Following an ancient tradition of mocking modalists as “patripassians”, she seems to think the biggest or the main problem with modalism is that it identifies the Father and the Son. (pp. 1, 3) On her modalist theory, they are temporal parts (person-stages) of one being, but they are not numerically identical – they are different temporal parts of God. As she observes, on this theory, “There is… no time at while f=s.” (p. 3) Thus, her theory doesn’t identify any of the persons with one another, or with God for that matter.
Many metaphysicians, she knows, reject the theory of temporal parts, and the perdurance theory of how a thing can “last” through time.
But moving on, is this theory monotheistic? She urges,
All we need to capture the spirit of monotheism is the doctrine that at any time there is exactly one God. (3)
Huh? She draws an analogy with US Presidents; at any given time, there’s one one.
But imagine this: a religion positing a hereditary monarchy of gods. Zeus and the Mrs. give birth to Zeus Jr. He fathers Zeus III, etc. Suppose the parents always die off as soon as the offspring attains deity, and that the mom isn’t ever divine. (Sorry – there’s a glass ceiling when it comes to divinity.) In this scenario, at all times, there’s one deity, one god. But who would call this “monotheism”? It’d be an oddball kind of polytheism, wouldn’t it? After all, it posits many gods. It might be henotheistic over a given stretch of time (e.g. for the time being, we should all worship only Zeus IV… until Zeus V comes along).
She admits the analogy with presidents is limited: “there is no person who is President during both the Bush and Clinton administrations.” (p. 4) And then she smashes the whole proposal:
…while it rules out a pantheon of gods it does not rule out a succession of gods. Moreover… it is hard to see how see how any of [the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit] could have the properties requisite for full or maximal divinity. (p. 4)
Right – such as being eternal or everlasting, and consequently, as she points out, omnipotence. (p. 4) So, back to the drawing board. She suggests that we need to rethink monotheism. Look out, folks. Here comes the David Lewis.
Next time: tweaking the definition of “monotheism”.