Dale Tuggy

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


  1. Blanton Seward
    August 6, 2012 @ 6:16 pm

    If the apostles had believed that Jesus was God, they would have made it ABUNDANTLY clear. It would have been a major, major emphasis in every letter and solidly embedded in the Gospels. It wasn’t, and that is a clue that they did not believe it. Furthermore, we would not have to acquire the notion by mind bending and retraction into the ever present defense that it is a mystery and cannot be understood… hence the “mystery of the trinity.” This is brought up every time a strict Trinitarian is pressed with reason.

  2. Rene'
    October 12, 2009 @ 9:27 am

    I agree with Newton in that emphasis should be on the “One,” since the Biblical emphasis is placed here on the Oneness of God [Deut. 6:4, Mal. 2:10, Mk. 12:29, Rom. 3:30, Eph. 4:6, I Tim. 2:5, Jas. 2:19]. Just as the word “trinity” never appears in the Bible, neither does “god-man,” “co-equal” or “co-eternal.” These are all terms that emerge from the creeds of men, not the Word of God! No man hath seen God at anytime!!! [John 1:18] How can Jesus be God if no
    man has ever seen God at any time???? Trinitarians remain at a loss to explain this but the burden of proof is on them since it
    is they who are touting the “God-man” theology. They are always happy to read their theology into John 1:1-4, but why is
    it they never include verse 18 in their teachings?? There are over 60 verses that refer to Jesus as the “Son of God” but only a few where he is misnunderstood to be God. Jesus never claimed to be God!! Any reference to John 10:30-33 as “proof” that Jesus claimed to be God, ignores some critical points. First, “I and the Father are One” refers to “unity of purpose” that Jesus shared with the Heavenly Father. This is the meaning of “one” [hen] in this verse. Not that Jesus was claiming to be equal or identical with the Father. Also this word
    “one” appears in the neuter, not the masculine. If this verse was indicating that Jesus was “one and the same with God” it would need to be in the masculine, but it is not! Secondly, it was the Jews in verse 33 that accused Jesus of blasphemy because THEY BELIEVED HE WAS A MAN WHO MADE HIMSELF GOD. This was not Jesus’ stance, which is clear in verse 36 where he says “I am the Son of God.” Don’t put the Jews words into the Lord’s mouth!! Jesus quotes Psalm 82 to them, which calls the Jews
    “gods,” to whom God’s Word was written, as children of the Most High. This did not make the Jews “God,” neither does it make Jesus
    “God,” thus their charge of blaphemy was groundless, as Jesus points out to them in v.36!! It is the Word of God that is our standard of Faith and Practice, not the creeds of men. This is the point I think Newton was making, by disagreeing with the trinitarian dogmas of men’s religious creeds. In this I agree wholeheartedly with him. If you want to believe in the trinity, thats your business, but you must explain John 1:18 and many other Scriptures that contradict trinitrain dogma. The burden of proof rests on those who would adopt this position!

  3. Some thoughts on labeling others’ theories at trinities
    March 27, 2007 @ 1:22 pm

    […] My recent exchange with Brandon Watson got me to thinking. This is going to be boringly methodological, but I need to think about this issue, as it’ll come up again and again. As a philosopher, I’m interested in evaluating theories on their merits – consistency, fit with the evidence, coherence with what else we believe, explanatory power, and so on. When I look at the history of theological debate, it is very often marred with the ugly weapons of rhetoric – speaking to coerce (your opponent and/or the rest of your audience), rather than to rationally convince. Some ways of talking about and labeling one’s opponents are ways of expressing mild to moderate contempt for them. For instance, Jehovah’s Witness are often referred to as “cultists”. Now, there can be a point to that, in some contexts, depending on what’s mean by “cult”, but I think that in the context of a theological debate, just refute them, if you can. Don’t try to score cheap points with the insinuation that they’re mind-numbed robots. Similarly, “heretic”, “conventional”, “fundamentalist“, and “liberal”. […]

  4. Dale
    March 26, 2007 @ 3:01 pm


    Thanks for the comments – they were helpful. I’ll continue with some further thoughts on labeling and libeling in a post a little later.

    Re: Hobbes – he’s interesting on this topic – as always, independent-minded to the point of vice. Please let me know when you post on that. If you like, I’ll cross-post it here.

  5. Brandon Watson
    March 16, 2007 @ 3:18 am

    I think you’re quite right that Newton is only misleadingly called an Arian; not only is he not in any sort of Arian school of thought, he tends to distance himself from Arius and the Arians when he talks about them. (On his view, of course, he’s not in the tradition of Arius; he’s in the tradition of primitive Christianity, since he affirms wholeheartedly pre-conciliar confessions of faith.) He does, on the contrary, talk of subordination.

    However, I still think it’s important to recognize that, while Newton never formally addresses it, he regularly does associate the term ‘Trinity’ not with his own view but with that of his opponents, namely, the Montanists and their heirs (among whom he includes everyone who accepts the Nicene Creed). And this is perhaps not surprising; unlike Clarke, Newton is much more wary of using terms that are not Scriptural. That is, after all, one of his main objections to the homoousios.

    So I don’t think the negative terminology obscures anything; avoiding it is perhaps as likely to distort Newton’s view as using it too freely. And one of the interesting ideas Newton has is that it’s the Montanists who made a big deal about the Trinity, whereas the primitive Christians simply had a set of nested circles of concern:

    We pray to the Father alone (albeit through the mediation of the Son);

    We worship the Father and the Son alone (the former as God, the second as mediating representative of Him);

    We wish for grace from the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (and thus are baptized in their name).

    And so forth. To talk of the Trinity naturally puts emphasis on the Three, at least for as long as we are talking about the Trinity: but in Newton’s view, the emphasis is not on the Three but on the One, God, the Father, and the other two are there entirely because they are important parts of our ‘religion to God’. So I think one could give an argument just as easily in the opposite direction: the positive term, ‘Trinity’, only serves to obscure the issues. It’s only if we think the Three are somehow equally important (whatever their metaphysical status) that we talk of a Trinity; but they aren’t for Newton. So in that sense, it’s like saying someone is a binitarian because they regard two things as important, God and the World.

    I do wholeheartedly agree, though, that while this is a verbal issue, it’s important. After all, most verbal issues are issues of classification, and classification is often the key to illuminating various issues (or obscuring them).

    (Btw, as a complete off-topic thing, I hope at some point you do a post on Thomas Hobbes’s attempt to use the notion of ‘personation’ as a basis for an account of the Trinity. I think it fails, of course, but I think it, like Newton’s subordinationist exegesis of the Throne vision in revelation, one of the more interesting failures in the history of the topic.)

  6. Dale
    March 15, 2007 @ 2:19 pm

    Hi Brandon,

    Thanks for your comments, and for your interesting post on your blog!

    Before I continue, I should emphasize, that this is only a terminological point, though I’m sure you’ll understand that as a philosopher, sometimes I think choice of terms is important.

    There’s an ambiguity in both “Trinity” and “trinitarian”. In a stricter sense, they refer to a particular metaphysics of God, or a family of theories (e.g. Augustinian, Athanasian, Thomistic, recent social trinitarianism). In a looser sense, they refer to the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit – whatever those are. So in the looser sense, people truly say, “The Bible is full of statements about the Trinity from beginning to end.” But that would be plainly false in the stricter sense. And in the looser sense, we can truly say that Leftow and C. Plantinga are two different kinds of “trinitarians”.

    So what is an “antitrinitarian”? If you took “the Trinity” to be, say an Augustinian doctrine, than many current philosophers and theologians would be “antitrinitarian”. I don’t see that characterization as helpful – people such as Swinburne, Plantinga, and Rea are trinitarians (in the looser sense). It may serve the purposes of ideological warfare to characterize them as mere deniers, but that wouldn’t do them justice – they have developed positive views. They aren’t just standing back and jeering at the issue of trinitarian theology.

    Back to Newton. If you only count as “trinitarian” views which include the absolute ontological equality of the Father and Son, then Newton won’t be a “trinitarian”. In fact, he’ll be an “antitrinitarian”, because like some of the early church fathers and certain recent social trinitarians, he strongly affirms the ontological dependence of the other two on the Father. But this terminology doesn’t positively characterize Newton’s carefully thought out position. He’s often in the literature called an “Arian”; I’d argue that’s very misleading at best. I call him a “subordinationist”. Because he was so private about his views, Newton never had to decide how to treat the word “Trinity” (etc.) But his close younger associate Clarke did. Thus, Clarke presents a subordinationist view very close to Newton’s, under the title The Scripture-Doctrine of the Trinity. In other words, he thinks that his theory best presents what the Bible says about the three – he’s using “Trinity” in the looser sense. If Newton uses “Trinity” (etc.) negatively to refer to the views of his opponents, he’s no doubt using it in a stronger sense. But of course, *anyone* with developed views on the Trinity will be against “the doctrine of the Trinity” when that refers to some metaphysical doctrine inconsistent with his own! See why I think that the negative terminology (“antitrinitarian”, “Trinity denier”, etc.) only serves to obscure the issues?

    Even Socinians and Unitarians, who (for their culture-war purposes) often embrace the negative terms as badges of honor, shouldn’t, in my view, as that just distracts from their carefully argued views on what the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are. They can of course go on to argue that traditional trinitarian terms are not helpful, if they wish. But they should lead with their own views.

    Re: Michael. I don’t remember that in Newton (do you remember where that is?) But in any case, if that’s his view, it’s a (pretty groundless, I think) speculation that divorcible from the main lines he’s taking.

  7. Brandon Watson
    March 15, 2007 @ 2:08 am

    I’m not so sure that Newton didn’t think of himself as an anti-Trinitarian. He’s Trinitarian in the sense that he believes that there’s a Father and a Son and a Holy Spirit; but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone claiming to be Christian who doesn’t. In Newton’s account, apparently only the Father and the Son are to be worshipped, not the Holy Spirit; and the Son is a God in a completely different sense than the Father is, because he’s the Angel Michael, who is exalted by God as a special representative, and thus is called ‘God’ in that derivative and secondary sense. (He’s vague about the Holy Spirit, but he seems to regard Him as yet another Angel.) And he never, as far as I can tell, uses the term ‘Trinity’ of his own view, and several times uses it of people whose views he disagrees with. He associates it with the Montanists and the various conciliar Fathers (like Athanasius), whom he thinks are merely propagating a variant of the Montanist heresy. (Unlike the true primitive faith, which does not use unscriptural words like ‘homoousios’, or perhaps, for that matter, ‘Trinity’.)