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. Mario Stratta
    August 8, 2017 @ 3:06 am

    Dale, in reply to your 3 comments of August 7, 2017 @ 4:16 PM, 4:17 PM and 4:25 PM I will reply with the following statement.

    The only reason why the (fully-fledged, co-equal, co-eternal, tri-personal) Trinity was eventually affirmed is that the notion of second god (AFAIK first introduced by Justin Martyr, probably filching it from Philo) – wrongly resorted to account for the divinity of Jesus Christ – was intrinsically unstable, when affirmed within Biblical Monotheism. It could only “evolve” EITHER into the notion of the “Son” as creature (which is what Arius did, breaking the status quo), OR into the fully-fledged Trinity. OR, with Marcellus of Ancyra, into the notion of Word/logos/dabar and Spirit/pneuma/ruach as essential attributes of the One and Only God. Jesus, is fully divine because he is the incarnation of God’s eternal Word.

    Unless you simply agree with the above (and in that case the Trinity/trinity issue will vanish like snow on water), there is no point in me trying to show you that you are in a blind alley.


    • Dale
      August 8, 2017 @ 1:36 pm

      “intrinsically unstable” Your point here is neither philosophical nor theological nor biblical, but is a speculative claim about history, a counterfactual claim. You claim you can discern what all of the options, or at least all the likely options were at that point in time (c. 150 AD).

      I just don’t have anything to say about that either for or against. I’m skeptical about these sorts of judgments. This reminds me of people who confidently assert that “unitarianism is a halfway house to Deism” or who think that the implosion of American Unitarian Congregationalism and the genesis of Unitarian Universalism were somehow inevitable.

      In any case, what you are saying does not in any way touch the distinction between a singular referring term and a plural referring term. I suspect that you haven’t read my chapter on the Trinity / trinity distinction and so are not too clear about what my point is there. But I’m not going to go through it all here.


      • Mario Stratta
        August 8, 2017 @ 3:05 pm


        you misuse the word “counterfactual”. The fact is that, of the three possible outcomes that I have indicated, the “one ousia in three hypostases” eventually prevailed, mainly thanks to the Cappadocian scoundrels. The second option resurfaced in what the JWs preach. The third option that I mentioned (a long time ago, and to which you dedicated your post/podcast 175 – Marcellus of Ancyra [March 13, 2017]), although it was probably put forward, in its entirety, only by Marcellus, is perfectly consistent, intelligible, and fits with the Bible. It is not the amplitude of the scholarly consensus, or some little syllogistic game, that makes a doctrine all the things that you claim to look for in it.

        I won’ even bother commenting on your claim that “my point”, that agrees almost entirely with Marcellus’ doctrine, is “neither philosophical nor theological nor biblical”. If you want to be serious, please argue against it.

        Whatever is going to replace the Trinity (if it ever will, before the Second Coming), is certainly not going to be Unitarianism (Humanitarian Unitarianism, because there is no other …). It is no going to be Subordinationism either.


        • Dale
          August 8, 2017 @ 3:40 pm

          Mario, after all your heckling and demands, I don’t know what your point is. Seriously. If you’re going to scold me, you should at least make your point clear!


          • Mario Stratta
            August 8, 2017 @ 4:01 pm

            Dale, what is you do not understand? If you are serious, indicate precisely what you fail to understand. BTW, as I have said on other occasions, you and I are not the only ones who read, and can make their own judgment, about your and my comments …


  2. Mario Stratta
    August 5, 2017 @ 7:01 pm

    So, answer these simple questions.

    If Origen (with his “eternal generation” of a “son”, who is deuteros theos) is a unitarian (small “u” as you do), is also Tertullian (the first to speak of “trinity” referring explicitly to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as three distinct personae) a unitarian? Are the Eusebiuses unitarian? More in general, is every subordinationist a unitarian? YES or NO?

    As for your distinction between theology and christology, if Yahwe (= Father) “generates eternally a son”, it is far from obvious that there is a clear-cut dividing line between them. (Would you call Plotinus, with his aporrhoia a unitarian, for instance? LOL!)

    Doesn’t Origen, like many other Christian theologians, affirm that the “eternal son” gets incarnated in the man Jesus? So where is “one too many sons”?

    My “By Jove! I think I’ve got it”, at your other post, was a provocation for a response (although I still think that the coincidence of the two “unfinished businesses”, 14 years apart, is something where the subconscious had more than a marginal –unwitting– role …). Anyway, if your invitation to “get serious” is … serious, then surely you will not have problems with … finishing the business of replying to my original question: if the “trinity” is so poorly represented in the NT (if at all), why did Protestants defend it, tooth and claw?


    • Mario Stratta
      August 6, 2017 @ 2:19 pm

      Dale, if you won’t answer at least this question …

      If the “trinity” is so poorly represented in the NT (if at all), why did Protestants defend it, tooth and claw?

      … I can easily conclude (and many other readers/commenters can as well) that youcan’t answer it.


      • Dale
        August 7, 2017 @ 4:25 pm

        Do you mean the Trinity or the triad/trinity? I will assume that you mean “Trinity.” Some creedal Protestants accept it because it is in things like the Westminster Confession, and they assume that the Trinity can be deduced from the teachings of the Bible somehow or other. Other, non-creedal Protestants, again, think that the Trinity can be deduced from the Bible, particularly from the New Testament. And as I discussed in the chapter in my book, often they confuse together “the deity of Christ” with the Trinity, not realizing how different those topics are, and how the first preceded the second by at least two centuries.

        If you mean the trinity, then of course this is all over the New Testament – God, his Son, and his spirit. And in a few passages they are listed together, although rarely in the way that a Trinitarian would expect – Father, Son, and Spirit (in that order, and with nothing else in the list). And since the trinity is everywhere they conclude that so is the Trinity, although this is clearly a fallacious inference. Some theologians constantly make this mistake.


  3. Mario Stratta
    August 1, 2017 @ 9:52 am

    Early Christianity differed from bulk of the Jews on whether Jesus was the Messiah, and on the necessity of full Torah observance.

    This statement is associated with Origen’s Contra Celsum. But this cannot be the whole story. Otherwise, whence in the Scripture would have Origen whisked out his idea of “eternal generation” who he was the first to use (see Maurice Wiles, “Eternal Generation,” Journal of Theological Studies, 12 (1961): 287-289)?


    • Dale
      August 2, 2017 @ 12:27 pm

      Mario my point in this post is that Origen thinks that the one God, the God of the Jews, just is the Father. Yes, he has these speculations about the eternal generation of *another* being.
      But, so what?


      • Mario Stratta
        August 2, 2017 @ 1:45 pm

        Dale, no point in trying to minimize the enormity of what Origen affirms.

        Yahweh God who “generates eternally” a “son”? C’mon!

        (And you still haven’t confronted my strong suspicion that your “Strict Unitarianism” is just a stage on the way to “finishing the business” of coming up with a satisfactory “theory of the trinity”, that is “consistent”, “intelligible” and “fits with the Bible” …)


        • Dale
          August 4, 2017 @ 9:59 pm

          Mario, Origen is a unitarian. I am simply sticking to matters of theology here. Now, if we start to talk about christology, this is where his “enormities” are found. Namely, he has a man and also a lesser divine being. That is one too many sons.

          About your strong suspicion, get serious.


          • Mario Stratta
            August 6, 2017 @ 10:45 am

            Origen is a unitarian

            Ipse dixit. Slightly dogmatic, ain’t it?
            It is interesting to follow the quick evolution, by comparing the questions asked at the end of 4 successive posts on Origen, trinitarian or unitarian (the links are provided).

            a. trinitarian or unitarian? 5 – Origen’s Against Celsus – Part 1 (March 9, 2013)

            Now step back to look at the big picture:
            Does Origen defend the monotheism of Christians by urging that the one God is the Trinity, the tripersonal God, and so when one worships any of those persons in the Trinity, or is worshiping the one God? And does he affirm the absolutely equal worship of there such “persons” internal to the one God? (trinitarian)
            Or does Origen assert the one God to be the Father, and argue that in a sense, only he is worshiped, although in another sense Christians also worship God’s Son. (unitarian)

            b. trinitarian or unitarian? 6 – Origen’s Against Celsus – Part 2 (March 11, 2013)

            Question time:
            Does Origen here argue that Jesus is the Christian God, the one true God? Or that the Son is “functionally subordinate” to the Father, though “ontologically equal” to him? Or that the Son is as great as the Father qua divine, but less great qua human? (trinitarian)
            Or does Origen argue that Jesus deserves worship, even though he is not God himself, but is (eternally) caused to exist by God, so that God is greater than his Son? (unitarian)

            c. trinitarian or unitarian? 7 – Origen uncensored (March 15, 2013)

            What do you see here?
            Is Jesus called “God” but is not the one true God, that is, the Father? And is Jesus caused to exist by God, and inferior to God in knowledge? (unitarian)
            Or is Jesus God himself? Or is Jesus just as divine as his Father, and like him somehow “within” the one true God, which is the Trinity? (trinitarian)

            d. trinitarian or unitarian? 8 – Origen on “God” vs. “a god” (March 25, 2013)

            As in every post in this series, I ask what you see here:
            The unique, one God being “unipersonal” (unitarian), or 
            The unique, one God consisting of or containing more than one ontologically equal person/self (trinitarian)

            I strongly recommend that everybody who is seriously interested read the 4 above posts (and relative comments), in their entirety.


            • Dale
              August 6, 2017 @ 12:59 pm

              No, Mario. I don’t think it is “dogmatic.” It is sober, fully informed interpretation. I welcome people to test my conclusions against all his extant works, and yes, anything I’ve written before on thus. Thanks for the links!


              • Mario Stratta
                August 6, 2017 @ 2:05 pm

                Dale, your 4 posts of March 2013, that I have linked (as a reminder for you and as an “evolution check” for the other readers/commenters), if they were in good faith, still seemed not to make the arbitrary choice, that you do, of subsuming Subordinationism under Unitarianism.

                As I wrote in reply to your “unitarian” question at the end of your post trinitarian or unitarian? 6:

                “However many times you repeat and vary your question [about Origen’s presumed “unitarianism”] this is “unitarianism” ONLY within your peculiar nomenclature.”

                But then again, what else could we expect, from the author of the articles SEP > Trinity (where Subordinationism is merely hinted at in association with the Holy Spirit) and SEP > Unitarianism (a “Supplement” to SEP >, nearly half of which is spent on “Subordinationism”), for the obvious reason that you have a vested interest in them?


                • Dale
                  August 7, 2017 @ 4:16 pm

                  Mario, for years you have been harping on a simple terminological point. You don’t want to call subordinationist views “unitarian.” You want to reserve that term for views on which Jesus does not have a divine nature and the spirit is not an entity in its own right. As I have said many times, it seems to me that the defining thesis of Christian “unitarian” theology is its claim that the one God just is the Father alone, contradicting any trinitarian theology, which identifies the one God as the Trinity. I am focusing on this core theological issue. Of course, God willing, someday I will write a lot more about the christological issue. But I don’t really want to hear you harping on this anymore, because you never give any reason for your terminological demand. The reason for my usage is I am trying to sort the like with the like, and divide different theologies along natural lines. First we separate the trinitarian from the unitarian, and then we can divide the unitarian views on the preexistence question, and also on the question of the spirit. Unless you have something to say on behalf of your own terminological demands, again, I have heard them enough times, so stop.


                • Dale
                  August 7, 2017 @ 4:17 pm

                  “Vested interest”? LOL. Hard to see how I could have any of those, because I am what I call a humanitarian unitarian, and not a subordinationist unitarian! (What others would call, although this is terrible terminology, a “Socinian” and not an “Arian.”)


                  • Aaron
                    August 7, 2017 @ 6:42 pm

                    About this issue, when I first began to think on it as a Trinitarian about 3 years ago I saw subordinationism as a theological error *regarding one’s view of the Trinity.* Later, after deeper thinking I concluded that since subordinationists draw a difference between Jesus and the Father concerning their ontology that this must necessitate that they are Unitarians. However, upon looking at the Trinitarian view (capital “T” Trinitarian) of the Eastern Orthodox I revised my conclusion again to be that a subordinationist could be a Unitarian or possibly a Trinitarian depending on whether they saw the subordination of Jesus to the Father to be with respect to the essence of his being (sorry for the loaded phrase) or his personal properties VS the personal properties of the Father. The former, I see as Unitarians and the latter as Trinitarians (provided they believe the Holy Spirit is the one God as well).

                    I agree with Dale that if Origen and these other early writers are being understood as Dale has parsed it out, they are indeed Unitarians.


                    • Dale
                      August 7, 2017 @ 9:44 pm

                      “subordination of Jesus to the Father…with respect to …his personal properties VS the personal properties of the Father”

                      Thanks for your comment, Aaron. Honestly – I don’t know what this means. I understand “subordination” to be a being to (another) being relation. One depends on the other, and so is (in at least one way, independence) less than that other. I can’t parse this talk of subordination of with respect to personal properties… unless this is just way of talking about being-being subordination.

                    • Aaron
                      August 7, 2017 @ 10:17 pm

                      Hi Dale,

                      As I see it, there are typically three ways in which people view Jesus as subordinate to the Father. Please forgive the information which you’re already familiar with, I feel it’s necessary to make a clear declaration of what I’m trying to say about the personal properties.

                      1. Role- Jesus is equal to the Father in every way is subordinate to the Father in the outworking of our salvation and in the plan of redemption. Most Trinitarians affirm this although some do not. It doesn’t affect the metaphysical reality of the tripersonal God but only how each “person” functions in relation to one another and us.

                      2. Essence/Nature- Jesus is inferior to the Father in the very nature of his being. That is, Jesus is usually in some what not seen as ultimate or supreme but the Father is in some way the source of Jesus’ being. Arian and Subordinationist Unitarians are here.

                      3. Person/Personal Properties- This is where it gets hairy in my view. I’m not going to say that Trinitarian Subordinationists (as I call them) are being consistent because I’m unsure if they are here. But it seems to be a real view that some hold to, including the Eastern Orthodox as far as I can tell. There is a distinction drawn here between “essence” and “person” so that, while the Father and Son are equal in essence, the Father is somehow greater in his person. I think we briefly spoke before about the same being true with regard to human beings so that even if my father were equal to me in my human nature, he could still be greater than me in his person so that he is my source of being for example, and thus I would be subordinate to him in some way.

                      I will say that for any Trinitarian I feel that some real reason must be given for the Son to properly be called “the Son” and it not be arbitrary that he be so called…otherwise there wouldn’t be any reason that the Father couldn’t be sent instead. Some reply, “The Son is begotten and the Father is unbegotten.” Well enough. But what does it mean that the Son is “begotten?” How does it make a difference if they are equal in *every* way? In some sense there must be a real and true difference which makes the Father truly “Father” and the Son truly “Son.” Each framework should attempt to work this out.

                      Sorry I know I answered with more than you asked about. I’ve been thinking about all this for a long time, especially since reading Clarke. Take care Dale. Thanks again for the blog and podcasts.


                    • Aaron
                      August 8, 2017 @ 4:15 pm

                      Hey Dale,

                      I just read my explanation of the subordination of Jesus to the Father with regard to his “person” and I feel I did a subpar job and had a few typos as well so I wanted to give a few more examples to clarify.

                      If we think about two humans who share the same nature, we would still distinguish between them in other ways. Perhaps one of them is 6’5″, athletic, left-handed, and a gifted singer. On the other hand another human might only be 5’2″, uncoordinated, right handed, and unable to carry a tune while singing. Although the two share the same nature, one is greater than the other in some very real and measurable ways. This seems to be the view of the Eastern Orthodox. They view the fact that the person of the Father is the “fountain” of the Son and Spirit to mean he is greater in his person, but not in his nature. So thus, I call them “Subordinationist Trinitarians,” namely because they believe the subordination of the Son is in his person, but deny it has anything to do with his nature. Subordinationist Unitarians, on the other hand, affirm that this is an issue of the nature of the Father and Son respectively, and so they are necessarily two distinct beings, one having a superior nature to the other.

                      Of course, an easy and already understood way to refer to this view of the EO is to just say that a Trinitarian holds to “the monarchy of the Father.”

                      If you could, I would like for you to analyze what I’ve said and let me know if you believe it to be coherent and sensical. Thanks for your time.

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