In a long footnote in his brilliant Ordering Love: Liberal Societies and the Memory of God (p. 257), David Schindler gives this lengthy quotation from W. Norris Clarke’s Explorations in Metaphysics: Being-God-Person:
He refers to the “profound dimension of receptivity, hence relativity, in all of us, even preceding any action on our part.” Finite being, he concludes, has “a triadic aspect: being from another, being in itself, being toward others, or in the luminous terseness of the Latin, esse ab, esse in, esse ad. That is why the first appropriate response of a conscious being should in princiuple be gratitude for its own being as a gift.” I’d only add that the ab, in, and ad are properly grasped only if grasped (perichoretically) together. There is no being ab or ad without a being in; but there is equally no esse in without being ab and ad. Strictly, then, no esse in se.
Clarke asks if this receptivity is restricted to created being or if it is characterizes God’s existence. He answers:
“We could not affirm [receptivity in God's being] on the basis of philosophical inference about the divine, hidden in the mystery from our limited concepts, extrapolated from our experience of finite beings.” No projection, that is. But “the Christian revelation of God as triune opens up to us a vision of the interior life of God as containing receptivity within it as a part of its very being as divine life, i.e., it is of the very nature of the supreme divine being that the Second and Third Persons within possess the one, whole, and complete divine nature as gift received from the First person through the eternal processions of the Son from the Father and the Holy Spirit from both. Thus this primordial relation of receptivity is somehow present in all being, though in a highly analogous way in God, freed from all limitation and imperfection.”
To this, I want to add that the First Person is also receptive, though the receptivity is asymmetrical with that of the Second and Third. Unless we affirm this, we are left with the anomaly that the Father, the source and origin of the other divine Persons (as Clarke explains it) is characterized only by gift and not be receptivity. At least we must say that the Father “receives” His being as Father by the fact that He begets and has a Son, so that His Fatherhood is received from the Son. I’d want to go further to say that the Father is fully God and Father only as He plays His role in the round of giving and receiving that is the divine life. Precisely how to express this is difficult; but that it must be expressed seems incontestible.
Clarke adds, “in created beings this primordial relation of receptivity in being extends not only to God but also to many other preexisting beings, such as our parents, and indeed to the whole supporting environment of our tightly interwoven material cosmos. We are indeed from this whole material world in some significant way and should extend our gratitude appropriately to it.”
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 1:08 pm
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