There Will Be Gaps

Last Friday, Fr. Al Kimel completed his extended essay(s) on justification and predestination at Pontifications. Since that blog no longer supports user comments, and because Fr. Kimel has kindly brought his essays to my attention, I would like to make a few comments here, and I invite others who wish to comment on what Fr. Kimel has to say to contribute their comments here at this blog. My own comments are something of a meditation on something that appears to me to come very close to a solution to what I had always thought of as a problem rather than as an announcement, and in seeing this solution to my pseudo-problem I begin to understand the unpreachability of the announcement.

Fr. Kimel begins with what I think is an extraordinarily valuable insight: "in Scripture predestination is good news," and he quotes what I think is a particularly beautiful passage from Barth (Church Dogmatics II/2):
In itself, however, [the truth of the Gospel] is light and not darkness. In any case, even under this aspect, the final word is never that of warning, of judgment, of punishment, of a barrier erected, of a grave opened. We cannot speak of it without mentioning all these things. The Yes cannot be heard unless the No is also heard. But the No is said for the sake of the Yes and not for its own sake. In substance, therefore, the first and last word is Yes and not No.
Fr. Kimel nicely explicates this notion via the doctrine of the Incarnation:
Because predestination intends Jesus, it intends the Church, the body of Christ, the new Israel and elect company of the twice-born. And because predestination simultaneously intends Jesus, Israel, Mary, and the Church, it also intends the individual believer in Christ, who has been baptized into the death and resurrection of the Lord, incorporated into the eschatological community, and made an heir of the kingdom. The gospel of election proclaims to the baptized that through their sacramental incorporation into Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, they participate in the divine Sonship and are destined to be with Christ in his kingdom. Jesus is the elect One of God: united to him we share in his divine election. To be in the Church is to be in Christ; to be in Christ is to be in God; and to be in God is to enjoy eternal salvation in the life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
This is salutary for the philosopher who, like me, pedantically persues God through logic as though God can be captured within the formal constraints of the human mind; Fr. Kimel rightly notes what I had been missing: to conceive of the problem of predestination in the way that philosophers usually do is to make a kind of category mistake, or to commit oneself to something that is not a well-formed formula:
At the moment one makes the Augustinian turn and seeks to explain human rejection of the gospel in terms of God’s eternal decrees, the preaching of election becomes impossible. The logic appears inescapable. If salvation is by grace alone, and if some reject Christ to their damnation, does this not mean that God reprobates, directly or indirectly, the damned? But the gospel itself disallows the question. The election of Christ Jesus is the reason why some are saved, but it is not the reason why some are not!
Fr. Kimel turns, with the writer Joseph P. Farrell (of "Tesla studies" fame--or infamy, depending on whom you ask), to the thought of St. Maximus the Confessor in the quest for an explanation of this situation. The Maximian solution lies in seeing Christ's redemptive act as saving human nature rather than individual human persons, and ascribing the natural will to that human nature, while the personal will belongs to the individual person. Every natural will, on this account, strives for the good, thanks to the redemptive healing of Christ's sacrifice, but individual persons are still quite capable of choosing something that falls far short of the good, since a healed nature does not guarantee a healed individual capable of using a particular will in the way the healed natural will is structured to be used.

The idea here is a very interesting one. The metaphysics is broadly Neoplatonic, with a natural kind functioning as a kind of singular in which multiple particulars can participate by means of a kind of hypostasis. Just as in Neoplatonism, the singular is unqualifiedly what it is, while the particulars are capable of falling short of it. In the present case, the singular is unqualifiedly redeemed by the sacrificial act of Christ, and particulars may approach ever closer to that state individually by becoming as like to the singular as possible. Since the particulars have a share of the singular, they have a share of the salvation enjoyed by the singular due to Christ's sacrifice; but as particulars they are quite capable of having other properties as well, including a kind of falling short of perfection that, due to our limited free will, can have the effect of turning us away from God rather than towards him.

This sort of "both/and" metaphysics is characteristic of our Trinitarian theology. God is also a singular, and has certain properties, including "being from God/being the God from whom", a sort of bi-valent property that captures the essence of the relations among the three Persons. God the Father is the "God from whom", while God the Son is "God from God". The "both/and" aspect of this kind of metaphysics can be seen most clearly in the debate over the Filioque: since this bi-valent property must always be present in God considered as such, it must also be fully present (that is, both aspects of its valency must be present) in any given Person-pair. Obviously when you consider Father and Son it is present, as it is when you consider Father and Holy Spirit. But what if the pair is Son and Holy Spirit? The Greeks had argued that the Holy Spirit was not really "from the Son", but if, with the Latins, you accept that he is, then in that pairing also you have one Person who is "god from God" (the Holy Spirit) and one Person who is "god from whom" (the Son). The Latin formulation has the advantage of making perfect sense out of the properties that we must ascribe to God as such while at the same time making sense out of the properties that are ascribed to the separate Persons.

Trinitarian metaphysics is necessarily mysterious, because what it attempts to explain is a mystery. But being mysterious is not the same thing as being unintelligible; it means only that intelligibility will require cognitive leaps of the sort that ordinary logic does not sufficiently account for. The human mind is finite and limited, but God is not. We are like the poor folks in the book Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions: we are squares contemplating spheres, plane figures tyring to understand three-dimensional space, human beings trying to comprehend God. There will be gaps.

Comments

Acolyte4236 said…
Kimel gets Farrell and Maximus wrong on dyothelitism. It is not that one will is natural and the other personal. It is that both the human and divine wills are both natural and employed by one person. With us, there is one faculty or power of will which we employ. The faculty is always directed to the good, but how this power is employed depends on the uses that the person who subsists in that nature puts it too. Furthermore, the hypostatic union does save everyone, it is just that salvation is not necessarily unconditionally applied beyond the scope of nature, it takes faith. So Christ redeems all of creation from annihilation, but how free agents spend it, is up to them.
Pontificator said…
Perry, it wouldn't surprise me at all if I have misunderstood Farrell, and I welcome correction. But in my defense, I point you to Farrell's discussion on pp. 216-219. It is Farrell himself who states that Maximus states that the human being has two wills:

"Is the will an attribute of nature or of person? St. Maximus drew a novel and somewhat startling conclusion which is staed here in its sharpest form so that this novelty is truly apparent. The only way out of the impasse was that there had to be two human wills just as there were two wills of Christ, or rather, there had to be a distinction between the will as a property of nature and the equally real mode of using and employing the will which was a property of the person" (p. 218).

If I have misunderstood Farrell, I can only plead his misleading language.
Pontificator said…
To rephrase what I just wrote: When Farrell says that the human being has two wills, he is not speaking of the two wills (divine and human) in Christ. Rather, he seems to be making a distinction seems to be between the human will as natural faculty and the personal mode of employment of the will. This distinction allows Maximus to say that Christ has assumed and healed the human will while avoiding the conclusion of universal salvation.

After re-reading both the relevant pages in Farrell and my paragraphs on Farrell, I do not see how your corrections in fact touch what I wrote. Perhaps I might have used different terminology; but as I wrote above, it is Farrell who states that Maximus asserted two wills in the human being. I simply paraphrased him. I do not yet see where I have misrepresented him.
Scott Carson said…
I'm not in a particularly good position to comment on this, since I haven't read Farrell's book, but I get the impression that Perry has conflated two things in his comment, the dual wills in Christ, on the one hand, and the distinction between the natural will and the particular will in each individual human on the other. With Fr. Kimel, I took St. Maximus (whom I have read) to be making a metaphysical point about the latter rather than trying to connect the former to the latter. In doing so, St. Maximus makes a point very like that made by St. Gregory of Nyssa, who argued that Christ, in effect, saved "one man", that is the metaphysical singular that is human nature taken as a form.
Photius said…
Perry,

I think Kimel is reading Farrell right. The will is not solely natural and not solely hypostatic or you have apokatastasis of universal salvation either way. The will as the natural will and the will as the mode of employment, though two different types of properties: person-will as mode of employement; nature-will as the natural faculty. I think what you stated is exactly what Kimel stated and what Farrell/Maximus means.

What is WRONG here is Mr. Carson thinking that the metaphysics in place is NeoPlatonic. You can't fit the patristic ordo theologiae of persons--energies/operations--essence into NeoPlatonism nor the other way around. Dr. Farrell would have a real problem in thinking that Maximus is a NeoPlatonist of any kind.

Just to clear the record here: Bishop Photios Farrell did his dissertation under Kallistos Ware at Oxford titled: Free Choice in Saint Maximus the Confessor. He is a retired prof and patristics scholar (his 4 volume set for his seminar students called God, History, and Dialectic is oustanding which he taught at the University of Oklahoma and a few Anglican seminaries) who is pursuing other interests which include esoteric studies and physics. Whatever one thinks of "Tesla studies" or of Dr. Farrell's other interests are completely irrelevent to the point here. Dr. Farrell is an extremely sharp and well read man.

Photios Jones
Scott Carson said…
I really wish that I could agree with "Photius Jones", but, sadly, he has quite missed my point, since there is obviously a difference between saying that a metaphysics is "broadly Neoplatonic" (my words) and saying that it "is Neoplatonic" ("Photius Jones'" words). It is not clear from what he writes here that "Photius Jones" is very familiar either with Neoplatonism or with the Christian metaphysics to which I was comparing it, so I'm not sure what to make of his rather bizarre misreading of things, but I'm sure that someone of his obvious acuity will very quickly see that I am not, in fact, very far off the mark in what I say, once he pauses to consider more carefully what has in fact been said, as opposed to what he thinks has been said.

Nor am I particularly impressed by the rather quaint appeal to credentialism in defense of Farrell. Plenty of otherwise sensible, perhaps even intelligent, people subscribe to ridiculous ideas, especially in their dotage, as I'm sure "Photius Jones" is fully aware, and regardless of who supervised a thesis written many years ago it is fair to say that it is entirely possible that he is chasing after moonbeams nowadays.

Having said all that, it should be noted that I did not myself impune Farrell or his abilities in any way--indeed, I trust Fr. Kimel's assessment of the book--and I really have no idea what "record" this "Photius Jones" thinks he is clearing by listing all the irrelevant data in that final paragraph. If anything, I would say that "Photius Jones" has done Farrell a disservice by needlessly calling attention to the patently questionable recent research, thus vitiating the claim that he is still "extremely sharp". He may very well be, of course, but pointing out cases where he fails to be hardly helps his case. I suppose the idea was supposed to be that by toting up Farrell's earlier accomplishments we would be lead to believe that what he is doing now must be on the same level, but that is of course a fallacious suggestion, since the direction of implication could just as easily go the other way. It is far better simply to defend the position by rational arguments (if it can be defended) than to set out on a quixotic mission in defense of a particular personality.
Pontificator said…
With Messrs. Carson, Robinson, and Jones now gathered, perhaps I might pose two related questions about Maximus:

1) What is the difference between fallen man before the Incarnation and fallen man after the Incarnation? Putting aside the question of "original guilt," where does Maximus differ from Augustine?

2) Is the will bound for either Augustine or Maximus? If yes, in what way?

3) What does Holy Baptism accomplish according to Maximus?

Let me throw in this passage from Farrell: http://tinyurl.com/gqv3j

Thanks.
Photius said…
'1) What is the difference between fallen man before the Incarnation and fallen man after the Incarnation? Putting aside the question of "original guilt," where does Maximus differ from Augustine?'

As a result of the fall, for Maximus, man is bound to opposition. Person and nature have become opposed. Death resulted in the garden when the personal gnomic will of our first parents tried to give subsistence to something that the natural will cannot and does not "will" as existence. The purpose of the natural will is to propose objects of will to the person. The Incarnation gives the ability for ever created hypostasis to recapitulate that harmony between person and nature that Christ experienced and healed.

For Augustine, because of his doctrine of divine simplicity, the human nature of Christ is opposed to his divine nature and "the Spirit must overcome the flesh that lusteth in opposition to it," as he says in Rebuke and Grace. Christ is, thus for Augustine, the most illustrative example of predestination. As Barth says, of Calvin's doctrine of predestination being no-less Augustinian, is the ultimate separation of God and Jesus Christ, this is because Christ is separated from the Father by a divine attribute of predestination or will (a very Eunomian and Arian view, see my paper on Gregory of Nyssa as any interposition of attributes between persons is Arianism).

2) Is the will bound for either Augustine or Maximus? If yes, in what way?

Do you remember the table in the book with Origen, Augustine, and Maximus, in the last chapter or so...I think that would be your answer.

"3) What does Holy Baptism accomplish according to Maximus?"

There is a passage in the Opuscula or [Ad Thallasium] that addresses that question directly, but I'll have to look it up when I get home. There is a dual gift given in baptism according to Maximus according to person and nature.

Photios
Photius said…
Mr. Carson,

I wasn't trying to drag or defend someone's personality in order to "strong-arm" the debate. It just sounded like you were poisoning the well with off the topic references to "Tesla studies." I haven't the foggiest of why such personal interests in such things would be chasing "moonbeams." Perhaps you have an intention, purpose, or agenda in stating such, but whatever.

And you needn't put Photios Jones in quotations, that's my name. Shall I put your name in quotations?

Photios
Scott Carson said…
When I start calling myself "Augustine Smith" you may put my name in quotation marks. For now, Scott will do.
Scott Carson said…
All kidding aside, I will have to defer to Fr. Jones on question 3, since I don't have any immediate access to Quaestiones ad Thal[l]asium (it might be available in the TLG, though).

As for Augustine, in De libero arbitrio he allows for a freedom of the will that is not ordered to the good, if that is what you have in mind.

What Fr. Jones says in answer to question 1 seems right to me within certain limits, though I am not as familiar with Maximus as I am with Augustine. By "within certain limits" what I mean is that I would like to hear more about what he means when he says that Christ's human nature is opposed to his divine nature. Without knowing a bit more about what sort of opposition this is supposed to be it is difficult to assess the claim as relating to the thought of Augustine.
Acolyte4236 said…
AL,

The way you seemed to gloss or present Farrell was that there were two wills in terms of powers or faculties in humans, which there isn't. There is only one. This is why Farrell wrote,

"there had to be a distinction between the will as a property of nature and the equally real mode of using and employing the will which was a property of the person"

Modes are not faculties or powers and hence there is only one will qua faculty in any human person. The way you left your original post seemed to give the impression that there were two faculties. If that was not your intention, then great.

To be clear the gnomic will or any other personal employment of the will is not a faculty or a power. It is not a second "thing."This is why sin is in the use and not the nature. Sin is personal and not natural

I am glad though that you are after a long while engaging Maximus and it seems clear now that you see where Augustine's account of predestination is at least inadequate, if not wrong. Consequently, you are in the same position Daniel and I are with respec to Augustine on that point. Augustine and subsequent teaching i that line are wrong and have to be corrected. Bad Bad Augustine-now go to your room. Remember that one?
Acolyte4236 said…
AL,

The way you seemed to gloss or present Farrell was that there were two wills in terms of powers or faculties in humans, which there isn't. There is only one. This is why Farrell wrote,

"there had to be a distinction between the will as a property of nature and the equally real mode of using and employing the will which was a property of the person"

Modes are not faculties or powers and hence there is only one will qua faculty in any human person. The way you left your original post seemed to give the impression that there were two faculties. If that was not your intention, then great.

To be clear the gnomic will or any other personal employment of the will is not a faculty or a power. It is not a second "thing."This is why sin is in the use and not the nature. Sin is personal and not natural

I am glad though that you are after a long while engaging Maximus and it seems clear now that you see where Augustine's account of predestination is at least inadequate, if not wrong. Consequently, you are in the same position Daniel and I are with respec to Augustine on that point. Augustine and subsequent teaching i that line are wrong and have to be corrected. Bad Bad Augustine-now go to your room. Remember that one?
Pontificator said…
Perry, I of course agree with you that Augustine's views on predestination have to be corrected. In fact, I have believed that ever since I started thinking about such matters. T. F. Torrance has been my principle teacher here since seminary. And it appears that most contemporary Catholic theologians agree with me. But I still want to keep--indeed, insist on keeping--Augustine in the catholic conversation. That was the point of my article "Bad, bad Augustine." The fact that I disagree with him on specific points doesn't mean he is not a doctor of the Church.

I think it is particularly important to keep thinking with Augustine on the topic of grace. He may have drawn conclusions unwarranted by Scripture and Tradition, but he also apprehended a critical aspect of the gospel more deeply than any of the Church Fathers---namely, the utter gratuity of grace and the miraculousness of faith.

Maximus/Farrell appears to provide a neat solution on the question of the freedom of the will--indeed, it is a solution that high church (Arminian) Anglicans (and former Anglicans) would find quite agreeable--but it also misses something. And that "something" is what captured Augustine's heart and imagination and drove his preaching. That "something" is the cutting edge of the gospel.
Acolyte4236 said…
Al,

If Augustine's views on predestination have to be corrected, then so do many of his other views, specifically on the nature of grace and how it relates to nature, and as a consequnce his thinking on the Incarnation and the nature of God, along with his theological method.

While I don't think Augustine's teaching needs to be scrapped, I do think his system does, and I don't think Torrence comes anywhere near that idea or correcting him in light of Augustine. My referencs to the past post was to point out that people were yelling at me that I was rejecting all things western and that any traditionally minded person had to swallow Augustine whole. Now I think it is clear to you that this is wrong, I was correct and Augustine, along with many other western followers of his got things systematically wrong, even if his protestation against Pelagius was correct.

The disagreement isn't on specific points but with the system which gives rise to those points of disagreement.

I don't think Augustine apprehended the necessity of grace better than any of the Church Fathers, certainly not more than Maximus. To think so is akin to thinking that Pelagius apprehended the necessity of nature's goodness better than anyone else. Augustine's insistence on grace is at least in part a product of his dialectical framing of the issues-God is good, therefore man is collectively sinful. The fact that Catholicism has "developed" beyond those points is testifies to their still employing the same dialectical model. The student has become the master.

I can't see what Maximus' account misses, so perhaps you can fill me in on that.
Asher Black said…
Dr. Farrell's magnum opus God, History, and Dialectic: The Theological Foundations of the Two Europes and their Cultural Consequences is now available for a reasonable price in 4 volume electronic edition at www.filioque.com

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