Creatio ex nihilo

Monreale_creation_earth-Modified
“Creation out of nothing.” I love this doctrine and I think the hope of the gospel requires it, for the gratuity of creation is the grace of the gospel. But, as we’ve argued here a lot, you only get that kind of absolute gratuity (and grace) if God is, correspondingly, absolutely full. So far so good.

But we also think this is true only because the corresponding divine fullness is a concrete, lived, experienced fullness, an existential fullness (to use what words we have). That is, what grounds creation’s gratuity is what God actually is apart from creation (or any determination to create). But such an actuality is ruled out by Protestants and classical theists for whom God isn’t actually anything apart from creating because there is no actual God who has not determined to create. On the Orthodox side this is gotten at by viewing God as absolutely, timelessly immutable (in terms of God’s being actus purus or ‘pure act’). But in this case the freedom and fullness of God’s life independent of creation (which actual freedom ought to ground creation’s own freedom) reduces to mere abstraction. And that’s the problem, because no abstraction has the power to save. On the Protestant side this is gotten at (variously by Jenson or some readings of Barth’s actualism) by barring the door to speculating what God is or isn’t independent of his determination to create.

In making God absolutely timeless and immutable, everything that is ever true of God in relationship to creation is timelessly/eternally true of God, and everything God ever experiences in relationship to creation is timelessly/eternally known to (and thus experienced by) God, in which case God has no experience of himself that doesn’t include us (via his determination to create). For us this poses a real problem, because it forces us (to borrow a phrase from Robert Jenson, though not to engage his related arguments for the same conclusion) to “perform an abstraction upon the living/biblical God.” Jenson doesn’t perform the abstraction. For us, however, the grace of the gospel just is the concrete, lived/experienced fullness of God’s triune being as God, and this grace (in turn) is grounded in the gratuity of creation, which is what CEN is about. But this life is never an actuality for God classically understood, nor as understood by many Protestants who reject classical metaphysics, because in either case God never knows himself without knowing himself as the God determined to create. God has no knowledge of himself, no actual experience of himself as God, in terms of any concrete freedom from the determination to create (which determination is one and the same with creation’s ‘actual being’). In classical theism, the wonderful truth of ‘divine aseity’ (understood as the fullness of God’s triune life sans creation) thus reduces to mere abstraction. There’s no ‘actual’ God who is ever free ‘in his actuality’ from the determination to create. God doesn’t know what it’s like to be God apart from having determined to create. We think this is bad news precisely because it offers us a God who has no experience of being actually free and infinitely full apart from being determined to create us. And what he is not he cannot offer.

One last thought. David Hart (representing the Orthodox tradition) rejects understanding God’s freedom from creation in any crude libertarian manner, conceived as God being free to choose from among a menu of “possible words” given to him. But whatever crudeness needs to be avoided can be avoided without depriving God’s self-sufficient fullness of its actuality as ground of the gratuity of creation and the grace of the gospel. If we need to, let’s not suppose there to be an infinite number of ‘possible worlds’ that God deliberates over to finally settle on this world. Let this world, or the initial created state from which this world evolves, be the only contingent creation conceivable. Fine. Just conceive this one possibility as contingent, grounded in the fullness of God’s life as actual apart from any determination to create. This is no abstraction performed upon the living God. It is the truth of God’s actual freedom and our freedom in God.

(Picture here.)

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98 comments on “Creatio ex nihilo

  1. I had no idea this was a motivation of y’all’s. I truly think it is groundbreaking. Writing a book along this line of thought would be very very strategic, as long as the word “Open Theism” or some synonym is in its title.

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  2. tgbelt says:

    It’s been the ticket the whole time. Greg hits on it in T&P. The torch will have to be carried by Dwayne if he gets around to doing more post-graduate work. At 55, I’m done. ;o)

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  3. Alan Rhoda says:

    Nice post, Tom. I really like your line of reasoning here.

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  4. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    Tom, you know that I disagree with your presentation, so I won’t bore you with my criticisms, which you’ve heard many times before. I do think that you have created a pseudo-problem. The fact that you could write “God doesn’t know what it’s like to be God apart from being determined to create” should alert you that something is wrong with your argument.

    Anyway, I would like to offer one criticism: you have not accurately presented the Orthodox position. Most contemporary Orthodox theologians now think about these matters in terms of the Palamite distinction between the divine essence and divine energies, and the divine energies can hardly be described as “timelessly immutable.” Whatever problems may obtain with the Palamite distinction, it does elegantly avoid the problems (pseudo-problems?) that you raise.

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    • tgbelt says:

      Always thankful for your comments, Fr Aidan. I hope you’ll forgive my slowness, but when you’re able, help me see why “God doesn’t know what it’s like to be God apart from being determined to create” should alert me to something wrong. I think the distinction I made (a common philosophical one; the same one DBH makes in his view of God as actus purus) is fair enough. All I meant by the sentence you quoted is that given the truth of God as actus purus, God’s eternal actuality includes all God ever is and ever does (the ‘ever’ expressing our point of view of course). Hence God is never ‘actually’ without creation and hence he has no experience of himself which is not an experience of himself actually determined to create or actually sustaining the world, etc. Any assertion of God’s freedom from creation cannot describe what God ‘actually’ is; it can only describe what God ‘abstractly’ is (that is, the assertion performs an abstraction upon the actual God). If the essence/energies distinction addresses this or mitigates the implication of actus purus, I’m all ears.

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      • apophaticallyspeaking says:

        Tom,

        Following the essence/energy distinction (more accurately the triadic distinction of essence/energy/hypostatis, but that’s topic for another time) actus purus is not understood to denote an equation of operation with essence. That is a subtle but not unimportant proviso which I think has some relevance to the objection Fr Aidan raises to your statement “God doesn’t know what it’s like to be God apart from being determined to create.”

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      • Tom says:

        “…actus purus is not understood to denote an equation of operation with essence.”

        Thanks apophaticallyspeaking.

        That’s a helpful distinction of course, and one I want to make but in more than purely a conceptual-abstract manner. My point is that once operation is defined as being as eternal/actual as essence, the distinction between the two becomes purely abstract, and that’s a problem (for some) because the operations are supposed to be a free and unnecessary expression of the essence and that freedom and contingency (non-necessity) seem definitionally incompatible with being eternally actual. That God has no knowledge of his own free actuality which is ‘actually free’ from his free operations strikes me as a conclusion we ought to be suspicious of. I’m not sure I even know what it means to say one is free from that which one is never actually free from. ‘Freedom’ has to do with ‘actuality’ (it seems to me). It isn’t a mere abstraction.

        Is there no way to make the distinction between essence and operation in God an ‘actual’ distinction?

        Tom

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      • apophaticallyspeaking says:

        Tom,

        I was unable to reply to your last comment, only able to do it here (a very annoying WP glitch!)

        Not sure I am 100% following you – but will attempt nonetheless. I understand freedom in God (ad intra) to be related to being, not to actuality. That is to say that God is freedom, and as such does not require actuality to obtain it. It is therefore also not an abstraction. It appears that you make the creative act (e.g. actuality) as a necessary predicate for divine self knowledge (e.g. freedom).

        As far as defining operation as “being as eternal/actual as essence” – I am not following you on this.

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      • Tom says:

        “I understand freedom in God (ad intra) to be related to being, not to actuality.”

        Perhaps I’m misunderstanding what these words (actuality, possibility, necessity, contingency) mean. I thought the claim was that God is “actuspurus (pure ‘act’). So you don’t take ‘actus‘ there in the sense of ‘act’ (or ‘actuality’), or even being (if you prefer ‘being’) as pure act, precluding the possibility of any unrealized potentiality in God? I actually (no pun intended!) agree that God ad intra is purely actual. But all I mean by that is that the self-constituting act which is the triune divine being is purely actual. There’s no unrealized potential to that. But in supposing creation to be a free and unnecessary act of God, I take it to be self-expressive (not self-constitutive) of God, which to me just means God’s free determination to create is a movement from potentiality to atuality. I don’t know what it means for creation to be contingent and unnecessary if its contingency doesn’t derive from this movement, and this sort of movement is precluded by ‘actus purus’.

        As for divine self-knowledge, I was rather thinking proponents of actus purus to be making the creative act a necessary predicate for divine self-knowledge (i.e., God never knows himself as anything other than the God determined to create). I specially want to make the creative act a ‘contingent’ predicate of the divine self-knowledge. But if that act is ‘pure act’ (as actus purus maintains) I don’t see how it’s ‘contingent’. The contingency of creation, it seems to me, derives from the contingency of the divine act that brings things to be.

        Tom

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      • apophaticallyspeaking says:

        Hi Tom,

        Yes, I do hold to Actus Purus, in the sense that the divine eternally begets, is begotten and spirates – and that without unrealized potentiality (hence “pure” act) both constitutively and expressively (the Logos, eternal expression). God’s free determination to create is a movement without potentiality as it is wholly unnecessary to divine being or divine expression. Actus Purus does then not preclude a movement in which act is not equated with being.

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      • apophaticallyspeaking says:

        I should restate that last sentence: “Actus Purus does then not preclude a movement in which act is not equated with being,” to “Actus Purus, then, in which actuality is not equated with or reducible to essence (being), does not preclude a movement.”

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      • Tom says:

        Thank you, ApoSpeak. That’s helpful. See my reply to Fr Aidan below.

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      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        ” I thought the claim was that God is “actus” purus (pure ‘act’).”

        You have touched on a possible point of contention between St Thomas Aquinas and Byzantine Eastern theologians. For Aquinas, God simply is the actuality and fullness of Existence (esse), which is why (I think) that the essence/energies distinction makes no sense to Thomists–and vice versa.

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      • Tom says:

        Thanks Fr Aidan,

        Interesting. Now that you mention it, I recall thinking the same thing when reading Bulgakov who criticized actus purus as Aquinas offered it. I thought it strange at the time, but if an Orthodox understanding of actus purus (in the sense ApoSpeak [pardon the abbreviation!]) above describes, then that really sheds light on things. If God is pure act ad intra with respect to his self-constituting triune relations (and beatitude, and goodness, and perfections) but this doesn’t preclude a movement in God from potentiality to actuality with respect to free & contingent self-expressive determinations, then (a) it’s news to me that there’s room for that in Orthodoxy, and (b) I’d love to know more.

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      • apophaticallyspeaking says:

        Tom,

        Important to stress here, following the essence/energies/hypostatis triadic distinction, is that difference, expression, procession, determinancy, actuality, self-knowledge is situated ad intra as infinitely, superabundantly, preeternally,pre-existing, and so we say that God is Trinity. That is also to say the creative act is, then, unnecessary for divine (self-)knowledge, expression, realization, actuality, movement, and thus constitutes as a gift in the truest sense of that word – gratuitous, fortuitous, and I should not forget above all, analogous.

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      • Tom says:

        I really appreciate the clarity! Thanks again.

        “…difference, expression, procession, determinacy, actuality, self-knowledge is situated ad intra as infinitely, superabundantly, pre-eternally, pre-existing….”

        I can get with this, but I think it implies things about God’s knowledge that I’ve not heard Catholic/Orthodox thinkers concede, namely, changing states of mind in God…

        On the one hand, many ‘temporalists’ (even open theists or, more radically, Whitehead himself) believe the perfections of things preexist in God. Whitehead described these divine intentions for things as ‘divine subject aims’ (which arguably roughly parallel the logoi of created things) which defined the scope of creaturely becoming that aims at or inclines toward the realization of its perfections. Point is, yes, those preexist in God. They are, in a real sense, simply creation’s possibilities.

        On the other hand, these possibilities are not convertible in every sense with their actualities (should they be realized). So created ‘actualities’, if known by God, present a challenge for the idea that God’s knowledge never changes in any sense whatsoever. I’ve never heard a proponent of actus purus advocate “changing states of mind” in God with respect to his knowledge of the changing world. (But maybe I don’t get out enough.) Somehow the world in its actualities is eternally present to God in the truth of its actuality, which I think is an impossible thing to suppose given the contingent, created, temporal nature of creation. And maybe that’s where I and the classical view part.

        I was intrigued, however, by Bulgakov’s position (in Bride of the Lamb) regarding God’s knowledge of the world’s temporal contingencies:

        “Let us repeat, all the possibilities of creaturely being, having their roots in the Creator’s knowledge, are open to this knowledge, since they belong to the world created by Him and are included in this world’s composition, not only in the form of ‘integral wisdom’ but also in the form of a distributed multiplicity. In this sense, creation…cannot bring anything ontologically new into this world [Tom: Totally agree]; it cannot surprise or enrich the Creator Himself. But the very choice and creative actualization of these possibilities, that is, the domain of modal freedom, remain entrusted to creation and to this extent are its creative contribution. Although creation cannot be absolutely unexpected and new for God in the ontological sense [Tom: There’s the “On the one hand” above], nevertheless in empirical (‘contingent’) being, it represents a new manifestation for God Himself, who is waiting to see whether man will open or not open the doors of his heart. God Himself will know this only when it happens [Tom: And there’s the “On the other hand” above].

        (https://anopenorthodoxy.wordpress.com/2015/04/02/bulgakov-open-orthodox-father/)

        How comfortable is Orthodoxy with this kind of ‘movement’ in God?

        Tom

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      • apophaticallyspeaking says:

        Tom,

        So comfortable it maintains that One of the Trinity was crucified in the flesh. :p

        It appears you are operating on an univocal ontology of being, This is problematic.

        One must make proper distinction between being and beings. If this is not done, God as a being among beings is apprehended by time, change, knowledge, contingency, etc. In an ontology of analogy, however, similitude is always bracketed by a greater dissimilitude. So, for instance, we don’t hold that God has wisdom as one attribute (among many) possessed by His being as we would ascribe attributes to finite beings. But rather, we affirm that He is Wisdom. And so we hold that He is Knowledge, and that by Him all knowledge temporal or otherwise is made possible and thus present to Him.

        .

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      • Tom says:

        I agree God isn’t a ‘being among beings’, a being who with other beings participates in and so is embraced or apprehended by a single category of ‘being’. God can’t stand in that kind of ‘relation to’ time or being. I’m not convinced, however, this precludes a real change in God of his knowledge with respect to the changing world (in the sense Bulgakov appears to pursue). One doesn’t have to suppose, I don’t think, that with respect to such knowledge ‘time’ or ‘change’ are “apprehending” God who stands in a univocally passive relation to them as we do.

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      • apophaticallyspeaking says:

        Tom,

        I affirm with you a real change in God of his knowledge with respect to the changing world, but this on the outward level of His gift of love, the discourse of God’s love in which we participate (hence an ontology of participation and analogy).This is where Analogia Entis opens an interval of difference and distance, which is simultaneous apophatic and cataphatic discourse of proportion, intelligible but never reducible to complete similarity. One can even affirm, following DBH, that this analogous discourse is itself a movement (!) within God’s infinity opened up by God’s perfect self-expression, the Logos. This movement can be thought of as an infinite context of the Logos in whom all possibilities are contained and in whom all expression is unnecessary and thus free – particularity and difference is not subsumed.

        The bottom line though is, I maintain, that real change -a true “discourse of difference” without resort to determinism- can only be made sensible in an ontology of participation, via analogy, and in the framework of the essence/energy distinction. A distinction in which essence is not understood a static Purus, but eternal movement, eternal difference, eternal movement, of which creation is a proportional correspondence of God.

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      • Tom says:

        Who are you oh masked one?

        😀

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      • Tom says:

        I’d be interested in your take on Bulgakov’s suggestion that since creaturely choice is indeterminate (might be this, might be that) it is not eternally known to God whether ‘this’ or ‘that’ shall be the ‘actual’ world). All possibilities are grounded and known of course, yes. But ‘which particular possibility becomes the actual world‘ is not eternally known.

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  5. formerlyjeff says:

    On https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZTuhme8mwk David Hart claims to believe that the cosmic reality is fallen/damaged in “some sense.” But best I can tell (and I’d love to be corrected), he also has no idea how to flesh that out in terms of real events and real causes of such events. In other words, Hart seems to merely believe that it’s impossible for humans to rule out a theodicy of the species he assumes must exist. He seemingly doesn’t actually commit to any single theodicy of that species as being true.

    Thus, it’s certainly the case for him that a conception of God’s freedom from creation in terms of a divine choice from a menu of possible worlds must seem crude. For if he can’t intelligibly account for the very world he believes he is inhabiting consistently with both what he thinks is evident about natural evil and what he thinks of the Christian view of God’s benevolence, then surely it’s absurd (and therefore crude) to assume he could know there are even more possible worlds God could create.

    But I would go further. I would say we can’t ever know that God would ever create a world with different initial conditions than the one we inhabit. But any such world could have many different histories due to free-will. I don’t even see how an Anselmian ontological approach could get us to the “menu” view. How could we know such a “menu” exists without knowing how the options on the menu correspond to God’s motivational capacities? And what does an Anselmian approach tell us about God’s motivational capacities that accounts for such a menu?

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    • tgbelt says:

      Hi Jeff,

      I think Hart would offer two objections to the idea that God deliberates through a menu of choices, weighing the options and then preferring this or that option. First, his belief in God as (timelessly) actus purus itself makes such discursive deliberation impossible. Secondly (and the reason for believing the first), the idea that there would be ‘preferred’ state God had not actualized is difficult for Hart to imagine. If he prefers to create over not creating, wouldn’t he’d always have preferred it since nothing about God’s pre-creational life would account for his not having always maximized every possible good? His basic conviction is that a necessary summum bonum can’t have any unrealized potentialities — thus, actus purus.

      I think there are some objections to make to this. I agree with Hart that a necessary God who is a summum bonum can’t have any unrealized self-constituting potentialities. That is (going with Trinitarianism), the necessary triune actualities a) can’t be contingent and b) have to constitute an existential reality in some manner of the world. But it doesn’t follow that from this God can’t have unrealized self-expressive potentialities, contingent forms of creative self-expression which are expressive of, not constitutive of, God. But I’m guessing Hart would think this violates divine simplicity.

      Hart’s basic theodicy is best expressed in his The Doors of the Sea (about the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami). Read it? He doesn’t bother much with imagining complicated scenarios re: providence. As far as I can tell, his theodicy is basically the combination of divine benevolence, divine apatheia, libertarian free will for humans, Incarnation and some sort of universal hope that renders all worldly suffering comparably meaningless for all.

      I agree it’s difficult to know what the case is re: ‘possible worlds’ (or initial states). My own view is that God’s being the summum bonum defines what kinds of worlds are possible, and given the unconditionally benevolent nature of God, no world is possible that is not loved and purposed for loving union with God. So God may contingently express himself via creation, but he’s still the necessary God in relationship to that expression. So that pretty much narrows the possibilities for me. There may be an infinite number of forms ‘created sentience’ could have taken (perhaps different physical laws would make a very different looking context), but all those variations could be left up to created powers to evolve on their own while the fundamental KIND of world God either creates or doesn’t is one of sentient creatures endowed with freedom to enjoy and express contingently the love and beauty God is. I don’t really think there are any different KINDS of worlds on the menu. So to that extent I agree with Hart — God doesn’t contemplate a menu of infinite kinds of worlds and just end up ‘preferring’ one over the other IN ADDITION TO preferring to create at all over not creating. It’s either create this kind of world (i.e., one invited into loving union with God through Incarnation) or not create at all. But I still disagree with you, of course (:P) that this latter choice must be the product of a libertarian deliberation involving the sort of ‘competing preferences’ characteristic of libertarian choices.

      Tom

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      • formerlyjeff says:

        Thanks for the response, Tom.

        If you listen to that video I linked to, Hart at that time seemed to agree that the cosmic reality must be in some sense damaged/fallen. And I think he’s being completely rational in thinking that. For as he goes on to say therein, the world as it is doesn’t reflect the ends of God if God is benevolent in the way many theists think God is. Of course, that video may have preceded the book you’re talking about, and he may have changed his mind.

        But the whole idea of ends brings up the issue of libertarian free-will that you mention. Best I can tell, to intentionally allocate one’s conscious energy so as to “pay” attention in a specific way that one believes will produce a specific effect is all I mean by both libertarian choosing and teleological choosing. They are just two different ways of saying the same thing to me. Apart from that kind of freedom, the only other kind I could even attempt to conceive of is an absolutely spontaneous action that is nevertheless caused.

        But the problem for me with an absolutely spontaneous free action is that it is just like what I mean by an uncaused event. Indeed, the very notion of a capacity to cause effects absolutely spontaneously is such that no conceivable rational criteria could tell me what is the cause of such an effect. IOW, one could attribute it to any substance whatsoever with no less plausibility in any case. Because like an uncaused event, there is nothing one can expect or find shocking of an absolutely spontaneously-caused event.

        But I think you’re right that we can’t say that God has some essential preference to create. That seems to prove entirely more than we can make sense of. So since I’m left with only teleological/libertarian freedom by which to explain in terms of free acts with rational plausibility, I posit the following:

        The Father truly risked by creating for the Son, though there is no risk for the Son thanks to the Father’s competence to assure that there is no risk for the Son. But that’s only because the Son is not identical in attributes to the Father. The Father, on the other hand, has no capacity to definitely benefit from creation. His creating is a loving risk for the Son since the Father has the capacity to suffer from creation because of his essential sympathetic nature (in the case creation went “awry” due to sin) such that he definitely wouldn’t have chosen to create had he know beforehand it would go awry thus.

        But once we exist, God can not but sympathetically love us too. So I can also agree with you that we are relatively meaningless to the Father in a sense, because I don’t believe the Father created for us. His love for us is not due to having created for us (he didn’t). It’s due to his own sympathetic nature. But until we exist, he can obviously feel no sympathy with us.

        This way, I am positing that God truly doesn’t necessarily benefit from creation but can still have a motivation to BOTH create AND not create (because of potential suffering). Since the Father and Son are in bliss sans creation, there is no down side to the Son’s not experiencing a creation. So not creating is not a withholding by the Father of bliss to the Son. It’s just that the Father knows that the Son can experience a NOVEL bliss from creation. But the Son may not have any way of knowing about that novel bliss apart from experiencing it. For we have no scriptural evidence that the Son has identical attributes with the Father even on the assumption that the Father and Son are substances (which trinitarianism seems to deny) that can therefore intelligibly have essential attributes.

        Indeed, such a novel bliss may require forgetting things. If pleasure is the orientation of sentient beings (and it certainly seems to be), knowledge (even about the past) is only valuable if it’s a means to pleasure, or at least an improved felt experience. But I don’t know that divine memory is a cause of either the Father’s or Son’s sans-creation bliss in the first place.

        I guess the Father could benefit from creation if all creatures lived sinlessly continuously. But short of that, there could be risk for the Father. So there is no essential preference to create in the Father this way. Because there’s no way for the Father to know He would benefit from creation in a teleological sense as He can know that the Son will thus benefit.

        Nor do I assume the Father was even perpetually consciously thinking about the possibility of creating prior to creation. Maybe the interplay between the Father and the Son was such that what was on their conscious radar dynamically varied with time. The reason why this isn’t problematic to me is that I don’t have a clue how God knows anything whatsoever. Rather, positing that God believes certain things that correspond to reality is what explains how WE can know anything. For there is no non-teleological explanation of human apprehension that I’m aware of. And I don’t see how to conceive of a teleological explanation of God’s beliefs corresponding to reality.

        But once we start positing that just because I can be consciously aware of something that therefore the Father must be consciously aware of that something at every moment of his existence, I can see why the whole idea of a teleological creation gets hard to think about rationally. Because even the thought of an eternal “weighing” of options seems contrary to how bliss-oriented sentient beings act. So I simply don’t posit any such eternal conscious awarenesses to God that don’t seem necessary to explaining my own experience most plausibly. This is why the ontological view of God is not only not intuitive to me, but actually counter-intuitive to me. It seems to deprive us of plausible explanations in favor of non-explanatory positings.

        That’s the sense, to me, in which there is mystery about God. Namely, only what we have to posit of God to explain our experience plausibly (or most plausibly where that applies) can we believe with any warrant (and therefore imply that God has given us in some sense to use to make decisions). To me, all other positings about God seem to be either beyond our mental capacities or just a-plausible speculations that don’t help us explain any event we’ve experienced.

        But on the other hand, I don’t see how the Father ceases to be a person simply because I can’t explain how his beliefs correspond to reality (even teleologically), etc. We don’t define person in terms of exhaustive knowledge of persons, but only by those attributes that are sufficient to distinguish one from non-persons.

        In summary, I get most of what you find problematic. But I think it’s your view of omniscience that creates for you what can’t be problematic for me. I simply see no point in positing kinds of eternal conscious divine knowledge that explains neither what we can know the Father, etc did or didn’t do sans creation nor what is occurring or has occurred in creation. Because we can’t account for any of the Father’s or the Son’s knowledge in the first place, best I can tell.

        But we do nevertheless HAVE TO posit a correspondence between certain of the Father’s posited beliefs and reality to account for our own knowledge and warranted beliefs. And that includes the Father’s and Son’s sans creation knowledge of one another such that the Father was experiencing essential SOCIALITY. Otherwise, we’re left (theistically, at least) with a necessary god-world relationship that makes no sense of induction. Induction only seems to make sense teleologically (because plausibility is tied to human preference, per induction, but human preference need not correspond to reality if reality isn’t teleological in a benevolent sense). But that requires a freely-caused creation. IOW, if there’s a necessary god-world relationship, we have the same epistemological problems around rationality that atheism, deism, etc have; namely, deduction without induction, which is rationally worthless.

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  6. Tom,

    How does creation ex nihilo square with Genesis 1:1-2?

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    • Tom says:

      Well, I don’t think there’s any intentional doctrine of CEN at that point. I think the point there is simply to say that whatever exists owes its existence to God. It’s not till much later that we get a developed understanding of creation out of nothing. But Genesis also doesn’t preclude CEN. There’s really no developed, philosophically rigorous doctrine either way on that particular questions. Genesis 1 is about affirming God as origin and Lord of creation, as the one who determines the roles/functions of created categories, and who grounds creation’s essential ‘goodness’ and ‘purpose’ (teleology). Those are the unique contributions that Genesis makes to the established understanding of the material order. Things develop as you go along.

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      • formerlyjeff says:

        I would say that the “and it became …” language is at least consistent with CEN. It actually seems to be the most parsimonious interpretation of the language — the idea being that God’s speaking a command “to become” is a sufficient cause of the becoming.

        Moreover, it’s less parsimonious to posit non-divine entities prior to God’s creating activity, anyway. Because it explains nothing to do so, best I can tell. And that hypothesis doesn’t seem to be intuitive, on the other hand. Thus, it’s not the most rational hypothesis to my mind.

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  7. apophaticallyspeaking says:

    Tom,

    I hope to be able to shed my mask within the span of a few weeks, not that I am famous or anything, just being cautious for professional and personal reasons.

    As to understanding Bulgakov:

    There is one way to read him to say that novelty is merely new from the perspective of contingent being, and thus not eternally known – only known within the contingency of time, unfolding and thus new. God is omniscient, Fr Bulgakov maintain, and to Him all is known and so no novelty exists. However, this seems not to accord to his equation of foreknowledge with predetermination. Therefore Bulgakov makes a distinction between foreknowledge and eternal knowledge (and in this way novelty does exist to God), a distinction which I find neither without problem nor helpful. For one, I don’t see how a temporal “before” or “after” has any meaning to God, this in my estimation amounts to a projection – Gavrilyuk’s charge of anthropophatism and “overpsychologized” metaphysics seems to me particularly apropos.

    I do agree with Fr Bulgakov with an Incarnational kenosis of knowledge. However, I do not believe this has any bearing on God’s eternal/fore knowledge whatsoever, inasmuch as the tension of a most profound paradox is never to be reduced – He who by nature is All Knowing became ignorant for our sakes.

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    • Tom says:

      “I don’t see how a temporal ‘before’ or ‘after’ has any meaning to God.”

      Then we aren’t describing the same thing when we say there is movement in God with respect to his knowledge of the changing, temporal world.

      I really look forward to engaging over these and similar issues. I appreciate your patiently helping me understand things from the Orthodox perspective. I think I understand it, then–surprise!–I don’t, but then I do, and then, not really! 😛

      Tom

      Like

      • apophaticallyspeaking says:

        The pleasure is mine, thank you.

        How do you understand time, change, movement, free will in respect to CEN? What are the implications for God’s knowledge?

        Like

      • Tom says:

        “How do you understand time, change, movement, free will in respect to CEN? What are the implications for God’s knowledge?”

        I try to work from the inside out, so a lot of this is about deciding what the core, central convictions are and then work the implications out from there. And I’m still learning. In recent years that center has changed significantly and I’ve been happy to embrace some key Orthodox values (CEN, Chalcedonian/non-kenotic Christology, God’s necessary triune beatitude, and a qualified apatheia (qualified as in not an absolute atemporal immutability). I don’t feel comfortable budging on any of those. At the same time, I have strong feelings about human freedom and its essential role in personal-hypostatic becoming (and with that the reality/integrity of temporal becoming). That said, I advocate an ‘open view’ of the future and thus God’s knowledge of the truth of such indeterminacy (i.e., God’s epistemic openness with respect to the open future), which is how I read Bulgakov there (I don’t know how else to read him actually). When I talk about movement in God with respect to his knowledge of the changing world, I mean a real temporal movement in God’s knowledge of the world—changing state of mind, if you will.

        As the world changes, the truth about the world changes, and those truths are irreducibly temporal. I don’t suppose such movement reduces God to being a finite knower for whom knowing is everything it is for created, finite knowers like us. God’s knowledge is immediate (not mediated as it is for us) and coterminous with the realities God sustains. So God is not just another ‘passive’ knower as we are. But neither do I assume divine transcendence precludes changing states of mind in God.

        I know that’s a quick response, and probably inadequate.

        Tom

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      • apophaticallyspeaking says:

        Tom,

        I absolutely share with you the concern for taking human freedom and the temporal aspect as real and not to relegate it to a mere footnote (as is in some deterministic scheme of things) or otherwise into some sort of meaningless abstraction. I am not so sure that an open view of the future for God’s knowledge becomes necessary however. At the very least this claim would have to be substantially qualified, as it appears you are doing with divine knowing as “immediate” and “not passive” – although I am not sure exactly what you mean by this and how it exactly qualities it.

        Be it as it may, and I am getting closer to the important part here, in Orthodox theology human and temporal reality/integrity is maintained and the divine (im)mutability / (im)passibility conundrum avoided, by way of the divine energies as they are not impersonal force but rather understood to be nothing short of the fullness of Trinitarian presence – that is to say the divine energies are God. As you aptly stated in the article – the divine fullness is a concrete, lived, experienced fullness, an existential fullness – this we are careful to affirm of the divine energies (as much as of the divine essence). The implications are significant for our discussion here: contrary to what you indicated, the Orthodox do not merely ground creation’s gratuity (nor divine aseity) by way of God’s “absolute timeless immutability” alone. This is not where we stop. For we ground God’s actuality, His aseity, and creation’s gratuity by way of immutability and mutability. That is to say that the infinite, eternal Trinitarian interval opens up a horizon beyond immutability/mutability. Mutability is placed at the origin (cf. “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God”) as is immutability (e.g. the affirmation that. “there was never when the Father was not Father”). Both are affirmed by the essence/energy distinction.

        You are right, “no abstraction has the power to save”. Indeed!

        Like

      • Tom says:

        What are you doing up so late, ApoSpeak? 😀

        Like

      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        I have very much enjoyed reading this exchange between Tom and Apophaticallyspeaking. Thanks, guys.

        Tom, I still don’t get why you are so obssessed with an open future. The whole notion seems to flow from a modern understanding of divinity that is probably most at home in process theology. Of course, you resist that. You have spent the last couple of years retrieving the classical metaphysics of the Fathers, who to a man spoke of divine foreknowledge. May I suggest that you follow-up Apophaticallyspeaking’s suggestion and immerse yourself in the Byzantine understanding of essence and energies.

        Apophaticallyspeaking, I hope one day you and I can talk further about the Palamite distinction. I’ve read a fair amount on it, but I still don’t get it.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Tom says:

        I’ll do my best to get back to this, Fr Aidan, because I think I have changed in important ways that mainstream ‘open theists’ remind me isn’t really in step with what they have in mind. Busy morning!

        Like

      • Tom says:

        I hope I’m not obsessed with the open future. 😀 I suppose there was a time when I was. But while I’ve come to reject the passibilism and kenoticism typically associated with open theism, I simply can’t make sense of God’s eternally knowing exactly how the world’s timeline will unfold. Knowledge of all possible paths, choices, events, yes. Providence grounded in the transcendental orientation of rational beings (the divine logoi, etc.), also yes. And I think much of the psychologizing of God (his being “surprised,” his “learning,” and even how open theists generally understand divine “regret”—all biblical descriptions of God mind you) can be crude and mistaken.

        But I don’t see how even the most ardent form of divine transcendence make what so what isn’t so, i.e., make the indeterminate choices of free creatures simply “there” (determinately) to know. If Bulgakov really is an instance of the kind of contingent movement in God’s knowledge of the world that he seems to be, that’s encouraging. But if he did in fact believe God eternally knows precisely what created contingencies “shall” occur, that God has a (and I’m trying to describe it popularly, not in precise logical or metaphysical terms) blueprint (as it were) of exactly how the economy’s possibilities “will” in fact unfold, then I’m at a loss to know what Bulgakov even means in the passages I’ve mentioned where he seems to claim otherwise. Whether (and if so how) the Orthodox distinction between essence and energies can accommodate this sort of divine epistemic openness regarding the ontological openness of the world, I’m not qualified to say. I think it can work, but being a hack, I don’t have the chops to say how it works.

        Tom

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      • apophaticallyspeaking says:

        Yes Fr Aidan – we should and we must have that discussion. Alas, we are so far physically distant, else we would have such conversation over Davidoff Grand Cru No. 4. For now the Information Superhighway will have to do. Poor substitute that it is, to wit a few short remarks:

        The Palamite distinction is ever so very instrumental in the avoidance of (effectively) turning God into a being among beings. Not that many set out to make God thus, but we get in the way and can’t seem to help it. (I, for one, have found this a particularly stubborn malfeasance in my own intellectual and spiritual journey – I can’t seem to theologize God outside of these clay feet of mine and turn him into a nice piece of pottery). Nevertheless, or therefore, I take the distinction to mean that transcendence denotes God’s freedom to be who He is even within temporality, within finitude, within the cosmos of change and indeterminancy – without being removed from or changed Himself thereby, and without (following St Palamas’ immediate concern) man having direct access to God-self. Needless to say, this has important implications to the conversation here about God’s “changing states of mind”, as Tom calls it. I suggest that the essence/energy distinction means here the following: in change God remains Himself as He is infinite differentiation. I suppose another way is to say that God’s infinite plenitude is beyond and above the mutability and immutability difference, in that He is that distance that opens up to creation and towards which we reach.

        However, the Palamite distinction becomes less than helpful when it is reified into a real distinction within God – my intuition is with DBH on that account. Hardening the distinction will tend towards making God-self an impersonal and static abstraction, far removed and untouched; or else into a human being writ-large to whom we ascribe unqualified pathos, mutability, change, epistic limitation, and so forth, and so on. Which such a reification we fashion two divine beings – an essential and an economic being. We have the economic mind vs. the essential mind, the economic will vs. essential will etc. Far from abstraction or duality, the God of our Fathers is in whom difference is pre-eternal, infinite mutual giving and receiving that is the divine life itself and in Whom we have our being. He is, to state it again, infinite differentiation.

        Tom – I hope the above helps in showing that divine foreknowledge does not necessitate predestination. God’s infinite, transcendent, dynamic, difference creates a “place” for the temporal, accommodating the contingent, the indeterminate: created, contingent difference therefore is not overshadowed or obliterated by infinity (or God’s foreknowledge), but rather finds its purpose and freedom in Him. The Palamite distinction upholds an analogical correspondence between God and creation – a correspondence which at once makes creation more remote from and much nearer to the divine source of life.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. apophaticallyspeaking says:

    FWIW, I have in the works a reflection on the “necessity” of impassibility: Divine apatheia as ground of salvation. I hope to share this soon, it is an appropriate follow up on the conversation here addressing many of the issues touched upon,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tom says:

      ApoSpeak: …this has important implications to the conversation here about God’s “changing states of mind”, as Tom calls it. I suggest that the essence/energy distinction means here the following: in change God remains Himself as He is infinite differentiation. I suppose another way is to say that God’s infinite plenitude is beyond and above the mutability and immutability difference…

      Tom: Pretty sure I agree. God’s triune, self-defining plenitude transcends mutability and immutability. I don’t see ‘changing states of mind’ (i.e., God’s knowledge of the changing states of the world) as constitutive of God’s infinite plentitude.

      ApoSpeak, what do you make of Malcom’s (on Part 4 post just put up today here) quote of Norris Clarke? Clarke writes:

      “When I distinguished the relational and intentional aspect of the divine consciousness from the intrinsic real perfection of God in Himself, saying that the latter did not undergo a strict Aristotelian type of change, I was careful to define the kind of change I was denying as the moving to a qualitatively higher level of inner perfection that God had before. This would be impossible because of His eternal infinite fullness of being in the qualitative order of intensity or degree. But it does not deny that God’s inner being is genuinely affected, not in an ascending or descending way, but in a truly real, personal, conscious, relational way by His relations with us.”

      I’m not familiar with Clarke, but by a ‘change in God’ of his knowledge of and real relations with creation, Clarke doesn’t seem to mean there is change in God’s self-defining perfections (of knowledge, goodness, truth, relational unity in love, etc.), i.e., in God’s ‘essence’.

      I’m still very interested in the essence-energies distinction. If it can shed light on this, all the better. I’ve tended to be suspicious of the distinction ever since hearing DBH speak of it as something like ‘meaningless nonsense’. He was referring to it in the context of Palamism.

      As far as foreknowledge is concerned, I wanna be careful not to appear to be making the claim that foreknowledge makes us do the things we do, as if God’s knowing itself predestines us to do what we do. I don’t suppose that. But I nevertheless do think such knowledge is incompatible with a certain power to self-determine freely. Such foreknowledge doesn’t implicate God in having predestined our choices, but it does expose those choices as not determined in their actuality by us. If the truth about what choices I make exists eternally, that may not necessarily mean God is determining my choices (that’s another debate), but it does mean I am NOT the one determining the truth about my choices. How could I? I’m not eternal. The truth about my actual choices is contingent upon those choices.

      Just to be clear, by foreknowledge I mean God’s eternal knowledge of ‘which’ particular choices I make, ‘which’ particular course the world takes in its becoming. That’s all. So I’m talking about a particular temporal arrangement of the possibilities God eternally knows. I do think all the possible courses of actions are known eternally. God is their ground and source, yes. But if—and here we get to what real understanding of the powers of choice and liberty we believe God grants us—we are endowed with a measure of ‘say-so’, then we are the final arbiters in determining which possibilities get realized. God’s not being bound by time wouldn’t itself transform temporal realities into eternal ones. He may not be bound by time. But the world is.

      Is there a single work by an Orthodox writer who unpacks the essence-energies distinction? I’m all ears!

      Tom

      Liked by 1 person

    • Tom says:

      The sooner the better, ApoSpeak. America has lost its collective mind. A lot of anger. Insanity boiling over.

      We need apatheia more than ever.

      Tom

      Liked by 1 person

  9. apophaticallyspeaking says:

    Tom,

    I have not encountered DBH calling the Palamite distinction “meaningless nonsense” or anything like it, do you have a reference? I would be interested to read that. I am aware he is critical of it in regards to framing it as an unreflective, oversimplified East/West contrast used to further an Orthodox triumphalist agenda. As such it easily turns into nonsense and a caricature. That said, I don’t think he is critical of it in principle – on the contrary indeed he goes to great lengths to explicate its meaning and implications for theology. It is a common inheritance belonging as much to the West as the East. It is a big topic within the Orthodox world, in part because it is understood to be related to and have implications for spirituality, theosis, salvation, and not the mere provenance of metaphysical speculation, although of course it is that too. There’s much material on it, but I can recommend works by Met. Ware, Fr Louth, Fr Staniloae, Fr Florovsky, David B Hart; worthwhile reads too are Lossky, Yannaras, and Fr Meyendorff understood in their context. I do not recommend diving into this subject without a firm understanding of patristics, why it is the fathers were so adamant about expressing and using this distinction and the theological principles it is founded on (in Beauty of the Infinite DBH does a terrific job in bringing patristics to bear on this).

    I am only familiar with Fr Clarke’s work in a superficial way, but taking that quote at face value, I find it highly problematic in what he is at pains to affirm – that God’s eternal being is changed by reason of His relation to creation. “God’s inner being is genuinely affected, not in an ascending or descending way, but in a truly real, personal, conscious, relational way by His relations with us.” There is, in his equation, either a change or else there is not a “truly real” relation. My response is that God does not need to change in order to relate genuinely to that which He created. The infinite has the capacity to accommodate finitude without being changed thereby. The divine agapeic plenitude requires no change in His eternal being to truly relate, understand, sympathize with finite creatures. He does not need to become more or less to do so. The superabundant eternally relating immutable impassible love is the very possibility of the Incarnation. and our salvation. The failure in identifying God’s manifestation in time with God’s eternal being creates a pathetic God, who, it turns out, is no God at all, and who requires evil to become who is.

    As far as foreknowledge, it appears to me that the same applies here – the divine infinite plenitude of cognizance unrestricted by the bounds of time, accommodates the creaturely unfolding in time without changing God’s eternal being or knowledge (not even infinitesimally, pace Rhoda) and without affecting creaturely freedom. To affirm – participation in God’s eternal nature is the teleos of the cosmos: we become more truly human, more truly free than we can otherwise be. In Him we live, and move, and have our being.

    Like

    • Tom says:

      I’ve got just a moment, but I wanted to link you to the DBH source where he criticizes Palamas (quite severely, calling much of that tradition “nonsense”). See what you think.

      It’s after this 2002 lecture during the Q&A time. The relevant comments are:

      1) Minute 41:30 through 43:35, and then
      2) Minute 56:50 through 57:44, roughly that 49 second span. The question he’s answering there goes back several minutes, perhaps a good 10 minutes. The whole lecture is great, and the Q&A is as well.

      Here’s the LINK. Let me know if you have trouble. It’s just a link to my GoogleDocs (you can upload audio files too). I can send you the entire audio file if you want. But this should work.

      Tom

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      • apophaticallyspeaking says:

        It isn’t working, says “not authorized, or file doesn’t exist, sorry we can’t play this song”

        Like

  10. apophaticallyspeaking says:

    got it to work, on my iPhone

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tom says:

      Oh good. Or you can try this link:

      https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0yvqp0lT8O5eTZncGt4YW1DdUk/view?usp=sharing

      You might have better luck finding the specific minutes/locations on a laptop.

      Tom

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      • apophaticallyspeaking says:

        Thank you for the link, got it to work.

        Although St Palamas is not DBH’s favorite (he rightly points out Palamas is not a metaphysical theologian, for one), he’s not saying the Palamite distinction is non-sense but that 20th century interpreters of the Palamite distinction have made a mess of it (he is referring here to Lossky and others). His comment came in response to a question about apophaticism and DBH is critical of a neo-platonic understanding (popular today in Orthodox circles) which is not the apophaticism of Dionysius, Maximus, etc. He calls apophaticism as negation nonsense. He’s spot on.

        He calls pointless the anachronistic use of language and concepts regarding Nicene theology, used inappropriately both by Thomists and Palamites alike. I think it a fair assessment by DBH to call this “non-sensical language” to speak either of beatific vision or divine essence in regards to Nicene theology. But of course this is not what partisans want to hear.

        The subtext of this presentation is what he calls a “mythology of division” (around 3:20) between East/West, and the purported vast differences of this division he suggests are predicated on “premises based on misreading”.(this is near the very end of his presentation).

        I am in full agreement of his assessment of things. But one must understand that the lamentable misinterpretation and misapplication does nothing to negate the validity, meaning, and importance of the essence/energy distinction in its proper context and understanding. I hope that helps…..

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      • Tom says:

        Thanks you apophaticallyspeaking.

        Glad you enjoyed the lecture. It’s one of my favorite Hart lectures. I see elsewhere where he and Bradshaw (in Orthodox Readings of Augustine I think) disagree over how to take the essence-energies distinction. If I remember, Bradshaw viewed the transcendentals (truth, beauty, goodness) as energies where Hart argued they refer to the essence. I noted all the qualifications you bring up as well. But in this lecture it seemed to me that Gregory P’s name once or twice got included in those who have made nonsense of the distinction. Hart said something along the lines of “It’s not until medieval times with Palamas that you get” a return to a Platonic view of the distinction in terms of a transcendence of negation. So it seemed to me that Hart thinks Palamas himself is party to this mistake, i.e., Palamas makes something of the distinction between essence-energies that Hart thinks is nonsense, i.e., there’s something of a return to a Platonic view of transcendence as negation in Palamas that muddies the distinction, even if Hart grants the distinction per se. But maybe Hart isn’t being particularly careful in his answer (he’s off script). Or more likely I’m just mistaking things. It seems to be what I do.

        Peace and blessings!

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      • Tom says:

        And then there’s Hart (Beauty of the Infinite, p. 204) where he doubts that Palamas ever intended to suggest a “real” distinction between God’s essence and energies. But if not real, then the distinction is a formal distinction intended to affirm the abiding fullness of divine being in relation to creation. I’m happy to affirm that fullness. Looks like I have more books to buy!

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      • Tom says:

        An interesting quote I’ve always wanted to explore:

        “Since, then, God, who is good and more than good, did not find satisfaction in self-contemplation, but in his exceeding goodness wished certain things to come into existence which would enjoy his benefits and share in his goodness, he brought all things out of nothing into being and created them.” (John of Damascus, Orthodox Faith, II.2)

        God “did not find satisfaction in self-contemplation”?

        Liked by 1 person

      • apophaticallyspeaking says:

        I take St. John’s choice of words to denote the unending nature (thus never reaching satisfaction) of kenotic selfless outpouring of agapeic trinitarian love, who is God eternally, to be eternally outpouring towards the other, as the Father eternally begets the Son in eternally sending of the Holy Spirit in reciprocal love – of which creation is a manifestation, as an image of God.

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      • Tom says:

        Sorry for the run-on responses, apophaticallyspeaking. I have Saturday off.

        So, Hart (p. 204 of Beauty):

        “…I am not at all convinced that Palamas ever intended to suggest a real distinction in God’s essence and energies; nor am I even confident that the energies should be seen as anything other than sanctifying grace by which the Holy Spirit makes the Trinity really present to creatures. I take the distinction to mean only that God’s transcendence is such that he is free to be the God he is even in the realm of creaturely finitude, without estrangement from himself and without the creature being admitted thus to an unmediated vision of the divine essence.”

        Clear enough. He doesn’t suppose Palamas himself construes the distinction in (illegitimately Platonic) negative terms. Good. Thanks for hanging in there with me!

        I find myself in agreement with this, of course. I just don’t see that a change in God’s knowledge of the changing world in its actuality constitutes an “estrangement of God from himself.” God knows that the actual world in Minneapolis is — given the actualities as they are — one in which “I’m writing this note in WordPress” is true. Tomorrow when I’m eating lunch, God will know “I’m writing this note” is false, since it won’t then be true. I do not suppose all these temporal realities are in their actuality eternally present to God. [One response to this is, “But Tom, you’re just making God a being among beings.” Perhaps on one view of what it means for God to not ‘just be another being among beings’, yes. I’ll have to be guilty of whatever failure of transcendence one might consider that to be. But I honestly don’t see that I’m reducing God to just being another being among beings.]

        The world is irreducibly temporal, so it seems to me that to suggest that the particular self-determined path of its becoming is equally pre-contained in God is just to deny that path is what it is (i.e., irreducibly temporal and contingent). I can and do say that all the possible paths of creation’s temporal unfolding are known to (because pre-contained in) God (grounded and determined solely by and in God). I’d actually say God ‘overknows’ the world as opposed to ‘underknows’ it, you might say. But since the ‘actual’ path the world takes is not determined solely by God (as are creation’s possibilities) but is contingent upon created entities, I don’t know how to suppose God eternally knows that path as “the” one path (among many) of actualized possibilities, and it’s hard to see how this being the case constitutes a diminishing of God’s being.

        Grateful,
        Tom

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      • apophaticallyspeaking says:

        Tom,

        You posit a change in God, a limit of His infinite knowledge, predicated on a supposition as you see it in which God’s foreknowledge somehow restricts creaturely freewill. But demonstrate why this is a necessity? Why does infinite foreknowledge constrict our free will to determine, to be? Is it not God whose infinite will and power and knowledge made our free will, our existence, a possibility (and actuality)? I see a false dichotomy here, and one that is profoundly illogical as it projects the unfolding of time unto the eternal being of God, a projection which greatly, nay infinitely, diminishes God’s being. What He doesn’t know, He doesn’t love. What He doesn’t love, He doesn’t will. What He doesn’t will , He doesn’t create.

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      • Tom says:

        I do want to offer my own reply to your question, Apospeaking. That will have to wait just a bit.

        In the meantime, could you comment on Bulgakov here:

        https://anopenorthodoxy.wordpress.com/2015/04/02/bulgakov-open-orthodox-father/

        I know you earlier said Bulgakov believed in omniscience. I don’t doubt it. I also believe in omniscience. That’s not the issue. Rather, the ‘content’ of that knowledge is what I’m inquiring into. But apart from Bulgakov’s obviously believing in omniscience, how do you understand his statements in the relevant passage in the link? Gavrilyuk (no Protestant) clearly takes Bulgakov’s meaning in the sense I take it. Indeed, I don’t know how else to take him.

        Tom

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      • apophaticallyspeaking says:

        I believe we have already made reference to this passage by Fr Bulgakov and Gavrilyuk’s article (it is important to note, if I haven’t already, that Gavrilyuk does not accept carte blanche Bulgakov’s, see his closing points. When Bulgakov posits a differentiation between the two aspects of the divine being, temporal and eternal, unchanging and changeable, he is far from uncontroversial). Bulgakov makes an assertion, but does not establish why divine knowledge constitutes or necessitates predetermination or somehow curtails freedom. I remain unconvinced. So I ask – in which way precisely can we maintain that a God who “remains ignorant of the actions of human freedom” is truly omniscient, indeed Knowledge himself? Moreover, how can it be maintained that God’s eternal being s not changed thereby, following Bulgakov’s supposition? What are the reasons we have to accept this? Without ignorance God is unable to truly relate to and care for His creation, and only then our choices are truly free?

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      • Tom says:

        Apophaticallyspeaking: Bulgakov makes an assertion, but does not establish why divine knowledge constitutes or necessitates predetermination or somehow curtails freedom.

        Tom: At least we agree that Bulgakov is actually qualifying God’s knowledge in such a way! 😀

        I do have some thoughts on what makes definite foreknowledge of free choices incompatible with the freedom of those choice, but before we get to that, I think we have a more fundamental difference, and it’s simply the idea that God’s knowledge of the changing world’s actualities changes with the world’s actualities. Let’s forget the open view for now. Let’s assume for the moment God eternally knows everything we freely choose. That’s the standard position. Let’s go with that.

        Even then, there’s still the question of God’s knowledge of the changing world in its actuality. Even if God knows a certain somebody makes a certain choice at a certain time, there’s still the question of knowing this event “in its actuality.” He still knows which possibilities are ‘the actual world’. So whatever foreknowledge is, it isn’t knowledge of what is false, i.e., isn’t eternal knowledge that event-X is actual. That would implicate God in ignorance, since event-X is not eternally actual. As I actually type this response, there is something to know not present in the mere possibility of my writing it, namely, that I’m ‘actuality’ writing it.

        The Orthodox deny (though I’ve not been sure perhaps until now, if I’m following you rightly) even that God knows these actualities in their temporal becoming, i.e., he knows which possibilities are the ‘actual’ world. He knows the actual world is such that I’m typing this note, and in knowing this he knows this is not an eternal act, for the simple reason that (a) the actuality in question isn’t eternal, and (b) actuality is unique and distinct from possibility. If it’s your view that even this sort of movement in God’s knowledge of the world (i.e., just the mere knowledge of the world’s present becoming in its changing realities; never mind what it ‘shall’ or ‘might/might not’ be) is a diminishment of God’s being, then there’s no need to talk about uniquely ‘open view’ claims, for I’ve diminished God’s being before getting to ‘might/might not’ kind of truths.

        Tom

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      • apophaticallyspeaking says:

        I am not sure we understand eachother. For sure I don’t understand what you mean:

        “The Orthodox deny (though I’ve not been sure perhaps until now, if I’m following you rightly) even that God knows these actualities in their temporal becoming, i.e., he knows which possibilities are the ‘actual’ world.

        Would you explain this, perhaps vis a vis the Incarnation? I am not understanding what you mean.

        Also – I don’t see how the difference between knowing that an actualized temporal choice (such as you typing that note) is not an eternal act, and knowing something as a possible act (which has not, or not yet, been actualized) constitutes a movement in God’s knowledge. Please explain.

        Like

      • Tom says:

        Tom: …God knows the actualities in their temporal becoming, i.e., he knows which possibilities are the ‘actual’ world.

        Apospeaking: Would you explain this, perhaps vis a vis the Incarnation? I am not understanding what you mean. Also – I don’t see how the difference between knowing that an actualized temporal choice (such as you typing that note) is not an eternal act, and knowing something as a possible act (which has not, or not yet, been actualized) constitutes a movement in God’s knowledge. Please explain.

        Tom: I know this whole subject can quickly become a conceptual knot, but I’m not sure I know how to boil down any simpler. Perhaps this is simplest: ‘God knows what time it is’. That’s a crude way of saying that of all the possibilities that exist (without beginning) in God, God knows which of those possibilities constitute the actual world. The former knowledge (God’s knowledge of all creation’s possibilities) is eternal, without beginning and without movement. The latter knowledge (God’s knowledge of the actual world) has beginning and movement, for it is knowledge of those possibilities which “become” actual, possibilities which come into actuality and then pass out of actuality. Some possibilities become actual. Others don’t. Those that do are the actual world. So in saying God knows the actual world in its temporal becoming, I’m saying God knows world’s ever-‘moving’ temporal becoming. That ‘movement’ of the world’s becoming, if known, is a movement of knowledge, or a moving act of knowing, since what is known (viz., actualities that rise and fall in their individual determinateness).

        From where some of us sit at least, 😀
        Tom

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      • apophaticallyspeaking says:

        Hi Tom,

        It is not really a concern then about free will per se (we may as well speak about the potentiality of inanimate objects such as a falling rock – will it end up on the left or the right?), or simply the mere unfolding of (events in) time. We are getting to the heart of it – a matter of becoming, of time, and its relation to infinity and God’s nature. This is a Hegelian project through and through, which is soundly rejected by the church fathers of the undivided church – God is not in a process of becoming. The progression of time, as creation in general, is wholly unnecessary to complete God’s knowledge; moreover it must be stated again that a distinction between divine knowledge and being is not made, for knowledge is not an attribute He possesses (as creatures do), but it is affirmed that God is knowledge. The lack of need, the divine perfection, is another way of expressing God’s simplicity and apathea. The latter of which is the very ground of our hope and salvation, which is to say the Hegelian project is a hopeless one 🙂

        Now, it must be kept in mind that God is perfect dynamic, as kenotic movement is Trinitarian existence, ever begetting, receiving and outpouring, as we have already discussed. Kenosis does not constitutes mutability, in the reaching out of divine love, love is not thereby changed (that is to say, it is truly itself in kenotic outpouring). Time as movement corresponds by way of analogy to divine infinity. Infinity accommodates time but is not changed is thereby, and this is affirmed in progressively greater clarification by the theology of the Ecumenical Councils of the 4th and 5th centuries in the repeated affirmation that Christ’s divine nature was not altered, changed, confused, divided, etc, by taking on human nature in time. (and lest one is tempted to think immutability is a peculiar Eastern predilection, I make reference to the Tome of Leo). The creative act thus is an (wholly unnecessary) agapeic kenotic outpouring of divine trinitarian love in time. This love is affirmative of that which it creates, that is to say that time is affirmed to unfold according to its logoi. The logoi constitute not its predetermination but are an expression of the Logos who freely is the begotten Son of the Father. Creation’s telos is its movement towards the Ground of existence.

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      • Tom says:

        I’ve meet Orthodox here and there who have offered competing explanations, so I was never sure. But I’ll officially retire from wondering what the Orthodox position on this is now! I appreciate the clarification, Apospeaking. I really do. And I do understand the concern behind your points. As I’ve suspected, I don’t affirm actus purus in the sense the Orthodox mean and the Orthodox don’t posit a ‘movement in God’s knowledge of the world’ in the sense I mean. (We’ll just write Bulgakov’s view off as an exception that proves the rule.) I do agree that God’s essential triune beatitude is unimprovable and undiminishing and don’t at all think God achieves this fullness of being within the horizon of temporal becoming in any Hegelian way. But I don’t think this fullness is threatened by the sort of changing knowledge of the changing world which (for me) makes best sense of things, though I can appreciate (even if I disagree) why you feel the latter sort of movement implicates God’s essential fullness in temporal becoming.

        I pray the Jesus prayer increasingly — daily and repeatedly — and sincerely, and I hope for the salvation it asks for. I’m not trusting in anything else. Let’s hope it works for me.

        Tom

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      • apophaticallyspeaking says:

        Thank you Tom, I hope so too.

        I am looking forward to your reply to my earlier questions – I would really like to see how you substantiate your position. Let me copy those here again:

        You posit a change in God, a limit of His infinite knowledge, predicated on a supposition as you see it in which God’s foreknowledge somehow restricts creaturely freewill. But demonstrate why this is a necessity? Why does infinite foreknowledge constrict our free will to determine, to be? Is it not God whose infinite will and power and knowledge made our free will, our existence, a possibility (and actuality)?

        If it is not a Hegelian dialectic of becoming, and evidently not the theology of the Fathers – then what is the basis?

        Like

      • Tom says:

        Apospeaking,

        Thanks again. I don’t have much time. Bits and pieces will have to suffice.

        I’d begin by suggesting that “infinite knowledge” cannot mean knowledge of “what is not the case.” God doesn’t eternally know that I’m a woman. Why? One’s answer will reveal a good deal. The point here is that it’s not the case that the free choices of created beings obtain eternally. It is in fact false that such created contingencies obtain eternally.

        I’d then suggest that the ‘truth’ of such free choices supervenes upon the realities they describe. The ‘truth’ that I’m, let us say, freely typing this answer out now, is as freely and contingently determined as my choice to write. If the truth of my free actions obtains eternally but my actions do not so obtain, then I can’t be the one determining the truth of those actions, and I take my self-determination (in the sense of relatively free choice) to be convertible with my being that which determines the truth about what I do. If the truth eternally precedes me, I’m not the one responsible for the truth of my choices. This doesn’t suggest necessarily that God is the one determining the truth of what I shall do. But it begs the question. And it does rule out MY being that which determines the truth about what I do. Therein lies part of the problem.

        I’d want to have some explanation of why “omniscience” definitionally rules out knowing the changing truth about a changing world. As far as I can tell, I don’t see how you maintain divine omniscience by denying God knowledge of the irreducible truth about an irreducibly changing world. On my view, you’re the one limiting God’s knowledge, for on my view there are truths an absolutely immutable knower cannot know. There are immutable truths—God knows them immutably, obviously. He’d be the one who determines such truths—again, obviously. And that sense in which God is immutable would ground that which is immutably true. But what of mutable-changing truths about mutual-changing things? That the truth in this case must also be equally immutably known? I don’t know how to even imagine it, and I can’t see what about God’s triune fullness and plenitude requires me to posit it.

        I’d side with Bulgakov’s suspicions along these lines.

        There’s a lot more to this. I got a class to run and teach. Hopefully more later.

        Tom

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      • apophaticallyspeaking says:

        I’d want to have some explanation of why “omniscience” definitionally rules out knowing the changing truth about a changing world.

        I have never claimed this however, indeed on the contrary. I do not suggest there is a distinction to divine knowledge between immutable truths and mutable truths, eternal truths and temporal truths. Here, again, I must point to the difference between God as a being among beings (which such a distinction would necessitate) and God as the ground of being which exceeds all being. We are dealing with two widely diverging understandings of the divine nature, time and infinity. Alas.

        Also off to class….

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      • Tom says:

        Tom: I’d want to have some explanation of why “omniscience” definitionally rules out knowing the changing truth about a changing world.

        Apospeaking: I have never claimed this however, indeed on the contrary.

        Tom: Logically contrary or transcendently contrary? 😛

        Apospeaking: I do not suggest there is a distinction to divine knowledge between immutable truths and mutable truths, eternal truths and temporal truths.

        Tom: That’s what I was saying. You’re not positing the distinction. I do posit it, because there is a distinction between mutable and immutable truths, and the distinction (I’m suggesting) derives from the realities described. I was saying that that ‘omniscience’ doesn’t definitionally rule out this distinction.

        Apospeaking: I must point to the difference between God as a being among beings (which such a distinction would necessitate) and God as the ground of being which exceeds all being. We are dealing with two widely diverging understandings of the divine nature, time and infinity.

        Tom: I think we’re agreed that we’re dealing with two divergent understandings of the divine nature. I don’t see that the changing content of God’s knowledge of the world reduces God to being merely one being among many beings.

        Class starts in 10 min!
        😀

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      • apophaticallyspeaking says:

        Tom: ” there is a distinction between mutable and immutable truths, and the distinction (I’m suggesting) derives from the realities described.”

        Would you explain the nature of this distinction?

        Like

      • Tom says:

        Tom: “…there is a distinction between mutable and immutable truths, and the distinction (I’m suggesting) derives from the realities described.”

        Apophaticallyspeaking: Would you explain the nature of this distinction [between mutable and immutable truths]?

        Tom: Generally speaking, I take truth to express a relation of correspondence between knower and known. Correspondence can be understood in a number of ways, but again, generally speaking, I take it that truth supervenes upon being in the rough sense that characteristics of the world (the reality ‘known’), say, ‘obtaining temporally’ or ‘contingently’ are convertible with the act of knowing as well.

        An immutable truth, then, would refer to some immutable reality. Some truths taken to be immutable include mathematical truths, definitional truths, and a priori truths expressing immutable, divine realities. I’d also include truths describing all creational ‘possibiities’ (because those possibilities are grounded immutably in God).

        Point is, not all realities are immutable. Created realities are mutable. They come to be and pass out of being. I’d argue that truths describing those realities come to be and pass out of being (i.e., they become true). It is at ‘some times’ true (and at other times false) that JFK is the President of the United States. That’s not an immutable state of affairs, and since (on my view) truths are as mutable or immutable as the realities they describe (or correspond to, or supervene upon), its truth is equally mutable.

        Tom

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      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        He knows what happens in time not by observing it but by creating it, by bringing it to-be, as the potter knows the pot. God knows what God does. He knows the future not as what will happen but as what is happening, what he is making to be.

        Of course, as soon as we start talking this way our grammar completely breaks down. It seems to me far better to simply admit that we can neither comprehend nor verbally formulate the relationship between eternity and created time, rather than predicating becoming of God.

        Liked by 1 person

      • apophaticallyspeaking says:

        Fr Aidan – I understand Tom to deny predicating “becoming of God”, but on the other hand this cannot be avoided as the unfolding of time is not known to God.

        Tom – is this a fair assessment, or are Fr Aidan and I not fully understanding your position?

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      • Tom says:

        Apophaticallyspeaking: I understand Tom to deny predicating “becoming of God” but on the other hand this cannot be avoided as the unfolding of time is not known to God. Tom – is this a fair assessment, or are Fr Aidan and I not fully understanding your position?

        Tom: Well, I deny ‘becoming’ with respect to any of the divine perfections per se. I deny all self-constitutive becoming of God. God doesn’t ‘become’ triune, omniscient, infinitely beautiful, existentially full, etc. It doesn’t ‘take time’ for God to be these things. But I don’t see these perfections undermined or compromised if we predicate free and contingent self-expressive ‘becoming’ to God, i.e., becoming with respect to creation and his knowledge of the changing realities of created things. If it could be shown that the latter sort of change logically entails a denial of the former, self-constituting perfections, I’d be in a pickle.

        Granted, actus purus and divine simplicity (as I understand them) preclude any such distinction in God’s actuality. Make all the ‘formal’ distinctions you want. Nobody complains, because formal distinctions are convertible with a single immutable divine actuality. So I can appreciate how my distinction (an ‘actual’ and not merely ‘formal’ distinction in God) is unacceptable to those who understand God exclusively in terms of actus purus. I just can’t reduce the distinction between mutable and immutable realities (and the knowing of them) in God to a mere formal distinction.

        One last note on the distinction in ‘actuality’ between immutable and mutual truths known by God. I don’t think it follows necessarily that the changing nature of God’s knowledge of changing realities requires God to be entirely passive with respect to such realities, ‘being determined by’ creation (certainly not in ways that violate his self-constitutive perfections). Personally I’m not set against such language used carefully with respect to God’s self-expressive relation to creation, but I see how that can easily be misconstrued. But even if we suppose God knows the world by knowing what he’s doing (in sustaining it), it would still follow for me that God’s knowledge of what he’s doing changes IF the world he sustains is in truth irreducibly temporal and mutable. It would be precisely because the world derives its contingency and mutability from what God is doing in creating it that God’s knowledge of the creation he is “doing” would change. As I see it, the world is only as mutable and contingent as the divine action that sustains it without intermediary and from which its temporal existence follows.

        Tom

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      • apophaticallyspeaking says:

        If only I had the ability to edit comments 🙂

        …the world is only as mutable and contingent as the divine action that sustains it

        Am I correct in drawing the logical conclusion that, following your reasoning, God is change, mutable by reason of the creative act? He is changed by the act of creating, becoming other than He is?

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      • Tom says:

        Apospeaking,

        Yeah, after my saying I was a hell-bound, Protestant heretic cut off from the grace of Christ (which has to be true from an Orthodox perspective I suppose), I thought that statement didn’t really contribute anything. It was expressing my own inner frustrations and wasn’t relevant to the discussion.

        But yes, I do think the world is only as contingent as the divine action that sustains it. Indeed, I don’t see how the world could be other than that which divine act gives it contingently?

        I did earlier say I thought God’s knowledge of the changing world changes (‘changing states of mind’ in God, ‘movement in God’ with respect to his knowledge of the changing world, etc.). Did you not interpret my earlier comments this way?

        So in a careful and qualified sense, yes, in creating contingently, God freely becomes other than he is necessarily. What God is necessarily of course (self-sufficient triune beatitude) he remains. For me this follows from God’s being free from creation. Freedom from ‘creaTION’ is (it seems to me) freedom from ‘creaTING’, which (it seems) is equivalent to freedom from ‘being creaTOR’. And if creaTION doesn’t in any way constitute or determine the plenitude of God’s triune perfections (which I hope we agree on), then neither can creatING constitute those immutable perfections, in which case neither does God’s ‘being creaTOR’ share in constituting the essential perfections of his triune being.

        Tom

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      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        Would it be fair to say, Tom, that you posit “‘changing states of mind’ in God with respect to his knowledge of the changing world” because you believe that if we do not say this we are stuck with a hard determinism of all creaturely events?

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      • Tom says:

        In a sense, yes, Fr Aidan. More specifically, if the truth about contingent, free choices is immutably and eternally known to God, then those mutable, temporal choices cannot be the realities determining their truths. And if I’m not the one determining the truth about my choices, that exposes a problem. There are other issues, but yeah, that’s the main issue.

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      • apophaticallyspeaking says:

        …if the truth about contingent, free choices is immutably and eternally known to God, then those mutable, temporal choices cannot be the realities determining their truths.

        The conclusion would follow and I would agree if God were a being among beings, to whom knowledge is known as do creatures know knowledge of temporal events; to whom realities determine truths and truths determine realities as they do to creatures; to whom choices determine truths as they do to creatures. However, the fathers have been unanimous in their understanding of an infinite interval between God and creation, that God is not like creation in respect to limitations – of time, space, knowledge, power, fragmentation, and so forth. Limitations (of space, time, etc), are not at all limitations to God that need to be overcome, reached, He is the Alpha and Omega. He spans the interval that present as limitation to us. He does not have knowledge, God is knowledge. God does not have presence, He is presence itself. Speaking of changing states of the divine mind then is an anthropophaticism, a projection of creaturely limitations (and the logic that follows from it) on to the divine being.

        Because the truth about contingent, free choices is immutably and eternally known to God, then those mutable, temporal choices are the realities determining their truths. That is to say, our unnecessary existence has its being and freedom in God’s eternally free and necessary being.

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      • apophaticallyspeaking says:

        Tom,

        What I understand you to say now (I think), which wasn’t clear to me before, is that God’s mutable and contingent nature is the ground of the mutable, contingent nature of creation. Regardless of care or qualification, I don’t see how such a position can be reconciled to or is compatible with orthodox Christian theism, it is about as far from it as any conception that I can think of. It is surprising as I thought your work here was to bring patristics to bear on this. I cannot think of any church father throughout the centuries, east or west, that espouses such a view of God.

        ….in creating contingently, God freely becomes other than he is necessarily.

        Either this is not precisely stated or else we differ here as I make a distinction between the act and its result – the creative act is not contingent, unlike the result of the free and unnecessary act of creating which is contingent creation. In creating a contingent created reality God remains unchanged.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Tom says:

        Thank you Apophaticallyspeaking,

        What we’re attempting to do is not just to bring Orthodoxy to bear on these and other questions but to bring the Open View into conversation with Orthodoxy. We’re exploring that conversation, you might say. As we said in our opening post a few years ago, we don’t entertain any delusions about the Orthodox ever considering us Orthodox. But there are theological values and positions that we do love and hold to.

        When I say “in creating contingently, God freely becomes other than he is necessarily” I just mean that what God is essentially-necessary doesn’t change with respect to his free decision to create. But I think God is more than merely necessary. I do think Bulgakov is saying essentially the same thing. Yes, he affirms ‘omniscience’ (so do I). But he must think omniscience compatible with God’s changing knowledge with respect to the changing world, since he affirms both.

        Tom

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      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        Tom, here’s my diagnosis: a couple of years ago you began a movement away from the open view, thanks in large part to the writings of David B. Hart. You found a different way to think of divinity, not as a being among beings but as the transcendent source and ground of Being who makes all things ex nihilo. This in turn then led you to firmly reject all expressions of divine passibility.

        But you have not yet followed through in rethinking your understanding of divine eternity and creaturely time. You are still thinking of “future” events as events that God knows before they happen—hence the (pseudo-)problem of determinism. But that is to misconstrue, IMHO, the relation between eternity and time. You have pulled God into time and made him one being among beings. When I read what you have written above, I get the image of a God waiting for stuff to happen, just like the rest of us. And when it does happen, he gains a new knowledge of history, just like the rest of us. It’s all quite anthropomorphic.

        You need to follow through the logic of God’s radical transcendence. You don’t need to make God mutable in order to protect human freedom. That’s the mystery.

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      • Tom says:

        Fr Aidan,

        Without a doubt I’ve been convinced of key Orthodox values and claims, and that’s been lifechanging in ways. God’s essential triune relations, the undiminished nature of its beatitude, the transcendent-abiding nature of this beatitude relative to the constraints of the Incarnate state (requiring Chalcedon), the uncreated logoi of created things, the sacramental nature of created realities, even the necessity of an apophatic approach to expressing the divine realities behind these doctrines. But that God’s knowledge of all the world’s changing realities is eternal-immutable really doesn’t strike me as plausible (rationally or existentially) or offer itself as necessary to anything else we need to say about God as these other truths have. If I see the logic of what you’re saying, I’ll certainly come around. But I don’t see it happening.

        As I’m understanding the Orthodox view on divine transcendence of time, it’s just divine timelessness/atemporality, that is, it’s just transcendence as the negation of time. I totally appreciate that the Orthodox wouldn’t express it this way, but that’s how I see it right now. Your position on this is unfalsifiable. Any problem one might point out ends up being further confirmation of its truth. This is quite different from my experience of coming to embrace the other Orthodox positions mentioned above. But it might just be complications related to my own fallenness.

        With the Orthodox position as you and Apospeaking are arguing it, God eternally, immutably knows contradictory truths—he knows immutably that humanity doesn’t exist and that it does exist, he knows that King David is alive and that he’s not alive, that our Sun hasn’t yet formed and that it’s fully formed warming our earth. All these contradictory states are all equally known to God in the truth of their changing actualities. I appreciate the power which patristic consensus exercises on opinion in this matter, but I literally don’t know what I’d be saying in agreeing to it (which is not the case with respect to my agreeing to the mysteries of necessary existence, trinity, Incarnation, even two-minds/two-wills).

        Lord Jesus Christ, Savior, have mercy upon me, a sinner.

        Tom

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      • apophaticallyspeaking says:

        Tom,

        When you say about Bulgakov that to him

        …. omniscience [is] compatible with God’s changing knowledge

        I suggest the following (corrective?) explication which I believe may be a point of agreement: omniscience is compatible with changing knowledge while remaining unchanged. The point being that omniscience does not change by reason of its compatibility or accommodation of temporality – it remains all knowing. Which is really another way of stating the patristic dogma that the Logos in his divine nature remained unchanged in the kenotic Incarnation of humanity in time.

        I do not know how (else) to understand your assertion that divine knowledge of all (omniscience) is compatible with divine knowledge of change, but to affirm it with the patristic qualification of the immutable divine nature, who does not require nor can endure change to reach perfection, as he is perfection.

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      • Tom says:

        Apospeaking,

        I’m enjoying the challenge and clarification along the way. Definitely a conversation I’ll revisit. Thanks again.

        I wish Bulgakov was still around. I’d book a flight to Paris and pester him until I had a couple nights with him around a quiet table. I really don’t know how to read those sections of him we’ve spoken of if he really believed God’s knowing was eternally immutable.

        I’ll definitely be exploring it more in future blog posts, but let me quickly say that the sort of temporal experience (knowing) of the world that I suppose to be the case with God would be significantly different than the temporal nature of created becoming. Created becoming is the becoming of participation, of the passive reception of being as ‘given’ (asymmetrically—God as giver of being, we as receivers), of receiving one’s being from outside one’s self, from being grounded in another. All this is the becoming of that which is not self-existent. I’m aware you’ve already discounted such qualifications, but I wish to make it known nonetheless that I don’t attribute ‘participation’ and the ‘passive reception of being’ to the divine nature. But I don’t think ‘temporal’ experience per se need be reduced to participated being.

        Tom

        Liked by 1 person

      • apophaticallyspeaking says:

        Tom,

        I can’t claim to be a Bulgakov expert, but from all I have read he was steeped in the Orthodox tradition, by which I mean he practiced and affirmed the theology of the seven ecumenical councils. This is not to say that the key in which he expressed the Orthodox faith was always uncontroversial, nor that he wasn’t a man of his time given to certain habits of thought (as we all are) formed by his theological and ideological milieu, nor that all recognized or understood his thoughts. To give an example, perhaps helpful to our discussion here, of his solid Chalcedonian convictions as to the immutability of the divine nature in time:

        “His divinity is self-constrained to yield to death, and though it does not itself die it bears the weight of his dying humanity. It is his divine hypostatis itself that thus shares in death…but dies differently in his respective natures: the human nature dies…” (emphasis mine, p 116, A Bulgakov Anthology Nicolas Zernov, James Pain eds., Philadelphia, Westminster Press: 1971)

        This is nothing other than the Chalcedonian affirmation of the 4 negations – without change, without confusion, without separation, without division. I do think you are on to something when you say that God’s knowing of creaturely change is “significantly different” than in us. Following the fathers, indeed divine knowing is not by participation which is in contrast, as you point out, to creaturely knowing and becoming which is not self-existent but is by participation. Which is to affirm that divine knowing of change is by nature, which is immutable, not subject to change, death, corruption, and so forth. Here then is our “”significantly different”!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Tom says:

        I’d state the significant difference a bit differently. But nice quote! I’ve got some other interesting (and controversial) quotes of Bulgakov. 😀

        Like

      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        Tom, I don’t think it’s helpful to include Bulgakov in an Orthodox/open view discussion. As interesting as Bulgakov’s views on time and eternity are, they are dependent upon his speculations on divine and creaturely Sophia, which have not been embraced by modern Orthodox theologians or indeed by anyone, as of yet. I wonder if it’s even received a fair hearing. In any case, on this particular topic, Bulgakov’s views are not representative of Orthodoxy and therefore should be put to the side.

        Hence I would like to suggest to you and Apophaticallyspeaking that you focus on the metaphysical relation between Creator and the world. Tom, you have agreed that your driving issue is human freedom. You do not see how a classical view of God, even a classical-Eastern view of God, can be reconciled with genuine human freedom. Yet this has not been considered a serious problem in the East. No tradition emphasizes human freedom more strongly than the Eastern.The question thus becomes, why? From a traditional Eastern perspective, open theism is trying to solve a problem that does not exist.

        Apophatically speaking, do you agree with this bolded sentence?

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      • Tom says:

        I’d certainly agree with the bold sentence. I don’t think the Orthodox see an issue here.

        As for Bulgakov, I understand the reluctance to include him in the conversation. However, I don’t see how he’s not relevant. I’m not suggesting his particular, controversial views are obviously Orthodox. I’m guessing they’re not. But ‘he’ (the man) is. So I’m not bringing him into the conversation in an attempt to establish “the” Orthodox view. But unlike Protestants, Evangelicals, or Process theists who don’t already embrace essential Orthodox theological values and life, Bulgakov does embrace these. And as somebody interested in bringing my view into conversation with those values, Bulgakov is important, because he seems to approach a position on time and divine knowledge of created realities that’s similar to my own and he doesn’t do so by first becoming a Protestant or Process theist.

        If we want to just discuss the metaphysical questions, again, I could just turn to Bulgakov. He has metaphysical convictions for why he holds the view he does. What am I to do if I share those convictions? He himself seems to see a problem with eternal-immutable knowledge of created free choices. True, he also promotes his controversial Sophiology. But the two aren’t essentially related. I can agree that a certain kind of foreknowledge is incompatible with free will without buying his Sophiology. And his problem with such foreknowledge is the common problem, i.e., the truth of created actualities supervenes upon those actualities, so the truth in question becomes true with those actualities, those actualities “make it true” that so and so, such and such. To suppose these truths obtain eternally-immutably is to say that something other than those actualities determines their truth, and that’s a problem per the indissoluble relationship between truth and reality.

        I don’t know, apophaticallyspeaking and Fr Adian, if you’re aware of the main views on time and, if you are, which view you hold to.

        Perhaps too simply put, but:

        “A-Theory” of time = ‘Presentism’ or the tensed theory of time. Time is objectively real, the past and future don’t exist in any objective sense of the world. All that is ‘actual’ (created of course) and ‘real’ obtains/exists in the present moment.

        “B-Theory” of time = something like the Block Universe. Past, present, and future are merely subjective realities. The entire timeline of creation is all equally actual/real, time is a subjective phenomenon relative to my present. But it doesn’t mean the present is any more actual or real than the past or future.

        I get the sense that the Orthodox want to affirm a KIND of freedom that’s available only with the A-theory of time (time as true becoming, freedom as antecedently undetermined options). But when it comes to God they want to suppose a B-theory of time in that God possesses the entirely of created history, in the truth of all its actualities, in an eternal, immutable act of knowledge. WE live in an A-theory world. GOD knows and relates to/sustains a B-theory world. I do appreciate what the Orthodox “say” when they insist there’s no incompatibility between our actions being genuinely free, temporal and mutable and the truth of those actions being eternal and immutable. But I can’t make heads or tails of it. It’s as meaningful to me as “married bachelor.”

        Tom

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      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        Tom, I think you may be wrong that Bulgakov’s sophiology is irrelevant to his understanding of the relationship between time and eternity, given that for him Sophia mediates divinity and the world. In any case, I do not have a sufficient grasp of Bulgakov at this point to say anything helpful.

        Regarding the theories of time that you cite, I have no opinion at this point. I do not believe one needs to have an opinion precisely because we cannot comprehend, much less articulate, the relationship between divine eternity and creaturely time. All we know is what we do not know, which is why we resort to negative theology. We cannot stand outside the Creator/creature relation to “see” things as God “sees” things.

        We have the same problem when we try to talk about how it is possible for creatures, who at every moment are receiving their being from God, to make free decisions. For me, this is the pressing question. The compatibilist/libertarian distinctions that form the discussions in analytic circles are irrelevant and distorting. We cannot step outside the Creator/creature relationship to “see” things as God “sees” things. We cannot talk about sufficient and necessary conditions for free human acts in relationship to God because we cannot achieve autonomy in relation to God (that we seek to do so is our sin).

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      • Tom says:

        I suspect for Bulgakov sophiology does explain how God opens the divine life to the world. I just meant the particular objection that if immutably-eternally (fore)known, contingent choices are less than free. That particular objection is shared by thinkers who aren’t sophiologists.

        With respect to the theories of time, I wasn’t so much interested in speculating on how God relates to it. I was just at this point interested in what sort of created reality you were working with. The nature of God’s relationship to created time aside, what exactly is the nature of created time? The block view of time would rule out the sort of free choice even the Orthodox want to affirm. I’ve always had the sense that the Orthodox were presentists (A-theorist) regarding time (at last once the modern clarity on the nature of the world became explicit). That’s the only way to make sense of the freedom they suppose we have. But maybe I’m wrong.

        Tom

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      • apophaticallyspeaking says:

        All we know is what we do not know, which is why we resort to negative theology. We cannot stand outside the Creator/creature relation to “see” things as God “sees” things.

        Agreed. Which is another way of saying that we must tread ever so carefully as we press our theology so as not to make God a being among beings. And hence the importance of the apophatic approach, the realization God will always be over and beyond our circumscriptions.

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      • apophaticallyspeaking says:

        Hi Tom,

        I work based on a non-successive view of eternity – I don’t find the A/B Theory particularly helpful.

        I agree with you that Bulgakov can be helpful and is indeed relevant, he explores the nature of the God/world relationship. But of course with the proviso as expressed in my earlier comment, and I would add, a firm grip on and life within the living tradition is not optional but necessary. In the language of my favorite pastime – one doesn’t set sail without the requisite life-saving necessities properly in place and checked. I have been overboard offshore a few times too many…

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      • Tom says:

        Thanks ApoSpeaking.

        Re: A/B theory, I wasn’t asking for what you thought the truth was about ‘eternity’. Rather, I was only asking what you thought the truth was about creation. This material world we live in — Is it (per the A-theory) a world of genuine temporal becoming or (per the B-theory) a block universe? Do you there is anything important about human freedom/choice at stake in the choice between these very different kinds of material existence?

        Tom

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      • Tom says:

        I’ll continue to look for some Orthodox happy to expound upon what it is Bulgakov is actually saying in those passages. 😀 I appreciate pointing to them from a distance. But I’d like someone to take me by the hand and show me what Bulgakov’s claims there actually mean. I do remember one conversation with Gavrilyuk re: Bulgakov years back. I had heard of Bulgakov but hadn’t read him. In the context of a conversation about open theism, Gavrilyuk pointed me to Bulgakov which later proved to be very interesting. And of course Gavrilyuk does take Bulgakov’s passages (the one’s we’re talking about) in the sense I’m taking them, not as asserting something compatible with their contradiction.

        Tom

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      • apophaticallyspeaking says:

        Yes, Fr Aidan, I do agree. It may even be broadened out a bit:

        “from the perspective of the undivided church, the church of the seven ecumenical councils, open theism is trying to solve a problem that does not exist.” Be it as it may, Fr Aidan your point is well taken – we must be careful not to normalize speculations, mistake them for dogma, overstate implications, and so forth. Nevertheless I am of the conviction that speculative thoughts, held in their proper context, are absolutely essential and immensely invaluable to the process of learning, to stretch our ideological frameworks, urge us on to clarify positions, etc.

        As an aside: It appears to me, and again I am not a Bulgakov expert, but it seems that Bulgakov is not understood on his on own terms. One reading of Sophia it is quite clear that he denotes the immanent Trinity, the ousia, the “sum of the divine life.” Anyways, I can post reference material on this, but that for another time.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Tom says:

        Apophaticallyspeakaing,

        After hitting very nice warm temps (for March) here in MN, this Wed we’re expected 8 inches of snow. And I don’t mean that apophatically. ;o)

        I’m so grateful for your help and clarity. Truly.

        When you get a chance (no rush at all), I’d be interested in your thoughts on Gregory of Nyssa’s very peculiar theory on the providential use of foreknowledge.

        On Infants’ Early Deaths

        Tom

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      • apophaticallyspeaking says:

        That is a very puzzling document – I have heard some questioning its authorship, others noting how it contradicts his views on universal salvation, some observing this was written late in life, so who knows? Another concern is the accuracy of the translation – I have seen any recent work done on this have you?

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      • Tom says:

        I’m not aware of any recent scholarly work questioning its authorship. It is, at the very least, quite early, which in itself makes its thought processes interesting.

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  11. apophaticallyspeaking says:

    Tom,

    Re: A/B theory: That is just it – I don’t see how one can understand time without consideration of eternity. Hence I find the A/B theories less than helpful in that respect. Tensed/tenseless, subjective/objective – well it depends on perspective, doesn’t it? It is both: tensed and tenseless, subject and objective.

    Re: Bulgakov: To which passages are you referring?

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      • apophaticallyspeaking says:

        Ah yes, that passage! 🙂

        Not completely sure how to understand it – he seems to imply mutability of the divine nature, but I know that elsewhere he categorically rules that out. So he must then be speaking of a change in a different way, how exactly appears to be left unanswered. This of course is not a very satisfying.

        In general though I have found it needful to consult the larger context of his works – reading passages in isolation can with Bulgakov in particular easily lead to misunderstanding. This is the case with his writings for a few reasons that come to mind: translation from the Russian appears to be problematic at times (stilted, obscure sentences are quite frequent); his writings do not lead to a facile gloss due to his focus on highly speculative matters (which to many are verboten); Bulgakov’s frequent utilization of terms and concepts removed from their normative meaning and usage; general unfamiliarity with his background, intellectual context, and the like. There are other factors as well, but those just come to mind.

        So there’s obscurity and often he raises more questions than he answers. All that said I find his works worthwhile, especially considering his concern about the nature of the God/world relationship, a topic which I find personally of great interest and concern. I am currently doing work on panentheism, so you can understand the interest.

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  12. apophaticallyspeaking says:

    Thank you also to both of you Tom and Fr Aidan for your input, questions, and taking the time to engage, quite beneficial and hopefully edifying to us all!

    Liked by 1 person

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