Trinities http://trinities.org/blog Theories about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit Tue, 19 Sep 2017 10:51:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.2 http://trinities.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/cropped-trinity-logo-smoothed-as-stamp-then-plastic-wrapped-32x32.jpg Trinities http://trinities.org/blog 32 32 Weekly podcast exploring views about the Trinity, and more generally about God and Jesus in Christian theology and philosophy. Debates, interviews, and historical and contemporary perspectives. Hosted by philosopher of religion / analytic theologian Dr. Dale Tuggy. Dale Tuggy clean Dale Tuggy filosofer@gmail.com filosofer@gmail.com (Dale Tuggy) Copyright © Dale Tuggy 2017 Theories about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit Trinities http://trinities.org/blog/wp-content/podcast/trinitiespodcast.jpg http://trinities.org/blog filosofer@gmail.com TV-G Fredonia, New York Weekly Donate via Paypal podcast 194 – God: One Person or Three? Sanders vs. Buzzard debate http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-194-god-one-person-or-three-sanders-vs-buzzard-debate/ http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-194-god-one-person-or-three-sanders-vs-buzzard-debate/#comments Mon, 18 Sep 2017 23:23:45 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=39512 It’s been awhile since we featured a debate on the trinities podcast. This one is a follow up to our two-part review of Dr. Fred Sander’s The Deep Things of God (here and here). As Dr. Sanders explains, this debate was held on Friday, April 25, 2003 at the Norco Campus of Riverside Community College. You also read Dr. Sanders’s transcript of the debate at that same link.

I’ve improved the sound and edited the whole thing for length, removing the intros, dead air, false starts, and a few rabbit trails, but nothing of substance. It clocks in now at just over two hours. Apologies to the moderator Danny Dixon, whose intro ended up on the cutting room floor.

The debate is very informal, and starts slow, but it gets better as it goes along. If you’re trying to think through this difficult issue, it is helpful to hear someone make a case for each side.

Here’s a tip. One must actively listen to a debate. List out the arguments or main points of each speaker. Then, cross out the ones which are undermined or refuted by that guy’s opponent, or which you can rule out on other grounds. See what’s left.

After you listen, let us know below who you think won, and why.

Links for this episode:

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http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-194-god-one-person-or-three-sanders-vs-buzzard-debate/feed/ 2 Which does the Bible teach, that the one God just is the Father, or that the one God is Father, Son, and Spirit? here and here). As Dr. Sanders explains, this debate was held on Friday, April 25, 2003 at the Norco Campus of Riverside Community College. You also read Dr. Sanders's transcript of the debate at that same link.

I've improved the sound and edited the whole thing for length, removing the intros, dead air, false starts, and a few rabbit trails, but nothing of substance. It clocks in now at just over two hours. Apologies to the moderator Danny Dixon, whose intro ended up on the cutting room floor.

The debate is very informal, and starts slow, but it gets better as it goes along. If you're trying to think through this difficult issue, it is helpful to hear someone make a case for each side.

Here's a tip. One must actively listen to a debate. List out the arguments or main points of each speaker. Then, cross out the ones which are undermined or refuted by that guy's opponent, or which you can rule out on other grounds. See what's left.

After you listen, let us know below who you think won, and why.



Links for this episode:

* Dr. Sanders’s website

* Dr. Sanders’s blog Scriptorum Daily
* Dr. Sanders's blog post on and transcript of the debate


* Buzzard's Restoration Fellowship

* the unedited audio mp3s of this debate
* John 1 in 50+ English Translations
* podcast 44 – The Spiritual Journey of Sir Anthony Buzzard
* Jesus was not a Trinitarian
* Church of God General Conference


* Colin Brown

* excerpts from "Trinity and Incarnation: In Search of Contemporary Orthodoxy," Ex Auditu, 7, 1991, 83-100.
* Dr. Colin Brown on The Trinity (2004)


* Millard Erickson, Making Sense of the Trinity: Three Crucial Questions
* Raymond Brown, The Birth of the Messiah
* But what about John 1:1?
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Dale Tuggy clean 2:04:28
Karl Rahner on the word “God” in the New Testament http://trinities.org/blog/karl-rahner-on-the-word-god-in-the-new-testament/ http://trinities.org/blog/karl-rahner-on-the-word-god-in-the-new-testament/#comments Wed, 13 Sep 2017 19:43:58 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=39500 Catholic theologian Karl Rahner’s (1904-1984) essay Theos in the New Testament,” published in Vol. I of his 1961 Theological Investigations, is like a short book, a dense treatise on biblical theology. There’s a lot going on here, but in this post, I’ll highlight a few of what I consider the more interesting bits relating to NT language.

Rahner observes that the God of both OT and NT is a great self, a Person with a proper name, who freely and intelligently acts in history; God is a unique and provident god. (This is in keeping with his approach to the Trinity.) He then notes the pervasive and central NT theme of monotheism:

When Jesus was asked which was the first of all the commandments and answered that it was the commandment of love—and this is the heart of the Pauline and Johannine message too (Romans 13:10; 1 Corinthians 8:3; 1 Corinthians 13; Colossians 3:14; 1 John 3:11) —he himself in this critical context (Mark 12:29) cited the Shema… This confession of the one God runs through the entire New Testament. In Jesus’ own words, eternal life is that they should know the only true God (John 17:3) and be mindful of the glory which is from this one God alone (John 5:44)… Thus testimony to the uniqueness of the sole God is constantly recurring: eis ho theos [God is one] (Romans 3:3o; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Galatians 3:2o; Ephesians 4:6; 1 Timothy 2:5; James 2:19), monos theos [“one God,” or “only God”] (Romans 16:27; 1 Timothy  1:17; 1 Timothy 6:15; Jude 25; Revelation 15:4). Now this mono­theism is not just a fragment of tradition taken over from the Old Testament… It is bound up with the basic Christian confession; and when Christ wanted to state as briefly as possible what that eternal life was which he offered men, he spoke of the knowledge of the one true God (John 17:3). When St Paul, in the earliest portion of the New Testament, sums up what has come about in the Thessalonians who have become Christians, once again the first item to be mentioned is conversion to the living and true God in opposition to the many false gods (1 Thessalonians 1 :9). And from God’s uniqueness St Paul derives support for two of his central themes: the calling of the Gentiles to the same rights in the New Israel (Romans 3:28-30; Romans 1o:12, 1 Timothy 2:4-5), and the unity of the multiple workings of the Spirit among Christians in the one Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:6 ; Ephesians 4:6). …Confession of faith in the one true God is one of the essential elements in the Gospel of Christ. (pp. 100-101)

As we’ll see, the NT not only asserts monotheism, but it also tells us who this one god is.

In order to see the NT clearly, Rahner tries to bracket off his trinitarian assumptions.

…what we are trying to discover is who is meant when the New Testament speaks of ho theos [“God,” literally, “the god”]. Thus our task is not to present the teaching of the New Testament concerning God as Trinity; this is simply presupposed as a doctrine of faith. We take it as something given that the content of the Church’s teaching con­cerning God as Trinity in the Unity of one and the same essence, is present in the New Testament too, though it is formulated there in different and simpler terms. But we are not concerned to ask whether, according to the New Testament, the three we find named there, pater, huios, pneuma hagion, are distinct from each other and yet identical with the divine nature possessed in common. Presupposing all this, we wish to learn which of these three is meant when the New Testament speaks of ho theos. (p. 125)

As Rahner notes, trinitarian usage of “God” is highly equivocal: it can refer to the Trinity, the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit. (p. 126) As an aside, I note that historically this phenomenon only goes back till just before the time of Augustine. But Rahner’s question is: is this New Testament usage? Rahner asserts that it is not.

We maintain that in the New Testament ho theos, signifies  the First Person of the Trinity… and this applies to every case in which another meaning of ho theos does not become clearly evident from the context. (pp. 126-127)

In other words, normally “God” in the NT means the Father, but in rare circumstances, the context will demand our reading “God” as referring to something or someone else.

Rahner rebuts arguments that “God” in the NT should just mean God generally, not specifically the Father. (pp. 132-138) One such argument is: aren’t there a lot of texts where Jesus is called “God”? He concedes that there may half a dozen of them. (pp. 135-6)

Thus we have six texts in which the reality of the divine nature in Christ is expressed by the predicate theos. In none of them—it is not unimportant to note—is theos alone, without the addition of modi­fying clauses but with the article, used to speak of Christ. Theos is either found without the article (John 1:1, John 1:18; Romans 9:5), and so suggests a kind of conceptual generality; or it is particularized in some way, and so suggests that what is being referred to is not simply to be identified with what is elsewhere meant by ho theos. It is further to be observed that in all these cases (with the exception of Titus 2:13), theos stands as predicate or has a predicative sense, and in this way suggests the more general connotation of the word in the context. But the word never appears by itself as grammatical subject, about which something else is said, as though it were a characterization of Christ needing no further explanation, like kurios [“Lord”], for instance (Luke 7:13; Luke 10:1; John 4:11; John 6:23; John 11:2; Acts 9:10-11; 1 Corinthians 7:10-12; 1 Thessalonians 4:16, etc.). But what is decisive for our inquiry is that these few texts in which Christ is called theos are vastly outnumbered by the other texts in which the New Testament intends to express Christ’s divine nature in one way or another, and yet does not make use of the word theos, as one would have expected if the word had a quasi-generic signification. Christ is called ‘Son of God’, the ‘true Son of God’, kurios, ‘Logos of God’, eikon [image] of God… All these are ways of trying to express Christ’s divinity, and what is more to express it as clearly as possible, without any pedagogic attempt to withhold the full sense of the affirmation, as may have been the case when Christ began to reveal himself; and yet in all these texts the writers avoid the use of theos for Christ. (pp. 136-137)

Right. Rahner chooses not to question his Catholic assumption that the writers in the above ways are trying to say that Jesus had a divine nature. One might think they could have done that far more clearly and often! But he surely is correct in noting what is at best an extreme reticence to use theos about God’s Messiah. He immediately continues,

The only way in which this can be explained is that for the linguistic sense of the New Testament theos originally signified the Father alone. Ho theos does not start by being neutral in a generic way, so as to be applicable to the Father and also, without explanation, to the Son. Originally it is associated with the Father and thus primarily signifies him alone; it is only slowly, as it were shyly and cautiously, that the expression is detached from him and evolves in such a way that a few texts (John 20:28; Romans 9:5; 1 John 5:20) venture to use it of Christ. (pp. 137-138)

And we should pause to add that various translators and exegetes challenge all three of those cases!

He proceeds (pp. 138f) to give a “Positive demonstration” of his thesis. In brief, Rahner observes the overwhelming NT usage of ho theos for the Father. He the God who raised Christ, Christ’s god and Father, the one whom we access through the mediation of Christ. Many passages mention God/the Father and Christ, assuming their distinctness. This is the Father’s spirit which is “the holy spirit.” Even “in the so-called Trinitarian formulas” we often having “God” standing in for the Father. (p. 141)

This same one is YHWH:

The God whom the Jews believed to be their Father, is the God from whom Jesus has proceeded and who has sent him: the Father in the Trinitarian sense (John 8:32). (p. 142)

Rahner can’t quite get those trinitarian goggles off of his head. Nonetheless, he is seeing clearly the NT pattern of usage of God-terms, theos and ho theos.

We may outline our results as follows. Nowhere in the New Testament is there to be found text with ho theos which has unquestionably to be referred to the Trinitarian God as a whole existing in three Persons. In by far the greater number of texts ho theos refers to the Father as a Person of the Trinity. It should be noted here that in the texts in which ho theos is used without its being absolutely clear from the immediate context who precisely is meant, the expression never contains anything which is not said of God in other texts; and in just these other texts, this God may be recognized (directly or indirectly) as Father in the Trinitarian sense. Besides this there are six complete texts in which ho theos is used to speak of the Second Person of the Trinity, but still in a hesitant and obviously restrained way (the restriction is concerned of course not with the reality but with the use of the word). In addition, ho theos is never used in the New Testament to speak of the pneuma hagion [Holy Spirit]. These findings are sufficient in themselves to justify the assertion that when the New Testament speaks of ho theos, it is (with the exception of the six texts mentioned) the Father as First Person of the Trinity who is signified. (pp. 143-144)

Rahner ends with a several concluding observations such as that when in the New Testament Jesus is called “the Son of God” this means the Son of the Father. (pp. 144-145)

Really, aside from those six alleged instances where theos is used of the Son, the above conclusions are indisputable facts. Dear student of scripture, a triad of questions for you:

  1. Is this pattern of usage what you would expect if the NT authors assume a trinitarian (God is the Trinity) theology?
  2. Is this pattern of usage what you would expect if the NT authors assume a unitarian (God is the Father) theology?
  3. What is the evidential payoff of your answers to the first two questions, as concerns the rival hypotheses mentioned in 1 and 2?

It strikes me that this sort of attention to undisputed textual facts is important.

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Worship of Jesus, Worship of God, and the Fulfillment Fallacy http://trinities.org/blog/worship-of-jesus-worship-of-god-and-the-fulfillment-fallacy/ http://trinities.org/blog/worship-of-jesus-worship-of-god-and-the-fulfillment-fallacy/#comments Tue, 12 Sep 2017 20:17:47 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=39493 Notice how this scholar avoids what I call the fulfillment fallacy, which is inferring that because the New Testament author applies in Old Testament text about Yahweh to Jesus, then that author is asserting the numerical sameness of Yahweh and Jesus, i.e. that Jesus just is Yahweh himself.

It is noteworthy that, at least in some of the instances of the transfer to Christ of passages originally relating to God, special care seems to be taken to safeguard, as it were, the supremacy of God. Thus, in Philippians 2:11, the acclamation of Christ in terms originally intended for God is said to be ‘to the glory of God the Father.’ Similarly, in Revelation 5:9f., 12f., explicit references to God are brought in alongside of expressions of the worthiness of the Lamb. … such phenomena may be an indication that the passage in question was directed to a situation in which Christians were in danger of being either misunderstood by Gentiles or attacked by Jews as polytheists, and needed to safeguard their monotheistic intentions. (C.F.D. Moule, The Origin of Christology (1977), 42-43.)

His point about the lamb in Revelation here is obscure. But I think we can unpack it pretty easily.

Notice why each of the two are worshiped. The worshipers go to all the trouble of actually stating their reasons. In worshiping God in chapter 4, it is stated that God is eternal (Revelation 4:8) and that he is the creator (Revelation 4:11).

In contrast, when the Lamb is brought into the throne room of God in chapter 5 and receives worship alongside God, here are the worshipers stated reasons in their “new song”:

You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation; you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God, and they will reign on earth. (Revelation 5:9-10)

In short, the Lamb (Jesus) is worshiped because of his unique service to God. There is not any confused and confusing statement here about Jesus being ” worshiped as God.” No, the monotheism has been carefully left intact, even though the man Jesus here has been exalted to the highest possible place under God himself, and is as it were worshiped alongside him. Yes, it is remarkable that anyone should be worshiped alongside God. And yet, we already know why God is being worshiped, and it is a more foundational or fundamental reason than the reason for worship of Jesus. Jesus, having fulfilled his divine commission, has now been exalted, and this is why he must be worshiped, to the glory of the God who sent, empowered, raised, and exalted him. God’s sponsoring agency is assumed here in the background, when the Lamb suddenly appears in the throne room. This has all been the working out of God’s plan, so this amazing exaltation must be understood as God’s will.

Due to theoretical glasses being welded to some theologians faces, they will insist on seeing these texts as merely distinguishing the Person of the Father from the Person of the Son. But in truth they are taking care to distinguish between God from Jesus, the one true God and his unique human Son. As history shows, the idea of multiple, equally divine “Persons” within the one God is at this point still centuries in the future.

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podcast 193 – Review of Sanders’s The Deep Things of God – Part 2 http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-193-review-of-sanderss-the-deep-things-of-god-part-2/ http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-193-review-of-sanderss-the-deep-things-of-god-part-2/#comments Tue, 12 Sep 2017 01:21:08 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=39472 In this second part of my review of Dr. Fred Sanders’s The Deep Things of God (part 1 here), I discuss the following questions:

  • Is New Testament teaching on prayer “trinitarian”?
  • How, according to Dr. Sanders, should the claim that “God exists in three Persons” be interpreted? That is, going beyond the language, just what is the theological theory here?
  • Does C.S. Lewis show us how to defend the coherence of the idea that God is one being even while being three Persons?
  • What, according to Dr. Sanders, is the crisis in contemporary trinitarian systematic theology, when it comes to the Bible?

I also suggest a few corrections re: things like councils, Irenaeus, and alleged implications of unitarian Christian theologies.

Have you read The Deep Things of God? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below or on the podcast Facebook page.

Links for this episode:

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http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-193-review-of-sanderss-the-deep-things-of-god-part-2/feed/ 3 What, according to Dr. Sanders, is the crisis in contemporary trinitarian systematic theology, when it comes to the Bible? The Deep Things of God (part 1 here), I discuss the following questions:

* Is New Testament teaching on prayer "trinitarian"?
* How, according to Dr. Sanders, should the claim that "God exists in three Persons" be interpreted? That is, going beyond the language, just what is the theological theory here?
* Does C.S. Lewis show us how to defend the coherence of the idea that God is one being even while being three Persons?
* What, according to Dr. Sanders, is the crisis in contemporary trinitarian systematic theology, when it comes to the Bible?

I also suggest a few corrections re: things like councils, Irenaeus, and alleged implications of unitarian Christian theologies.

Have you read The Deep Things of God? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below or on the podcast Facebook page.

Links for this episode:

* The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything (2nd ed.)
* The Triune God (course)
* Dr. Sanders’s website
* Dr. Sanders’s blog Scriptorum Daily
* What is the Trinity? (Amazon, other sellers)
* The Lost Early History of Unitarian Christian Theology
* podcast 11 – Tertullian the unitarian
* podcast 31 – Dr. William Hasker on the “Arian” Controversy
* podcast 30 – The Council of Nicea
* podcast 42 – Dr. Stephen R. Holmes on his The Quest for the Trinity
* http://trinities.org/blog/?p=39464 I’m having a hard time keeping up with his blogging! His long part 4 of his review of What is the Trinity? is here: “Trinity, Creation, and the Christian Distinction.” He starts by noticing this famous “triadic” text from Paul:

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor 13:14).

But he doesn’t notice, as a great scholar has pointed out, that this not what a trinitarian should expect! The three are in the wrong order, and the Father, not the three of them together, is called “God”! But it is what a unitarian would expect.

He continues to weave his story about how even the earliest Christianity was “trinitarian.”

Before there was a doctrine of the Holy Trinity, there simply was the Holy Trinity in whose reality Christians lived and prayed. The Trinitarian naming structured and formed the worship of the Church. From the beginning believers prayed to the Father, through and with the Son, in and by the Spirit.

Again, it doesn’t register with him that this is a unitarian friendly pattern of prayer, and not what one would expect from trinitarians! As I mentioned last time, he’s just happy to have found something triple/threefold early on – even if it’s not a conception of the one God. But that’s not the same as finding trinitarian theology to be presupposed! These folks are all explicitly confessing belief in one God [aka] the Father Almighty, the creator.

When confronted with the charge of polytheism, they no doubt insisted that they worshipped and served the one God of Israel, yet to this one God they now attached, by divine revelation and sacramental mandate, the names of Jesus and the Spirit, as exemplified in the earliest examples of credal faith.

This is demonstrably wrong; read the apologists of the 100s and 200s, and see how they actually reply to the charge of polytheism. I’m starting to lose my patience with these “just so” stories, which people find it so convenient to imagine. We need to anchor any true narrative about early Christianity in the actual evidence. Fr. Kimel seems to appeal to the authority of the late theologian Jenson here, but that doesn’t seem to the point. After the quote:

Hence we may speak of a foundational Trinitarianism embodied in the stories, hymns, and ritual practices of the apostolic Church.

We may so speak, if we want to mislead people into to thinking that early Christians believed in a triune God, rather than merely in the triad of God, his Son, and his Spirit or spirit. I should not mince words here; this statement is an abuse of words. We ought to reserve “trinitarianism” for things having to do with the triune God of catholic orthodoxy.

He then rehearses the idea of creation from nothing, which pagan philosophers thought to be incoherent.  He supposes that, somehow,

The sense of divine transcendence made possible by the creatio ex nihilo opens up the possibility of thinking the mystery of three equally divine hypostases united in perichoretic union

I don’t get it. I don’t see any connection. But his idea seems to be that intuitions about impossibility should be confined to the realm of natural things, so that we should think that there can be no objection to the idea of a tripersonal god. This seems to misunderstand the very idea of metaphysical possibility, though.

But his point is that seeming incoherence is to be expected in theology:

The articulation of the mysteries of Incarnation and Trinity requires us to employ the language of paradox and antinomy, but that is what one should expect, if God is radically transcendent in the way the catholic tradition affirms.

That seems an obvious non sequitur to me, for the reasons I’ve explained here. I think this at bottom amounts to the fallacy of special pleading. For my theory, seeming incoherence is a good thing. Of course, such would sink just about any other theory. I think the sense of being in a dominant majority prevents Christians like Fr. Kimel from seeing this as the problem it is. If this is just part of Tradition, how could it be arbitrary?

He then rehearses the idea that God is “Being Itself.” I think this is utterly wrongheaded philosophy – atheistic in fact, as it makes the ultimate reality to be a something-or-other which is not a god. But in any case, his point is just that divine transcendence should make us friendly to seeming theological incoherence. I’ve already said that I don’t think that follows. And let me also say that this claim is not at all part of any OT or NT teaching. We ought to wonder if we can get along without this help from Platonic philosophy. We should be afraid lest we build our house on philosophical sand, and not on Jesus’s theology and that of his apostles.

Is it possible for the analytic philosophical tradition to think beyond its logic and apprehend the radical distinction between Deity and cosmos? If it does not, it will never grasp the holy mysteries of the Christian faith.

Well, it’s no harder than grasping the distinction between an apparent contradiction and a real one, and discussing divine transcendence, and ineffability, and whether terms can apply univocally to both God and to creatures – things many analytic philosophers do. Indeed, some, like Brian Davies, Ed Feser, and William Vallicella, endorse the “Being Itself” conception of the ultimate.

The real question, I think, is whether or not this idea about “God” is consistent with biblical teaching. Is YHWH supposed to be the greatest of the gods, and so, a god, or is “he” rather on inconceivable Something? Is he like a Father, or is It like a blinding light or an impenetrable darkness?

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Rauser’s review of What is the Trinity? http://trinities.org/blog/rausers-review-of-what-is-the-trinity/ http://trinities.org/blog/rausers-review-of-what-is-the-trinity/#comments Tue, 05 Sep 2017 20:43:41 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=39452 Thanks to Dr. Randall Rauser for his fair, probing, and (mostly) accurate review of my book What Is the Trinity? In this post I just offer a few responses and minor corrections.

As Dale sees it, in the early church Christians regularly referred to the Father as “God” in an absolute sense. However this began to change as early as 385 when Gregory of Nyssa referred to the Trinity as God (p. 44).

To clarify, I do think that the creed of 381 is implicitly trinitarian. I see the Cappadocian “fathers” moving towards belief in the Trinity, but I’m not sure what the earliest extant clear singular referring term use of “Trinity” actually is. I think I’ve found only ambiguous cases before 381, but I still want to look more. This point about “Trinity” as a singular referring term vs. as a plural referring term is very important, which is why I spend chapter 3 on it. Without this point, one will mistakenly project a lot of trinitarianism into the theologies of the 100s and the 200s.

In short, while one may end in mystery, one should not allow an appeal to mystery to preempt a legitimate inquiry.

I agree with that statement. But my own hostility to mysterian approaches runs deeper. As I explained in my paper “On Positive Mysterianism,” I think that there is typically something unreasonable about accepting apparent contradictions in this area. In brief, your evidence that the two clashing claims can’t both be true generally will outweigh your evidence for holding the pair. And as I explain the book chapter here, as a practical strategy, mysterianism does not work. It is a recipe for continual vacillation, entrenched confusion, and even hypocrisy (claiming to steadfastly believe what you in fact do not believe most of the time). Finally, the apostles simply do not do this (defend unintelligible or seemingly incoherent claims), and the practice seems obviously suspect in non-Christian contexts, where we are not invested in a pet theological theory.

As to the chapters on “substance,” “Person,” and “God” I would add that they are an invitation for the trinitarian, or for any Christian for that matter, to actually accept some views and reject others, going beyond mere acceptance of uninterpreted formulas. My own view is that the God of the Bible is a unique god, and so is a self, the self the NT calls “Father.” Jesus is obviously a different self, and a human one. To me, these two are not going to be “one substance” on most interpretations of that phrase; but you’ll have to see the chapter for what those are.

About Theodosius I and his part in what was retrospectively pronounced to be “the second ecumenical council” (381), it’s not that I’m scandalized that various sorts of politics entered in to this deliberative process of the bishops and their many councils. It’s rather the fact that Theodosius forcibly squashed off a thriving, multi-sided argument prematurely. The non-Nicenes did not think they were losing! Moreover, in the 4th c. the class of bishops had seized the right of even deliberating about these matters, taking the issues away from scholars and the church as a whole. This is not how we do well at theology, and we are all still suffering from the bad effects of this power grab. Mr. or Mrs. Protestant – I would ask you: If all the Catholic and Orthodox and Anglican bishops got together next year and decreed that Mary was ever-virgin – would you accept this decision as binding on all Christians? If not, then why do you accept the decisions of 4th c. bishop synods? Only because these latter, but not the former, are basing everything on the Bible? If only that were so! We must look carefully at actual history, and at what the NT says and doesn’t say. In particular, look at their exegesis and their arguments.

The problem with the Ehrmanesque suggestion that many “lost Christianities” were stamped out in the first 300 years or so, is that the stamping was only just starting to be invented through the course of the 300s. That is, there did not exist the institutions, the infrastructure, and the traditions to persecute minority opinions out of existence until the time of Theodosius, and even then it was not always terribly effective! But over time, minority opinions were strangled out of existence or forced into small pockets of resistance. And the theological justifications for real coertion, sadly, entered into mainstream tradition, where they stayed until early modern times. So, I’m against conspiracy theories in general, and do not endorse any knee-jerk rejection of a sort of proto-orthodoxy in the 100s and 200s. I think there was a loosely defined mainstream, and there were various movements which were out of it or on the edges of it to various degrees. But I do see the one-bishop system as a problem even prior to the 300s.

…if one concedes that the divine voice could come through the use of politics and power at an earlier period, why not in the late fourth century as well?

There can be no a priori rejection of God working through the most base of politicians and the dirtiest of processes. But as concerns the Trinity, look at the facts. When God reveals something, such as the messiahship, miracles, or bodily resurrection of Jesus, then that thing is actually believed, and widely believed! The status quo on the Trinity is widespread confusion, with multiple, core disagreements among the experts, papered over by the acceptance of creedal language, or the Protestant simplifications thereof.  If the people cannot repeat back what was said, then the divine voice was not heard! And God is no bungler, although he certainly does, for whatever reason, allow his people to distort and otherwise mess up what he is told them, over time. We need to honestly consider here that this 4th c. development was not providential – just as with so many other “catholic” developments of practice and doctrine, going back even to the 2nd c. I think Trinity and Incarnation issues really go back to the 2nd c. “logos theories” – but I don’t get into those much in this book. See here for some of the confusions I see at work in the mainstream c. 150-451.

My second concern is that Dale’s method seems at times to be rather individualistic and rationalistic… [He advises that] “You must read the sources for yourself, with mind and spirit open. You must ask the one God to clarify his revelation to you…”

My point, of course, is not that you can understand the Scriptures on your own, so long as you are sufficiently prayerful and humble or spiritual. My point was rather that it seems important to me that you actually have a thought through theology, and not just some vague ideas, slogans, and half-baked speculations. Or the excuse that “it’s just a mystery!” Of course, one must get all the help one can. The God who gave you that mind expects you to use it, when it comes to thinking about him and his Son. I do think that scripture is sufficiently clear on the one God being the Father. What’s made this unclear are the speculations and selective foci that our traditions hand us as obvious. Most people have only ever heard one side of the case.

I go through life believing things because trusted authorities told me so. And that kind of deference to authority is fully rational and indeed necessary. So I trust my medical doctor, I trust my meteorologist, I trust my architect, and so on.

Me too. Well said.

When it comes to matters of doctrine, isn’t there also a place to trust the theologian and historian, the priest and pastor?

If it pertains to the deposits of divine revelation, then yes. But not when it comes to matters of theory! If your pastor is an enthusiastic reader of William Lane Craig, and tells you that the theory of middle knowledge is both important and obviously true, then I think you need a second opinion, and that you also need to critically evaluate the highly speculative theory of middle knowledge when you can get around to it. With Trinity theories, we are firmly in the realm of theory.

To be sure, I’m not saying one must simply accede to ancient and venerable traditions because they’re old and venerable: “Ecclesia semper reformanda est!” Rather, the issue is a matter of balance. There is a time to seek to critique our beliefs and traditions, but there is also a time to yield to them. And I see nothing wrong with a Christian deferring to the wisdom of a tradition on such a central matter, even when many problems undoubtedly remain.

This was indeed my starting point on the Trinity, and I fought hard to maintain it, trying to find what I now call a rational reconstruction of the doctrine – a coherent interpretation of the formulas – that made sense, and fit well with the Bible. But that didn’t work. The Bible surprised me, as did the weakness of apologists’ arguments from the Bible to the Trinity. I was also surprised to learn of the never-ending drip of Protestant whistle-blowers on this topic since the Reformation.

As to the “wisdom” of catholic traditions on the Trinity, consider the inability of catholic tradition to speak with one voice on the meaning of the sentences in question, and also the dubious nature of their arguments from the Bible to the Trinity, which I discussed all too briefly in chapter 10. Those are two big warning signs. But the biggest problem is when you perceive that any Trinity theory contradicts the clear New Testament teaching that the Father is the one true God, whereas Jesus is the unique human Son of God.* And more study reveals that the New Testament in many ways is not at all how we would expect if its writers held to any trinitarian theology. Eventually, you start to see trinitarian speculations as not stacking up against plain facts of the texts. So something has to give.

I appreciate that Dr. Rauser’s approach is conservative, and I think he is right to set the bar high for any allegedly needed reformation. I think one has to start with what one takes to be a majority view. It turns out though that there is not really a single view here. And to the extent that there is a view (God just is the Trinity, not the Father), again, it conflicts with pervasive, clear, consistent, and even sometimes explicit New Testament teaching. (e.g. John 17:1-3, 1 Corinthians 8:4-6; John 20:17) My view, I think, is actually more conservative, in being willing to peel back catholic developments when they contradict apostolic teaching – or even just acknowledging these clashes in the first place.

Throughout the history of the church, there have been professing Christians who adopt a modalistic interpretation of the Trinity. The most significant expression of modalism today is the Oneness Pentecostal movement.

Early “modalism” (monarchianism) is a very difficult historical subject in my view. I think some very different sorts of views are getting lumped together under that label; they are basically reactions against logos theories. I don’t really say anything about historical modalism in this book. I do point out that any Trinity theory which implies the numerical identity of Father and Son can’t be correct, because the New Testament implies that they have actually differed from one another, and necessarily nothing can (at one time) differ from itself.

This leads me to wonder how Dale draws the lines of orthodoxy and heresy and why.

My view could be characterized as Lockean or minimalist. I explained the approach in podcast 85 – Heretic! Four Approaches to Dropping H-Bombs.

In short, I believe that probably most oneness Pentecostals have believed in the good news as presented in the New Testament, and so are saved, even though their thinking and exegesis are extremely confused. I have known a few former Oneness Pentecostals, and by all accounts they seem to have been Christians all along, even before they jettisoned the traditional collapse of Father and Son into one being and one self. (Many trinitarians in fact do this too!) I think that most Catholic and Protestant traditions have erred on the side of requiring too much, as if they had a right of determining what the essential claims are that one must accept. In my view, those were set by the apostles, and can be very roughly summarized as that Jesus is God’s Messiah, with all that entails, given the apostolic views about the job description of a Messiah. My approach is “generous” in the sense that I think a lot of people, even many “cultists,” can be saved. We don’t get to add to the belief (or acceptance) terms of the new covenant, although we must police ourselves morally, as a community.

Finally, a correction. Dr. Rauser says,

For Dale… there is one absolute God, the Father, while the Son and Spirit are lesser beings not equal to the Father.

The first part is correct; I hold that the New Testament clearly teaches that Yahweh is none other than the Father himself. And I do think that Jesus is a lesser being, because I think that he is a real human self, who came into existence at or after his miraculous conception. I hold that his literal pre-existence is only projected by readers (and translators) into the NT. (No, I haven’t really written on this, though I hope to in 2018.) But I am inclined to think that in the New Testament, all things considered, “the holy spirit” is not supposed to be an additional self, although it is vividly personified in a few places. In brief, I think that NT spirit-talk reduces to points about God, God’s power in us, and in a few cases the man Jesus. See podcasts 25 and 26 for my friend Pastor Sean Finnegan on all of this. I think my views are pretty much the same as his. I haven’t really written anything about this, although I have discussed Samuel Clarke’s views on the triad, which are like what Dr. Rauser says (and this is probably why he attributes that view to me). Honestly, this issue does not matter as much to me, although I think the view I just stated also better fits Christian experience of the spirit. But in my view, the trinitarian – unitarian issue, and the New Testament doctrine of Jesus as an actual human self, are far more important.

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podcast 192 – Review of Sanders’s The Deep Things of God – Part 1 http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-192-review-of-sanderss-the-deep-things-of-god-part-1/ http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-192-review-of-sanderss-the-deep-things-of-god-part-1/#comments Mon, 04 Sep 2017 19:15:30 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=39420 Dr. Fred Sanders teaches in the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University. His book The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything, has been recommended by some evangelical professors as a go-to book for evangelicals looking to deepen their understanding of “the” doctrine of the Trinity. In this episode, I start my two-part, in depth review of the book.

As I read it, the book could be summarized as the following letter:

Dear Evangelical Christian,

As you’re among the most spiritual of Christians, you already tacitly “know” everything you need to know about the Trinity. You’re as “Trinitarian” as you need to be. Congratulations! You can rest assured that the doctrine is as biblical as can be. Trust me – if you pick up the Bible, you’ll just see the Trinity everywhere in it. And you really don’t need to worry about any silly, distracting “logical” or “mathematical” difficulties, which wrongly presuppose that the Trinity is no more than a set of dry, abstract propositions, and not the very substance, size, shape, diameter, smell, texture, flavor, color, sheen, hypotenuse, center, circumference, substructure, glossy coating, chocolatey center, shine, and timbre of the Gospel. You just need to be reminded of how Trinitarian the gospel is, and how very Trinitarian your evangelical heritage is. Having been so reminded, you can again let any Trinitarian thoughts recede to the background of your mind, and you can carry on as before. Just try not to confuse together the “Persons” of the Trinity or slump down to some sort of sub-Trinitarian level of thinking. Keep in mind the differences between the Three, but remember that they’re the one God. If this doesn’t make sense to you, not to worry – C.S. Lewis has your back! God is one person, God is three persons – no problem. You see, claims which appear incoherent to us, may well seem coherent to God. There’s your defense, you beautiful Trinitarian, you!  Celebrate your Trinitarian Evangelical heritage, and turn your thoughts often towards the Happy Land of the Trinity!

Love,

Fred

That’s the thrust of the book, but there’s a lot more to say about it. In this episode I discuss the book’s presuppositions, and a crucial distinction when it comes to clear thinking about the Trinity: the use of “Trinity” as a singular referring term, which goes hand in hand with thinking the Trinity to be the one God, vs. the earlier use of “Trinity” as a plural referring term, referring to the triad of God (aka “the Father”), his Son, and his Spirit (or spirit), which is compatible with unitarian and trinitarian theologies. I also discuss the book’s main thesis that the Trinity is the gospel (and vice-versa), and note some crucial scholarly information that Dr. Sanders seems to deliberately leave out.

Links for this episode:

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http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-192-review-of-sanderss-the-deep-things-of-god-part-1/feed/ 6 "The Gospel is Trinitarian." What does this mean, and is it both true and non-trivial? Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University. His book The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything, has been recommended by some evangelical professors as a go-to book for evangelicals looking to deepen their understanding of "the" doctrine of the Trinity. In this episode, I start my two-part, in depth review of the book.

As I read it, the book could be summarized as the following letter:
Dear Evangelical Christian,

As you're among the most spiritual of Christians, you already tacitly "know" everything you need to know about the Trinity. You're as "Trinitarian" as you need to be. Congratulations! You can rest assured that the doctrine is as biblical as can be. Trust me - if you pick up the Bible, you'll just see the Trinity everywhere in it. And you really don't need to worry about any silly, distracting "logical" or "mathematical" difficulties, which wrongly presuppose that the Trinity is no more than a set of dry, abstract propositions, and not the very substance, size, shape, diameter, smell, texture, flavor, color, sheen, hypotenuse, center, circumference, substructure, glossy coating, chocolatey center, shine, and timbre of the Gospel. You just need to be reminded of how Trinitarian the gospel is, and how very Trinitarian your evangelical heritage is. Having been so reminded, you can again let any Trinitarian thoughts recede to the background of your mind, and you can carry on as before. Just try not to confuse together the "Persons" of the Trinity or slump down to some sort of sub-Trinitarian level of thinking. Keep in mind the differences between the Three, but remember that they're the one God. If this doesn't make sense to you, not to worry - C.S. Lewis has your back! God is one person, God is three persons - no problem. You see, claims which appear incoherent to us, may well seem coherent to God. There's your defense, you beautiful Trinitarian, you!  Celebrate your Trinitarian Evangelical heritage, and turn your thoughts often towards the Happy Land of the Trinity!

Love,

Fred
That's the thrust of the book, but there's a lot more to say about it. In this episode I discuss the book's presuppositions, and a crucial distinction when it comes to clear thinking about the Trinity: the use of "Trinity" as a singular referring term, which goes hand in hand with thinking the Trinity to be the one God, vs. the earlier use of "Trinity" as a plural referring term, referring to the triad of God (aka "the Father"), his Son, and his Spirit (or spirit), which is compatible with unitarian and trinitarian theologies. I also discuss the book's main thesis that the Trinity is the gospel (and vice-versa), and note some crucial scholarly information that Dr. Sanders seems to deliberately leave out.

Links for this episode:

* The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything (2nd ed.)
* Dr. Sanders's website
* Dr. Sanders's blog Scriptorum Daily
* What is the Trinity? (http://trinities.org/blog/?p=39414 The concept of logical form is essential to any discussion of identity, and hence to any discussion of the Trinity. Here is a puzzle I have been discussing with the famous Bill Vallicella for many years.

(Argument 1) ‘Cicero is a Roman, therefore Cicero is a Roman’

(Argument 2) ‘Cicero is a Roman, therefore Tully is a Roman’

My puzzle that the first argument is clearly not valid if the first ‘Cicero’ means the Roman, the second the American town, yet the argument seems to instantiate a valid form. Bill objects that if there is equivocation, then the argument really has the form ‘a is F, therefore b is F’, which fails to instantiate a valid form.

I then ask what is the form of. Clearly not of the sentences, since the sentences do not include the meaning or the proposition. Is it the form of the proposition expressed by the sentences? But then we have the problem of the second argument, where both ‘Cicero’ and ‘Tully’ mean the same man. Then the man is contained in both propositions, and if the form is of the proposition, the argument has the true form ‘a is F, so a is F’, which is valid. But I think no one would agree that the second argument is valid.

So logical form does not belong to the sentences, nor to the propositions expressed by them. So what is it the form of?

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Kimel’s review of What is the Trinity – Part 3 http://trinities.org/blog/kimels-review-of-what-is-the-trinity-part-3/ http://trinities.org/blog/kimels-review-of-what-is-the-trinity-part-3/#comments Fri, 25 Aug 2017 14:20:39 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=39369 In part 3 of his review of my book What is the Trinity?, called “Ante-Nicene Subordinationism and the Unitarian Narrative” our Orthodox friend Al Kimel claims that I’ve misunderstood Origen.

First, a picky point: the subordinationism in historical catholic theology goes way past Nicea (325). It’s prominent in the years 325-381, and persisted for some time after they started to stomp it out in 381. Nor was the 325 statement always understood to remove all (ontological) subordination! Perhaps it should be more like Ante-Chalcedon subordinationism.

…until the ecumenical councils of Nicaea (325) and Constantinople (381). At this point, he claims, the unitarian wheels fell off and a very different Deity began to be proclaimed and dogmatically imposed.

As I say in the book, there is no mention or hint of a tripersonal God in the 325 creed. In the 381 version, I hold that the Trinity is implicit. Is the Trinity “a different deity”? Well, it’s a fictional deity, unfortunately. Many trinitarians will say, though, that it’s the same deity as the Father, who according to the NT is the one true god, aka God. This would seem to require relative identity theory; but I won’t go there now.

Our reviewer then quotes the “Athanasian” creed, as if this expresses “the” doctrine of the Trinity. I know this has become a popular creed for trinitarians, but as I discuss in the book, it’s not easy to find any actual view there – just as with Augustine, whose writings are clearly a main source for the anonymous creed writer. Fr. Kimel rightly notes, though, how strikingly different that creed is from the many earlier ones which start by confessing belief in “one God, the Father Almighty.”

He describes these earlier creeds as having “‘unitarian’ structure,” I guess because he doesn’t want to admit that they’re unitarian, in that they presuppose a unipersonal God. But I don’t know what he means by “structure” there, or why he put quotes around the word “unitarian.” Such statements plainly presuppose that the one God just is the Father himself. They are unitarian creeds; it is a mere distraction to say only the “structure” (but not the content?) is unitarian.

Naturally, he would like to find some sort of trinitarian theology much earlier in church history than the late 4th c.

But perhaps we should look earlier than the fourth century for the decisive departure from the allegedly unitarian Deity of the New Testament—namely, to the mid-second century when Christians began to interpret their triadic faith in light of Hellenistic philosophy.

When trinitarians can’t find a triadic God were they would like to find one, they often postulate something else that is “triadic” (triple in some way or other). Thus, our reviewer says that 2nd c. Christians had a “triadic” faith. What does this mean? The statement will be false if “triadic” means having to do with a tripersonal God. But in what sense might it be true? I don’t know. Perhaps just, a (unitarian) faith that involves using a three-part baptismal formula based on Matthew 28:19?

In any case, Fr. Kimel quotes me discussing the theology of Origen (mid 3rd c.):

… other things which are to some degree divine must “participate in” or “imitate” God, who is the universal divinity, to various degrees. Thus, the Son and Spirit, as divine, get their degree of divinity ultimately from the Father, that is, from God himself. And for some, the Spirit gets his indirectly, by way of the Son. … there is a triad of three divine beings, with the second and third ultimately depending on the first for their existence and divine nature/essence. In this way, the members of the trinity share the universal essence divinity. It is the result of God (either eternally or a long time ago) as it were producing inferior copies of himself, putting a degree or amount of his divinity into two others.

Fr. Kimel comments,

Here we see the decisive movement from Jewish monolatry to philosophical monotheism.

I disagree. Jewish monolatry (worship of exactly one) has been changed by the time of Paul; early Christians worship the risen and exalted man Jesus, now honored as “the Lord.” Two are worshiped, in both Philippians 2 and in Revelation 5. That’s not monolatry! But it is monotheism. The second, despite what our Muslim friends will assert, does not obviously entail the first.

Beginning with the Apologists, divinity is identified as ultimate reality and the unconditioned ground of being. God is a monadic being whose properties include reason, wisdom, goodness. Once having decided to create a cosmos, he needs to generate a second divine self, the Logos, to mediate the divine act of creation. This being now stands between Deity and the world.

Yes, this is basically right – for the Platonists. “Unconditioned ground of being” is probably going too far for some of them. And it is clear in most of the logos theorists (c. 150 on) that God somehow can’t create directly – a strange limitation for an omnipotent being, if you think about it!

One might even argue that the positing of metaphysical mediators began with the Apostles Paul and John. After all, it’s pretty strange hearing Paul asserting that the entirety of creation exists through the man Jesus [1 Cor 8:6] or John declaring that “all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made” (Jn 1:3).

Well, that’s how the logos theorists taught us to read Paul and John. It’s not clear that this is correct, though. Briefly, it’s not clear that 1 Cor 8 has to do with the Genesis creation, and it’s not clear that the “Logos” or Word of John 1 is supposed to be personally identical to the man Jesus. The idea that God can’t directly interact with the cosmos is foreign to the Bible; see the many theophanies of the OT, or God speaking at Jesus’s baptism.

But why the need for one or more intermediaries between the absolute Creator and the cosmos?

Good question!

More importantly, how is this not polytheism?

Yeah, that’s what all the “monarchian” catholics objected, c. 150-250. Christians still, in that time, instinctively named God the Father as creator – despite having had Paul and John’s writings available for many decades.

Clearly neither Apostle thought he was compro­mising the monotheistic commitment of their Jewish faith,

Right, because there is still only one god – the Father. Jesus is, in contrast, the unique “Lord,” clearly understood by all the NT writers to be under God. The Father, for them, is Jesus’s god. This can neither be disputed, nor, unfortunately, can it be reconciled with any known Trinity theory. Hence, the clash between NT and later theologies.

…yet here they are identifying the crucified and exalted Nazarene as an agent of divine creation (for analysis of Jewish monotheism and the divinity of Jesus, see Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel).

I do not recommend that book! It is the source of much confusion. I’m surprised to see my Orthodox friend recommend it too, as Dr. Bauckham suggests that the old language is outdated, and he’s trying to replace it with his confused language of “the divine identity.”

Is this Jesus divine, semi-divine, quasi-divine, or perhaps just an exalted creature?

We’d better get clear on what we mean by “divine” before we hazard an answer!

He then gives an interesting quote from Dr. David Bentley Hart:

…For Christians who thought in [broadly Platonist, subordinationist] terms, this almost inevitably implied that the Logos had been, in some sense, generated with respect to the created order, as its most exalted expression, certainly, but also somehow contingent upon it. Thus Christian apologists of the second century often spoke of the Logos as having issued from the Father in eternity shortly before the creation of the world. (“The Hidden and the Manifest,” The Hidden and the Manifest, pp. 143-144)

Well, contingent only on God, or maybe we could say or his decision to create. In other the words, this Logos exists because God needs an intermediary to create, and he is intending to create.

The metaphysical result is a hierarchical chain of being, with a series of mediators between the immutable One and the world of change and multiplicity. Hart’s analysis jives with Tuggy’s observation that the Logos theorists of the second and third centuries consistently speak of degrees of divinity: the Father is perfectly divine in the simplicity of his being; the Son is in some sense less divine; the Spirit even less so.

Right. Again quoting me,

Elaborating this scheme, in the 1st and 2nd centuries it became popular for platonic philosophers to posit some transcendent triad, three sources of the cosmos, the primary among which is always the ultimate source, with the other two standing between this and the cosmos. In the latter half of the 2nd century, philosophically minded Christians too started touting their own triad and coined the words we now translate as “Trinity” (Greek, trias; Latin, trinitas) to refer to it.

[Kimel adds:] Given the Hellenistic worldview which everyone inbreathed, it is hardly surprising that early Christian theologians would interpret the biblical narrative of the Father, Son, and Spirit in subordinationist terms. To have done otherwise would have required a metaphysical revolution.

Keep in mind that most believers would have been thoroughly non-philosophical. And others might have been more influenced by the Stoics. So, they weren’t all Platonists, although that philosophy had a lot of prestige in these times. I view this as a failure within the Christian community. There weren’t enough Christian scholars to talk back to the Platonists, to temper their influence, or to push back against ideas that really did not fit apostolic tradition. Too little philosophy, in my view, not too much! Yes, I know that people like Origen did not just uncritically accept all Platonic claims. But there should have been more independent-minded people loving God with their minds, to reign in the creeping dominance of divine timelessness, simplicity, the cosmological scheme of Plato’s Timaeus, and hazy ideas about universals and “humanity,” and the whole Platonist anti-matter ethos.

I must admit here, that many of my biblical unitarian brethren would just say phooey on all philosophy. I would answer them that there is no getting rid of philosophy; it can’t be done! As nowadays, the solution for bad science is good science, even then, the solution to bad philosophy was pushback from people no so enamored of the Platonic and Stoic traditions.

Even the great Origen appears to have maintained the subordinationist structure:

The God and Father, who holds the universe together, is superior to every being that exists, for he imparts to each one from his own existence that which each one is; the Son, being less than the Father, is superior to rational creatures alone (for he is second to the Father); the Holy Spirit is still less, and dwells within the saints alone. So that in this way the power of the Father is greater than that of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and that of the Son is more than that of the Holy Spirit, and in turn the power of the Holy Spirit exceeds that of every other holy being. (First Principles 1.3.9; fragment 9)

Yes. Not a slavish or stupid Platonist, but very influenced by that school.

Origen is a critical figure for both the unitarian and Trinitarian narratives of the develop­ment of Christian doctrine during the first four centuries. Tuggy sees Origen as continuing the subordinationist Logos tradition, while noting (though without comment) Origen’s crucial innovation—namely, his assertion of the eternal pre-existence of the Son and Spirit. Why is this important? Because it means that at no point did God ever exist apart from the Son whom he has begotten. God exists eternally in relation to his Son; the Son exists eternally in relation to his Father. …Christ is intrinsic to the divine being and constitutes the identity of the Creator.

Whoah! A trinity of glaring non sequiturs at the end here!

  • If X eternally causes Y to exist, then essentially (perhaps even necessarily) X and Y are related. That doesn’t follow. X might by an act of free will cause Y, and be able to not do that.
  • If X eternally causes Y to exist, then Y is intrinsic to X. But Y is not intrinsic to X; “intrinsic” basically means non-relational. A part, property, or aspect of something would be intrinsic to it. But presumably not something else, which forms no part or component of it, which it causes.
  • About the Bauckhamism “constitutes the identity of” – goodness. What does that even mean? And why think it follows from the one eternally causing the other?

Notice what is happening here. Through (all too quick) speculation, Fr. Kimel is trying to show how Origen etc. really imply something that is hopefully trinitarian. But these are not their ancient lines of argument. The situation is being “reverse engineered.” And not successfully. If you find this spinning persuasive, I say, read Origen’s Commentary on John , his short Dialogue with Heraclides, and his Against Celsus.

A century later St Athanasius would echo his fellow Alexandrian: “God, in that he ever is, is ever Father of the Son” (De decretis 12). Origen thus quietly subverts the subordinationist framework in which he is theologizing.

I don’t get it. Seems wholly compatible with subordinationism. We can say that priority in time (existing before) is one kind of superiority one being may have to another. But it’s not the only kind! Being may completely overlap in time, or both be timeless, and yet one may be greater in various ways than the other.

Fr. Kimel goes on to quote Dr. Lewis Ayres as saying that for Origen, the Son is “intrinsic to the nature of God.”

No! For Origen, God and the Logos are two beings.

[Ayres continues]…Origen argues that Father and Son are ‘correlative’ terms. The name Father implies the existence of a child, and if God is truly called Father, the Son’s generation must be eternal.

It’s a dodgy argument, though. I can truly say things like, “My father grew up in California” – but of course then he was not my father, or anyone’s father. If God was only a Father-to-be at some point… so what?

The Son’s existence thus seems to be essential to God’s being what God from all eternity wills to be. Thus we see that while the Father is superior to the Son, Origen works to make the Son intrinsic to the being of God: subordinationism is an inappropriate word for describing this theological dynamic. (Nicaea and Its Legacy, pp. 22-23; also see John Behr, The Way to Nicaea, chap. 7)

I would ask Dr. Ayers here what he means by “intrinsic.” As best I can tell, for ancient thinkers it is properties which are essential to a thing, and these must all be intrinsic (I think they analyze relations as really being sort of directed or vector-like intrinsic properties). Logos, though, is supposed to be a being, not a mere property. I’m not sure than what he means by saying that on this theology the Logos is “essential to” the Father.

Sometimes we mean by “essential” just whatever properties or relations which a thing must have or stand in, so long as that thing exists. Roughly: ways it must intrinsically be, or must be related to some other thing(s).

Tuggy has evidently overlooked this crucial point, thus marring both his presentation of Origen and his analysis of the fourth-century debates on the nature of God. This leads me to make the following observation: Dr Tuggy is strongest when he is writing on the analytic philosophical discussions of the Trinity; he is weakest when he writes on the Church Fathers (excepting, perhaps, Tertullian, whom he seems to know pretty well).

Sorry, but I don’t think that I have overlooked any crucial point here, or that I have misinterpreted Origen. Honestly, the above sounds like his prejudice against analytic philosophers coming out, the idea that we are all mere logic choppers who are mentally rigid, and so cannot get their heads around historically important sources. But my training, and a lot of my work, has been on older material. And a lot of analytic philosophers are very careful readers of historical works.

Origen is not all that hard to interpret on these things, so long as we take care to work around the corruption problems in On First Principles. He thinks the one God just is the Father, and that the Father eternally causes a lesser divine being, the Logos, who in turn eternally causes the yet lesser, but divine Spirit.

In sum, our reviewer feels the sting of the plausible unitarian historical narrative that I briefly outline in the book. So he wants to undermine that narrative, and rehabilitate the trinitarian narrative. I don’t see that he’s really got anywhere in the first project. For the second, let’s see what he does in his next installment.

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“No one is good except God alone.” http://trinities.org/blog/no-one-is-good-except-god-alone/ http://trinities.org/blog/no-one-is-good-except-god-alone/#comments Sun, 20 Aug 2017 18:58:07 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=39388 At triablogue blogger Steve Hays thinks he’s found a tough dilemma for the unitarian Christian: if based on Mark 10:18 you deny that Jesus is God, mustn’t you also deny that he’s good? To be consistent, you must say that Jesus is both God and good, or deny both that he’s God and that he’s good.

I give what I think is a good start of an answer in the first comment there. Simply interpret Jesus as saying something consistent, based on a distinction that can be independently motivated. Compare this with other suggested explanations of what’s going on there, and pick the best. Bottom line: both Jesus and the man here presuppose that God is someone other than Jesus, and Jesus asserts straight up that this other one is the only one who is “good,” and so implies that he (Jesus) is not “good” (in that same sense). But we need to ask what is meant by “good” here.

What’s the best, most revealing comment by a commentary that you’ve read on this (and/or the parallel) passages?

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Jesus’s temptations and ours http://trinities.org/blog/jesuss-temptations-and-ours/ http://trinities.org/blog/jesuss-temptations-and-ours/#comments Thu, 17 Aug 2017 13:28:06 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=39372

Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. No one, when tempted, should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. (James 1:12-13, NRSV)

God can’t be tempted; this makes sense, given that he is essentially omniscient and omnipotent. How could such a being ever view a morally wrong action as desirable? If you can’t suffer from that defect, then in principle, you can’t be tempted.

But Jesus, according to Matthew 4:1-11, was tempted. As he is our model, what were his temptations, and how are they relevant to us?

Jesus is tempted, by Satan in person, to (1) turn stones to bread, (2) cast himself off of the temple so that God will catch him somehow, and (3) submit to Satan, gaining the kingdoms of the world in return.  I suggest that since he is “one who in every respect has been tested as we are” (Hebrews 4:15), we can consider these as examples of more abstract types:

(1) Sinfully, faithlessly, attempting to provide for your own needs.

(2) Presumptuously acting, so as to put God to the test (i.e. to manipulate him into acting on your behalf).

(3) Betraying God in order to align with the kingdoms of the world, to gain the benefits they promise.

How did Jesus win? How did he resist these temptations?

(1) By holding closely to God’s word, to his promises. Life depends on bread, yes, but real life depends also on God’s word – and he has that! So he won’t sin, won’t try an unauthorized miracle, to get the bread he needs. The bread will be sent in God’s time.

(2) He refuses to put God to the test, recognizing that the Devil is twisting scripture. He humbly submits to God, and doesn’t give in to that temptation. Scripture in fact never authorizes that the Messiah or anyone else should hurl himself off a building so that God can miraculously save him.

(3) And he holds fast to the main thing in all of Jewish scripture – loyalty to Yahweh, in opposition to the ruling forces of this world, forsaking all the power, wealth, and fame which they might dangle in front of him.

Note that the Devil was very cleverly trying to get a hold of Jesus by means of his special calling, which Jesus knew. He will do miracles, and will get his “bread;” God will provide for his needs. He will be dramatically rescued by God. And he will get all the kingdoms of the world. As Messiah, Jesus has been predestined to get all these things and more. (John 17:5) But he decides that he will only get these by the hand of God, by trusting in God and awaiting his timing. For the present, Jesus submits to suffering. And he is supernaturally sustained through it. (Matthew 4: 11)

What’s your special calling? Do you have the great blessing of knowing what it is? If so, great! But then, you’re not the only one who knows. Your enemies will seek to turn it around on you, to destroy you. How are you tempted to disobey or betray God in order to make those things happen? Are you going to trying to make that stone a loaf? Are you going to foolishly leap off that cliff, telling yourself it is faith? If you want to know what faith/trust in God looks like, look at Jesus.

Do you embrace the suffering, or do you seek, foolishly, to escape it? In truth, it suffering can’t be escaped. Either you suffer in faith and thereby are molded into a true servant of God, or you suffer because of your own foolish flailings through life, trying to steer your own ship. Better to march right into the teeth of death, than to try to escape suffering by running from God, and trying to be your own god.

Which will it be? You know what Jesus did, and how it worked out for him. (Philippians 2:8-11) Is he your model, or have you found some better one?

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Kimel’s review of What is the Trinity – Part 2 http://trinities.org/blog/kimels-review-of-what-is-the-trinity-part-2/ http://trinities.org/blog/kimels-review-of-what-is-the-trinity-part-2/#comments Wed, 09 Aug 2017 19:23:59 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=39354 In part two of his review Fr. Kimel says “Once upon a time … there was a unitarian God,” by which he means: suppose that at first only the Father existed, as biblical unitarian Christians think. He then gives a thumbnail sketch of how a unitarian Christian looks at the whole sweep of Scripture. This is all well and good. But then things get silly:

And for three centuries the Church was faithful to its mission and the revelation of the one God. But then the it abandoned the truth, embraced the heretical doctrine of tri-personal divinity, and began to violently persecute the followers of the one God.

This is not my view, and I don’t think this narrative should commend itself to biblical unitarians.

For one thing, any biblical unitarian is going to think that in certain ways mainstream Christianity began to veer away from the apostolic path even before 381. In those years we have the evolution of the one bishop system, the system then progressively getting in bed with the government of the Roman empire, increasing cults of Mary and the saints, the triumph of logos theory and the integration of various Greek philosophical views into Christian theology, the valorization of virginity and the denigration of sex, bishops taking on the roles of secular judges, simony, creeping anti-semitism, the idea that Christians must escape to some nonphysical life and occasional denunciations of belief in resurrection as wrongly “Jewish,” various speculations about the saving power of baptism and how there can be no forgiveness for post baptism sins, ideas about eternal conscious torment, the idea that bishops of big cities should be more powerful than other bishops, and the idea that there can be no salvation outside of this bishop-run network or organization. So there is a lot going on in these years, and it’s not like the transition from unitarian to trinitarian theology just strikes like lightning, out of the blue on a sunny day. A lot of these things are now rejected by most Christians. Others have long been objected to by many or most Protestants.

What’s worse, on a traditional catholic understanding of heresy it is impossible that the Church should go into heresy! (Perhaps this is part of his point?) Heresy is what is taught by a heretic. A heretic is a baptized catholic who persists in teaching something even after the hierarchy tells him to knock it off. By definition, what the hierarchical church decides to teach cannot be heresy, on this traditional understanding of heresy. But perhaps he means to use the term “heresy” in a modern Protestant sense, where means something like a teaching that contradicts an essential teaching of the faith (or something which is so important that its denial results in damnation).

It is not my view that most trinitarians are guilty of heresy in this sense. As I explain in this talk, I think what is essential to the gospel is very minimal. And as far as I know, Fr. Kimel, the Baptists down the street, the Catholics down the other street, and I all agree on, say, what Peter preaches in Acts 2. If you add to these beliefs other speculations that don’t necessarily fit well with them, that may cause various problems, but nonetheless you still have those saving beliefs. In my view, you thus have saving faith.

Perhaps the reviewer is assuming that just as a traditional trinitarian thinks any unitarian theology is heresy, so a unitarian must think that any Trinity doctrine is heresy. But this is not so. Some of us are more reticent about declaring minority theories to be “heresy.”

Our reviewer ends his lampooning of the unitarian narrative as follows:

The knowledge of the one God was lost to the Church for 1400 years, but in his grace God eventually raised up the erudite scholar and Anglican priest Samuel Clarke. Clarke read the Scriptures with fresh and unbiased eyes and rediscovered the biblical truth of the divine unicity. In 1712 he published the fruits of his scholarship, one of the great works of Christian theology: The Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity. Sadly, this important work has been ignored by trinitarian Christians, such is the Satanic power of tradition and dogma. But a new day is dawning. God is restoring the Church to its original unitarian foundation.

The thing about Trinity theories is that no matter how elaborate  they become, people still pick up the Bible and end up thinking along unitarian lines. So no, the revelation that the Father is the one true God never has really been lost. It’s more like an official marginalization. But the texts are what they are, and so unitarian theology keeps popping back over and over again. I assume Fr. Kimel knows that Clarke was very far from being the first in modern times to discover unitarian theology in the NT. A large number of such people in the 16th and 17th centuries made this discovery, perhaps most famously the Socinians, originally the Minor Reformed church in Poland. Our knowledge about unitarians in medieval times is practically non-existent, but most likely there were fewer (consistent) unitarian Christians then, as there were fewer people reading the Bible, as we say, “for themselves.”

As recent trinitarian theologians have often lamented, in everyday life and even in much of their devotional life and worship, the majority of Christians in trinitarian churches are in fact unitarian in their thinking, or nearly so. For a great many people all the metaphysical fireworks pretty much boil down to this: sometimes they think that Jesus just is God himself, and sometimes they think God is someone and Jesus is someone else, that is, that they are two different beings. When pressed on this serial inconsistency, they will then jump around between different speculations, such as that Jesus and his Father are two of the three parts of God, or that they are two of the three aspects or personalities of God. Or, the favorite: it’s a mystery!

Two things are right in Fr. Kimel’s statement above. Clarke’s work is a neglected masterwork that repays careful study, whether you agree with it or not. Also, I think that a new day is dawning. There are quite a few people out there who have discovered that New Testament clarity on these topics is much preferable to tradition-based confusion. The steady drip of whistleblowers is becoming a thin stream.

Why did St Athanasius and the Cappadocians concoct the unprece­dented and theologically revolutionary homoousion, and how could they have believed they were faithfully continuing the apostolic tradition, when even their great teacher Origen, according to Dale Tuggy’s reading, appears to have taught otherwise? 

Well, let’s get the basic history right. Those gents did not of course “concoct” the newfangled language in question. Rather, that language was adopted for a practical reason, and then strangely some catholic leaders decided to rally around the new language and claim that it was all important. It’s an interesting question why this happened, but it’s a question that presses on everyone, not simply on the unitarian.

As to Origen, he was widely idolized, if I can put it that way, in the fourth century, although not universally. He had big fans on both sides of the Nicene controversy. On the Nicene side, the Cappadocians. On the other side, the famous church historian Eusebius and quite a few others. He was demonstrably a subordinationist unitarian, though, though some persist in spinning him as proto-Nicene, or nearly so.

Fr. Kimel, after noting my basic account of how this controversy was forcibly ended by Theodosius I, asks,

How does one prove the assertion that the Trinitarian faith triumphed across the Empire, century after century, because—and principally because—of state coercion? Tuggy offers no substantiation.

There’s quite a lot of complex history here I did not get into. This extinction of so-called “Arian” Christianity took a long time in some places, and happened by fits and starts. At first, the proverbial feces hit the fan, and Theodosius in 383 invited the “heretics” back to another synod try to work things out in a more peaceful manner. But this didn’t work out. It is not in dispute that considerable force was applied. Bishops were deposed, churches were seized, the non-Nicenes were forced to worship in the open air outside the city of Constantinople, where they had been before the majority. Granted, a longer and more detailed historical account is desirable. But not in a blog post or in a short, popular book.

Kimel asks,

Is it not at least possible, nay probable, that the Nicene faith ultimately triumphed because it provided a superior theological explanation for the eucharistic life of the Church and the soteriological claims of the gospel? …Emperors do not always win.

Quite true. Emperors did not always get their way. Imperial declarations about doctrine or official religious policy were far easier to write than to enforce, and many pronouncements against the traditional pagan religion went unenforced, according to historians. Still, in this case, though it took a while, and longer in some places than in others, the non-Nicene voices were silenced. Moreover, after Augustine, there was in place an ideology that justified coercion in religious matters by the state. The tradition chose persecution over religious tolerance, and this took quite a long time to be undone.

Now if you want to come along after all this and say that surely it was really the power of their arguments that led to the triumph of trinitarian theology, I’m not sure what to say. Had they been so confident in the power of their arguments, they could have been patient, and hoped that “Arian” theologies would just naturally fade away, as I take it the gnostics largely had by that time. But the Nicene side was glad to have imperial power smash their enemies and install them in power, and when they went along with these developments, they closed off the possibility of any demonstration of the amazing powers of their arguments or explanations.

And for the rest of history, trinitarian institutions have as a rule used their power to prevent rival views from being discussed or openly advocated for. This tradition is very alive at present. I know learned and godly unitarian Christians who were excluded from graduate school, or who could not find a publisher for their (excellent, learned) book, because of their minority viewpoint on the Trinity. (And no, I’m not talking about me.) Part of the way the mainstream traditions survive, in my view, is to close ranks and sort of de-legitimize any dissenting questions. It’s a rough way of operating, yes, and it is not the way of those confident in the obvious superiority of their explanations or arguments.

Perhaps we can agree on this, though. Despite all of this bad behavior, if there is some convincing argument from the Bible or Christian experience or reason (etc.) for “the Trinity,” then so be it. Let’s hear it then. Pointing out intolerance and power-plays would not be any kind of refutation of such an argument. Fr. Kimel keeps alluding to such an argument, but I don’t know what he thinks it is, really, other than it’s something to the effect that only “the Trinity” can explain (Orthodox?) church practice (and experience?). That’s going to need some filling out, if it is going to go beyond mere assertion.

Still, pointing out the power-plays is not irrelevant. It does not seem to be the way of Jesus and the apostles. They dealt with false teachings by public refutation, by persuation.

I also find it odd that Tuggy would cite Philoponus and Abelard, neither of whom were condemned for teaching unitarianism but rather tritheism. At this point one might be excused for thinking that for Tuggy just about any stick is good enough to beat catholic Christianity with. I kept waiting to hear about Galileo’s house arrest.

This last comment is completely unfair. I’m not beating anyone with a stick, but am sticking strictly to demonstrable historical facts. What is the Trinity does not have a lot of rough polemical edges, unlike this review. About Philoponus and Abelard what I had said was:

From time to time, in the centuries that followed, some thoughtful trinitarian would venture to clarify what the statements must mean. [The footnote cites John Philoponus and Peter Abelard as examples], but was typically denounced and condemned as a heretic by his fellow trinitarians.

Of course I am not holding them up as unitarian martyrs, because neither one was a unitarian! My point, which was clear enough, was that the trinitarian mainstream is not only intolerant of dissent, but is also intolerant of sympathetic and careful attempts at clarification by trinitarians! Those two, in their respective days, were leading philosophers, who were theorizing about the Trinity in the attempt to show how it is coherent. This continues in the present day, although the consequences are far less dire for the theorists, thanks to modern religious tolerance. Nowadays they usually get nothing worse than mild mockery and being ignored.

Fr. Kimel then, happily, agrees with what I say in the book about pre-Nicene catholics who hold to a two-stage logos theory. I make the point that outside of monarchian catholic circles, the two-stage view seems to have been standard before Origen.

Against this, he objects with the case of Irenaeus.

Yet Tuggy fails to mention that many scholars contest the claim that Irenaeus is accurately described as a two-stage logos theorist. Tuggy notes the dispute on his blog but not in his book. I judge this to be a misleading and tendentious omission.

Well, that’s pretty harsh isn’t it? If there is an exception to the general rule, then so what? In fact, I find Irenaeus to be unclear on this issue. That’s about all I have to say about it for now. He goes on to assert that Irenaeus is not, in contrast to Justin Martyr and others, motivated by the platonic concern to as it were protect God from direct interaction with the material creation, which necessitates an intermediary, in the form of this second divine being, the Logos. I’m not sure that’s right…

Kimel suggests that Irenaeus posits no subordination of Son and Spirit to the Father.

As Anthony Briggman plausibly notes, Irenaeus must likely believed that the Word and Spirit were ontologically equal to the Father, “else a gradation of divine being would exist within the Godhead. Irenaeus’ conception of divinity has no room for such a subordinationist understanding of the Godhead, for it would bring his position uncomfortably close to the celestial chain of being advocated by some of his opponents” (Irenaeus of Lyons and the Theology of the Holy Spirit, p. 122).

Kimel then quotes a long passage from Irenaeus that I don’t think is to the point. The thing is, there are clear passages that show that for Irenaeus the Son is less great than the one God, who is the Father. Saith Irenaeus,

… ye presumptuously maintain that ye are acquainted with the unspeakable mysteries of God; while even the Lord, the very Son of God, allowed that the Father alone knows the very day and hour of judgment, when he plainly declares, “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, neither the Son, but the Father only.” [Mark 13:32] if, then, the Son was not ashamed to ascribe the knowledge of that day to the Father only, but declared what was true regarding the matter, neither let us be ashamed to reserve for God those greater questions which may occupy which may occur to us. (Against Heresies II.28.6)

For if anyone should inquire the reason why the Father, who has fellowship with the Son in all things, has been declared by the Lord alone to know that hour and the day, he will find at present no more suitable, or becoming, or safe reason than this (since, indeed, the Lord is the only true Master), that we may learn through Him that the Father is above all things. For “the Father,” says he “is greater than I.” [John 14:28] The Father, therefore, has been declared by our Lord to excel with respect to knowledge; for this reason, that we, too, as long as we are connected with the scheme of things in this world, should leave perfect knowledge, and such questions, to God, and should not by any chance, but we seek to investigate the sublime nature of the Father, fall into the danger of starting the question whether there is another God above God. (Against Heresies II.28.8, ANF I p.402)

As with any author, we interpret the obscure by the clear. It is clear here that Irenaeus thinks that the Father knows more than the Son. So this is what present-day theologians would call “ontological subordination.” Notice that there is no two-natures caveat (i.e. the Son is ignorant “in his human nature” but knows all “in his divine nature”).

And notice at the end of the second passage that he assumes the identity of the Father and the one God; he’s a unitarian.

In sum, the reviewer wants to take issue with my historical narrative. He reasonably asks for more of the relevant history, specifically immediately following the initial crackdown in 380-381. He suggests that the case of Irenaeus is a big problem for the story, but it is not. What stands unrefuted is my point that there simply are no known trinitarians in the 2nd and 3rd centuries (to leave aside the first half of the 4th c.) that is to say, no believers in a tripersonal God, where the “Persons” are equally divine and somehow together amount to the one true God.

It is a real historical problem to explain how mainstream Christian theology went from unitarian to trinitarian. I describe some steps in this progression in this little book, but do not give a full account. There are still some (later) steps (c. 360-380) in the process that I need to get clearer about before attempting to tell that whole story.

But I dare say that this fact of historical change is more of a problem for the trinitarian. I can tell a story about how things slowly got more and more off-track, due to human speculations and other systemic problems. The trinitarian, so long as he thinks that the Bible obviously implies the Trinity, is stuck with a terrible problem, which is that as best we can tell, no one made this deduction for about three centuries. Clear implications are more or less immediately grasped by competent readers. In contrast, foreign schemes that are imposed upon a text are all the more likely to occur after a significant delay, and after some sort of intermediate steps.

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Kimel’s review of What is the Trinity – Part 1 http://trinities.org/blog/kimels-review-of-what-is-the-trinity-part-1/ http://trinities.org/blog/kimels-review-of-what-is-the-trinity-part-1/#comments Tue, 08 Aug 2017 02:38:23 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=39338 At his blog Eclectic Orthodoxy, Fr. Al Kimel has undertaken a multi-part review of my book. He’s a smart and interesting person, and I appreciate a review which is honest and does not pull its punches. It’s a hostile review, to be sure, but I think it may be useful to interact with it. I want to respond to the first installment in this post, as I think this dialogue will bring out some interesting differences between his Orthodox assumptions and my Protestant ones.

This first installment engages very little with the content of the book. Rather it is about me, my alleged  shortcomings, and how really I’m not qualified to write on this subject!

…if, on the basis of the title, one is hoping to learn why the Church of Jesus Christ formulated the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, what it means and how it functions in its corporate life, then one is going to be disappointed. This is not to say that the book does not contain helpful information and analysis; but it is to suggest that Dr Tuggy simply misses the evangelical import of the trinitarian dogma. As the proverb goes, can’t see the forest for the trees.

My book is about the origin of the traditional trinitarian formulas, and what we are supposed to think those mean. Obviously, one reason why “the Church,” i.e. the victors in the fourth century struggle, came up with these formulas, is that they thought they were thereby best expressing the theology of the Bible, or least of traditional Christian teaching. I guess Fr. Kimel also wanted to hear about its practical and spiritual values, about how this doctrine functions incorporate spiritual life.

But for me the prior question is: What is it? First we need to get clear about what it is, and then we can inquire about all of the wonderful things that it supposedly accomplishes.

The reason is easily identified. Tuggy is an analytic philosopher, and he reads the relevant literature through the eyes of an analytic philosopher. But the first-millennium theologians who contributed to the formulation and development of the doctrine of the Trinity did not understand themselves as philosophers… Their writings are marked by a terminological fluidity and imprecision that can be more than a little frustrating, as evidenced, for example, by their failure to clearly define words like ousia and hypostasis.

This diagnosis overlooks that almost all Christian analytic philosophers are trinitarians! So whatever my shortcomings are, don’t think they’re going to be explained by my being an analytic philosopher. It seems to me that he is more comfortable with traditional obfuscation than with attempts to clarify, but if truth is our aim, it looks like we need clarity. We must know what is being said, before we know why it is important, and why we should think it’s true. In his view did these ancient bishops find “appropriate conceptuality”? I’m waiting to find out what he thinks that is…

While reading through What is the Trinity? I was reminded of the fourth-century theologian Eunomius. He might be described as the Dale Tuggy of his day. He prized philosophical clarity, logical precision, and syllogistic reasoning. Like Tuggy he was convinced that biblical monotheism excludes the kind of Trinitarian theology then being developed … The Pro-Nicenes accused him of being a logic-chopper, dialectician, technologue. In their eyes Eunomius had sacrificed God’s self-revelation in Christ to the idol of bare reason.

I don’t see the point of such traditional denunciations and dismissals. Seems like the poisoning the well fallacy to essentially just mock Eunomius (or me) as Philosophy Boy. This, while taking pride in the ancient bishops’ philosophical distinctions, as applied to theology. Better to just deal with the biblical issues.

What we see here is not just two conflicting theological positions but the collision of two incompatible religious visions. The Eunomian vision is epistemologically optimistic and deductive; the patristic vision, confessional, apophatic, synthetic. Tuggy is, of course, a very different kind of philosopher than Eunomius, yet perhaps the comparison is neither completely inapt nor uncurious. The Pro-Nicene Fathers would have found Tuggy’s presentation and critique as unconvincing, rationalistic, and offensive as they found the arguments of Eunomius.

As someone who has taught philosophers like Leibniz, Spinoza, and Descartes, it pains me to be described as “rationalistic” or even is especially optimistic. My epistemic stance is more derived from Thomas Reid, and in my view is fairly skeptical. But I think just making use of logic is enough to draw this charge. But it’s just a slur, I think. As to the claim that I adhere to some “religious vision” which clashes with Christianity, of course I deny that. Perhaps the reviewer would like there to be some weird, alien epistemic or religious dogmatism on my part, but this has not been shown. I suspect that he’s just reverse engineering what he thinks my methodology must have been, given my views.

What is the Trinity? Tuggy states that he hopes that his book will equip folks to figure out what they “think about” the catholic doctrine of the Holy Trinity (p. 3). This is a curious way of putting the matter. What “I” think about the doctrine is of little consequence.

To the contrary, what you think those words mean will determine the contents of your beliefs, your actual theology. And this directly affect your actions, prayers, and so on.

What is important is what the doctrine means to those ecclesial communities that teach it as a dogma that must be respected and believed.

“It.” What is it? That’s the main issue discussed in my book: the actual content of these required sentences in the creeds.

If I am considering initiation into, say, the Orthodox Church, I will want to know what Orthodoxy means by its confession of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Note the assumption here: that some one thing, some one set of claims, is meant. It’s not clear to me that there is some one content. Hence, all of the attempts by trinitarians to establish what that is.

What exactly am I expected to believe? If I then pose this question to the local Orthodox priest, he will provide me with a succinct summary of the doctrine, referencing creedal, conciliar, and catechetical pronouncements, as well as liturgical hymnody and the consensual teaching of Orthodox theologians, past and present. He will seek to describe the doctrine of the Orthodox Church, as he has received it, as he knows and lives it. This is how doctrine is faithfully handed on.

Here I think were getting closer to the crux of our disagreement.

Who do I think I am, anyway, to be discussing such things? My answer is: just one of these. In the fourth century, the hierarchy of bishops took for itself the privilege of arguing about the content of Christian teachings. This had never happened before. Back in the days of Justin and Origen, scholars and laypeople would engage in conversation an argument with one another, and of course the Bishop was a part of that. As a Protestant, I do not accept the one bishop system as God’s ordained system of church leadership. But even if I did, I would think they had gone too far in making themselves the Supreme Court of doctrinal disputes.

So, I don’t think much of myself, but I do think I have the right to ask what this traditional language means. If you ask an adult to publicly affirm some words, you should expect that he will ask you what they mean, if he does not understand. And here’s the thing: I’m pretty sure that if I just went to the local Orthodox priest and asked him their meaning, I would leave as puzzled as I came. And if that were to happen, I don’t think it would be my duty to just accept that I’m never going to understand these sentences that I have been told to profess.

But this is not Tuggy’s position. He writes as a philosophical and historical critic, as one who has rejected the trinitarian faith as incoherent and unbiblical and hopes to persuade his readers to his point of view.  

In this book, no I am not trying to make that case, a case for unitarianism. I’m just laying out the options, ones actually proposed and other conceptual possibilities. Honestly, I think that this does help me side. But in this book I don’t, for example, get into any of this.

To be clear, I am not and have never been “a philosophical and historical critic” of Christianity. I am just a Protestant and have been a born again Christian since 1978. I am a biblical unitarian because after a long and hard investigation, I now see this as a clash between the NT and later traditions.  It is now clear to me that the NT teaches that the one God just is the Father (and so, not the Trinity). The Trinity is merely inferred from the Bible, and no one actually made the inference until the fourth century, as I explain in the book. Thus, in my view, the need for Reformation. But I do not and have not ever claimed that all interpretations of trinitarian language are incoherent. Some are and some aren’t; the theories are many. You tell me what your theory is, and then we can discuss its coherence. If you just repeat the creedal formulas to me, we haven’t even started conversing about your actual theological views – we’ve only located them in a rough region, and established your loyalty to catholic authorities.

For the non-believer, as well as most Protestants, there is no Church that infallibly teaches today the faith once delivered; there are only churches and individuals existing in different parts of the world in different epochs of history. All we can do is engage in historical reconstruction.

I agree that there is no infallible church. Just look at all the churches, taking the NT as your standard, and that is where you end up. But in my view, the New Testament is meant for the Christian masses. These books were written to be read out loud to groups of people, young and old, educated and uneducated. And in some sense, they are sufficient for instruction. So no, the Christian does not need to wait around for the historians do their work, he can just get right to it with books that were designed for a person like him. Of course he needs the help of scholars to even read them, and the problem is that the scholars bring their theories with them. So it gets complicated nowadays. And yet, God’s spirit does work to bring people to faith and to new birth.

I do not believe that the diversity of interpretations poses as dire a situation as Tuggy here implies. He overlooks the regulative and grammatical function of Christian dogma. I will address this in a subsequent article in this series. At this point I simply want to point out the level of abstraction of Tuggy’s argumentation: the doctrine of the Trinity is reduced to a set of truth-claims divorced from the proclamatory, liturgical, and spiritual experience that the doctrine is intended to express and form.

“The doctrine” – again: what doctrine? I know the words, but until we nail down an interpretation of them, we cannot discuss the spiritual and practical values of that teaching. I am, yes, interested in truth claims, but I don’t see how this interest divorces theology from corporate Christian life.

Perhaps Fr. Kimel is thinking that the traditional trinitarian language actually can’t be justified by appeal to the Bible, but must be justified on some practical grounds. I’ll see if he goes there in a further installment… In any case, I don’t see how I am in any way “reducing” biblical teaching about God, his son, and his spirit to truth claims. Revealed doctrines have to involve truth claims, of course, but I believe in corporate and individual experiences relating to these matters. And I don’t think such experiences, on the whole, support belief in a triune God! But I don’t really discuss the epistemic value of religious experiences in this little book.

Nor is it possible to determine the truth or falsity of the trinitarian dogma by appeal to the “plain” meaning of the Bible, presumably read according to the criteria of the historical-critical method, for the early Christians did not read the Scriptures as historical-critical scholars. If they had, they never would have found the risen Jesus within our Old Testament. They read the Scriptures with and in the Church, employing typological and allegorical methods and hermeneutical strategies alien to the modern mindset (see “Reading the Bible Properly,” “When Scripture Becomes Scripture,” and “What Does Scripture Mean?“). Who today thinks that Proverbs 8:22-31 attests to the procession of the Son from the Father, yet this was old hat for the ante- and post-Nicene Fathers, as well as their opponents. Ecclesial meaning trumps plain meaning; or perhaps more accurately, ecclesial meaning enfolds, deepens, corrects, and transforms plain meaning.

Overall scriptural hermeneutics is a big subject which is outside the scope of this blog post and of my book. In my view, there is nothing mistaken, unreasonable, or arbitrary about Christians thinking that various Old Testament passages had more than one meaning, and that the christological meanings are only revealed in the first century. And I think it is a plausible view that while inspired apostles can do this, later imaginative people like Origen are doing a lot of mere eisegesis. To me, the New Testament is in a different boat. Apart from the last book, these books are pretty straightforward, and do not admit of esoteric interpretations. Did they read, say, Mark or Romans in a “plain” way? I think they did!

But the handicap in which Tuggy operates is even more severe. Not only does Tuggy stand outside the Christian faith (I know, I know, he will object to this statement, but as an Orthodox Christian I have to be honest about this), but his personal experience of the Christian faith is limited to an evangelical-Protestant form. He has not been shaped by the liturgical and sacramental life of the catholic Church; he has not been immersed in Eucharist nor formed by its symbolic language and graces. Forest and trees.

It is true that I have always been Protestant. The reader will have to judge if this has left me with some gaping epistemic deficiency.

Why is this important? Because the liturgy is the home and matrix of the Trinity. It was the liturgical and spiritual life of believers that ultimately drove the development of the trinitarian doctrine. The Trinity was never just a philosophical conundrum of one and three, which is too often how those in the scholastic and analytic traditions tend to think of the matter. It was always a matter of worship, praise and prayer. Lex orandi, lex credendi.

This sort of rhetoric is not to the point. Who thinks that the Trinity is just a fun little metaphysical puzzle to play around with? Honestly, I’ve met a few people with that attitude, but I have never had that attitude. To me all this stuff is deadly serious, and concerns spiritual matters of the highest importance. I don’t often pontificate about these concerns, you could call them pastoral concerns, but they’re an important motivation. Big topic, though – more than I’ll get into here.

Long before Christians formulated the doctrine of the Trinity, Christians prayed in the Trinity: to the Father, through and with Jesus the Son, in the Holy Spirit.

Yes, and in those days never, ever to a tripersonal God. Fr. Kimel here describes a unitarian-friendly practice of prayer.

Back in my seminary days in the late 70s, I read and reread Robert W. Jenson’s book The Triune Identity. After reviewing the kinds of trinitarian discourse found in the New Testament and the early tradition…

I omit his long quote from Jensen here, because it seems to me that it concerns not the Trinity, but only the triad, the trinity. This is generally what people switch to when they want to focus on the New Testament, because the New Testament never mentions or implies the Trinity. But God, his Son, and his spirit are of course all over the NT.

To “explain” the Trinity all I had to do was point to the eucharistic prayer, any extant eucharistic prayer.

I think that my reviewer here is just insisting on practical matters, and is determined to leave aside the theoretical, such as questions about the meaning and justification of trinitarian claims. “Explaining” trumps explaining (i.e. explicating or clearly conveying the meaning of traditional sentences).

Who is the God who is here addressed? The Father … but not just any Father but the Father of Jesus, his only begotten Son. The Creator is mysteriously constituted by his relation to the Nazarene.

Right! This is all unitarian compatible.

In 381 the Church definitively settled on the homoousion, applied to both the Son and Spirit.

As I explain in the book, actually emperor Theodosius I settled the dispute, and the portion of the Church which he favored (the pro-Nicene party), gladly accepted his legal strangling of the opposition through a serious of legal measures. The argument was forcibly ended.

Perhaps a book review ought to preach a little less and actually interact with historical information in the book.

Underlying, shaping, and energizing the Church’s reflection on the Trinity is its foundational doxological praxis: the Church prays to the Father, through the Son, in and by the Spirit.

I’m sorry, Fr. Kimel, but this is just rhetoric. “The Church” (i.e. mainstream Christians) did this before there was any theology of the Trinity. What you say here is what I, as a unitarian Christian do. We are talking about the Trinity (the triune God), right? Because you keep returning to the triad/trinity. The difference? It’s in the book.

Hoping for more book in part 2 of the book review. 🙂

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Origen, Paul, and Peter: Christians worship the Jews’ god http://trinities.org/blog/origen-paul-and-peter-christians-worship-the-jews-god/ http://trinities.org/blog/origen-paul-and-peter-christians-worship-the-jews-god/#comments Mon, 31 Jul 2017 20:56:41 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=39322 [The pagan critic Celsus writes:] Let no one imagine I do not know that some of them will agree that they have the same God as the Jews, while some [i.e. Marcionites] think there is another God and to whom the former is opposed and that the Son came from the latter.

[Origen answers:]

  • “If he thinks it is a charge against Christianity there are several sects among Christians, on this analogy would it not be considered a charge against philosophy that among the sects of philosophers there is disagreement not just about small and trivial matters but about the most important subjects?
  • We could also criticize medicine because of the sects within it.
  • But let us grant that there are some among us who do not say that God is the same God as that of the Jews.
  • Yet that is no reason why they are to be criticized who prove from the same Scriptures that there is one and the same God for Jews and Gentiles.
  • So also Paul, who came to Christianity from the Jews, says clearly: “I think my God whom I serve from my forefathers in a pure conscience.” [2 Timothy 1:3 – NRSV: “I am grateful to God—whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did…”]”

Contra Celsum [Against Celsus] Book V, section 61 (p. 311), reformatted, bold added

Of course, Origen might also have cited Peter, according Luke’s account in Acts 3:

The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus… (Acts 3:13, NRSV)

or Paul’s testimony to Felix:

But this I admit to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our ancestors, believing everything laid down according to the law or written in the prophets. (Acts 24:14)

That the early Christians worshiped the same god as the Jews, the identity of God with Yahweh, is something that presupposed everywhere in the New Testament, and generally doesn’t need stating.  It rarely is stated explicitly – just as with the assumed numerical identity of this one God with the Father.

Early Christianity differed from bulk of the Jews on whether Jesus was the Messiah, and on the necessity of full Torah observance. But as to core theology, people like Paul and Peter and Luke were about as “kosher” as they come.

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Some clarifications for Dr. White http://trinities.org/blog/some-clarifications-for-dr-white/ http://trinities.org/blog/some-clarifications-for-dr-white/#comments Fri, 21 Jul 2017 19:06:39 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=39307 Glasses with clear vision of Teton Mountains in background

On Facebook I was made aware that Dr. James White has responded to someone on Twitter about my debate challenge. Neither Dr. White nor anyone associated with his ministry have contacted me. (I’m on Twitter too, but he blocked me some months ago after I contradicted some misstatement of his.) Here is Dr. White’s statement in whole, with some bits bolded by me:

@AndrewCorban A few months ago I heard something about someone named “Dale Tuggy” or something like that challenging me to debate. I get lots of challenges to debate from folks I have never heard of before, but the name rang a faint bell, so I looked around briefly and saw that he is some kind of philosophical objector to the Trinity. I saw that folks at Triablogue and Dr. James Anderson at RTS Charlotte had written articles about his arguments. I scanned then briefly, found them to be non-revelation based, and hence I found no interest in the topic. I don’t care what philosophers think or say: I am a biblical Trinitarian. It is a divine revelation. You will not believe it if you do not believe in both sola scriptura and tota scriptura. I have no interest in adding to the responses already provided by those who have engaged the philosophically based objections to the terminology that is necessary to deal with revelational truth. (source)

I’m going to charitably assume that Dr. White has not looked much into this. A cursory look at this might lead someone to think that my interest in the Trinity is purely or mainly philosophical. And a quick glance at some of my exchanges with Dr. Anderson or the lovable Mr. Hays might give the impression that because of some philosophical theories I hold, I opine that the Trinity is incoherent (self-contradictory).

Nope. That is a complete misunderstanding of what I’m doing, of where my interests lie.

  • I argue (e.g. here or here), and I mean argue, not merely assume, that the Trinity is not deducible from the Bible, nor is it the best explanation of what the Bible says, nor is it fully consistent with what the Bible clearly asserts, i.e. that the Father just is the one God.
  • I deny that there is one Trinity doctrine, or as I prefer to say, theory. Rather, the phrase “the doctrine of the Trinity” veils a gaggle of competing, mostly mutually incompatible theories, such as these. Or these.
  • I do not allege that “the Trinity” is self-contradictory. Among the theories a trinitarian may believe, there are a few which are arguably (or demonstrably) incoherent, but on the other hand some of those theories are, as best we can tell, self-consistent. The main problems, in my view, concern their fit (or misfit) with scripture. It just depends on what the trinitarian actually thinks. The problem is that a great many trinitarians, e.g. Mr. Hays, are none too clear about what “the Trinity doctrine” is, and they quickly falter in the face of simple questions of clarification.
  • Some sophisticated folks do pony up understandable Trinity theories, claims that go beyond intoning the standard creedal formulas. These often employ some controversial philosophical assumptions. And so I will get in to it, as it were, about, say theories of relative identity (required by some Trinity theories), or a Plantingian theory of epistemic “warrant,” which is supposed to show how it is rational to believe recalcitrant apparent contradictions, or the metaphysical idea of material constitution. We can ask whether such speculations are reasonable, whether they are actually what catholic tradition asserts, whether they could be obligatory for ordinary believers, whether they fit scripture, and so on. If you call the Trinity a “mystery” I may inquire just what you mean by that, and what work you think that claim does, if it’s more than just saying it’s a great, wonderful, and important truth. In sum, I bring in only as much philosophy as my interlocutor brings in.
  • When I argue about the Trinity, I strive to employ only standard logic, our God-given common sense, and sound scriptural exegesis. I hold that the New Testament is sufficiently clear to rule out the whole crowd of Trinity theories, and that this can be shown from scripture using the most non-theoretical, non-speculative, flat-footed reasoning.

In sum, I’m a biblical unitarian, my objections are fundamentally revelation-based (special and general), and my discussions of terminology (e.g. chapters 6, 7, and 9 of my book) are aimed at clarity, at enabling a real, fruitful discussion of trinitarian and unitarian theologies. I agree with the authority, inspiration, sufficiency, and clarity of scripture. I might not agree with some of your definitions of these, but I am in essence a conservative Protestant, even a non-trinitarian evangelical.

In case you’re wondering, I have not ever objected to Trinity theories that they employ non-biblical terms, because I see no problem in employing non-biblical terms in theology, and we all do it constantly. Nor have I ever objected to Trinity theories that they are somehow copied from pagan religions or Greek philosophies. I do think there is a sort of historical influence there, but we can’t rule out in advance that this was divine providence, using the Platonists to accomplish his will concerning the development of catholic doctrine.

So, Dr. White, now that you’re clearer about my methodology, shall we square off in formal debate? I’ll give you clear, scripture-based arguments. Would our debate be philosophy free? I doubt it, as you would assert a version of traditional catholic claims about three “hypostases” sharing one “ousia,” and the meaning of those philosophical terms may come into play, in clarifying just what theology you’re saying best expounds scripture. There’s no avoiding some theorizing here. And I would make no apologies for using argument analysis both in presenting my case and in objecting to yours. But the thrust of my case would be that on this topic, your position is not reformed enough.

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Dialogue with John on Thinking about the Trinity http://trinities.org/blog/dialogue-with-john-on-thinking-about-the-trinity/ http://trinities.org/blog/dialogue-with-john-on-thinking-about-the-trinity/#comments Tue, 18 Jul 2017 18:28:00 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=39292 At his blog Faith & Scripture, my friend John interacts with the questions for the reader in chapter 10.  The book’s questions and his answers here are in italics.

1. Does the New Testament in any sense appeal to “mystery” about the Trinity or the trinity? If so, what is meant by “mystery” there?
No it doesn’t, although I now disagree that the Trinity/trinity distinction is operable in that format. The clearest example of mystery in the New Testament to my mind is the inclusion of the Gentiles into God’s people.

I agree, although I don’t understand the “operable” comment.

2. Does the New Testament anywhere mention or refer to a Trinity, or only to a trinity?

 Neither, if we are on explicit criteria.

Referring can be using the word “Trinity” or “trinity” or not.  I can refer to you as “John” or as ” my friend with the blog.” Surely the NT several times refers to the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, but just not by any one the single term or phrase.  So I would say that this triad, this threesome is mentioned, occasionally.  Of course it is not implied that they are the same sort of thing, or that they are in some sense a whole.

If we are on the implicit side and we accept that Trinity = The Tri-personal God alone, then God is certainly not referred to with that idea in mind.

Right.  There is no mention whatever of a tripersonal god as such.  Every term associated with one of the three is used only to refer to a single “Person,” if I can put it that way.

However, Tuggy does not integrate the significance of what he calls small-t trinity in sufficient depth. At another point in the book (sorry I’m going for a speedy post today, so no page reference) he refers to this trinity as “just a triad”. Don’t focus on the word “triad”, when he says this. Focus on “just” and “a”. In my view, that is a wholly inadequate description of the way in which the Jewish-Christian religious semantics underwent a profound reorganisation (“mutation”) through a relatively short number of decades including the divine core itself, which I refer to as the “hub”.

John, you’re overreacting to the word “just” here.  In that context the purpose of it is just two let us know that the members of this triad are not necessarily parts that compose some whole, or aspects of some one thing, or even things of the same exact physical status.  It is not a comment on the importance of the triad or any member in it.  The thing is, the triad might also be a Trinity.  The trinitarian will often refer to the members of the Trinity by just listing them, but in those contexts they’re not just a triad, not a mere triad, but also the tripersonal God. You can also refer to that God indirectly, just by using a plural referring term for its members, and some contemporary trinitarian theologians constantly do this. This allows the to say that the Bible is all about “the Trinity” (though the mean, the trinity).

I am afraid that I do not understand the hypothesized reorganization or mutation here.  It sounds like you’re trying to come up with a sort of replacement for supposing the Trinity to be a part of first-century belief.

3. Does it teach that there are three eternal equally divine Persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who all together in some sense “are” the one God, Yahweh?
No.

OK, so on the assumption that you base your theology on the NT, then you are not a trinitarian.

4. Does it teach that those three Persons share an ousia, and if so, what would the New Testament authors, in their first-century context, mean by that saying that?
This is a difficult question, perhaps a bit like to use the author’s own analogy of wondering what someone from centuries past might have thought of the Internet. Having said that, it is true that Aristotelian ideas of substance, form and matter would have been known to some of the earlier educated Greek converts, although I don’t know how well grounded in those Paul would have been. Interestingly, ousia, or substance, does not appear to be the foundational aspect of a thing. In the Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (in which Tuggy is also published, unsurprisingly enough on the Trinity), there is an entry under “Form vs. Matter“. Here it states: “In these cases, the thing that underlies is the matter of the substance”. The substance itself is not the permanent underlier. So the question Tuggy wants to ask of a first-century Christian, assuming he is versed in Greek philosophy is doubly inconceivable since the word ousia does not seem to mean at that point in history what the church would later graft it in to mean and indeed even later adapt (into something eternal).

Right. So the answer to the first question, which is the more important one, seems to be no.  Yes, hypothetically they might have meant many things, had they been into various schools of philosophy.  But the NT authors don’t seem to have a lot of interest in philosophy.

5. Does it teach the absolute equality of the Father, Son, and Spirit, so that each is eternally unlimited in power, knowledge, and goodness?

No, but there are some important things to note in conditioning this response. Firstly “absolute equality”. We all know that, awkwardly for some, Jesus goes on the record as saying that “the Father is greater than I”, so at least in essential greatness, it is very difficult to go back on Jesus’ own words. How do some Christians do that? Well, the passage in Philippians 2 (which is certainly not ignored in this book) may include part of the answer. The idea is that the full worship and glory can be directed at Christ “to the glory of God the Father”. One of the key building blocks to the “meta-mutation” of the Triune hub is the recognition of the unforeseeable incorporation of the Messiah into the sphere or individuals worthy of worship, as explained in detail by Larry Hurtado (see my summary post here for a good access point into my series). Hitherto, that space was occupied fully by Yahweh. Jesus receives “all authority”. From a New Testament standpoint, the Father’s presence and anointing in his son were quickly proven supreme, such that many of these hitherto presumed unassignable qualities of God were indeed shared with the one whose own (essential, I would say) humility was of equal match.

But to the Jews they were not absolutely unassignable. Just look at the famous heavenly scene in Daniel 7. Someone else, someone other than the one God comes into his presence and

To him was given dominion, and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed.

Well, that all sounds like God stuff! It is! It is from him. But the recipient is not the one God. God doesn’t get those goods from anyone! So I think it just mistaken to say that for the Jews it was inconceivable that God should share his authority and glory with another being. This is why the exaltation of Jesus does not entail any fundamental changes in Jewish theology. And this is why we don’t see any big rethinking about the nature of the one God in the NT, and for a long time after.

If you can be as geeky as I am then you may have already tried doing some New Testament word-counts. I have done this on references to God and Jesus. They both number at around 1200. That’s pretty astounding and points to a roughly shared centrality in the New Testament. The Holy Spirit does not fare so well on that criterion although is central on other criteria. Again space here limits me on this, but the primary distinctive that was necessary to make between John the Baptist and Jesus were on the central issue of the Holy Spirit – whose distinction from the Father was an outworking of the going of Christ to “be with the Father” (at his right hand).

You might even say that Jesus is the most central character in the NT. That this is because they’re not rethinking their fundamental theology, but they are rethinking the nature and significance of the Messiah, and how this relates to the gentiles. As to the Spirit, it’s not like he is just a minor character. Is not clear that he is an additional character at all! God’s spirit is a vividly personified several times, but in general the portrayal is like the Old Testament. It lacks a proper name, and is never worshiped. And as a rule, impersonal language is used of it.

On eternality (man, Tuggy’s question is dense!), then the New Testament is significant on one understated point. On awareness and influence of Greek ideas (see also question 4), insufficient work has been done on first-century logos incorporation into Christian discourse. The way in which Jewish writers Paul and his followers (some of whom also wrote epistles), the writer of Hebrews and later, John simply assume the agency role of the logos in creation and sustenance of the universe. This can only mean that that which we have fortunately preserved in detail in the writings of Philo likely knew much wider Jewish acceptance than simply one Alexandrian writer. There has to have been something that Jesus said or was ascribed to him early on for him to “transgress” purely human messianic categories and fit so neatly within this adopted Greek one. The parables of Enoch are a likely part of the answer to this pre-Christ, Jewish-Greek convergence that justify the offhand New Testament references. On the Parables, may I recommend Enoch and the Messiah Son of Man: Revisiting the Book of the Parables, by Gabriele Boccaccini (2007), especially Part 6: “THE DATING”, and the chapter by J.H. Charlesworth “Can we discern the composition date of the Parables of Enoch?” pp. 450-468.

Countless people have looked into the different ways that Greek philosophers use the term Logos. Myself, I have never found it fruitful when it comes to understanding John 1. It seems to me that he’s really using Jewish categories. It is interesting how writers of this period often want to put something in between what is seen and how God really is, and sometimes this is the word of God, and sometimes is the angel of the Lord, etc. I do think this is relevant to understanding the NT, but I would not make the big assumption in the area here, which is unexamined by too many, which is that the Logos supposed to be the pre-human Jesus. When you are reading John in its context there is nothing at all obvious about this. It’s just that because the earlier Logos theorists won c. 3rd c., people think that’s just what it means, their unable to see Iohn 1 without this assumption too.

6. Does the New Testament teach or positively portray the religious worship of:

Father? Yes.

Son? Yes.

Spirit? Not “of”, but “in”.

In other words, No in the case of the spirit.

Does it teach or show worship of the three of them together, worship of the triune God as such?

There is no Triune God yet – although the New Testament describes a reconfigured hub of the Jewish faith hitherto occupied in its entirety by Yahweh.

I’ve been reading the NT a long time, and have never encountered this “reconfigured hub of the Jewish faith.” In fact, I really have little idea that what you mean. You need to clearly state this thesis without using abstract terms and unexplained metaphors, before you go on to make the case that the NT needs this idea to be understood. Try to say more concretely and precisely what it was, exactly, that in your opinion changed about their belief or practice.  Try not to use these words: reconfigure, space, hub, mutation.

7. Does the New Testament teach that the only god just is the Father himself or does it teach that the Father is but one of three Persons “in” God?

The former, although see my other comments above about the reconfigured monotheistic space/hub.

If the one God still is one person, the Father, and we’re talking about a unitarian theology in the new testament. What difference does it make if we go on to talk about this, “hub” thing? In what way are you trying to tweak either a humanitarian or a subordinationist unitarian theology?

8. Does the New Testament make catholic bishops the successors of the apostles, with apostle-level authority to settle questions of Christian doctrine, working together in official, emperor-convened councils?

As the reader now knows, this describes a scenario much later than the New Testament one. Slightly curious question.

If you say yes to this, arguably that gives those councils about the same level of authority as scripture. But we’re both on the Protestant side of this.

…I will, however, before signing-off, highlight two assumptions that I do not feel are good characterisations of the historical data, that may also be where the personal views do interact with the analysis of the data.

Firstly, p. 89, the chapter is wittily entitled “Substance Abuse” and concerns the fourth-century controversies. In the Nicene Creed, it can seem striking that so little is said about the Holy Spirit, but look at Tuggy’s assumption:

The 325 Creed ends with the seeming afterthought: “and in the Holy Spirit”. (p. 89)

Especially in light of his comments elsewhere about the nature of the 325 Creed (its focus is refuting Arianism), it was not attempting to be some kind of eternal declaration that would shape core Christian belief for millennia. Rather, it was clearing up an Arian controversy that messed with Jesus‘ divine status. If Arians were not perceived to contravene the catholic interpretation of the Holy Spirit to the same degree, then it might seem sufficient to provide a simple mention on this occasion.

Well, sure. But the point is that this document is nowhere close to being the landmark trinitarian statement that some people portray it as. Yes, of course, it was only meant to be an occasional document, and at that time no one dreamed that this would be made into the central criterion of orthodoxy. They would have fought much, much harder about it if they thought that was at stake! And frankly the Eusebian side never would have agreed to it if they knew it would be so long lasting.

My second comment follows on from this and a general disagreement about the distinction method (Trinity vs. trinity) described in chapter 3, over which I was lucky to have some dialogue with Dr. Tuggy. I’ll mention that in a second, but first the text of p. 113: What sort of being is “God” supposed to be? Your answer to this will constrain your options when it comes to thinking about the Trinity. The “Trinity” (in the primary sense of the term, as saw in chapter 3) is supposed to be none other than the triune God…”. (p. 113, my emphasis).

In Dale’s lovely understated tone, I can respond: “Nope”. The use of the word “primary” here is, I believe, quite misleading. Although I still haven’t gotten round to Robert Jenson’s The Triune God, I do value his and Fred Sander’s distinctions of a “primary” from a “secondary” (only explicitly so with Sanders) trinitarianism. So, no, I don’t think we can simply accept that there is only one form of trinitarianism,

I’m not sure why you’re talking about kinds of trinitarian theology here. What I was saying was primarily was the use of the term “Trinity” to mean a the triune God of fully developed catholic orthodoxy. Perhaps your point is that the use of “trinity” or “triad” as a plural referring expressions came earlier in Christian history. That is true, but all this argument is about is what is the least confusing, the least misleading way to use these terms, for us, today. Nothing substantial hangs on this. John, I would say they’ve given your view which I think is that NT view, that the one God just is the Father, it would be very misleading to go around talking about “the Trinity.” You’d have to constantly explain that you don’t mean by that what most people mean. In the book I suggest that it is much less misleading to use “trinity” or “triad,” leaving the established use of the capitalized term intact. As you know, the central aim of the book is to reduce the dense confusion, which is in large measure caused by confusing terminology.

which is precisely why Tuggy’s blog and podcast is called trinities. He might point out that this is a reflection that the “Triune-God” presentations are multiple and contradictory in important places (to which I’d agree), but that still doesn’t make that whole tier the primary form – in fact, it divorces them from it. The Triune God is phase 2 of an insufficiently detailed mutation of the religious core of Jewish faith and practice among Christians in the first century. It is thus the secondary (or even later) sense, not the primary.

With the one mighty self Yahweh being the true God, before and after the coming of Jesus, I do not see a core mutation at all, not of basic theology.

… is this triad, small-t trinity, or whatever anything special in Christianity, including Jewish Christianity, or not? In your interview with Sean Finnegan I think you imply that it is special if the Bible might indeed be “all about” the small-t trinity. My Triune Hub hypothesis attempts to provide precisely the “thing” that we need in the absence of a first century Triune God. Expanding on Larry Hurtado’s comments about how central Jesus is to God discourse for the first-century church, the accepted parlance of “mutation” by leading scholars such as Hurtado, Crossan and NT Wright, and the “Jewishness” of some of the sources that even correct misconstrual of Jesus’ baptism with respect to his predecessor John (cf Acts 8:16, Matt 28:19, Didache 7:1 and even “unsuccessful mutation” of GThomas 44:1-3), the mutation I am proposing is that the central religious *space* or focus now includes a consistent articulation with the Son and Spirit. “Personhood” discussions aside, these three appear equally individuated in these significant references and to share **hitherto** (albeit with some conceptual “foreshadowing”) – apperently – unassignable – divine (aka religiously-central) prerogatives.

It seems to me that you are describing mainly changes of practice, that is the worship of the exalted Jesus alongside God, and perhaps a different style of talking about God’s spirit. The big change of belief, is the change in the understanding of the role of God’s unique and Messiah, right? And there’s a changed view about God’s plan for the world, and how Israel and the Messiah fit into that.

I have the impression that you’re groping for a sort of middle ground between unitarianism and trinitarianism. I don’t see why we need that though. You just have humanitarians at first, then a mix of humanitarian and subordinationist unitarians in the next two centuries, with various modalistic monarchians around as well, from the end of the 2nd c. on. On the whole, the situation is quite mixed about the holy spirit, but by the fourth century have the impression that more than not were thinking of this has the third greatest being, along the lines of the second and lesser Logos, to put it crudely. I think this must have helped along by the Greek fashion for triads that clearly influenced theologians in the 100s and 200s. But the miahypostatic side in the 4th c. would have thought the spirit was just an effect or emanation or aspect of God. And we know that the spirit it was still a lively subject of debate even right when it was shutdown in 381.

Before, you’ve expressed incredulity at the idea that mainstream Christianity could go from a unipersonal God to a tripersonal one, in the 4th c. I agree that at first glance, this is a big surprise. But I think I sort of see how it went, in the minds of some of the speculators whose views prevailed. At least, I’m starting to. Long story, though.

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podcast 191 – Ware’s Outline of the Testimony of Scripture Against the Trinity http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-191-wares-outline-of-the-testimony-of-scripture-against-the-trinity/ http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-191-wares-outline-of-the-testimony-of-scripture-against-the-trinity/#comments Tue, 18 Jul 2017 01:50:12 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=39263 Henry Ware Jr. (1794-1843) was a Unitarian minister in Boston from 1807-1830, and then Professor of Pulpit Eloquence and the Pastoral Care at Harvard Divinity School from 1830-1842. He authored not only sermons and works of theology, but also poetry and fiction.

In this 1827 lecture, Ware outlines the case for thinking the authors of the New Testament to be unitarian, rather than trinitarian, in their theology. He argues powerfully and eloquently. I here present it in its entirety, with just a word or two modernized.

At the end of the podcast, I note a minor disagreement I have with it. Still, Ware’s approach here is similar to my recent talk, and I think he has a point or two which I may incorporate, as I turn that talk of mine into book chapter.

Does Ware make a strong overall case? Why or why not?  

Links for this episode:

 

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http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-191-wares-outline-of-the-testimony-of-scripture-against-the-trinity/feed/ 1 A concise and clear case that the NT authors held a unitarian theology.
In this 1827 lecture, Ware outlines the case for thinking the authors of the New Testament to be unitarian, rather than trinitarian, in their theology. He argues powerfully and eloquently. I here present it in its entirety, with just a word or two modernized.

At the end of the podcast, I note a minor disagreement I have with it. Still, Ware's approach here is similar to my recent talk, and I think he has a point or two which I may incorporate, as I turn that talk of mine into book chapter.

Does Ware make a strong overall case? Why or why not?  

Links for this episode:

* Henry Ware Jr. 
* Sixteen American Unitarian Tracts

* "Outline of the Testimony of Scripture Against the Trinity"


* podcast 156 – Dr. J.R. Daniel Kirk on A Man Attested by God – Part 2
* podcast 155 – Dr. J.R. Daniel Kirk on A Man Attested by God – Part 1
* proskuneo in the LXX

* (divine worship) 1 Samuel 1:19, 1 Samuel 15:25, 2 Samuel 12:20
* (deference to a king or other person) 1 Samuel 25:23, 2 Samuel 1:2


* Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?

* review by Nick Norelli


* Who Should Christians Worship?
* This week's thinking music is "Clover" by Little Glass Men.

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podcast 190 – What is the Trinity? A triad of book reviews http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-190-what-is-the-trinity-a-triad-of-book-reviews/ http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-190-what-is-the-trinity-a-triad-of-book-reviews/#comments Mon, 10 Jul 2017 04:01:54 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=39224

Curious Christians rightly ask: what is the Trinity? This question is especially pressing for Protestants. We (it is hoped) base our theology on scripture, and yet when we look in the Bible, there is no passage which clearly lays out this idea that God is three “Persons” in one “substance.” In this episode I review three Protestant treatments.

Reader beware! I point out that the ones by Dr. Sproul and Dr. Wells suffer from some important historical inaccuracies, especially about the content and purpose of the famous 325 creed composed at Nicea.

More importantly, the two clash on what the Trinity doctrine really means. Dr. Sproul seems to say that the Trinity is one divine self with three “personae” (personalities), but later seems to say that we really can’t understand what God is three of. Dr. Wells asserts what I call a “three self” Trinity theory, on which each “Person” of the Trinity is a self. He’s not able to say, though, how this differs from tritheism! Instead he assures us that we don’t need to worry about that… for a surprising reason!

The first two books make what seem to me to be half-hearted attempts to derive a doctrine of a triune God from the Bible. (Full-hearted one here.) I don’t try this, but discuss some problems such arguments face. My book drops the pretense that the historical creeds express any one standard theology. My book tries to get the history right, and then explores how the 4th c. creed-makers must have understood the claim that the Father and Son are homousion, “same essence” or “same substance.” I also explain different Christian views on what the “Persons” are supposed to be, and relate this to the question, what sort of being should a Christian say God is. Is the one God a great, unique self, a group of divine selves, or a something-we-know-not-what? And what or who does scripture teach the one God to be? I also investigate what it means to say that the Trinity is a “mystery.” My book is a roadmap of the landscape, to help you navigate through this issue.

Links for this episode:

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http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-190-what-is-the-trinity-a-triad-of-book-reviews/feed/ 3 Two clashing answers, and a roadmap.
Curious Christians rightly ask: what is the Trinity? This question is especially pressing for Protestants. We (it is hoped) base our theology on scripture, and yet when we look in the Bible, there is no passage which clearly lays out this idea that God is three "Persons" in one "substance." In this episode I review three Protestant treatments.

Reader beware! I point out that the ones by Dr. Sproul and Dr. Wells suffer from some important historical inaccuracies, especially about the content and purpose of the famous 325 creed composed at Nicea.

More importantly, the two clash on what the Trinity doctrine really means. Dr. Sproul seems to say that the Trinity is one divine self with three "personae" (personalities), but later seems to say that we really can't understand what God is three of. Dr. Wells asserts what I call a "three self" Trinity theory, on which each "Person" of the Trinity is a self. He's not able to say, though, how this differs from tritheism! Instead he assures us that we don't need to worry about that... for a surprising reason!

The first two books make what seem to me to be half-hearted attempts to derive a doctrine of a triune God from the Bible. (Full-hearted one here.) I don't try this, but discuss some problems such arguments face. My book drops the pretense that the historical creeds express any one standard theology. My book tries to get the history right, and then explores how the 4th c. creed-makers must have understood the claim that the Father and Son are homousion, "same essence" or "same substance." I also explain different Christian views on what the "Persons" are supposed to be, and relate this to the question, what sort of being should a Christian say God is. Is the one God a great, unique self, a group of divine selves, or a something-we-know-not-what? And what or who does scripture teach the one God to be? I also investigate what it means to say that the Trinity is a "mystery." My book is a roadmap of the landscape, to help you navigate through this issue.



Links for this episode:

* Dr. R.C. Sproul home page

* What is the Trinity? by Dr. R.C. Sproul


* Dr. David F. Wells home page

* What is the Trinity? by Dr. David Wells


* Dr. Dale Tuggy home page

* What is the Trinity by Dr. Dale Tuggy
* what-is-the-trinity.com


* Restitutio podcast Interview 24: What Is the Trinity with Dale Tuggy
* The Standard Opening Move
* podcast 164 – On Counting Gods

* Tuggy 2016, "On Counting Gods"


* podcast 97 – Dr. Michael Heiser on The Unseen Realm
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What is the Trinity? Restitutio interview http://trinities.org/blog/what-is-the-trinity-restitutio-interview/ Thu, 06 Jul 2017 20:14:50 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=39244 At the Restitutio podcast pastor Sean Finnegan has released his interview of my about my recent book What is the Trinity? Interview 24: What Is the Trinity with Dale Tuggy.

Not familiar with the Restitutio podcast? It’s more than interviews – it also features biblical teaching, lectures on theology, sermons, discussions, and debates. All of course curated, presented, or hosted by the inimitable Sean Finnegan. A particularly good episode is 88: Restorationist Manifesto.

Check out all Restitutio episodes here.

More information about What is the Trinity? is here.

Contact me if you produce a podcast and you’d like to interview me about the book.

 

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podcast 189 – The unfinished business of the Reformation http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-189-the-unfinished-business-of-the-reformation/ http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-189-the-unfinished-business-of-the-reformation/#comments Mon, 03 Jul 2017 23:31:34 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=39203 Are all or most of the authors of the New Testament trinitarians, or unitarians? Or are they just confused about whether the one God is the Trinity or the Father?

This episode is my talk on May 26, 2017 at the University of Augsburg (in the state of Bavaria, Germany) at the conference Trinitarian Theology: Confirmation or Transformation of Classical Theism? (Trinitätstheologie als Revision des klassischen Theismus?)

I argue that fifteen undeniable observations about the New Testament strongly confirm the unitarian hypothesis over its rivals. That is, these observations provide strong evidence that these authors assume that the one God is the Father alone.

Do you agree? Why or why not?

Because you can see my slides, the YouTube version of this episode is recommended.

Jesus in the Augsburg cathedralLinks for this episode:

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http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-189-the-unfinished-business-of-the-reformation/feed/ 48 Do the NT authors assume that God is the Trinity, or the Father... or are they confused?
This episode is my talk on May 26, 2017 at the University of Augsburg (in the state of Bavaria, Germany) at the conference Trinitarian Theology: Confirmation or Transformation of Classical Theism? (Trinitätstheologie als Revision des klassischen Theismus?)

I argue that fifteen undeniable observations about the New Testament strongly confirm the unitarian hypothesis over its rivals. That is, these observations provide strong evidence that these authors assume that the one God is the Father alone.

Do you agree? Why or why not?



Because you can see my slides, the YouTube version of this episode is recommended.

Links for this episode:

* The Nature of God Project
* Trinitätstheologie als Revision des klassischen Theismus?
* Prof. DDr. Thomas Marschler
* Prof. DDr. Thomas Schärtl
* The Lost Early History of Unitarian Christian Theology
* podcast 11 – Tertullian the unitarian
* trinitarian or unitarian?
* Dr. Larry Hurtado on the worship of Jesus in the New Testament
* the worship of Jesus and his God in Revelation 4-5
* "Unitarianism" @ the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
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Prisonbreaking Allegorizing http://trinities.org/blog/prisonbreaking-allegorizing-dale/ Thu, 29 Jun 2017 08:54:27 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/archives/244

Eusebius of Emesa in one of his discourses has quite a long passage about allegorizing. He allows that it cannot altogether be rejected but he is very cautious about its use. It tends to read meanings into the text which are good in themselves but are simply not present in the text. It can be an illegitimate short cut. A man who is bound or who is in prison is anxious to be free by any means, but not all means are right. Had all ancient interpreters of the Bible followed this advice, subsequent generations would have been saved the necessity of reading a great deal of nonsense. (The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God, p. 829, emphases added)

The history of hermeneutics alone demonstrates that this is not the best possible world. 🙂

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podcast 188 – Dr. Paul W. Newman’s Spirit Christology – Part 2 http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-188-dr-paul-w-newmans-spirit-christology-part-2/ http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-188-dr-paul-w-newmans-spirit-christology-part-2/#comments Mon, 26 Jun 2017 18:04:00 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=39184 Jesus reading the scroll of Isaiah in Luke 4

According to Luke, Jesus made a big public announcement in his local synagogue near the start of his public ministry as Messiah, by way of reading from the Isaiah scroll. Is this a key to understanding his “divine” works and message? This episode is the second part of my conversation with Dr. Paul W. Newman, author of A Spirit Christology: Recovering the Biblical Paradigm of Christian Faith.

He notes that the New Testament presents Jesus as a man empowered and guided by God’s spirit. Just before the aforementioned announcement, and just after his temptation, Luke says,

Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. (Luke 4:14-15, NRSV)

His preaching, evidently, has power. As does his proclamation and demonstrations on God’s Kingdom in the rest of the book.

Among other things, Dr. Newman and I discuss:

  • The “social trinitarian” idea of the Trinity as an eternal dance of three equal friends.
  • Dr. Newman’s thought about the idea of God as omnipresent Spirit
  • the significance of the episode in the synagogue in Luke 4 for christology and for our understanding of gospel
  • Jesus’s self-understanding as God’s Messiah
  • whether or not Jesus accepted religious worship
  • his idea of “testing the spirits” even of the NT authors by Jesus
  • interpersonal vs. intrapersonal spirit christologies
  • the genuine humanity of Jesus in the fourth gospel
  • the terms “unitarianism” and “exclusive monotheism

Links for this episode:

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http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-188-dr-paul-w-newmans-spirit-christology-part-2/feed/ 4 "Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee... He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone."
According to Luke, Jesus made a big public announcement in his local synagogue near the start of his public ministry as Messiah, by way of reading from the Isaiah scroll. Is this a key to understanding his "divine" works and message? This episode is the second part of my conversation with Dr. Paul W. Newman, author of A Spirit Christology: Recovering the Biblical Paradigm of Christian Faith.

He notes that the New Testament presents Jesus as a man empowered and guided by God's spirit. Just before the aforementioned announcement, and just after his temptation, Luke says,
Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. (Luke 4:14-15, NRSV)
His preaching, evidently, has power. As does his proclamation and demonstrations on God's Kingdom in the rest of the book.

Among other things, Dr. Newman and I discuss:

* The "social trinitarian" idea of the Trinity as an eternal dance of three equal friends.
* Dr. Newman's thought about the idea of God as omnipresent Spirit
* the significance of the episode in the synagogue in Luke 4 for christology and for our understanding of gospel
* Jesus's self-understanding as God's Messiah
* whether or not Jesus accepted religious worship
* his idea of "testing the spirits" even of the NT authors by Jesus
* interpersonal vs. intrapersonal spirit christologies
* the genuine humanity of Jesus in the fourth gospel
* the terms "unitarianism" and "exclusive monotheism"



Links for this episode:

* A Spirit Christology: Recovering the Biblical Paradigm of Christian Faith
* Dr. Newman’s home page
* St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal
* a Catholic apologist on the sorts of honor due to God, to the saints, and to Mary
* Joan of Arc
* Luke 4:14-30; Matthew 3:13-17; John 14:12; Matthew 28:17; Philippians 2:9-11; Revelation 5; 1 John 4:1-3;  Isaiah 45:28;  John 14:10; 2 Peter 1:4; John 17:5; John 1:1-18; John 8:40; John 14:28; John 17:1-3; John 20:17; John 12:49-50;  John 5:32.
* Opera trinitatis ad extra indivisa sunt.
* Lampe, God as Spirit
* "first nations" peoples
* ancient monarchianism
* podcast 58 – We can’t prove the Trinity by reason alone
* podcast 59 – Dr. Carl Mosser on salvation as deification
* http://trinities.org/blog/?p=39172

Our next speech is by “Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit… [who] full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.”

He annoys some opponents of this new movement, and is seized and brought before the Jewish council on trumped up charges.

Still full of God’s spirit, even while being slandered “they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.” (6:15) He launches into a sort of highlight reel of ancient Jewish history – Abraham, Joseph, Jacob, Moses. He ends with this punch to the gut:

You stiff-necked people…  you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, and now you have become his betrayers and murderers.  You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels, and yet you have not kept it. (Acts 7:51-53)

This sounds harsh, but in fact it is a richly deserved, prophetic pronouncement. They had what was for a long time the best deal with God, and they blew it. While they grind their teeth in murderous rage, he, filled with the spirit, has a vision right in front of them, blurting out,

“Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” (7:56)

Sound familiar? (Daniel 7:14) But they’re not impressed. They stone Stephen to death as prays to Jesus to receive his spirit, and either to Jesus or to God for their forgiveness. (7:59-60) Stephen is doing what Jesus did, as predicted. (John 14:12) Same empowering spirit, same sorts of works.

This is a prophetic confrontation of judgement, not a sermon, and so not all of the gospel is preached here. Still Luke includes the first four of the seven points we’ve seen so far:

  • The man Jesus is the one God’s Messiah.
  • According to God’s plan, Jesus was unjustly crucified by the Romans.
  • But God has vindicated him as his true Messiah by raising him from the dead.
  • And God has exalted Jesus to his right hand, making him not only Messiah, but also “Lord,” in fulfilment of prophecy.

Still waiting for the parts where Luke relates that Jesus is God, or that God is triune. Those parts are there right? They must be.

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podcast 187 – Dr. Paul W. Newman’s Spirit Christology – Part 1 http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-187-dr-paul-w-newmans-spirit-christology-part-1/ http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-187-dr-paul-w-newmans-spirit-christology-part-1/#comments Mon, 19 Jun 2017 18:53:05 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=39151 Canadian theologian Dr. Paul W. Newman views God’s spirit as active at all times and places, even outside the realms of Judaism and Christianity. Studying the Bible in conversation with many recent biblical scholars, he came to view the idea of spirit as the key to understanding Jesus. The result is his book A Spirit Christology: Recovering the Biblical Paradigm of Christian Faith (1st ed. 1987, 2nd. ed. 2014).

In this first part of our conversation our topics include:

  • his concern for the true humanity of Jesus
  • reactions to the book
  • traditional approaches to atonement and how these relate to traditional catholic approaches to christology
  • God’s activity outside the Christian sphere
  • the uniqueness of Jesus
  • why he does not accept a theory of religious pluralism
  • the idea of “inclusivism” about salvation
  • Jesus’s teachings about repentance and forgiveness

Thanks to Dr. Newman for a stimulating conversation and a very interesting book!

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http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-187-dr-paul-w-newmans-spirit-christology-part-1/feed/ 1 How widely has God's spirit been active in the world? A Spirit Christology: Recovering the Biblical Paradigm of Christian Faith (1st ed. 1987, 2nd. ed. 2014).

In this first part of our conversation our topics include:

* his concern for the true humanity of Jesus
* reactions to the book
* traditional approaches to atonement and how these relate to traditional catholic approaches to christology
* God's activity outside the Christian sphere
* the uniqueness of Jesus
* why he does not accept a theory of religious pluralism
* the idea of "inclusivism" about salvation
* Jesus's teachings about repentance and forgiveness

Thanks to Dr. Newman for a stimulating conversation and a very interesting book!



*   Links for this episode:
A Spirit Christology: Recovering the Biblical Paradigm of Christian Faith
* Dr. Newman's home page

* writings
* "Atonement in the Life and Death of Jesus"


* The United Church of Canada
* ruach
* Luke 4:1; John 3:16;  Matthew 15:21-28; Luke 22:20; Matthew 7:2; Matthew 3:9; Luke 15:11-32
* Theories of Religious Diversity
* podcast 95 – Dr. Winfried Corduan: Are all religions the same?
* podcast 91 – Dr. Joshua Thurow on theories of the atonement
* World Religions
* podcast 86 – Kermit Zarley on distinguishing Jesus and God
* Restitutio podcast episode 88: Restorationist Manifesto
* What is the Trinity? (More info and buying options here.)
* Today's thinking music is "A Dark Blue Arc Instrumental" by Pipe Choir. (Here's their version with vocals.)
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reading John 10: with axe-grinding and without http://trinities.org/blog/reading-john-10-with-axe-grinding-and-without/ http://trinities.org/blog/reading-john-10-with-axe-grinding-and-without/#comments Sat, 17 Jun 2017 11:03:40 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=39146 With axe-grinding: Steve Hays.

In v36, Jesus uses “son of God” as a synonym for “God” in v33. They accuse him of making himself “God”. Yet, in v36, he translates their allegation as equivalent to the accusation that he’s the “Son of God”. So he himself uses “God” and “Son of God” as interchangeable labels in that context.

That wouldn’t make a lot of sense, would it, using “Son of God” to mean “God”?

Without axe-grinding: Roman Montero.

No he doesn’t use “Son of God” as a synonym for “God”, he uses it to mean “son of God”. “Son of God” is never used in any Jewish literature to refer to YHWH. It is used to refer to Kings and to lesser Deities (later understood as angels). So their charge was either completely confused (which would make sense for John’s portrayal of the Jewish enemies of Jesus, they were often confused) or they thought calling oneself a “son of God” in the sense of a lesser deity was blasphemy.

Unlike many a latter-day reader, John never confuses together God and his Son.

No one has ever seen God. It is the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known. (John 1:18, NRSV, alternate translation)

One was seen, in the ordinary way, while the other was not. (1 John 1:1-3)

My analysis of Jesus’s argument is here.

Update: In Hay’s mind, people only “attempt” to reply to his convincing diatribes. He replies here.

Roman comes back here. In part,

…messiah means “anointed one” and the assumption is that he is anointed by God, to do God’s will. God doesn’t need to be anointed by anyone. Also there is no precedent on Judaism for a messiah who is Yahweh himself.

…The most quoted scriptures in relation to Christ in the NT are psalms 110:1 where Jesus is the non-Yahweh “lord”, and Daniel 7:13-14 where Jesus is the non-Yahweh “son of man”. Both those scriptures, used countless of times for Christ, exclude the possibility of him being Yahweh.

Those are obvious, and obviously salient facts about the texts.

Hays delivers his typical off-the-cuff, over-long, and over-aggressive reply here. In part,

Montero doesn’t bother to explain how Dan 7 excludes the possibility that messiah is Yahweh.
Gee, let’s see if that needs explaining. In the scene, Yahweh is the one on the throne. Then a one like a son of a man (so, not Yahweh) comes to Yahweh, and is given “authority, glory and sovereign power.” (Daniel 7:14) The reader is to understand that this couldn’t be Yahweh, since he already has those things, and could not lack them, given that there is a creation to be sovereign and authoritative over!
So, no, it doesn’t need explaining. Hays has a poor sense of what is obvious vs. what is speculative.Basically, what he thinks is the first, and what you think is the second. 🙂
What you have to realize about him is that he’ll affirm or deny seemingly anything in order to defend his confused, pet speculations about Jesus and God, which he assumes to be orthodox. He simply demands that any text be read as consistent with these. So he affirms that Jesus and God are numerically one, and yet grants that they differ. So he simply denies that it is impossible for a single being to be and not be the same way at the same time – which is about as ridiculous as a claim can be. He’s as it were jumped the theological shark. And when this is pointed out, he’ll just abuse and stomp up an ineffectual cloud of philosophical dust. But he’s unable to avail himself of the various Christian philosophers’ solutions. In his mind, his view is simply proof-textable, and the longer you go on being unimpressed by his exegesis and arguments, the more it shows that you’re just a stupid, incompetent jerk. He’s got a bad case of the old odium theologicum.
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Does Paul call Jesus “God” in Romans 9:5? http://trinities.org/blog/does-paul-call-jesus-god-in-romans-95/ Fri, 16 Jun 2017 19:05:17 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=39141 Romans 9:5 in the Codex Sinaiticus, a manuscript from AD 350On his blog, author and independent scholar Kermit Zarley has a great post on interpreting this verse:

…to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. (NRSV)

There is a quite a strong tradition of translating this verse as calling the Son “God,” and one doesn’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to think this is not an accident, given the dominance of creedally trinitarian thinking in Christianity. Still, as Zarley points out, scholars have spilled quite a lot of ink over this verse, as both readings are arguable, namely, the above, vs. this sort of translation, adopted by the venerable Revised Standard Version:

…to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ. God who is over all be blessed for ever. Amen. (RSV)

Check out Zarley’s great overview of the arguments. Note that these are not all grammatical, which is as it should be; grammar must be considered together with the content of the passage, in its contexts of (1) that whole letter, (2) of the author’s other known writings, (3) its general place and time.

For his part, Zarley finds the grammar indecisive, while considerations about Paul’s known views should settle the matter:

Paul’s clear statements elsewhere, such as 1 Corinthians 8.6 and Ephesians 4.5-6, on the same subject should indicate his intent in Romans 9.5b. Plus, his constant practices of affirming strict monotheism, distinguishing Christ and God, subordinating Christ to God, and identifying only the Father as God indicate he could not have intended to call Christ “God” in Romans 9.5b.

Which side, in your view, has the stronger overall case?

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What is essential to the gospel, according to Luke? Part 4 http://trinities.org/blog/what-is-essential-to-the-gospel-according-to-luke-part-4/ Wed, 14 Jun 2017 13:16:12 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=39134 After being released by the Jewish leadership, the apostles pray to the Father, calling him “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and everything in them,” (4:24, NRSV) They cite a prophesy of Gentiles and their kings opposing “the Lord and against his Messiah,” which they see fulfilled in their day,

For in this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. (4:27)

They pray for boldness and are filled with God’s power, making them bold. (4:29-31) They continue to do signs and wonders, and two of their own are struck dead after lying. (Acts 5:1-16) The high priest has the apostles jailed, but in the middle of the night, an angel lets them out, and the go out and preach in the Temple – but Luke doesn’t summarize this. The Temple guards arrest them. They’re brought before the high priest, who demands to know why his shut-up order has been disobeyed. (Acts 5:17-28) Now the speech:

But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him. (5:29-32)

The council is enraged by this, but is convinced to leave the matter to God. The council

…ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. As they left the council, they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name. And every day in the temple and at home they did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah. (5:40-2)

This is not a whole sermon, but it is a testimony to the Jewish leadership, and its content is interesting. Note the summary of their message, which is the same as the thesis statements of all four NT gospels: that Jesus is God’s Messiah. Also observe that the apostles’s God just is the God of the Jews, aka the Father. (See Acts 2:33.) They preach not that God died, but rather, the man Jesus died. At that time, unsurprisingly, God was still alive, and able to bring Jesus back to life. Implicitly, the apostles are saying that the Jewish leadership ought to accept that Jesus is God’s Messiah, and repent of their rejection of him, and be reconciled to God through him. Thus their fury. They are too self-righteous to hear this from these fanatics.

It’s an interesting question what the apostles mean by saying that “we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom [or: the holy spirit which] God has given to those who obey him.” They’re confronting the high priest etc. with evidence. Part of it is testimonial: they have seen and testify to these things. And another “witness” is the spirit. But is this an additional literal witness? When was the Holy Spirit here presented as a speaking character, saying something to the Jewish leadership? Perhaps they mean the spirit to be additional evidence which the high priest and his peep are obligated to consider. In other words, they’re referring to the miraculous works which are being done in the name of Jesus. These can be known through testimony (from people beyond the apostles) and in some cases observation. In this way, there is another “witness,” that is, piece of evidence: God’s power in them, known by its effects, shows that God is truly with them, the followers of Jesus. One ignores their testimony at one’s peril! So maybe God’s spirit is a non-literal “witness” to these facts about the Messiah.

On the other hand, perhaps this additional witness is God himself, the Father – another literal witness. By giving this power to the apostles, by working miracles through them in the name of Jesus, he is testifying that this man really is his Messiah. To say that God’s spirit is a witness may just be to say that God is a witness, by means of the power he gives to believers.

Either way, those miracles show that God is with them, and they constitute evidence which is independent of the testimony the apostles give to the above facts.

Note that this chapter is wholly unitarian. The one God is the Father, the creator, not the Trinity. The Trinity is in now way mentioned, referred to, assumed, or implied. No mention is made of Jesus’s deity, pre-existence, or his alleged creation of the world. Some will jump at the characterization of “the holy spirit” here as a “witness” as evidence of its/his distinct personhood, i.e. his being someone in addition to the Father. But this is compatible with both unitarian and trinitarian views of God.

Nothing here is added to our list of things which Luke thinks one most believe in order to be saved. The hostile leaders don’t even get the whole list, but only an abbreviated version, which makes sense, given their unwillingness to hear the apostles out. When you’re being told to shut up, you don’t speechify at length.

Next up: a big, long speech by martyr Stephen.

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The Lost Early History of Unitarian Christian Theology http://trinities.org/blog/the-lost-early-history-of-unitarian-christian-theology/ http://trinities.org/blog/the-lost-early-history-of-unitarian-christian-theology/#comments Tue, 13 Jun 2017 12:17:25 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=5000

As I’m again working on some of these early catholic unitarians, I thought I’d repost this talk I gave in May of 2013, at the Theological Conference in Atlanta. (Here are the slides if you want to click through them as you listen.) This was just before I started the podcast. The paper moves quickly through some big names of pre-Nicene catholic Christianity. I show that they were to a man unitarians, and not trinitarians, as many would prefer to believe. This has been pointed out in some detail before, in the 17th century, in the 18th century, and again in the 19th century. On the whole, the trinitarian tradition prefers not to hear the detailed case for this. It raises too many uncomfortable questions. This is why they keep forgetting or covering up these facts.

Since this talk I have continued to work in more depth on Tertullian, resulting in this podcast and this published paper.

God willing, a revised version of this talk will be a chapter in a future book.

Many thanks to Sharon and Dan Gill for recording and editing this. See their 21st Century Reformation website for many helpful unitarian Christian resources. You can download the video or audio of this talk there.

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podcast 186 – How to tell whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God – Part 2 http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-186-how-to-tell-whether-christians-and-muslims-worship-the-same-god-part-2/ http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-186-how-to-tell-whether-christians-and-muslims-worship-the-same-god-part-2/#comments Mon, 12 Jun 2017 21:22:16 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=39096 What if the recipe for answering this question supplied by Dr. Bogardus and Ms. Urban last time is correct? Applying their method, what answer to we arrive at? In this episode Dr. Bogardus, Ms. Urban, and I venture beyond the methodology given in their paper, to consider some other relevant facts. Among them,

  • What about converts from one to the other, who insist that they have not switched gods, although they have changed their theology?
  • What about someone with a pet theory about, say, divine providence, who just insists that this is a sine qua non (without which not) condition of referring to God, so that people who don’t agree with that theory literally can’t refer to God?
  • What about the early Christian reaction to Islam, for example in John of Damascus, which assumed co-reference, treating Islamic teaching as a variety of heresy? This clearly presupposes that Christians and Muslims are talking about the same god. Is this relevant to our answer today?
  • What about present-day Christians who still use “Allah” for the Christian God?
  • What about present-day Jews? Aren’t they talking about the same god Christians are talking about?
  • What about the fact, if it is a fact, that when traditions feel threatened, they want to deny that the other guys are talking about their god, whereas when they feel confident, they want to affirm co-reference?
  • About our question, some traditions take a strong position. It seems part of standard Islamic teaching that “Allah” refers to Yahweh, the God of the Jews and the Christians.
  • And since Vatican II, the Catholic Church, arguably, has committed to co-reference. In a 1965 statement, Pope Paul VI said,

    The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God.

    Towards the end, Dr. Bogardus points out that the reference question is one thing and the worship question is another. I think that this is an important point to keep in mind, and I’ve blogged about it before.

One additional thought I had post-conversation: Is it really true that a Catholic philosopher like Dr. Bogardus agrees with everything that Abraham would say about God? I think it may depend on what sort of Trinity theory the former is committed to. Abraham thought of God as a “he,” as a mighty self. So do some trinitarians – what I call “one-self trinitarians.” But others, what I call “three-self trinitarians” and “negative mysterians” disagree. One might also wonder whether Abraham would have believed it impossible for God to be a man (as opposed to appearing in a theophany in human-like form).

Thanks to Dr. Bogardus and Ms. Urban for the good conversations and for their helpful, carefully-argued paper.

Links for this episode:

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http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-186-how-to-tell-whether-christians-and-muslims-worship-the-same-god-part-2/feed/ 4 Applying the methodology... can we answer the question? last time is correct? Applying their method, what answer to we arrive at? In this episode Dr. Bogardus, Ms. Urban, and I venture beyond the methodology given in their paper, to consider some other relevant facts. Among them,

* What about converts from one to the other, who insist that they have not switched gods, although they have changed their theology?
* What about someone with a pet theory about, say, divine providence, who just insists that this is a sine qua non (without which not) condition of referring to God, so that people who don't agree with that theory literally can't refer to God?
* What about the early Christian reaction to Islam, for example in John of Damascus, which assumed co-reference, treating Islamic teaching as a variety of heresy? This clearly presupposes that Christians and Muslims are talking about the same god. Is this relevant to our answer today?
* What about present-day Christians who still use "Allah" for the Christian God?
* What about present-day Jews? Aren't they talking about the same god Christians are talking about?
* What about the fact, if it is a fact, that when traditions feel threatened, they want to deny that the other guys are talking about their god, whereas when they feel confident, they want to affirm co-reference?
* About our question, some traditions take a strong position. It seems part of standard Islamic teaching that "Allah" refers to Yahweh, the God of the Jews and the Christians.
* And since Vatican II, the Catholic Church, arguably, has committed to co-reference. In a 1965 statement, Pope Paul VI said,
The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God.
Towards the end, Dr. Bogardus points out that the reference question is one thing and the worship question is another. I think that this is an important point to keep in mind, and I've blogged about it before.

One additional thought I had post-conversation: Is it really true that a Catholic philosopher like Dr. Bogardus agrees with everything that Abraham would say about God? I think it may depend on what sort of Trinity theory the former is committed to. Abraham thought of God as a "he," as a mighty self. So do some trinitarians - what I call "one-self trinitarians." But others, what I call "three-self trinitarians" and "negative mysterians" disagree. One might also wonder whether Abraham would have believed it impossible for God to be a man (as opposed to appearing in a theophany in human-like form).

Thanks to Dr. Bogardus and Ms. Urban for the good conversations and for their helpful, carefully-argued paper.

Links for this episode:

* Tomas Bogardus’s home page

* “How to Tell Whether Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God” (preprint – forthcoming in Faith and Philosophy)


* podcast 185 – How to tell whether Ch...]]>
Dale Tuggy clean 1:00:19
take an online class with Dale this summer http://trinities.org/blog/take-an-online-class-with-dale-this-summer/ http://trinities.org/blog/take-an-online-class-with-dale-this-summer/#comments Mon, 12 Jun 2017 15:05:17 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=6247 This summer, June 26-July 28, I’m teaching two online courses:

  • Phil 115 Introduction to Philosophy. If you’re a SUNY student, this course should count as Humanities in your general education requirements. Check with your school or with your Philosophy Department if you want to be sure about what it’ll count for; at many places it should transfer as Philosophy credit.
  • INDS 120 World Religions, a historically-oriented survey of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. If you’re a student at a SUNY school, this should count as an Other World Civilizations (aka World History, Non-Western Civilizations) general education course.

To enroll in one or both for college credit, you’ll need to contact this office.

Just want to lurk? The screencast lectures are always free on my YouTube channel. I suggest logging in to YouTube and then subscribing to the channel.

Here’s a sample from each class:

]]> http://trinities.org/blog/take-an-online-class-with-dale-this-summer/feed/ 2 new book: What is the Trinity? http://trinities.org/blog/new-book-what-is-the-trinity/ Sun, 11 Jun 2017 04:01:28 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=39087 On this Trinity Sunday, I’m happy to announce the release of my new book What is the Trinity? Thinking about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

This book aims to bring some clarity to the subject, by explaining several undeniable facts and distinctions. It is intended to be helpful to all Christians, and to promote clear thinking on this subject. I neither hide nor push my views. It focuses not on exegetical arguments, but rather on the ideas which we bring to our reading of the Bible.

Chapters discuss: the fear surrounding this subject, two importantly different uses of the term “Trinity,” the origin of the first trinitarian creed, nailing down the meaning of two key terms ousia (essence, being, substance) and “Person,” different approaches to understanding the Trinity, the relevance of “mystery,” and how it raises questions about the authoritative sources of Christian doctrine.

The book does not try to give you all the answers, but rather seeks to equip you to successfully explore this subject on your own. It is written as clearly as possible, and dozens of footnotes point you towards further information.

My thanks to Daryl Brautigam, Terence Mosher, Ben Nasmith, and Ashley Shetler for their feedback on various drafts of the book.

  • It’s available in paperback now here.
  • For the ebook version, see here.
  • It’ll be on Amazon within a few days.
  • Probably within a week or so there will be an audiobook version which has the full text, but not the footnotes.

If you are qualified and interested in translating this book into another language, such as Chinese, German, Portuguese, Hindi, Arabic, French, Spanish, Polish, etc., please contact me with the form here.

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What is essential to the gospel, according to Luke? Part 3 http://trinities.org/blog/what-is-essential-to-the-gospel-according-to-luke-part-3/ Sat, 10 Jun 2017 10:05:24 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=39077 After Peter’s second sermon the movement has increased to about 5,000 people! (Acts 4:4) The Jewish religious authorities are alarmed, and arrest Peter and John. The next day, they’re questioned. The leadership demands to know:

“By what power or by what name did you do this?”

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus is ‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.’ [Psalm 118:22, cf. Isaiah 24:15, Matthew 21:42] There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”

The leadership wasn’t expecting this message, and doesn’t know what to say, because the healed man is standing right there! But they don’t want this movement to spread – obviously, the majority of them don’t believe that Jesus is the Messiah – so they call Peter and John back in, and order them to desist teaching in the name of Jesus.

But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

I would guess that really, this is Peter talking for both of them; he’s typically the boldest disciple. Surely they’re not talking in unison. Their answer is: sorry, we can’t obey you, because that’d be disobeying God, the God who raised Jesus, the God whose Messiah Jesus was proved to be. Peter and John possess overwhelming, empirical evidence of this. Remember, they saw, heard, and possibly touched the risen Jesus. And they have also seen, felt, and heard the effects of Jesus pouring out God’s spirit on the disciples, as he’d previously promised to do.

The Jewish leadership can’t see how they can punish the two, despite this impunity, so they let them go. End scene.

This is not really a full sermon, but rather a testimony to Jesus in a tense, formal situation. Peter’s not going for the win here (conversion). So this speech adds nothing to our list of points which must be believed to be saved.

Peter does here assert that Jesus is in some sense uniquely the way to salvation, and that even though most of his people reject him, God is making Jesus a sort of foundation for his new work. But these things are said (by Luke) to teach the reader, and (by Peter) to rebuke or pronounce judgment on his fellow Jews who rejected Jesus, and perhaps to invite them, in light of this fulfilled prophecy, to reconsider their rejection. But Luke doesn’t present them here as things which must be believed in order to be saved. We’re still working, then, with this list:

  • The man Jesus is the one God’s Messiah.
  • According to God’s plan, Jesus was unjustly crucified by the Romans.
  • But God has vindicated him as his true Messiah by raising him from the dead.
  • And God has exalted Jesus to his right hand, making him not only Messiah, but also “Lord,” in fulfillment of prophecy.
  • At some future date God will send Jesus back to earth to literally rule it.
  • God has given Jesus his spirit, which Jesus has now poured out on believers.
  • If you repent of your sins, agree to the above, and are baptized into Jesus, you’ll be forgiven, and you too will get the power of God’s spirit.
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McLatchie attacks http://trinities.org/blog/mclatchie-attacks/ http://trinities.org/blog/mclatchie-attacks/#comments Sat, 10 Jun 2017 00:32:05 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=39063 Over at “Answering Muslims” (!) apologist Jonathan McLatchie accuses me of misrepresenting trinitarian theology.

McLatchie and his fellow pugilist Steve Hays keep wanting to change the subject to a topic they more prefer. I have been arguing in an ongoing series of blog posts, that Luke’s representations of gospel sermons seem to show that Luke does not think that belief in a tripersonal God or belief in the two natures of Jesus are not things people must believe in order to be saved. In the two speeches I’ve covered so far (here, and here) these things simply aren’t mentioned, either directly or by implication, and yet people are getting saved by the thousands, Luke reports. This is my topic: what a person must confess to or accept or believe in order to be saved. It’s another question, interesting to be sure, what all the teachings are which a Christian ought to believe, once she’s had full access to the New Testament.

Part of the reason that they want to switch the topic is, evidently, they’re eager to pronounce my damnation. Hence, McLatchie:

One must also make a distinction between a lack of belief as a result of ignorance or immaturity in the faith, and a considered denial of those doctrines. I do not believe it is necessary to believe in the Trinity to be saved. One might hold all sorts of heretical understandings out of ignorance and yet still be saved. A wilful rejection of the Trinity, however, is something else entirely.

I agree with first bolded bit, and seemingly Luke does too. About this last bit, one could say a lot of things about this, but all I’ll say here is, this is part of catholic tradition (e.g. the damnatory clauses of the “Athanasian” creed), but it has no basis whatever in the New Testament. If you disagree, try to find it, please, and report back after your thorough search.

Now I had pointed out that McLatchie claimed to show that Acts (as a whole) is “thoroughly trinitarian.” I pointed out that this is trivially true, if by “trinitarian” all you mean is “having to do with God, his Son, and his spirit.” Any unitarian Christian theology will be “trinitarian” in that sense, as will be Acts, in my view. But if he means the more proper sense, of having to do with a tripersonal God, then he hasn’t shown that.

He now replies, in essence, “Oh yes I have!”

Go ahead and look at it again. He labors to show that Luke implies the divinity of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. But this is consistent with a subordinationist unitarian view like that of Origen or Clarke, who think that the one God just is (is identical to) the Father, whereas the Logos and the Spirit are divine in lesser ways, dependent on God (i.e. by eternal generation and procession). They’ve got three divine persons, but no triune God – God is the greatest of the divine persons, is one way to put it. What McLatchie needs is any hint from Luke that these are “Persons” within the one God. But he never gets there. He just argues that Luke implies their divinity, then declares victory. Perhaps he just can’t imagine any other explanation than his own Trinity theory?

McLatchie says, “Tuggy just doesn’t get it.” That’s right. I don’t see that he’s shown Luke’s theology to be trinitarian.

At one point he says that Luke implies that the Holy Spirit is “identified as God Himself” – although, I think that may be a slip on his part, as I’ll explain below.

About McLatchie’s fulfillment fallacy, I analyzed him as arguing thusly:

  1. In Joel 2 Yahweh (truly) promises to pour our his spirit on all flesh.
  2. In Acts 2 Peter (truly) says that Jesus poured out God’s spirit on all flesh.
  3. Therefore, Yahweh is Jesus (and vice-versa).   (1,2)

Of course, 1 and 2 fail to imply 3. The argument is invalid. He changes this analysis to,

  1. A causes B.
  2. C causes B.
  3. Therefore, A is C.

Which is, he agrees, also invalid. His idea is that A would be Yahweh, C would be Jesus, and B would be “all flesh” getting God’s spirit. Right, 3 doesn’t follow from 1 & 2. One effect can have two different causes. But he complains that neither of these show his reasoning. So, he takes another crack at it:

Rather, the argument is that, according to Peter in Acts 2, God promised through the Prophet Joel that God, YHWH, would pour out His Spirit on all flesh. Moreover, according to Peter in Acts 2, this promise from the book of Joel has been fulfilled since Jesus has poured out the Spirit as prophesied. Thus, I would argue that Peter is identifying Jesus as YHWH.

Well, this is just my original analysis! Here’s putting it differently. Let Px mean “x pours out God’s spirit on all flesh,” and use g for God and j for Jesus. (Since we’re both assuming that the prophecy and the report by Luke are true, we can leave those bits out.) We have then this argument:

  1. Pg
  2. Pj
  3. g = j

which is clearly invalid. One could make it valid by adding a premise, but I’ll sit back and see if he wants to do that. It’s his argument. Because of what he goes on to say below, perhaps (despite what he’s just said), he doesn’t mean 3 to be the conclusion.

But in any case, what he has done nothing to rule out, is that God could be pouring his spirit out through the man Jesus, thus fulfilling the prophecy about his (Yahweh’s) own action. The prophecy didn’t say that God would not be acting through anyone.

Next, we get this:

Tuggy goes on to commit a massive blunder, which shows that Tuggy lacks the expertise in Trinitarian beliefs to be speaking publicly about the issue.

This punk move is not befitting a Christian apologist. Feel free to Google my C.V., if you want to see whether I have any expertise in this area.

At any rate, what’s my “massive blunder”? It was thinking that Mr. McLatchie had really identified Jesus with God. (See, e.g. his language above!) I pointed out that the claim that Jesus and God are numerically identical

…is incompatible with every Christian’s belief that there are differences between God and Jesus. It’s not even a conclusion which a trinitarian should want! …Amazingly, Mr. McLatchie celebrates having (he thinks) proved the numerical identity of Yahweh and Jesus, and then immediately mentions that they qualitatively differ!

Hence, his complaint:
Tuggy has thus fundamentally misrepresented Trinitarian beliefs. What Trinitarian believes that Jesus is the Father? Indeed, every Trinitarian believes the Father and Son are distinctive personalities. The Father is not the Son, and nor is the Son the Father. Nonetheless, the three distinct persons of the Father, Son and Spirit fully participate in and share the fullness of the divine essence.

“Personalities”? This suggests that he’s a one-self trinitarian. So does his statement about the Spirit being “God himself” i.e. a way the one divine self is. Or is it “persons”? Unclear whether he’s on the three-self or the one-self side, within the trinitarian camp. Anyway, notice his assumption that trinitarians have some one theology. That ain’t so! Yes some do clearly imply the identity of Father and Son. They do it like this,

  1. f = g
  2. s = g
  3. Therefore, f = s.

This is a valid argument; 1 & 2 imply 3. (This is uncontroversially provable, but we’ll save that for another time.) Many seem to commit to 1 & 2. Well, whether they own up to it or not, they’re committed to 3, even if they explicitly deny 3! This is what confusion looks like.

Now why would I think that Mr. McLatchie was committed to 3? Because he makes arguments similar to these. And: “Peter is identifying Jesus as YHWH.” Perhaps he meant to say that Peter is asserting the divinity of Jesus?

Tuggy makes the mistake of assuming that Trinitarians believe that God is Jesus. Such a statement, however, is in error. It is correct and proper to say that Jesus is God, but it is not correct for us to assert that God is Jesus. While the Son possesses all of the divine attributes, prerogatives and qualities that make God God, He does not exhaust all that God is — there is also the Father and the Spirit.

Because of the part I bolded, this relation between Jesus and God can’t be identity; he ought not say that. Identity is by definition symmetrical – if x = y, the always also, y = x. So he’s saying that each of the Three is divine, not that any just is God. I get it. It flatly contradicts clear and consistent NT teaching on the Father, but I’ll let that pass for now. A trinitarian, to be self-consistent, must only identify the Trinity, and nothing else, with the one God.

In much of my published work, dating back to 2003, I’ve discussed the falsity of his assumption that trinitarians have some one theological position. But even in the exchanges this week between me, him, and the lovable Mr. Hays, we see trinitarian diversity. Here again are the first three steps to my challenge to “Jesus is God” apologists.

  1. God and Jesus differ.
  2. Things which differ are two (i.e. are not numerically identical).
  3. Therefore, God and Jesus are two (not numerically identical). (1, 2)

Mr. McLatchie seems to be accepting 1 and 2. And thus, he accepts 3, as a trinitarian should. If so, then he is not part of that confused camp of what I call “Jesus is God apologists,” who constantly deny 3, and who generally try to avoid discussing 1 & 2. But his friend Steve Hays is in that camp! Hays, seeing that 1-3 are a valid argument, and agreeing (as he should) with 1, has been denying 2. Not a good move, to be sure. Why does he want to avoid being forced to accept 3? Because he seems to think that a Christian must hold God and Jesus to be one and the same! In sum, McLatchie, if I understand him, concedes that this 1-3 is sound, while Hays hotly denies it. Not a good move if you’re trying to stick with the truth. A Christian really can’t deny either 1 or 2, and so should learn to live with 3. Mr. McLatchie, at least in his better moments, has. But Hays has not. Yet they both count as trinitarians.

I don’t make too much of this sort of disagreement. It’s not like there is no true Trinity doctrine just because some trinitarians disagree on what it is supposed to be. However, perhaps both these gents should dial back their confidence just a notch. Perhaps they ought to have a friendly argument with one another about 1-3. Sound, or unsound?

Revisit his fulfillment fallacy now. Despite his identity-talk, Mr. McLatchie must really mean to argue something like this:

1. In Joel 2 Yahweh (truly) promises to pour our his spirit on all flesh.
2. In Acts 2 Peter (truly) says that Jesus poured out God’s spirit on all flesh.
3. Therefore, Jesus is a divine Person within Yahweh   (1,2)

Sorry, still invalid! 1 and 2 can be true while 3 is false, in the case that Jesus is a man (only), and after he’s been exalted, God, though this man, pours out his spirit. If  he’d like to have another crack at an argument, we’ll toss this one aside and evaluate the new one, but so far, Mr. McLatchie is not making a plausible argument.

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Hays’s self-inflicted dental injury http://trinities.org/blog/hayss-self-inflicted-dental-injury/ http://trinities.org/blog/hayss-self-inflicted-dental-injury/#comments Thu, 08 Jun 2017 19:47:29 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=39049 Apologist Steve Hays tries to go Tasmanian Devil on my backside, in defense of apologist Jonathan McLatchie.

His little teeth can’t seem to find it, though. It’s so off-the-cuff that much of it is irrelevant.

Hays ignores my central point against McClatchie, by the way, which was pointing out his use of the equivocal term “trinitarian.” I guess that makes sense, though, as it was not a refutable point!

I had been arguing that Luke, as far as Acts 2 goes, seems not to think that belief in the Trinity or belief in the Incarnation are required for salvation. His summary of Peter’s sermon just has no trace of such claims. But the people respond to what he does say, and are saved. In urging the contrary, McLatchie had opined that Luke in Acts couldn’t be expected to use later, technical language for the Trinity.

Well, sure! I said,

The use of “philosophical categories” (i.e. terms) is irrelevant. I would count it here if in any way, the tripersonal God were mentioned as such, or the “deity of Christ” or the two natures of Jesus were taught. The terms needn’t have time-traveled back from Constantinople (381) or Chalcedon (451). Any sort of explicit statement or clear implication would do.

Hays: That’s the tactic of framing an issue to the advantage of your own position. Why require an “explicit statement”? “Clear implication” in reference to what?

Oddly, Hays jumps up and objects, as if the idea of a clear implication was in any way controversial. It is just a conclusion that any competent reader, in that place and time, would draw from what was said. But he can’t stop himself from charging that, somehow, I’m playing dirty here, with my tricky “framing.”

I then said,

Next, McLatchie serves up an example of the fulfillment fallacy.

And I didn’t just say this, I gave an analysis of the argument, which is obviously invalid. An invalid argument is what a (formal) fallacy is. There are only two ways to refute this.

  • McLatchie could say, “Actually, that argument is valid.” And then he’d have to show this, that is, how the premises, if true, would imply the truth of the conclusion. That won’t work here though; it just is invalid.
  • The other way would be to argue: “That’s invalid, but it’s not my argument. My argument is this, which is valid.” And then you proceed to give a valid argument.

Seemingly unable to do either, Hays ignores the argument in question, and cries “foul.”

i) Here Dale resorts to well-poisoning tactic by inventing a prejudicial label which he slaps onto Trinitarian hermeneutics.

Yawn. It’s no use to glorify an invalid argument with the label “Trinitarian hermeneutic.”

Then, overconfidently, Hays states that he’s already well refuted my dastardly objection.

ii) In addition, Dale is appealing to his refuted arguments:

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2017/03/the-jesus-as-yahweh-heresy.html

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2017/03/jesus-is-one-yahweh.html

I’m sure we’ll all rush over there and see how Hays shows that this argument is valid, or that this is not the form of reasoning in question. Again,

  1. In Joel 2 Yahweh (truly) promises to pour our his spirit on all flesh.
  2. In Acts 2 Peter (truly) says that Jesus poured out God’s spirit on all flesh.
  3. Therefore, Yahweh is Jesus (and vice-versa).   (1,2)

Next, I pointed out that McLatchie incoherently asserts both that Jesus and God are numerically one, and that they nonetheless differ.

Amazingly, Mr. McLatchie celebrates having (he thinks) proved the numerical identity of Yahweh and Jesus, and then immediately mentions that they qualitatively differ!…Right Jesus received the spirit from the Father. (Acts 2:33) The Father didn’t receive his spirit from anyone. It follows that they are numerically two. Mr. McLatchie needs to learn this self-evident truth, the indiscernibility of identicals, and then theologize (and interpret scripture) accordingly.

Here, Hays gets philosophical:
ii) The indiscernibility of identicals isn’t Dale’s starting-point. For instance, Dale believes in the reality of change. He takes that as his standard of comparison. Yet change makes something different. So is it the same thing?

That forces Dale to weaken the indiscernibility of identicals to make room for his common sense belief that personal identity is consistent with change.

If you want an example of a philosopher who takes the indiscernibility of identicals as his standard of comparison, consider McTaggart. He denies the reality of time because he takes the indiscernibility of identicals as his starting-point and standard of comparison. Dale does the opposite.

Ironically, Dale is, in that respect, using the same methodology as Trinitarians. Our understanding of reality conditions our metaphysical commitments.

It is true that by the “indiscernibility of identicals” many philosophers and logicians mean a purely formal principle, which is stated with a background presupposition that all truths are timeless, so it mentions nothing about the same time or eternity. But I’ve been pretty clear about what I mean by the term. I don’t know what he means here by “starting point,” nor do I see any “irony” here. Generally, when Hays, in interacting with me, starts riffing on the metaphysics of time or personal identity, it is because he wants to deny this:

Things which differ are two (i.e. are not numerically identical)

which is premise 2 in this argument, an argument to which McClatchie and Hays seem to lack any good reply. To put it differently, nothing can, either at one time or in eternity, be and not be some way. Ridiculously, Hays denies this. Why? Because his confused, pop-evangelical theology says that Jesus just is God and vice-versa. And yet all Christians think, on scriptural grounds, that God and Jesus have differed. So this self-evident truth, Hays reasons, has got to go!

Epistemically, this is indefensible. The above principle is just as evident to Hays as it is to me. It has the same epistemic status as countless other principles he’d insist on, like the validity of modus ponens. He employs it all the time without realizing it. It’s probably unfortunate for him that he heard it from me. If he’d heard it from someone on his theological team, his head would immediately nob. “Yes, that is obvious.” But coming from me, it just must be the product of some ungodly speculations. It must be, ’cause it helps to make a problem for my obviously-correct theology!

Well, no, it’s not. Basically every one of these worked out Trinity theories is designed to be consistent with the indiscernibility of identicals. That’s because these philosophers (with the exception of the logically idiosyncratic Geach) see that it is self-evident that if some x and some y actually differ (or have differed, or will differ, or even just could differ) that it is false that x = y. Understanding this is just part of understanding our concept of (numerical) identity. Many times, a philosopher will explain identity as that relation which necessarily: is reflexive, transitive, and symmetrical, and which forces absolute indiscernibility.

A better trained and more cool-headed Reformed thinker, like Dr. James Anderson, who is used to separating the obvious from the controversial, looks this (premise 2) and says to himself, “Yes, that’s right. If I’m going to object, I’m going to look elsewhere in the argument.” He proceeds to give a motivation for denying another premise – a response which is to the point.

Put the teeth away, Steve Hays. You’re only breaking them on this iron-solid truth. Reason is our friend, and we shouldn’t bite her. We need her to do theology and apologetics. She’s God’s good gift to us.

A piece of advice for consumers of apologetics out there: if you’re reading an apologist and he routinely scoffs at a self-evident truth, or routinely tries to knaw on the messenger who pointed it out, move on. You’re just dealing with a passionate partisan on behalf of pet theories, a brawler. A brawler can be fun to watch, I know. But the “wisdom from above” knows when to yield (James 3:17), and won’t come on like this:

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What is essential to the gospel, according to Luke? Part 2 http://trinities.org/blog/what-is-essential-to-the-gospel-according-to-luke-part-2/ Thu, 08 Jun 2017 09:51:15 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=39027 Last time, we saw Peter’s first spirit-empowered sermon, on the day of Pentecost. Now, Peter’s next recorded sermon, in Acts 3. Again, the occasion is a miracle. Peter heals a crippled man “in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.” This draws a crowd. Time for a sermon! (Acts 3:11-26)

Let’s see if it adds anything to the essential points we looked at last time. That is, what must be accepted and/or done in order to make this deal, to enter into this new covenant?

While [the healed man] clung to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s Portico, utterly astonished. When Peter saw it, he addressed the people, “You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him.  But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you.

“And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah appointed for you, that is, Jesus, who must remain in heaven until the time of universal restoration that God announced long ago through his holy prophets. Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you from your own people a prophet like me. You must listen to whatever he tells you. And it will be that everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be utterly rooted out of the people.’ And all the prophets, as many as have spoken, from Samuel and those after him, also predicted these days. You are the descendants of the prophets and of the covenant that God gave to your ancestors, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your descendants all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you, to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”

As before, there is a threat of divine judgment which is specific to this generation of Jews. But as to what must be accepted or confessed by anyone who wants to make this deal, there is little here that was not implicit in the message before. Our (the Jews’s) god, the god, God, has raised Jesus from the dead, proving that he (God) really was with him (Jesus). Notably, he twice characterizes Jesus as God’s servant. But that’s what the obedient Messiah of the gospels obviously is. And now he’s a prophet like Moses, who must be obeyed. Sure, the Messiah is a prophet, though a unique one, to put it mildly.

Peter doesn’t sound much like a contemporary Jesus-is-God-apologist, does he? Some of them would probably accuse him of sounding like a Muslim!

It is striking that he calls Jesus “the Author of life.” Eternal life, I assume. He’s the one who can tell you how to get it. (Luke 10:25-28) Jesus as the source of our eternal life is certainly a much bigger theme in John. Not because he’s God, of course, but rather because God has empowered him to be a source of eternal life. “For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself…” (John 5:26) Jesus has been made the “Author” (other translators suggest instead “Originator,” “Founder,” “Founding Leader,” “Source,” or “Prince”) of life.

What you must do, again, is repent, to turn away from your sin and towards God, of course accepting Jesus as God’s Messiah. This will result in your being forgiven.

Part of the Messiah’s job description is made more clear: he’s coming back! He won’t stay in heaven forever. But, this was implicit in the first sermon, where Jesus is said to be the fulfillment of Ps 110:1, where the Lord (i.e. Yahweh) says to this other “Lord”: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” When those enemies are footstooled, this man, the Messiah, will be in charge, literally, of the earth. This is, eventually, part of what it is for God to make Jesus “Lord.” He’s being put in charge!

That is incredibly exciting. Our governments so far have enjoyed only limited success. Each has good points, but we always, always manage to foul things up. We have come nowhere close to actualizing the Kingdom of God on the earth. But Jesus, by God’s power, fulfilling his eternal plan, is actually going to pull it off! Democracy, and all the other forms of government, will give way to the monarchy of the Messiah. We know from elsewhere that this is in fulfillment of Daniel 7, where God awards “one like a human being” with “dominion, and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages, should serve him.” (Daniel 7:14) And this in perpetuity. (7:15) He’s the King of the Jews, yes (Luke 23:38), but he’s also been made the Lord to whom every knee must bow, to the glory of God. (Philippians 2:9-11)

Meet the new boss. Not the same as the old boss.

What must you do? Repent. Turn to God. This time Luke doesn’t mention being baptized. That’s OK though – he mentioned it in the previous chapter, and will again.

What must you accept or believe? We can slightly amend our list from before:

  • The man Jesus is the one God’s Messiah.
  • According to God’s plan, Jesus was unjustly crucified by the Romans.
  • But God has vindicated him as his true Messiah by raising him from the dead.
  • And God has exalted Jesus to his right hand, making him not only Messiah, but also “Lord,” in fulfillment of prophecy.
  • At some future date God will send Jesus back to earth to literally rule it.
  • God has given Jesus his spirit, which Jesus has now poured out on believers.
  • If you repent of your sins, agree to the above, and are baptized into Jesus, you’ll be forgiven, and you too will get the power of God’s spirit.

Great message! This is what all true Christians preach and believe. And it’s very simple. Again, in can be summarized as: Jesus is God’s Messiah. Which, coincidentally, is the thesis statement of each of the four NT gospels. (Matthew 16:16, Mark 8:29, Luke 9:20, John 20:31) This first-century apostolic crowd, they have a single core message, despite their different emphases, styles, and so on. Here, you’ve just seen Peter preaching that message twice, c. 30 A.D.

Zero mentions, so far, of the tripersonal God, Jesus as God-in-the-flesh, or of his “two natures.” Is Peter incompetent to preach the gospel? Or is he just what he sounds like here, a unitarian Christian who holds to a “mere man” understanding of the man Jesus, or more positively, a “Spirit Christology.” Peter seems to think that Jesus didn’t do miracles, or rise up from the dead because he’s divine. Rather, God has empowered Jesus by his spirit, working miraculous deeds through he, to testify to him.

For Luke, and if you trust his summary, for Peter, Jesus isn’t God. Instead, he’s God’s special servant, a prophet, but more than that, a Messiah, with the astounding job description above.  Peter (or Luke) says he’s a man, and does not anxiously clarify that he’s also divine, so not a “mere” man. They don’t seem to thing that there’s anything “mere” about this man who’s been exalted to the right hand of the Almighty.

So far, Luke’s been pretty consistent in what this core message is. But he’s got more sermon-summaries for us. Perhaps he’s saving some theological goodies for later. Start with milk, till they’re ready for meat?

Next time, Peter and John have to face the Jewish religious authorities. Will they change their tune? Will they now reveal that to be saved one must believe in the Trinity or the Incarnation? That Jesus always existed, and that he created the cosmos? How about that only a divine victim can atone for the sins of humanity, or an Augustinian-Calvinist doctrine of grace? How about an account of divine providence, like Arminianism or Molinism? Divine timelessness? Simplicity? Isn’t Luke interested in these things?

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McLatchie argues that Acts is “trinitarian” http://trinities.org/blog/mclatchie-argues-that-acts-is-trinitarian/ http://trinities.org/blog/mclatchie-argues-that-acts-is-trinitarian/#comments Wed, 07 Jun 2017 18:47:11 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=39039 Over at the “Answering Muslims” blog, evangelical apologist Jonathan McLatchie tries his hand at refuting part 1 of of my series on Luke on what’s essential to the gospel.

Unfortunately, it is not well-argued.

Tuggy’s argument fails for a number of reasons. For one thing, Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 also makes no mention of Christ’s death being an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Extending Tuggy’s logic further, therefore, would require also abandoning that doctrine as definitional to the gospel.

I assume he means here something like a substitutional theory of atonement. That’s right, I don’t think anyone has to believe that in order to be saved. A person doesn’t have to believe any developed theory about the mechanics of forgiveness, i.e. a theological atonement theory, in order to be saved. That is as it should be. All Peter tells them in Acts 2, is if they repent and get baptized, they’ll be forgiven.

The second problem is that, while Peter’s sermon (being addressed to a Jewish audience) does not use the philosophical categories that would be developed later to convey the idea of the Trinity, Peter’s sermon is thoroughly Trinitarian.

Here Mr. McLatchie introduces a red herring, a distraction. The use of “philosophical categories” (i.e. terms) is irrelevant. I would count it here if in any way, the tripersonal God were mentioned as such, or the “deity of Christ” or the two natures of Jesus were taught. The terms needn’t have time-traveled back from Constantinople (381) or Chalcedon (451). Any sort of explicit statement or clear implication would do.

Unfortunately, Mr. McLatchie also introduces a weasel word here, on which the rest of his piece depends: “trinitarian.”

  • If this means “having to do with the Trinity,” i.e. the tripersonal God, then there is no shred of evidence that what Luke is doing here is trinitarian, nor does my opponent provide any.
  • If “trinitarian” means just “having to do with the Father, Son, and Spirit” (this triad, however they’re related to one another), then of course all of Acts is “trinitarian.” But this is a trivial point. Any unitarian’s theology will also be thorough “trinitarian” in this loose way of using the word.

He asserts that Peter’s first sermon here is thoroughly “trinitarian.” In the first sense, this is patently false. In the second sense, it is obviously true. This is how weasel-words work. The hope is that you’ll agree to the obvious truth, and then not notice when we switch to the (at best) controversial claim. In my new book, I have a whole chapter on these two uses of “Trinity” and “trinitarian” and the confusion these cause. I suggest there that we call the first (the triune God of catholic orthodoxy) the Trinity and the second (those three, however understood) the triad. Historically, the second use of “Trinity” preceded the first by about two hundred years!

Next, McLatchie serves up an example of the fulfillment fallacy. The argument is:

  1. In Joel 2 Yahweh (truly) promises to pour our his spirit on all flesh.
  2. In Acts 2 Peter (truly) says that Jesus poured out God’s spirit on all flesh.
  3. Therefore, Yahweh is Jesus (and vice-versa).   (1,2)

Note the vast gap between 1 and 2 and the conclusion 3. The argument is invalid; 3 doesn’t follow from 1 and 2. 1 and 2 could be true while 3 is false in this way: Yahweh pours out his spirit through (the risen and exalted) Jesus. 1 and 2 are merely compatible with the identity of God and Jesus (claim 3). But 1 and 2 do nothing to support 3.

Worse, 3 is incompatible with every Christian’s belief that there are differences between God and Jesus. It’s not even a conclusion which a trinitarian should want! Do you see why?

Amazingly, Mr. McLatchie celebrates having (he thinks) proved the numerical identity of Yahweh and Jesus, and then immediately mentions that they qualitatively differ!

Thus, the one who has poured out the Spirit, according to Peter, is Jesus Himself! Peter thus has identified Jesus as none other than Yahweh. Jesus, moreover, is clearly distinct from the Father, since Peter says that He has “received from the Father.”

Right Jesus received the spirit from the Father. (Acts 2:33) The Father didn’t receive his spirit from anyone. It follows that they are numerically two. Mr. McLatchie needs to learn this self-evident truth, the indiscernibility of identicals, and then theologize (and interpret scripture) accordingly.

He follows with another fulfillment fallacy; these are all the rage these days in the evangelical apologetics crowd, despite how obviously wrong-headed they are.

Thus, while Peter has quoted Joel as saying that all who call upon the name of Yahweh will be saved, he goes on to instruct the people to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

But of course, in this new covenant, you return to God, you get reconciled to God through Jesus. This doesn’t imply that God just is Jesus, and vice-versa. Rather, the whole scheme presupposes that God and Jesus are two, since the man Jesus is a mediator (1 Timothy 2:5) between us and God, functioning like a high priest (Hebrews).

Let’s step back and look and what our apologist is doing. No one in Acts 2 draws the conclusion that Jesus is God – not Peter, not anyone in his audience, not the narrator – no one. But Mr. McLatchie is arguing that surely, this is what Luke is asserting. He is urging a hidden message, an esoteric message, which can be ferreted out by clever arguments, but which is never said or clearly implied in the book.

Sorry, man, you’re just reading your evangelical tradition into the text. Your method of reasoning, the fulfillment fallacy, is demonstrably fallacious, and as I’ve shown elsewhere, if consistently applied would lead to silly New Testament interpretations.

Mr. McLatchie then expends quite a few words trying to derive “the deity of the Holy Spirit” from Acts as a whole. But that’s not to the point. The personality and “deity” of God’s spirit is no part of the content of Peter’s message in Acts 2, which is what my post was about. As I continue my series, I’ll see what else Luke seems to put forth as essential to being saved, and whether these traditional claims about the Holy Spirit figure in.

Finally, though, we should note that you don’t show that an author is trinitarian merely by showing that he believes these three to be divine: Father, Son, Spirit. Plenty of unitarians have believed that, famously John Biddle and Samuel Clarke, to pass over many ancient examples. They just identify Yahweh, the one true God, with the Father alone, the Son and Spirit being divine in lesser senses. To be a trinitarian, you must have those three being equally divine, and you must identify the one God with the Trinity, so that those three are some sense “in” God.

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What is essential to the gospel, according to Luke? Part 1 http://trinities.org/blog/what-is-essential-to-the-gospel-according-to-luke-part-1/ http://trinities.org/blog/what-is-essential-to-the-gospel-according-to-luke-part-1/#comments Tue, 06 Jun 2017 21:24:01 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=39017 One who “accepts the Gospel” is making a deal, a deal with God, through Jesus. They are entering into a new covenant. Whatever the minimum is that you have to accept, to confess, to get this deal, this can’t later be changed, especially by the likes of you and me. We did not set the terms of this deal; we only gladly announce it and invite others to enter in.

Some, following the traditions of Luther and Calvin, etc., will insist that “the deity of Christ,” the Trinity, or the “two natures” of Christ are essential points. Well, if they are essential, then you must agree to them to be saved, to enter into the new covenant.

But if you look at their actions, i.e. how they explain the gospel to seekers, (typically) they in fact don’t explain these as essential to the deal. Famously, consider what those who come forward at a Billy Graham meeting would be told (pp. 6-7 here).

No Trinity, no incarnation.

No surprise, if you understand pop-evangelical theology.

But, this seems correct. Assent to those difficult theories is not, cannot be required to make the deal. Some, like me, made it at the age of seven! Most Christians understand this, I think. But in theological arguments, all the partisan passions are aroused, and now people are eager to tighten up the requirements, lest we admit that those heretics ____ might actually be saved. Beware those passions!

Suppose that the Trinity and the two-natures of Jesus are essential to the gospel. This means that if you don’t preach those things, you have not preached the gospel.

Is that true? Let’s consider Luke’s account of Peter’s sermon to the people of Jerusalem on the day God poured out his spirit on the first believers. First, Peter explains the odd phenomena of their speaking in tongues; it is a miracle, not early-morning drinking! Then, the message (Acts 2:22-41):

“You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth,  a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know— this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.”

He then cites David as prophesying the resurrection of the Messiah in Psalm 16:8-11. He continues,

This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ [Psalm 110:1]

Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.

Trinity? No hint of it. Incarnation? Nope – absolutely nothing about it. Two natures of Jesus, that he is not only a man, but is also God? Not there. Jesus as “Godman”? Absent. “A man approved by God”? Sheesh. Peter sounds like some sort of unitarian here!

Is Peter blowing it? Has he lost a golden opportunity here to actually preach the gospel? Surely, Peter is just warming up. He’ll get around to those claims, right? Right?

But his message is already having its impact:

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”

Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”

And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.

In Luke’s telling, they are cut to the chase, they repent and believe, without hearing anything about these alleged “essentials” which Protestant tradition so insists on.

Better to agree with Luke here, than with Calvin and his many disciples. The New Testament must trump later traditions, when they contradict.

Did Luke just edit out all the Trinity and deity of Christ stuff, referring to it as “many other arguments“? Very doubtful! In the context, the other arguments would seem to be other alleged fulfilled prophesies, in addition to the few which Luke relates. (Compare with Apollos later: Acts 18:24-28.) Luke has evidently told us what he thinks is essential to the deal.

Here’s my summary of what, it seems here, you must accept in order to make the deal. Have a left anything out?

  • The man Jesus is God’s Messiah.
  • (In this Jewish context it is assumed that the god in question is the one true God, Yahweh. This would be made explicit in a non-Jewish context. Notice how Luke swaps “God” for “the Father” in verse 32. Yahweh just is the Father, and vice-versa.)
  • According to God’s plan, Jesus was unjustly crucified by the Romans.
  • But God has vindicated him as his true Messiah by raising him from the dead.
  • And God has exalted Jesus to his right hand, making him not only Messiah, but also “Lord,” in fulfillment of prophecy.
  • God has given Jesus his spirit, which Jesus has now poured out on believers.
  • If you repent of your sins, agree to the above, and are baptized into Jesus, you’ll be forgiven, and you too will get the power of God’s spirit.

If we pack the last five points into the Messiah job description, it can be boiled down to this: Jesus really is God’s Messiah. A simple message, with no metaphysical madness. You can preach this to a third-grader, and she can be saved. I can tell you that first hand, as can countless others. You can also preach it to the senile, the slow, the uneducated, and probably in many cases to the mentally handicapped.

Isn’t that awesome? That is GOOD NEWS. What a relief, that we can justifiably skip the agonies of the “Athanasian” creed when sharing the good news.

But let’s follow through; Luke gives us other example sermons. Perhaps he’s only told us part of what’s essential here in this one. After all, he wrote a whole book (Acts) about the early spread of the gospel.

Next time, a second sermon by Peter.

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podcast 185 – How to tell whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God – Part 1 http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-185-how-to-tell-whether-christians-and-muslims-worship-the-same-god-part-1/ http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-185-how-to-tell-whether-christians-and-muslims-worship-the-same-god-part-1/#comments Tue, 06 Jun 2017 00:05:52 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=39005 Dr. Tomas Bogardus and his student Mallorie Urban have a paper forthcoming in Faith and Philosophy entitled “How to Tell Whether Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God.” In this episode I discuss this fascinating and I think helpful paper with both authors.

Terms and names can shift reference over time, from one reality to another, or from one reality to nothing at all! As is well known, before the life of Muhammad, Arabic-speaking Christians called God Allah, the grammatical equivalent of the Greek ho theos (“God,” literally, “the god”) in the New Testament.  But should a Christian say that there has been a reference shift in terms like “God” and “Allah,” so that when Muslims nowadays use them they don’t refer to God? And turning the question around, should a Muslim think that Christians have so saddled the word “God” with misinformation that they are no longer referring to the one who is (in their view) the God of Abraham, Moses, and Muhammad?

Dr. Bogardus and Ms. Urban help us to think about reference shifting using the real-life, non-theological cases of “St. Nicholas” and “Madagascar,” using insights from the work of Gareth Evans (1946-80). They give us a sort of recipe for answering this question, a method which goes beyond just saying the answer which your own social group demands of you.

Is it a correct recipe? If you tried it, what result did you get?

Links for this episode:

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http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-185-how-to-tell-whether-christians-and-muslims-worship-the-same-god-part-1/feed/ 1 Two philosophers give us a sort of recipe for answering this question.
Terms and names can shift reference over time, from one reality to another, or from one reality to nothing at all! As is well known, before the life of Muhammad, Arabic-speaking Christians called God Allah, the grammatical equivalent of the Greek ho theos ("God," literally, "the god") in the New Testament.  But should a Christian say that there has been a reference shift in terms like "God" and "Allah," so that when Muslims nowadays use them they don't refer to God? And turning the question around, should a Muslim think that Christians have so saddled the word "God" with misinformation that they are no longer referring to the one who is (in their view) the God of Abraham, Moses, and Muhammad?

Dr. Bogardus and Ms. Urban help us to think about reference shifting using the real-life, non-theological cases of "St. Nicholas" and "Madagascar," using insights from the work of Gareth Evans (1946-80). They give us a sort of recipe for answering this question, a method which goes beyond just saying the answer which your own social group demands of you.

Is it a correct recipe? If you tried it, what result did you get?



Links for this episode:

* Tomas Bogardus's home page

* "How to Tell Whether Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God" (preprint - forthcoming in Faith and Philosophy)
* Virtual colloquium at Prosblogion


* Francis Beckwith
* Michael C. Rea
* Tuggy - the “same god” controversy and Christian commitment – Part 1
* Gareth Evans
* "'Twas the Night Before Christmas"
* Olsen, "The Real St. Nicholas"
* The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross
* Meghan Sullivan, "Semantics for Blasphemy"
* podcast 120 – Do Christians and Muslims worship the same god? Part 1
* This week's thinking music is "The Ombak" by Little Glass Men.
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human nature and Jesus’s pre-human existence http://trinities.org/blog/human-nature-and-jesuss-pre-human-existence/ http://trinities.org/blog/human-nature-and-jesuss-pre-human-existence/#comments Fri, 02 Jun 2017 21:15:07 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38991 This post is in response to a Facebook discussion here. I covered some of these issues a few years back in this series.

Some unitarian Christians believe that Jesus existed before he was a human, while others deny it. Both sides hold that the scriptures teach their position. Some want to strongly insist on their view, suggesting that the other side is openly contradicting the scriptures, or held captive by “philosophy” (e.g. ancient Greek preference for belief in souls or the modern dislike of it). This post is a plea for moderation.

People differ on what it takes to be a real human being. Probably most people in the history of the world have been “dualists.” That is, they hold that it is possible that a human should exist even after the destruction of her body, because there is more to a living human than her body alone – there is also a soul, usually understood as wholly non-physical. There are many reasons why Christians are dualists about human persons. A case can be made that the NT assumes it, and there are various plausible philosophical arguments for dualism and against physicalism/materialism about human beings.

On the other hand, some Christians have accepted a narrative according to which Christian thought “fell” from Hebraic purity into corrupted Hellenism (unwarranted Greek philosophical ideas). These hold that the OT and NT in some sense teach physicalism about human persons, with dualism being a later (2nd c.), foreign import.

How does all of this relate to the alleged “preexistence” of Jesus? All sides agree that Jesus was and is a real man.

The one side holds, because of their physicalism about human beings, that it is impossible that Jesus preexisted. This would require that at time 1, he was wholly non-physical, and at time 2 he is wholly physical. This does seem impossible, given physicalism. And it makes sense for a physicalist to think that a mother and father together cause their offspring to come into existence (for the first time). The parents “generate” their offspring, to use the metaphysical term.

But here’s the catch. It is not self-evident that physicalism about human persons is true. In other words, this is not something which every normal adult who is not in the grip of some ideology should be able to know as true. Nor is it beyond dispute that the NT assumes or asserts physicalism. Still, as my friend Sir Anthony Buzzard points out, one can make a case that the gospel writers assume, or even say that Jesus came into existence, when they describe him as the descendant of previous Jews, and as having been “begotten.” Jews didn’t believe in the pre-human existence of all human beings, right?

But as my other friend Patrick Navas points out, if one is open-minded about dualism, one might also be open-minded about the preexistence of Jesus. Why? If dualism is true, then it is possible (just, seemingly non-contradictory) that you or I might still exist after, say, our body is completely annihilated by a nuclear bomb. And if you might some day exist disembodied, then could you have already existed that way, before your earliest memory?

Billions of eastern peoples have thought so. Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain people, not to mention some ancient Greeks and some New Agers from California, etc., have believed in reincarnation. Now, I don’t believe it, and don’t find arguments for it compelling. But, I don’t think it is self-evidently false. If it were, it would not be so easy for people to take it seriously.

It is important to make this point, though: just because (since dualism is true) it is possible that you should some day exist disembodied, it does not logically follow that it is possible that you should have existed disembodied before your conception. Why? Because if souls exist, it is not obvious where they come from!

  • Some have supposed that God miraculously causes a soul to exist and then attaches it to the fertilized zygote right at conception.
  • Other dualists have thought that souls must just naturally arise at some point in fetal development.
  • Others have supposed that souls just have always existed, and only need to somehow get attached to one body, and then another, as “rebirth” (aka reincarnation, transmigration of souls) occurs.

If the second group here is correct, so that souls naturally are caused to exist by something in the physical processes between conception and birth, and yet there is no reincarnation, then it would seem possible that a human soul might exist disembodied after death, and yet it would seem impossible that you should have existed before your conception.

Here is my point. If dualism is remotely plausible, then it is not obviously a contradiction that the man Jesus should have once only been a soul, but not a man, before his conception in Mary. A dualist will of course agree that Jesus was “begotten,” in a way that means that Mary is truly his mother, while God has taken the place of a human father. God and Mary have caused Jesus to become a man who can be born, but they will hold that he already existed before the action described in Luke 1:35. Some just can’t see any way around certain famous NT passages which to many seem to assert or presuppose his pre-human existence. Therefore: the other sort of unitarians, we who hold that Jesus did not exist before his conception, must gladly tolerate these, and neither say nor hint that they’re not real Christians, not real unitarians, or that they’re somehow too Hellenized. They don’t need to be fans of Greek philosophy to hold such views, and most of them are not. Nor is belief in Jesus’s pre-human existence only a trinitarian idea. To the contrary, some unitarians were saying this in the 100s, while we don’t see any trinitarians at all until the latter 300s. We can of course have a friendly argument about those few “preexistence” passages, and also about the merits of dualism vs. physicalism about human persons. But this must be done without partisan passions poisoning the discussion.

Finally, I will lay my own cards on the table.

  • I do not think that the NT actually assumes or asserts the pre-human existence of Jesus.
  • I do think that it assumes dualism about persons.
  • I am in favor of dualism for both biblical and philosophical reasons. I think there are decent arguments for dualism and against various physicalist theories.
  • I think that humans come to exist some time after the fertilization of a certain human egg in the mother; I don’t know exactly when, but in my view it must be by the time the fetus is conscious in any way.
  • I don’t think we have good evidence for reincarnation, and the Bible everywhere assumes, and occasionally implies its falsity.
  • But I have no grounds on which to scold or exclude unitarians who believe in Jesus’s pre-human existence. I would only invite friendly conversation on the topic. I would make my case, and urge that it be weighed against theirs. Infinitely more important issues are: who God is (the Father) and that Jesus was and is a real human being. These are core NT teachings.
  • It is not a core NT teaching that Jesus never existed before his conception. That he did, or that he did not – neither is an essential part of the gospel.
  • Again, at the end of the day, I’m inclined to think that Jesus would not be a real human if he’d been created before his conception, or if he’d always existed, “eternally generated” by God. But I’d need to engage in philosophical arguments to show this, and a person would be able to resist them without denying the obvious or contradicting himself.

Here’s my point in a nutshell. Consider this scenario: at all times < t, A exists as a bodiless spirit. At time t, A becomes embodied in a human body, which makes A a genuine human being. This is not obviously impossible. Myself, I think it is impossible, but I believe this on the basis of philosophical arguments. (I’ll make those another time.) This impossibility is not something we can know on the basis of common sense and ordinary human reason alone. Thus, I must agree that anyone who thinks this scenario to be possible is not unreasonable like someone who thinks there could be square circle, that two plus two could be someday be five, or that they should exist and not exist at the same time and in the same way. A scripture interpretation which fits well with their view, then, can’t be dismissed on the basis that it assumes something obviously or self-evidently impossible.

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podcast 184 – Where did Jesus say “I am God, worship me”? http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-184-where-did-jesus-say-i-am-god-worship-me/ http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-184-where-did-jesus-say-i-am-god-worship-me/#comments Mon, 22 May 2017 19:31:53 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38968

Muslims often ask this question, as their apologists and imams teach them to ask it. Of course, it’s a good question to ask!

Evangelical apologist Dr. David Wood answers that while Jesus is never reported to explicitly say this, he clearly implies in many places that he is God himself.

In this episode, I critique two presentations by Dr. Wood in which he argues that in many places, Jesus implicitly claims to be God.

Many of Dr. Wood’s arguments take this form:

1. Only God can  X.
2. Jesus can X.
3. Therefore, Jesus = God.

This argument is valid (if 1-2 were true, then 3 would be too), but a glaring problem with it is the total lack of evidence for 1. Also, every such argument, there is a strong counterargument:

4. It is false that Jesus = God.
5. Jesus can X.
6. Therefore, it is false that only God can X.

Notice that the arguments agree in their second premises. But there is, for the Christian, rock-solid evidence for 4 – that the NT teaches differences between Jesus and God, and it is self-evident that nothing can at one time differ from itself. This evidence for 4 outweighs the (non-existent) evidence for 1. Apologists like Dr. Wood merely assert 1, though it is neither self-evident nor supported by Christian scriptures. Also, in most cases there will be a scripture passage which implies the falsity of 1. Finally, because of his theory that Jesus just is God himself, Dr. Wood ignores that the passages he appeals to are plainly assuming the truth of 4 and the falsity of 3.

What can X be? In the New Testament, we see Jesus: forgiving sins, being worshiped, saying that he’ll some day judge the world, and calling himself “the first and the last.” Is he thereby claiming to be God? And does the New Testament agree with the Islamic view that worshiping anyone alongside God would be the serious sin of shirk, of associating another with the one God?

Dr. Wood needs to either embrace the conclusion of the first stage of the Challenge argument, or explain which premise he denies and why:

  1. God and Jesus differ.
  2. Things which differ are two (i.e. are not numerically identical)
  3. Therefore, God and Jesus are two (not numerically identical). (1, 2)

Links for this episode:

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http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-184-where-did-jesus-say-i-am-god-worship-me/feed/ 16 Did Jesus imply that he's God himself?
Evangelical apologist Dr. David Wood answers that while Jesus is never reported to explicitly say this, he clearly implies in many places that he is God himself.

In this episode, I critique two presentations by Dr. Wood in which he argues that in many places, Jesus implicitly claims to be God.

Many of Dr. Wood's arguments take this form:
1. Only God can  X.
2. Jesus can X.
3. Therefore, Jesus = God.
This argument is valid (if 1-2 were true, then 3 would be too), but a glaring problem with it is the total lack of evidence for 1. Also, every such argument, there is a strong counterargument:
4. It is false that Jesus = God.
5. Jesus can X.
6. Therefore, it is false that only God can X.
Notice that the arguments agree in their second premises. But there is, for the Christian, rock-solid evidence for 4 - that the NT teaches differences between Jesus and God, and it is self-evident that nothing can at one time differ from itself. This evidence for 4 outweighs the (non-existent) evidence for 1. Apologists like Dr. Wood merely assert 1, though it is neither self-evident nor supported by Christian scriptures. Also, in most cases there will be a scripture passage which implies the falsity of 1. Finally, because of his theory that Jesus just is God himself, Dr. Wood ignores that the passages he appeals to are plainly assuming the truth of 4 and the falsity of 3.

What can X be? In the New Testament, we see Jesus: forgiving sins, being worshiped, saying that he'll some day judge the world, and calling himself "the first and the last." Is he thereby claiming to be God? And does the New Testament agree with the Islamic view that worshiping anyone alongside God would be the serious sin of shirk, of associating another with the one God?

Dr. Wood needs to either embrace the conclusion of the first stage of the Challenge argument, or explain which premise he denies and why:

* God and Jesus differ.
* Things which differ are two (i.e. are not numerically identical)
* Therefore, God and Jesus are two (not numerically identical). (1, 2)



Links for this episode:

* podcast 183 – Challenge Unmet
* Jesus: The Final Judge
* Where Did Jesus Say, "I Am God, Worship Me"? (David Wood)
* Who Should Christians Worship? (paper)
* proskuneo
* Larry Hurtado on early Christians’ worship of Jesus
* podcast 16 – How is Jesus “the one Lord”?
* podcast 15 – Are Paul’s “one God” and “one Lord” one and the same?
* http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38953 In this episode, I revisit the argument of podcast 124 – a challenge to “Jesus is God” apologists.

I again present the argument as a way to sharpen one’s thinking about God and his Son. It’s neither an anti-trinitarian nor an anti-Christian argument. What it is, is anti-confusing-together-Jesus-and-God.

To date, basically one apologist has given a thoughtful answer to it. He accepts 1-3 as sound, but denies that 4-7 are known to be sound. I discuss this answer from the able Dr. James Anderson, and argue that it is not enough. Despite the speculations of a few philosophers, I urge that if we know that some being is a different being than God, we can conclude that he’s not the same god as God. I present a fanciful story to make this point.

For the first time here I explain how this argument originated, and who has been ignoring it for more than two years and counting. I also call out some others who frequently assert that in the Bible, Jesus is God himself. To the contrary, any Christian must agree that Jesus and God have differed, and so can’t be numerically one being.

Finally, I discuss a number of comments on the earlier podcast blog post.

Links for this episode:

 

]]> http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-183-challenge-unmet/feed/ 6 Apologists have yet to engage with the Challenge podcast 124 – a challenge to “Jesus is God” apologists.

I again present the argument as a way to sharpen one's thinking about God and his Son. It's neither an anti-trinitarian nor an anti-Christian argument. What it is, is anti-confusing-together-Jesus-and-God.

To date, basically one apologist has given a thoughtful answer to it. He accepts 1-3 as sound, but denies that 4-7 are known to be sound. I discuss this answer from the able Dr. James Anderson, and argue that it is not enough. Despite the speculations of a few philosophers, I urge that if we know that some being is a different being than God, we can conclude that he's not the same god as God. I present a fanciful story to make this point.

For the first time here I explain how this argument originated, and who has been ignoring it for more than two years and counting. I also call out some others who frequently assert that in the Bible, Jesus is God himself. To the contrary, any Christian must agree that Jesus and God have differed, and so can't be numerically one being.

Finally, I discuss a number of comments on the earlier podcast blog post.

Links for this episode:

* podcast 124 – a challenge to “Jesus is God” apologists
* "God" in the challenge argument
* why I think you’re identifying Jesus with God
* relative identity trinitarianism
* material constitution
* "Constitution Trinitarianism: An Appraisal" (Preprint.)
* A Brief Response to Tuggy’s Challenge
* On Dr. James Anderson’s “Brief Response” to the Challenge
* Further Thoughts on Tuggy’s Challenge
* a case of progressive revelation
* In the New Testament, Jesus has a god (who is also ours)
* James 3:13-18.
* This week's thinking music is "Open Door" by Little Glass Men.

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why I think you’re identifying Jesus with God http://trinities.org/blog/why-i-think-youre-identifying-jesus-with-god/ http://trinities.org/blog/why-i-think-youre-identifying-jesus-with-god/#comments Thu, 11 May 2017 00:31:40 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38946 Sometimes, trinitarians think that the Son just is God, and that the Father just is God, and yet the Son is different from the Father. But these can’t all be true. In modern logic, we represent the claims as:

  1. s = g
  2. f = g
  3. – (s = f)

If you understand that numerical sameness (=) is symmetrical and transitive, you’ll “see” why these can’t all be true, since any two entail the falsity of the remaining one. But that’s not my point now.

My point is that in the face of this objection some young apologetics enthusiasts will (1) assert that here I’m “assuming unitarianism,” or (2) triumphantly announce that “the Son is God” simply means that the Son is divine, not that the Son and God are numerically identical.

About (1): No, I’m not. I’m only assuming the aforementioned facts about numerical identity, which are taught in any beginning logic course. 1-3 simply are an inconsistent triad, and anyone can know this, irrespective of their theological commitments. About (2): Of course, that is what many trinitarians mean by “Jesus is God.” More on this below.

But why did I think the trinitarian was saying that Jesus just is God (j=g)? Good question! And, it has a good answer. Most likely, I just heard the trinitarian in question argue like this:

1. Only God can forgive sins.

2. Jesus forgave sins.

3. Therefore, Jesus is God.

Never mind that the first premise is false according to the New Testament. Just focus on premise 1. They seem to be using “God” here like a name, a singular referring term which refers to the one God. Notice that 1 makes two claims about God. First, he can forgive sins. Second, only he can; that is, no one else can. Here’s how we analyze a statement like that in standard logic. (This is the right structure – the symbols vary by textbook and are a pain to put in a blog post.)

  1. (x) (Fx -> x = g)
  2. Fj
  3. j = g

In English: 1. For any x whatever, x can forgive sins only if x just is God. 2. Jesus can forgive sins. 3. Jesus just is God. This is an obviously valid argument. In other words, if 1 and 2 are true, then 3 must also be true. That, my friend, is why I hear you identifying Jesus and God. You deployed the concept of numerical sameness / identity in premise 1. And this is why I’m interpreting you as deploying it in the conclusion – because I’m charitably listening to you, trying to hear you as reasoning correctly.

Of course, it is a great mistake for any Christian to agree with 3. But that’s another conversation.

But suppose you then clarify that by “Jesus is God” and “The Father is God” you mean only that each is divine. What about those claims? And what about the “Only God” argument above interpreted as involving only a divine being?

Good questions. And they have good answers. Here’s a redo of our inconsistent triad above:

1. Jesus is divine.

2. The Father is divine.

So far, so good. There are logically consistent; conceivably, they could both be true. But now add:

3. There is only one being which is divine.

It follows that Jesus just is the Father, and vice-versa. But (hopefully) you did not want to imply that! Here’s the triad symbolized:

  1. Dj
  2. Df
  3. (x)(y) ((Dx & Dy) -> x=y)     (For any x and any y, they’re both divine only if the one just is the other.)

This is not an inconsistent triad, as above. Rather, it’s consistent. But these three imply something that any Christian must deny.

Here’s the “only God” argument interpreted as involving only predication, as describing Jesus as divine, rather than identifying him with God.

  1. Only a divine being can forgive sins.
  2. Jesus can forgive sins.
  3. Therefore, Jesus is a divine being.

In logic,

  1. (x)(Fx -> Dx)
  2. Fj
  3. Dj

Again, obviously valid. But again, premise 1 contradicts the New Testament. Thus, the argument is unsound.

Premise 1, contra some of Jesus’s critics, is not even remotely plausible. Why can’t an omnipotent God authorize a non-divine being, even a man, to forgive sins? Even you could authorize another to forgive a wrong on your behalf, or a debt. These are not hard things to do! In case you’re tempted here to agree with Jesus’s Jewish critics, the author of the first gospel helps you out:

Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men. (Matthew 9:8)

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podcast 182 – White’s case for the Trinity – Part 2 http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-182-whites-case-for-the-trinity-part-2/ http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-182-whites-case-for-the-trinity-part-2/#comments Mon, 08 May 2017 17:41:20 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38933 In this episode I finish my review of Dr. Jame’s White’s opening statement in his recent debate with unitarian minister Joe Ventilacion. (Part 1 is here.) At a couple of points point here Dr. White sounds like he’s asserting these three claims:

  1. Son = God
  2. Father = God
  3. not-(Son=Father)

If this is what he’s saying, then he’s peddling nonsense. 1-3 are a demonstrably inconsistent triad. From any two of these, it follows that the remaining one is false. Informally:

  • If Son and Father each just are God (1 & 2), then they must be each other. (not-3)
  • If the Son just is God and is numerically distinct from the Father (1 & 3) then this rules out the Father being numerically one with God (not-2).
  • If the Father just is God (2) and he is numerically distinct from the Son (3), then it must be false that the Son just is God . (not-1)

It is not reasonable to assert 1-3, since according to logic, at least one of them must be false.

But it’s not clear that this is what Dr. White is asserting! He says that the “being” of God, which he oddly uses the name YHWH for, is “shared by” each of the three. But he neither clarifies the meaning of “Persons” in the context of the Trinity, nor does he clarify the term “being.” This prevents him from making an effective case. Until it is clearly stated what “the doctrine of the Trinity” is, how can we see it as obviously following from the New Testament? What is supposed to follow?

At the end of this episode I issue a challenge to Dr. White to publicly debate me one one of these questions:

  • The God of the Bible is the Trinity.
  • According to the Bible, Jesus is God himself.

I claim that a strong case can be made against both of these claims from the Bible and common sense, without assuming unitarianism or any controversial theory of philosophy or theology.

Links for this episode:

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http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-182-whites-case-for-the-trinity-part-2/feed/ 22 Dr. White vs. John on the thesis of the 4th gospel. Part 1 is here.) At a couple of points point here Dr. White sounds like he's asserting these three claims:

* Son = God
* Father = God
* not-(Son=Father)

If this is what he's saying, then he's peddling nonsense. 1-3 are a demonstrably inconsistent triad. From any two of these, it follows that the remaining one is false. Informally:

* If Son and Father each just are God (1 & 2), then they must be each other. (not-3)
* If the Son just is God and is numerically distinct from the Father (1 & 3) then this rules out the Father being numerically one with God (not-2).
* If the Father just is God (2) and he is numerically distinct from the Son (3), then it must be false that the Son just is God . (not-1)

It is not reasonable to assert 1-3, since according to logic, at least one of them must be false.

But it's not clear that this is what Dr. White is asserting! He says that the "being" of God, which he oddly uses the name YHWH for, is "shared by" each of the three. But he neither clarifies the meaning of "Persons" in the context of the Trinity, nor does he clarify the term "being." This prevents him from making an effective case. Until it is clearly stated what "the doctrine of the Trinity" is, how can we see it as obviously following from the New Testament? What is supposed to follow?

At the end of this episode I issue a challenge to Dr. White to publicly debate me one one of these questions:

* The God of the Bible is the Trinity.
* According to the Bible, Jesus is God himself.

I claim that a strong case can be made against both of these claims from the Bible and common sense, without assuming unitarianism or any controversial theory of philosophy or theology.

Links for this episode:

* Dr. James White vs Bro. Joe Ventilacion - Who Is God? - Trinity Debate - Official
* Dr. James White (Contact Form)
* ad hominem fallacy
* Anthony Buzzard, Jesus was not a Trinitarian
* the indiscernibility of identicals
* 10 steps towards getting less confused about the Trinity – #6 get a date – part 1
* trinitarian or unitarian?
* The Lost Early History of Unitarian Christian Theology
* podcast 145 – ‘Tis Mystery All: the Immortal dies!
* Is there a God? Tuggy - Kershnar debate, Fredonia, April 2016
* “Trinity Schminity” by Winterband
* This week's thinking music is "Land Legs," by Andy G. Cohen.
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Dale Tuggy clean 43:20
Hays denies that Jesus died http://trinities.org/blog/hays-denies-that-jesus-died/ Fri, 05 May 2017 08:14:48 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38920 I’m pretty sure that if I said “The sky is blue” Steve Hays would jump up and yell, “No it’s not, you stupid apostate! And what do you even mean by ‘blue’ anyway?”

In response to my claim that for the ancient Jews God is alive,

This is one of Tuggy’s trademark equivocations. That’s his modus operandi.

Hoo haw – yeah, I’m sneaky!

Yes, Bible writers say God is the “living” God. That stands in contract to the idols and nonexistent deities of paganism. But that hardly means “alive” in the sense that alive is an antonym for “dead”, where “alive” and “dead” mean biological life and biological death.

Evidently it’s hard to Steve to grasp that there is a more general concept of life than the more specific concept of biological life. God’s being alive does rule out his being dead. There is no biological claim here. It seems I’ve dazzled him with my super-trickiness:

Tuggy imagines that ancient Jews thought God had life-functions and life-processes? What is that even supposed to mean? A divine metabolism?

Let’s see, what might God’s life consist in? Knowing. Loving. Answering prayers. Upholding the cosmos in existence. Communicating with humans. Providentially arranging things. Got to be alive to do such things. No, these don’t require having, e.g. a large intestine or a stomach.

[Dale:] Nope. What died is Methuselah, the human person. The dier is not at issue; it’s him. Yes, this will understood to have different implications on different views of human persons.

Tuggy is simply reiterating his equivocation. Sure, we can say the decedent is Methuselah. But if we wish to be philosophically precise about what died, that’s specific to his body, and not to Methuselah in every respect.

No, when a human person dies, we don’t only say that. We also think that the human person himself died, and not only his body. This is obvious, and doesn’t need arguing for. Clearly, a theoretical commitment is getting in the way of his seeing this as obvious. That’s a serious danger of theories!

…according to Tuggy’s own definition, the soul didn’t lose all or most of its normal life processes, so if Bob is a composite being, and death involves the separation of soul from body, then it’s philosophically inaccurate to say “Bob died”.

We’re assuming a dualism on which Bob = a certain soul, or else Bob = soul+body but only the soul is essential to Bob. The soul then (aka Bob) did lose most of its normal life processes, which involve the body.

Dale: So contrary to scriptural teaching and common sense, you’re asserting that all humans are always immortal.

there is a sense in which all humans are always immortal. That’s not contrary to scriptural teaching and common sense if we bother to define our terms.

Do tell.

Dale: Sure, even if the soul is immortal, the body may rot and fall apart. But it does not die a human death, the death of a human self – not on dualism, which we’re assuming.

…Tuggy seems to be saying the body doesn’t die a human death (rather than the soul). And what reason is there to accept his denial?

There is only one who died a human death, e.g. when Lincoln died: the man Abraham Lincoln. On dualism, his body is a different thing, if it is a thing. So on dualism, his body did not also die a human death. His cells and organs of course died too; they lose all of their normal life-functions.

Dale: I note in passing that this requires the natures to be concrete beings. Abstracta can neither die nor be alive.
Steve: I already anticipated that objection in my initial response… when I carefully defined my terms: Human nature isn’t something a human being is [i.e. a concrete reality], but has [i.e. an abstract reality].

Instead of realizing that he’s committed to Christ’s “human nature” being both an abstract and a concrete thing (so, not abstract – D’oh!), Hays turns to his habitual abuse:

Is Tuggy too addlebrained to keep track of what I said? If he’s going to interact with my position, is it asking too much to pay attention to what I actually said?

LOL. Yeah, I guess I’m pretty addlebrained. When I’m not being super-tricky.

Dale: “Jesus died” is a claim about Jesus. In effect, the view you’re suggesting is just denying that Jesus died. Not the NT view of course.

Steve: Sure, “Jesus died”. But the question is how to unpack that claim, given substance dualism as well as the hypostatic union. A two-word phrase is hardly exhaustive.

Ye olde switcheroo here. It’s a core claim of the gospel that Jesus died. This is not the weaker claim that “Jesus died” is true. The appeal of this latter is that, it is hoped, it can be true without Jesus having died. Mr. Hayes is, between his cute little fits of abuse, offering a version of the death-substitution strategy.

Finally, Hays face-plants on one of my logical analyses of the triad:

i) All J are D. (All things which are Jesus are things which have died.)

ii) All J are F. (All things which are Jesus are things which are fully divine.)

iii) No F is D. (No thing which is fully divine is a thing which has died.)

(i) is false. All things which are Jesus include his immortal soul and his divine nature. Those things never died. Those things are incapable of dying.

There can be only one thing which “is” Jesus in the sense which is meant. Remember: this was an analysis of “Jesus died.” But it is clear enough, finally, that he’s denying that Jesus died.

(ii) is false. All things which are Jesus include his human body and human soul. Those are not divine.

This is supposed to be an analysis of “Jesus is fully divine” – a claim about just one thing. He wants to read it is “All things which are in some sense parts of Jesus…”  But the sophomoric mistakes keep coming:

“All things” which are Jesus comprise disparate things. Not all of a kind. Neither death nor divinity are true of “all things” that are Jesus, but only some things that are Jesus. A subset of “things” that are Jesus.

In (iii), notice Tuggy’s illicit slide from “all things” to “a thing” (or “no thing”). He abruptly collapses a plurality of things into a singular thing. Tuggy is addicted to systematic equivocations.

Right. I’ll have to watch that. Thanks for the advice.

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Some more replies to the triad http://trinities.org/blog/some-more-replies-to-the-triad/ http://trinities.org/blog/some-more-replies-to-the-triad/#comments Thu, 04 May 2017 08:03:04 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38909 This post is a roundup of some bloggers’ responses to this triad:

  1. Jesus died.
  2. Jesus was fully divine.
  3. No fully divine being has ever died.

Sadly, my response has not taken off. The reason, in my view, is the common over-estimation of the scriptural evidence and arguments for 2.

In his post “The Christological Triad of Dale Tuggy,” James Goetz says,

The Incarnation was a hypostatic union of an uncreated divine nature and a created human nature. The death of Christ was the biological death of Christ while his human spirit and divine nature continued to exist.

Evidently he denies 3. But then, I’d like to know his response to the case I made for 3 from the NT and from reason in the original presentation.

He also complains of the “ambiguities” of my triad. But there aren’t any. By “Jesus,” I’ve explained, I mean the man. I define being “fully divine” as being divine in the way the one God is divine. And by “died” I mean just what we mean when we say a truth like, e.g. “Richard Nixon died.” I’m no Tricky Dick. He’s complaining because it is difficult to translate my straightforward statements into what a creedally-compliant-catholic-Christian ought to say. But this is because of the extreme difficulty of understanding fully-creed-compliant christology, and how this relates to Christ’s apparent death.

At Corby Amos’s “Odd in the Truth,” he doesn’t think there currently is a compelling, orthodox solution.

I’m suggesting it’s time to employ language and concepts that are more effective at communicating and defending the Doctrine of the Trinity at this time in Church history. This is…after all…what the Church Fathers did so well. They spoke into their historical setting with the tools their setting provided. To honor the work of the Church Fathers, is to do precisely what they did.

But sadly, in fact, when some new field does come along to try and do this very thing – like analytic theology – it’s ostracized by many of those in the systematics and patristics fields. It’s smugly labeled as being “novel”.

Dale Tuggy’s trilemma is the least of the Trinitarian’s concerns. It’s merely the tip of the iceberg.

I’m not sure, but I think that he’s assuming that 2 is off the table, that this is just a core teaching of Christianity, rightly understood. If you just deny, that just solves the problem, and we can affirm 1 and 3 as we should. Of course, you’ll face the wrath of the catholic establishment(s). But if you’re goal is NT Christian teaching, 2 really isn’t a part of it, though it is continually projected into the NT. NT writers are quite content with their human Messiah, now raised from the dead and exalted to God’s right hand – and all of this without a divine nature. It’s as if God was with him, or something.

Also, I’m more pessimistic than he is about the project of rational reinterpretations of problematic doctrines. Generally, they turn out to not be the same claims as the ones we think we’re thereby defending. I think that reforming revision is the way to go.

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Christ didn’t die, but only experienced another’s death? http://trinities.org/blog/sanders-christ-didnt-die-only-experienced-anothers-death/ http://trinities.org/blog/sanders-christ-didnt-die-only-experienced-anothers-death/#comments Wed, 03 May 2017 09:53:56 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38894 I’ve been thinking lately about how Christians respond, and how we should respond to this seemingly inconsistent triad of claims:

1. Jesus died.
2. Jesus was fully divine.
3. No fully divine being has ever died.

As we’ve seen over a couple of podcast episodes, some deny 3, and some speechify about two natures (without clearly denying any of the three, or showing how they’re really consistent, or justifying accepting the apparent contradiction).

But I think that a more popular response, at least for the theologically trained, may be what we see in Biola theologian Dr. Fred Sanders’s recent piece. (It’s not a response to any work of mine, but is rather occasioned by Good Friday.) It’s title is God Died on the Cross (earlier version) – a good, punchy title to be sure. It shocks, and so gets the reader’s attention. It suggests that Dr. Sanders’s response to the triad would be denying 3. But reading further, you find that isn’t so!

But first, this distraction: making a dramatic point with a problematic verse.

“God . . . died.” The Bible itself says it that bluntly in a few places, such as Acts 20:28, “God purchased the church with his own blood.”

Well… unless “God” in that verse should be “the Lord” (i.e. Jesus) or the latter portion should be translated “with the blood of his own [Son].” See the NET Bible notes on the textual and translation issues.

Back to theology, Sanders says it is obviously impossible that God should die.

“Divine death”… is probably not even a coherent idea. It seems to belong to the category of “neat tricks you can do with language,” by combining any adjective with any noun: square circle, blue height, quiet toddler, cold heat, divine death.

So he emphatically agrees with 3. But he can’t disagree with 1, right? So, 2 will have to go? Oh no. Perish the thought. It’s out with 1.

“God died” means that God experienced the only kind of death there is to experience, and that is creaturely death. How could that have happened?

Did you notices that little switcheroo? “God died” (i.e. Jesus died) can only mean that he “experienced death,” a kind of death which he could not possibly undergo. This is not a veridical experience; it must be understood as not involving his actually dying. Dr. Sanders then lovingly recounts the language of the council at Chalcedon in 451, and says that

He [i.e. the eternal, divine Logos] made that humanity [i.e. a human nature] his own, and in that appropriated humanity he appropriated real human death. He died the only death there is to die, our death.

His idea seems to be that this “human nature,” a creature, died. (Sidenote: then he was a man, a human self; you have to have a human life to lose a human life.) This death was observed at Calvary. And because of his mysterious, unique union with this thing, the real Christ (the eternal, divine Logos) “appropriated” a real human death – the death of this “human nature.” That is, Christ did not die, but in a sense made this other being’s death count as his own. In other words, he experienced this other one’s death as if it were his (which is was not – God can’t die). In Dr. Sanders’s words,

…the sentence “God died” can also be said in this longer form: “The eternal second person of the Trinity, God the Son, took into personal union with himself, without confusing it, changing it, dividing it or separating it from his eternal divine nature, a complete human nature through which he experienced death.

There was a death there on the cross, but it was not Christ’s. But Christ experienced it, so in that sense, it was “his.”

So “God died” is… a bit misleading. What he’s saying is: “Christ did not die (as God he can’t) but he experienced the death of another to which (whom?) he was closely related.” Or more simply: “Christ had an non-veridical experience as of dying.” Or better yet: “Christ ‘died.'”

Dr. Sanders assures us that

…there is no trickery and no sleight of hand in that expanded paraphrase of “God died.” The longer sentence is what the shorter sentence means, and both sentences are true precisely insofar as they mean each other.

I don’t think there’s any trickery on Dr. Sanders’s part. He uses the paradoxical sentence but immediately explains it. But I do think there would have been deception on the apostle Peter’s part if he had in mind what Dr. Sanders says and yet preached:

[Jesus] was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead

If that’s about all Peter said, though he had in mind something like what Dr. Sanders says above, then Peter would be intentionally deceiving his hearers, because he knew this would cause them to believe that Jesus died. If, on the other hand, Peter thought that Jesus was God, and that Jesus died, then Peter had some pretty messed up theology, with a mortal god at its heart.

Happily, though, the whole context makes pretty clear that Peter thinks God is one being and Jesus is another, and that only the latter died.

I’m with Peter!

It’s easy to see the appeal of what Sanders is imagining here. Suppose you love the whales. You can’t, as a human, die a whale’s death. But suppose you could enter into some sort of “virtual reality” setup that would result in your feeling like whale feels when it is drowning to death. It’d not be a fun experience! You imagine doing this in order to show your sympathy for the whales. Better yet: imagine that we can tie our virtual reality into the brain of a whale, call him Blubber. This transmits his experiences to you, so that you experience them first person. Then, this whales loses strength and drowns to death. You have just experienced the death of Blubber! This may express your solidarity with the whales, and give you a feeling of closeness to Blubber and to his kin. You have made a sort of sacrifice, of your time, and your comfort, for the cause.

It’s not the same, though, as giving your own life (dying) to save the whales!

In general, I think the strategy Sanders displays is this. Deny 1, but loudly affirm that “Jesus died” or that “God died,” to distract from the fact that you deny those. The distraction is needed, as denying that Jesus died grates on Christian ears, and rightly so. Generally also, though, you suggest a death-substitute for Jesus. “Jesus died” is true because Jesus underwent this death-substitute. It needn’t be the experience of death, as Sanders has it. It could just be: having a nature which died. I’ve seen other suggest: suffer the division of his soul and body (those comprising the human nature which he has assumed).

Three observations about this. This distraction, I suppose, will always be needed, outside a very select crowd. Most Christians take the New Testament claims here at face-value, and hold that Jesus died. You’ll never have wide buy-in to any of the death-substitutes suggested. Second, this will wreak havoc with atonement. No literal death, no literal sacrifice. Only the appearance of a sacrifice of Christ? Third, this will wreak havoc with our doctrine of resurrection. No literal death, no return from death. Christ the immortal, rather that Christ who has been raised. But isn’t the example of Christ our assurance of what awaits us, his followers? We will die, and so will need to be restored from death to life. If Christ suffered this terrible experience that was not actually his own death, and kept on living right on through it… presumably something or someone else was raised, the thing that died? Are we to think that he or it, and not Christ, is what comforts us, knowing that death awaits?

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Hays on “God” in the New Testament http://trinities.org/blog/hays-on-god-in-the-new-testament/ Tue, 02 May 2017 11:20:05 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38843 One’s theology can lead one to deny obvious facts about the New Testament. A case in point is Reformed blogger Steve Hays. From a recent exchange of ours,

5. In response to my statement that in NT usage, the extension of “God” is indefinite in reference to the Trinity or any particular person of the Godhead unless the context uses “God” with a more specific extension, to distinguish one divine referent from another divine referent, Tuggy says I deny that the NT authors successful refer to the Triune God or to any of the three in many cases. But he doesn’t bother to explain how he derives that conclusion from my statement. 

If “God” is systematically ambiguous between: the Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, then user of “God” would (normally) fail to unambiguously refer to any of those. If Steve has, say, three kids, and I go around talking about “Steve’s kid” – where nothing about the context fixes the referent as one of them – I fail to refer to either Huey, Duey, or Louie, or even to the group of them.

Likewise, NT authors can refer to the Trinity without using “God” or some technical designation for the Triune God. 

No NT term was then understood to mean the tripersonal God. This is just a fact about the terminology of that era. But what Mr. Hayes says here is trivially true if by “Trinity” here he just means this group: Father, Son, Spirit. The NT writers of course refer to each of these using various terms. What they do not do, is refer to all three together as a single being. They have no singular referring term for the triune god. By the time of Augustine, catholics have acquired such a term: “Trinity.”  (Earlier, c. 180-370,  this was used only as a plural referring term, for God, his Son, and his Spirit/spirit.)

He says you can be a Trinitarian and think for some strange reason that when the NT says “God” it almost always means the Father and never refers to the three of them all together as the one God, but that’s surprising given Trinitarianism. 

Yes! Which is why Hayes merrily denies the facts of NT God-term usage.

Why does Tuggy imagine that if Trinitarianism is true, we’d expect the NT to refer to the three of them all together as the one God? He gives no argument for that contention. 

This point doesn’t need arguing. If anyone believes in a tripersonal god, it would be shocking if they had no standard term to refer to that god.

What does he even mean? Does he mean that if Trinitarianism is true, the NT should have a technical term…

Any term, of any kind, “technical” or not – which was then understood to refer to Father, Son, and Spirit as being one god.

7. Tuggy quoted a lengthy statement by Murray J. Harris. By citing a scholar’s opinion is not an argument. The conclusion is only as good as the supporting evidence.

Let the readers judge. An ill-tempered blogger vs. a couple of leading trinitarian scholars – Harris and Rahner. For now, I’m happy to appeal to excerpt and hostile (to my theology) witnesses.There is no fallacy in so doing.

The evidence is strong though. Sample: writers swapping out “God” with “the Father” for purely stylistic reasons. eg. John 1:18, John 6:45-6, Acts 2:33, 1 John 3:1, 2 John 1:9. This only works in a non-confusing way when “God” normally means the Father.

Mr. Hays probably hasn’t considered this; he’s just reasoning backwards from what his theory requires. This is how bad apologetics works.

… a unitarian thinks “God” refers more often to the Father than a Trinitarian like me. So we don’t even agree on the percentages.

 The difference between Harris and me, is probably something like 4- 5 passages (where he thinks theos refers to Jesus but I think it refers to the Father) – out of many hundreds of passages. Not a significant % difference, no.

…if you have a “father” and a “son,” where only one is divine while the other is human, then absolute comparative usage is deceptive. A human son isn’t a son to God in the same sense that he’s a son to a human father. There’s a fundamental and radical disparity.
     This is why, even though NT writers use sonship language for Christians, they do so in a guarded fashion, unlike their use of sonship language in reference to Jesus. In Paul, it’s plural and adoptive in relation to Christians. And John reserves the filial designation exclusively for Jesus.

I agree that Jesus is “the” Son – a Son in a sense in which a Christian is not. But it is just special pleading to suggest that NT writers would be “deceptive” unless they meant Jesus to be divine. They shout uniformly that he’s the unique Messiah, which seems to be synonymous with “the Son of God” – see Matthew 26:63, Luke 4:41, Matthew 16:16, John 11:27, John 20:31. And yet, he is also a man. Again, it is catholic tradition (“He’s not ‘true Son’ unless he’s divine!”) vs. the NT. And the “sola scriptura” guy takes the catholic side.

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podcast 181 – White’s case for the Trinity – Part 1 http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-181-whites-case-for-the-trinity-part-1/ http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-181-whites-case-for-the-trinity-part-1/#comments Mon, 01 May 2017 18:26:41 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38869 Some would say that Reformed apologist Dr. James White, director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, is the best contemporary debater on behalf of traditional catholic views on the Trinity. Certainly, he’s had time and opportunity to sharpen his arguments, having debated the Trinity and/or the “deity of Christ” with (among others) a Muslim scholar, some biblical unitarians (also here), a Oneness Pentecostal, and a defender of Jehovah’s Witness Theology.

But how strong is his case? In Dr. White’s view, “the” Trinity doctrine is easily deduced from the Bible. Is that true?

In this and the next episode of the trinities podcast, I evaluate Dr. White’s opening statement from a recent debate with a minister from the non-trinitarian Iglesia ni Christo denomination from the Philippines. I find that in many ways, Dr. White does not connect with the views of his opponent. And he hunkers down in some simple traditional language about the Trinity, never clarifying just what he thinks the Trinity is. For example, he does nothing to undermine arguments that “the” Trinity doctrine is incoherent.

Argument 1: collapsing the Father and Son

1. The Father just is God (i.e. the Father and God are numerically one).
2. The Son just is God (i.e. the Son and God are numerically one).
3. God just is the Son. (From 2, by the symmetry of numerical identity: if a = b then b = a.)
4. The Father just is the Son. (From 1 and 3, by the transitivity of numerical identity: if a = b and b = c, then a = c.)
5. It is not the case that the Father just is the Son.

Dr. White commits to 1, 2, and 5. But then, 3 and 4 follow. And 4 contradicts 5. If “the” Trinity implies 1, 2, and 5, then it is incoherent! What does Dr. White do to show us how a trinitarian can avoid 4? Nothing! And to make matters worse, it’s not clear that 1 and 2 are consistent with any Trinity theory, which demands that the one God be numerically the same as the Trinity.

Argument 2: from Trinity to polytheism

1. The Father is divine.
2. The Son is divine.
3. The Spirit is divine.
4. None of these just is any other: Father, Son, Spirit (i.e. they are distinct; no pair are numerically one).
5. To be divine is to be a god.
6. For any x and y, x and y are the same god only if x just is y (i.e. if they are numerically one, the same being/entity). (In other words, being the same god requires being the same being.)
7. There are at least three gods. (1-6)

Dr. White affirms 1-4, and seems committed to 5 also (we’re talking about “full” deity here). 6 seems self-evident. But 7 follows. If each of the three is a god (1-3, 5), and they’re not the same god, because they’re numerically distinct (4,6), then there exist at least three gods (7).

It doesn’t help to just insist that the Trinity is by definition monotheistic. If it also commits to 1-5, then it seems incoherent, affirming both monotheism and polytheism. And Dr. White doesn’t show us how a trinitarian can avoid 7.

Other problems relate to his reliance on controversial translations and/or interpretations of several texts, and on the dubious relevance of texts where Jesus is (arguably) referred to as “God.”

Next week, we’ll hear the rest of his case. Maybe it gets better?

Links for this episode:

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http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-181-whites-case-for-the-trinity-part-1/feed/ 12 Is this a powerful, state-of-the-art biblical argument for the Trinity? Alpha and Omega Ministries, is the best contemporary debater on behalf of traditional catholic views on the Trinity. Certainly, he's had time and opportunity to sharpen his arguments, having debated the Trinity and/or the "deity of Christ" with (among others) a Muslim scholar, some biblical unitarians (also here), a Oneness Pentecostal, and a defender of Jehovah's Witness Theology.

But how strong is his case? In Dr. White's view, "the" Trinity doctrine is easily deduced from the Bible. Is that true?

In this and the next episode of the trinities podcast, I evaluate Dr. White's opening statement from a recent debate with a minister from the non-trinitarian Iglesia ni Christo denomination from the Philippines. I find that in many ways, Dr. White does not connect with the views of his opponent. And he hunkers down in some simple traditional language about the Trinity, never clarifying just what he thinks the Trinity is. For example, he does nothing to undermine arguments that "the" Trinity doctrine is incoherent.
Argument 1: collapsing the Father and Son

1. The Father just is God (i.e. the Father and God are numerically one).
2. The Son just is God (i.e. the Son and God are numerically one).
3. God just is the Son. (From 2, by the symmetry of numerical identity: if a = b then b = a.)
4. The Father just is the Son. (From 1 and 3, by the transitivity of numerical identity: if a = b and b = c, then a = c.)
5. It is not the case that the Father just is the Son.
Dr. White commits to 1, 2, and 5. But then, 3 and 4 follow. And 4 contradicts 5. If "the" Trinity implies 1, 2, and 5, then it is incoherent! What does Dr. White do to show us how a trinitarian can avoid 4? Nothing! And to make matters worse, it's not clear that 1 and 2 are consistent with any Trinity theory, which demands that the one God be numerically the same as the Trinity.
Argument 2: from Trinity to polytheism

1. The Father is divine.
2. The Son is divine.
3. The Spirit is divine.
4. None of these just is any other: Father, Son, Spirit (i.e. they are distinct; no pair are numerically one).
5. To be divine is to be a god.
6. For any x and y, x and y are the same god only if x just is y (i.e. if they are numerically one, the same being/entity). (In other words, being the same god requires being the same being.)
7. There are at least three gods. (1-6)
Dr. White affirms 1-4, and seems committed to 5 also (we're talking about "full" deity here). 6 seems self-evident. But 7 follows. If each of the three is a god (1-3, 5), and they're not the same god, because they're numerically distinct (4,6), then there exist at least three gods (7).

It doesn't help to just insist that the Trinity is by definition monotheistic. If it also commits to 1-5, then it seems incoherent, affirming both monotheism and polytheism. And Dr. White doesn't show us how a trinitarian can avoid 7.

Other problems relate to his reliance on controversial translations and/or interpretations of several texts, and on the dubious relevance of texts where Jesus is (arguably) referred to as "God."

Next week, we'll hear the rest of his case. Maybe it gets better?

Links for this episode:

* http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38834 Blogger Steve Hays has another crack at my inconsistent triad. As usual, I’ll omit his sins and cut a lot of irrelevant material. Basically, he tries his hand at a little ad hoc philosophizing about death. It doesn’t go well…

1. He repeated his definition: “To die is to lose all or most of one’s normal natural life functions.”
But God is not alive in that sense. Angels are not alive in that sense. Is there any evidence that 1C Jews or Christians thought incorporeal beings are alive in that sense? 
One’s normal life functions are relative to one’s kind. Yes, they did think back then that God is alive, that he enjoys divine life-processes (whether temporal or timeless).
2. Tuggy says that to disprove his inconsistent triad, it’s necessary to show that each proposition is true. But that’s a category mistake. That’s not what makes a triad of propositions logically consistent or inconsistent.  Tuggy is shifting grounds. 
(Facepalm.) The triad is interesting because many will want to affirm all three. But on the face of it, they ought not, since it can’t be that all three are true. One sort of reply is showing that the three could all be true after all. (More on this below.) Occasionally, Mr. Hays will make a gesture in this direction, though he’s not yet given a real answer. And as I said in the podcast, other answers would be (1) saying which to deny and why (which I have done), or (2) showing that we should accept all three, despite their seeming inconsistency.
Suppose we say “Methuselah died”. From a philosophical standpoint, that’s deceptively ambiguous. What died? That depends on your anthropology.
Nope. What died is Methuselah, the human person. The dier is not at issue; it’s him. Yes, this will understood to have different implications on different views of human persons.

… suppose you define a complete human being as a union of a mortal body with an immortal soul. …We can posit this as a hypothetical…. If, according to our definition, Methuselah just is an embodied soul, then to say “Methuselah died” might mean the entire composite died. His soul died along with his body.

Again, there is no ambiguity about who or what dies. It is the man Methuselah.

If we wanted to be pedantically precise, we wouldn’t say “Methuselah died”, but “Methuselah’s body died”. 

Nope. (Here come a bunch of analytic truths.) To die a human death is to lose a human life. Only a human being can lose a human life. If you’ve died a human death, then you were a human being. If dualism is true, a human body is not a human being.
By hypothesis, though – Steve is assuming dualism here – the body is not a man, but at most is a non-essential part of a man. So no, the dualist should not say that “Bob died” means “Bob’s body died.” It does not mean that. It means that Bob died, which (according to the dualist) involves the separation of soul from body, and normally the dissolution of the latter. And according to everyone, dying is losing all or most of one’s normal life processes. In this example, Bob (= a certain soul) suffers this.

Although Methuselah is an embodied soul, to say he died is not equivalent to the claim that all of him died. Not equivalent to the claim that both his body and soul expired. 

If he just is (we’re assuming) the soul, that soul (= that human being) is the one thing here that can undergo a human death. “All of him” here is not supposed to be an additional human person who might die. Of course, “Meth died” does not imply that all parts of Meth died. But it does imply that the whole Meth died!

…you can devise a specious inconsistent triad:
i) Methuselah died
ii) Methuselah is immortal
iii) What is immortal can’t die
Specious, yes. That is not even apparently an inconsistent triad, unlike the one I’ve been discussing. (Meth may have become immortal since his death – like the Lord Jesus.)
From the standpoint of substance dualism, the same individual is both mortal and immortal. That’s because he’s mortal and immortal in different respects. Mortal in reference to his body but immortal in reference to his soul. …I can stipulate the immortality of the soul for discussion purposes.)
OK, if you want. Nearly all substance dualists nowadays, of course, think that you and I are (presently) mortal. In general, you can say that a thing is F and not-F, if really it has a part which is F and a part which is not-F. E.g. She is pretty and ugly (pretty face, ugly rest of her body). That doesn’t work here, though. You’ve granted that the person just is the soul. So contrary to scriptural teaching and common sense, you’re asserting that all humans are always immortal. It doesn’t help to say that the body dies. Sure, even if the soul is immortal, the body may rot and fall apart. But it does not die a human death, the death of a human self – not on dualism, which we’re assuming.
It’s easy for special pleading to prevail here. But consider this scenario. Demon manages to permanently kick a soul out of his body. Then demon in that body gets hit by a truck. Body goes splat. Does demon die? No! He’s still got all the demon-life he had before. Just had his puppet taken away. Does anything die a human death here? Not in the truck accident. But in the initial episode, yes. The man, the evicted soul, has lost his normal life functions!
Why am I discussing substance dualism? As an analogy for the hypostatic union. Just as a human being is a composite being, Jesus is a composite being by virtue of the Incarnation. A union of two natures, one mortal and the other immortal.
I note in passing that this requires the natures to be concrete beings. Abstracta can neither die nor be alive.
That’s analogous to a union of two substances, one mortal and the other immortal. And in both cases, there are material and immaterial components. …Back to Tuggy’s “inconsistent triad”:
i) Jesus died
ii) Jesus was fully divine
iii) No fully divine being has ever died
But that suffers from the same equivocation as my “inconsistent triad” about Methuselah.  To say “Jesus died” is a claim about his body, and not about the individual in toto. Just as Jesus is both mortal and immortal by virtue of a mortal body in union with an immortal soul, Jesus is additionally both mortal and immortal by virtue of a mortal component (his body) in union with an immortal component (his nature).
“Jesus died” is a claim about Jesus.  In effect, the view you’re suggesting is just denying that Jesus died. Not the NT view of course. Perhaps you want to say that “Jesus died” should be counted as true because his body – or maybe you mean to say here, is human nature – died. That seems a mere verbal decoration, though, for a denial of a central gospel claim.
Mr. Hays seems to have a problem here seeing what an all-are-true answer requires. The logical form of i-iii can be analyzed in medieval style as:

All J are D.  (All things which are Jesus are things which have died.)

All J are F.  (All things which are Jesus are things which are fully divine.)

No F is D.  (No thing which is fully divine is a thing which has died.)

Or in modern style:

Dj  (Jesus died.)

Fj  (Jesus is fully divine.)

(x)(Fx -> -Dx)   (For any x, if has died, then it is not the case that it is fully divine.)

Now as a matter of logic, no triad of either form can all be true; any two logically imply the falsity of the remaining one. The obvious thing to do, really, is to find a reason to deny one or more of the three, which is what I’ve done. Mr. Hays wants to say they’re all true, correctly understood. What he must do, then, is to show what their true logical form is, since it must not be one of the above analyses. This needn’t be done in symbols; one can use something close to normal English. But it’s not even clear that he wants to do this. Perhaps he thinks that iii should be denied, against the NT?
So far, he’ suggested changing the first to Db (Jesus’s body died). Db is indeed logically consistent with the Fj and (x)(Fx -> -Dx). But the NT teaching is that Jesus died, Dj.  Does he really want to deny Dj? I doubt it. But neither has he shown how catholic two-nature theorizing reveals the true logical form of i-iii. Nor has he argued that i-iii should all be accepted despite their seeming inconsistency.
In sum, still no answer.
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podcast 180 – Apologists on how God can die – Part 3 http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-180-apologists-on-how-god-can-die-part-3/ http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-180-apologists-on-how-god-can-die-part-3/#comments Tue, 25 Apr 2017 01:23:51 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38810 Dealing with this inconsistent triad is hard for many. After a few podcast recommendations, I work through a long post by Reformed blogger Steve Hays, trying to find the beef. Unfortunately, it’s nearly all bun. He’s not able to formulate a response to this inconsistent triad, the subject of our previous episodes in this series.

1. Jesus died.
2. Jesus was fully divine.
3. No fully divine being has ever died.

Then I evaluate the brief response of a YouTube apologist to this argument:

1. God cannot die. (premise)
2. Jesus Christ died. (premise)
3. Therefore, Jesus Christ cannot be God. (1,2)

Finally, I consider a response to my inconsistent triad by Catholic philosopher Dr. Daniel Vecchio. This is carefully considered, and brings in many distinctions made by the tradition. I think it brings out the difficulty of figuring out what “the” classical catholic answer is supposed to be. In particular, terms like “Christ,” “Jesus,” and “the Son” are ambiguous, referring either to (1) the man (if there is a man in one’s christology), (2) the human nature (which is not a man), (3) the Logos (aka the divine nature), or to (4) the whole Christ, the person who has two natures. It’s not clear that any but the first of these could in principle die a human death, i.e. lose a human life.

Links for this episode:

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http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-180-apologists-on-how-god-can-die-part-3/feed/ 6 Dealing with this inconsistent triad can be hard! Dealing with this inconsistent triad is hard for many. After a few podcast recommendations, I work through a long post by Reformed blogger Steve Hays, trying to find the beef. Unfortunately, it's nearly all bun. He's not able to formulate a response to this inconsistent triad, the subject of our previous episodes in this series.
1. Jesus died.
2. Jesus was fully divine.
3. No fully divine being has ever died.
Then I evaluate the brief response of a YouTube apologist to this argument:
1. God cannot die. (premise)
2. Jesus Christ died. (premise)
3. Therefore, Jesus Christ cannot be God. (1,2)
Finally, I consider a response to my inconsistent triad by Catholic philosopher Dr. Daniel Vecchio. This is carefully considered, and brings in many distinctions made by the tradition. I think it brings out the difficulty of figuring out what "the" classical catholic answer is supposed to be. In particular, terms like "Christ," "Jesus," and "the Son" are ambiguous, referring either to (1) the man (if there is a man in one's christology), (2) the human nature (which is not a man), (3) the Logos (aka the divine nature), or to (4) the whole Christ, the person who has two natures. It's not clear that any but the first of these could in principle die a human death, i.e. lose a human life.

Links for this episode:

* Interview 16: Church of God Vision (Seth Ross)

* Restitutio pocast episodes


* The Areopagus Podcast (Facebook)
* podcast 145 – ‘Tis Mystery All: the Immortal dies!
* podcast 178 – Apologists on how God can die – Part 1
* podcast 179 – Apologists on how God can die – Part 2
* Steve Hays, "When God the Mighty Maker Died"
* "Can God Die?"
* Dr. Daniel Vecchio, "Tuggy's Trilemma"
* This week's thinking music is "It Was Only Yesterday" by Arne Bang Huseby.
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Dale Tuggy clean 49:45
podcast 179 – Apologists on how God can die – Part 2 http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-179-apologists-on-how-god-can-die-part-2/ http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-179-apologists-on-how-god-can-die-part-2/#comments Mon, 17 Apr 2017 21:07:59 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38795

In this episode I first reply to a critique of podcast 145 – ‘Tis Mystery All: the Immortal dies! by blogger Steve Hays. This centers on the following inconsistent triad:

1. Jesus died.
2. Jesus was fully divine.
3. No fully divine being has ever died.

While Hays gestures at a solution, he doesn’t actually give one; he merely assumes that somehow the two natures traditions show how the inconsistent triad is in fact consistent. But he only manages to assert an apparent contradiction.

We then hear from some Catholic Answers apologists, who also evoke the doctrine of two natures, which they say imply that Christ could “experience death,” separation of soul and body.

Finally, we hear answer about Jesus’s death on the cross from evangelical apologist Matt Slick of CARM. Our discussion reveals that catholic traditions use terms like “Christ” and “Jesus” and “Son” ambiguously. These can refer to: the human nature, the divine nature (the Logos), or the whole Christ (with divine and human natures). As I understand him, Mr. Slick does have an answer to my inconsistent triad, arguing that “Jesus” is ambiguous there. On one reading, 2 is false, and on another, 1 is false. I argue, though, that this solution comes at too high a cost.

Do you agree? Or have I overlooked something relevant about “two natures” theories? Or are you willing to reform catholic traditions in light of clear scriptural teaching?

Links for this episode:

 

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http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-179-apologists-on-how-god-can-die-part-2/feed/ 14 Can someone with two natures be essentially immortal and die? In this episode I first reply to a critique of podcast 145 – ‘Tis Mystery All: the Immortal dies! by blogger Steve Hays. This centers on the following inconsistent triad:
1. Jesus died.
2. Jesus was fully divine.
3. No fully divine being has ever died.
While Hays gestures at a solution, he doesn't actually give one; he merely assumes that somehow the two natures traditions show how the inconsistent triad is in fact consistent. But he only manages to assert an apparent contradiction.

We then hear from some Catholic Answers apologists, who also evoke the doctrine of two natures, which they say imply that Christ could "experience death," separation of soul and body.

Finally, we hear answer about Jesus's death on the cross from evangelical apologist Matt Slick of CARM. Our discussion reveals that catholic traditions use terms like "Christ" and "Jesus" and "Son" ambiguously. These can refer to: the human nature, the divine nature (the Logos), or the whole Christ (with divine and human natures). As I understand him, Mr. Slick does have an answer to my inconsistent triad, arguing that "Jesus" is ambiguous there. On one reading, 2 is false, and on another, 1 is false. I argue, though, that this solution comes at too high a cost.

Do you agree? Or have I overlooked something relevant about "two natures" theories? Or are you willing to reform catholic traditions in light of clear scriptural teaching?



Links for this episode:

* Steve Hays, "The Immortal Dies!"
* Catholic Answers: Did God die on the cross?
* Matt Slick: Did God dies on the Cross?
* podcast 178 – Apologists on how God can die – Part 1
* podcast 145 – ‘Tis Mystery All: the Immortal dies!
* Dualism and Mind
* Universals
* podcast 143 – Dr. Timothy Pawl’s In Defense of Conciliar Christology – Part 1
* podcast 144 – Dr. Timothy Pawl’s In Defense of Conciliar Christology – Part 2
* Mark 15:37; Matthew 24:36; Luke 8:45; Luke 4:2; James 1:13; John 5:19; Luke 22:42; John 1:18, Mark 1:35; Revelation 3:12; Luke 11:20; John 14:10.
* This week's thinking music is "I Dare You" by Little Glass Men.

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Dale Tuggy clean 58:45
podcast 178 – Apologists on how God can die – Part 1 http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-178-apologists-on-how-god-can-die-part-1/ http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-178-apologists-on-how-god-can-die-part-1/#comments Mon, 10 Apr 2017 17:47:53 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38778 Can evangelical apologists answer the question “How can God die?”

Back in episode 145, I laid out a triad of claims which can’t all be true:

1. Jesus died.
2. Jesus was fully divine.
3. No fully divine being has ever died.

I argued that a Christian who wants to be faithful to the New Testament, even when it conflicts with catholic traditions, should affirm 1 and 3, and so deny 2.

But this is not an answer you’re likely to hear from evangelical apologists. Here in part 1, we examine answers by Dr. David Wood and by Mr. Jay Smith. They’re arguing with Muslims, but of course anyone can notice that 1-3 above can’t all be true, and that arguably 1 and 3 are claims that no Christian should deny. A Christian ought to know which of the above to reject, and why.

Do their answers hold up to scrutiny?

Along the way we discuss immortality, essential attributes, perfect being theology, necessary existence, divine aseity, omnipotence, dualism, death, docetism, and the difference between the concepts of theophany and incarnation.

Links for this episode:

 

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http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-178-apologists-on-how-god-can-die-part-1/feed/ 4 Can evangelical apologists answer the question "How can God die?" Can evangelical apologists answer the question "How can God die?"

Back in episode 145, I laid out a triad of claims which can't all be true:
1. Jesus died.
2. Jesus was fully divine.
3. No fully divine being has ever died.
I argued that a Christian who wants to be faithful to the New Testament, even when it conflicts with catholic traditions, should affirm 1 and 3, and so deny 2.

But this is not an answer you're likely to hear from evangelical apologists. Here in part 1, we examine answers by Dr. David Wood and by Mr. Jay Smith. They're arguing with Muslims, but of course anyone can notice that 1-3 above can't all be true, and that arguably 1 and 3 are claims that no Christian should deny. A Christian ought to know which of the above to reject, and why.

Do their answers hold up to scrutiny?

Along the way we discuss immortality, essential attributes, perfect being theology, necessary existence, divine aseity, omnipotence, dualism, death, docetism, and the difference between the concepts of theophany and incarnation.



Links for this episode:

* podcast 145 – ‘Tis Mystery All: the Immortal dies!
* Did God Die for Our Sins?  - Sh. Dr. Shabir Ally vs Jay Smith
* David Wood: How Can God Die?
* Jay Smith on the John Ankerberg Show - The Crucifixion: Can God Die?
* Jay Smith 2011 Australian show "Worlds Apart" show: How could God die? Why did Jesus die?
* Jay Smith: Can God become a Man?
* John 20:17, Acts 2:22-24, 1 Timothy 1:17, 6:13-17.
* This week's thinking music is "Hands of a Pedestrian" by Jesse Spillane.

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podcast 177 – The Second Sirmian Creed (357) http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-177-the-second-sirmian-creed-357/ http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-177-the-second-sirmian-creed-357/#comments Mon, 27 Mar 2017 18:55:29 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38761

In this episode we first hear about the years between 351 and 357, including some now obscure councils, the interesting case of bishop of Ossius of Cordova, the religious policy of emperor Constantius II, and his struggles with Athanasius.  We then hear the creed from the second council at Sirmium, and why it was labelled as “blasphemy” by some Nicenes. Often derided even today as “Arian,” it did not assert or defend any of the distinctive theses of Arius which had been condemned by many councils dating back to 325. But it was strongly in the two-hypostasis (two being) school of thought when it came to God and his Logos.

This creed is what scholars now call “subordinationist;” for them, the one God is the Father, and the Logos is a lesser, divine being. They quoted Jesus, viewed as the mouthpiece of the Logos, as saying “The Father is greater than I.” The Incarnate Logos differed, in their view from God in being visible, passible, mortal. Nonetheless, they call him “God from God,” referring to his (in their view mysterious, impenetrable) eternal generation by God.  Still, they forbid ousia-terms as unscriptural; it is yet another council objecting to the new language introduced by Constantine’s 325 council.

At the end of the episode, I give a couple of important announcements.

Links for this episode:

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http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-177-the-second-sirmian-creed-357/feed/ 1 A council-produced creed which is "blasphemy"?
This creed is what scholars now call "subordinationist;" for them, the one God is the Father, and the Logos is a lesser, divine being. They quoted Jesus, viewed as the mouthpiece of the Logos, as saying "The Father is greater than I." The Incarnate Logos differed, in their view from God in being visible, passible, mortal. Nonetheless, they call him "God from God," referring to his (in their view mysterious, impenetrable) eternal generation by God.  Still, they forbid ousia-terms as unscriptural; it is yet another council objecting to the new language introduced by Constantine's 325 council.

At the end of the episode, I give a couple of important announcements.

Links for this episode:

* Early Christian Councils @ Fourth Century Christianity
* Ossius of Cordova
* Hanson, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God
* Athanasius, Apologia de Fuga
* Hilary of Poitiers
* Isaiah 53:8; John 14:28.
* 10 steps towards getting less confused about the Trinity – #8 – trinity vs. Trinity
* This week's thinking music is "Simplify" by Little Glass Men.
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the earliest Americans http://trinities.org/blog/the-earliest-americans/ Sat, 25 Mar 2017 00:01:41 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38744 It was the greatest archaeological discovery of 4004. The dig had yielded so many precious historical treasures. “This,” announced the lead archaeologist, “was how the earliest Americans lived. Our best methods place this ranch style private home at about the year 2017 – during the reign of Trump 45.”

A few in the assembled press gasped. It was almost like traveling back in time! A man holding a dictometer raised his hand. “Dr. Kathapol, so little is known about that time. What have you discovered about these earliest Americans.”

Dr. Kathapol smiled and surveyed his rapt audience. “Don’t forget,” he lectured, “this is the country of Jefferson, of Adams, of FDR, and of the very first Trump, George Washington.” He paused for effect. Pressing a button on his nextslide, a picture appeared on the screen. It was a glass bottle sporting a portion of its faded and torn label. “The earliest Americans,” said Kathapol, “drank wine coolers. Our best rayovise machines have even enabled us to read the label on this bottle. It says ‘Bartles & Jaymes.’ We believe  that this was probably the oldest winery in America.” His audience seemed pleased.

Smiling, he discreetly fingered his nextslide and a new photograph appeared. It was a light skinned young man holding a cylindrical object up to his mouth. Strangely, his bangs fell to below his eyebrows. “This,” intoned Kathapol, “is a ‘beeb.’ Based on some texts we uncovered years ago, this was a hated and despised figure. They accused this sort of boy of ‘killing music’ – a mysterious accusation to be sure, but one which is attested in many sources, such as the famous YouTube comments archive B.”

The reporters poked furiously at their dictometers. “Dr. Kathapol, what’s he holding?” inquired a reported.

“We don’t know. But whatever it is, he’s sucking on it. Beebs were frequently said to suck. What it was that they sucked, we do not know.”

Kathapol again advanced his slide. A clumsy looking pair of brown boots appeared. “These are the oldest known ‘Uggs.'” The reporters murmured and shifted. A few glanced down at their own feet.

“Probably, it was boots like these that Trump Washington wore through the long winter at Valley Forge. These are the earliest American boots we’ve found – a major discovery.”

The reporters were enthralled. Dr. Kathapol continued. His next image showed a tall, dark skinned man sporting a head of dark, naturally curly hair, like a large sphere. He wore only a tight pair of shorts and the boots from the previous image. In one hand, he held a ‘Bartles & James,’ and with the other he shook a fist at an image of the beeb on his wallviewer. The caption said, “Third Trump Thomas Jefferson at home (artist’s reconstruction).” Kathapole raised his voice.

“Thanks to these latest discoveries, we understand the earliest Americans better than we ever have. Our investigations have penetrated almost to the founding of the country. Like us, they enjoyed the bounties of the Internet. And like us, they enjoyed sweet, watery alcoholic beverages made from wine. Like us, their preferred footwear was the noble Ugg boot. And like us, they did not want music to be killed, neither by a beeb, nor by anything else. How little has changed!”

The reporters applauded. The reign of Trump 248 had seen more archaeological discoveries about early America than the times of the previous fifty Trumps!

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podcast 176 – Photinus of Sirmium http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-176-photinus-of-sirmium/ Mon, 20 Mar 2017 23:51:16 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38716

"Behold, the man."

Is the Messiah a “mere man”Photinus of Sirmium was a bishop c. 343-357 who held that the one God is the Father, and that the man Jesus is his unique Son and Messiah. He did not believe that Jesus always existed, or that he was involved in the creation of the cosmos. Although he was a student of Marcellus of Ancyra, his views seem to have been those of present-day biblical unitarians. How can he have disagreed with both one-hypostasis and two-hypostasis theologies of this era? Didn’t he read the gospel according to John? Surviving reports suggest that he focused on it! In this episode we’ll hear about his life and works, his christology, the charge of “adoptionism” and other ancient objections to his views, his fate at the hands of the bishops, and what seem to have been some of his favorite biblical texts.

Thanks to my friend John for again being our voice of the apostle John!

Links for this episode:

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His views seem to have been those of present-day biblical unitarians.

Is the Messiah a "mere man"? Photinus of Sirmium was a bishop c. 343-357 who held that the one God is the Father, and that the man Jesus is his unique Son and Messiah. He did not believe that Jesus always existed, or that he was involved in the creation of the cosmos. Although he was a student of Marcellus of Ancyra, his views seem to have been those of present-day biblical unitarians. How can he have disagreed with both one-hypostasis and two-hypostasis theologies of this era? Didn't he read the gospel according to John? Surviving reports suggest that he focused on it! In this episode we'll hear about his life and works, his christology, the charge of "adoptionism" and other ancient objections to his views, his fate at the hands of the bishops, and what seem to have been some of his favorite biblical texts.

Thanks to my friend John for again being our voice of the apostle John!

Links for this episode:

* podcast 172 – The Creed of the Long Lines (344)podcast 174 – The First Sirmian creed (351)podcast 175 – Marcellus of Ancyra
* Nathaniel LardnerLardner on the Trinity.
* Lydia Agnew Speller, "New light on the Photinians: the evidence of Ambrosiaster," Journal of Theological Studies 34:1 (April 1983): 99-113; D.H. Williams, “Monarchianism and Photinus as the Persistent Heretical Face of the Fourth Century,” Harvard Theological Review 99 (2006), 187-206.
* Augustine of Hippo, Confessions
* podcast 61 – Dr. Dustin Smith on preexistence in ancient Jewish thoughtpodcast 62 – Dr. Dustin Smith on the preexistence of Jesus in the gospel of Johnpodcast 66 – Before Abraham was… what?
* Isaiah 44:6-8; Luke 1:26-35; John 1:1-14, 2; John 2:18-22; John 3:31-36; John 8:58; John 16:25-30; John 17:1-5, Acts 2:36; 1 Corinthians 15:39-57; 1 Timothy 2:5.
* This week's thinking music is "Procreation" by Little Glass Men.
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Pawl’s Promise http://trinities.org/blog/pawls-promise/ Thu, 16 Mar 2017 18:22:48 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38707 I don’t know how the first time through his book I missed this hilarious yet serious footnote. Dr. Pawl has just mentioned that in a few sources that are sorta, kinda, maybe within the purview of Conciliar Christology (Cyril’s 3rd letter to Nestorius and the so-called “Athanasian Creed”), the hypostatic union, the ineffable, unique relation between the eternal Logos and the “complete human nature,” can be legitimately compared to the relation between a human soul and its body. Pawl comments,

Fr Joseph Pohle, an important systematic theologian writing in the manual tradition, says… “those who have spun out these analogies into full-fledged arguments have notoriously all ended in heresy.” Likewise, Francis Ferrier… writes of the “futility of seeking to account for the mystery [of the hypostatic union] by pure reason, and of the way all such efforts can only end tragically in heresy.” This, surely, gives my Catholic heart pause. Let me say, then, that if I say anything heretical or contrary to the authoritative teaching of Holy Mother Church, whose loyal son I am and seek to remain, then I will host a bonfire at which I and any of you who feel inclined can come and burn our copies of this book. (p. 22, fr. 14)

Will there ever be such a party? Who knows. Many loyal sons of the Church who had every intention of remaining loyal to her nonetheless found themselves being made into poster-boys for heresy. Off the top of my head, Marcellus of Ancyra, Apollinarus of Laodicea, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Origen of Alexandria. It’s surprising that Athanasius and Eusebius avoided this fate. I would genuinely hate to hear Catholic bishops fuming about the “madness” of Tim of Minnesota or about the “Tim-o-mania” of his readers. If I had to bet, I’d say there’s enough wiggle-room in the Catholic formulations for him to get by. But of course, it’s not for me to decide!

In any case, if this party happens and I am invited, I have two questions. First, what kind of beer will be served there? Second, is it OK if I attend, but do not burn my copy of the book? (It’s too expensive!) In all seriousness, if you’re serious about trying to understand catholic traditions about Incarnation, this book is indispensible. It has no peer, and is not likely to have one for quite some time. It is the most ambitious attempt to date to keep all of the balls in the air, and it is very cleanly executed. The book is going to have a big impact on scholarly and other discussions. You can get a flavor of it in my two interviews with Dr. Pawl:

Catch the Tim-o-mania!

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podcast 175 – Marcellus of Ancyra http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-175-marcellus-of-ancyra/ Mon, 13 Mar 2017 20:24:58 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38677 Marcellus’s theology is a key to understanding the post-Nicea controversies. He was a leading representative of “miahypostatic” theology on which there is just one being or entity (hypostasis) among the trinity. God is one self, but is in a sense triadic in how he interacts with his creation. His “word” and “spirit” are his eternal attributes, but those words can also describe his various actions, the “word” now being God acting in a human body (or man?). God extends himself it two ways, and Marcellus famously speculates that when the Kingdom has fully come, God’s word and spirit with withdraw back within him, so that God’s extension is undone.

As recent scholars have explained, after Nicea a main problem was that the Nicene Creed of 325 seemed to many to be an expression of Marcellus’s type of theology. Marcellus was repeatedly anathemetized by eastern councils, and may have at last conformed his views to those of the later Nicenes. In this episode I survey his disputes with Asterius and Eusebius of Caesarea, interpet his famous claim that Jesus’s reign will come to an end, evaluate a few examples of his biblical exegesis, and explore how Marcellus’s views are similar to those of present-day one-self trinitarians, believers in “the deity of Christ,” and Oneness Pentecostals.

I object that Marcellus implies that the Incarnate Christ both is and is not a real human being. On the latter view, what looks like a man would instead by God, by his word, acting through a body. I also object to his radical difference from New Testament atonement thinking.

Links for this episode:

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Marcellus's theology is a key to understanding the post-Nicea controversies.
As recent scholars have explained, after Nicea a main problem was that the Nicene Creed of 325 seemed to many to be an expression of Marcellus's type of theology. Marcellus was repeatedly anathemetized by eastern councils, and may have at last conformed his views to those of the later Nicenes. In this episode I survey his disputes with Asterius and Eusebius of Caesarea, interpet his famous claim that Jesus's reign will come to an end, evaluate a few examples of his biblical exegesis, and explore how Marcellus's views are similar to those of present-day one-self trinitarians, believers in "the deity of Christ," and Oneness Pentecostals.

I object that Marcellus implies that the Incarnate Christ both is and is not a real human being. On the latter view, what looks like a man would instead by God, by his word, acting through a body. I also object to his radical difference from New Testament atonement thinking.

Links for this episode:

* Marcellus of Ancyra

* surviving fragments of his works translated into English


* Joseph  Lienhard, Contra Marcellum: Marcellus of Ancyra and Fourth-Century Theology
* Michel Barnes, "The Fourth Century as Trinitarian Canon" in Lewis Ayres and Gareth Jones (eds.) Christian Origins: Theology, Rhetoric and Community (kindle)
* Paul of Samosata
* podcast 30 – The Council of Nicea
* Asterius the Sophist
* podcast 173 – Eusebius of Caesarea
* Pope Julius's synod at Rome (341)
* podcast 115 – the aborted council at Serdica in 343
* Eustathius of Antioch
* podcast 97 – Dr. Michael Heiser on The Unseen Realm
* John 1; 1 Corinthians 15:20-28; Psalm 110:1; Exodus 3:14; Colossians 1; Isaiah 44:6.
* This week's thinking music is "Manly Nunn Steps Out" by Doctor Turtle.
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Dale Tuggy clean 55:52
10 Practical Tips for becoming a Worse Apologist http://trinities.org/blog/10-practical-tips-for-becoming-a-worse-apologist/ http://trinities.org/blog/10-practical-tips-for-becoming-a-worse-apologist/#comments Fri, 10 Mar 2017 15:35:15 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38645 Over at Triablogue Reformed apologist Steve Hays provides a stellar example of how not to do apologetics. He illustrates so many helpful tips, it’s like a how-not-to guide. For your edification:

1. Miss the point, and replace it with some scenario which you would prefer to be dealing with, preferably something you think is patently outrageous.

“Tuggy recently attacked Christian apologist Jonathan McLatchie because Jonathan affirms the Trinity”

A wild misrepresentation; it didn’t happen, though I did complain that apologists commonly ignore the meat of the various competing Trinity theories. Hays seems to confuse the issue of the tripersonal God with that of Jesus having a divine nature. But these are two different (though obviously related) topics – the first becoming an issue more than two centuries after the first (first half of the 100s vs. last quarter of the 300s).

2. Abuse your opponent; always lead with contempt.

The very first word of his post is a slander, and the post is larded with sputtering abuse. This is not the way of Jesus. What it is, is the poisoning the well fallacy.

3. Wave your hands and change the subject when you run into a difficult point that doesn’t fit your preferred script.

“[Dale:] Williams makes the reasonable point that for a (consistent) trinitarian, Jesus is not the Trinity, while God just is the Trinity. [Steve:] In a sense, that’s correct.”

Hmmm…. what sense would that be, exactly?

 

4. If you don’t quite follow your opponent’s reasoning, accuse him of being a tricky-trickster, a word-magician, a sophist. Above all, do not stoop to ask for clarification; that’s for wimps.

“This is Dale’s patented shellgame

The inference in question is this:

1. The Trinity differs from Jesus (and vice-versa).
2. For any x and y, if x differs from y, then x and y are distinct (not numerically identical).
3. Therefore, the Trinity is distinct from Jesus and vice-versa (i.e. they are not numerically identical).

Not much of a shell game, is it? Just a premise any trinitarian (and any Christian) is committed to (1), together with a self-evident truth (2), and then a conclusion that logically follows (3). Some apologists struggle with admitting (2); not sure why, but probably just because they’re hung up on theological examples, and have not considered that we assume things like (2) in all fields of reasoning. Maybe this discussion will help. That brings us to another no-no.

5. If presented with something self-evident that you worry could help the other side, mock your opponent and claim it’s just a theory.

It’s a risky move. But if the choir you’re preaching too isn’t too thoughtful, it’ll seem brave rather than stupid.

6. Lecture your opponent on logic or philosophy. This will suggest to some readers that you’ve done your homework, whereas your opponent is just making sophomoric errors in his reasoning.

Here I pause the how-not-to guide to reply to his attempt at instruction. I think a lot of it is not to the point, so I’ll pass over it. But he concludes,

“To say the Trinity is God uses “God” as a common noun. To say the Father is God uses “God” as a proper noun. To say the Son is God uses “God” as an abstract noun.”

The common noun would be “god.” He’s saying that “The Trinity is God” means that the Trinity is a god. That’s not quite right; the trinitarian is implying that, but he’s also, as trinitarian, identifying the one God (Yahweh) with the Trinity. Since God is by definition a god, that does imply what he says. But “The Trinity is God” means more than that the Trinity is a god; it also means that the Trinity is the god (God, ho theos in Greek).

“To say the Father is God uses “God” as a proper noun.”

  • Yes. By convention in English, the way we signal something as a proper noun is by capitalizing the first letter.
  • Notice also that “Father” is a proper noun – so the assertion here is that one individual “is” another individual. This can be a way of describing (“Little Stevie is Steve” – i.e. the son resembles his dad), but this is often how we make claims of numerical identity, e.g. “Turd-Blossom is Carl Rove.
  • When the unitarian Christian says “the Father is God” this is what she means, that the Father just is Yahweh himself.
  • Just so, evangelical apologists, when they say “Jesus is God” are usually asserting the numerical sameness of Jesus and the one God. This is often made clear by their form of argument. (Only God ___. Jesus ___. Therefore, Jesus is God. – The “only” asserts that whatever ___ just is (is numerically the same as) God. See this if you don’t get it.)
  • Finally, the overwhelming usage of the NT is that “God” (ho theos) refers to the Father. The habitually interchange such terms for reasons of style. This is because the writers assume the numerical identity of “them.” Consistent with this, they will rarely use theos or ho theos more flexibly, OT style. (e.g. Hebrews 1:8; John 10:35) Relevantly, never once in the Bible does a singular God-term refer to any more than one “divine Person.” Easy to explain with the NT authors assume that the one God is the Father, but hard to explain if they’re assuming that the one God is the Trinity.
  •  He seems to not understand my point about the fulfillment fallacy. It works like this: (1) OT passage has to do with to a. (2) NT asserts that passage to have another fulfillment in b. (3) Ergo, NT is asserting a = b. (3) does not follow from (1) and (2). And I can’t recall any ancient writer making this mistake, e.g. thinking that Mark 1:3 is meant to imply that Jesus is Yahweh himself. You could “prove” a lot of silly things if this were a valid argument. Hayes senses this, I think. So instead of doubling down on the identity inference, he pulls his punch by stating his conclusion as “That puts Jesus on the divine side of the categorical divide.” This sounds like the conclusion is just: Jesus is divine. But that’s not what the writers I was discussing are doing. If Steve wants make a sort of cumulative case, that given all the God-descriptions which the NT applies to Jesus, this can only mean that Jesus is divine – that’s another discussion. What I’m talking about is deducing that Jesus is supposed to be God himself from the application of Yahweh-texts to him as a fulfiller of them.

7. Never miss an opportunity to hit a favorite punching bag for your crowd; e.g. evangelicals with Bart Ehrman.

Hayes’s punches are irrelevant; even if Ehrman’s theories about the development of Christian theology are just wrongheaded, he’s still quite correct to avoid the fulfillment fallacy.

8. Deal only superficially with substance; rely on the preferred authorities of your crowd.

He gestures at Bauckham and Fee as having shown that Paul “includes Jesus in the Shema” in 1 Corinthians 8. Not clear how that relates to the issue of apologists asserting the numerical identity of Jesus and God. Does “being included in the Shema” imply being God himself? Or only being in some sense divine? Or being a part of God, or what? Bauckham’s thesis, unfortunately, is so unclear as to be unhelpful in understanding NT theology. I think it’s only popular within the evangelical bubble of apologists and theologians and their readers. See this for an exposition of how the NT authors use “Lord” based on Psalm 110:1 in a middle sense, as meaning neither “Sir” nor “Yahweh.”

9. Stonewall against any biblical or historical facts which are inconvenient for your theory.

The Son doesn’t have a God.”

On this, Steve unapologetically opposes the NT authors. Sorry, I have to go with them.

“[Dale, explaining Eusebius:] This “supreme source” is God, aka the Father…”

[Steve:] “The source of what? God is the source of creation. That doesn’t mean God is the source of the Son. And that doesn’t mean the Father is the source of the Son (or the Spirit).”

For countless trinitarians and unitarians, the Father’s “eternal generation” of the Son means that the Son exists and has his perfections because of the Father. After 325, they typically will contrast this with creating, but in any cause, the Father is supposed to be (by this eternal generation theory) the cause, and so the source of the Son’s existence. Of course, a Christian may deny eternal generation and procession; their textual basis is very dubious, in my view. But the point was that Eusebius calls out confusing together Jesus and God as a serious mistake. One obvious difference, he and many other mainstream Christians think, is that only the Father is the ultimate source of all else.

10. Ignore thoughtful advice from accomplished apologists.

Apologetics should not a game of one-up-manship, but should be a serious, rigorous, yet loving and helpful service to the Christian community. Dr. William Lane Craig’s advice to young apologists is important, especially point #1.

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“Identifying Jesus as Yahweh” as heresy http://trinities.org/blog/identifying-jesus-as-yahweh-as-heresy/ http://trinities.org/blog/identifying-jesus-as-yahweh-as-heresy/#comments Thu, 09 Mar 2017 16:16:18 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38595 Check out this exchange between Islamic apologist Paul Williams and evangelical Christian apologist Jonathan McLatchie.

Williams makes the reasonable point that for a (consistent) trinitarian, Jesus is not the Trinity, while God just is the Trinity. So then, for the trinitarian, Jesus is not God (not numerically identical to God); the relation between Jesus and God is going to have to be something less than that. Most evangelical apologists simply choose not to think about this difficulty. Battling the infidels with stock rhetoric and a fistful of proof-texts is far more enjoyable than working out the problems with one’s own theories.
Double face, photo by jDtntThe Trinity issue too is generally rushed past, with a nod to the old catholic language, or to recent simplifications of it. Most evangelical apologists more or less ignore the plethora of Trinity theories and instead focuses all on “the deity of Christ,” i.e. the claim that Jesus is God himself, that Jesus and God are numerically one. You see this in pop evangelical spirituality constantly in prayer, when the names “God,” “Father,” and “Jesus,” are swapped just for matters of good style, as if they’re just interchangeable, co-referring terms.

They then move (as in the last half of this video) to show that New Testament writers are always slyly (but in their view clearly) asserting the numerical identity of Yahweh (pronounced YAH-hu-way) and Jesus. They employ here what I think is a beginner’s mistake in reading the NT – what I call the fulfillment fallacy. (I’ve lampooned it here.) In the clip Bart Ehrman quite correctly resists the confusion. All NT writers habitually and clearly distinguish God and his Son as two selves and two beings.

But the important point is this: Mr. McLatchie’s confidence is misplaced. There have been plenty of Christians who’ve denied that Jesus and God are one and the same. One sort of case would be mainstream (catholic) Christians who defended logos speculations c. 150-381. These were opposed by “monarchians,” some of whom allegedly identified God and his Son, even using the term “Son-Father.” McLatchie’s statement reminded me of a passage feature in a recent podcast, from famous church historian and theologian-bishop Eusebius of Caesarea, expressing a view which was the majority view at least in the East in his time, and which was expressed by many councils.

But why do I dare essay a hopeless task, to recount the mighty works of the Word of God, and describe an energy which surpasses mortal thought? By some, indeed, he has been termed the Nature of the universe, by others, the World-Soul, by others, Fate. Others again have declared him to be the most High God himself, strangely confounding things most widely different; bringing down to this earth, uniting to a corruptible and material body, and assigning to that supreme and unbegotten Power who is Lord of all an intermediate place between irrational animals and rational mortals on the one hand, and immortal beings on the other.
On the other hand, the sacred doctrine teaches that he who is the supreme Source of good, and Cause of all things, is beyond all comprehension, and therefore inexpressible by word, or speech, or name; surpassing the power, not of language only, but of thought itself. Uncircumscribed by place, or body; neither in heaven, nor in ethereal space, nor in any other part of the universe; but entirely independent of all things else, he pervades the depths of unexplored and secret wisdom. The sacred oracles teach us to acknowledge him as the only true God, apart from all corporeal essence, distinct from all subordinate ministration. Hence it is said that all things are from him, but not through him. (Ch. 11-12 here.)

This “supreme source” is God, aka the Father (note the allusion to 1 Corinthians 8:6 at the end). So yes, there have been many Christians – mainstream ones, in good standing with the majority, and even leading thinkers – who asserted that it is a serious mistake to identify the eternal Son with his (and our) God. Eusebius is no oddball here. Other examples would be the outstanding catholic apologists of their generation, Tertullian and Origen. (Many like Origen also distinguish this Son from the man Jesus, but they’d say it’d be at least as great a mistake to identify the man Jesus with his God too.)

If McClatchie wants to hold out for a council statement, here’s one in which a distinction between God and Jesus is implicit, but clearly drawn, in this creed, widely used and reaffirmed c. 342-359. (Here, section 25.) It’s subtle, though. The distinction takes the form here of (1) declining to describe the Son as “true God,” (2) omitting the claim that God and his Son are one ousia, and (3) describing the Son as “begotten,” which they take to imply that he’s another being than the one who eternally caused him. In the context of this catholic controversy, their point was that God and his Son are two beings, not one (historians call this “duohypostatic” theology).

A similar meeting of bishops (discussed here) declares “Whosoever says that the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost are one Person, be he anathema.” One self, one intelligent being (here, hypostasis), one God – yes, that’s what evangelical apologists like McClatchie constantly assert as NT teaching.

Perhaps Mr. McLatchie should withdraw his promise… 

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podcast 174 – The First Sirmian creed (351) http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-174-the-first-sirmian-creed-351/ Mon, 06 Mar 2017 19:54:57 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38561 In the reign of Constantius II yet another council offered language to replace Nicea, and again to condemn Photinus his teacher Marcellus.

At 351 in Sirmium, an eastern council pronounced curses on

  • the condemned views ascribed to Arius
  • other what we can call “extreme subordinationist” views
  • all claims and exegesis perceived as “monarchian,” and
  • some claims which the Nicene creed might be thought to reply.

Yet this creed too is subordinationist; that’s how it preserves monotheism, following earlier catholic traditions.

In this episode I explain the context of Constantius’s reign, discuss the debate at this council involving Photinus, present the “anathemas” that this council added to the recycled creed, and focus on how it secures monotheism. I contrast their method with that of the Nicene bishop Hilary of St. Poitiers (c. 310 – c. 367), one of our sources for this creed. I then trace back this insistence on the language of “one God” to Origen (c. 186-255), and find it in triadic form in Apollinarus of Laodicea (c. 315-392). I suggest that this is a key step in the evolution of catholic tradition from unitarian to trinitarian theology.

Links for this episode:

 

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In the reign of Constantius II yet another council offered language to replace Nicea... In the reign of Constantius II yet another council offered language to replace Nicea, and again to condemn Photinus his teacher Marcellus.

At 351 in Sirmium, an eastern council pronounced curses on

* the condemned views ascribed to Arius
* other what we can call "extreme subordinationist" views
* all claims and exegesis perceived as "monarchian," and
* some claims which the Nicene creed might be thought to reply.

Yet this creed too is subordinationist; that's how it preserves monotheism, following earlier catholic traditions.

In this episode I explain the context of Constantius's reign, discuss the debate at this council involving Photinus, present the "anathemas" that this council added to the recycled creed, and focus on how it secures monotheism. I contrast their method with that of the Nicene bishop Hilary of St. Poitiers (c. 310 – c. 367), one of our sources for this creed. I then trace back this insistence on the language of "one God" to Origen (c. 186-255), and find it in triadic form in Apollinarus of Laodicea (c. 315-392). I suggest that this is a key step in the evolution of catholic tradition from unitarian to trinitarian theology.



Links for this episode:

* the ancient city of Sirmium
* podcast 114 – the recycled creed (342-359)
* Athanasius's account of this meeting and creed, De Synodis section 27
* Constantine
* Constantius II (r. 337-61)

* his territory was initially the light blue part on the right - then after a few years, all four areas (the united empire)


* Roger Olson, The Story of Christian Theology
* Hilary of Poitiers

* his discussion of this creed and its anathemas in his De Synodis, aka On the Councils, or, The Faith of the Easterns, sections 38ff.


* podcast 18 – Lewis vs. Rogers 2 – rebuttals
* relative identity Trinity theories
* Origen: Treatise on the Passover and Dialogue with Heraclides and his Fellow Bishops on the Father, the Son, and the Soul
* Apollinaris of Laodicea and his quoted fragments
* This week's thinking music is "Watching from Red Hill" by Artofescapism.

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Dale Tuggy clean 48:49
podcast 173 – Eusebius of Caesarea http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-173-eusebius-of-caesarea/ http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-173-eusebius-of-caesarea/#comments Mon, 27 Feb 2017 18:27:00 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38487 Why did Eusebius have to submit his own creed at the famous council of Nicea in 325? And why is he mostly remembered as a church historian today, even though he also wrote massive works of apologetics and theology? Was he, as is sometimes said, an “Arian”? How does he understand God and his Son, and why does he distinguish the man Jesus from the eternal Christ (the “Word” of John 1)?

In this episode we meet and hear from this famous and influential 3rd and 4th century Christian leader, and we’ll answer all of the above questions. We’ll also hear about mentor Pamphilus, his Origenist inheritance, and his agreement with a Platonic scheme for understanding divine transcendence and divine providence.  You’ll also learn about the other famous synod/council of bishops that met in 325! 

Correction: I say here that the Arian controversy broke out in the early 320s, but it is really dated some time between 314-8 – really getting going when the bishop Alexander deposes and excommunicates Arius and co. c. 318-9. 

Links for this episode:

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http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-173-eusebius-of-caesarea/feed/ 2 Why did Eusebius have to submit his own creed at the famous council of Nicea in 325?
In this episode we meet and hear from this famous and influential 3rd and 4th century Christian leader, and we'll answer all of the above questions. We'll also hear about mentor Pamphilus, his Origenist inheritance, and his agreement with a Platonic scheme for understanding divine transcendence and divine providence.  You'll also learn about the other famous synod/council of bishops that met in 325! 

Correction: I say here that the Arian controversy broke out in the early 320s, but it is really dated some time between 314-8 - really getting going when the bishop Alexander deposes and excommunicates Arius and co. c. 318-9. 

Links for this episode:

* Letter of the Synod of Antioch (325)
* Eusebius: The Church History
* Christopher Beeley, The Unity of Christ: Continuity and Conflict in Patristic Tradition (kindle)
* A New Eusebius: Documents Illustrating the History of the Church to AD 337
* podcast 107 – Dr. Robert M. Bowman Jr. on triadic New Testament passages – part 1
* podcast 108 – Dr. Robert M. Bowman Jr. on triadic New Testament passages – part 2
* 10 steps towards getting less confused about the Trinity – #8 – trinity vs. Trinity
* anathema
* This week's thinking music is "River Meditation" by Jason Shaw.
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Dale Tuggy clean 52:43
podcast 172 – The Creed of the Long Lines (344) http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-172-the-creed-of-the-long-lines-344/ http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-172-the-creed-of-the-long-lines-344/#comments Mon, 20 Feb 2017 17:22:58 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38475 In 344 a meeting of Eastern bishops assembled at Antioch, and they decided to send a delegation to the west with a statement explaining their theology. What they sent was a rerun of a creed from 342, but with additions from 343, and their own lengthy explanations added to the end. These are most revealing. This creed is call “the Macrostich” or the Long-lined Creed or the Creed of the Long Lines. In this episode we find out why these bishops say that:

  • Christ is “God” but not “true God”
  • the Son is generated by God’s choice or will, “apart from time”
  • that Father, Son, and Spirit are a triad of three realities
  • the Son to be (ontologically and functionally) subordinate to the Father
  • it is OK to describe the Son as (uniquely) “created
  • that the Father and the Son are not two gods

Avoiding as much controversial, non-biblical language as they thought they could, they hoped this creed would be acceptable all around, even to partisans of the 325 creed at Nicea. In this episode, you’ll hear a detailed analysis of their theology, and you’ll find out whether their hopes for unity were realized or dashed.

Links for this episode:

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http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-172-the-creed-of-the-long-lines-344/feed/ 4 In 344 a meeting of Eastern bishops sent a statement to the West explaining their theology. In 344 a meeting of Eastern bishops assembled at Antioch, and they decided to send a delegation to the west with a statement explaining their theology. What they sent was a rerun of a creed from 342, but with additions from 343, and their own lengthy explanations added to the end. These are most revealing. This creed is call "the Macrostich" or the Long-lined Creed or the Creed of the Long Lines. In this episode we find out why these bishops say that:

* Christ is "God" but not "true God"
* the Son is generated by God's choice or will, "apart from time"
* that Father, Son, and Spirit are a triad of three realities
* the Son to be (ontologically and functionally) subordinate to the Father
* it is OK to describe the Son as (uniquely) "created"
* that the Father and the Son are not two gods

Avoiding as much controversial, non-biblical language as they thought they could, they hoped this creed would be acceptable all around, even to partisans of the 325 creed at Nicea. In this episode, you'll hear a detailed analysis of their theology, and you'll find out whether their hopes for unity were realized or dashed.

Links for this episode:

* podcast 115 – the aborted council at Serdica in 343
* podcast 114 – the recycled creed (342-359)
* podcast 113 – the council at Antioch in 341
* podcast 73 – Is Proverbs 8 about Jesus? Part 3
* podcast 72 – Is Proverbs 8 about Jesus? Part 2
* podcast 71 – Is Proverbs 8 about Jesus? Part 1
* podcast 11 – Tertullian the unitarian
* Athanasius, De Synodis
* R.P.C. Hanson, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God
*  Proverbs 8; John 1; Philippians 2; John 20:28; John 17:1-3; 1 Corinthians 8:4-6; Acts 2:36.
* This week's thinking music is "A Perceptible Shift" by Andy G. Cohen.
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Dale Tuggy clean 49:55
podcast 171 – Assessing Athanasius and his Arguments http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-171-assessing-athanasius-and-his-arguments/ http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-171-assessing-athanasius-and-his-arguments/#comments Mon, 06 Feb 2017 17:14:09 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38452 What should we think of Athanasius’s ferocious condemnations of those he termed “Arians”?

And what should we think of his theological claims and arguments in his On the Nicene Council? Does he show that the creed of 325 simply defended and rephrased what Christians had always believed about God and Jesus, which moreover is plainly taught in the Bible? And what about his speculations about salvation, atonement, and deification?

In this episode, I assess both the man and his arguments, using scripture and reason.

Links for this episode:

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http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-171-assessing-athanasius-and-his-arguments/feed/ 1 What should we think of Athanasius's ferocious condemnations of those he termed "Arians"? What should we think of Athanasius's ferocious condemnations of those he termed "Arians"?

And what should we think of his theological claims and arguments in his On the Nicene Council? Does he show that the creed of 325 simply defended and rephrased what Christians had always believed about God and Jesus, which moreover is plainly taught in the Bible? And what about his speculations about salvation, atonement, and deification?

In this episode, I assess both the man and his arguments, using scripture and reason.

Links for this episode:

* podcast 170 – Athanasius’s On the Nicene Council – Part 2
* podcast 169 – Athanasius’s On the Nicene Council – Part 1
* Athanasius, On the Nicene Council aka Defence of the Nicene Definition
* Discourses Against the Arians
* Titus 3:1-11; 2 Timothy 2:22-26; Galatians 5:19-22; 1 John 2:3-11; Matthew 5:21-22; Acts 2:22-36; John 1:1; Luke 1:35; 2 Peter 1:4.
* podcast 22 – a cure for odium theologicum
* podcast 12 – the Apostles’ Creed
* podcast 11 – Tertullian the unitarian
* The Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature
* Eusebius's letter describing the Council at Nicea in 325
* “Only God can forgive sins.” False.
* Frances Young, From Nicea to Chalcedon, 2nd ed.
* podcast 60 – Dr. Carl Mosser on deification in the Bible
* podcast 59 – Dr. Carl Mosser on salvation as deification
* This week's thinking music is "Zest" by basematic
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Dale Tuggy clean 52:34
Is every Orwell an Orwell? http://trinities.org/blog/is-every-orwell-an-orwell/ Wed, 01 Feb 2017 14:09:12 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38439 As regards my earlier post, Maverick asks

Can we justify a distinction between the ‘is’ of identity and the ‘is’ of predication even if we do not make an absolute distinction between names (object words) and predicates (concept words)? I think we can.

We need to look deeper at the reason for the absolute distinction between singular terms and common/concept terms, which originates with Frege, who firmly believed that we must ‘keep well apart two wholly different cases that are easily confused, because we speak of existence in both cases’.

In one case the question is whether a proper name designates (bezeichnet), names, something; in the other, whether a concept takes objects under itself (unter sich befaßt). If we use the words ‘there is a –‘ we have the latter case. Now a proper name that designates nothing has no logical justification, since in logic we are concerned with truth in the strictest sense of the word ..

For the latter relation he also uses the term ‘falls under’ (unter .. fällt). For example he says

Das Wort ‘Planet’ bezieht sich gar nicht unmittelbar auf die Erde, sondern auf einen Begriff, unter den unter anderm auch die Erde fällt. So ist die Beziehung zur Erde nur eine durch den Begriff vermittelte, und es bedarf zur Erkennung dieser Beziehung der Fällung eines Urteils, das mit der Kenntnis der Bedeutung des Wortes ‘Planet’ noch keineswegs gegeben ist. Wenn ich einen Satz ausspreche mit dem grammatischen Subjekte ‘alle Menschen’, so will ich damit durchaus nichts von einem mir ganz unbekannten Häuptlinge im Innern Afrikas aussagen.

(‘The word ‘planet’ has no direct relation at all to the Earth, but only to a concept that the Earth, among other things, falls under; thus its relation to the Earth is only an indirect one, by way of the concept; and the recognition of this relation of falling under requires a judgment that is not in the least already given along with our knowledge of what the word ‘planet’ means. If I utter a sentence with the grammatical subject ‘all men’, I do not wish to say something about some Central African chief wholly unknown to me.

This is contrary to the assumption of Aristotelian logic where the same relation of falling under (subsumption, from the Latin sumere sub) holds between objects and both common and proper names. The difference with the proper name is that only one thing can fall under the name, when used in the same sense. Thus a premise with a proper name in it can be treated as a universal proposition. As Ockham says (Summa III-1.8)

It should be known also that just as it is argued evidently by putting such an affirmative or negative universal for the major in the first figure, so also it follows evidently if the major is an affirmative or negative singular. For “Socrates is white, every man is Socrates, therefore every man is white” follows well.

This is because only one object falls under ‘Socrates’, when ‘Socrates’ has a fixed sense, so ‘Socrates is bald’ if true is true because every man who is Socrates is bald, since there is only one of him.

If this is correct (and that is an assumption) there is no need for identity. Take e.g. ‘Hesperus is Venus, Venus is Phosphorus, therefore Hesperus is Phosphorus’. This can be interpreted as a syllogism with the valid form ‘every Hesperus is Venus, every Venus is Phosphorus, therefore every Hesperus is Phosphorus’. Any identity statement whatsoever can be interpreted as a universal statement.

Maverick objects that ‘Tom is hypertensive’ can be analysed as ‘Tom instantiates hypertensiveness.’ Fine, which is similar to Frege saying that Tom falls under the concept of hypertensiveness. Indeed, Frege holds that concept names (common terms) are names of Platonic extralinguistic objects. But then he says

It appears that Sommers is mistaken in his claim that “Clearly it is only after one has adopted the syntax that prohibits the predication of proper names that one is forced to read ‘a is b’ dyadically and to see in it a sign of identity.”

Well, no, because the whole point of the two term theory is that the same term (including proper names) can stand as both subject and predicate, and the whole point of the Fregean theory is that a proper name cannot stand as a predicate: we cannot interpret ‘Hesperus is Venus’ as ‘Hesperus has Venus-ness’. So the Maverick’s analysis implicitly rejects the two-term theory. He then objects to the nominalist theory that in ‘Hesperus is a planet’ both terms denote a single thing, on the grounds that while Orwell might not have fallen under ‘famous’, there is not possible situation in which he might might not have fallen under ‘Orwell’. So? According to Aristotle, and all the medieval logicians:

By the term ‘universal’ I mean that which is of such a nature as to be predicated of many subjects, by ‘individual’ that which is not thus predicated.

That is why proper names are called ‘proper names’. They are of such a nature as only to be predicated of a single individual. Every Orwell is an Orwell, and every Orwell is necessarily an Orwell: it is false that Orwell might not have been an Orwell, although he might not have been a famous person.

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Do we need identity? http://trinities.org/blog/do-we-need-identity/ http://trinities.org/blog/do-we-need-identity/#comments Tue, 31 Jan 2017 08:57:39 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38436

A propos of a discussion going on at the Maverick Philosopher’s place, I revisited ‘Do we need Identity’, chapter 6 of The Logic of Natural Language, a work by the late Fred Sommers that should be on everyone’s bookshelf. As the title suggests, Sommers questions the doctrine of ‘relationism’, i.e. the view that identity is a relation, and that the verb ‘is’ functions both to connect subject and predicate, as in ‘Venus is a planet’, and to relate objects, as in ‘Hesperus is Venus’.

I summarise his argument as follows. First, the distinction between the ‘is’ of predication and the ‘is’ of identity is not obvious, otherwise philosophers would have spotted it earlier. It is sometimes attributed to Leibniz, but Sommers questions whether it is to be found in that philosopher’s writings. Second, it only seems obvious after we have accepted the category distinction made by modern logic between object words and concept words. If we agree that ‘Venus’ and ‘Hesperus’ must be represented in the syntax of modern logic by lower-case letters, we must represent them as ‘a’ and ‘b’. But then ‘a is b’ is ill-formed if we read the ‘is’ as the ‘is’ of predication. In the aptly named ‘predicate logic’, the verb ‘to be’ is swallowed up into the predicate: we must represent ‘Venus is a planet’ as ‘Fa’, where ‘F’ stands for ‘is a planet’. As Sommers ironically comments

It is therefore obvious that ‘a is b’ has the form F(a,b,) where F is the grammatical predicate which represents ‘is identical with’ or ‘is no other than’. Clearly, it is only after one has adopted the syntax that prohibits the predication of proper names that one is forced to read ‘a is b’ dyadically and to see in it a sign of identity.

It may still be objected that identity really is a relation, and that the modern syntax makes explicit what was there all along, but more of that later.

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podcast 170 – Athanasius’s On the Nicene Council – Part 2 http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-170-athanasiuss-on-the-nicene-council-part-2/ http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-170-athanasiuss-on-the-nicene-council-part-2/#comments Mon, 30 Jan 2017 18:17:24 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38410 In this episode we hear the rest (chapters 4-7) of On the Nicene Council (aka Defence of the Nicene Definition, De Decretis) by Athanasius of Alexandria.

He argues that Christ being called “Word,” “Wisdom,” “Power,” “Hand,” and “Image” of God implies that he is indeed “from the essence” on “one in essence” with God. He attacks his opponents’ older two-stage logos theory, on which the Son did not exist before his “generation” from God, and defends the Origenist teaching of eternal generation. The Son, he argues, must be “proper Offspring” from the essence of God, and so also be unchangeable, immutable, and eternal.

He gives his own account of the motivations of that 325 council, which he attended with his then bishop, and then he urges that earlier catholic teachers – Theognostus, Dionysius of Alexandria, Dionysius of Rome, and Origen – had taught substantially the same christology as the 325 council. And he attacks his opponents’ term “unoriginate” as unscriptural, equivocal, and even blasphemous!

What’s your take? Does the Saint make his case here that all Christians should unite behind the original Nicene creed?

Links for this episode:

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http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-170-athanasiuss-on-the-nicene-council-part-2/feed/ 1 In this episode we hear the rest (chapters 4-7) of On the Nicene Council (aka Defence of the Nicene Definition, De Decretis) by Athanasius of Alexandria. In this episode we hear the rest (chapters 4-7) of On the Nicene Council (aka Defence of the Nicene Definition, De Decretis) by Athanasius of Alexandria.

He argues that Christ being called "Word," "Wisdom," "Power," "Hand," and "Image" of God implies that he is indeed "from the essence" on "one in essence" with God. He attacks his opponents' older two-stage logos theory, on which the Son did not exist before his "generation" from God, and defends the Origenist teaching of eternal generation. The Son, he argues, must be "proper Offspring" from the essence of God, and so also be unchangeable, immutable, and eternal.

He gives his own account of the motivations of that 325 council, which he attended with his then bishop, and then he urges that earlier catholic teachers - Theognostus, Dionysius of Alexandria, Dionysius of Rome, and Origen - had taught substantially the same christology as the 325 council. And he attacks his opponents' term "unoriginate" as unscriptural, equivocal, and even blasphemous!

What's your take? Does the Saint make his case here that all Christians should unite behind the original Nicene creed?



Links for this episode:

* podcast 169 – Athanasius’s On the Nicene Council – Part 1
* Defence of the Nicene Definition
* podcast 115 – the aborted council at Serdica in 343
* podcast 114 – the recycled creed (342-359)
* podcast 113 – the council at Antioch in 341
* podcast 31 – Dr. William Hasker on the “Arian” Controversy
* podcast 30 – The Council of Nicea
* podcast 29 – Arius
* This week's thinking music is "We Silently Surf the Gentle Sun (ft. Blue Wave Theory)" by Ivan Chew.
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Dale Tuggy clean 55:59
Keith Ward Trinity symposium in Philosophia Christi http://trinities.org/blog/keith-ward-trinity-symposium-in-philosophia-christi/ Wed, 25 Jan 2017 16:17:20 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38383 Just got this in the mail; a very thorough symposium on Dr. Keith Ward’s Christ and the Cosmos, including yours truly. Here’s the table of contents, showing the contributors. Me aside, let me say that this is a very accomplished bunch, with interestingly different theological commitments.

Haven’t had a chance to read the discussion yet, but I see glancing through that some of it centers on his rejection of what I call three-self Trinity theories. Modalism too comes up, and polytheism, and… well, it’s got 10 voices! Maybe I’ll post with a few reactions after I have a chance to read it through.

Here are my interviews with Dr. Ward on the same book, from awhile back:

podcast 109 – Dr. Keith Ward on Christ and the Cosmos – Part 1

podcast 110 – Dr. Keith Ward on Christ and the Cosmos – Part 2

Thanks to Philosophia Christi and Dr. Chad Meister for putting this all together!

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podcast 169 – Athanasius’s On the Nicene Council – Part 1 http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-169-athanasiuss-on-the-nicene-council-part-1/ Tue, 24 Jan 2017 14:20:19 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38371 With this episode we continue our series on the 4th-century creed-producing councils of catholic bishops (see below for links to the earlier episodes in this series).

At this point in our story, the early 350s, we meet the man who is usually cast is the singular hero of the story: the famous Athanasius of Alexandria, aka St. Athanasius. We hear about his background and his troubled early tenure as bishop of Alexandria, Egypt, and what led to his officially declared (but not enforced) deposition and excommunication.

Then we hear the man himself, the first three chapters of his On the Nicene Council, also called Defence of the Nicene Definition, or by its Latin title De Decretis. This is the first known work of his in which he aggressively defends the new creedal language introduced at the famous council in 325, namely the term homoousion (“same essence” or “same substance” or “same being”), as describing the metaphysical relationship between the Father and the Son. This is a detailed letter to someone who has been arguing with “Eusebians,” catholics who were inclined to think that Nicea’s new language was unhelpful, and who apparently objected that it was unscriptural. Probably too they thought that Father and Son were united more by will than by “nature” or “essence;” at any rate, Athanasius labels them “Arians” and lumps them together with others and attempts to school them in proper theology. We get to hear the first three chapters of his lesson.

Links for this episode:

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With this episode we continue our series on the 4th-century creed-producing councils of catholic bishops. With this episode we continue our series on the 4th-century creed-producing councils of catholic bishops (see below for links to the earlier episodes in this series).

At this point in our story, the early 350s, we meet the man who is usually cast is the singular hero of the story: the famous Athanasius of Alexandria, aka St. Athanasius. We hear about his background and his troubled early tenure as bishop of Alexandria, Egypt, and what led to his officially declared (but not enforced) deposition and excommunication.

Then we hear the man himself, the first three chapters of his On the Nicene Council, also called Defence of the Nicene Definition, or by its Latin title De Decretis. This is the first known work of his in which he aggressively defends the new creedal language introduced at the famous council in 325, namely the term homoousion ("same essence" or "same substance" or "same being"), as describing the metaphysical relationship between the Father and the Son. This is a detailed letter to someone who has been arguing with "Eusebians," catholics who were inclined to think that Nicea's new language was unhelpful, and who apparently objected that it was unscriptural. Probably too they thought that Father and Son were united more by will than by "nature" or "essence;" at any rate, Athanasius labels them "Arians" and lumps them together with others and attempts to school them in proper theology. We get to hear the first three chapters of his lesson.



Links for this episode:

* Defence of the Nicene Definition
* Khaled Anatolios, Retrieving Nicea: The Development and Meaning of Trinitarian Doctrine
* Khaled Anatolios, Athanasius
* R.P.C. Hanson, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God
* Frances Young, From Nicea to Chalcedon, 2nd ed.
* podcast 115 – the aborted council at Serdica in 343
* podcast 114 – the recycled creed (342-359)
* podcast 113 – the council at Antioch in 341
* podcast 31 – Dr. William Hasker on the “Arian” Controversy
* podcast 30 – The Council of Nicea
* podcast 29 – Arius
* This week's thinking music is "http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38338 How and why did American Unitarian Congregationalism die?

In this episode I react to last week’s chapter by Dr. Alvan Lamson, and talk about some further statements of his.

I then put this movement into its historical context, briefly explain how it ceased to be Christian, and then discuss factors which led to its demise. I focus in particular on their extreme anti-creedalism, their anti-intellectualism, their devotion to politics and focus on various humanitarian causes, the upper-class nature of the movement, their elitism and dismissal of more “emotional” piety, and their fetishizing of theological diversity.

Finally, I discuss ten factors which sociologist Dr. Rodney Stark has suggested explain the success or failure of religious movements, and how they apply to the case at hand. If I’m right, Stark’s theory reveals some key weak points of the movement.

Links for this episode:

]]> How and why did American Unitarian Congregationalism die?
In this episode I react to last week's chapter by Dr. Alvan Lamson, and talk about some further statements of his.

I then put this movement into its historical context, briefly explain how it ceased to be Christian, and then discuss factors which led to its demise. I focus in particular on their extreme anti-creedalism, their anti-intellectualism, their devotion to politics and focus on various humanitarian causes, the upper-class nature of the movement, their elitism and dismissal of more "emotional" piety, and their fetishizing of theological diversity.

Finally, I discuss ten factors which sociologist Dr. Rodney Stark has suggested explain the success or failure of religious movements, and how they apply to the case at hand. If I'm right, Stark's theory reveals some key weak points of the movement.

Links for this episode:

* Joseph Priestley, Theophilus Lindsey, Thomas Belsham
* The New Testament, In an Improved Version, Upon the Basis of Archbishop Newcome's New Translation: with a Corrected Text, and Notes Critical and Explanatory, 4th ed. (1817)
* Rethinking Hell - Exploring Evangelical Conditionalism
* podcast 85 – Heretic! Four Approaches to Dropping H-Bombs
* Origen, On Prayer
* Origen, Against Celsus
* Who Should Christians Worship? (pdf)
* Worship and Revelation 4-5
* podcast 48 – 2 interpretations of Philippians 2 – part 1 (part 2)
* podcast 141 – Dr. R.T. Mullins – Is God timeless?
* podcast 142 – Dr. R.T. Mullins on the coherence of “classical” theism
* podcast 91 – Dr.]]>
Dale Tuggy clean 1:00:31
Questions and (some) answers http://trinities.org/blog/questions-and-some-answers/ Wed, 11 Jan 2017 14:32:15 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38329
Dale asks, regarding
this post:

.. is this a question about words or about things? Seems to me it must be the former: e.g. does “Deus” (used by Anselm) co-refer with the term “ho theos” used by Paul?

Both, I think, if reference is a relation between language and reality. Then if the two terms ‘Deus’ and ‘ho theos’ co-refer, there is a third thing, not a linguistic term but an item in extralinguistic reality, to which the terms are externally related. And of course if God is real, he cannot be a ‘theoretical entity’. And what if it is not the case that the God of the philosophers is the same being as the God of Paul? Then there are two possibilities. Either there are two separate divine beings, one of whom gets top billing in the Biblical story, the other of which is some being, we know not what, who is omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnipotent etc., or one or both of them does not exist. (Dale points out that two people can theorize about the same being, and one gets it more correct than the other, but of course that would require that the beings be the same).

He also wonders about the religious or theological import of all of this. Well I am completing a book on the ‘Same God’ question and don’t want too many spoilers, but the broad tendency is against an over-liberal theology which begins with the theoretical God of philosophy, and almost ends there, with scriptural authority practically reduced to a sideshow. As a theology student at a liberal institution I was taught that Matthew has two angels because he is trying to make a theological point, Luke has one angel to make a quite different point, and Mark has a man at the tomb to say something probably different again. This is of course nonsense. Luke 1:

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

Luke and the other writers were clearly trying to piece together a historical narrative based on the reports of witnesses, other writings or letter and so on, just as a historian tries to piece together a coherent account based on the same kind of personal or textual witnesses. That does not have to entail Biblical inerrancy, although it is consistent with it. Like any historians, the gospel writers may not have got everything absolutely right. But they were not concocting some fabulous story or allegory. ‘These things are written so that you may believe’.

Turning from this to the question of substitutivity (if a and b are identical, then substituting ‘b’ for ‘a’ preserves the truth of the sentence), Dale also points out that Cartwright (among many) has shown this to be false. Very true, and this is the subject of a long-winded dispute over at the Maverick’s place, of which the latest installment is here (geeks only). Is designation is like pointing?

If you point at x, and y = x, you’ve pointed at y. Surely designation can involve more than that, but doesn’t it involve at least that? Why isn’t that good enough?

Right, but the question is whether designation is like pointing. Enough spoilers for now.

]]> wheel-spinning on the Trinity http://trinities.org/blog/wheel-spinning-on-the-trinity/ http://trinities.org/blog/wheel-spinning-on-the-trinity/#comments Tue, 10 Jan 2017 14:25:41 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38285 car stuck in the snow - photo by Michael PereckasOver at Triablogue, Reformed blogger Steve Hays has posted some thoughts in defense of trinitarian theology. As best I can tell, he’s never really had a developed view of the matter. He’ll pop out some wild personal speculations from time to time, but mostly he hunkers down in apologist mode, which is: the Trinity is obviously taught by the Bible, the Trinity is obviously essential to Christian theology, all real Christians have always been trinitarians.

His most recent post, though, is instructive, if a bit muddled. It is a variation on the common apologists’ theme which I’ve called The Standard Opening Move.”

He starts,

Let’s begin with a crude formulation of the Trinity:

i) There is one God

ii) The Father is God

iii) The Son is God

iv) The Spirit is God

v) The Father is not the Son, &c.

close enough memeUnfortunately, these aren’t sufficient for a trinitarian theology. One can easily interpret these sentences in a unitarian way, or in a modalist / Oneness way. Where’s the tripersonal god part? (He’s assuming that i-v imply it… but just look at them!) But I think his point is that the trinitarian will be committed to these, on some interpretations or other. Yes – that’s right. Back to Steve:

On the face of it, this appears to be formally contradictory or polytheistic. Now a formal contradiction is just a verbal contradiction rather than a logical contradiction, so that, of itself, isn’t all that concerning.

If ii-iv each imply that the “Person” in question is a god, then given that they numerically differ (v), they can’t be the same god, but must be different gods. But then i is false. So i-v seem contradictory on the assumption I start this paragraph. And that assumption is implied my trinitarian traditions on which each “Person” alone “is God” or is fully divine, e.g. the “Athanasian” creed.

BTW a mere verbal contradiction (e.g. “I’m tired but I’m not”) isn’t the same as a formal contradiction (e.g. P and not-P). The first is supposed to have to do with the surface, grammatical structure, while the latter is supposed to be about the deep or true formal structure of the propositions expressed. But I think he’s gesturing at the point that not every apparent (formal) contradiction really is one, which is true and important. He continues,

If, however, we say that “God” has the same sense throughout, then it’s much harder to eliminate a logical contradiction.

2. But suppose we don’t define “God” in the same sense throughout.

Here’s his main idea, the “meat” of the post, wherein he tries to make a distinction to banish the contradictions.

Suppose we introduce a distinction between “God” as an abstract noun and “God” as a concrete noun. As an abstract noun, “God” denotes divinity, divine nature. As a concrete noun, “God” denotes the particular being who is God (like an abstract particular). Let’s plug that semantic distinction into a more refined formulation of the Trinity:

i) There is one God (concrete noun)

ii) The Father is God (abstract noun)

iii) The Son is God (abstract noun)

iv) The Spirit is God (abstract noun)

v) The Father is not the Son, &c.

Not only does that dissolve the formal contradiction, but there’s no prima facie logical contradiction either. This is not to deny that the persons of the Trinity are individuals, but the semantic distinction concerns the definition of “God”, and not their particularity as distinct individuals.

This move, I think, is confused. “Divinity” is not a meaning of “God” by itself. Rather, “is God” can express “is divine.” Notice that in this revised i-v, “is” in i and v must mean “is numerically identical to” – it is numerical identity which is denied three times in v, and i asserts there to be one which just is (is numerically identical to) God. But if we read “is” is the “is” of identity throughout, it makes nonsense of ii-iv. The Son, etc. can’t be numerically identical to a property. (Yes, I know the divine simplicity folk disagree.)

I think what Steve’s really getting at is the difference between numerical identification and mere predication (description). i and v involve the first, and ii-iv involve the second. So what his revised sentences really amount to is this.

i) There is one God.

ii) The Father is divine.

iii) The Son is divine.

iv) The Spirit is divine.

v) The Father is not the Son, &c.

Has this eliminated any appearance of incoherence? No! The sort of divinity at issue in catholic tradition is the sort that implies that one is a god. But then ii-iv entail that each is a god. And when we add v, we get that there are at least three gods. But this contradicts i.

D’oh! We’re just spinning our wheels.

Finally, Steve admits what I pointed out at the start – that i-v don’t fully express any trinitarian theology.

Now, I don’t think a simple formulation of the Trinity can do it justice; I don’t think individual words are adequate to capture the conceptual richness; but as simple formulations go, that’s a good approximation.

The point doesn’t help his apologetic project here, of banishing apparent incoherence. The reason is that if trinitarian theology requires at least i-v, then whatever more is required, the theory is still stuck with the seeming incoherence of i-v.

The only ways out are denying some of i-v or coming up with a theory which provides a different interpretation of i-v. There are some out there, but none can claim to be “the” doctrine long believed by catholic Christians.

What a Protestant should be wondering is whether scripture really authorizes ii-iv in the same sense. In my view, it implies ii understood as making a numerical identity claim, and not only as a description of the Father.

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podcast 167 – Lamson’s History of The Unitarian Congregationalists http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-167-lamsons-history-of-the-unitarian-congregationalists/ Mon, 09 Jan 2017 22:18:13 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38310 extinct dodo birdIn this episode we hear a voice from 1852 describing a lost species of American Christianity: unitarian Congregationalism. In this overview, Dr. Alvan Lamson, former instructor of theology at Harvard and longtime pastor of such a church in Massachusetts, outlines the beliefs, history, and (then) reasonably current statistics on the group.

As you’ll hear, in some ways this branch of Christianity is similar to current-day biblical unitarian groups. But there are some important differences as well. And while Lamson is sunny on this group’s prospects, looking back, I think we can see some of the factors in place, in and around the group, that led to its demise. I’ll comment on those next week, as I’ve never seen anyone give a really helpful post-mortem report on what lead to the death of this Christian movement.

Here’s the original “Analysis of the Ensuing Article” (emphases added):

  1. Doctrines of Unitarians.—Great distinguishing features of Unitarianism—Diversity of opinion among Unitarians—Views generally received among them—Character of God—Gospel of Jesus originated in his mercy—Unitarian views of his justice—Jesus Christ—Unitarians believe him to be a distinct being from the Father, and inferior to him—The sort of evidence on which they rely for proving this—Assert the incredibility of the Trinity—Their view of the teachings of the scripture relating to Son—The inference they make from the conduct of the disciples and others—Their views of Trinitarian proof texts—Of the concessions of Trinitarian Christians—Unitarians do not address Christ directly in prayer—Reasons for not doing it—Question of his nature—How regarded by Unitarians—His character and offices—True ground of reverence for Jest’s, according to Unitarians—Unitarian views of the divinity of Christ—Their views of the Atonement—They do not, they contend, destroy the hope of the sinner, nor rob the Cross of its power—Unitarian views of the Holy Spirit—Of the terms of salvation—Of the new birth—How Unitarians speak of reverence for human nature—Need of help—Retribution for sin and holiness—Of the Bible—their reply to the charge of unduly exalting human reason.
  2. History.—Unitarians do not profess to hold any new doctrine—What they affirm. that they are able to prove of the Unitarianism of ihe ancient Church—Reference to modern Unitarianism in Europe—American Unitarianism—Its date—Its progress, to the commencement of the present century—Its state during the first fifteen years of this century—1815 an epoch in its history—First controversy—Its origin and results—Second controversy—First separation between  orthodox and Unitarian Congregationalists.
  3. Statistics.—Number of societies and churches—Other Unitarians besides Congregationalists—Unitarian Periodicals—American Unitarian Association—Present condition and prospects of Unitarianism.

Links for this episode:

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In this episode we hear a voice from 1852 describing a lost species of American Christianity:
As you'll hear, in some ways this branch of Christianity is similar to current-day biblical unitarian groups. But there are some important differences as well. And while Lamson is sunny on this group's prospects, looking back, I think we can see some of the factors in place, in and around the group, that led to its demise. I'll comment on those next week, as I've never seen anyone give a really helpful post-mortem report on what lead to the death of this Christian movement.

Here's the original "Analysis of the Ensuing Article" (emphases added):

* Doctrines of Unitarians.—Great distinguishing features of Unitarianism—Diversity of opinion among Unitarians—Views generally received among them—Character of God—Gospel of Jesus originated in his mercy—Unitarian views of his justice—Jesus Christ—Unitarians believe him to be a distinct being from the Father, and inferior to him—The sort of evidence on which they rely for proving this—Assert the incredibility of the Trinity—Their view of the teachings of the scripture relating to Son—The inference they make from the conduct of the disciples and others—Their views of Trinitarian proof texts—Of the concessions of Trinitarian Christians—Unitarians do not address Christ directly in prayer—Reasons for not doing it—Question of his nature—How regarded by Unitarians—His character and offices—True ground of reverence for Jest's, according to Unitarians—Unitarian views of the divinity of Christ—Their views of the Atonement—They do not, they contend, destroy the hope of the sinner, nor rob the Cross of its power—Unitarian views of the Holy Spirit—Of the terms of salvation—Of the new birth—How Unitarians speak of reverence for human nature—Need of help—Retribution for sin and holiness—Of the Bible—their reply to the charge of unduly exalting human reason.
* History.—Unitarians do not profess to hold any new doctrine—What they affirm. that they are able to prove of the Unitarianism of ihe ancient Church—Reference to modern Unitarianism in Europe—American Unitarianism—Its date—Its progress, to the commencement of the present century—Its state during the first fifteen years of this century—1815 an epoch in its history—First controversy—Its origin and results—Second controversy—First separation between  orthodox and Unitarian Congregationalists.
* Statistics.—Number of societies and churches—Other Unitarians besides Congregationalists—Unitarian Periodicals—American Unitarian Association—Present condition and prospects of Unitarianism.

Links for this episode:

* Alvan Lamson, "History of the Unitarian Congregationalists," from History of the all the Religious Denominations of the United States, 3rd ed.
* present-day "What we Believe" and "Seven Principles" of the Unitarian Universalism Association (contrast with the views summarized in this episode by Lamson)
* John 17:1-3,  1 Timothy 2:5, John 14:28, John 7:16, John 14:10, John 5:30, John 14:10, Acts 2:36, Acts 5:31; John 16:23, Luke 11:13.
* Martin Cellarius, aka Martin Borrhaus
* the Servetus affair
* http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38297 The Maverick philosopher has a comment on my earlier question about the necessity of identity. Can we get from ‘a=b’ to ‘necessarily a=b’ in a simple step? He thinks we can.

Now if ‘H’ and ‘P’ designate one and the same entity, then what appears to be of the form a = b, reduces to the form a = a. Clearly, if a = a, then necessarily a = a. The assumption that the identity of H and P is contingent entails the absurdity that a thing is distinct from itself. Therefore the relation denoted by ‘=’ holds necessarily in every case in which it holds. Q. E. D.

The problem is the claim that ‘H’ (‘Hesperus’) and ‘P’ (‘Phosphorus’) designate one and the same entity. How do we get there, given only that H is the same object as P? Suppose we grant that H and P are this ‘one and the same entity’. We are saying that there is some entity, call it ‘V’ (i.e. Venus), such that H is identical with V and P is identical with V. Fair enough. But how do we get from there to the claim that the names designate this one and the same entity, i.e. that ‘H’ designates V and ‘P’ designates V? I.e. what validates the move from 2 to 3 in the following argument?

1. H=V
2. ‘H’ designates H
3. Therefore ‘H’ designates V.

You need the principle of substitutivity, the principle that if a=b and Fa, then infer Fb. For example, let F be the function ‘‘H’ designates –’. Then we agree that F(H), because we assumed that ‘H’ designates H. And we posit that H=V. Given substitutivity, it follow that F(V). But only given that substitutivity is valid in this case, which is not at all obvious, at least to me.

I think we pass over this covert assumption because of the particular example chosen. Everyone knows about the planet Venus, so we all know what ‘Venus’ designates. Not so many people know about Hesperus and Phosphorus, and that’s because the names are introduced via the philosophical discussion itself. As an aside, I don’t know when these names got introduced to philosophical debate. Frege uses the names ‘Abendstern’ and ‘Morgenstern’ and it may have been he who introduced the example. Ruth Barcan Marcus (‘Modalities and intensional languages, Synthese 13 (4):303-322 (1961) discusses the same example, using the terms ‘evening star’ and ‘morning star’. But where did the names ‘Hesperus’ and ‘Phosphorus’ come from? They are transliterated from the Greek, and there is a story that the Greeks believed they were different objects, indeed that they weren’t a planet at all but a god. Certainly the Babylonians knew that the object visible in the morning and the one in the evening were the same, as the Venus tablet of Ammisaduqa attests. As for the name ‘Venus’, we know the Romans also called the planet by that name, (Quem Venus ante alios astrorum diligit ignes, Vergil Aeneid viii. 590), probably after the Greek goddess Aphrodite, whose name was also given to the planet. Diodorus Siculus claims that the Greeks borrowed the name from the Chaldeans, but enough of that. My point is that Kripke starts with an example where the designations of ‘Hesperus’, ‘Phosphorus’ and ‘Venus’ are presumed. Moreover, the object designated is one that is now visible to us and so can be the object of demonstrative reference. So it is completely obvious, starting with that background, that the three names designate one and the same object. It’s rather like the situation he remarks on elsewhere, that there a conventional, and community-wide connotation of the names ‘Holland’ and ‘the Netherlands’, and that these names are effectively synonymous. So if the names ‘Hesperus’ and ‘Phosphorus’ are synonyms, and if they are rigid designators, it is plain as day that necessarily Hesperus is identical with Phosphorus, just as it is necessary that Holland is the Netherlands!

Once we turn to an example where there is no community-wide connotation, it becomes less obvious. My favourite examples are the name ‘Nebo-Sarsekim’, which designates the man mentioned in Jeremiah 39:3, a chief officer who took a seat at the middle gate of Jerusalem after Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to it, and ‘Nabu-sharrussu-ukin’, which designates a man mentioned in a Babylonian clay tablet dated to around 595 BC by the British Museum. It reads

[Regarding] 1.5 minas (0.75 kg) of gold, the property of Nabu-sharrussu-ukin, the chief eunuch, which he sent via Arad-Banitu the eunuch to [the temple] Esangila: Arad-Banitu has delivered [it] to Esangila. In the presence of Bel-usat, son of Alpaya, the royal bodyguard, [and of] Nadin, son of Marduk-zer-ibni. Month XI, day 18, year 10 [of] Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.

The two names plainly do not designate the same person. ‘Nebo-Sarsekim’ means or designates the man mentioned by Jeremiah. ‘Nabu-sharrussu-ukin’ means or designates the man mentioned by the clay tablet. And unlike the case of Hesperus and Phosphorus, we don’t have a third name like ‘Venus’ which we can use to designate a single object identical with the object designated by each of the other two names. We just have the two names. So what if Nebo-Sarsekim was in fact the same person as Nabu-sharrussu-ukin? Does it follow that there is a single person who we shall designate by a new name ‘Nebo-Nabu’, such that this name, and the other two names, designate Nebo-Nabu in every possible world, so that it is necessary that Nebo-Nabu is identical with Nebo-Sarsekim, and with Nabu-sharrussu-ukin? Only if we buy the following argument:

1.  Nebo-Sarsekim = Nebo-Nabu
2. ‘Nebo-Sarsekim’ designates Nebo-Sarsekim
3. Therefore ‘Nebo-Sarsekim’ designates Nebo-Nabu

But why should we buy the move to (3)? It’s not at all obvious to me.

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Identity and necessity http://trinities.org/blog/identity-and-necessity/ http://trinities.org/blog/identity-and-necessity/#comments Sat, 07 Jan 2017 14:49:28 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38280 This week I have been pondering the question of whether the God of the Philosophers (a being who is omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnipotent etc.) is the same being as the God of the scriptures (Eleanor Stump thinks he is, for example), and in particular the question of whether, if he is identical, he is necessarily identical. The philosopher Saul Kripke is famous for upholding the so-called ‘necessity of identity’ thesis, and for many years – I first studied his magisterial and influential Naming and Necessity in 1979 – I thought I understood what his argument was. Now I am less sure.

My puzzle is that there are various ways we can get to the thesis of the Necessity of Identity, yet Kripke apparently accepts none of these. The thesis was first proposed (as far as we know) by modal logic pioneer Ruth Barcan Marcus in 1947 (‘Identity of Individuals in a Strict Functional Calculus of Second Order’, JSL 1947 12-15), although her paper was nearly rejected after Quine, the reviewer, found her methods ‘laborious and often rather obvious, while she seems to avoid the more difficult and interesting questions’. Quine later published a less laborious demonstration of the thesis in 1953 (‘Three Grades of Modal Involvement’ JSL 1953, 168-169), which involves just two assumptions, namely the Principle of Identity, that necessarily a=a, and Substitutivity, that a=b and Fa implies Fb. From these two it clearly follows that if a = b, then necessarily a = b. (Hint: let ‘F’ be ‘necessarily a = —’, start with Fa, and substitute ‘b’ for ‘a’).

That is all clear and good. The problem is that Kripke doesn’t want to assume Substitutivity. He questions the universal substitutivity of proper names (N&N p.20), and as is well known he agrees with Frege that the identity of Hesperus the evening star and Phosphorus the morning star had to await discovery by a scientist (Pythagoras) and is thus not knowable from first principles. So ‘It is true from first principles that Hesperus is Phosphorus’ is false, yet ‘It is true from first principles that Hesperus is Hesperus’ is true! If we can change the truth value of the statement simply by substituting a name for the same planet, how can Substitutivity be true?

Nor does he want to assume that ‘Hesperus is Phosphorus’ is true in virtue of its meaning. He says (N&N p.20) that some critics of his doctrines, (‘and some sympathizers’) have taken him to be implying

that a sentence with ‘Cicero’ in it expresses the same ‘proposition’ as the corresponding one with ‘Tully’, that to believe the proposition expressed by the one is to believe the proposition expressed by the other, or that they are equivalent for all semantic purposes. Russell does seem to have held such a view for ‘logically proper names’, and it seems congenial to a purely ‘Millian’ picture of naming, where only the referent of the name contributes to what is expressed. But I (and for all I know, even Mill) never intended to go so far. My view that the English sentence ‘Hesperus is Phosphorus’ could sometimes be used to raise an empirical issue while ‘Hesperus is Hesperus’ could not shows that I do not treat the sentences as completely interchangeable.

This blocks a second route to the necessity of identity. Clearly if ‘a=a’ means the same thing as ‘a=b’, and if ‘a=a’ is necessarily true in virtue of its meaning, then ‘a=b’ is also necessary, since it expresses exactly the same proposition. But Kripke does not endorse such equivalence of meaning. Why then does he believe that the necessity of identity is a universal principle?

It is surprisingly difficult to find any positive argument in his work. Most of his well-known arguments are negative ones, demonstrating that apparent exceptions to the necessity principle are not exceptions at all. For example, we can suppose a situation in which some planet other than Hesperus was called ‘Hesperus’. But that would not be a situation in which Hesperus itself was not Phosphorus (N&N p.108). The only positive argument I could find is this:

If names are rigid designators, then there can be no question about identities being necessary, because ‘a’ and ‘b’ will be rigid designators of a certain man or thing x. Then even in every possible world, ‘a’ and ‘b’ will both refer to this same object x, and to no other, and so there will be no situation in which a might not have been b. That would have to be a situation in which the object which we are also now calling ‘x’ would not have been identical with itself. Then one could not possibly have a situation in which Cicero would not have been Tully or Hesperus would not have been Phosphorus. (‘Identity and Necessity’ p. 154, there is a similar argument in N&N p.104).

Let’s unpack this. Kripke’s notion of a rigid designator is clear enough, and is an important contribution to the philosophy of language. A rigid designator is one which designates the same object in every possible world. Or if you don’t like ‘possible world’ talk, a term which designates the same in a proposition prefixed by a modal operator like ‘it is necessary that’ or ‘it is possible that’ as when not so prefixed. Then his argument looks like this:

1. Let ‘a’ rigidly designate a and ‘b’ rigidly designate b
2. Suppose a=b
3. Then there is a single thing x, such that x=a and x = b
4. ‘a’ designates x and ‘b’ designates x
5. If ‘a’ designates x rigidly, ‘a’ designates x in every possible world, likewise ‘b’
6. If ‘a’ and ‘b’ designate x in some possible world w, and not a=b, then not x=x
7. Therefore a=b in w
8. But w was any possible world. Therefore, necessarily a=b.

Steps 1 and 2 are suppositions, step 3 follows from 2 by the nature of identity. Step 4 I will discuss shortly. Step 5 follows from the definition of rigid designator, step 6 probably requires further assumptions, but looks OK. Step 7 follows by contradiction, and step 8, the conclusion, by the principle that if we can prove p for any arbitrary w, then p holds for every w.

Let’s return to step 4, as I promised. We agree that ‘a’ designates a. And that a=x, by assumption. Why on earth would it follow that ‘a’ designates x? Well, let F be ‘‘a’ designates —’, so ‘Fa’ says that ‘a’ designates a. And let x=a. How do we get from Fa and x=a to Fx? By our old friend Substitution, no less. Yet Kripke claims to reject the universal applicability of Substitution. He could argue that it simply fails to hold in this case, but the thing about being a logical principle is that if it fails in even one case, it has to fail in every case, unless we can find a sufficient reason why it fails in that case, but then of course the principle has to include that reason. Heavy stuff.

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podcast 166 – Alvan Lamson’s On the Doctrine of Two Natures in Jesus Christ – Part 2 http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-166-alvan-lamsons-on-the-doctrine-of-two-natures-in-jesus-christ-part-2/ http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-166-alvan-lamsons-on-the-doctrine-of-two-natures-in-jesus-christ-part-2/#comments Tue, 03 Jan 2017 22:27:54 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38264

Is the theory that Jesus has “two natures” more trouble than it’s worth? In this second half of his short book, Alvan Lamson objects to the doctrine of “two natures” in Jesus that it

  • implies that Jesus is not an example of faith and piety for us to imitate
  • makes parts of the New Testament impossible for us to understand (Which “nature” is now speaking or acting?)
  • would make it impossible for Jesus to disavow supreme divinity, as anything he says about his inferiority to God can be referred to his human nature
  • is unnecessary, as the exegetical problems it is supposed to solve are more easily solved by less extreme and less arbitrary interpretive moves
  • misfits the general tenor of the New Testament, which as a whole portrays Jesus as different being than God, who is in various ways less great than God is
  • atonement does not require it, and arguments that the sacrifice victim must be of infinite value and have a divine nature are sophistical
  • it is neither explicitly taught nor clearly implied by the Bible, and if God had intended to teach it by means of the Bible, it would clearly taught and emphasized there; but, it is not. Thus, it is unlikely to be part of the content of divine revelation. Nor do Jesus’s disciples, in the New Testament, express the astonishment they would have felt upon being shown that he is God himself. It seems clear that this doctrine of two natures in Jesus is “a product of later ages.”

Is it?

Links for this episode:

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http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-166-alvan-lamsons-on-the-doctrine-of-two-natures-in-jesus-christ-part-2/feed/ 1 Is the theory that Jesus has "two natures" more trouble than it's worth?
Is the theory that Jesus has "two natures" more trouble than it's worth? In this second half of his short book, Alvan Lamson objects to the doctrine of "two natures" in Jesus that it

* implies that Jesus is not an example of faith and piety for us to imitate
* makes parts of the New Testament impossible for us to understand (Which "nature" is now speaking or acting?)
* would make it impossible for Jesus to disavow supreme divinity, as anything he says about his inferiority to God can be referred to his human nature
* is unnecessary, as the exegetical problems it is supposed to solve are more easily solved by less extreme and less arbitrary interpretive moves
* misfits the general tenor of the New Testament, which as a whole portrays Jesus as different being than God, who is in various ways less great than God is
* atonement does not require it, and arguments that the sacrifice victim must be of infinite value and have a divine nature are sophistical
* it is neither explicitly taught nor clearly implied by the Bible, and if God had intended to teach it by means of the Bible, it would clearly taught and emphasized there; but, it is not. Thus, it is unlikely to be part of the content of divine revelation. Nor do Jesus's disciples, in the New Testament, express the astonishment they would have felt upon being shown that he is God himself. It seems clear that this doctrine of two natures in Jesus is "a product of later ages."

Is it?

Links for this episode:

* On the Doctrine of Two Natures in Jesus Christ from Sixteen American Unitarian Tracts
* Matthew 24:36, Mark 10:18, John 5:19, John 5:30, John 7:16, John 14:28, John 17:1-3, 1 Corinthians 8:4-6, 1 Timothy 2:5.
* podcast 145 – ‘Tis Mystery All: the Immortal dies!
* podcast 146 – Jesus as an Exemplar of Faith in the New Testament
* This week's thinking music is "Bathed in Fine Dust" by Andy G. Cohen.
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Dale Tuggy clean
podcast 165 – Alvan Lamson’s On the Doctrine of Two Natures in Jesus Christ – Part 1 http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-165-alvan-lamsons-on-the-doctrine-of-two-natures-in-jesus-christ-part-1/ http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-165-alvan-lamsons-on-the-doctrine-of-two-natures-in-jesus-christ-part-1/#comments Mon, 26 Dec 2016 17:56:09 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38251 All Christians have always believed that Jesus Christ is one person with two natures, a divine nature and a human nature, right?

Wrong. In today’s podcast we hear from a learned Congregationalist minister who rejected such theories on several grounds, in his short 1828 book On the Doctrine of Two Natures in Jesus Christ

Alvan Lamson (1792-1864) was a Harvard-educated minister who was for some time was a co-editor of the periodical The Christian Examiner. He’s most remembered now for his magisterial book The Church of the First Three Centuries.

In this first part we hear his first three objections, dealing with history and coherence of these claims, and his charge that such theories make Jesus a liar. Do these objections stick?

Links for this episode:

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http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-165-alvan-lamsons-on-the-doctrine-of-two-natures-in-jesus-christ-part-1/feed/ 2 All Christians have always believed that Jesus Christ is one person with two natures, a divine nature and a human nature, right?
Wrong. In today's podcast we hear from a learned Congregationalist minister who rejected such theories on several grounds, in his short 1828 book On the Doctrine of Two Natures in Jesus Christ

Alvan Lamson (1792-1864) was a Harvard-educated minister who was for some time was a co-editor of the periodical The Christian Examiner. He's most remembered now for his magisterial book The Church of the First Three Centuries.

In this first part we hear his first three objections, dealing with history and coherence of these claims, and his charge that such theories make Jesus a liar. Do these objections stick?

Links for this episode:

* On the Doctrine of Two Natures in Jesus Christ from Sixteen American Unitarian Tracts
* The Church of the First Three Centuries: Or, Notices of the Lives and Opinions of the Early Fathers, with Special Reference to the Doctrine of the Trinity, Illustrating its Late Origin and Gradual Formation
* podcast 74 – Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho – Part 1
* posts on Origen
* Petavius
* Ralph Cudworth
* podcast 30 – The Council of Nicea
* Dogmatic Definition of the Council of Chalcedon, 451
* podcast 145 – ‘Tis Mystery All: the Immortal dies!
* podcast 143 – Dr. Timothy Pawl’s In Defense of Conciliar Christology – Part 1
* The Council of Ephesus, 431
* podcast 86 – Kermit Zarley on distinguishing Jesus and God
* Jeremy Myers asks: “Did Jesus Learn?”
* mental reservation
* Acts 2:24, Acts 2:32, Matthew 24:36, Mark 10:18, John 5:30.
* This week's thinking music is "Stars Collide (Instrumental Version" by Josh Woodward.
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podcast 164 – On Counting Gods http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-164-on-counting-gods/ Mon, 19 Dec 2016 19:51:37 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38229 The terms “atheism,” “monotheism,” and “polytheism” seem straightforward enough, but in fact there is unclarity in how a lot of scholars think and write about these, due to the ambiguity of the term “theism.”

In this talk at Boston College in December of 2016, based on my recently published paper “On Counting Gods,” I distinguish these concepts: deity, God, The Ultimate, and show how they are logically related to one another.

The result is, I claim, a better scheme for classifying religious worldviews, shown in two of the charts below. I explain briefly here how I think this scheme helps in thinking about views about deities etc. in Christiany, Hinduism, Islam, and Buddhism, and my interlocutors ask how this relates to Christ and to various Trinity theories.

Thanks to Dr. Daniel McKaughan of Boston College and his graduate students for a stimulating discussion! The link to the full paper is just below.

Links for this episode:

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The terms "atheism," "monotheism," and "polytheism" seem straightforward enough, but The terms "atheism," "monotheism," and "polytheism" seem straightforward enough, but in fact there is unclarity in how a lot of scholars think and write about these, due to the ambiguity of the term "theism."

In this talk at Boston College in December of 2016, based on my recently published paper "On Counting Gods," I distinguish these concepts: deity, God, The Ultimate, and show how they are logically related to one another.

The result is, I claim, a better scheme for classifying religious worldviews, shown in two of the charts below. I explain briefly here how I think this scheme helps in thinking about views about deities etc. in Christiany, Hinduism, Islam, and Buddhism, and my interlocutors ask how this relates to Christ and to various Trinity theories.

Thanks to Dr. Daniel McKaughan of Boston College and his graduate students for a stimulating discussion! The link to the full paper is just below.

Links for this episode:


* "On Counting Gods"
* Daniel McKaughan

* podcast 147 – Dr. Daniel McKaughan on faith – Part 1


* Deuteronomy 10:17; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Isaiah 40:17; Rev 4:8-11; Revelation 5:9-14; Hebrews 1:8-9; Genesis 1:26.
* podcast 97 – Dr. Michael Heiser on The Unseen Realm
* Paula Fredriksen
* Carl Mosser

* podcast 59 – Dr. Carl Mosser on salvation as deification


* Joseph Priestley
* Epicurus of Samos
* Graham Oppy

* podcast 160 – Dr. Graham Oppy on the Conflict between Christianity and Philosophy


* Henry More
* Ralph Cudworth
* podcast 96 – Dr. Winfried Corduan on the case for original monotheism
* posts on the worship of God and of Jesus in Revelation
* Passing Feser’s Laugh Test
* John Scottus Eriugena
* "Divine Deception and Monotheism"
* Who Should Christians Worship?
* Paul Tillich
* Sam Lebens
* http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38217 My paper “On Counting Gods” has just been published by the new five-language philosophy of religion / philosophical theology / analytic theology journal TheoLogica. I would especially like to thank editors Alejandro Pérez  and Jean-Baptiste Guillon for their help. I got a couple of very good, helpful referee reports from anonymous reviewers here – thanks to those folks, whoever they are. I would also thank Carl Mosser, whose work on this topic was helpful. You can view (and download) the papers in their first issue here. I’m also grateful for feedback from Bill Vallicella, Andy Cullison, and my colleagues Neil Feit and Steve Kershnar.

This paper is about understanding the concepts of monotheism, polytheism (polydeism – see the paper), and atheism (and adeism). In my opinion, this is the most important philosophical work I’ve done, and I worked on it on and off for about five years. My aim is to clarify our thinking about competing religious worldviews. I argue that we need to replace the trichotomy monotheism-polytheism-atheism, which I claim is confused and confusing.

In short, the term “god ” is ambiguous; we must distinguish between concepts of a god, a (mere) deity, and an ultimate reality which is neither a god nor a deity. “Atheism” is best understood, as Cudworth and More thought, as denial of a god. Most atheists in the history of the world have believed in many deities. Present-day naturalists are adeists (no deities), which implies atheism.

Next Monday on the podcast, you can hear a recent presentation of the core of this material which I recently presented to philosophy graduate students at Boston College, who contribute a lot of excellent questions and discussion.

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podcast 163 – Dr. K. Scott Oliphint on How Christianity Trumps Philosophy http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-163-dr-k-scott-oliphint-on-how-christianity-trumps-philosophy/ http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-163-dr-k-scott-oliphint-on-how-christianity-trumps-philosophy/#comments Mon, 12 Dec 2016 22:54:48 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38198

Does Christianity trump Philosophy? This is one way of putting Dr. K. Scott Oliphint’s covenantal perspective on the two. In this new interview we discuss his contributions to Four Views on Christianity and Philosophy (kindle). Topics include:

  • his disagreements with his Christian interlocutors Dr. Timothy McGrew and Dr. Paul Moser
  • the concept of theological principia
  • his views on natural theology and on the correct interpretation of Romans 1
  • his understanding of the Trinity
  • his views on mysteries, and his problem with Dr. Graham Oppy‘s mysterious physical necessary being
  • his understanding of how possibility, necessity, and impossibility relate to God.
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http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-163-dr-k-scott-oliphint-on-how-christianity-trumps-philosophy/feed/ 6 Does Christianity trump Philosophy?
Does Christianity trump Philosophy? This is one way of putting Dr. K. Scott Oliphint's covenantal perspective on the two. In this new interview we discuss his contributions to Four Views on Christianity and Philosophy (kindle). Topics include:

* his disagreements with his Christian interlocutors Dr. Timothy McGrew and Dr. Paul Moser
* the concept of theological principia
* his views on natural theology and on the correct interpretation of Romans 1
* his understanding of the Trinity
* his views on mysteries, and his problem with Dr. Graham Oppy's mysterious physical necessary being
* his understanding of how possibility, necessity, and impossibility relate to God.



* Links for this episode:
* Dr. Oliphint's home page at Westminster Theological Seminary

* Reasons for Faith: Philosophy in the Service of Theology
* God with Us: Divine Condescension and the Attributes of God
* Covenantal Apologetics: Principles and Practice in Defense of Our Faith
* The Majesty of Mystery: Celebrating the Glory of an Incomprehensible God
* Reformation21.org


* Four Views on Christianity and Philosophy (kindle)

* co-editor Dr. Paul Gould on this book
* co-editor Dr. Richard Davis on this book


* one self vs. three self Trinity theories
* mysterianism about the Trinity
* Francis Turretin
podcast 65 – Dr. Joshua Blander on John Duns Scotus on Identity and Distinction
* Eleonore Stump on Incarnation
* http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38184 dr-tim-mcgrew

We find miracle-reports in many religions. Does this undermine Christian appeals to miracle-reports? In this interview about his interactions in the new book Four Views on Christianity and Philosophy (kindle), Dr. Timothy McGrew discusses this and other issues, including:

  • his religious background and his journey into Philosophy of Science
  • whether or not metaphysical naturalism is superior to theism in virue of its greater simplicity
  • Dr. Graham Oppy’s claim in this book about the alleged resurrection of Jesus that “All the evidence we have is the contents of a modest number of documents of uncertain pedigree.”
  • whether or not Paul in Romans 1 gives any support to the project of natural theology, in light of two earlier famous scriptural passages
  • arguments for the basic reliability of the New Testament writings based on observable relationships between their contents

Links for this episode:

four-views-on-christianity-and-philosophy

]]> http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-162-dr-timothy-mcgrew-on-the-convergence-of-philosophy-and-christianity/feed/ 3 We find miracle-reports in many religions. Does this undermine Christian appeals to miracle-reports?
We find miracle-reports in many religions. Does this undermine Christian appeals to miracle-reports? In this interview about his interactions in the new book Four Views on Christianity and Philosophy (kindle), Dr. Timothy McGrew discusses this and other issues, including:

* his religious background and his journey into Philosophy of Science
* whether or not metaphysical naturalism is superior to theism in virue of its greater simplicity
* Dr. Graham Oppy's claim in this book about the alleged resurrection of Jesus that "All the evidence we have is the contents of a modest number of documents of uncertain pedigree."
* whether or not Paul in Romans 1 gives any support to the project of natural theology, in light of two earlier famous scriptural passages
* arguments for the basic reliability of the New Testament writings based on observable relationships between their contents

Links for this episode:



* Four Views on Christianity and Philosophy (kindle)
* Dr. Timothy McGrew's home page

* Dr. Timothy McGrew's page @ Western Michigan University
* "Science, Doubt, and Miracles"
* "Do Miracles Really Violate the Laws of Science?"
* SEP entry on "Miracles"
* Special Divine Action project (beta as of December 2016)


* David Hume, Miracles (pp. 55ff)
* John Douglas, The Criterion
* William Adams, An Essay in Answer to Mr. Hume's Essay on Miracles
* George Campbell, Dissertation on Miracles
* Psalms 19; Wisdom of Solomon 13; Romans 1:18-25.
* podcast 161 – Dr. Paul Moser on Conforming Philosophy to Christianity
* podcast 160 – Dr. Graham Oppy on the Conflict between Christianity and Philosophy
* definition of the verb "to pettifog"
* This week's thinking music is "Monkeybars" by Andy G. Cohen. Released under a Creative Commons Attribution International License. https://andyg.co/hen/songs/monkey
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podcast 161 – Dr. Paul Moser on Conforming Philosophy to Christianity http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-161-dr-paul-moser-on-conforming-philosophy-to-christianity/ http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-161-dr-paul-moser-on-conforming-philosophy-to-christianity/#comments Mon, 28 Nov 2016 17:58:31 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38174 paul-moser“… and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5)  In the view of Dr. Paul Moser, Christian philosophers have neglected this sort of experience and placed an undue emphasis on arguments. But in his view there is a Christian epistemology in the New Testament, in light of which we can conform our practice of philosophy to divine revelation.

In Four Views on Christianity and Philosophy (kindle), Dr. Moser dialogues with three other philosophers, two Christians and an atheist. In his view, too many Christian apologists and philosophers adopt the intellectual and moral standards of the world. And he particularly disagrees with the tradition of “natural theology,” the tradition of arguing for the existence of God (or at least of some being inconsistent with naturalism) without reference to divine revelation, using only the reason and experience open to all humans. This pits him particularly against Dr. Timothy McGrew, who we’ll hear from next week.

four-views-on-christianity-and-philosophyLinks for this episode: 

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http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-161-dr-paul-moser-on-conforming-philosophy-to-christianity/feed/ 5 "... and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us."
In Four Views on Christianity and Philosophy (kindle), Dr. Moser dialogues with three other philosophers, two Christians and an atheist. In his view, too many Christian apologists and philosophers adopt the intellectual and moral standards of the world. And he particularly disagrees with the tradition of "natural theology," the tradition of arguing for the existence of God (or at least of some being inconsistent with naturalism) without reference to divine revelation, using only the reason and experience open to all humans. This pits him particularly against Dr. Timothy McGrew, who we'll hear from next week.

Links for this episode: 

* Four Views on Christianity and Philosophy (kindle)

* co-editor Dr. Paul Gould on this book
* co-editor Dr. Richard Davis on this book


* Dr. Moser's home page
* The Severity of God: Religion & Philosophy Reconceived
* The Elusive God: Reorienting Religious Epistemology
* The Evidence for God: Religious Knowledge Reexamined
* Philosophy After Objectivity
* Knowledge and Evidence
* David W. Forrest, The Authority of ChristThe Christ of History and of Experience
* James Sennett, "Hume's Stopper and the Natural Theology Project"
* Romans 5:5; 1 Corinthians 8:1; 1 Corinthians 1:18-30; James 3:13-18; John 1:4; John 8:12; Romans 1:18-25; Colossians 2:8; 1 Corinthians 2:6.
* This week's thinking music is "Lilly....So Far Away" by Fireproof Babies.
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podcast 160 – Dr. Graham Oppy on the Conflict between Christianity and Philosophy http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-160-dr-graham-oppy-on-the-conflict-between-christianity-and-philosophy/ http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-160-dr-graham-oppy-on-the-conflict-between-christianity-and-philosophy/#comments Mon, 21 Nov 2016 21:27:15 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38164 four-views-on-christianity-and-philosophy

Do Christian claims clash with Philosophy? This is the view of leading philosopher of religion Dr. Graham Oppy. Editors Dr. Paul Gould and Dr. Richard Davis called on him to defend a “conflict” model of the relation between Christianity and Philosophy in their new book Four Views on Christianity and Philosophy (kindle).

In this wide-ranging interview Dr. Oppy and I discuss:

  • his own background, and how he got into philosophy of religion
  • his preferred way to understand the terms “atheism,” “irreligion,” and “metaphysical naturalism,” and where “minds” fit into this last
  • the relevance of evil and arguments from evil to making a case for atheism or for naturalism
  • some criteria for evaluating competing worldviews
  • his view that trinitarian theology is overall a “cost” of Christian theism as compared with naturalism
  • his commitment to Aristotle-style virtue ethics, and the fit of this with his naturalism
  • his definition of Philosophy
  • whether one can know any philosophical claim, such as atheism or metaphysical naturalism
  • his view that there is a first state of the cosmos which is metaphysically necessary
  • his way of approaching modality (truths about what is metaphysically possible, impossible, or necessary)

Links for this episode:

]]>
http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-160-dr-graham-oppy-on-the-conflict-between-christianity-and-philosophy/feed/ 1 Do Christian claims clash with Philosophy?

Do Christian claims clash with Philosophy? This is the view of leading philosopher of religion Dr. Graham Oppy. Editors Dr. Paul Gould and Dr. Richard Davis called on him to defend a "conflict" model of the relation between Christianity and Philosophy in their new book Four Views on Christianity and Philosophy (kindle).

In this wide-ranging interview Dr. Oppy and I discuss:

* his own background, and how he got into philosophy of religion
* his preferred way to understand the terms "atheism," "irreligion," and "metaphysical naturalism," and where "minds" fit into this last
* the relevance of evil and arguments from evil to making a case for atheism or for naturalism
* some criteria for evaluating competing worldviews
* his view that trinitarian theology is overall a "cost" of Christian theism as compared with naturalism
* his commitment to Aristotle-style virtue ethics, and the fit of this with his naturalism
* his definition of Philosophy
* whether one can know any philosophical claim, such as atheism or metaphysical naturalism
* his view that there is a first state of the cosmos which is metaphysically necessary
* his way of approaching modality (truths about what is metaphysically possible, impossible, or necessary)

Links for this episode:

* Dr. Oppy's homepage at Monash University

* Ontological Arguments and Belief in God
* Arguing About Gods
* The Best Argument Against God
* Describing Gods: An Investigation of Divine Attributes


* Four Views on Christianity and Philosophy (kindle)

* co-editor Dr. Paul Gould on this book
* co-editor Dr. Richard Davis on this book


* the problem of evil
* Aquinas on the Trinity
* 10 steps towards getting less confused about the Trinity – #5 “Persons” – Part 1
* 10 steps towards getting less confused about the Trinity – #6 get a date – part 1
* http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38148 delta_omega_symbol

Can metaphysics show how trinitarian theology is coherent? Against suspicions that somehow trinitarian theology is incoherent, many philosophers have suggested interpretations of the orthodox formulas which are designed to be coherent. This work is ongoing, and sometimes seemingly new strategies are explored.

In this talk from the recent Eastern Division meeting of the Society of Christian Philosophers held at Rutgers University in October 2016, Aaron Arinder, a PhD student in Philosophy at Syracuse University, explores an interpretation of the Trinity in terms of what metaphysicians call “ontological pluralism.” This is the view that not only are there fundamentally different kinds of things, but that there are fundamentally different kinds of existence. If this is true then we ought not refer to just the sum total of things that exist (full stop), but rather, we should talk about “all,” “none,” or “some” relative to various fundamentally different domains of realities, each a domain of things existing in a certain way. In the talk he refers to the domain including the “divine Persons” of the Trinity as “Delta” and the other domain, the one which includes the one God, “Omega.” In his view, there exists (in one way) one God, but in another way there exist three gods. But it doesn’t follow that there in any sense are four gods.

Here’s his handout for this talk.

Thanks to Aaron Arinder for letting us all “sit in” on his session, and thanks to all the questioners for allowing me to include their questions in this episode.

Links for this episode:dolphin-1679468_1920

]]> http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-159-aaron-arinder-on-ontological-pluralism-and-the-trinity/feed/ 16 Can metaphysics show how trinitarian theology is coherent?
Can metaphysics show how trinitarian theology is coherent? Against suspicions that somehow trinitarian theology is incoherent, many philosophers have suggested interpretations of the orthodox formulas which are designed to be coherent. This work is ongoing, and sometimes seemingly new strategies are explored.

In this talk from the recent Eastern Division meeting of the Society of Christian Philosophers held at Rutgers University in October 2016, Aaron Arinder, a PhD student in Philosophy at Syracuse University, explores an interpretation of the Trinity in terms of what metaphysicians call "ontological pluralism." This is the view that not only are there fundamentally different kinds of things, but that there are fundamentally different kinds of existence. If this is true then we ought not refer to just the sum total of things that exist (full stop), but rather, we should talk about "all," "none," or "some" relative to various fundamentally different domains of realities, each a domain of things existing in a certain way. In the talk he refers to the domain including the "divine Persons" of the Trinity as "Delta" and the other domain, the one which includes the one God, "Omega." In his view, there exists (in one way) one God, but in another way there exist three gods. But it doesn't follow that there in any sense are four gods.

Here's his handout for this talk.

Thanks to Aaron Arinder for letting us all "sit in" on his session, and thanks to all the questioners for allowing me to include their questions in this episode.

Links for this episode:

* podcast 2 – the “Athanasian Creed”
* relative identity Trinity theories
* rational reconstructions (reinterpretations) of Trinity formulas
* Wainwright on monotheism
* present-day defenders of ontological pluralism (in metaphysics)

* Kris McDaniel
* Jason Turner
* Ben Caplan


* Quantifiers and Quantification
* Quantification theory
* podcast 68 – Dr. Harriet Baber on Relative Identity and the Trinity
* This week's thinking music has been "Paper Planes" by Durden, featuring Airtone.
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podcast 158 – Listener Questions 3 http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-158-listener-questions-3/ http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-158-listener-questions-3/#comments Mon, 07 Nov 2016 21:26:30 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38123 question-and-answerIs the Trinity the best explanation of Christian experience? In this episode I tackle this and many other listener questions, including a series of good questions about the views of the famous Anglican minister and philosopher-theologian Dr. Samuel Clarke (1675-1729). How do his views compare to one-self and three-self Trinity theories? How do Clarke’s views relate to those of the pre-Nicene “fathers” he quotes at such length? How does he differ, as a Protestant, from people like Luther or Calvin? Isn’t his sort of theology a widely neglected option for Christians, an option which is neither Nicene nor “Arian”? Was he correct in thinking it to be an orthodox theory? And are there any obvious biblical or theological problems with it?

Links for this episode:

samuel-clarke-on-the-trinity

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http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-158-listener-questions-3/feed/ 23 An appealing theological option which is neither Nicene nor "Arian"?


Links for this episode:

* Peter Taylor Forsyth, The Person and Place of Jesus Christ



* Samuel Clarke, The Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity
* Ferguson, Dr. Samuel Clarke: An Eighteenth Century Heretic
* one-self Trinity theories
* If Modalism about the Son were true, then…
* three-self Trinity theories
* Christian unitarian theologies
* The Lost Early History of Unitarian Christian Theology
* Boobyer, "Jesus as 'theos' in the New Testament"
* podcast 100 – Dr. Larry Hurtado on God in New Testament Theology
* Nathaniel Lardner, "A Letter Written in the Year 1730, Concerning the Question, Whether the Logos Supplied the Place of an Human Soul in the Person of Jesus Christ"
* Philip Jenkins, Jesus Wars
* podcast 31 – Dr. William Hasker on the “Arian” Controversy
* podcast 30 – The Council of Nicea
* podcast 29 – Arius
* podcast 28 – Interview with Dr. William Hasker about his Metaphysics and the Tripersonal God – Part 2
* http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38090 q-and-aIt’s been awhile since we did a listener questions episode. So, you ask, I answer, as best I can.

  • One listener asks me for a book recommendation on biblical unitarianism.
  • Another grills me about when and why trinitarian theology developed, if it was not based on philosophical arguments from love or relationality.
  • Others ask about William Lane Craig’s views on God and time, and on the Trinity.
  • Another asks about how renowned 19th c. Harvard scholar Andrews Norton could have been a unitarian.

Links for this episode:

]]> http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-157-listener-questions-2/feed/ 11 You ask, I answer, as best I can. a listener questions episode. So, you ask, I answer, as best I can.

* One listener asks me for a book recommendation on biblical unitarianism.
* Another grills me about when and why trinitarian theology developed, if it was not based on philosophical arguments from love or relationality.
* Others ask about William Lane Craig's views on God and time, and on the Trinity.
* Another asks about how renowned 19th c. Harvard scholar Andrews Norton could have been a unitarian.

Links for this episode:

* Christadelphia World Wide

* "Demons and Unclean Spirits"


* Gaston, ed. One God the Father
* Lamson, The Church of the First Three Centuries
* Zarley, The Restitution of Jesus Christ
* Graeser, et. al. One God and One Lord (kindle)
* Wilson, Scripture Proofs and Scriptural Illustrations of Unitarianism
* Sixteen American Unitarian Tracts
* Buzzard, Jesus was not a Trinitarian (kindle)
* Belsham, A Calm Inquiry Into The Scripture Doctrine Concerning The Person of Christ
* Tuggy, "On the Possibility of a Single Perfect Person" in Ruloff, ed. Christian Philosophy of Religion: Essays in Honor of Stephen T. Davis (preprint)
* podcast 58 – We can’t prove the Trinity by reason alone
* podcast 57 – Richard Swinburne on the Trinity
* Swinburne, The Christian God
* Richard of St. Victor, On the Trinity
* podcast 76 – Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho – Part 3
* http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38070 Dr. J.R. Daniel KirkIf Jesus fulfills predictions about Yahweh, does this mean that he’s Yahweh? In this episode Dr. Kirk and I continue discussing his important new book A Man Attested by God: The Human Jesus of the Synoptic Gospels.

  • Is the difference between the synoptics and the fourth gospel that the former portray God as someone other than Jesus, while the latter shows Jesus to be God himself?
  • What do the authors of the synoptics mean by calling Jesus “the Son of God“? Is this a way of saying that Jesus is divine?
  • At several points in these gospels Jesus is worshiped or at least bowed to. Is the reader supposed to infer that Jesus is God himself?
  • What about the many places where New Testament authors says that Jesus is fulfilling some Old Testament text which was originally about Yahweh? Isn’t this a way of sa
  • Is Dr. Kirk suggesting that in the first three gospels Jesus is “a mere man“?
  • What are the implications of Dr. Kirk’s thesis for biblical anthropology, for a biblical understanding of the nature and potential of human beings?
  • Was Dr. Kirk’s work on this book influenced by any recent Christian unitarian scholarship?

Links for this episode:

]]> http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-156-dr-j-r-daniel-kirk-on-a-man-attested-by-god-part-2/feed/ 13 If Jesus fulfills predictions about Yahweh, does this mean that he's Yahweh? A Man Attested by God: The Human Jesus of the Synoptic Gospels.

* Is the difference between the synoptics and the fourth gospel that the former portray God as someone other than Jesus, while the latter shows Jesus to be God himself?
* What do the authors of the synoptics mean by calling Jesus "the Son of God"? Is this a way of saying that Jesus is divine?
* At several points in these gospels Jesus is worshiped or at least bowed to. Is the reader supposed to infer that Jesus is God himself?
* What about the many places where New Testament authors says that Jesus is fulfilling some Old Testament text which was originally about Yahweh? Isn't this a way of sa
* Is Dr. Kirk suggesting that in the first three gospels Jesus is "a mere man"?
* What are the implications of Dr. Kirk's thesis for biblical anthropology, for a biblical understanding of the nature and potential of human beings?
* Was Dr. Kirk's work on this book influenced by any recent Christian unitarian scholarship?



Links for this episode:

* A Man Attested by God: The Human Jesus of the Synoptic Gospels
* Dr. Kirk's home page

* Dr. Kirk's blog Storied Theology
* Twitter: @jrdkirk ; Facebook.com/jrdkirk.
* Dr. Kirk in conversation with Sir Anthony Buzzard and other biblical unitarians about A Man Attested by God


* Leroy Huizenga, "Matt 1:1: “Son of Abraham” as Christological Category"
* St. Anselm, Cur Deus Homo
* John 1:1, Matthew 2:11, Matthew 2:15, Matthew 28:9, Matthew 28:17, Exodus 20:3, 1 Chronicles 29:20, 1 Chronicles 29:23, Psalm 45; Daniel 7:13-14; Matthew 14:33, 1 Peter 2:5, Hebrews 2:17, 1 Timothy 2:5, John 8:26, John 14:12, John 14:2, 1 Corinthians 15:45
* podcast 60 – Dr. Carl Mosser on deification in the Bible
* podcast 59 – Dr. Carl Mosser on salvation as deification
* the Qumran Caves Scrolls
* Who Should Christians Worship?
* Richard Hays, Echoes of Scriptures in the Gospels
* Some biblical unitarian resources:

* christianmonotheism.com
* 21st Century Reformation Online
* Restoration Fellowship
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podcast 155 – Dr. J.R. Daniel Kirk on A Man Attested by God – Part 1 http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-155-dr-j-r-daniel-kirk-on-a-man-attested-by-god-part-1/ http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-155-dr-j-r-daniel-kirk-on-a-man-attested-by-god-part-1/#comments Mon, 17 Oct 2016 15:51:22 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38033 kirk-a-man-attested-by-godDo the gospels according to Matthew, Mark, and Luke discreetly but clearly imply that Jesus is God? This has become a popular reading lately among evangelicals, thanks in large part to the work of Dr. Richard Bauckham.

A popular argument strategy has been to focus on the earliest gospel, and the one which arguably has the least material from which to argue that Jesus is presented as divine. Even this gospel, it is argued, in its very first chapter, hints that Jesus is God himself, when this passage is said to be fulfilled:

A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” (Isaiah 40:3, NRSV)

Clearly, in Mark Jesus is the one for whom a way is being prepared; so, by referencing this text, the author is telling us that Jesus is God, right? Wrong, according to Dr. Kirk. As he explains here (starting at around 15:13) and argues at length in the book, this is a misreading of Mark 1. When we pay careful attention to the texts and how the author is using them, it seems that he’s deliberately avoided calling Jesus “God” here. What is actually in Mark 1 isn’t exactly what is above, but rather, filling in the names of the three characters involved according to this gospel:

“See, I [God] am sending my messenger [John the Baptist] ahead of you [Jesus], who will prepare your [Jesus’s] way; the voice of one [John] crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord [Jesus], make his [Jesus’s] paths straight’”

As Dr. Kirk explains, here we are presented with three characters: God, Jesus, and John the Baptist.

Dr. Kirk’s overall thesis in this book is that in the first three gospels Jesus is presented as an “idealized human figure,” a category which he explains using numerous ancient Jewish texts, biblical and extra-biblical. In our conversation here, he focuses on the interesting case of Moses. In light of this whole ancient Jewish context, Dr. Kirk says that

…everything that is said about Jesus in the synoptic gospels has been said about other glorified, idealized human figures in the story of Israel. …we see these as stories about a messiah, a surprising messiah…

One surprising aspect of Jesus’s ministry is his authority to forgive sins. But as Dr. Kirk explains (18:25), the text itself (Mark 2:10) presents Jesus as an extraordinary man who has been granted this authority by God. Throughout the book Dr. Kirk distinguishes identifying Jesus with God from identifying Jesus as God. We discuss this distinction and Dr. Kirk’s contention that the synoptics frequently do the former but, contra Bauckham and others, never do the latter.

Dr. Kirk contrasts the christologies of the synoptics with that of the fourth gospel. In part 2 of our discussion next week, we’ll talk about this, and about the fact that in the synoptics people sometimes worship Jesus.

Links for this episode:

]]>
http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-155-dr-j-r-daniel-kirk-on-a-man-attested-by-god-part-1/feed/ 5 Do Matthew, Mark, and Luke discreetly but clearly imply that Jesus is God? the work of Dr. Richard Bauckham.

A popular argument strategy has been to focus on the earliest gospel, and the one which arguably has the least material from which to argue that Jesus is presented as divine. Even this gospel, it is argued, in its very first chapter, hints that Jesus is God himself, when this passage is said to be fulfilled:
A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God." (Isaiah 40:3, NRSV)
Clearly, in Mark Jesus is the one for whom a way is being prepared; so, by referencing this text, the author is telling us that Jesus is God, right? Wrong, according to Dr. Kirk. As he explains here (starting at around 15:13) and argues at length in the book, this is a misreading of Mark 1. When we pay careful attention to the texts and how the author is using them, it seems that he's deliberately avoided calling Jesus "God" here. What is actually in Mark 1 isn't exactly what is above, but rather, filling in the names of the three characters involved according to this gospel:
“See, I [God] am sending my messenger [John the Baptist] ahead of you [Jesus], who will prepare your [Jesus's] way; the voice of one [John] crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord [Jesus], make his [Jesus's] paths straight’”
As Dr. Kirk explains, here we are presented with three characters: God, Jesus, and John the Baptist.

Dr. Kirk's overall thesis in this book is that in the first three gospels Jesus is presented as an "idealized human figure," a category which he explains using numerous ancient Jewish texts, biblical and extra-biblical. In our conversation here, he focuses on the interesting case of Moses. In light of this whole ancient Jewish context, Dr. Kirk says that
...everything that is said about Jesus in the synoptic gospels has been said about other glorified, idealized human figures in the story of Israel. ...we see these as stories about a messiah, a surprising messiah...
One surprising aspect of Jesus's ministry is his authority to forgive sins. But as Dr. Kirk explains (18:25), the text itself (Mark 2:10) presents Jesus as an extraordinary man who has been granted this authority by God. Throughout the book Dr. Kirk distinguishes identifying Jesus with God from identifying Jesus as God. We discuss this distinction and Dr. Kirk's contention that the synoptics frequently do the former but, contra Bauckham and others, never do the latter.

Dr. Kirk contrasts the christologies of the synoptics with that of the fourth gospel. In part 2 of our discussion next week, we'll talk about this, and about the fact that in the synoptics people sometimes worship Jesus.

Links for this episode:

* A Man Attested by God: The Human Jesus of the Synoptic Gospels
* Dr. Kirk's blog Storied Theology
* Dr. Kirk's home page
* Dr. Kirk in conversation with Sir Anthony Buzzard and other biblical unitarians about A Man Attested by God
* The Mind Reneved 111 : Dr. Mike Licona : On the Gospels and Their Contradifferences
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Divine fluidity http://trinities.org/blog/divine-fluidity/ http://trinities.org/blog/divine-fluidity/#comments Sat, 15 Oct 2016 11:31:01 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38025 I have been telling the Maverick Philosopher here about Benjamin Sommer’s theory of divine fluidity, which is one solution to the problem of anthropomorphic language in the Hebrew Bible. The problem is not just Genesis 1:26 (‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness’) but also Genesis 3:8 ‘They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze’. Can God be a man with feet who walks around the garden leaving footprints? As opposed to being a pure spirit? The anthropomorphic conception is, in Maverick’s opinion ‘a hopeless reading of Genesis’, and makes it out to be garbage. ‘You can’t possibly believe that God has feet’.

Yet Benjamin Sommer, Professor of Bible and Ancient Semitic Languages at the Jewish Theological Seminary, proposes such a literal and anthropomorphic interpretation. As he argues (The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel), if the authors of the Hebrew Bible had intended their anthropomorphic language to be understood figuratively, why did they not say so? The Bible contains a wide variety of texts in different genres, but there is no hint of this, the closest being the statement of Deuteronomy 4.15 that the people did not see any form when the Ten Commandments were revealed at Sinai. ‘Until Saadiah [the 10th century father of Jewish philosophy], all Jewish thinkers, biblical and post-biblical, agreed that God, like anything real in the universe, has a body. A proper understanding of the Hebrew Bible requires not only that God has a body, but that God has many bodies ‘located in sundry places in the world that God created’. These bodies are not angels or messengers. He says in this this interview that an angel in one sense is not sent by God but actually is God, just not all of God.

[It] is a smaller, more approachable, more user-friendly aspect of the cosmic deity who is Hashem. That idea is very similar to what the term avatara conveys in Sanskrit. So in this respect, we can see a significant overlap between Hindu theology and one biblical theology.

Do hard-assed logicians such as ourselves balk at such partial identity? Not necessarily. I point to a shadow at the bottom of the door, saying ‘that is the Fuller Brush man’. Am I saying that the Fuller Brush man is a shadow? Certainly not! Nor, when I point to a beach on the island, saying ‘that island is uninhabited’, am I implying that the whole island is a beach. By the same token, when I point to the avatar, and truly say ‘that is God’, am I implying that God is identical with the avatar? Not at all. Nor am I saying that God has feet, even though the avatar has feet. The point is that the reference of ‘that’ is not the physical manifestation before me, but God himself. Scholastic objections that we cannot think of God as ‘this essence’ (ut haec essentia) notwithstanding.

A somewhat similar approach was suggested by Richard Cartwright in his famous essay ‘On the Logical Problems of the Trinity’. We can say ‘that is Descartes’ (pointing to a picture), ‘that is the Sonesta Hotel’ (pointing to a reflection in the water), or ‘that is the Fuller Brush man’ (pointing to a foot in the doorway).

Each of these suggests a possible construal of our Trinitarian sentences, and a full treatment would take account of them all. But perhaps I have said enough to convince you of the difficulty of the subject; and, if I have not exhibited the rewards of truth, I hope I have demonstrated the dangers of error.

Sommer’s approach is perfectly consistent with this.

Sommer insists that core Christian assertions—the trinity and incarnation—are not theologically impermissible within the world of Judaism, but rather are faithful to the fluidity model of divinity found in ancient Israel. For modern Jews, Sommer demonstrates how biblical notions of fluidity and antifluidity pose challenges for both liberal and conservative Jews, though not in the same way. He concludes by insisting that, contrary to customary positions, it is the fluidity model that offers the strongest statement of monotheism consistent with the personhood of God.

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podcast 154 – Mormons seeing the man behind the curtain – Part 2 http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-154-mormons-seeing-the-man-behind-the-curtain-part-2/ http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-154-mormons-seeing-the-man-behind-the-curtain-part-2/#comments Tue, 11 Oct 2016 01:00:52 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=38011 joseph-smith-translatingA tightly knit religious group can ignore outsiders’ criticisms indefinitely. But when insiders start to demonstrate the weakness of the party line… watch out! Something has to give.

A former President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints once threw down the gauntlet about their founder Joseph Smith, saying that

Mormonism… must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith. He was either a Prophet of God… or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground. If Joseph was a deceiver, who willfully attempted to mislead people, then he should be exposed, his claims should be refuted, and his doctrines shown to be false…” – Joseph Fielding Smith (1876-1972)

In this episode, I summarize recent publication by two Mormon insiders who have turned into whistleblowers about the many refuted claims of Joseph Smith – Grant Palmer, and Jeremy Runnells. Bravely, they’ve chosen truth over tradition, continuing to publicly seek truth despite much pain and social loss. Their labors have not gone unnoticed; there is currently an exodus of people out of the LDS church, at least in places with widespread internet access. In this episode, you’ll hear why.

But evangelicals should not gloat. We too are a tightly knit religious community, and one which has very much circled the wagons, creating an insular culture that includes a whole parallel universe of scholars and schools, defended by an army of often half-informed apologists. We have easily brushed off the objections of Muslims, “liberals,” and “cultists.” Such outsiders are easily ignored, and with the applause of the choir, seemingly easily refuted. But what historical and other scholarship have we been ignoring? What will happen when evangelicals don’t mostly get their information from pastors, parachurch ministries, and evangelical scholars? At the end of this episode, I reflect on some areas of vulnerability here – some things hiding behind our curtain.

Links for this episode:

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http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-154-mormons-seeing-the-man-behind-the-curtain-part-2/feed/ 1 A tightly knit religious group can ignore outsiders' criticisms indefinitely. But when insiders...
A former President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints once threw down the gauntlet about their founder Joseph Smith, saying that
Mormonism... must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith. He was either a Prophet of God... or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground. If Joseph was a deceiver, who willfully attempted to mislead people, then he should be exposed, his claims should be refuted, and his doctrines shown to be false...” - Joseph Fielding Smith (1876-1972)
In this episode, I summarize recent publication by two Mormon insiders who have turned into whistleblowers about the many refuted claims of Joseph Smith - Grant Palmer, and Jeremy Runnells. Bravely, they've chosen truth over tradition, continuing to publicly seek truth despite much pain and social loss. Their labors have not gone unnoticed; there is currently an exodus of people out of the LDS church, at least in places with widespread internet access. In this episode, you'll hear why.

But evangelicals should not gloat. We too are a tightly knit religious community, and one which has very much circled the wagons, creating an insular culture that includes a whole parallel universe of scholars and schools, defended by an army of often half-informed apologists. We have easily brushed off the objections of Muslims, "liberals," and "cultists." Such outsiders are easily ignored, and with the applause of the choir, seemingly easily refuted. But what historical and other scholarship have we been ignoring? What will happen when evangelicals don't mostly get their information from pastors, parachurch ministries, and evangelical scholars? At the end of this episode, I reflect on some areas of vulnerability here - some things hiding behind our curtain.



Links for this episode:

* Grant Palmer

* An Insider's View of Mormon Origins
* "My Ah-Ha Moments While Researching Mormon History"
* "Joseph Smith's Changing View of God"
* Uncut Interview: Grant Palmer (August 2012)


* E. T. A. Hoffmann
* L. Ron Hubbard

* his statements about starting a religion
* 25 biggest lies
* review of Dianetics
* Barefaced Messiah


* The Lost Book of Abraham: Investigating a Remarkable Mormon Claim (site)

* A Most Remarkable Book - Evidence for The Book of Abraham (LDS apologists http://trinities.org/blog/?p=37994 The death mask of Joseph Smith, and a painting of him done during his life

Joseph Smith made some bold claims, many of which have been provably false for many years. In the past, the leadership of the LDS church found it fairly easy to focus church members on church-approved versions of the life of Smith and of early Mormon history. All opposing literature was smeared as “anti-Mormon,” and the faithful were warned against it, and to a large extent avoided it.

But the internet has exploded this system. Large numbers of Mormons are now wrestling with the unvarnished historical record.

In this episode I discuss my own history of thinking about Mormonism, and some books and a podcast that anyone interested in the history of Mormonism should know about.

Next week in part 2 I’ll discuss some interesting recent insider-whistleblowers, and the evidence they’ve presented about Smith and his claims. 

Links for this episode:

]]> http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-153-mormons-seeing-the-man-behind-the-curtain-part-1/feed/ 3 Joseph Smith made some bold claims, many of which
Joseph Smith made some bold claims, many of which have been provably false for many years. In the past, the leadership of the LDS church found it fairly easy to focus church members on church-approved versions of the life of Smith and of early Mormon history. All opposing literature was smeared as "anti-Mormon," and the faithful were warned against it, and to a large extent avoided it.

But the internet has exploded this system. Large numbers of Mormons are now wrestling with the unvarnished historical record.

In this episode I discuss my own history of thinking about Mormonism, and some books and a podcast that anyone interested in the history of Mormonism should know about.

Next week in part 2 I'll discuss some interesting recent insider-whistleblowers, and the evidence they've presented about Smith and his claims. 

Links for this episode:

* Mark Twain, Roughing It

* on the Book of Mormon


* historian Fawn Brodie

* No Man Knows My History (Amazon)
* interviewed
* Hugh W. Nibley, No, Ma'am, That's Not History


* Richard Bushman

* Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling


* Mormon Stories podcast

* John Dehlin
* 642: John Dehlin “Ask Me Almost Anything” on Facebook Live
* Infants on Thrones podcast episode: John Dehlin: The Reluctant Atheist


* South Park, "All About Mormons" episode

* the lost 116 pages of the Book of Mormon
* mormonthink


* on Smith as a pious fraud: "Joseph Smith's Motives - The Prophet Puzzle - Dan Vogel"
* religious realism vs. anti-realism / non-realism
*  fairmormon.org

* Scott Gordon


* the problem of evil

* Logical Problem of Evil

* "Does Evil Imply Atheism?" - my lecture on a classic argument that if God existed, there would be no evil in the world at all, what is widely considered to be a compelling response to thi...]]>
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podcast 152 – Dr. Michael Rota on evidence for the Christian God http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-152-dr-michael-rota-on-evidence-for-the-christian-god/ http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-152-dr-michael-rota-on-evidence-for-the-christian-god/#comments Mon, 26 Sep 2016 18:54:23 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=37979 Is there evidence for God’s existence? In this episode we continue our discussion with Dr. Michael Rota about his new book Taking Pascal’s Wager: Faith, Evidence and the Abundant Life. This time we briefly canvass some issues he discusses in parts 2 and 3 of the book, including:

  • a cosmological argument that there’s at least one necessary beinmichael-rota-university-of-st-thomasg
  • a fine-tuning argument that there’s an intelligent designer of the universe
  • the multiverse hypothesis as an explanation for apparent fine-tuning
  • the problem of evil
  • the problem of of divine hiddenness
  • the role the resurrection of Jesus plays in justifying Christian teachings
  • the relevance of looking into the lives of exemplary Christians, like the fascinating people he discusses in part 3 of the book

Of course, the book boldly plunges into several hard topics, and we can only scratch the surface here. A serious inquirer should read this accessible, well-crafted book, and even delve into the many important sources he cites in it.

Links for this episode:

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http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-152-dr-michael-rota-on-evidence-for-the-christian-god/feed/ 1 Is there evidence for God's existence? Taking Pascal’s Wager: Faith, Evidence and the Abundant Life. This time we briefly canvass some issues he discusses in parts 2 and 3 of the book, including:

* a cosmological argument that there's at least one necessary being
* a fine-tuning argument that there's an intelligent designer of the universe
* the multiverse hypothesis as an explanation for apparent fine-tuning
* the problem of evil
* the problem of of divine hiddenness
* the role the resurrection of Jesus plays in justifying Christian teachings
* the relevance of looking into the lives of exemplary Christians, like the fascinating people he discusses in part 3 of the book

Of course, the book boldly plunges into several hard topics, and we can only scratch the surface here. A serious inquirer should read this accessible, well-crafted book, and even delve into the many important sources he cites in it.



Links for this episode:

* Dr. Rota’s home page

* Dr. Rota @ the University of St. Thomas
* Taking Pascal’s Wager: Faith, Evidence and the Abundant Life (kindle)


* cosmological argument
* fine-tuning arguments
* Physicist Leonard Susskin on the apparent fine-tuning of our cosmos
* Roger White, "Fine-tuning and multiple universes"
* Søren Kierkegaard
* Peter van Inwagen

* The Problem of Evil (kindle)


* Eleonore Stump

* Wandering in Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering (kindle)


* Gary Habermas, "The Minimal Facts Approach to the Resurrection of Jesus"
* Acts 2:22-24
* This episode's thinking music is "Phase IV" by lo-fi is sci-fi.
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podcast 151 – Dr. Michael Rota on Pascal’s Wager http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-151-dr-michael-rota-on-pascals-wager/ http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-151-dr-michael-rota-on-pascals-wager/#comments Mon, 19 Sep 2016 20:41:34 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=37966 michael-rota-taking-pascals-wager-faith-evidence-and-the-abundant-lifeWhat if you believe in Christianity, and it’s false? Have you lost much, really? On the other hand, if you believe it and it’s true – eternal life!

What if you don’t believe it, and it’s true? No eternal life, and maybe something way worse. What if you don’t believe it, and it’s false? You’ve successfully avoided wasting your time and money on church, and have avoided believing a falsehood. A little gain, to be sure, but nothing extreme.

If you think the most compelling options are Christianity or naturalism, these are the possibilities you must weigh. Just compare them. Isn’t the prudent choice to do whatever it takes to believe Christianity, adopting the lifestyle of a participating seeker, and hoping that Christian beliefs will eventually follow?

In this episode Dr. Michael Rota of the University of St. Thomas discusses his new book Taking Pascal’s Wager: Faith, Evidence and the Abundant Life. This is an accessible, well-written, and carefully argued book which makes good use of much recent work by philosophers of religion. In my view, it’s better than C.S. Lewis’s classic Mere Christianity. In this first part of our conversation, Dr. Rota presents the basics of part 1 of the book, a practical argument for taking up a religious life. It turns out that the social sciences have strengthened the argument in some ways which Pascal couldn’t have anticipated.

Links for this episode:return-of-the-prodigal-son

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http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-151-dr-michael-rota-on-pascals-wager/feed/ 1 What if you believe in Christianity, and it's false? Have you lost much, really? What if you believe in Christianity, and it's false? Have you lost much, really? On the other hand, if you believe it and it's true - eternal life!

What if you don't believe it, and it's true? No eternal life, and maybe something way worse. What if you don't believe it, and it's false? You've successfully avoided wasting your time and money on church, and have avoided believing a falsehood. A little gain, to be sure, but nothing extreme.

If you think the most compelling options are Christianity or naturalism, these are the possibilities you must weigh. Just compare them. Isn't the prudent choice to do whatever it takes to believe Christianity, adopting the lifestyle of a participating seeker, and hoping that Christian beliefs will eventually follow?

In this episode Dr. Michael Rota of the University of St. Thomas discusses his new book Taking Pascal's Wager: Faith, Evidence and the Abundant Life. This is an accessible, well-written, and carefully argued book which makes good use of much recent work by philosophers of religion. In my view, it's better than C.S. Lewis's classic Mere Christianity. In this first part of our conversation, Dr. Rota presents the basics of part 1 of the book, a practical argument for taking up a religious life. It turns out that the social sciences have strengthened the argument in some ways which Pascal couldn't have anticipated.

Links for this episode:

* Dr. Rota's home page

* Dr. Rota @ the University of St. Thomas
* Taking Pascal's Wager: Faith, Evidence and the Abundant Life (kindle)


* Blaise Pascal (1623-62)

* Pascal's Wager


* Montaigne
* Peter Kreeft
* Scientology

* Bare-Faced Messiah: The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard


* Luke 15:11-32
* This week's thinking music is "Number 0" by Jesse Spillane.
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Can Kant refer to God? http://trinities.org/blog/can-kant-refer-to-god/ Sun, 18 Sep 2016 16:22:11 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=37955
I am plodding on with Plantinga’s Warranted Christian Belief, which I strongly recommend. He is committed to the Christian (and Jewish and Muslim) belief that not only that there is such a being as God, but also that we are able to address him in prayer, refer to him, think and talk about him, and predicate properties of him. This means using unique descriptions like ‘all-powerful’, ‘all-knowing’, ‘creator of the world’ etc by means of which we can single him out, giving a proper name such as ‘Yhwh’ to him via such reference-fixing descriptions.

The challenge for this belief is the idea, which Plantinga claims is widely accepted among theologians (I am not sure how to check this), ‘that Kant showed that reference to or thought about such a being (even if there is one) is impossible or at least deeply problematic’. To counter this, he devotes a whole chapter to showing that Kant did not show or prove this with anything the certainty that we might think.

He considers two competing scholarly interpretations of Kant. According to the one world picture, the terms ‘transcendental objects’ and ‘empirical objects’ should be understood to refer not to two different kinds of entity, but rather to different ways of talking about one and the same thing. He notes that this picture ‘would be accepted even by such staunch pre-revolutionaries as Aristotle and Aquinas.

According to the two world picture, which is the traditional interpretation, Kant held that there are two realms of objects, i.e. noumenal and phenomenal, which are fundamentally different. Noumena are things as they are in themselves, phenomena or ‘appearances’ are things as they are for us.

Appearances are the sole objects which can be given to us immediately, and that in them which relates immediately to the object is called intuition. Appearances are not things in themselves; they are only representations, which in turn have their object—an object which cannot be intuited by us, and which may, therefore, be named the non-empirical, that is, transcendental object = x. (A109)

Phenomena are objects that exist in space and time, noumena are neither temporal nor spatial, since space and time ‘are forms of our intuition rather than realities that characterize the things in themselves.’ Since phenomena are constructed by us out of the raw data of experience, they depend on us for their existence. Noumena, on the other hand, do not depend on us for their existence, as they are things as they are in themselves. They form two disjoint worlds: no phenomenal object is a noumenon, no noumenal object is a phenomenon.

Regarding the one world picture, if our concepts apply to anything, then to the things, because these are the only things there are. And if we refer, we refer to things. What would it mean to say that the category of causality does not apply to the things? This would mean is that noumena do not stand in causal relations to each other or anything else, and hence the complement property, namely not standing in causal relation, would apply to things. This seems problematic. What about being non-self-identical? And if no positive properties apply to things, we would make a mistake if we said that God is wise, or good, or powerful, or loving. ‘That would be because nothing is wise, good, powerful, loving, and the like.’

The two world picture makes more sense, because ‘things’ can then refer to phenomenal things. But how do we predicate one thing of another? This requires concepts. On a radical version of the two world picture, (as Plantinga interprets Kant) concepts are a sort of rule for synthesizing the perceptual manifold, i.e. ‘constructing’ phenomenal things out of the ‘blooming buzzing confusion’. Hence your concept of a horse is a sort of rule for putting together different items of experience, into a phenomenal object. And of course such a concept cannot apply to noumena, since they are not ‘given’ to us in experience, and so we cannot construct an object out of them. Moreover, it is not just that no noumenon is a horse, it is also that no noumenon is a non horse, since ‘being a nonhorse’ is also a rule for constructing a phenomenal object from the perceptual manifold. ‘So thought of, a concept could no more apply to [a noumenon] than a horse could be a number.

On this radical interpretation, our concepts do not apply to God, for God would have to be a noumenon, rather than something we have constructed from the perceptual manifold. And so, interpreted this way, ‘we can’t refer to, think about, or predicate properties of God’.

In the first place, Plantinga argues that this picture is deeply incoherent. Kant holds that noumena are causally connected to us, yet (on the radical interpretation) we should not be able to refer to them at all or attribute to them the properties of being atemporal and aspatial, ‘or even speculate that there might be such things’. Kant’s thought founders on the fact that the picture requires that he have knowledge the picture denies him. If this picture were really correct, the noumena would have to drop out altogether, so that all remains is what has been structured by us. The idea that there might be reality beyond what we ourselves have constructed out of experience would not be so much as thinkable.

In the second place, what powerful arguments does Kant deploy to justify the ‘startling’ conclusion that we can’t think about, refer to, or predicate properties of the noumena, given that concepts are really rules for synthesizing the (perceptual) manifold into phenomenal objects and so the only things we can think about are objects we ourselves have somehow constructed. What reasons does Kant give?

According to Plantinga, these reasons are ‘distressingly scarce’. Perhaps ‘those who urge [Kant’s theory] are simply overwhelmed by what they see as its sheer intellectual beauty and power; they don’t feel the need of argument. Indeed, they find the picture so dazzling they are willing to put up with a strong dose of incoherence in addition to absence of argument’. But that, he says ‘doesn’t constitute much of a reason for the rest of us—those of us more impressed by the incoherence of the picture than its beauty—to accept it’ (laughter at the back of class).

The best he can find are the antinomical arguments, supposedly powerful lines of reasoning on opposing sides of a given question (such as whether the world had a beginning in time). Kant apparently intended the antinomies to support his transcendental idealism. They confront us with the problem that we take ourselves to be thinking about things in themselves – the noumena – as opposed to the things for us, the phenomena.

If in employing the principles of understanding we do not merely apply our reason to objects of experience, but venture to extend these principles beyond the limits of experience, there arise pseudo-rational doctrines which can neither hope for confirmation in experience nor fear refutation by it. Each of them is not only in itself free from contradiction, but finds conditions of its necessity in the very nature of reason—only that, unfortunately, the assertion of the opposite has, on its side, grounds that are just as valid and necessary. (A421, B449)

But he finds the antinomical arguments not ‘to put the best face on it, at all compelling’. Take the argument about the beginning of the world

If we assume that the world had no beginning in time, then up to every given moment an eternity has elapsed, and there has passed away in the world an infinite series of successive states of things. Now the infinity of a series consists in the fact that it can never be completed through successive synthesis. It thus follows that it is impossible for an infinite world-series to have passed away, and that a beginning of the world is therefore a necessary condition of the world’s existence. (A426, B454)

‘I am sorry to say it is hard to take seriously’, says Plantinga! Kant begins with the assumption that an infinite series can’t be completed by starting from some point finitely far from the beginning and adding members finitely many at a time at a constant rate, which is true. But it doesn’t follow that it is impossible for an infinite world-series to have passed away, and that a beginning of the world is therefore a necessary condition of the world’s existence, for this just claims what was to be proved: that the series in question had a beginning!

To conclude, as Kant does, that it is impossible that an infinite series of events has occurred is just to assume that the series in question had a beginning—that is, is finite—but that is precisely what was to be proved. So the argument really has no force at all.

It’s all very entertaining. I haven’t put on my especially reinforced thinking hat to examine the chapter in great depth, nor have I checked through my Kant to be certain of the ‘distressingly scarce’ claim. But I shall ask Vallicella the next time I see him.

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podcast 150 – Dr. Larry Hurtado’s Destroyer of the gods – Part 2 http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-150-dr-larry-hurtados-destroyer-of-the-gods-part-2/ Mon, 12 Sep 2016 20:22:25 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=37938 jupiter_dolichenus_3rd_century_carnuntumIn this second part of my conversation with Dr. Larry Hurtado about his book Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World, we discuss the distinctive “bookishness” of early Christianity, their distinctive use of their scriptures, and early Bible translations.

We also compare and contrast early Christian moral instruction with what was typical for their pagan contemporaries. Dr. Hurtado explains some interesting differences regarding different groups of people and sexual ethics.

Finally, we discuss to what extent some of these distinctives were lost during the development of “Christendom,” and how present-day Christians’ place in contemporary Western societies compares to that of early Christians in the Roman Empire.

Links for this episode:

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In this second part of my conversation with Dr. Larry Hurtado about his book Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World, we discuss the distinctive "bookishness" of early Christianity In this second part of my conversation with Dr. Larry Hurtado about his book Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World, we discuss the distinctive "bookishness" of early Christianity, their distinctive use of their scriptures, and early Bible translations.

We also compare and contrast early Christian moral instruction with what was typical for their pagan contemporaries. Dr. Hurtado explains some interesting differences regarding different groups of people and sexual ethics.

Finally, we discuss to what extent some of these distinctives were lost during the development of "Christendom," and how present-day Christians' place in contemporary Western societies compares to that of early Christians in the Roman Empire.

Links for this episode:

* Larry Hurtado’s blog
* Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World
* podcast 149 – Dr. Larry Hurtado’s Destroyer of the gods – Part 1
* podcast 100 – Dr. Larry Hurtado on God in New Testament Theology
* podcast 99 – Dr. Larry Hurtado on early high christology
* Jupiter Dolichenus
* Household Codes in the New Testament by Felix Just
* Coptic
* Cyrillic script
* Septuagint (LXX)
* Musonius Rufus (c. 30–62 CE)
* Epictetus (55–135 C.E.)
* Galen (130—200 C.E.)
* This week's thinking music is "Acoustic Blues" by Jason Shaw.
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Are all religions the same? http://trinities.org/blog/are-all-religions-the-same/ http://trinities.org/blog/are-all-religions-the-same/#comments Sun, 11 Sep 2016 10:33:27 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=37946

I have been working through Alvin Plantinga’s excellent (but frustrating) book Warranted Christian Belief, and I am particularly intrigued by his critique of the work of theologian John Hick.

Hick began his spiritual odyssey as a traditional, orthodox Christian, accepting what I have been calling ‘Christian belief’. He was then struck by the fact that there are other religions in which the claims of orthodox Christianity—trinity, incarnation, atonement—are rejected. Furthermore, so far as one can tell from the outside, so to speak, the claims of these other religions, taken literally, are as respectable, epistemically speaking, as the claims of Christianity. Still further, according to Jesus himself, “By their fruits you shall know them.” The most important fruits, Hick thinks, are practical: turning away from a life of selfishness to a life of service; on this point, these other religions, he thinks, seem to do as well as Christianity. The conclusion he draws is that where Christianity differs from the others, we can’t properly hold that it is literally true and the others literally false; that would be, he thinks, a sort of intellectual arrogance, a sort of spiritual imperialism, a matter of exalting ourselves and our beliefs at the expense of others. Instead, we must hold that the great religions are all equally valuable and equally true.

How many of us recognise that spiritual odyssey and how many of us have reached that point in their journey? But as Plantinga carefully argues, it is full of pitfalls. Hick wants to declare that all the traditions are actually false. He says ‘literally’ false, but literal truth and falsehood, as Hick conceives them, are just truth and falsehood. The first problem is that if I am to remain a Christian, I must take part in Christian worship, which requires accepting the doctrines of traditional Christianity (‘I believe in Jesus Christ … who was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead’). But if I accept these doctrines as only mythologically true, i.e. really false, how can I at the same time accept these false doctrines as putting me ‘into the right relation with the Real’? ‘Is this posture in fact possible for a human being: can a person accept it, and accept it authentically, without bad faith or doublethink?’

Two, we want to avoid imperialism and self-exaltation by declaring that everyone is mistaken here (‘except for ourselves and a few other enlightened souls’). But aren’t we now exalting ourselves and a few graduate students over nearly everyone else?

Those who think there really is such a person as God are benighted, unsophisticated, unaware of the real truth of the matter, which is that there isn’t any such person (even if thinking there is can lead to practical fruits). We see Christians as deeply mistaken; of course we pay the same compliment to the practitioners of the other great religions; we are equal-opportunity animadverters. We benevolently regard the rest of humanity as misguided; no doubt their hearts are in the right place; still, they are sadly mistaken about what they take to be most important and precious. I find it hard to see how this attitude is a manifestation of tolerance or intellectual humility: it looks more like patronizing condescension.

Yup.

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“paterderivationism,” monotheism, and “mono-theos-ism” http://trinities.org/blog/paterderivationism-monotheism-and-mono-theos-ism/ http://trinities.org/blog/paterderivationism-monotheism-and-mono-theos-ism/#comments Sat, 10 Sep 2016 17:43:59 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=37910 only-one-god-buttonA question from the Facebook group a few weeks ago:

…One model of the Trinity that I’ve heard articulated–call it “paterderivationism”–says that the way in which the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are homoousios is the same way in which Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus may be called “homoousios”: they share the same kind of nature, though… not the same instance of that nature.

According to this model, what makes monotheism true is *not* that there is a single instance of the divine nature, but rather that one of the divine persons–namely the Father–exists a se (that is, self-existently) and is metaphysically ultimate, with the other two divine persons being dependent upon Him in some way. (This would mean that the Father’s attributes of aseity and metaphysical ultimacy are not part of His nature, but rather accidental attributes that He necessarily has.) Under paterderivationism, only the Father can properly be called *the one true God*, though the other persons are still divine and so can be called “God” as well.

What objections–either philosophical, theological, or exegetical–can be raised against this model? Unlike most other trinitarian models, this model seems to be able to handle the usual anti-trinitarian arguments pertaining to the Shema, the meanings of YHWH and ho theos, and the like since it can use many of the approaches that non-trinitarians take on these issues, and it doesn’t seem to be incoherent in the way that most other trinitarian models are.

The main thing to see about this view, is that it is unitarian. This is basically Samuel Clarke’s view, and as he saw, it’s also the same we see in 3rd c. catholics like Origen and Novatian. On this theory only the Father has all the essential attributes which a monotheistic god should have, including aseity, which in principle can’t be given to another. It is not trinitarian, because it features no triune God; it features a trinity but not a Trinity. That these two other lesser deities get their existence and natures from another of course doesn’t make them the same being as this other, their source or cause. Also, it’s not trinitarian because of the inequality of the “Persons.” You don’t say whether or not the two lesser deities are eternal on this view, but the aforementioned authors do. They believed, in other words, in eternal generation and procession.

air-quotesThe reason, on this view, that only the Father can be called “the one true God” is because on this theology, the Father alone is numerically the same with the one god, with Yahweh. Of course, monotheism is consistent with beings other than God being called “God” or “gods.” Monotheism (there is exactly one god) is not the same as “mono-theos-ism” (there is exactly one being who can be called “God” or “god”). And neither view entails the other. That is to say, it can be that one is true while the other is false. The view we see in both OT and NT is that the first is true, but the second is false.

It’s an interesting question why some Christians think that mono-theos-ism is a biblical teaching. I wonder if there is an influence from interactions with Islam in the Middle Ages. They say in their central confession that there is no god but God, but I think they would agree too that there is no “god” (no being who can properly be called “god”) than God too. Or maybe it’s just a late development in catholic traditions.

Another interesting question is: how does the position sketched in the question differ from Eastern Orthodox theology? I’m going to punt on that for now, but I intend to look into it in the future.

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podcast 149 – Dr. Larry Hurtado’s Destroyer of the gods – Part 1 http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-149-dr-larry-hurtados-destroyer-of-the-gods-part-1/ http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-149-dr-larry-hurtados-destroyer-of-the-gods-part-1/#comments Mon, 05 Sep 2016 20:41:19 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=37917 Hurtado, Destroyer of the godsWhy did Roman rulers and polemicists find early Christianity so alarming, rather than just another religion, like those of Rome’s many conquered peoples? In his new book Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World (Baylor University Press, 2016), Dr. Larry Hurtado explores several ways in which this new Jesus-movement was different than its competitors in the religious marketplace of what we now call the first few Christian centuries. In this interview Dr. Hurtado answer questions such as:

  • How did ancient people think about the connection between one’s religion and one’s ethnic identity?
  • Why was it so difficult to be a Christian in Roman society?
  • Why was eating meat sacrificed to idols such a living issue for Paul’s churches?
  • Why did early pagan critics of Christianity call them “haters of mankind,” and “atheists”?
  • If it was so difficult to be a Christian in an ancient pagan society, why did so many people choose to become Christians?

Links for this episode:

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http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-149-dr-larry-hurtados-destroyer-of-the-gods-part-1/feed/ 6 Why did Roman rulers and polemicists find early Christianity so alarming, rather than just another religion, like those of Rome's many conquered peoples? Why did Roman rulers and polemicists find early Christianity so alarming, rather than just another religion, like those of Rome's many conquered peoples? In his new book Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World (Baylor University Press, 2016), Dr. Larry Hurtado explores several ways in which this new Jesus-movement was different than its competitors in the religious marketplace of what we now call the first few Christian centuries. In this interview Dr. Hurtado answer questions such as:

* How did ancient people think about the connection between one's religion and one's ethnic identity?
* Why was it so difficult to be a Christian in Roman society?
* Why was eating meat sacrificed to idols such a living issue for Paul's churches?
* Why did early pagan critics of Christianity call them "haters of mankind," and "atheists"?
* If it was so difficult to be a Christian in an ancient pagan society, why did so many people choose to become Christians?



Links for this episode:

* Larry Hurtado’s blog
* podcast 100 – Dr. Larry Hurtado on God in New Testament Theology
* podcast 99 – Dr. Larry Hurtado on early high christology
* Dr. Hurtado’s books

* Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World
* Why on Earth Did Anyone Become a Christian in the First Three Centuries?
* Commentary on Mark
* One God, One Lord: Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish Monotheism, 3rd ed. (kindle)
* Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (kindle)
* How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God? (kindle)
* The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins (kindle)
* God in New Testament Theology (kindle)


* Origen,]]>
Dale Tuggy clean 44:11
the apologetics blind-spot on numerical identity http://trinities.org/blog/apologetics-blind-spot-numerical-identity/ http://trinities.org/blog/apologetics-blind-spot-numerical-identity/#comments Wed, 03 Aug 2016 21:55:07 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=37892 blind spotHere’s part of a conversation I had recently with a guy in a Facebook group who when it comes to theology consumes almost only evangelical apologetics sources. I’m going to call him “T” here. I think the conversation illustrates a blind spot that I often run into, a blind spot which results from people who study apologetics being insufficiently trained in logic. All the non-theological points I make in this post are things one learns in a first deductive logic class; more on this at the end.

I had observed that the New Testament identifies the Father with the one true God. My interlocutor T replies:

T: But then you have things that ONLY God can do Jesus doing. That is the rub.

He implies that the NT also identifies Jesus with the one God. So, he’s meaning to argue like this:

  1. Only God can do X.
  2. Jesus did X.
  3. Therefore, Jesus is God.

1 says that God can do X, and that anyone who can do X just is God himself (i.e. is numerically identical to God) – only God can do X. And so the conclusion 3 is that Jesus is numerically identical to God – that Jesus and God are one and the same, numerically one being, a point much emphasized by apologists, despite obvious and deep problems.

Of course, the argument is valid (that is, 1 and 2 imply 3). But I point out that (for a Protestant) there’s no justification for 1, and that the case of Jesus in the NT seems to imply that 1 is false.

Dale: No rub. It’s only an assertion of catholic traditions that only God can e.g. forgive sins, be called “Lord”, be worshiped, etc. Such claims are unsupported by reason or scripture.
Dale: In fact, the case of Jesus shown such claims to be false. To see this, you need to get clear on identity, and the importance of God and Jesus undeniably differing in the NT. All clearly laid out here.

Now, I know he’s not going to want to work through a lecture, but experience has taught me that people who read a lot of apologetics have been programmed to not understand the above sort of argument, or just, the logic of identity. So, I try. He eventually replies:

T: I started to watch that video, every time you say numerical one, I shutter. That I can tell, you haven’t defined what you mean by “one”. Can you help me with that?

OK, so maybe he watched a few minutes. Great! I reply:

Dale: I mean this.

Either he didn’t read that, or didn’t comprehend it. In truth, the concept of numerical identity can’t be analyzed in terms of more basic concepts. It is a basic, rock-bottom concept that everyone has and often employs. Of course, we can make certain observations about it, like I do in the linked post.

But T moves on to address an example I use in the video:

T: Dale, in your example in the video you said Saul=Paul. Sure in all senses that is true.

identical twinsRight. Because Saul just is Paul – they’re the same being. (The “in all senses” is not needed, though, as the statement is unambiguous.) But he’s thinking it says that Saul and Paul are very or totally similar. Well, they can’t ever differ in any way, given that they’re one and the same being.

But of course two different beings can also be very similar, such as twins. To say Saul = Paul is to say a lot more, so to speak, than that they are similar. It’s to say that if you’re counting realities, you don’t count Saul and Paul individually, as that’d be over-counting. Rather, “Saul” and “Paul”, in this context, co-refer.

Me_myself_INumerical identity is a relation that something can only bear to itself, never to another. And unlike similarity, it doesn’t come in degrees. It’s all-or-nothing.

But with his misunderstanding in place, T continues:

T: Now what if we said Saul=human, this would also be true. We would also say that there is only one human nature, all humans have that nature, or anything that has that nature is human.

He thinks “Saul = Paul” is merely describing Saul (as being Paul?), and so he compares it to the statement that Saul is human. “Saul = human” is nonsense if “human” is a predicate (description) here; only referring terms like names can go on either side of “=” in logic. Of course, there is a human with whom Paul is identical – Paul (aka Saul). In any case, he means to say that “Saul is human” and that this is true because Saul has the universal essence humanity or human nature. That’s a controversial piece of metaphysics, but let it slide for now. T continues,

Then if we said that Saul=T, you would have to ask, what do you mean by that. If you mean they share the common trait of being human it is true, but I don’t not share ALL of the qualities of Saul, just the one that all humans have in common.

“Saul = T” is not vague in meaning, and it is false, because Saul is one being, and T is another. Again, “Saul = T” doesn’t say that Saul and T are similar, but rather that they’re the same being. Sure, both are humans, whether or not there’s such a thing as the Platonists’ humanity. But what does this have to do with theology? T gives what he thinks is the payoff:

When Trinitarians say that Jesus=God, it is saying they share a common nature.

Well, that’s what they often mean. But clearly, many apologists mean the argument above; they often assert the identity of Jesus and God, not only their co-essentiality or nature-sharing or equal divinity.

But perhaps T all along meant this argument instead, and/or was confusing it with 1-3 above:

4. Only a being with a divine nature can X.

5. Jesus can X.

6. Therefore, Jesus has a divine nature.

Again, X might be, “have the authority to forgive sins,” or “be called ‘Lord’,” or “fulfill prophecies about Yahweh,” be called “God,” etc. And this argument 4-6, like the first one (1-3) is valid; IF each premise is true, then the conclusion must be true too. And for many Xs, the NT will directly assert that Jesus can X. (e.g. be worshiped)

BUT, 4 has the same problem as 1: it is provable neither by reason nor by scripture. And, for many Xs, we have scriptural examples of people who can X but who no one thinks to have a divine nature. (e.g. Jesus’s followers forgiving sins, various beings other than God being called “gods”) Thus, catholic traditions seem to conflict with the Bible in these cases. Most Protestants are in denial about this.

But to return to my main point, 1 and 4 say different things, and have different truth-conditions.

Also, the conclusions 3 and 6 are very different.

  • The trinitarian should deny 3, because any Trinity theory has it that the one God is the Trinity, and that Jesus and the Trinity are two, so that the one God can’t also be identical to Jesus. It is obviously impossible that anything be numerically identical to two different, i.e. non-identical things. If a = b, and a = c, then it follows that b = c. And if the one God is the Trinity, and the one God is Jesus, then it follows that Jesus just is the Trinity, and vice-versa, which is patently false. That Jesus and the Trinity can’t be numerically one follows from the fact that (if both are real) they differ in various ways, e.g. the Trinity is tripersonal and Jesus is not tripersonal, or Jesus died and the Trinity has never died. Since 3 follows from 1 and 2, the trinitarian must also deny 1 and/or 2. I recommend 1.
  • In contrast, a trinitarian should want 6 to be true; 6 seems a way of expressing the main claim about Jesus in the catholic creed of 381. Of course, many will not be convinced by the argument for it.

now I get itIn sum, note to apologists: study standard first-order predicate logic with identity. Never mind that some of your apologetics heroes don’t know it; you will need to. Any naturalist, Muslim, etc. who’s majored in Philosophy knows this, as well as many other well-educated people. It’s not enough to learn about some informal fallacies (e.g. begging the question, ad hominem), so as to accuse your opponents. Invest in your own reasoning abilities. Then, on the Trinity and the Incarnation, you’ll see what all the hubub among Christian philosophers and theologians trained in philosophy has been about. These are people who’ve all been trained in this way, and they build their theories, in most cases, on the assumptions that there’s such a thing as numerical identity, and that the indiscernibility of identicals is true. The few that aver know what they’re getting into.

And you don’t need an undergrad degree in Philosophy; any high school freshman can learn this logic – it’s no harder than year 1 Algebra. Here’s a good book, by a trinity of accomplished Christian philosophers, no less.

Learning about identity will also help untangle some common confusions about John 17 – but that’s another story.

]]> http://trinities.org/blog/apologetics-blind-spot-numerical-identity/feed/ 16 podcast 148 – Dr. Daniel McKaughan on faith – Part 2 http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-148-dr-daniel-mckaughan-on-faith-part-2/ http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-148-dr-daniel-mckaughan-on-faith-part-2/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2016 08:34:14 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=37880 Roman coin with the word Fides ("Faith")If faith is not simply believing that some doctrine is true, what is it? In this episode, Dr. Daniel McKaughan explains what, in his view, the Bible means by “faith,” and why it’s important. He argues that it has cognitive, affective, and behavioral dimensions.

He also discusses how the word “belief” has shifted in meaning over time, hindering our understanding of words like pistis (Greek), fides (Latin), and aman (Hebrew). We even discuss a neologism, “to faith.”

Links for this episode:

Odysseus and Penelope in Homer's Odyssey

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http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-148-dr-daniel-mckaughan-on-faith-part-2/feed/ 1 If faith is not simply believing that some doctrine is true, what is it? If faith is not simply believing that some doctrine is true, what is it? In this episode, Dr. Daniel McKaughan explains what, in his view, the Bible means by "faith," and why it's important. He argues that it has cognitive, affective, and behavioral dimensions.

He also discusses how the word "belief" has shifted in meaning over time, hindering our understanding of words like pistis (Greek), fides (Latin), and aman (Hebrew). We even discuss a neologism, "to faith."

Links for this episode:

* Dr. McKaughan’s home page


* “Authentic faith and acknowledged risk: dissolving the problem of faith and reason,” Religious Studies, 2013.
* “Action-Centered Faith, Doubt, and Rationality,” Journal of Philosophical Research, 2016.





* The Nature and Value of Faith project page
* important terms discussed in this episode:

* belief, faith, acceptance
* pistis, pisteuó
* fides, credo
* aman, emeth


* Wilfred Cantwell Smith
* decision theory, Pascal's Wager
* Matthew 13:45-46
* This week's thinking music is "Green Leaves" by Jason Shaw.
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Dale Tuggy clean 46:30
podcast 147 – Dr. Daniel McKaughan on faith – Part 1 http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-147-dr-daniel-mckaughan-on-faith-part-1/ http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-147-dr-daniel-mckaughan-on-faith-part-1/#comments Mon, 18 Jul 2016 23:39:30 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=37860 DanielMcKaughan smIs faith, as Mark Twain quipped, believing what you know ain’t so? Why do so many think that faith is valuable? What is it to have faith anyway?

In this episode I talk with Boston College philosopher Dr. Daniel McKaughan about faith in God, and whether or not it requires a firm belief that God exists.

We discuss belief, atheism, agnosticism, the interesting case of Mother Theresa, doubt, and commitment. We focus on Dr. McKaughan’s objections to what he calls the “belief-plus” understanding of faith. 

In Part 2 next week, we’ll hear more about Dr. McKaughan’s own views on what faith is, and wherein lies its value.

Links for this episode:

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http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-147-dr-daniel-mckaughan-on-faith-part-1/feed/ 2 Is faith, as Mark Twain quipped, believing what you know ain't so?
In this episode I talk with Boston College philosopher Dr. Daniel McKaughan about faith in God, and whether or not it requires a firm belief that God exists.

We discuss belief, atheism, agnosticism, the interesting case of Mother Theresa, doubt, and commitment. We focus on Dr. McKaughan's objections to what he calls the "belief-plus" understanding of faith. 

In Part 2 next week, we'll hear more about Dr. McKaughan's own views on what faith is, and wherein lies its value.

Links for this episode:

* Dr. McKaughan's home page


* "Authentic faith and acknowledged risk: dissolving the problem of faith and reason," Religious Studies, 2013.
* "Action-Centered Faith, Doubt, and Rationality," Journal of Philosophical Research, 2016.


* The Nature and Value of Faith project page
* On the cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's alleged quote that he didn't see God while in orbit (scroll down)
* Mark 9:24; James 2:19; Mark 8:27-30; "follow me"
* This week's thinking music is "Our Ego [Feat. Different Visitor]" by Broke For Free.
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Dale Tuggy clean 40:38
podcast 146 – Jesus as an Exemplar of Faith in the New Testament http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-146-jesus-exemplar-faith-new-testament/ http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-146-jesus-exemplar-faith-new-testament/#comments Tue, 12 Jul 2016 02:11:59 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=37840 christ_gethsemane_dewey other wayDuring his brief ministry, did Jesus put his faith in God?

Some Christians deny that he did, including Saint Thomas Aquinas and at least one present-day evangelical apologist.

In this talk I argue that they’re mistaken; to the contrary, Jesus is presented as an exemplar of faith by multiple New Testament authors. In this, I side with some recent Roman Catholic interpreters, and with other scholars such as Ian Wallis and Teresa Morgan.

Along the way, I consider the theological and christological implications of Jesus having faith in God, focusing on responses to this argument:

1. Jesus had faith in God.
2. A fully divine being never has faith in God.
3. Therefore, Jesus was not fully divine.

Some, as you’ll hear, deny premise  1 and/or premise 2. In my view, it’s a sound argument; but here, I mostly focus on establishing premise 1.

This presentation was made possible through the support of a grant from the Templeton Religion Trust, to The Nature and Value of Faith project. The opinions expressed in it are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Templeton Religion Trust.

Links for this episode:

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http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-146-jesus-exemplar-faith-new-testament/feed/ 13 Did Jesus have faith in God?
Some Christians deny that he did, including Saint Thomas Aquinas and at least one present-day evangelical apologist.

In this talk I argue that they're mistaken; to the contrary, Jesus is presented as an exemplar of faith by multiple New Testament authors. In this, I side with some recent Roman Catholic interpreters, and with other scholars such as Ian Wallis and Teresa Morgan.

Along the way, I consider the theological and christological implications of Jesus having faith in God, focusing on responses to this argument:
1. Jesus had faith in God.
2. A fully divine being never has faith in God.
3. Therefore, Jesus was not fully divine.
Some, as you'll hear, deny premise  1 and/or premise 2. In my view, it's a sound argument; but here, I mostly focus on establishing premise 1.

This presentation was made possible through the support of a grant from the Templeton Religion Trust, to The Nature and Value of Faith project. The opinions expressed in it are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Templeton Religion Trust.



Links for this episode:

* slides for this presentation
* The Nature and Value of Faith project page
* podcast 144 – Dr. Timothy Pawl’s In Defense of Conciliar Christology – Part 2
* podcast 143 – Dr. Timothy Pawl’s In Defense of Conciliar Christology – Part 1
* oligopistos
* podcast 59 – Dr. Carl Mosser on salvation as deification
* podcast 115 – the aborted council at Serdica in 343
* Stephen T. Davis
* C. Stephen Evans, ed. Exploring Kenotic Christology: The Self-Emptying of God
* Ian Wallis, The Faith of Jesus Christ in Early Christian Traditions
* Teresa Morgan, Roman Faith and Christian Faith: Pistis and Fides in the Early Roman Empire and Early Churches
* Texts mentioned in this episode: Luke 1:5-20; Luke 1:26-38; Luke 10:16; Hebrews 12:1-4; Hebrews 2:13; Luke 8:43-48; Matthew 27:27-44; Luke 4:16-30; Luke 5:16; Mark 14:32-42; Philippians 2; John 5:19; John 10:30; John 19:30; John 8:40; Matthew 21:18-22; Matthew 17:14-20; Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 4:35-41; Matthew 24:36; Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:5; Acts 5:31; 2 Peter 1:4; Mark 11:15-17.
* This week's thinking music is "Always The Teasmade Never The Tease" by
Dale Tuggy clean 43:25
Exegetical neutrality http://trinities.org/blog/exegetical-neutrality/ Sun, 03 Jul 2016 12:05:00 +0000 http://trinities.org/blog/?p=37823 I am making slow (but sure) progress on The Same God? Reference and Identity in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Scriptures. My background is in the philosophy of language, and particularly the theory of reference and singular terms. The research for this book has taken me to some strange places I never expected to visit (and never really knew about before). One of those is hermeneutics, which I did know about before, but never expected to visit. This SEP article is good. Hermeneutics deals with interpretation, and especially Biblical interpretation, the problem of which became prominent with the Reformation and with the idea that we should not rely on ‘tradition’ (the official pronouncement of a religious establishment) as the basis for theology and ethics, but rather read and interpret sacred scripture for ourselves. Sola Scriptura. The central question for my book is whether the names ‘Yhwh’, ‘God’ and ‘Allah’, as they occur in each of the three scriptures, have the same referent.

The many problems underlying this question becomes apparent when we consider the following text from the Quran, Surah 33:6-7, translated here by Pickthall.

The Prophet is closer to the believers than their selves, and his wives are (as) their mothers. And the owners of kinship are closer one to another in the ordinance of Allah than (other) believers and the fugitives (who fled from Mecca), except that ye should do kindness to your friends. This is written in the Book (of nature).

And [mention] when We exacted a covenant from the prophets, and from thee (O Muhammad) and from Noah and Abraham and Moses and Jesus son of Mary. We took from them a solemn covenant.

First of all there is the problem of the reference of ‘Allah’ in 33:6 and ‘we’ in 33:7. This is a trap for the unwary. Dawood’s translation helpfully provides footnotes to explain the reference of the indexical pronoun ‘you’, which sometimes refers to Muhammad, sometimes to the Musl