You’re another!

You’re another” – that’s what tu quoque means – it’s the name of an informal fallacy, often called a fallacy of relevance. For example, if I argue that your theory is self-contradictory, suppose you retort that my theory is too. Well, so…? It’s irrelevant to the point that the first theory mentioned is self-contradictory (so, self-refuting).

Cornell grad student Chad McIntosh argues that if the social trinitarian God – or rather: the three divine persons  posited by clear “social” Trinity theories – would be deceivers, then so would the perfect self in whom I believe, being a unitarian Christian. So granting that an ST is implausible, for similar reasons unitarian Christian theology is implausible (because it has a perfect being doing what appears a wrongful deception).

Is this a defense of ST?

I’ve already argued in that paper than a Swinburne-type ST implies what looks like wrongful deception by at least one of the three divine persons. This hasn’t been disputed.

I don’t grant that if God is a single self, then he’s carried out an apparently wrongful deception. What does Chad think this follows? Here’s what he says:

…his God is not clearly off the hook: by letting the doctrine of the Trinity define orthodox Christian belief from its very inception (from the earliest Patristic interpreters of the NT to being enshrined in the creeds), is not Tuggy’s Unitarian God guilty of passing Himself off as three personal beings, while in fact He is one personal being?

My reply to this is that it is factually mistaken. We know of no pre-Constantinople catholic thinker who believes in a triune or tripersonal God. Throughout the first three centuries, the one true God of the Bible is clearly identified with the Father of Jesus (just as in the NT), and the waters only gradually get muddied by speculations that Jesus and later the Holy Spirit are “one essence” with the Father, that it was really a pre-human Jesus doing all that Old Testament stuff, and that to make us all divine Jesus must’ve been divine, etc. At the end of this process, some time in the middle ages, when people start to talk of the whole Trinity as the one God, we get something that’d be counted as clearly trinitarian. In short – and this is where theologians are often confused – believing that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are in some sense divine does not make one a trinitarian. People like Justin and Origen, who plainly identify the Father (and no one else) with the one God, and who plainly give the Son a lesser status, nonetheless did think that Jesus was in a sense divine, and could be addressed as “God,” and described as a god.

Secondly, at most, God has (in my view) allowed various forms of Trinity speculations to flourish – no, not from the beginning, but yes, for a very long time now. Of course, I don’t know why. But, not being either Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox, I put this in a group of other longstanding errors besetting the catholic movement, such as belief in the authority of Bishops, or prayers directed to Mary or saints, or image honoring, etc. This does bother me, but I don’t see that it adds much to what I’m already committed to as a non-Catholic and non-Orthodox Christian.

Third, there’s no reason to think that God has been “suppressing belief about His true nature.” It hasn’t been God persecuting the unitarians, at various times in church history. It’s rather Christians behaving badly, following the bad precedents established in the late 4th c.

It’s interesting that he tries to pin a commitment to abrogration on me (basically: God asserts P at one time, and not-P at a later time). In an unpublished paper which I’m off and on working on, I argue that it is the ST folks who are stuck with that, instead of with progressive revelation (wherein it’s unclear earlier whether or not P – perhaps not-P seems assumed or suggested, but then later God reveals that P). In this scheme, there’s no strict contradiction between the two revelations, between the two assertions by God. Like most Christians, I want to commit only to that.

If one is the clear, up front sort of “social” trinitarian (e.g. Swinburne) like I’m aiming at in my “Divine Deception” paper, then one should be worried about contradiction: earlier revelation has God as a perfect self, and later (according to ST) as not a self at all.

Chad engages in a bit of special pleading here: “it is arguably consistent with monotheism that God is more than one person.”

That “is” covers a multitude of (theoretical) sins. ;-) I invite him to say how he understands it. Only then can one judge whether or not it’s consistent with monotheism, and whether or not it forces one into claiming abrogation. Indeed, only then can we judge whether or not God really has long established this as (near) universal Christian belief.

About Dale

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

31 Responses to You’re another!

  1. Thanks for the response, Dale! I was waiting to see if you’d pop in at some point. Once things settle down here in the next few weeks, I’ll write a reply (assuming I don’t wind up agreeing with you!).

  2. Xavier says:

    The God of the Bible does “deceive” people [2 Thess. 2:10-13].

  3. villanovanus says:

    Chad and Dale seem to be engaging one … another in debate as the most consummate (extenuated?) scholastics of the Middle Ages. Unfortunately their debate, for what I can see, is rather lacking “Scriptural substance” …

    Anyway, let’s have a look.

    @ Chad

    But if we grant Tuggy’s argument, his God is not clearly off the hook: by letting the doctrine of the Trinity define orthodox Christian belief from its very inception (from the earliest Patristic interpreters of the NT to being enshrined in the creeds), is not Tuggy’s Unitarian God guilty of passing Himself off as three personal beings, while in fact He is one personal being? Surely Tuggy’s God could have prevented the mistake, perhaps by making the Scriptural data more obviously Unitarian, or by preventing orthodoxy from being established as Trinitarian. But Tuggy’s God didn’t. Why has he allowed the mistake carry on for over 2000 years, suppressing belief about His true nature (indeed, even allowing belief about His true nature to be established as heterodox)?

    This “argument” would work only if the Patristic works, Ecumenical Councils and the Creeds were considered an integral part of “progressive revelation”. Only Eastern Christianity (not coincidentally …) take this approach, at least in the strict and formal sense of the word revelation …

    As to why has God allowed this (in Buzzard’s words “Christianity’s self-inflicted wound”) to happen, maybe the answer is, so that the “wise” will be confused, and the “simple” may see the truth, in spite of theo-sophistic-mysteric obfuscation.

    No … appeal to progressive revelation is available to Tuggy, because no acceptable form of progressive revelation allows for instituting a precept that flatly contradicts a previous one, thereby annulling it (aka Naskh).

    You haven’t considered this possibility: the Trinity is NEITHER eternal NOR protological, BUT eschatological: what was NOT true “in the beginning”, what is only partly true now, (when the Resurrected and Ascended Jesus Christ is “seated at the right of the Power” and Lord himself) will be fully true “… when all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all” (1 Cor 15:28).

    @ Dale

    … People like Justin and Origen, who plainly identify the Father (and no one else) with the one God, and who plainly give the Son a lesser status, nonetheless did think that Jesus was in a sense divine, and could be addressed as “God,” and described as a god.

    You keep resorting to the same “argument”: something like, “only the fully co-equal, co-eternal, tri-personal tri-unity is, properly speaking, THE trinity”. IOW you try to convince (yourself first and then) us that only with the “one ousia in three hypostases” of the Cappadocian scoundrels can we properly speak of “trinity” and therefore (it’s your at least implicit conclusion), neither Tertullian (ca. 160–225) nor Origen (ca. 184–254) can be considered “trinitarians” in any proper sense of the word. Umm …

    IOW, you are trying to convince (yourself first and then) us that Subordinationism has nothing to do with trinitarianism, so much so that, on several other threads here, you have even resorted to the (AFAIAC oxymoronic) expression “subordinationist unitarian”. Which, of course, as already remarked (without any comment on your part …) would make the very Arian controversy incomprehensible, nay, senseless …

    Second, “not being either Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox “, do you have any idea why the Protestant Reformers not only did not tackle the issue of the “trinity”, but, confronted with Michel Servetus’ antitrinitarianism, Martin Luther condemned him in strong terms, and, as all know, John Calvin made sure that he was burned at the stake as stinking heretic, on a slow fire, on October 27, 1553, in the Geneva, of which Calvin was some sort of “pope”?

    Third, while I agree that God has never “suppress[ed] belief about His true nature”, it doesn’t seem very satisfactory to answer with “I don’t know why” in reply to the question of why would have God, not only “allowed various forms of Trinity speculations to flourish”, but, far worse, for the “co-equal, co-eternal, tri-personal tri-unity” understanding of Himself to become the overwhelming doctrine throughout Christianity (Catholic, Eastern and Protestant).

    There would be more, but that’s enough for now …

    MdS

  4. Quick response to Xavier: neither Dale nor I are denying that God that the God of the Bible deceives people (but neither have we affirmed it here). What is at issue is not deception simpliciter, but a morally blameworthy form of deception. This leaves open the question of whether there are morally permissible or perhaps even obligatory forms of deception.

  5. Xavier says:

    Chad

    English please?

  6. villanovanus says:

    @ Xavier

    Perhaps God is neither unitarian nor trinitarian …

    … perhaps God is a … Jesuit … ;)

  7. I had a look at your article–I’m working on something now myself. First, I’m not sure that indiscernibility of identicals is behind the push to social trinitarianism since there are so many identity puzzles like this concerning mundane spatio-temporal objects and so many logical tricks to deal with them. In the Trinity case, notably, relative identity. Right now though I have another trick up my sleeve, viz. systematic ambiguity.

    I suppose the real concern I have about social trinitarianism is that it commits us to more metaphysically. Straight monotheism is non-committal: it isn’t so much a commitment to ONE god as refusal to recognize individuating conditions amongst divinities. Monotheism could be anything from commitment to some Biblical God to belief in god as some cosmic jelly–the bare idea that there may be something supernatural or other. Polytheism, social trinitarianism and Latin trinitarianism pose questions about conditions for distinguishing the Persons–in the last case most implausibly solely through relations to one another.

    So, it would seem that there’s a prima facie case for non-committal monotheism. I’m surprised that this line isn’t run, but maybe this is a metatheological issue. My program is to preserve church talk with the least possible ontological commitment–so we want to be able to say the Creed, and the Litany, and “In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” etc. with the thinnest metaphysics we can get away with. I suppose you can say, we want the most Church with the least metaphysics.

    Am I a crook? ;-)

  8. villanovanus says:

    … so many logical tricks to deal with them. In the Trinity case, notably, relative identity. Right now though I have another trick up my sleeve, viz. systematic ambiguity.

    … OIOW … from the frying pan into the fire … )

  9. Why fire? This is Leftow’s line in his latest F&P debate with Hasker: read names of Trinitarian Persons as rigid or non-rigid.

  10. villanovanus says:

    Give a general definition of person, that can apply to humans angels (and demons) and even to God/gods. Then we can talk about it.

  11. Hey Dale, I hope you’re enjoying the new year.

    There is no denying the horde of triadic formulae in the NT, the Apolastic Fathers such as Clement and Ignatius, and in their successors, e.g., Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Origen. The formulae were, to be sure, doxological or liturgical in nature. The early church from its inception onward can be accurately described as liturgically or doxologically Trinitarian (this is not to say the early Christians were thoroughgoing Trinitarians). As such, it is probably best to refrain from inferring from the triadic expressions early belief concerning God’s essence or ‘structure,’ if you will. But such inferences were inevitably made, and not long thereafter (no more than 100 years or so), the structure of orthodoxy emerged. As Kostenberger and Kruger convincingly argue in The Heresy of Orthodoxy, what was then and now condemned as heresy was preceded by, and analyzed in light of, what later became established orthodoxy. So it is not as if “Orthodoxy is just whatever view carried the day,” as if there was not already an accepted precedent. Tertullian’s famous phrase “tres personae una substantia” won wide acceptance because it best captured that precedent, proving to be a more careful and succinct articulation what was theretofore unarticulated. And even then, the intra-trinitarian relations were underspecified (so I can agree with you that “God” was most often identified with the Father).

    We can quibble over dates, but I think my main observation stands: we have more than 2000 years of God passing himself off as a Trinity. And this is hardly in the same category of ecclesiastical error! This is the very concept of God himself.

    The seeds of Trinitarian theology were sown in the NT. “Every good tree bears good fruit,” Jesus said, and it happens that the fruit that grew out of the NT was almost unanimously Trinitarian. But your view demands interpreting the Trinitarian developments as thorns that choked out the Sower’s seeds, to blend parables. Why would God, the perfect self that he is, sow so foolishly? “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” You can’t regard the Trinity as good fruit. Why, then, wasn’t the Christian movement from which it grew cut down?

    Concerning the abrogation charge. Any acceptable form of progressive revelation permits the revelation of truths logically consistent with ones previously established. Now, it is logically consistent to go from Monotheism to Trinitarianism. You don’t have to believe that God is a Trinity to see that. Indeed, denying that amounts to denying that every model of the Trinity that has ever been offered is not monotheistic. That’s a hard sell. But it is not logically consistent to go from Unitarianism to Trinitarianism. Ergo, progressive revelation is available to aid the Trinitarian in understanding the development of doctrine free of worries about divine deception or abrogation. Not so, for the Unitarian, who, without appeal to progressive revelation, must say “I don’t know why” to avoid the charge of abrogation. :-)

    So I’m not convinced that the divine deception argument doesn’t cut both ways, if it cuts at all. And if it does cut, the blade seems sharper on the Unitarian side.

  12. villanovanus says:

    @ Chad McIntosh [January 11, 2013 at 2:31 pm]

    We can quibble over dates, but I think my main observation stands: we have more than 2000 years of God passing himself off as a Trinity. And this is hardly in the same category of ecclesiastical error! This is the very concept of God himself.

    Now, if my arithmetics is not off, 21012 – 2000 = 12 …

    … which leaves us with one disturbing explanation: the teenager Jesus in the Temple [Luke 2:41-51] was disputing with the “teachers” in the Temple about the … Trinity!

    “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” [Matt 7:19; cp. Luke 3:9]

    Ah … but it’s all a matter of timing, because …
    Let both grow together until the harvest. At harvest time I will tell the reapers, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned, but then gather the wheat into my barn.” (Matt 13:30)

    MdS

  13. villanovanus says:

    [villanovanus, #12, January 11, 2013 at 5:59 pm]

    ERRATA => CORRIGE

    21012 – 2000 = 12 => 2012 – 2000 = 12

  14. Johnl says:

    Chad

    “we have 2 000 years of God passing himself off as a Trinity..”

    What nonsense!
    God never passed himself off as anything – he is God!
    The Trinity is a product of human speculation and reason. The fact that it has survived for almost 1 700 years is testimony of human frailty that only a behavioural scientist can explain!
    It is not logical, makes no sense, and is not scriptural.
    The verses which Trinitarians believe to be ‘proof verses’ can be challenged -and do not ‘over-ride’ plain and explicit scriptures.
    Good Day

    John

  15. Dale says:

    Hi Chad,

    A belated Happy New Year to you. Some responses below.

    There is no denying the horde of triadic formulae in the NT, the Apolastic Fathers such as Clement and Ignatius, and in their successors, e.g., Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Origen. The formulae were, to be sure, doxological or liturgical in nature. The early church from its inception onward can be accurately described as liturgically or doxologically Trinitarian (this is not to say the early Christians were thoroughgoing Trinitarians).

    This last statement is a convenient abuse of language, my friend. I too will happily accept the triadic formulas of the NT. We have, in them, God, his Son, and his spirit. I will happily accept any doxology which features those ideas. And, I’m a unitarian. But so were they. Perhaps we’re both “doxological trinitarians” though.

    As such, it is probably best to refrain from inferring from the triadic expressions early belief concerning God’s essence or ‘structure,’ if you will.

    Well said!

    But such inferences were inevitably made, and not long thereafter (no more than 100 years or so), the structure of orthodoxy emerged.

    Not true. Look at the common statements of inequality in the 2nd c. “fathers.” And note that there was widespread dispute about the h.s., and that still, as in the NT, the h.s. was not prayed to. And in the 325 creed, still the = of the one God and the Father is assumed. Can’t do that if you’re a (non-modalist) trinitarian.

    As Kostenberger and Kruger convincingly argue in The Heresy of Orthodoxy, what was then and now condemned as heresy was preceded by, and analyzed in light of, what later became established orthodoxy. So it is not as if “Orthodoxy is just whatever view carried the day,” as if there was not already an accepted precedent. Tertullian’s famous phrase “tres personae una substantia” won wide acceptance because it best captured that precedent, proving to be a more careful and succinct articulation what was theretofore unarticulated.

    What precendent, exactly, do you mean? (Surely not ST.) And when do you have in mind? Tertullian was sort of a crank, and ended up leaving the Catholic movement; his phrase did not prevail anywhere in or near his lifetime.

    And even then, the intra-trinitarian relations were underspecified (so I can agree with you that “God” was most often identified with the Father).

    If the one God is = the Father, game over – unitarianism is true (give the distinctness of s and h from f). I think what you mean to say was that the term “God” was ambiguous, but was more often used of the Father. I think that is true, esp. if we combine ho theos (the god, i.e. God) and theos (a god or God) – there are some translation problems there. But in contexts where it is clear they mean the ultimate source, the one true God, then I’ve only seen that being the Father, and never the three (I’m talking, say, pre-400).

    We can quibble over dates, but I think my main observation stands: we have more than 2000 years of God passing himself off as a Trinity. And this is hardly in the same category of ecclesiastical error! This is the very concept of God himself.

    Sorry, but I can’t engage this claim unless you say what you mean by “a Trinity.” I’m not sure why you dismiss that human speculation could have had a hand in all this… Perhaps your point is that *surely* God would not allow error on such a key point. I wish it were so!

    The seeds of Trinitarian theology were sown in the NT.

    Chad, this sort of hand-waving is unbecoming of a philosopher.

    “Every good tree bears good fruit,” Jesus said, and it happens that the fruit that grew out of the NT was almost unanimously Trinitarian.

    False. Origen and all the logos theologians hold the Father to be = to the one true God. Check the sources and see if I’m right. Yes, they do call the Son “god” and speculated on his substance, but that’s wholly consistent with f=g. The Catholic movement also had a strong “monarchian” party (or rather, a couple of them) c. late 100s to first half of 200s. And you probably wouldn’t count them as trinitarians.

    But your view demands interpreting the Trinitarian developments as thorns that choked out the Sower’s seeds, to blend parables. Why would God, the perfect self that he is, sow so foolishly? “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” You can’t regard the Trinity as good fruit. Why, then, wasn’t the Christian movement from which it grew cut down?

    About choking – as long as the Father is recognized as the one true God, as YHWH of the OT, the main stem hasn’t been choked off. This truth remains alive today even in the minds of most trinitarian believers, who despite their theoretical commitments to creedal theories, when they read the Bible, find the Father to be God, even Jesus’ God, and Jesus to be someone other than God, namely the Son of God. They will then inconsistently go to thinking that Jesus is God himself, and then that he’s a part of God, but still, when they go back to the NT, generally but not consistently, they read it as unitarian, which of course it is.

    Chad, as I understand you are neither Roman Catholic nor Orthodox. But it was the Catholic church, or its bishops (mainly) which made these pronouncements. In your own view, God haplessly allowed the Body of Christ to get tied up in all of this episcopal business, which neither you nor I believe in. You don’t think that we need the authority of a bishop to meet or baptize, or that we can pray to dead saints for help. But these guys did. Myself, I refuse to blame God, and chalk it all up to free will. Why did he allow such misguided church-evolution? I don’t know. But as to Trinity speculations, honestly, there are not really trinitarians in the record until after the end of the 4th c. The old propaganda that Nicea was a watershed is just that – propaganda, formed in the heat of a nasty feud with people who held what were, in the grand scheme, slightly different speculations. There had long been speculation about the divine nature, the super-human component that was postulated in the Son. But still, even through Constantinople, we find no triune God containing three equally divine persons. Again, if you claim to see “the Trinity” in 2nd – 4th c. Catholic Christianity, you need to say just what you mean by that.

    Concerning the abrogation charge. Any acceptable form of progressive revelation permits the revelation of truths logically consistent with ones previously established. Now, it is logically consistent to go from Monotheism to Trinitarianism.

    It depends!!! We need careful definitions of both terms, not just the assertion of consistency.

    You don’t have to believe that God is a Trinity to see that. Indeed, denying that amounts to denying that every model of the Trinity that has ever been offered is not monotheistic. That’s a hard sell.

    No, sorry – you’re confused here. Some disambiguations of “the Trinity” are consistent with monotheism (e.g. the common modalisms) and some are not (e.g. ST with totally equally divine persons – with three perfect selves).

    But it is not logically consistent to go from Unitarianism to Trinitarianism.

    I’m getting tired of saying: it depends. But, it does. :-/

  16. John says:

    Dale
    I’d appreciate your thoughts about two propositions which I have encountered in the past year

    (i) That Christianity really only ‘took off’ as a Universal religion once the mainline church had moved to Europe , In other words, strict monotheism was too deeply entrenched in the psyche of the inhabitants of the Middle East. Monophysiteism was still in existence at the time of Mohammed and it is said that he was a Monophysite.
    (ii) Paul Johnson hints that Christianity only ‘took off” once the Church Fathers said that Christ was God.
    Mans’ sin was so great that only Gods sacrifice could atone for it.
    This gave Christanity a ‘unique selling proposition” which other monotheist faiths did not have.(and subsequently caused a great deal of trouble )
    It certainly makes sense to me- because the Protestants did not let Trinitarian Doctrine go when given the opportunity to do so.at the time of the Reformation. Doctrine as a marketing tool!!!!!
    Blessing to you and your family for 2013

    John

  17. villanovanus says:

    @ John

    [# 16, January 14, 2013 at 4:51 am]… the Protestants did not let Trinitarian Doctrine go when given the opportunity to do so at the time of the Reformation.

    Michael Servetus had a “burning experience” of that “sentimental affection” for the “trinity” of the part of John Calvin … ;)

    MdS

    P.S. OTOH, I don’t think that the explanation of the retention of the “trinity” by the absolutely overwhelming majority of Protestants has to do with Mans’ sin was so great that only Gods sacrifice could atone for it Not only nor even mainly, anyway.

    I believe that it has much more to do with the deep anti-semitism of (most) Protestants, and the associated fear that abandoning the “trinity” would be tantamount to “Judaizing”.

  18. villanovanus says:

    P.P.S. I notice how Dale and Chad like to exchange their “philosophical opinions” above the heads of what they must consider the hoi polloi;)

  19. Sorry, Dr. Tuggy, if I’ve caused any exasperation. I’m still very much as philosophical noob, and even more so when it comes to historical theology.

    But suppose we grant that there were no genuine “Trinity” prior to the 4th century. You don’t think God could have set things up to avoid that theologically disastrous turn of events (which, again, is surely more serious than the ecclesiastical errors you mention)? For example, couldn’t he have made sure the triadic formulae never entered scripture? Or perhaps made the inference Jesus is divine –> Jesus is God a little harder to make? The error seems serious enough to merit a kind of ‘Trinitarian’ theodicy. Or should we be ‘skeptical theists’ about why God permitted Trinitarian belief to flourish since the 4th century?

  20. villanovanus says:

    [Chad McIntosh, #19, January 14, 2013 at 11:31 pm] You don’t think God could … have made … the inference Jesus is divine –> Jesus is God a little harder to make?

    Not easy, if what God wanted was that John 1:1-18, and Philippians 2:6-11 said EXACTLY what they say, EXACTLY the way they say it … ;)

    MdS

  21. villanovanus says:

    N.B. This comment was erroneously posted on “God and his Son: the logic of the New Testament” [villanovanus, #27, January 14, 2013 at 12:49 pm]. It is properly reposted here.

    [Dale, #15, January 13, 2013 at 11:11 pm] Tertullian was sort of a crank, and ended up leaving the Catholic movement; his phrase [“tres personae una substantia”] did not prevail anywhere in or near his lifetime.

    It doesn’t help to dismiss Tertullian with such unscholarly epithets, and the reason why Tertullian “ended up leaving the Catholic movement” has got absolutely nothing to do with his unquestionable (albeit Subordinationist) trinitarianism.

    Not only Tertullian formulated the expression that was the virtual equivalent of the formula of the Cappadocian scoundrels (pace the quibble on hypostasis vs persona), but he developed it in his anti-modalist polemical work.

    (Things are never as easy as they seem, though, because, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Theodoret says he [Sabellius] spoke of one hypostasis and a threefold prosopa, whereas St. Basil says he willingly admitted three prosopa in one hypostasis. This is, so far as words go, exactly the famous formulation of Tertullian, “tres personae, una substantia” …, but Sabellius seems to have meant “three modes or characters of one person”. – see Monarchians > Modalists – http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10448a.htm)

    In fact it can be safely affirmed that ALL (Subordinationist) trinitarian theology of the third century was in response to Patripassianism and Sabellianism: Tertullian (ca. 216), Hyppolitus of Rome (ca. 220), Origen (ca. 225), Novatian (ca.256), Pope Dionysius (ca. 262), Gregory the Wonderworker (ca. 265).

    But the origin can be traced even earlier. In fact it can be affirmed that the “trinity” (with Buzzard’s expression, “Christianity’s self-inflicted wound”) stems from the attempts to “cure” the “original sin” of treating God’s Logos as a “second god”: and it is Justin Marty that, along the lines of Philo speaks of deuteros theos.

    MdS

    P.S. Does “tacit assent” apply on this blog? ;)

  22. Jaco says:

    Good day, Chad

    There is no denying the horde of triadic formulae in the NT, the Apolastic Fathers such as Clement and Ignatius, and in their successors, e.g., Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Origen. The formulae were, to be sure, doxological or liturgical in nature. The early church from its inception onward can be accurately described as liturgically or doxologically Trinitarian (this is not to say the early Christians were thoroughgoing Trinitarians).

    I think you’re seriously equivocating here. “Triadic formulae” in and of themselves do not by default imply Nicean/Chalcedonian “Orthodox” Trinitarianism. What distinguish non-trinitarian Christians from Trinitarian Christians is not the confession of Father, of son and of holy spirit, but the categorisation and relationship of each of them. I for one am therefore perfectly comfortable with the “triadic formulae” while being solidly monotheistic (in the real sense of the word…).
    It is of course interesting to follow how the ANF expressed their understanding of God and Jesus. I would not, though, use their sentiments as proof of anything but simply their own phenomenology in the course of history. Unless one regards their writings as inspired, no doctrine can be based on what the Church and Apostolic Fathers wrote, lest each and every word they wrote should be accepted as gospel truth. Not to mention the methods one uses to distinguish between which Father to accept and which one to reject. It’s simply an exercise in futility.

    We can quibble over dates, but I think my main observation stands: we have more than 2000 years of God passing himself off as a Trinity. And this is hardly in the same category of ecclesiastical error! This is the very concept of God himself.

    No, see above.

    The seeds of Trinitarian theology were sown in the NT. “Every good tree bears good fruit,” Jesus said, and it happens that the fruit that grew out of the NT was almost unanimously Trinitarian.

    That is a very naïve stance. Do you confess Apostolic Succession and Papal Infallibility? Because only then can you hold such a position as the one above. Sadly neither Apostolic Succession nor Papal Infallibility is grounded in NT Christianity; and history itself shows that the methods and processes followed to enforce invented and formulated doctrine can hardly be called ethical, much less Christian. It is therefore a gullible position to assume that anything that emerges with the appearance of NT Christianity would be a pure and accurate reflection thereof. On the contrary…

    But your view demands interpreting the Trinitarian developments as thorns that choked out the Sower’s seeds, to blend parables. Why would God, the perfect self that he is, sow so foolishly? “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” You can’t regard the Trinity as good fruit. Why, then, wasn’t the Christian movement from which it grew cut down?

    God can have many, many reasons for allowing some and disallowing other events from happening. If someone asked you these questions 500 years ago, would you have stuck with Roman Catholicism instead of supporting the Reformation? Such sentimentality would have one frown at the Reformation altogether, which is also what Roman Catholics are doing. There is a basis for accepting that God could allow such infestation and growing together of weeds and wheat. The idea is not that God sowed foolishly; instead it is of a defiant enemy interfering with the outworking of God’s will. Apparently there would be a final cutting down and separation (Mt. 13:24f).

    Concerning the abrogation charge. Any acceptable form of progressive revelation permits the revelation of truths logically consistent with ones previously established. Now, it is logically consistent to go from Monotheism to Trinitarianism. You don’t have to believe that God is a Trinity to see that. Indeed, denying that amounts to denying that every model of the Trinity that has ever been offered is not monotheistic. That’s a hard sell. But it is not logically consistent to go from Unitarianism to Trinitarianism. Ergo, progressive revelation is available to aid the Trinitarian in understanding the development of doctrine free of worries about divine deception or abrogation. Not so, for the Unitarian, who, without appeal to progressive revelation, must say “I don’t know why” to avoid the charge of abrogation.

    I would never be as generous as you are above. Firstly, if you want to argue abrogation, then you must also allow an extension of the “period of inspiration” to go beyond the Apocalypse of John. “Divine sanction” of progressive revelation should therefore be proven. Consistent and compelling evidence of divine approval for these doctrinal milestones would also be required. And once such allegiance to the line of tradition is established, tradition itself, not Scripture, should be the basis of belief. That would render one loyal to the Catholic/Orthodox Church, not without the endless quibbling around appropriate and inappropriate practice and dogma.

    There is no consistency between biblical Hebraic monotheism and “orthodox” Trinitarianism. A radical change in category of being as well as epistemologies can hardly be regarded as “consistent.” Redefinitions of GOD, and a superimposition of biblically alien concepts of BEING, ETERNAL GENERATION, ESSENCE, NATURE, PERSON, etc. violate what can properly be regarded as “consistent.” What is more, is such a chasm can be bridged, there is no end to bridging any other chasm in the course of inventing and imposing what we may now consider to be inappropriate and unbiblical. It is my contention that no Trinitarian model is truly monotheistic. Somewhere in the course of its formulation, each model violates either proper logic or ancient biblical epistemology and ontology to arrive at an alleviated form of tritheism. Biblical monotheism is by definition unitary. As such, not only is it logically inconsistent to leap from Unitarianism to trinitarianism; it is utterly so with biblical monotheism itself.

    So I’m not convinced that the divine deception argument doesn’t cut both ways, if it cuts at all. And if it does cut, the blade seems sharper on the Unitarian side.

    I beg to differ…

    Jaco

  23. Jaco says:

    Good day, Chad

    I encourage you to go back and read the next few sentences of the paragraph you’re responding to.

    I have read your comment again and don’t see how my response to the other sentences would be much different from how I’ve already responded. Maybe you might want to be more specific.

    For example, even if what you say is correct—but to be sure, it isn’t—the heart of my question to Dale and the other unitarians ‘tugging’ along here hasn’t really been dealt with (see comment 19).

    You’re welcome to show where what I say isn’t correct.

    But suppose we grant that there were no genuine “Trinity” prior to the 4th century. You don’t think God could have set things up to avoid that theologically disastrous turn of events (which, again, is surely more serious than the ecclesiastical errors you mention)? For example, couldn’t he have made sure the triadic formulae never entered scripture? Or perhaps made the inference Jesus is divine –> Jesus is God a little harder to make? The error seems serious enough to merit a kind of ‘Trinitarian’ theodicy. Or should we be ‘skeptical theists’ about why God permitted Trinitarian belief to flourish since the 4th century?

    Firstly, it is a matter of historical fact that the 4th/5th century “Trinity” was the result of doctrinal evolution over time with various philosophical, cultural and political factors guiding those developments. Evangelical fundamentalists can dispute this all they want, but denial can unfortunately not change documented history.

    Secondly, the rest of your comments above imply that God would not design or set up a scheme with the knowledge that this very scheme could be abused or perverted. And since the Trinity doctrine of the 4th and 5th centuries emerged from the triadic formulae in the NT which were designed by God, the Trinity cannot rightly be regarded as abused or perverted. I can think of several perverted schemes which did emerge from what were initially perfect designs. I could ask, why did God create morality if he knew that this could be perverted by Adam and Eve resulting in judgment over the whole human race? Why did God create the capacity to be sentient if he knew sin and chaos could result in untold pain and suffering to humans and animals? Why did God design the Torah if this Torah could be perverted into the lifeless, loveless, self-serving code abused by First-Century Jews? Why did he include laws of capital punishment in that Law if that could result in the unjust death of Israel’s Messiah? If He knew the Cornerstone could become the stumbling stone to many, why create it in the first place? And if He did, can the Jews’ rejection of this Cornerstone properly be regarded as “perverted?” There are certainly countless more examples that would demonstrate how illogical your suggestions are above. Fact is that God cannot by default be held accountable for each and any development of something out of that which was divinely created. Furthermore, an evolved scheme cannot be rendered valid and true solely on the basis of its raw origin. An evolved scheme, regardless of its origin, would still have to pass the conditions of validity, veracity and compatibility before it can be judged as divinely approved or disapproved. My contention is that the evolved Trinity formulations of the 4th and 5th centuries fail on all three grounds and as such cannot be regarded as divinely instituted.

    Thanks

  24. villanovanus says:

    [Chad McIntosh, #23, January 16, 2013 at 4:10 pm] … the heart of my question to Dale and the other unitarians ‘tugging’ along here hasn’t really been dealt with (see comment 19).

    The “heart of hearts” of the threefold question has to do with how the scripture deals with the question of the divinity of Jesus Christ: it has certainly been dealt with at comment #20, but it has obviously gone over Chad’s head … ;)

    MdS

  25. villanovanus says:

    [Chad McIntosh, #26, January 19, 2013 at 7:21 pm] The questions you pose [Jaco, #24, January 18, 2013 at 2:18 am] illustrate my point well. It is often the case that when confronted with such difficult questions, one attempts to answer them. This is generally known as a theodicy.

    Nope, this is not the meaning of theodicy: theodicy does NOT consist in “attempting to answer” questions that are problematic for God’s goodness and justice, BUT in answering them in favor of God’s goodness and justice. “A vindication of God’s goodness and justice in the face of the existence of evil.” Theodicy is a branch of apologetics.

    MdS

  26. Jaco says:

    Chad McIntosh,

    My questions demonstrate one central and unwarranted fallacy you commit, and that is assuming that nothing corrupt or bad can come from what is otherwise good and fair. This flaw in your argumentation is illustrated in my questions. Secondly, if one development (post-biblical trinity) out of what was originally uncorrupted, namely triadic formulae, should be accepted as good and fair, then you should also accept the development of other religious schemes such as Mohammedanism and other cult forms whose existence is based on categories, formulae and concepts also fair and good in their raw, uncorrupted state. If not the latter, then not the former. Since your questions above are complex, ignoring the common fallacy in your approach, I prefer not to answer any one of them.

    Thanks,

  27. Jaco says:

    Chad McIntosh,

    The only “fallacy” I have committed in this thread (since we’re using the term so loosely) was thinking there was any room left for profitable dialogue amidst such arrogance and lack of charity.

    Some of us have engaged so many trinitarians and have heard so many creative and inventive arguments just to keep their trinity alive. To us, the flaws in your argumentation are so clear that our response might come across as blunt and dismissive. But still, who thinks that any and all development out of something confirmed to be good and true cannot be anything else but good and true? This is so absurd that merely repeating it here already gives it more play-time than it deserves. There’s got to be better arguments than this one, Chad.

    Thanks

  28. villanovanus says:

    [Jaco, #30, January 20, 2013 at 11:40 pm] … who thinks that any and all development out of something confirmed to be good and true cannot be anything else but good and true? This is so absurd that merely repeating it here already gives it more play-time than it deserves. There’s got to be better arguments than this one …

    What if there isn’t? What if trinitarians have got nothing better than some fallacious “argument”, like argumentum ad verecundiam (appeal to authority), and/or argumentum ad populum (majority consensus), and/or this particular “argument” whereby nothing bad could follow from something originally good?

    MdS

  29. villanovanus says:

    Non igitur potest esse malum, nisi aliquod bonum. Quod cum dici videatur absurde, connexio tarnen rationis huius velut inevitabiliter nos compellit hoc dicere. (“Therefore an evil cannot be but something good. Which, thought it seems to be said absurdly, the connection of the ratiocination compels us to say it.” – Augustine, Enchiridion 13)

  30. villanovanus says:

    [Chad McIntosh, #33, January 22, 2013 at 12:23 am] In the interest of better arguments, you may find the following… of interest. [Towards a Natural Trinitarian Theology, @ http://appearedtoblogly.files.wordpress.com

    As Ovid said, principiis obsta; sero medicina paratur, cum mala per longas convaluere moras, that is "stop it at the beginning; a cure is attempted too late when, through long delay, the illness has gained strength". So, let's look at the abstract.

    Natural Theology, by its very nature, concerns itself with propositions available to all “by the natural light of reason” alone. As such, the God of natural theology is more akin to the generic God of the Philosophers than the Trinitarian God of the New Testament. [a] For as Alister McGrath observes, “the general consensus within Christian theology is that the doctrine [of the Trinity] cannot be demonstrated or established on the basis of pure reason.” Accordingly, the doctrine has traditionally been understood as properly belonging to the realm of faith, not reason; revealed theology, not natural theology. [b] In contrast to this tradition, I want to explore what there is by way of a “natural Trinitarian theology”: arguments concerned with only propositions available via the natural light of reason, which nonetheless suggest that if God exists, God is a community of persons. I will do so by engaging Dale Tuggy’s recent attempt to argue that “we know of no such cogent argument.” I will argue, contra Tuggy and the tradition, that a certain metaphysics of value—together with the assumption that God is a being of great value—provides the resources for at least one cogent argument in the domain of natural Trinitarian theology. [c]

    Here are my essential comments, in the way of footnotes.

    [a] It is already abusive enough, at first blush, to slip in that the “God of the New Testament” would be “Trinitarian” …

    [b] Again, it is abusive to affirm that ” the doctrine [of the "trinity"] has traditionally been understood as … revealed theology “. The doctrine of the “trinity” (in particular, in its fully developed form by the Cappadocian scoundrels, “one ousia in three hypostases“) is the result of a long process, that started with the “original sin” of the adoption by Christianity (at least as early as Justin Martyr) of Philo’s deuteros theos.

    [c] I may look at the details of the alleged “cogent argument” later on. Here I can say immediately that, quickly browsing the “paper … currently under review for a journal”, it is essentially based on the attempt to apply to God arguments that may be (barely and arguably) applicable to human “agents” (to use the word adopted by Chad, instead of the more natural and obvious “person”). An extrapolation that, as Kant has (should have) taught us for good, is simply abusive.

    MdS

  31. villanovanus says:

    Looks like someone has left in a huff, taking his most recent comments with himself … ;)

    MdS

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