Friday, May 21, 2010

First Steps (1991) Toward Being As Constitutively Relational

Does God Change?

conciling the Immutable God with the God of Love

Jennifer A. Herrick


Parkland, FL USA 2003

As Walter Kasper, in "Postmodern Dogmatics", discerns, theology needs a metaphysics which has been developed precisely within theology. Without a transcendent ground and point of reference, statements of faith are finally only subjective projections of social and ecclesial ideologies.376 As long as the metaphysical model for describing a person is Aristotelian substance, and relation is always an accident, then being as relation will never be able to pass from its immanentized domestication within the Trinity to humankind and thereon to all reality as relational being.377 Thus Connor's proposal is to accept the theological elaboration of person as constitutively relational as expansive and to offer the Thomistic esse as the ontological explanation of that expansiveness.

Connor assumes the dynamic character of the Thomistic esse as expounded by Gerard Phelan in his paper "Being, Order and Knowledge". The latter comments on his joy at reading in the first article of Aquinas' Quaestio Disputata De Veritate that reality, unity, truth and all transcendentals are general modes of being, not properties or attributes of beings, and that substance, quantity, quality, relation and the like are also modes of being.378 Hill indeed, recognises that the whole metaphysical system of Aquinas pivots on the real distinction between essence and esse. The former explains nature and is the potential towards existence, the latter is its actus essendi. The ultimate source of such exercise is the hypostasis379

Principle of Person

The proposal then is to see this "to be", esse, not as an actuality of a substance but as an intensive act in its own right, of which substantiality is a mode. By intensive, Connor means that esse is expansive as an agere, and expansiveness as an agere is another mode of that same esse. Agere is "esse-becoming" and so constitutive of "esse 's fulfilment". Thus there is proposed here a transference of agency from essence to esse. When esse is intelligere the agent is the person. 380

In establishing the priority of esse as origin and source of all reality, we take time to flesh out Connor's thought. Connor is considering what kind of act esse is; that it might be a constitutive relationality because of its intensity as intelligible act. As such it would be a worthy candidate for the ontological category of person. Where there is intensity there is relationality. Relationality means intensity. If personality is defined by relationality, as offered in trinitarian theology, then the principle of relationality should be the principle of personality as intensity. Thus if the Thomistic esse can be shown to be intensive and therefore relational, it should be the principle of personality. 381

Connor's proposal thus presents the act of existence positively as intensive and expansive and essence as reduced to limit and specification of that act. This gives way to a Thomistically heterodox but crucial conclusion. If esse is intensive, intelligere is relational, and person is characterized by relationality, then esse should be the principle of personality. Essence as the principle of limit of act and therefore of limit of relationality should be rejected as subject of being and hence person.-191 This pinpointing of esse as the intersection of intensiveness and relationality is made clear by Josef Pieper in his book "Living the Truth". wherein he comments on Aquinas' Summa contra Gentiles 4,11. Here he shows the direct proportionality between esse as intrinsic existence and its outreach agere, as relation; the greater the relationality of the agere the more intensive the esse. Commenting on Aquinas, who states that the higher the nature the more intimate to the nature is that which flows from it, Pieper states that the notion of having an intrinsic existence. k -corresponds to being able to relate. The most comprehensive ability to relate, that is, the power to conform to all that is, implies the highest form of intrinsic existence, of selfness.392

Personal relational energy in God

he principle that Connor is being faithful to is the principle which sees person both, as the relational energy in God, and the image and likeness of God in humankind.393 The ramifications of such a proposal as Connor's are many. Esse as person subject is the principle of expansion and relation, not the principle of limit. If relation is a dimension constitutive of being itself, then love and ultimately relation to others will not be accidental but constitutive. The migration of subject and person from the limiting essence to the expanding esse redefines the relationship between God, humankind, and reality. It provides the common ontological ground: infinite esse and expanding esse. Being has become love.394 The ramifications of this proposal are profound for a renewed understanding of the nature of God's relatedness to humankind and thus for the nature and design of God's immutability.

William Norris Clarke: further contentions
God is perfectly personal being & intrinsically relational.

Robert Connor's work allows us to more fully appreciate the import of Norris Clarke's contention, made in his later paper, "Person, Being, and St Thomas",395 that the perfection of being, and therefore of the person, is dyadic, culminating in communion. With this noted, it is a suitable point at which to take up again with recent thought of William Norris Clarke.

Quoting Aquinas, that person is that which is most perfect in all of nature,396 Norris Clarke recognizes that personal being then, is the highest mode of being. It often fails to be recognized that Aquinas has an explicit, powerful dynamic notion of being, intrinsically self-communicative and relational through action. Not only is activity, which is active self-communication, the natural consequence for Aquinas, of possessing an act of existence, esse, but he maintains further, self-expression through action is the whole point, the natural perfection of being itself, the goal of its very presence in the universe. Operation is the ultimate perfection of each thing.397

To be fully is to be personally

In fleshing out the notion of substance in relation, it should be acknowledged that for Aquinas, when being is allowed to be fully itself as active presence, it becomes self­presence, self-awareness, self-consciousness, the primary attribute of person. To be fully is to be personally. A significant implication follows. Being is active presence. To be a person is to be a being that tends by nature to pour into active, conscious self­manifestation and self-communication to others, through intellect and will, working together. To be a person is to be a bi-polar being that is both present in itself, actively possessing itself by its self-consciousness, this is its substantial pole and actively oriented towards others, toward active loving self-communication to others, this is its relational pole.404 Following this understanding then, God as perfect personal being must be substance-in-relation, must be both present in God's self, actively possessing God's self by God's self-consciousness and actively oriented towards others, toward active loving self-communication to others.

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