Dale Tuggy

Dale Tuggy is Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Fredonia, where he teaches courses in analytic theology, philosophy of religion, religious studies, and the history of philosophy.


  1. Andrew Fair
    July 23, 2015 @ 12:25 pm

    Dale, interesting
    post. Your comment ‘long before anyone
    believed in a tripersonal God (c. latter 4th century).’ I may be
    misunderstanding the meaning, but if I understand it correctly, you are
    suggesting belief in the Trinity started in the 4thC, presumably after Nicaea.

    Nicaea and later ecumenical councils
    codified what was already believed and came to a common set of definitions as
    to explain the Trinity. The roots of Trinitarian thinking were prior to
    Nicaea, it may not have used the same terminology but there were the emerging
    Trinitarian thinking early on. If I remember correctly, the Trinitarian
    debates arose from the Christological question and how to understand the
    primitive church’s theologising over the status of Jesus and some claims He
    made that pointed beyond Jesus as a mere prophet.

    By the way, thank you for the site and the time you commit to this.

    As an aside, I have
    listened to some of your podcasts and plan to listen to more. I wonder if your remit to be a discussion
    forum for various theories on the Trinity would benefit from more input from
    theologians. I would also suggest not in
    a debating forum but more like the discussion you had with Dr.
    Winfried Corduan on the case for original monotheism, which was very
    helpful and informative.

    My interest in the
    Trinity is because my thesis for my MA is on the Trinity, especially on
    Perichoresis. During my research, I realised
    that theologians and philosophers whilst related, think and approach the
    subject differently. For instance, the
    term Tri-personal has some potential problems within a theological framework
    since it suggest Tritheism J

    Also, broadening out
    to include more theological input may help reduce any polemical tendencies;
    some of the more biblical podcasts I’ve heard seem to have hints of


    • Dale Tuggy
      July 23, 2015 @ 2:07 pm

      Hi Andrew,

      Thanks for the comments! In my view, Christians before the latter 4th century believed in the trinity, but not in the Trinity. http://trinities.org/blog/10-steps-towards-getting-less-confused-about-the-trinity-8-trinity-vs-trinity/ Yes, I do think it because well after Nicea (325). I can’t find any usage of “God” to mean the Trinity before then, and I’m not sure what the earliest usage is. I think I’d have to read all the lit c. 330 – 381 to find it. Have seen it many times in Augustine, and I think a few times in the Cappadocians…

      “codified what was already believed” Absolutely not. That is inaccurate spin, though it goes way back to late 4th c. This is an important mistake. See, e.g. http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-episode-31-william-hasker-on-the-arian-controversy/

      Contrary to what many want to say, I don’t see in theological controversy in the NT, any rethinking of who God is. Rather, the controversies are: is Jesus the Messiah, and can people be Christians without fully keeping the Law. About God, the Christians and Jews agree, though Jesus gives a better understand of God’s character and ways, and God’s plan is only revealed post-resurrection, the “mystery” of the gospel. But the core theology – one God, the creator, I think is inherited from Judaism and basically unchanged in the NT.

      I am glad for suggestions on theologians I should interview, and indeed have plans to ask some in the near future. I quite enjoyed talking with Dr. Holmes, and have two sets of interviews coming next, one with an OT scholar, one with a NT scholar.

      It’s interesting that you find “polemics” in some of my podcasts. Experience has taught me that philosophers and theologians have wildly different ideas about what is polemical, i.e. aggressive, partisan, unfair arguing. Philosophers are very straightforward in just frontally assaulting one another’s views. We don’t take it personally; in fact, we view it as a profound compliment, if someone decides to try their hand at refuting us. In theology, I have observed that there is a great reluctance to directly disagree. It’s almost genteel. One has not objections but “concerns” or “worries.” Disagreements are massaged to be differences of emphasis or order. Honestly, sometimes I think there is too much concern with the egos of those involved, esp. bigshots in the field, and not enough about truth. It is concern to separate the true from the false that makes us willing to just plunge into the arguments, and not worry about anyone looking bad. In philosophy, a grad student stands up at a conference, and just directly argues that Mr. Famous Guy, who just gave the paper, is mistaken about X, Y, Z. Now, human evil being what it is, sometimes Famous Guy just pulls rank. But generally, he treats the student as a peer, and tries to give him a full, serious answer.

      Anyway, in my book “polemics” is unfairness, misinterpretation, caricature misreading caused by impatience and arrogance. I *try* to avoid that. And I hope people correct me when I slip into it. I was taught to do what I do wholly non-polemically.


      • Andrew Fair
        July 24, 2015 @ 5:08 am

        Thanks Dale, I am not a philosopher, having waded through a few books, notably Swinburne’s book on Revelation, I realise that my mind doesn’t work that way 🙂

        I had appreciated that theologians and philosophers have different approaches,
        but not that the style of interaction is so different – so what to me seemed
        assertive (aggressive) refutation is just the normal way of talking for philosophers – thanks that’s helpful when I listen to more of your podcasts

        As for the genteel approach for theologians – indeed, I have no idea why, but I wonder if it’s because Christian theology has often been ripped apart, sometimes violently and that past looms in the minds of people in discussion today – just a thought. And quoting ‘Mr Famous Guy’ – yes I’ve seen that – modern graduate education (at least in the UK) seems to necessitate citing some other person to verify your analysis.

        As for Truth – now that’s a big Q. It would be interesting to me for you to do a podcast on what it is from a philosophical perspective. From my interaction with
        some philosophers there seems an emphasis on truth as something definable. Whereas in theological circles we are more vague, especially those influenced by postmodernism, and perhaps happy to say the only truth is ultimately within God (whatever that means) but truth in itself is more of an open Q. Also theologians would ask what is meant by truth.

        As for my statement codifying what was already believed. I take your point since
        pre-Nicaene theology couldn’t be classified as Trinitarian as post Nicaea
        defined it. What I meant and stated clumsily was that pre-Nicaea and primitive Christianity had strands of understanding of Christology that would lead ultimately to Chalcedon, Nicaea and so on and even into the 20th century with re-definitions by the likes of Rhaner, Barth and so on.

        What I meant was there was a divergence of theology that Nicaea codified into an acceptable statement but did not mean the competing theories ceased to exist.

        Theologically it seems that the primitive church/early church and later theologians reflected on what this person Jesus did and was and how to explain the worship of Jesus for example. The New Testament is merely a snapshot of some of those conversations, keeping the ones that exercised them such as the acceptance of gentiles to the ‘Christian’ community, the divinity (or not) of Christi is alluded to in some places.

        The primitive community did not have a codified theology which is why some can look at the biblical texts and see ‘Trinity/divinity’ and some see the texts as saying Jesus humanity and question the pre-existence of Christ. The theological flux that the New Testament represents would produce a range of understandings for 400 years before a definition was produced, perhaps imposed would be a better term, although that’s too harsh for a student of theology to say 🙂

        I take your point about God as equalling The Trinity not being in use pre-Nicaea. There was the idea of the monarchy of the Father which I guess is where the Father as source for the generation of Son and Spirit comes from. When I was reading the comment I thought of the likes of Tertullian who was grappling with Trinitarian concepts, although far from the Nicaean Orthodoxy. For me the lack of reference to God as equalling the Trinity reflects the theological development and confusion that would eventually necessitate some codification.

        The problem with codifying something is it sets it in stone and the Nicaean definition perhaps made sense in the world of the 4thC but today it has massive flaws, which I suppose is why there’s the resurgence of the Trinity, especially with regard to Social Trinitarian constructs.

        I like your distinction between ‘trinity’ and ‘Trinity’ – a good way of defining the difference between post Nicaea formal Trinitarian definition and earlier Trinitarian leanings and other strands including adoption of the Son.

        As for theologians, Jurgen Moltmann, NT Wright, George Newlands, Richard Bauckham perhaps and of course James McGrath, who I’ve seen you cite on your linkage a couple of times. Also Paul Collins wrote an excellent book on the Trinity for the confused (like me).


        • Roman
          July 24, 2015 @ 7:51 am

          I think there are sensible questions that can be asked. For example perhaps the primitive Church did not have a worked out theology, I think that’s true, but you could ask, had the doctrine of the Trinity been explianed to the leaders of the primitive Church, would they have agreed to it, or rejected it? I think that is a legitimate question. That does not necessarily equate to wether the Trinity is true or not, the primitive Church could have been mistake, but I think we can ask the question.
          I think when looking at the first generation after Jesus the Clear answer is no, they would not agree, they would not have equated Jesus With Yahweh, nor would they have posited Yahweh as anything other than a personal singular God, they were universally subordinationists and unitarians. This has a major impact on Your theology if you are a sola-scriptura christian.
          If you are a sola-scriptura Christian, I don’t think there is any honest hermenuitic that could give you a Trinity.
          Many VERY good protestant scholars get really dodgy when it comes to defending orthodox Christology, for example NT Wright is really good on Paul, except when it comes to Christology, trying to turn 1 Corinthians 8:6 into a reformulation of the shema … It gets really really dodgy.
          I don’t mind the more post-modern theologian approach, just as long as it is Clear what the claim is.


          • Rivers
            July 24, 2015 @ 11:01 am


            Good points. I’ve also noticed inconsistency with N.T Wright in terms of his Christology and Eschatology. He tends to take a “face-value” approach until something doesn’t seem to “fit” and then he takes the liberty of “reformulating” things. Of course, in his academic position, we can’t expect him to commit to anything outside the bounds of orthodoxy.


            • Andrew
              July 24, 2015 @ 7:04 pm

              If I remember correctly, NT Wright got a good deal of flak over his approach to Paul and justification. He is a creative thinker who is not afraid to challenge established perspectives.


              • Dale Tuggy
                July 24, 2015 @ 7:39 pm

                I do find Wright extremely hard to parse on the Trinity… But his general stance reminds me quite a lot of Bauckham. http://trinities.org/dale/OBB-preprint.pdf


              • Roman
                July 25, 2015 @ 6:29 am

                I love N.T. Wrights work on Paul, and actually, for the most part, I agree with a lot of what he said, I think the individualism of the reformation did a lot of damage to Pauline theology, and I think the new perspective is on the right track.

                That being said, some of his defences of the full divininty of Jesus (Jesus is Yahweh) are so strained they seam painful.


          • Andrew Fair
            July 24, 2015 @ 6:50 pm

            Roman, you can ask the question, but it is unanswerable, we are inferring things from the silence. It is clear theologically there were divergence of opinions otherwise the early Christian leaning toward ascribing divinity to Christ would not have happened nor would the primitive community’s worship of Jesus – remember that the culture they were emerging from was Jewish (although technically Judaism didn’t exist, but we are splitting hairs). There are too many New Testament passages that allude to and sometimes even explicitly ascribe divinity to Christ and personalisation of the Holy Spirit (a move that can be detected in later parts of the Hebrew Bible and intertestimental period).
            So a clear statement that the primitive church were not trinitarian is too restrictive and is not possible to make such a clear conclusion. It seems more credible that the New Testament and early Chruistian theology reflect strands of theology that were trying to make sense of who Jesus as Christ was.
            Truinitarian theology did not emerge in a vacuum, there were Christological questions resulting from the faith of the early church and some of the Hebrew bible and New Testament. In other words, Trinitarian theology is not a theological innovation but a result of a progression of the church’s reflection on its faith in Christ and perhaps even Christ’s reflection on who he is. If we try and simplify things into strict dichotomies, it seems we miss the theological nuances and what the early theologians reflecting on their experience of Jesus were saying.


            • Roman
              July 25, 2015 @ 6:25 am

              I don’t think we are inferring things at all from silence, it isnt silence. We have clear teachings on how they thought about God, how they related it to the Jewish concept(s) of God, and who they thought Jesus was an in what way.

              There are passages in the new testament that allude to a somewhat divine Jesus, but when looked at closely and in context, its clear that the divininty they are ascribing is not at all the same, or even the same type of dvinity ascribed to God almighty, all the sources where an exaulted view of Jesus is given make that very clear. John for example, in many ways would argue explicitly against Jesus being equated with God almighty in John 10, the prologue is easily understood if you take in concepts that are in common with Philo of Alexandria and some wisdom literature.

              The same goes with Paul, it’s clear that he views Jesus as subordinate to God.

              As for the “personalization” of the holy spirit, you don’t have personalization, you have a type of language, in order to interprete it as actual personalization you’d be changing the entire exegetical form but only for a few passages.

              To be honest, I don’t think the early Church really argued about who Jesus was, that wasn’t the issue, the issues were the relationship to the Jewish law, the Relationship to the empire, the nature of the Kingdom and so on. You don’t find much polemic over the identity of Jesus in the earliest sources.

              But here’s the thing it’s worse than that, the New Testament documents are for the most part not only pro-trintarian, they explicitly exclude that as an option, so trinitarian exegetes need to change their hermeneutical method verse by verse so much that it becomes meaningless. For example they have to take the “Oneness” statements in John no only as literal, but actually as making an ontological point, as if John was chanelling Aristotle or Aquinas, but they they have to take the subordinationist verses in 1 Corinthians 15 as not actually referring to Jesus the person, but rather to one of his natures, or posit that the word “submit” doesn’t mean being subordinated to, but rather just a role being performed, I mean it’s complete nonsense. OR they have to argue that When Jesus says “no one is good but God” he is really saying “I am God” but when he argues against being accused of making himself equal to God they have to argue that he isn’t really arguing against the claim.

              Trinitarianism did not come out of a vacume, but it didn’t either come out of the early Church, or the apostles, it came out of theoretical disputes overtime influenced by platonism.

              As far as the early Church “worshiping” Jesus, it’s important to remember what “worship” is, for example to Pliny the younger “worship” could have been simply paying respects to a very important person, in the pagan world you worshiped many things, so singing hyms to Jesus or appealing to his kingship or power could have been understood as worship. Whereas to a Jew there was a distinction between that and the sacred service rendered only to Yahweh. So we have to be careful when we say the primitive church “worshiped” Jesus.


              • Andrew
                July 25, 2015 @ 12:47 pm

                Indeed language like worship has a range of meanings, like angel for example.
                One of the problems with any sacred text is that it is in effect dead; we bring to the text our worldview experiences and so on (for better explanation – Roland Barthes et al & Dealth of the Author idea) Sadly we see what we want in the text.
                That said, taking John as an example, the claims to more than mere humanity are within it. The ancient hymn which pre-dates Paul showed an elevated status for Jesus.
                The NT is merely a snap shot of what went on so it’s hardly surprising as a a product of the church, the NT was concerned with the order within the early community. For example the NT reflects nothing of the moves of Christianity into Asia that was happening at the same time.
                Perhaps the reason there was no disagreement on Christology is because they were all Trinitarians 🙂
                If there was not the hints of a differentiated deity in both the Hebrew Bible and the NT, then there would never have been a doctrine of the Trinity. The reason the Trinity was codified is because there are clear indications of that in both parts of the Christian Bible.


                • Roman
                  July 26, 2015 @ 4:22 am

                  I agree, it’s a dead text and it’s extremely difficult to read it without bringing in our own biases, but that’s why we have dialogue and debate, so we can try and weed out unwarranted assumptions in our exegesis.

                  Yes both parts of John and the hymn recorded by Pail give us an exalted view of Jesus, but that doesn’t get us one step closer to the claim that Jesus was seen as Yahweh any more than pointing out that various Jewish writings give us an exalted view of Enoch would warrent saying Enoch was viewed as Yahweh.

                  The reason there wasn’t much christological debates in the New Testament is not because they were all trinitarians, we know this because all the descriptions of Jesus exlude that possibility, it excludes the possibily of Jesus being Yahweh. This is the case even in both the Pauline writings and John, where you have the most exalted view of Christ.

                  As to what eventually led to the doctrine of the trinity, I don’t know, I think it’s probably ignoring the Jewish background of the New Testament and instead reading in Platonism. I don’t know, but what I do know is the idea is incompatible with an honest reading of he New Testament. It’s not that the idea isn’t found in the New Testament, it’s that the idea explicitly contradicts the New Testament portrayal of Jesus.


                  • Andrew
                    July 26, 2015 @ 5:16 am

                    I realise that I said it was a dead text, but as a Trinitarian I would argue that the Bible is alive via the interaction of the Holy Spirit. along the lines of Karl Barth I guess 🙂
                    For me there are fundamental reasons why the Trinity makes sense and is alluded to both in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament because it allows the credibility of a truly personal and relational deity. Which is why there was increasing use of personification the Spirit, Wisdom, the Word through the Hebrew Bible and Intertestimental times. The Jewish (again an anachronism, but let’s not pick hairs) worldview was piecing together their God as relational and involved.
                    It seems credible to say that both parts of the Christian bible reflect strands of theology, some conflicting, some complementary and some that replace what went on before. Trying to find a consistent simple theological message, I would say is difficult, if not impossible.
                    For example parts of the Hebrew Bible suggest clear occurrences of Yhwh in the flesh, so to speak, the opening verses of Genesis reflect a less monolithic view of God.
                    Also terminology clouds things and we try and detect if doctrines such as the Trinity are within the text. The Trinity should be seen more as a term to express the differentiated nature (again theological Q’s using that word) of God that is glimpsed in the Hebrew Bible and more clearly in the New Testament.
                    Ssuch as Christ’s involvement in creation – which is a function of the Deity. esus’ claims to divine status in John, Jesus taking on divine prerogatives like forgiveness of sin, the baptism of Jesus as a trinitarian event, the exaltation of Jesus as featured in Revelation, the early hymn as mentioned which is far more exalted than that ascribed to other prophets, it may not be a clear equation of the deity of Christ. Yes holes can be picked in them all, but to say that Jesus didn’t claim to be divine I would suggest is reading into the text.
                    Also, the belief of the deity of Christ was early, so the connection with Jewish theology would have still been there.
                    The Nicaean formulation does reflect some philosophical input, but to say that the Trinity was invented and has no real linkage to the Biblical texts is a tad of a stretch.
                    As for why the NT doesn’t detail a Christological debate, because the NT is a product of the church and as such reflects a snap shot of the issues that were going on within the church, the chief one being the acceptance of Gentile believers. As an ecclesial document it is hardly surprising the focus was on the issues that affected the cohesion of the primitive faith.
                    That said, the NT does reflect an elevated view of Christ which is why the doctrine had to be formulated, The primitive church was trying to make sense of its experience of Jesus and so would ultimately codify it. Initially there were bigger fish to fry so to speak and maintaining access of gentiles to the faith community was that bigger fish.


                    • Roman
                      July 26, 2015 @ 11:02 am

                      It all depends on your hermeneutical method. If we take a historical exegetical method then when you look at the personification of “Sophia” in the wisdom literature, then what is the reason for saying it’s the “pneuma” of God? On a historical basis you either have simply a personification of an attribute of God, or at best you have a kind of demiurge. But you don’t get a multiple person God, not by any stretch. The same goes with theexegesis of the New Testament, at best you get Jesus pre-existing as the logos akin to Philo’s logos, a demiurge style arch angel.

                      It’s not about poking wholes it’s about reading the text in its own context, so for example Jesus forgiving sins, yes he forgives sins but how does he justify it? You don’t have to guess he said it right there, the son of man has the authority to forgive sins, to read it another way is reading something into the text. As for the so-called Trinitarian baptism, it’s only Trinitarian in that you are baptized in the name of 3 things, but that isn’t getting you in the direction of a trinity any more that any 3 things mentioned together would, unless you read the trinity explicitly into it.

                      Now I’m not saying isegesis or allegorical interpretation is never appropriate sometimes it is, like for example trying to workout typologies or double prophesy fulfillment and so on. But if one is a sola scripture Protestant one must do it within the confines of scripture. So when one looks at those scriptures in which one might want to read in the trinity in order to go above and beyond the lieteral (literal in the Augustinian sense) or historical exegesis, it cannot be done, because you have many other prominent scriptures that explicitly exlude the possibility of Jesus being Yahweh, and that explicitly exlude and notion of a trinity. This includes using intertrstemental material in interpretation.

                      This is the problem, I think what you’re saying (correct me if I’m wrong) is that you have a trajectory of various ideas, such as a exaltation of Christ, and even though the end is not fully found in scripture it can be induced by following the trajectory.

                      The problem is that it’s not just the trajectory found in scripture but also clear limits, and clear definitions. You can’t ignore that just be used you want to follow a trajectory that doesn’t actually exist in the scripture bit is rather being read into scripture without scriptural or exegetical justification.

                      Also I think even if you’re reading the earliest church fathers into the New Testament, you still don’t get that trajectory, but rather a clear subordinationist position.

                      But the most important thing here is what hermeneutical methods are you using, where, and with what justification.

                    • Andrew
                      July 26, 2015 @ 1:49 pm

                      Thanks Roman, much to think about in your response, thanks.
                      As I mentioned before I am not a biblical theologian so proof texting (for example) is something that doesn’t interest me – I realise you are not proof-texting, but I’m using that term since my head is mush after trying to write my final MA dissertation and terminology is evading me 🙂

                      The point I was trying to make is the theology of the Hebrew Bible, intertestimental documents and New Testament have various threads and directions of theology, some competing, some building on what went on before.
                      For example, in the Hebrew bible an increased use of personifications, for example the Spirit becomes more than a mere impersonal force of God but the active presence of God. Such themes would be picked up in the NT by writers who saw God revealed in Jesus.

                      If there were not clear indications of a differentiated deity (call it trinity or whatever you wish, multi-personal speaks too much of tritheism) then the doctrine would never have developed. The doctrine, like the NT itself is an eclesial oproduct and reflects the faith of the church. The use of the word Trias is early, 180AD I believe, which gives little time for philosophical corruption to enter.
                      The Trinity resolves many theological issues (it creates some) and enables a personal God to be envisioned.
                      The obvious Q is if the idea of a differentiated deity is not found in the Bible, then why create such a doctrine. It is impossible to define, it makes sense only in parts, it has massive explanatory flaws, so why create such a strange doctrine?
                      As for hermeneutical approach, it is pretty clear to me that John’s prologue speaks of divinity and Jesus’ claims to divine status as well as other writers like John in Revelation and the writer of Hebrews ascribe divinity or at least a quasi-divine status to Jesus.
                      However, as Roland Barthes et al has demonstrated we bring our own world view to any text, and handle sacred texts in a special (non-critical) way.
                      For me it is of little surprise that the NT writers wrote theology which appears to conflict because they were trying to make sense of this eruption of God into space-time in the form of the person of Jesu; the Incarnation for want of a better word. There is no systematic, unified theology of the NT because in a sense confusion reigned and they were trying to make sense of it.
                      Furthermore pone reason why there may be passages that emphasise the humanity of Jesus is because He was human and as such needed to be stressed.

                    • Roman
                      July 26, 2015 @ 5:42 pm

                      I appreciate you’re taking the time to engage with me, even though you’re working on your degree, I’m flattered :). Thanks.

                      There are 2 questions here, the first one is of primary importance, Does the bible teach a differentiated deity, or some kind of God manifest in more than one personality or something, I think a better way to put it is whether Jesus is Yahweh incarnate, and whether the holy spirit is a person. This is of primary importance, and not nessessarily does it teach those things, but rather does it indicate them, or even allow them.

                      The second question is less important theologically, but historically and ecclesially it is important, that question being if those things were not in the bible then how did it end up as Orthodoxy.

                      As for the first question. It’s difficult to answer while staying in generalities and avoiding dealing with specific texts. One problem with that is one can include various data points as part of a trend, but that is only warrented if each individual data point actually IS part of that trend, and to figure that out you have to analyze each part.

                      So take the divine status in John, you can’t just assume it’s going in a certain direction, you have to do a little biblical theology before you do the systematic or philosophical theology. So for example when it says the word was god, you have to find out what the word is, how was the word thought of, what John means by “god,” how the word is portrayed esle where in johanian literature, how philo talked of the word, whether or not John thought the term “god” only could refer to Yahweh, or could it refer to other things, and so on and so forth, only then can you include it within a general trend.

                      The same goes with the spirit, is the spirit really being personified, how do the Hebrew writers use the term “spirit,” is it used differently when speaking of God’s spirit and other people’s spirit, does it have any relation to God’s “wisdom,” and so on. Is the spirit used as God’s divine presence a differentiation within God? Or just God’s active force. Or simply the same way a human’s spirit could be talked about?

                      The problem I brought up about the the scriptures making the trinity impossible is not that scriptures emphasise the humanity of Jesus, that would fit perfectly in line with the highest christology leading to trinitarianism. The problem is the multiplicity of scriptures that exclude the possibility of the trinity, absolutely exclude the possibility, it would be difficult for me to get into it without actually getting specific, but we can do that perhaps some other time if you’d like :).

                      I don’t think the NT writers have conflicting christologies, I think they can be easily harmonized, but to do that we have to drop the trinity, and start thinking about subordinationism.

                      As far as the term trias being early, you’re right, it is, tertullian used the term, but as people like Dale have pointed out, Tertullian used the term, but did not use it at all in the way later “trinitarians” used the term. Tertullian, along with most of the early Church fathers were acually subordinationists.

                      Now as for the second question. This gets more difficult (the first question is difficult enough), and one ends up speculating more. I don’t think people actually believed in the trinity as the trinity that we know until, maybe the third century, probably the fourth. Nicea didn’t establish the trinity, it took at least 2 more councils, the last one in the 5th century to actually get the trinity fully established.

                      I don’t think this is a case of everyone believing the trinity and the councils just establishing it. As to how it happened? I can only guess. I would argue that platonist ideas came in. If Jesus was God and the Father was God that’s 2 God’s but we only believe in one God, that was the thinking (I can guess), and thus we need to resolve this. The problem is this would not have been, and was not a problem for first century Christians or educated Jews, angels could be talked of as Gods, even mere humans could be, but just understood as gods in a different way than the almighty God was understood, but as christianity broke with Jewish thought and got more tied up with platonic thinking then the problem presented itself, and frankly, it was a false problem.

                      As far as I’m concerned however, if one is a sola-scriptura theologian, or even a prima-scriptura theologian, you have to start with biblical theology before you move on to systematic or philosophical.

                    • Andrew
                      July 26, 2015 @ 8:15 pm

                      Sola Scriptura does lead to some problems because it has the potential to elevate the bible to such an unrealistically high level which leads to ideas of innerency and so forth. That said, I get your point that concepts such as the Trinity should be able to be derived from the biblical texts.
                      I get your point about John and asking questions as to what is understood, same for Spirit – which can mean a multitude of different things in the Hebrew Bible. These questions have been tackled, I remember reading some for my Christology modules on my Degree. Some people reach different conclusions, because theology (and I guess philosophy) is open to interpretation and does not have the benefit of repeatable analytical analysis to test a hypothesis.
                      The other potential danger is it seems a current trend within some circles to challenge ideas such as the Trinity and so there is the danger to read into the biblical texts such anti-Trinitarian ideas (the same can be said for those wanting to prove the Trinity).

                      For me it helps to see ‘Trinity’ as a term, a later construct to provide a label to something that the primitive church and later theologians detected in the text. I guess that’s why I prefer the term ‘differentiated’ because the word Trinity carries with it a baggage of meanings.

                      So for example the use of ‘Father’ as the preferred designation for God by Jesus fits into a differentiated model of father, Son, Spitit. It doesn’t prove the Trinity but illustrates it. Then of course Jesus self-designation of the ‘Son of Man’ which perhaps/probably reflects the exalted (quasi-divine) figure of Daniel.

                      There are hints and I’d say more than that in the NT for a differentiated deity. It may have substantionist elements within the NT but that creates theological problems in itself with Yhwh sharing divine power and honour.

                      The prologue of John fits with the increasing personification of the deity especially in the intertestimntal period.
                      The application of divine attributes to Jesus & the Spirit.

                      I realise we are on generalities, but I would not be the best person to engage on specifics, I lack the language skills and approach to properly engage, hence my suggestion for theologians to engage with, Dale, another one could be my tutor from Chester: Dr Ben Fulford.

                      The early fathers may have been substantionist, I will take your word for that, but it’s hardly surprising since theology develops and I am happy to accept the premise that as the NT is an ecclesial product that God (specifically, the Holy Spirit in a Trinitarian context) is able to guide the theological reflection of the eclesial community.

                      As for the usage of gods or even son of god – indeed there are such usage, Adam being one such usage. However, Jesus’ claims seem of a completely different order, he takes on divine or quasi-divine attributes – forgiveness of sin, calming of the storm (echoing the idea of calming chaos, which perhaps alludes to the mythical fight between the chaos monster that would give rise to the Genesis story as a theistic challenge to such notions). Claims to being involved in creation which is a divine act and of course the ‘I am statements,’ which seem less a direct statement I am Yhwh (in a Jewish context it would be impossible for a person to claim such clearly & Trinitarian theology doesn’t require it). For me what’s more convincing is Jesus’ claims to divine attributes – to take on the roles that are typically seen as divine. I do think people do try and see more statements to divinity than seem credible – for example the baptism formuale of Jesus could be seen as a picture of a Trinitariasn event, but that is a reading into it, an observation perhaps. The command to baptise people in the three-fold name, perhaps is more so, but then again that may be a stretch.
                      As I mentioned I am not a biblical theologian – my mind doesn’t bend totally in that direction, but I’d be interested to know the passages that Jesus explicitly denies any possible claim to divinity.I realise there’s the oft-cited passages that speak of Jesus being obedient, knowing nothing other than what his Father said, but these could be explained by forms of Kenosis (which seems to be having a resurgence).

                    • Roman
                      July 27, 2015 @ 5:29 am

                      I think sola scriptura doesn’t always necessarily lead to innerency, but you do need to at least affirm a strong sense of inspiration. Of course there is always a danger that one is Reading Things into the text, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t find an objective answer, that doesn’t mean that all Readings are equally valid.
                      As far as differenciation, I agree they are different, but that’s not the issue, the issue is whether they are the same God Yahweh. As far as the “son of man” figure being Divine or semi-divine … I mean, I suppose one could say that, but “Divine” is meaningless unless you define what “Divine” means. This is a trap that a lot of trinitarians fall into, and you can’t ignore it, even if you’re not a biblical theologian, Anyone who is exaulted can be talked about as semi-divine, from an angel, to a king, but that doesn’t get anyone one step closer to be Yahweh, the almighty God.
                      As far as Yahweh sharing Divine Power and honer … why not? we have examples of this in the OT all the time, the king recieves honer and Power from God, God shares it With the king.
                      The thing is if you want to take these Things as hints toward an eventual doctrine of the Trinity, you have to read INTO the text Things which are not found in the text, or even in that period, Things like the concept that no one But Yahweh can be called Divine or god in any sense whatsoever, or the concpet that Yahweh can never share rulership With anyone … these concepts are explicitly contradicted in scripture, so why assume them?
                      The prologue of John Associates Jesus With the Logos, described in a way that fits perfectly With previous logos theology from Philo, and contradicts trinitarianism in it’s very formulation.
                      As far as the holy spirit guiding the Ecclesial community, I can respect that, but there are problems With that, so for example, which Ecclesial community? And in what instances? And With what relationship to scripture?
                      The forgiveness of sin is explained as not being a claim to being Yahweh, if you read what the explination is, as far as calming the storm, yes, but we have to understand that in the context of the miracles of prophets, and how they relate to Gods Power.
                      The involvement in creation, I would argue fit perfectly With the logos theology that was already existant in Judaism and even the personalization of wisdom. You also have to be very careful in recognizing that the term used when refrencing the involvement in creation is “dia” not “hupo,” that distinction is EXTREMELY important when exegeting the text and in order to have a trinitarian Reading the use od “dia” as opposed to “huop” needs to be completely ignored.
                      The I am statements are COMPLETELY erroneous once you understand the greek, and the septuagint Old Testament, I can get into it if you’d like, but basically the term “ego eimi” has nothing to do With the Divine name as it is given in exodus 3:14 in the LXX.
                      Claims to Divine attributese and Divine roles, must be understood within a Jewish context, and within their own explination, for example, John 10:31-39, Jesus is accused of making himself Equal to God, read his response carefully, he clearly answers the claim, differentiating himself from Yahweh, even as the judges who are called gods are differentiated, but him going a step further saying he is only God’s son. He then says the father is in me and I in the father, but you have to read the rest of John … he wants all his apostles to be in both him and the father, and that will happen when they listen to his Words, so why is he in the father and the father in him? Well for the same reason the apostles will be in him and the father, becuase he is obedient and listens to the father. Plain and simple, no ontological claim.
                      I don’t like using “claims to divininy” because I don’t know what is always meant when the term “divinity” is used, I prefer “claims to being Yahweh,”
                      One Place where Jesus himself denies he is Yahweh or Equal to Yahweh, is what I just mentioned in John 10:31.39.
                      You also have countless times in the NT where Jesus is talked about as having a God, not only when he is alive, but also, more importantly AFTER he is exalted to the highest position in heaven. Then you have to 2 most used verses about Jesus, Psalm 110:1 and Daniel 7:13,14 … both of these verses have the figure which is supposed to pre-figure Jesus as one who is subservient to and clearly not Yahweh, these are the main descriptions of Jesus, the King in Pslam 110:1 to which God makes his enemies a footstool, who stands at the right hand of God, and Daniel 7, the son of man figure who approahces the ancient of days to recieve honor and rulership … Had there ever been a thought in the NT writers minds that Jesus could be Yahweh, why would they have used these scriptures? Where the figure is CLEARLY subservient to Yahweh, there are many many verses in the OT talking about Yahweh and what he does, they could have used any number of those, but they didn’t, they used those 2.
                      You have 1 Corinthians 15:23-28, where pslams 110:1 is drawn out (and perhaps other OT passages along With it) and Applied further to Jesus and explained … it’s Clear subordinationism, there simply is no way around it without completely butchering the text. This is after the Kenosis, this is after Jesus is exalted and glorified.
                      There are many more examples but there are just a few.
                      Now if you think I am Reading something into the text, then we can look closer at it. But these issues are not just something which can later be drawn out to give us a Trinity, these exclude the possibility of a Trinity theory.
                      But one thing I’d like to know is what is you’re position on the inspiration of scripture, or for example chuch tradition, what do you see as Your theological floor from which to work from?

                    • John
                      July 29, 2015 @ 12:01 am

                      Regarding ‘sola scripture’ – we obviously have to consider what the scriptures and what the writers were trying to say BUT in some cases the people who were ‘inspired’ to write were merely’ rationalising’
                      In a recent debate on Philippians 2 the meaning of the words ‘form of God’ came up and writers went to great lengths to describe how this word differed from the word ‘image’.
                      It then struck me that the writers held an ‘anthropomorphic’ view of God and could not imagine a God who did not look like a human being
                      This God came looking for Adam and Eve in the garden, and was deceived by them.
                      This God looked like a mighty chief but was even bigger.
                      This God had seats on which honoured guests could sit at His right hand.
                      I canvassed the opinions of a few people who all agreed that the anthropomorphic view was appropriate at the time of writing – but means very little to the modern mind.
                      Most people can accept that our awesome God lives in unapproachable light.
                      I fear that man has made God in his own image
                      – a thought that provokes outrage from some.

                    • Roman
                      July 29, 2015 @ 4:04 am

                      Sola scriptura does not mean modern literalism, nor does is it limit one to a purely historical hermeneutic. For example we can read typology from the New Testament into the Old Testament even though the Old Testament writers didn’t intend such a reading. We can also posit that some writers got things wrong in the details of what they say but still in a greater sense they were right and inspired. Sola scriptura only means that the bible is the sole inspired authority, it doesn’t dictate how the scripture is to be interpreted. But once you throw away sola scriptura, you either gotta just trust that th Catholic Church (or Orthodox) preserved this supposed tradition perfectly, and that there was such a tradition to be preserved, or you end up with and Ad Hoc-dowhateveryouwant religion.

                    • John
                      July 29, 2015 @ 3:16 pm

                      Hi Roman
                      I think that it was Dale who once said “in the end it’s the Bible, OR Catholic tradition”
                      So , it’s the Bible!
                      BUT literalists tend to whine ‘ well, if its not literally accurate are we to simply discard it”?
                      And the answer is ‘of course not’ – but we cannot accept every word it says as true or correct. We have to try and find that ‘thread of truth’ that flows through the Bible and hang on to it.
                      I’m certain that the truth is’ simple’ – after all man is ‘simple’,’ limited ‘ and cannot comprehend so many
                      The people who would have us choose their ‘brand’ of Christianity would have us accept their complexities and’certainities’ -but certainty eludes most honest men

                    • Roman
                      July 30, 2015 @ 4:04 am

                      The question is not whether or not the bible is true or not, that’s one question, I think it is, entirely inspired of God, but then comes the follow up question, which is what is the best hermeneutical Method for interpreting the scriptures and in which cases?
                      You have a historical exegesis, you have a theological interpretation based on comparing scripture to scripture, and then you have a more allegorical interpretation.
                      So I think the bible is true everywhere, in what it’s trying to say, or what the scripture is saying in as a Whole.
                      What get’s me worried is when People start using anti-literalism to try and create a theology in their own image. One obvious example of this is for example With the question of Homosexuality, you start to find excuses to ignore the scriptures against it, you say “oh that was just for that time,” or it wasn’t literally true there, on the other side of the aisle you have People trying to ignore anything dealing With social justice for the poor, or writing it off as just for a specific situation.
                      We have to try Our best, if we Accept the scripture, to read it how it was supposed to be written, and to read it historically, and as a Whole, and do Our best to try and not read Things into or out of it.

                    • Andrew
                      July 29, 2015 @ 6:40 pm

                      Roman, I’ll come back to your previous comment, but it will prob take me a few weeks since there’s a lot in it and my essay is in the way of going through your response in detail.
                      Inspiration raises an interesting set of questions, notably how can we say the bible is inspired without a relational God. It is easier to conceive of a differentiated being as relational and therefore truly communicative. The bible indicates a very human hand with the belief that God in some way (a term which James Barr found ‘annoying’) inspires. A Trinitarian God allows for God to be communicative and in dialogue with humanity.

                      As for defining deity – I would say from a theological perspective, closing down the definition is not what we would want to do because then what we reach as a conclusion ceases to be God and becomes something else and ceases to be divine.
                      Also there is little value focussing on one image of God as Yhwh, ‘the I am’ (or whatever it means – so many ideas) is one image of God, there are plenty in the Hebrew Bible.

                      As for increasing personification of the Spirit and Word; we could throw in wisdom seemed to be attempts to make sense of the relational God that the Jewish people were experiencing. As I mentioned before, using the example of proverbs:Psalms, theology evolved and is evolving and the writers, editors etc of the Bible reflect that.

                      We could also throw in the various theophanies in the Hebrew Bible (some are more plausible than others) and of course the less than monolithic references to God in the opening chapters of Genesis.

                      A quick thought on Jn 10 – read it in terms of relationship and it makes sense and speaks of the Trinity. Jesus was revealing God as Father, his preferred title for God – the passages that speak of Jesus inferiority to the Father should be seen as that – relational as Jesus being the revealer of the Father.

                      Also, before I head back to my books, does the NT writers usage of concepts such as word, spirit, wisdom have to fit neatly into the prevailing usage? They were theological innovators, effectively creating a new genre of writing, so they may have been utilising the terminology in a slightly different way.

                      Also going back to having semi-divine creatures; Judae-Christian creation theology is one of distinction between God and creation; & of course ‘hear O Israel…’ the idea that because sometimes the likes of Adam are spoken of in elevated tones means that we should see Jesus on the same level doesn’t make sense, especially since the primitive church worshipped church – the hymn in Philipians(?) which pre-dates Paul and so is early indicates that. As good Jewish (anachronism I know) people the primitive church would have known not to raise anyone or anything to the level of God. This is also picked up in the book of Revelation and Hebrews where Jesus is clearly taking in divine roles and honour; the seeming lower status of Jesus being relational – not that Jesus is less than the Father but in terms of the economic Trinity. I realise that terms such as imminent and economic Trinity would have been alien to the NT writers, they are merely handles for theologians to try and make sense of what was being said in the biblical texts with regard to God.
                      The Trinity should really be seen as our experience of God and I would say the economic Trinity is Father, Son, Holy Spirit with the immanent Trinity being ultimately uknowable,
                      One more comment on why I continue to use Deity or Divine without precision is because one of the reasons (it seems) the folks were condemned when Moses came down from the mountain because they built a statue representing God’s strength, which ignored all the other facets of who God is. God can’t be tied down to Yhwh or Elohim or whatever, so divine and divinity as open ended buckets allows better theological discussion.
                      Btw thanks for the response, I look forward to reading it and not just picking out the few bits I have. 🙂

                    • Roman
                      July 30, 2015 @ 6:38 am

                      I think i may not be grasping something correctly, when you say relational God, what does that have to do With the doctrine of the Trinity? I don’t understand how it would make a different, I see no reason why a single person could not be as relational and communicative as some thee person being, When the realtion and communicativeness is With the creation. I don’t understand what trinitarianism has anything to do With God being relational or communicative With Creation.
                      As for you’re interpretation of John 10, read the passage, Jesus is clearly saying he is not God, I mean if that isn’t a nail in the coffin of the Trinity I don’t know what is. Of course Jesus has a relationship With God, as do we, this has nothing to do With the Trinity, and yes Jesus reveals the father, unitarians have no problem With that, the question is in what way. There is no jump between that to the Trinity which isn’t Ad Hoc.
                      As to the concpets of the “Word” or “Spirit” in the NT, no they don’t need to match the prevailing concepts, however, if we are going to posit a different meaning than those of the prevailing concepts of the time then we need a good reason to do so. Everyone Reading those texts would understand those Words being used in a way that the prevailing concepts would have been, had they been inteded to mean something else we would see some explination, but we don’t. This is just the way Language is used, for example if I Call myself a “communist” and I do so in 1950s US, what People are going to think is that I’m a supporter of Soviet Union style Leninism, if I don’t mean that, then I’m gonna have to explain what I mean, I’d have to say something like “I’m a communist in the sense of believing in the commons and a Cooperative economy, not a state centralized dictatorship,” or something like that. The same With the NT’s Usage of “Word” or “spirit,” if we want to understand those Words differently than what they would mean to most Jews at the time then we need a warrent to do so, either textually, or historically.
                      Let’s look at the Hymn, first we have to see what the “Morphe Theou” means, the form of God, In Mark 16 Jesus showed up in a “different form.” in the LXX in Judges 8:18 it talks about being in the “Morphe” of a son of a King. Isaiah and Wisdom use the term to mean human forms as in the literal sense.
                      So I don’t think we can read into it more than that, Jesus was in the form, of “theou” God, so what does that mean? It means he was the same type of thing as God, a spirit, a incorporeal being, like angels are “gods” in Psalm 82. Now let’s say that Paul was trying to say that Jesus was God himself, Yahweh, why would ue use the term “en Morphe Theou”? It doesn’t make sense, why didn’t he just say he was God? Because the assumption was subordinationism, something which is completely opposed to trinitarianism.
                      Then we get to the Equality With God as “harpagmon” something to be grasped, something to be taken. The question about what “harpagmon” means is not an easy one, but it gives the idea of taking something which is not yours.
                      Every knee shall bow and and so on, is a kind of worship, I suppose, but I would argue that it’s the type of “Proskenau” which was due the King, the People were to “worship” or “proskenau” the King of Israel as Gods representative. In Daniel the “son of man” figure was to be bowed to, however, that does not make him Yahweh God, UNLESS you argue that only Yahweh God can be worshiped or receive “proskenau,” but this clearly isn’t the case, Isrealite kings can recieve it, which fits perfectly With Jesus.
                      Now there is a type of Worship that is only due to yahweh, the Sacred Service, or “Latrueau,” that’s something that only Yahweh Gets.
                      So when you use the term “worship” we have to be careful as to what exactly we mean, is it the worship in the sense of paying honor to a king ordained by God? or is it the sacred service only given to God himself, in Philippians it’s Clear that Jesus recieves the former, not the latter.
                      Jesus was never raised to the Level of God, of yahweh, he was raised to the Level of Messianic King, of the pre-existent and creative Logos, as the means by which God acts, as the saviour through which God saves the world, but never to the Level of God. All this exaltation fits perfectly within almost all streams of Judaism we know of, but it doesn’t at all indicate equating Jesus With Yahweh, that’s Reading Things into the text that arn’t there.
                      The lower status of Jesus is relational, AND ontic, it’s real, in terms of Authority, it’s real in terms of eternity, Jesus is the first Born of Creation, Jesus acts in obedience to God, not vice versa.
                      In Jewish thinking all of this was perfectly intellegable in terms of a secondary created Divine being through which God creates, or a messianic King which God uses to bring about his Kingdom, a king who the People are to honor as Gods annointed.
                      It does not fit With a concept of a multipersonal God and the messianic king being Yahweh himself, ontologically, when you start positing ontological sameness you have a problem, because that concept is made impossible by the text, and doesn’t exist in and ancient Judaism. To try and fit it in the scriptures would have to give us a reason to believe it, they don’t, InFact it’s the opposite.
                      I think we need to use Deity and Divinity With Precision. If you want to say Jesus is God, but the angels arn’t, then you have a problem, you’re defining Deity Ad Hoc.
                      Here’s my thoughts on the issue, God is revealed to us as Yahweh, that is Our God, as to what God really is I think it’s impossible for us to know, outside of the creative act I don’t even know if God could be anything at all. So I say God is Yahweh becuase that’s how God has introduced himself to us.
                      Now here’s where it gets Dangerous, if you start adding to God persons based on criteria which he has not given us, in scripture or elsewhere, you are creating an idol. Looking at Jesus and saying “that is God” and that is the same God as Yahweh, based not on anything the scripture told us, but rather something else, that is problematic. If you say being called god is the criteria then the angels come With Jesus, if it’s being worshiped or recieving “prokenau” then the kings of Israel come With Jesus.
                      But I dont’ know why we need to even thing Beyond what the scriptures say, Jesus is the son of God, the messianic king who came to restore Gods Kingdom, the Logos through which God created all Things the firstborn of Creation, who has come to bring the Kingdom and who we should honor as king but all to the glory of God.
                      There is no warrent for adding a notion of the Trinity over that. God is perfectly relational as it is, becuase he is the creator.

                    • Andrew
                      December 22, 2015 @ 12:30 pm

                      Thanks Roman, I’ve been essay writing for the past few months.

                      The Bible is perhaps best seen as a collection of theological layers, some competing, some correcting and within the Hebrew Bible there are aspects that point to more than a monolithic unitary being; the so called Theophanies, some clearer than others and some are tenuous for example, the way the theology of the Spirit of God evolved to take on more flesh and blood so to say, the word used for God in the opening chapters of Genesis reflect more than a simple unitary entity… Trying to tie things down too much is problematic since the Bible gives various perspectives, which is why a more vague or open understanding of God is best and the use of a more generic ‘Deity’seems the preferable approach theologically. Once we define God we have created an idol and not God. As Keith Ward (if I remember correctly) said their are various ‘trinities’ within the NT; subordinationism, adoptionism…. but to be categoric that the Biblical texts do not reflect a more rounded, stranger God that could be described as Trinity is a little too rigid.

                      For me Sallie McFague’s approach seems credible to see theologies such as the Trinity as models to help explain the inexplicable nature of God.

                      As for the relational aspect of God best being answered by a fully formed Trinitarianism, especially of the Eastern model of Perichoresis. If the assumption is made that the physical reality is separate from God and not co-existent with God then before creation God was singular, solitary, and so we are left with the Q’s of why God created and how a singular monolithic entity could relate beyond ‘Himself.’ Furthermore, the implication is that God changed between the state before and after creation (which I don’t have a problem with because a Trinitarian model is able to cope with a dynamic responsive God). A relational model of God as more than a simplistic entity helps provide credible reasons for creation – that because God is Trinity or differentiated, God created because God was merely expanding the circle of relationship. The Trinity also allows God to be truly involved in creation, which is what the Genesis story speaks of – a God who participates and does not merely look on from the outside.

                      As for the NT passages which reflect more than Jesus as mechanism through which God operated. The problem is we bring our world view and perspectives to the text. I am not a Biblical academic, but a lot of academics will see the Trinity within those texts and understand the Greek and Hebrew to reflect ‘Trinitiarian’ overtones or statements, others who look at the same text may take an entirely contrary perspective. In effect ‘the death of the author’ is at play when we read texts such as the Bible. Yes we can bring academic insight to play, as we should, but the end result is not definitive but interpretive and so the quest for an objective, definitive answer such as the Bible does not contain any Trinitarian understanding is a false quest.

                    • Roman
                      December 23, 2015 @ 4:44 am

                      I talk a little bit about the apriori argument for the trinity here:


                      Basically I think it’s impossible to talk about God prior to creation, since God only is God in relation to what is not God (i.e. Creation). Also God created time, so there wasn’t a “time” before creation.

                      If the trinity is 3 persons equal in almost everything, and that’s all there is, I don’t see how that could be a friendship at all, with nothing else to relate to, even that could only be realized with creation, in which the individuals can share differing perspectives.

                      I would say cataegorically, that the biblical texts, both individually and taken together, do not describe a God that could be described as a “trinity” in any orthodox sense, but that’s an argument that is ongoing 🙂

                      I agree with your last statement, we need to be open minded to possible interpretations, but we must stay within possible limits, and we must also look at what is plausable, interpretation is not a matter of personal fancy.

                    • Andrew
                      December 23, 2015 @ 6:29 am

                      Thanks Roman. The idea of God creating time is problematic because what is time? And if time is something real (whatever reality is) then is God within or without time? It seems modern physicists struggle over the Q of what time is.
                      The idea of the Trinity as a social group is not really what perichoresis attempts to articulate. This is where language starts to fail and for me the best illustration is the wave particle duality of light. Light is something totally different from our normal categorisation, it is a particle and a wave simultaneously. The comparison falls down somewhat but the ideas behind perichoresis is the blending of the differentiated persons of the Godhead, each retaining a certain degree of demarcation or distinction but coalescing, intertwining, connected. Ontologically we could describe God as pure relationship with ‘The Trinity’ acting as a model to describe that Deity.
                      As for before creation, the premise made by the Christian concept of creation is that God is separate from creation. So before the physical universe was formed there was God; God was alone, uncreated, uncaused. Now if that God is monolithic, solitary, pure unity, then the questions of why did God create and how that God could connect in any meaningful way to what was made remains.
                      The creation narrative shows a picture of God walking within creation, of being involved, not of the passive observer.

                      As for passages that reflect a more three-dimensional God that would ultimately produce a fully formed Trinitarian theology, John is full of them, not only the introduction & ‘I Am’ passages. The Baptismal formulae of one singular divine name, the theophanies in the Hebrew Bible, the divine name in Genesis, the allusions of honour and worship in Revelation and elsewhere – the early Christian community had deep Jewish roots so worshiping a created being would have been heresy.
                      Also high Christology is evident within some of the early Christasn writings. The argument that the Trinity arose because of Greek influence would seem to require greater time in order to permeate within early Christianity in order to influence its theological trajectory.

                      The biblical texts are not clear cut and do not provide a consistent theological perspective since the texts contain multifaceted theologies. The problem that anyone has when they want to say the bible gives a consistent Trinitarian message or does not contain any Trinitarian message is that it assumes there is a consistent metanarrative within the texts. Such a metanarrative brings us dangerously close to notions of inerrancy or infallibility and assumes a high degree of oversight (divine or other) in the formation of the texts.

                      As for interpretation of the texts, the Christian church has pondered over the texts for centuries and produced various statements on the Trinity. The concept of ‘death of the author’ is that we can not with absolute certainty say that this is what the original writers meant or intended because we bring our perspective to play in our interaction with the text. That is why many Biblical academics will see Tinitarian references in the various texts and some may not. It’s not so much a matter of personal preference but that our worldview, education, culture and many other factors affect our interpretation. It also seems credible that we should take heed of the immense work and debates that the theologians of the ancient past have discussed.

                    • Roman
                      December 23, 2015 @ 6:57 am

                      I’m talking time in the sense that we understand time, physical time, which, according to much of modern physics, had a beginning. But of course it is theologically pretty orthodox to say God created time, Thomas Aquinas says that, and the idea goes back pretty far.

                      As far as the relationship. I find that idea problematic. So can a distinction be made, between the instances of the trinity outside of creation? I don’t know how one could even metaphysically propose such a thing. I exist as a distinct individual from you, because both me and you have differing perspectives to the world, if we had the exact same perspective, and same interpretation then we would not be distinct individuals but rather one individual.

                      So we can say things about the Father and Son being distinct only because there are perspectives and actions one takes in regards to the world that the other does not.

                      Now if you want to say the perspective of each is the other, and that is why they have a relationship, then we would need to destinguish them some how. If they are equal in knowledge, power and everything else, what is it that makes one an individual? How could the perspective of the Son (prior to creation) to the Father differ in anyway from self knowledge?

                      Identity can only exist in the context of differing perspectives.

                      The question of why God created is a difficult one, I could give an account, but it wouldn’t make it true, since we don’t really have any scriptural doctrine, other than “it was good,” I mean I could say God created so that he could be God, and know himself and love others. One could give a Hegelian account, where God has a kind of “identity crisis,” but I don’t think anyone can say either way. But the idea of expanding his social circle just doesn’t cut it.

                      Each “passage” is only as good as it can be shown to say what it is claimed it says. The “I am” passages have nothing to do with Divinity the divine name, or anything like that in John, that’s been shown by many different people, really all one needs is a rudementary understanding of Greek to read the LXX “I am” statement and compare it to the statement in John, and a reading of the context.

                      The baptismal formula using one name doesn’t tell one anyway, it’s simply the normal language, the same is done in english “in the name of king and country” and so on.

                      As far as worship and honor, again, if you understand the jewish thinking on worship and honor, and the plethora of examples of humans and angels recieving the exact same worship and honor in Jewish writings that simply goes away.

                      The point is we have to examine all these scriptural arguments individually, as I have done that (as much as I can), none of the hold any water.

                      As far as there being a metanarrative in the bible, I think there is, not an absolute one, not one that is completely without inconsistancies, but if we believe that the bible is inspired, we must believe that there is a message of the bible.

                      If that puts me in danger of becoming a fundamentalist or something like that, ok, but to not believe there is a message of the bible, would put me in danger of post-modern relativism.

                      Of course we need to be humble, but in my opinion theology starts with biblical theology, and biblical theology starts with exegesis, then from that we can build a theology.

                      I absolutely think we should heed the work and debates of ancient theologians, but always in light of sound scriptural exegesis.

                    • Andrew
                      December 23, 2015 @ 7:34 am

                      Postmodernism and relativism are not synonyms, postemodernism is amongst other things a critique of metanaratives or grand stories. It challenges the notion that everything can be codified and provide a consistent whole. (That said postmodernism is a vast catch-all.)

                      Splitting up the Trinity as distinct persons is not The Trinity but Tritheism. There is identity within the persons of the Trinity but there is connection. It is almost a blurred image rather than distinct shapes. The expanding of God’s circle is not a social circle as if God is incorporating some new friends but is the incorporation of real interaction and provides a reason for God to create. God is innately relational within Godself so creation is merely an aspect of that relational entity.

                      I think the Logos becoming flesh is a pretty clear statement of the divinity of Christ. The use of the Divine name ‘I am’ also seems pretty clear and cannot be so easily dismissed. I’m not a biblical theologian, trading biblical texts doesn’t interest me, there are plenty of eminent Trinitarian theologians (Moltmann, Baukham etc) who can do a much better job.

                      Ultimately Jesus’ sense of self and his placing himself in the place of God and acquiring Divine functions is a clincher that there was something more going on with Jesus than meets the eye. He got in trouble with the Jewish authorities because of his claims to what were divine prerogatives. There are also soteriological implications if the divinity of Christ is removed. Also the high Christology of the Early Christian movement shows that there was an understanding of Christ’s divinity prior to any supposed influence of Greek concepts.

                    • Roman
                      December 26, 2015 @ 8:41 am

                      If you don’t have distinguished Persons you don’t have a trinity, the son is not the father the father is not the holy spirit the Holy Spirit is not the son and so on, this is the trinity. The fact that they are connected doesn’t not make them distinct persons.

                      Without creation you cannot say the father is not the son and make any sense of it, I’m not even sure you can after creation, in classical trinitarianism that is.

                      You can say God wanted to expand his circle of friends all you want but it has to make sense, it has to have some sort of semantic content to mean anything. In what way could the father and son be friends if one couldn’t at all distinguish them from each other, and in what way is God even God outside of creation.

                      The logos becoming flesh is only making Jesus as divine as you can show the logos is divine, and all the other literature we have around the time about the logos shows us it was not thought of as the same as Yahweh.

                      Yes the “I am” statements can be dismissed, just read them in the Greek in context, and thenread exodus 3:14 in the Lxx, people who still make the “I am” trinitarian argument are grasping at straws. “Ego eimi” is never used as a divine name signifiier.

                      There was a high christologt of the early church, but there is an infinite gap between an exalted massiah and Yahweh himself, and you can’t just say “oh they were getting there,” yes it has implications for soteriology and everything else in theology, but we have to be honest and look for the truth.

                      Why should we accept an un-biblical donctine (I understand you’re not a biblical theologian, but we must begin there) and an incoherent doctrine, simply because doing otherwise would change things radically?

                      As far as Jesus putting himself in the place of God and having divine functions we’d have to look at those instances individually, but I can assure you all of them fall into the category of Jewish agency theology.

                    • Andrew
                      December 26, 2015 @ 9:35 am

                      Roman, to bring in some clarity there are two concepts the economic and imminent Trinity to differentiated between God for us and God in se. God does not need to be defined in relation to creation but can be referenced to Himself, the imminent or Ontological Trinity shows that God is Trinity or differentiated in God-Self.

                      Seeing the ‘Social Trinity’ as a group of friends misunderstands what the likes of Moltmann was getting at.

                      The I Am statements were not grasping at straws – the ‘Jewish’ people of Jesus’ day sidn’t see his usage of ‘I Am’ as anything other than a declaration of divinity. It seems you may be reading into the texts what you want to see. The clear Divine status of Jesus is shown in the prologue of John. The high Christology is shown throughout John and Revelation – perhaps why some people want to see it say something else because a Trinity complicates issues.

                      Belief in the Divinity of Christ was early, shown in the hymn of Philipians which perhaps predates Paul’s letters. It shows theology of both Divinity and servanthood. It’s important to remember that the early Christian church were trying to make sense of the claims Jesus made. Remebering that helps put the various almost cpntraditctory theological statements in perspective. They were trying to make sense how what they had seen and heard was God with them.

                      Also it’s important to remember that the early community were primarily Jewish so the worship of a created being would have been heresy. This is why Arian’s approach was rejected because it failed to meet the Biblical evidence but would have meant a created being having the worship of people. They would have worshiped Jesus and given him the honour that He has only if they saw in Jesus God.

                      As for the notion of Jesus=Yhwh, the equating of the Jewish understanding of God with Yhwh should not be held so tightly because the Jewish concept of God evolved or developed through the ages. Originally Yhwh was one of many Goods culminating with the idea of Yhwh as the only God. Along with that development came other concepts such as The Spirit of God, the Word of God…. that took on very personalistic overtones in the Intertestimental period. It is such theological strands that the Early Christian community were able to make sense of who Jesus was.

                      The threads of Trinitarian thought were clearly evident in the Hebrew Bible and the NT that would ultimately produce codification in the 3 & 4th Centuries. Trinitarianism was the faith of the early Christian community and marks Christian theology as being truly Christian.

                      I use the term Jewish/Judaism as short hand because technically they are post 1stC terms.

                      Trinitarianism fits best the evidence of the Biblical accounts and fits theologically and is the hallmark of genuine Christian theology.

                    • Roman
                      December 28, 2015 @ 11:15 am

                      What I’ll say more about the “I am” is just look into it yourself, in the Greek, read it and read the Lxx and read about the usage of the divine name and so on. I write a bit about it here:

                      It just doesn’t match in the Greek.

                      As far as “worship” again, look at the Greek, the word used for “worship” is not the same as temple worship to YHWH. It’s the same kind of “worship” or repsect given to kings Angels and patriarchs.

                      But let’s move on from biblical theology, all I’m gonna say is look more into it.

                      If the 3 in the Godhead are differentiated then how are they? I mean unless you’re just going to stick to negative theology that’s ok, but if you are actually going to hold to a social trinitarianism, and then say something about the differentiation of the “persons” you need to say what that is, and the words need to have semantic content.

                    • Andrew
                      December 28, 2015 @ 3:05 pm

                      Hello Roman, the fact that there is various nuances in the biblical accounts is hardly surprising. The critique on the Trinity is not new – re Schliermacher and today it seems its the last gasp of people wedded to a modernist interpretive framework that wants to deny the reality that the New Testament writers were expressing the true divinity of Christ.
                      Again don’t get hung up on the idea that Yhwh defines what God uis since no one knows what Yhwh means and may not have represented a true monotheistic deity.
                      I could debate the Biblical theology, but there are far better people able to do that, I suggest you consult with the numerous writers on the subject,
                      As for social Trinitarianism it seems you are expressing a caricature of it – Moltmann, Boff, Bauckham and even NT Wright are good places to start and of course Barth for some classic Trinitarianism.
                      As for worship=honour, it’s too simplistic to level all references to such a view, yes some were just honour but other references were far more elevated. The NT can not be reduced to a simple set of coherent and logical clauses but a collection of theological themes that struggled to make sense of who Jesus was.
                      As for content the Trinoty is an attempt as providing an explanation for the Biblical material which is why I prefer the term differentiated since ithelps avoid some of the linguistic problems of trying to articulate the strangeness of who God is,
                      You ask me to look into the Biblical accounts I’d suggest looking again at Jn 1 which is so clearly a statement of Christ’s divinity unless of course we want to see other things in order to comply with a pre-conceived worldview – after all everything we read is an interpretation that among other things our worldviews affect,

                    • Roman
                      December 29, 2015 @ 7:34 am

                      I’m not saying there are nuances, I’m saying a lot of the biblical arguments you are repeating in favor of the trinity are simply, false, the “I am” argument, the worship argument and others simply fall flat on their face when looked at closely in the Greek and in the historical context. This is not some kind of Schleimacher liberalism, it’s just caring about careful and accurate exegesis. And as far as the divinity of Jesus, sure, but what that means is a whole different issue, and you can’t just assume the trinitarian interpretation, especially when there are strong biblical arguments agaisnt it. This isn’t modernism its careful exegesis, we know john was not invoking the divine name in the I am statements when he wrote that Jesus said “I am” (ego eimi) because that term is never used for gods name, “Ho on” is, but not ego eimi, this is not modernism, it’s just trying to understand what the biblical writers were saying.

                      Yes John 1 implies Jesus’ divinity, but not his being YHWH the Gid if Israel … All the way back there have been divine agent theologies from the angel of the lord to the logos of Philo, that’s the language john is using specifically similar to the language of Philo, and the grammar shows he is clearly not identifying Jesus with the God of Israel, but rather exalting him as his prime agent.

                    • John
                      July 26, 2015 @ 11:35 pm

                      You refer to the personification of “Spirit, Wisdom and Word” above – but is it unreasonable that “attributes of God’ should be personified.?
                      It seems to me that the ancient Hebrews personified other things too .’The Law’ was said to be a gift from God, and is also personified.-without making’ it’ God.

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      July 27, 2015 @ 4:52 am


                      For some of the reasons why I consider your view unlikely, see:


                      There was no Trinity until Scripture was planted in Greek soil, where the Jewish message about the Jewish Messiah mutated and grew into something that was previously inconceivable.


          • Dale Tuggy
            July 24, 2015 @ 7:37 pm

            “had the doctrine of the Trinity been explained to the leaders of the primitive Church, would they have agreed to it, or rejected it?”

            I think they would’ve been baffled. Then, they may have wondered if you’d been smoking some Platonism. They may possibly, a few of them, run into Platonic triads in the 1st c. That’d be their only reference point, as far as I can tell.


        • Dale Tuggy
          July 24, 2015 @ 7:35 pm

          Hi Andrew,

          “that would lead ultimately to” Beware, on this topic, of hand-waving talk of “roots” of the doctrine in the NT. Does the NT *imply* the Trinity. In my view, not. But many seem to think so. In fact, the NT was succeeded eventually, by Nicene orthodoxy. But was this inevitable? In my view not at all, but many seem to think so. There is a temptation to view pre-Nicene history as marching inexorably towards the “solution” of 381. But I say, resist it.

          About truth, I think you’re really asking about epistemology, how we come to know the truth. There are philosophical issues about truth, but many of us will rest content with what Aristotle said. To say what’s true, is to say of what is, that it is, and of what isn’t, that it isn’t. Most philosophers are straunchly realist about truth, but yes, outside analytic philosophy, in some wings of the academy, there is anti-realism about truth.http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/truth/#ReaAntRea Myself, I think that relativism about truth is just self-refuting…

          “perhaps made sense in the world of the 4thC but today it has massive flaws”

          This is interesting. To many, down through history, the Trinity just is those decisions. But many, particularly in UK theology, hold that such are, somehow, outdated, and think they can maybe be replaced with more 21st c. appropriate formulas. I don’t think there’s any consensus about the replacements though! I don’t think there’s any consensus about quite how they’re supposedly outdated, either. I can’t see that they came with any expiration date. 🙂 I weigh them against the Bible. As Protestants, supposedly we accept them if and only if they best explain the Bible. (Catholics can just forget about the Bible and based their trinitarian theology on the Magisterium.)

          Thanks for the interview suggestions.


          • Andrew
            July 25, 2015 @ 12:36 pm

            I’m not a biblical theologian, it seems that the NT reflects strands of theology that was trying to make sense of who Jesus was, How the death & resurrection of Jesus related to claims of Messiahship (and just what those claims were). It’s hardly surprising that different theological threads emerged. An attempt to find a coherent NT theology, Christology is a blind alley. For me it seems the NT writers were grappling with a change in their theological norms; a paradign shift if you wish. In a way it seems similar to the Psalmists who said our received theology of reward based theology no longer makes sense. The NT writers were trying to make sense of things and there are clear indications of claims for divinity and the personification of the Holy Spirit. The NT could not be said to reflect a Nicaean Trinitarian perspective, but neither does it reflect a strict monolithic deity,
            Indeed I get your point about self-refutation, but for me to say something is irrefutably true seems a tad too far and is attempting to bring in some sort of empirical/scientific/definiable/verifiable analysis.
            Epistemology – indeed – when I was starting my research for my dissertation I realised that I was in the clutches of philosophy and escaped as fast as I could. The Stanford site is an excellent resource.


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