ and transformed by him than we were 18 months ago. As far as we can tell, our journey here has had something to do with that, so we’ll likely keep this one-horse blog going and hope it won’t cause TC (and God) too much suffering.

Secondly, TC still insists on believing that the reason for our project here is our desire for legitimacy and respectability. That is, we seek to be legitimized by classical theists for the sense of respectability such recognition will afford us. It seems we just can’t live without their approval. This is, of course, pure fabrication on TC’s part, and it’s not like we haven’t explicitly corrected him on it before. He just prefers to believe it. But to anyone who understands the Orthodox and has actually listened to what we’ve been saying here (our disagreements and criticisms of classical theism as well as agreements), the notion that the Orthodox would legitimize or otherwise approve of Dwayne and me or our open theism is beyond ridiculous. Dwayne and I have certainly never entertained such a hope. We were explicit on this from the start. “We are by no means admissibly Orthodox,” were the first words out of our mouth here, and we made it equally clear that we knew our Orthodox friends would doubtless dismiss our views as heterodox, and so they have. But none of this phases TC’s forward march to misrepresent.

What are we about here? What motivates us? TC has but to ask (or read). As stated in our first posts, we’re interested in…

“…exploring the relationship between open theism and Eastern Orthodox theology. We wonder what would come of a conversation between the two. So we aim to clarify open theism’s theological values, define its core claims and convictions, establish its diversities, and situate it relative to the values, experience and vision of the ancient Eastern Fathers. It’s our conviction that both can learn something from the other.”

TC thinks this threatens open theism’s purity and community.

Lastly then, what of our “impassibility”? Well, the specific doctrine of impassibility rejected by The Openness of God bears little resemblance to our own belief, contrary to TC. We equally reject impassibility as it’s envisioned there. But if I follow the presentations of Rice, Sanders and Basinger at last month’s AAR meeting correctly, The Openness of God was the beginning and not the end of a conversation. Even John Sanders (and we don’t pretend that he holds our view on this, but nevertheless he) later qualified his own original mishandling of what the Orthodox doctrine(s) of apatheia (he notes there was no ‘one’ classical view on it) actually was and accommodated a change in perspective he was comfortable making after reading Gavrilyuk.

And what of Boyd’s advocacy of God’s essential “unsurpassable aesthetic satisfaction” in Trinity & Process? Was he not an open theist when he wrote his dissertation? He was. So why the utter silence from TC (and others) on something as substantial as a PhD dissertation written on this very issue from an open theist perspective? Is anybody ever going to actually engage Greg’s arguments point for point or are we going to continue to complain about Dwayne and me (two nobody’s) from the sidelines?

Dwayne and I don’t espouse “the” (or even “a”) classical doctrine of impassibility because we don’t espouse a timeless actus purus view of God void of all potentiality or a classical view on divine simplicity, and as anyone who understands these classical doctrines knows, there’s no merger to be had between those who disagree on impassibility as classically understood and what it is Dwayne and I advocate. And we never pretended otherwise. But TC doesn’t seem interested in understanding with any real appreciation what it is we believe or even are trying to express (as poorly as we do). He only sees us as an example of the “dark side” of open theism’s emergence into to world wide web. But in the end, TC knows that it was Boyd, not any Orthodox believer, who first convinced us of God’s essentially happy disposition. Our views are essentially those of Greg’s in Trinity & Process, not Plotinus’ Enneads.

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