Archive for the ‘Leibniz’ Category

Pannenberg – Systematic Theology Volume 2 (Part I)


Some Thoughts:

1) Creation ex nihilo – Pannenberg is mistrustful of Barth’s use of the nothing that he outlines in CD III/3 as being an antagonism or resistance to God. Pannenberg (14) believes that this sort of reading of creation is not upheld exegetically and fails to do justice to Genesis 1. Ultimately, the decisive power of the Word will not permit any such idea of resistance. He is also critical of Moltmann’s notion of self-withdrawal or self-limitation which Moltmann appropriates from Jewish mysticism (15). This serves to help make sense of the independent existence of creature and Creator. However, Pannenberg is skeptical of this move by Moltmann because it is insufficiently Trinitarian. I’d be curious to hear Pannenberg’s opinion of Keller’s Face of the Deep, which argues, quite persuasively, that creation out of nothing does exegetical violence to the creation narrative.

2) Creation and the Self-Distinction of the Son – Pannenberg argues that the creation itself bears witness to the goodness of God. The Son of God is “the primary object of the Father’s love” (21). The love that the Father has for creation is ultimately mediated through the Son, and it is non-competitive with the Father’s love for creation. Readers will recall that Pannenberg places great theological and Christological significance in the Son’s self-distinction from the Father. Hence, the proof of Jesus’ divinity is manifested his submission to the Father’s will. The eternal Son predates the existence of Jesus and “is the basis of his creaturely existence” (23). Pannenberg puts it quite succinctly that the, “eternal Son is the ontic basis of the human existence Jesus in his relation to God as Father” (23). Later Pannenberg argues that the mediation of the Son in creation not only serves as a structure and the basis for fellowship with God, but also “as the origin of existence of creaturely reality” (29).

3) Theodicy/Creation – Pannenberg acknowledges that meaningless suffering is perhaps the greatest challenge to the belief in the goodness of God. He applauds Barth for arguing against that the natural theodicy of Leibniz that fails to take seriously the suffering in the world. Pannenberg believes that the fatal flaw of Lebinz’s argument is that it simply considers theodicy from creation and fails to consider “God’s saving action and the eschatological fulfillment that has dawned already in Jesus Christ” (165). This question is an open one that will only be fully revealed in the eschaton (164). Pannenberg recognizes that God bears responsibility for evil’s existence. However, for Pannenberg, “God did not shirk the responsibility but shouldered it by sending and giving up His [sic] Son to the cross” (169). Although this does not serve to explain away evil, it does suggest a God who involves Herself in the suffering and contingencies of this world.

Schleiermacher – The Christian Faith (§46-85)


I want to focus the majority of my comments on this section of The Christian Faith on the attributes of God, which I found it be the most interesting part of this section.

1) God’s eternality suggests that God’s timeless causality conditions all that is temporal, including time itself. Man’s religious self-consciousness is contingent on the idea of God’s eternality and omnipotence. According to Schleiermacher, “religious consciousness…becomes actual only as consciousness of His eternal power” (§52). The feeling of absolute dependence demands that no change in God is posited. The doctrine of divine immutability has of course been challenged more and more by twentieth century theologians. Interestingly enough, Schleiermacher has to ignore a significant amount of biblical material to maintain this doctrine, which seems more beholden to his romantic philosophy than to the biblical narrative.

2) Schleiermacher refuses to acknowledge a distinction in God’s omnipotence between the possible and actual, or between God’s power and God’s will. The omnipotent causality of God is absolute and undifferentiated. It is worthless and confusing to try and posit any distinctions in God’s omnicausality.

3) As I mentioned in a comment in the previous post, it is very interesting to notice what Schleiermacher excludes from his dogmatics. In §59 he discusses Leibniz’s idea of the best world. Schleiermacher dismisses this as a product of speculative rational (natural) theology. Although he endorses the original perfection of the world, he is skeptical of Leibniz’s doctrine of the best world. Instead he prefers to think of this world as good (which of course is faithful to the creation myths in Genesis). The reason he rejects this speculative doctrine is because it is not a product of religious consciousness and because it attributes to God anthropomorphic ideas such as mediate knowledge (which would imply an imperfection in God) and alternative choice.

4) In an attempt to maintain God’s unlimited omnipotence we must come to terms with the idea that sin “is ordained by God as that which makes redemption necessary” (§81). From Schleiermacher’s perspective, redemption can only be ordained by God if sin is likewise is ordained by God. However, Schleiermacher refuses to think of God as the author of sin apart from God as the author of grace (in Barthian terms, God’s No is always in service of God’s Yes). Although this is difficult to accept, it is mandatory lest we fall into two heresies: Manicheanism (which argues that sin has an independent existence from God) or Pelagianism (which waters down the stark opposition between grace and sin)

5) In §85 Schleiermacher rejects mercy as an attribute of God. He believes this cannot be attributed to God because it introduces a sensuous sympathy in God’s character. This is not befitting of God because, like kindness, it posits that God can experience events or circumstances as agreeable or disagreeable. I was curious what others thoughts of this passage. Although his logic is impeccable, the fact that something as important as the mercy of God would be excluded from his dogmatics might suggest some inherent issues in the system. He will allow the mercy of God to have a place in preaching but not in dogmatics. I was especially thinking of Islam, and the fact that the mercy of God is actually the most used attribute in the Qur’an to describe God’s character.

Interstices of the Sublime – Chapter 10 – Processing the Real



This chapter attempts to tease apart the relation between the Lacanian Real and the Aristotelian conception of substance. Ultimately Crockett wants us to conceive of Aristotle’s substance as a process, which can be understood from a Deleuzian perspective as the production of the Real. Lacan understood the term lalangue as being the “starting point of everything – nature and language” (166). The creation of para-being out of lalangue can be understood as a generation of being out of a substance that is virtually nothing.

Aristotle’s Substance

Defining Aristotle’s substance poses many problems. Philosophy deals with ““the highest sense object of knowledge, the science of substance”” (166). Heidegger’s study of ontological difference between being and beings is maintained by a reading of substance as the proper object of study for ontology. However, Aristotle’s actual definition of being has a multiplicity of meanings. For Aristotle, being can be though of as the accidental, as truth contrasted with falsity (non-being), as predication or categories, and finally as split between actuality and potentiality. Aristotle offers the individual man as specific form of being as being, but Crockett asks how does the particular “manifest being as being”? (167). Aristotle understands that there are three substances: nature (form), matter, and the particular, which is constituted by the former two. Crockett reads Aristotle as associating substance too closely with form. This focus on substance as form also “drives Aristotle to privilege energia (actuality) over dynamis (potentiality) because matter is distinguished as potential and form as actual” (168-9). Crockett intends for us to think of substance as potentiality and particular being constituted by both matter and form as opposed to a formal essence.

Spinoza’s Substance – Deleuze

Spinoza’s ontology not only overcomes Cartesian dualism but also offers a clarification of Aristotle’s substance by claiming that God is the only (infinite, absolute) substance. Deleuze praises Spinoza for laying out a system in which all existence is distributed on a plane of immanence. Against transcendence, even God himself is ““the immanent, not the transcendent cause of all thing”” (170). Spinoza intends for us to live ethically by intellectually grasping the attributes of God. Unfortunately, the mind cannot fully understand the body. Psychoanalysts cannot totally embrace Spinoza’s ontology because they presume that something does resist making itself known the conscious mind, i.e. unconscious processes. Deleuze also recognizes in Spinoza’s thought an attack against analogy. Substance manifests itself in attributes and modes directly, whereas analogy “retains the equivocity of being that delimits God as transcendent but it anchors the revelation of God in the world in an absurd and unknowable way” (171). For Crockett, “the problem with theological analogy is not what we do not know, it is what we think we know, and the leap that is made from one to the other” (172). Mapping out concepts on a plane of immanence does not lead to the equality of things, but rather the notion of identity is predicated on an understanding of difference as repetition. Deleuze’s concept of singularity offers us a helpful way to conceptualize substance because a Deleuzian singularity “refers to the “difference” within a thing that makes it what it is” (172).

Whitehead’s Process

Whitehead transforms Spinoza’s modes into actualities and thinks of substance as an internal becoming. Whitehead’s ontology describes a world in constant process to such an extent that he can equate both process and reality. Although, Aristotle prioritized actualities over potentialities, Deleuze emphasizes virtualities (potentialities) over actualities. In Deleuze’s work The Fold, he reads Leibniz through Whitehead. While Leibniz conceived of God as detached and fashioning the best of all possible worlds, Whitehead understands God as a process immanent in the world. Deleuze understands “Whitehead as radicalizing Leibniz, such that God is processed through compossibilities and even incompossibilities” (174). The compossable refers to not only to what is possible, but also to the arrangements of the various events and entities in the world. Whitehead also divided God into two natures. First, Whitehead conceived of God as primordial, which can be read through Tillich’s notion of God as “being-itself”. Also, Whitehead recognized God “as the consequence of concrescence, the sense-making of the world related to a special kind of eternal object” (174). Although, Whitehead and Deleuze are suspicious of the linguistic turn as potentially leading to a navel-gazing, narcissistic subject, Crockett believes that a linguistic ontology can be reconciled with their systems. As Derrida would remind us there is no simple “hors-texte”, which means although there are obviously things outside of language we are forced to signify these objects with language. This leads to the problem of language as a mediation of reality, i.e. representation. Deleuze and Whitehead would rather us think that language “directly expresses, actualizes, and becomes or concresces” (175).

Lacan and the Being of Language

In Seminar XX, Lacan wants to realize the impossibility of separating language and being with the terms lalangue and para-being. “The difficulty is the stubborn persistence of what Whitehead calls the fallacy of misplaced concreteness, which substantializes our language into being or disembodies language by supposing that being is somewhere, “out there”” (176). Lacan posits that the existence of lalangue, which is a “proto-linguistic stammering or stuttering that precedes symbolic discourse” (176). Heidegger would remind us that when we try to seize being it takes flight. Language both discloses and conceals being. Crockett goes on to equate substance with para-being. He urges theologians to recognize the death of God, which is the distance separating God (in the Real) and symbolic discourse. “Theology expresses substance: the articulation of creative and substantial language that makes being appear beside itself as para-being” (177). Crockett exhorts us to open language up and detect moments where our discourse intersects the Real. This intersection goes by many names: substance, being, lalangue.


The holy trinity of continental thinkers: Deleuze, Derrida, and Lacan are often pitted against one another. Crockett prefers to think of three as existing in a triangulation. We could think of the Lacanian registers as placing Deleuze in the Imaginary, Derrida in the Symbolic, and Lacan in the Real. Of course, these thinkers will not stay put and continually shift and rearrange themselves preventing any simple categorization. He admits (and this is the main reason I profiled this book) that he has privileged theological insights from Deleuze and Lacan. He recognizes that postmodern theology has gleaned many insights from deconstruction, and this work was an attempt to put Lacan and Deleuze in conversation with theology. Crockett finally challenges us to keep in mind the importance of doing our work in and through love. “A psychotheology sustains itself in and as theological pragmatics without thereby neutralizing the importance of language and its effects, including that of truth” (179).