Problems with Dooyeweerd’s Denial of Substance?

As many Dooyeweerd scholars note, a rejection of the idea of Substance is central to Dooyeweerd’s philosophy. J. Glenn Friesen notes that Franz Xavier von Baader, one of Dooyeweerd’s main influences, rejected the idea of self-existing substance in favor of the idea that “True integral existence, or substance, exists only in God. Only God has substance; the creature has no substantiability except as given to it by God” (“Descencus des Wortes. Sold Verb,” Werke 3, 345).

However, James Chastek over at Just Thomism states that this view of self-existing creation is more Molinist than Thomistic:

This is Molinism, by which I mean the actual historically held opinion of Luis de Molina SJ, not what Analytic philosophers mean by the term. On this account, the independence of created things requires that their action be partially the result of created causes, and partially the result of divine causes. Creating independent things means God keeps his hands off of them and  never overpowers them by violating their natures. Deism represents one extreme and simplified version of this, where God causes things to be, and every subsequent action is entirely reduced to the things created, though perhaps it is occasionally violated by a miracle (note how miracles are now violations of natural law and order). It’s a reasonable opinion, but Thomism rejects it root and branch.

Why? Because

On the Jesuit opinion, … to create, is not to bestow the act of all acts and the perfection of all perfections in the sense of giving that without which there is absolutely nothing at all; rather creation gives “the act of acts” in the sense that there is some real actuality apart from it, namely the actuality that God “lets be” or “allows to happen” (we explicitly leave aside the privations that are allowed to exist). On St. Thomas’s way of seeing things, this is a failure to understand what creation is. Apart from what is given in the act of creation, there is absolutely no positive being.

This is a subject worthy of further investigation, for sure.


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