Slanderin’ Steve has responded to my recent post. I love it how he invariably describes me as “attempting to” respond, and never as actually responding. What a guy.
[Dale:] Steve, you’re the one trying to make a problem here; it is incumbent on you to show some impossibility.
No, it’s not incumbent on me to show some “impossibility”. Rather, I only need to show that there are philosophical reasons to doubt unitarianism. There’s no general principle that philosophical objections must show the “impossibility” of the alternative. Dale is rigging the game.
Steve seems to understand how this sort of game works. In trying to come up with a purely philosophical argument against unitarianism, what we’re working with, at bottom, is intuitions about what must be and what can’t be, and about what’s consistent with what. It all has to do with impossibility. He should ask himself why trinitarian philosophers like Davis, Swinburne, and Morris are all trying to show it to be impossible that God is unipersonal. His crying about me supposedly changing the rules on him is sad. A humbler man would realize that he’s out of his depth here, that the trinitarian philosophers, the relevant experts here, understand what must be done, to have a philosophical argument from theism to Trinity. This is how you would beat unitarian theology with a philosophical argument – if that can be done. Just asserting that unitarianism has some problem in this regard, without showing how, is just time-wasting bluster.
[Dale:] But let’s not lose where we are in the argument. Suppose that divine-person to divine-person love would be qualitatively better than divine-person-human love. But, why must a divine person enjoy that better kind of love? Because he’s “perfectly loving.” That’s a clear non sequitur, though. One can be perfectly loving without actually loving another. To have the perfectly loving character trait does not imply engaging in the best kind of love.
…my argument isn’t dependent on “perfect” love. Dale keeps substituting an easier target to attack.
What Slanderin’ Steve tries to frame as shiftiness here is merely me trying to interpret him charitably! Why should we think that God must enjoy this (allegedly) best kind of love? Morris, Swinburne, Davis say, “Because he’s perfect in love.”
In contrast, Steve seems to lack any reason. As far as I can see, he just asks, “How could a God who ‘is love’ never love another?” Of course, a plausible answer is: because that God doesn’t need anything or anyone else, and is plausibly thought to have been free not to create. Against this, our little apologist seems to have nothing.
He then reproduces a long exchange of ours, and then throws out a few of the cuff remarks:
i) Notice that Dale can never provide an actual explanation for why a unitarian God necessarily has a capacity for interpersonal relationships or loving another. All he does is to repeat the same circular appeal. But the appeal is groundless.
In fact, I explained how
such capacity seems to logically implied by other divine attributes, attributes agreed to be essential by most trinitarians and unitarians, such as absolute perfection and aseity. Oddly, he seems to not understand. There’s no circularity in what I said; in other words, I never assume the conclusion in giving plausible reasons for the conclusion.
But here’s another argument, this time, for his convenience, in numbered steps, and in all small words:
- By his essence, God is perfect in power.
- By his essence, God is able to love another.
This ability should be included in omnipotence, in divine power, right? So, it seems that 2 follow from 1. This seems to be a sound argument, and Steve has not lifted a finger to cast any doubt on the truth of 1, or on 1’s implying 2. Moreover he agrees with 1! So his only option, logically, is to try to argue that 2 doesn’t follow from 1 – in other words, that it is possible for 1 to be true while 2 is false. Good look with that!
But let’s try to help him, and see how the dialectic goes:
- “Aha, but there must be another to love.”
- Right, divine power includes the ability to create a love-ee.
- “But this recipient of love must be a peer of God, for peer-to-peer love is the best kind!”
- Let’s set aside that there’s no obvious reason why we must think that God must have the best kind of love. Let’s grant that for the sake of following out this argument. Divine power plausibly implies the ability to create a peer, someone to engage in a love relationship that can be compared to that between a husband and a wife, or between a king and his adult subjects. There are your “peers” – God and humans, who are made in God’s image, so that this love is not like mere parent-infant or person-pet love. Note that even if such peers don’t actually exist, still, God is able to make them, and so will be, it seems, able to love a peer. He’ll just have to make one first.
- “No, by ‘peer’ I mean a being with the divine essence.”
- Now, I think we’ll have to draw the line, and demand reasons why we should think that (1) the peerhood required for the best kind of love must be peerhood of essence, and (2) more that one being (both lover and beloved) can have the divine essence. (1) strikes me as hopeless. Why couldn’t, say, a human and an intelligent Martian enjoy the best kind of love? (Swinburne has some speculations here, but I won’t got into them here.)
Back to our lovable little internet polemicist:
Compare that to Trinitarian theism. That provides an underlying reason. God has an intrinsic capacity for interpersonal relationships because God is intrinsically interpersonal. God essentially has the potential to love creatures because that’s an extension of the intra-Trinitarian fellowship.
Certainly, if anyone actually does A, that implies that they had the capacity for A-ing. So if one essentially
does A, then essentially
, one is able to A. Woo-hoo! Win for the Trinity, right?
Actually, no. Both sides agree that God has a feature F. Steve-o asserts that on his Trinity theory, God must have F. Okey-dokey. But I showed how just plain old unipersonal theism also seems to imply that God has F. All Steve’s managed to do here, is to display how proud he is of his own theory. For in entailing F (granting for the sake of argument that it does), his theology is no different than unitarian theism!
In principle, he could try
to argue that the trinitarian’s explanation is better
. He could try to deploy criteria that philosophers of science use to compare explanations in various ways.
But so far, he just willfully refuses to try to understand the unitarian’s explanations. Slanderin’ Steve prefers to just assert that the other side’s got nuthin’ – nuthin‘ I say! Hoo haw! Take that, foul apostate!