Monthly Archives: October 2013

Bulgakov and Hooker’s First Divine Law

In I.ii-iii, Hooker, somewhat against general theological wisdom, posited two divine laws rather than one. The second is the law that orders all natural laws – what is generally thought of as the only divine law – but the first is the law that God established for himself to work by.

God is infinite and totally free, but in order to create, inasmuch as a creation necessitates a work fitting to or appropriate for finite existence, God must first determine the way he will work with respect to what is not him. So, since a law is a limit, and since God is limitless, his actions are “naturally” infinite but must be (or are meet to be) “finite” with respect to his working in creation.

Hooker says that some consider a law that which has a superior force at work over it, but he differs in saying that it is rather a boundary. Since God has no superior force over him that causes him to create, yet since he must act finitely in order to create, he imposes freely a limit on his acting, which is a properly called a law by Hooker. (I continue to wonder to myself the ways this differs from the contemporary post-barthian strain that wishes at all times to stress the will of God to be what he wills to be. Sometimes it seems to me that God’s will becomes it’s own primordial “thing” that establishes a law even over God’s being. But I would need to read the sources more closely to confirm this)

Since this law is a boundary for himself and is prior to creation, then there is left still the law that will directly govern creation, yet since this must be dependent on what is superior (since creation does not create itself), namely God, then this law too must be an eternal rather than a natural law. The one for himself the other for all else. From the second issue all the various laws specific to each form.

Now to Bulgakov. Bulgakov doesn’t use the same kind of vocabulary as Hooker and the method of the two are quite far apart, but I was reading The Lamb of God recently and came across this passage:

“A distinction thus enters into our idea of Divinity: the distinction between the life of God according to Himself, as He is in His unchangeable essence, and His life for Himself, as He lives out His essence for Himself in the living act. Here He has the power to change for Himself the mode of the living out of his essence. … For God, self-limitation or, in general, distinction in the mode of the living out of the divine fullness is determined only by God Himself; it is the realization of His aseity and freedom.” 221-223

He goes on to argue against there being any necessity in God’s being and work, which is also a theme in this passage in Hooker. Here we see, I think, two ways of parsing a common insight; the one fairly old and the other quite contemporary and even controversial (I mean Bulgakov’s christology more broadly). It is fascinating to me to see the two come up next to each other. An odd couple indeed.

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