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.

30 Comments

  1. Russell
    December 13, 2012 @ 6:02 pm

    Dale,
    Somewhere on your website you said that you had written a paper putting forth a biblically plausible concept of the Trinity. Could you direct me to that paper? I enjoy your website very much!

    Peace,
    Russell

  2. villanovanus
    November 14, 2012 @ 1:33 am

    John (November 13, 2012 at 3:36 pm)

    If we had “a debate … some time ago”, I don’t remember it. Anyway …

    1. The “indiscernibility of identicals”, simply put, means that two objects of the same “power” (individuals, sets, classes) ultimately differ ONLY in name. For instance:

    • American President of the US in 2012 = [identical to] Barak Hussein Obama
    • Best selling worldwide soft drink from Atlanta GA = [identical to] Coca-Cola
    • Inhabitants of the country called “Holland” (in English) = Inhabitants of the country called “Hollande” (in French)

    2. A lot of ambiguity is due to the copula “is” (any reference to Bill Clinton –albeit inevitable, and in more than one way– is purely accidental) which can indicate (depending on the circumstance) identity or not. For instance:

    • Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. IS the father of John Fitzgerald Kennedy [identity]
    • Robert Kennedy IS the brother of John Fitzgerald Kennedy [NO identity]

    3. As for Christ = [is] God, there are not merely logical problems or problems of “ambiguity of the copula is”, but, for instance, it makes quite some difference, as Dale knows well, whether by “Trinitarian way” you mean LT or ST.

  3. John
    November 13, 2012 @ 3:36 pm

    Villanovanus

    … ‘ ” X ” = Jesus (Individual) and “y” = God (Class)’

    Isn’t this a bit like a debate we had some time ago.?

    It related to ‘sets’ and numerical identity.

    Consider a sub-set called “Coca-Cola’ within a set called “Beverages”.

    There are some things true for each one that is not true for the other.
    Obviously “Beverages’ is not ‘Coca Cola”.

    Similarly we might say that Christ = God, but if we define God in the Trinitarian way, “God ” is more than ‘Christ’.

    Perhaps you could help here ?

    Blessings

    John

  4. villanovanus
    November 13, 2012 @ 10:20 am

    Dale,

    you say, in your OP:

    This is the indiscernibility of identicals [link] (…) in action. This is a valid inference: x and y have differed, so x and y are not numerically identical. So in his view, the Father is not the Son.

    Your reference to the “indiscernibility of identicals” is correct here, BUT is totally misleading with reference to the linked post (“A formulation of Leibniz’s Law / the Indiscernibility of Identicals (Dale)”, July 21, 2011, 11:29 am) because, in THIS post x=Son and y=Father (that is, at least according to “orthodox” trinitarianism, two INDIVIDUALS, or persons, or hypostases of the same CLASS, God), whereas in THAT example x=Jesus (INDIVIDUAL) and y=God (CLASS).

    P.S. I couldn’t use the HTML tag “a href”

  5. villanovanus
    November 13, 2012 @ 10:14 am

    This is a test: why don’t my comments appear here?

  6. baber
    August 6, 2012 @ 6:49 pm

    I’m very sympathetic to the relative identity account, which I think Peter van Inwagen has worked out very well.

  7. James Goetz
    August 6, 2012 @ 4:12 pm

    baber said:
    Most of what I’m going to do is a critical survey of the state of Trinitarian discussion among analytic philosophers, with attention to patristic sources.

    In that case, What do you think of analytic philosophers defining relative identity models of Trinitarian doctrine?

  8. James Goetz
    August 6, 2012 @ 3:40 pm

    Hi Dale,

    I am curious about your distinction between “non-realism” and “anti-realism.” I consider the two the same, but I would like to understand your context.

  9. baber
    August 6, 2012 @ 3:09 pm

    I see. The whole scheme depends on distinguishing the Son from Jesus.

    You have to admit that historically this was a trend: what was papered over at the Nicaean Trinity discussion got kicked to the Christology room and thence to Chalcedon. And there the disagreements were irresolvable. And the refusniks on both sides, the Copts and the Church of the East, are still around.

    Very odd, I must say. Sort of a Christ-less Christianity, in a sense. You disagree with the gospel writers, of course, who emphasize that Jesus was filled with God’s spirit.

    Not Christless: we still have the icons, the hymns and the stories—which you have to admit have always been only tenuously connected to the historical Jesus at best. And if I remember correctly the gospel writers describe other people as filled with God’s spirit as well. I think there are even references to this in the OT. Not that it really matters to my argument.

    I don’t get this; so the “divine characteristics” often mentioned are the ability to (non-culpably) forgive sins, and to heal. You’re saying that if a person truly says “Jesus forgave sins” then they have inadvertantly switched the subject to God? Don’t they know to whom they refer? (FYI in my view those simply are not “divine characteristics” – i.e. features only God could have.)

    I’d take this tack also for those characteristics that are strictly divine, e.g. omniscience. That would cut a real Gordian knot: both kenotic and divided mind accounts are highly problematic. And I do think that when Evangelicals talk about Jesus coming into their hearts, etc. they’ve switched the subject to God.

    When it comes to forgiving sins I agree that a non-divine person could. However it’s not at all odd to say that a person could inadvertently switch the subject, or simply be confused about who is doing the forgiving in a given circumstance. In the form of absolution at the Eucharist in the BCP the priest absolves. The absolution in Morning Prayer however is however a prayer to God asking that he—because Morning Prayer can be done by a lay person. Most people in the pews don’t notice that difference. Again, according to correct theology, it’s God (the Holy Spirit), not the priest, that consecrates the bread and wine even though most would say the priest does. Shifts in reference and fudging on reference aren’t that peculiar.

    Strangely enough, I would be forced to agree with your trinitarian critics here; this would be an abuse of language. This language began in the realm of theorizing, but it is now common coin among mildy educated religous people – that’s all that my analyses I linked before assume.

    Mildly educated people deserve to be taken seriously. And if their views can be filled out theologically, so much the better.

    I would have to say that much ordinary religious talk is theory laden. Or will you say, like Spong types, that God-talk is really just talk about … I don’t know, what we value, or our ideals, or…? Is it fair to say that you are non-realist (but not necessarily anti-realist) about religious language?

    First, Spong-style accounts don’t pass the smell test: if a priest came clean and said he didn’t believe in any supernatural beings but rather in saying “I believe in God” meant that he was committed to an agapistic way of life, thought that Being was gracious, or some such poop, the Folk would not count him as a religious believer—and not be amused. I’d suspect however that most of the mildly-educated Folk in non-evangelical, mainline churches, and probably lots of Catholics, who’ve been characterized as “lay liberals,” would find the kind of account I’m suggesting ok.

    Secondly, I’m not in the business of paraphrasing away religious talk in order to avoid commitment to the supernatural. I’m concerned with the logical problems in specific theological accounts. I’m interested in theology for the Cultured Despiser who thinks there might be some supernatural being or state of affairs—maybe—but finds the Bible a stumbling block and is completely put off by Evangelical Jesus-talk–though not by the religious high art in which the theological/mythological Christ appears–I mean icons and church furnishings, the Bach B-minor mass, etc.

    Hmmm… I just don’t see any ground for any sort of normative tradition here, in analyzing various folk-religious talk.

    What’s the ground for any normative tradition? Take the Bible as normative because people who take it as normative say so? Take ecumenical councils as normative because people who take them as normative say so?

    Most of what I’m going to do is a critical survey of the state of Trinitarian discussion among analytic philosophers, with attention to patristic sources. But in the last, self-indulgent coda to this project I want to try out something different. The question is: suppose you believe—on the basis of natural theology, religious experience, or some pragmatic argument, that there may be some supernatural being or state of affairs. How do you get from there to Christianity—and what kind of Christianity do you get to? Maybe the question is: where is the primary point of contact between people and God (or the supernatural whatever)? And my guess is that’s in the liturgy of the church, in visiting church buildings, and through aesthetic experience, particularly the experience of religious art, music, literature and architecture.

    Yeah, it does sound like Schliermacher, however I’m not denying the supernatural.

  10. Dale
    August 6, 2012 @ 10:39 am

    Hi Harriet,

    Interesting. A few more comments in reply:

    I never claimed to be anything but a monarchian. About the interpersonal relationship: since on my account the historical Jesus is not God, or a Person of the Trinity, God is not play-acting but conducting an ordinary divine-human interpersonal relationship with an ordinary human. And I don’t see any good reason to hold that the Persons of the Trinity have to be in some kind of interpersonal relationship.

    I see. The whole scheme depends on distinguishing the Son from Jesus.

    …I don’t even believe that Jesus was “indwelt” by God in any special way or that God was acting through him in a “stunning manner.” What I believe is that the Church happened to pick on this obscure rabbi to build its theology around and to serve as a representation of God. It could just as well have picked Apollonius of Tyanna—or you or me. The quest for the historical Jesus draws blanks because very early on the historical figure had become largely irrelevant.

    Very odd, I must say. Sort of a Christ-less Christianity, in a sense. You disagree with the gospel writers, of course, who emphasize that Jesus was filled with God’s spirit.

    I don’t claim that Jesus had a human nature but not a divine nature because I want to avoid the metaphysics of “natures” altogether.

    I agree, actually. People don’t realize that there are philosophical, entirely non-theological reasons to reject belief in natures.

    I proposed a metaphysically unburdened alternative: when we ascribe human characteristics we refer to the image; when we ascribe divine characteristics we refer to what it represents, viz. God.

    I don’t get this; so the “divine characteristics” often mentioned are the ability to (non-culpably) forgive sins, and to heal. You’re saying that if a person truly says “Jesus forgave sins” then they have inadvertantly switched the subject to God? Don’t they know to whom they refer? (FYI in my view those simply are not “divine characteristics” – i.e. features only God could have.)

    I consider mine a Trinitarian account because I set the bar very low. To be a Trinitarian is just to make the appropriate noises about Father, Son and Holy Spirit—whatever the metaphysics.

    Strangely enough, I would be forced to agree with your trinitarian critics here; this would be an abuse of language. This language began in the realm of theorizing, but it is now common coin among mildy educated religous people – that’s all that my analyses I linked before assume.

    Again, I’m a revisionary metaphysician in the tradition of Bishop Berkeley. I don’t think that ordinary talk or religious talk is theory laden. So whatever makes the talk of the vulgar come out ok is just fine.

    I’m not sure what it takes to be “theory laden.” If Pamela pew says “God exists” – the truth of this does require the existence of God, no? Does that make her claim “theory laden”? If so, then I would have to say that much ordinary religous talk is theory laden. Or will you say, like Spong types, that God-talk is really just talk about … I don’t know, what we value, or our ideals, or…? Is it fair to say that you are non-realist (but not necessarily anti-realist) about religious language?

    I agree that folk Christianity isn’t coherent, but all that shows is that t encompasses different folk religions.

    Hmmm… I just don’t see any ground for any sort of normative tradition here, in analyzing various folk-religious talk.

  11. James Goetz
    August 6, 2012 @ 9:09 am

    Fair enough. In the case of somebody with generic deistic beliefs and belief that God reveals himself in the world through church practice, then I understand why somebody with such beliefs would associate with a church.

  12. baber
    August 5, 2012 @ 9:40 pm

    I really don’t know how to respond.I believe that God reveals himself in the world through the Church–in its holy things and holy places, in the religious experience and practice of the people, and most especially in the liturgy. Thank you for your comments.

  13. James Goetz
    August 5, 2012 @ 5:09 pm

    baber said:
    In fact I’m even more heterodox than you think, because I don’t even believe that Jesus was “indwelt” by God in any special way or that God was acting through him in a “stunning manner.” What I believe is that the Church happened to pick on this obscure rabbi to build its theology around and to serve as a representation of God. It could just as well have picked Apollonius of Tyanna—or you or me. The quest for the historical Jesus draws blanks because very early on the historical figure had become largely irrelevant.

    This sounds like generic deism instead of monarchian Christianity. I suppose that I cannot understand why anybody with these beliefs would associate with any version of Christianity.

  14. James Goetz
    August 4, 2012 @ 2:04 pm

    baber said:
    I don’t think that ordinary talk or religious talk is theory laden. So whatever makes the talk of the vulgar come out ok is just fine.

    I am unsure of what you are suggesting. But I believe that John meant specific ideas when he wrote his Gospel with the help of a scribe. I outlined some of those ideas in comment 14. If I misinterpreted John in any of those verses, then I would not think that was okay. I would need to correct my interpretation. But then again, somebody might interpret John the exact same way that I do except that I believe it while other might say that John wrote myth never remotely spoken by Jesus or Jesus went loony.

  15. James Goetz
    August 4, 2012 @ 12:51 pm

    baber said:
    I never claimed to be anything but a monarchian.

    Thank you for clarifying that. Your Trinitarian rhetoric obscured that.

  16. baber
    August 4, 2012 @ 11:56 am

    I never claimed to be anything but a monarchian. About the interpersonal relationship: since on my account the historical Jesus is not God, or a Person of the Trinity, God is not play-acting but conducting an ordinary divine-human interpersonal relationship with an ordinary human. And I don’t see any good reason to hold that the Persons of the Trinity have to be in some kind of interpersonal relationship.

    In fact I’m even more heterodox than you think, because I don’t even believe that Jesus was “indwelt” by God in any special way or that God was acting through him in a “stunning manner.” What I believe is that the Church happened to pick on this obscure rabbi to build its theology around and to serve as a representation of God. It could just as well have picked Apollonius of Tyanna—or you or me. The quest for the historical Jesus draws blanks because very early on the historical figure had become largely irrelevant.

    I don’t claim that Jesus had a human nature but not a divine nature because I want to avoid the metaphysics of “natures” altogether. With this “nature” business we have a prime example of Platonic reification to explain why we can apparently ascribe both divine and human characteristics to Jesus. I proposed a metaphysically unburdened alternative: when we ascribe human characteristics we refer to the image; when we ascribe divine characteristics we refer to what it represents, viz. God. In fact, very interestingly, when people refer to the image but assign divine characteristics we think there’s a mistake. When a kid, for example, asks “Could Jesus fly,” we say no. “But he’s God” sez the kid, “and God can do anything, right?” How has the kid gone wrong? We can say God emptied himself, or we can tell a story about what Jesus could do qua human (whatever the qua comes to here). But on my account the mistake is comparable to thinking that Stephen Colbert lives inside the TV set.

    I consider mine a Trinitarian account because I set the bar very low. To be a Trinitarian is just to make the appropriate noises about Father, Son and Holy Spirit—whatever the metaphysics. Again, I’m a revisionary metaphysician in the tradition of Bishop Berkeley. I don’t think that ordinary talk or religious talk is theory laden. So whatever makes the talk of the vulgar come out ok is just fine.

    I agree that folk Christianity isn’t coherent, but all that shows is that it encompasses different folk religions. And I’m interested in teasing out the theology in different traditions—not in deciding what constitutes orthodoxy.

  17. James Goetz
    August 4, 2012 @ 10:27 am

    baber said:
    Of course there’s nothing about it in the Gospels, but there isn’t any doctrine of the Trinity in the Gospels.

    Hi Harriet,

    A set of tenets that indicate the Trinity are in the Gospel of John. If I correctly understand Dale, he says that the eternal Logos is not the Son of God. And Dale is correct that I assume that the Logos is the Son of God. Given that assumption, John teaches:

    1. The Son is co-eternal with the Father. (John 1:1—3 and 17:5)
    2. The Father and Son worked in creation together. (John 1:1—3)
    3. The Son is equal to the Father. (John 5:18)*
    4. There is one God. (John 5:44)
    5. The Holy Spirit is an Advocate comparable to the Son. (John 14:15—17)

    *Humanitarian Christology would say that the Son is not ontologically equal to the Father according to Trinitarian doctrine but representationally equal to Father as you suggested in comment 6.

  18. James Goetz
    August 4, 2012 @ 9:14 am

    Hi Dale,

    You established that Jakes does not cut it as an analytical philosopher, but I do not agree that you established that Jakes is still a modalist. However, if he still rejects any real interpersonal relationship among the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, then you are right and I am wrong.

  19. Dale
    August 4, 2012 @ 8:51 am

    Father,” “Son” and “Holy Spirit” just designate roles God plays

    A central gospel theme is the personal relationship between Jesus and God. On your suggested modalism here, this becomes God play-acting a pseudo interpersonal relationship. Nor could serve as a mediator between us and God – that requires a third party.

    they were a bunch of Platonists and didn’t have the bag of logical tricks we have. They just reified and hypostasized.

    Ain’t that the truth. A problem, Harriet, as that people notice the heavy Platonism, blame this abstraction called “Philosophy”, and suppose that *their* theology is free of any philosophical assumptions.

    Harriet, let me see if I can repeat back to you your suggestion – to see if I understand. Jesus is a man, a normal human, who did not “pre-exist”. He was not (identical to) God the Son, but was indwelt by God the Son, which is to say that God acted through him in a stunning manner. So the Trinity are three roles God eternally plays, but Jesus isn’t a member of the Trinity.

    Harriet, as best as I can tell, this is just what some of the late 2nd – early 3rd c. “monarchains” thought. James call this “humanitarian” because this Jesus is not said to have a divine nature, though he may be said to be God (because God is working in and through him, and because he represents God).

    A big difference is that those ancient monarchians didn’t punt on the question of fit with the Bible; they had ways to read all the relevant texts. Sadly, it’s hard to tease these out, since all he have are very hostile sources for these guys.

    I’m not sure this is entirely philosophically neutral. The scheme presupposes that the Son of God is numerically distinct from the man Jesus. (That’s a clash with the NT by the way; it clearly uses those as co-referring. But it is not clear, as James assumes, that the logos is supposed to be the same as Jesus/the Son.)

    As it doesn’t assert Jesus to have a divine nature, it’ll be declare heretical by loyalists to catholic tradition.

    In sum, this view would be a unitarian theology, and not a trinitarian one. (http://trinities.org/blog/archives/3767, http://trinities.org/blog/archives/3747)

    A problem with your appeal to folk religion is that folk Chr. is not coherent on this point. When under the influence of catholic tradition, people imagine a tri-personal God – either none or all of them are = to YHWH. But when under NT influence, they assume YHWH = the Father. And Jesus they suppose to be God himself (under catholic influence) or to be someone else – not God but rather his Son (under NT influence).

    So, have I got you right? And what do you say to this last problem?
    (I may be slow to answer – out of my normal routine at the moment.)

  20. Dale
    August 4, 2012 @ 8:23 am

    Hi James,

    “Great news”? I don’t get it. What is great about being a modalist (not a Sabellian one, mind you, but the kind described) and accepting the traditional creedal language? What is great about people who don’t agree mistakenly thinking that they agree, because they nod to the same words?

  21. baber
    August 3, 2012 @ 11:41 pm

    I’m not sure what you mean by “humanitarian.” The point of it is that it’s metaphysically non-committal. Of course there’s nothing about it in the Gospels, but there isn’t any doctrine of the Trinity in the Gospels. And in any case, I don’t claim that my views are Biblical. I’m not evangelical and don’t get my theology from the Bible.

  22. James Goetz
    August 3, 2012 @ 9:04 am

    Per TD Jakes, I would still like to see him talk clearly about the interpersonal relationship between the Father and Son such as Jesus praying to the Father. I saw no direct statement about that in his interview.

  23. James Goetz
    August 2, 2012 @ 7:59 pm

    Hi Harriet,

    I suppose that I could benefit from a clearer picture of your proposed Christology. It looks humanitarian and possibly dyophysitism. Perhaps you could help me if you would show me some examples of the 2nd Mode of God in the Gospels that is not Jesus?

  24. James Goetz
    August 2, 2012 @ 2:59 pm

    Per comment 6, I do not see that doing justice to various scriptures. For examples:

    John 1:1-3 says that the Word later identified as the Son was God and with God during creation while John 5:18 says that the Son is equal to God. (This fits with what today is called relative identity while nobody can claim that John or his assistant scribe cared about Leibniz’s Law.)

    Matthew 4:10 teaches that we should worship the Lord your God alone; Matthew 14:33 and 28:9 teach that the apostles worshiped Jesus; Matthew 26:42 describes Jesus praying to the Father; and Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34 teach that Jesus has a God.

    Philippians 2:5-13 says that Christ was the form of God but humbled himself.

    Colossians 1:15-20 says Christ created all rulers and authorities in heaven and earth.

    Isaiah 44:6 says that the Lord Almighty is the first and the last, and apart from the Lord Almighty there is no God while Revelation 22:12-13 says that Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

    These verses need extraordinary stretch to make them fit with humanitarian Christology.

  25. baber
    August 2, 2012 @ 2:05 pm

    On the contrary: Jesus certainly does have a real interpersonal relationship with God–and it’s the very same sort of relationship any ordinary non-divine person has with God. On this account, Jesus is not God the Son, that is God playing that role (or any other role). However, on this account Jesus is, as it were, a device by which we can refer to God–the “image” of God.

  26. James Goetz
    August 2, 2012 @ 1:19 pm

    baber said:
    How about an even more radical modalism: “Father,” “Son” and “Holy Spirit” just designate roles God plays: the only Trinity is the economic trinity.

    This would imply that there was no real interpersonal relationship between the Father and Son in Gospels, which I see as a big mistake. I could not see Jesus as an example for my life if he had no real interpersonal relationship with the Father. None of this disproves such a modalism but points out the biggest problem.

  27. baber
    August 2, 2012 @ 12:25 pm

    How about an even more radical modalism: “Father,” “Son” and “Holy Spirit” just designate roles God plays: the only Trinity is the economic trinity.

    As far as the linked argument against Son-modalism goes I can avoid, or at least, circumvent the second premise (“either the Son is identitical to God, or the Son is a mode of God”). On my account Christ is the “Image” of God: so in indicating him, by name or, in 1st century Palestine, by ostension one may be referring to Jesus or to the God of whom he’s the image. So one can point and say, “That’s God”—that is identical to God since the “that” picks out what Jesus represents, viz. God. One can also claim, truly that Christ had a loving interpersonal relationship with God— referring to Jesus, the image itself rather than the God the image represents.

    So it seems we can make the talk come out right without metaphysical commitment and without metaphysical puzzles. If the concern is that the Fathers did metaphysics heavy, well, they were a bunch of Platonists and didn’t have the bag of logical tricks we have. They just reified and hypostasized.

    Finally the intriguing question of sources. It’s really a stretch to imagine that Trinitarian theology can be teased out of the Bible. What I really think is that the “authority” is folk religion: we look at what people do in church, at liturgy, and at other religious practices, at the art, music and literature, at folk practices—and the Bible and bishops’ pronouncements as well. We look at it historically and see what grows and endures, and what falls away. And we come up with theology to make sense of it. That’s not Wittgenstinian because one may hold that the locus of revelation is the Church, understood not as members of a hierarchy issuing doctrine, but as people engaged in religious practice—that in a sense the Church is God incarnate.

  28. James Goetz
    August 2, 2012 @ 1:43 am

    Jakes does fine as a preacher, which he is. But Jakes does not cut it as an analytical philosopher, which he is not and never claimed.

  29. James Goetz
    August 1, 2012 @ 4:10 pm

    Driscoll: “Do you believe this is the perfect, inspired, final authority Word of God?” [Driscoll held up a Bible.]

    Jakes: “Absolutely.”

    Driscoll: “So you believe there’s one God, three Persons — Father, Son and Holy Spirit? You believe Jesus was fully God, fully Man?”

    Jakes: “Absolutely.”

    Driscoll: “You believe He died on the cross in our place for our sins?”

    Jakes: “Absolutely.”

    Driscoll: “You believe He bodily rose from death?”

    Jakes: “Absolutely.”

    Driscoll: “You believe that He is the judge of the living and the dead?”

    Jakes: “Yes.”

    Driscoll: “And you believe that apart from Jesus there is no salvation?”

    Jakes: “Absolutely.”

    Jakes said he prefers the term “manifestations” instead of the term “persons” — a position he has stated before.

  30. James Goetz
    August 1, 2012 @ 8:58 am

    This is great news. Jakes was one of my favorite modalists, which I probably said somewhere on this site. I hope that one day I can share my view of relative identity with him.