Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Zubizantine Theology: Creation and the Freedom of God (Part 6)

Zubiri incorporates his metaphysics all the more clearly into his theology by proceeding into the question of creation. The quoted material below is taken from Christianity, subject to the following copyright notice: © 2001-2005 by Joaquín Redondo. Permission to republish in any form is hereby granted, provided that source is acknowledged.

Zubiri first points to the notion of creation as effusion of the divine love, one which will be familiar to many Thomists, in order to affirm that the creation is not in any way a "second act" apart from the eternal Trinitarian life and reality of God. In other words, there is no "separate" act or activity of self-giving from which creation proceeds:

The fact is that these two concepts [necessity and contingency] lead us to something anterior to necessity and contingency. And for once, this most subtle commentator of St. Thomas, which Cajetan was, while dealing with a completely different matter, pointed to the notion that we needed to find an idea superior to necessity and contingency. He did not do it, but that is irrelevant because this is one of the great statements ever made in theology. Is there any doubt that we must decide to step (in the same manner we have stepped from being to the reality of God), from the necessity and contingency with which we conceive the realities of this world to something that is beyond necessity and contingency. Because actually the activity in which God consists, that internal activity of procession, is precisely effusion. It is an effusive activity.

In a certain way effusive love can be irremediable without ceasing to be love, and produces the Trinitarian processions. But it can have a different characteristic because the infinite love of God places its fruition on something that is much lower than Him. Liberty consists precisely on this. The same act that on one side is effusion towards the Trinitarian processions is, on the other, freedom to create. God is a giving of Himself that is effusive. And precisely because it is effusive the act of creation is not a second act added to the act with which God loves Himself. It is the very act with which God loves Himself insofar as He places that fruition in which love consists upon a reality that is inferior to the act of effusion. The reality of God is always above that which He loves. Naturally, theologians have also said that the freedom in which the creative act consists is terminatively unnecessary. But they have not positively explained in what that terminative characteristic consists, that it is the effusive characteristic of the very divine activity.

But one might have already noticed something distinctly different in Zubiri's explanation from previous Thomist expressions: namely, that the object of God's effusiveness is not God Himself even though the activity is the same as the activity that produces the Trinitarian processions. Remember that, by Zubiri's lights, God is not a being, willing Himself into existence. Rather, the dar de si (giving-of-self) within structure, the Trinitarian life itself (although we know that it is Trinitarian solely by revelation), is *reality*, to which being is merely ulterior. Real freedom is free autoformation: the possibility of person ("his-ownness") to choose the expression of his own reality, to make his own reality beyond what it is. This is precisely what Zubiri means by an open essence, and this is precisely God's own freedom.

Of course, from the point of view of what God is, the divine essence is already an essence open to His own characteristic of reality. And here resides that numerical identity on which the foundation of the Trinitarian life consists, the Trinitarian processions in God. It is an open essence. To be open is what we call ecstasy, to be outside oneself. The divine essence is ecstatic. That is the second characteristic, which I consider important.
The ecstasy of the open essence of God formally consists in the fecundity of the divine essence. This open essence in which God consists is first and above all open to His own reality, the characteristic of the Trinitarian processions. But {187} in second place, in it He is open to the whole of reality, precisely because of His own fecundity. And inasmuch as this fecundity is founded on the Trinity the road is now open for what we are going to show further on, namely, that the terminus of creation consists in the molding ad extra of the very Trinitarian life.

Zubiri explicitly contrasts his view with the Neoplatonic idea of God as absolute being from which creation emanates:

The divine essence as ecstatic essence is an open essence. And the open essence (leaving aside for the moment that it is open to its own Trinitarian processions, which we have already covered) is open to the initiating procession, to the creative procession. It could be remarked that this is just another way of saying what most of the theologians have said. For me that would not be an objection, just the opposite. That is the idea of the divine essence being imitable. The divine essence would be imitable in an infinite number of ways outside God, and that would constitute the terminus of that ecstatic action, and of that ecstatic characteristic of the divine essence. Beg indulgence to put this idea of being imitable in parenthesis. It is an absolutely Platonic idea inserted into theology. Not that I consider it an objection, but where does the imitation and the being imitable come from? This would be true if God were a being, but what if He is not? If God is not being, but is reality essentially real, a reality absolutely absolute? Then we would have to say that what constitutes the ecstatic characteristic of the divine essence is much more radical than a formal imitation, it is His intrinsic, metaphysical and theological fecundity.

But we must also consider the infinitude of God, which leads rather straightforwardly to the following account of omnipotence and omniscience: Omnipotence is potency of reality, and omniscience is eternality of that which at least is not only possible, but is real in the form of a posteriori. The latter refers to God's knowledge, in an eternal mode, of His own effusive initiatives, which are reserved from a temporal perspective (hence, "real in the form of a posteriori"). But Zubiri is also careful to note how God's providential love applies to all of reality (omniprovidence/omnibenevolence): Because God creates a world in which things not only are produced by omnipotence and known through omniscience, but also in addition are loved for themselves in their ultimate reality. That is precisely the idea of providence.

I hope that it will be apparent from my earlier introduction of Eastern theology that the number of ways in which God expresses His reality are analogous to the divine energies. And indeed, Zubiri himself makes the same connection that Eastern theologians did in recognizing the good and the glory of God in creation:

Applied to our problem this means that the terminus of the creative act is, in first place, the naked reality of things willed by God really and effectively qua reality. God wishes things simply by reason of love for things themselves, for their own reality. But then, does this mean that reality has no meaning for God? Indeed it has. {191} The fact is that the creative effusion of God deposits its fruition in a reality, which as reality, without ceasing to be reality and precisely because of it, is infinitely lesser than the effusion that finds in it its own fruition. This excess is manifested as a kind of weight the divine reality has in and above the whole of creation. This weight is what in Hebrew is called kabod, which in Greek was translated as dóxa, and in Latin by gloria. Reality is meaning-thing precisely inasmuch as it is glory of God. Where glory does not mean that it may be a very glorious thing, but only what it may mean for a modest and humble father that his glory may be the reality of his own son and nothing more. The reality of the world qua reality is precisely that in which the glory of God formally consists.
Therefore, all reality qua reality has one condition with respect to God, precisely to be able to be His glory. And this condition by virtue of which the real qua real is precisely something that is meaning-thing in the form of glory of God, is what we call the good, goodness. Genesis tells us that God saw that light was good, that the sea was good, etc. Here “good” does not mean something moral, nor well done (how can God make {192} bad things?), but from my personal interpretation, it means what I have just pointed out. It is the condition the real has qua real to be effectively and formally kabod, glory of God.

I will digress for a moment on a subject that has caused no small amount of disputation between East and West: the matter of the distinction between essence and energies. There is little doubt in my mind, although I have not found an explicit statement to this effect, that Zubiri would dismiss this distinction as a relic of ancient metaphysics. The operative question in Zubiri's metaphysics is not the ontological question of what things are at the level of being, but what is the reality? To quibble about whether any particular being is created or uncreated in part or whole entirely misses the point; to the extent anything is real, it is so by respectivity to God. In turn, the respectivity to God as personal ("his-own") reality is exactly the extent to which God appropriates the reality to His own personhood. It is exactly in this respectivity that we consider the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, for example, or charis (grace). Make no mistake; this respectivity is real. Granted, only in the Incarnation is the respectivity so complete that the reality literally is assumed by God's personhood, but that does not diminish the reality of other forms of respectivity. Thus, it is spurious to question whether the Old Testament theophanies were "created" or "uncreated;" they constitute a real respectivity of the person to God, and that is enough. Ditto the beatific vision; it is a question of respectivity in reality, not a question of ontology. Zubiri affirms the reality of respectivity as follows:

One might suggest that God also belongs to reality and is not respective. Yes and no. What does it mean that He is not respective? That He may have no respectivity towards what He is not? That is not possible. We have already considered this. It may be fundamented to the greatest degree, but the procession of initiation with respect to divine fecundity is inexorably consecutive, and also inexorably inexorable in God. The world might not have been created, and in this sense God does not have an essential respectivity towards the world that he has really and effectively created. Does it mean, however, that He has no respectivity? He freely has it, and that is a different matter. But no doubt He has it. And the proof that He has it is in the act of redemption. Are we going to say that God has no respectivity to the redemptive death of Christ on the cross? The respectivity is perfectly {193} real. It may be free in the case of existences that God has created. And it may be merely consecutive in the order of the possible fecundity of the divine essence. But that respectivity, in one form or another, belongs to God qua God. However, that respectivity is not constitutive of the divine reality, but merely consecutive to it. By virtue of this, God, who produces the respectivity, formally has no actuality in it; the divine reality in itself is not respective. Therefore, God, cause of respectivity, by having no actuality in it, lacks being. God, cause of respectivity, is cause of that subsequent act of created reality that is to be. But in Himself God is beyond being.

Finally, Zubiri summarizes what it means for God to be fontanal reality in the realm of cause, particularly with respect to free human beings:

If we now take at the same time what the creative action is from the part of God and what the created world is for His glory and open, we can say that in creation God appears to us {197} as the fontanal reality, as I explained somewhere else3. But this fontanal reality has a particular characteristic. God has wished (He could have made things differently) something more radical and profound than just to have realities in this world. He has wished that these realities might be the most divinely real possible, i.e., that they may be able to form themselves. It is the will to autoformation with which God has wished a world that is forming itself, and in addition is going to make that it be forming itself in good measure by different initiatives. The will to creation is a will formally autoformative. It is not a fiat in the sense that there is the world, and let the world do whatever. And it is not a fiat in which he has to be shoring each one of the steps of that world by means of His creative capacity. It is neither of these two things. It is simply the formal will that the world autoconform itself, autoform itself. And proportionately the world is not simply a copy of what the divine reality was, but is a copy precisely of what is the very existence of the divine life.

Certainly, this does not authorize to say that the world has a vestige of the Trinity, as the NeoPlatonic leaning theologians believed, like St. Bonaventure. That is not the case, but it is the case that the Trinitarian characteristic of the creative action is the one that molds and has willed to mold a world effectively. A world that is not composed of independent monoliths, but is precisely an autoformation where the different divine interventions are present in good measure, as I have just pointed out. God is fontanal, and in addition forming the nature of this open world. This world is never alien to the reality and action of God. {198}

Classical theology has promoted the thought that each one of the creatures must have an immediate concurrence from the divine reality to produce its effects. This starts the great divide among the Thomists, led by my paisano Báñez4 or by Molina5. They have affirmed that this concurrence that God provides to things, either is predetermining from the part of God, as Báñez and his disciples would say, or is a simultaneous concurrence as provided in accordance with a scientia media as Molina would say. In this scientia media God would foresee what a creature would do in certain circumstances and then would provide His concurrence. Of course, we may ask, why assume that the concurrence of God has to be immediate? What if it was only mediate? Modern theologians have attempted an exegesis of St. Thomas using the idea of a mediate concurrence. This endeavor appears to me more or less arguable. At any rate, the idea of mediate concurrence is perfectly acceptable6.

According to the mediate concurrence there is certainly a “substratum” in reality, which in the end has to be attributed to God, not only as substance, but also in the order of its activities. But there are also the activities that substratum is going to develop precisely because it is supported in the reality of God. God, in this mediate way, makes that things make themselves and continue to make what they are. The concurrence is mediate. And it is that some realities ordered towards others is what produces this autoformation, which is in what the formally creative will of God consists for the whole of creation. Not only that there be realities, but that God has willed that realities make themselves real in the most divine manner possible, i.e., by themselves. That is why creation is a giving of itself, {199} but a giving of itself as donation of God. Not only in the order of giving reality, but also to give it in the most divine way possible. That with a primary substratum, subjacent to which God is there fontanally, things may continue to make themselves in a mediate way.

Thus, we can see how Zubiri's metaphysical system proves useful for resolving several problems that have been the subject of much wrangling over the years between various schools of Christian thought.