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.

5 Comments

  1. Rose Brown
    December 30, 2014 @ 12:52 pm

    Old Testament Partial Revelation on God’s Plurality and Unity

    These four Old Testament passages reveal that by using plural pronouns, God is shown to have fellow or fellows.

    Genesis 1:26
    Genesis 3:22
    Genesis 11:7
    Isaiah 6:8

    It means that God is not a solitary being. Although God is one, yet He is not alone. This shows that whoever these fellows are, they are considered to be uniquely in unity with the one and only God. We can say that “they” are co-equally and co-eternally existing in some sort of unity and that this sort of unity makes “them” separate to all other gods. As to what makes them united, it is for the New Testament to tell us so.

    The Old Testament reveals that God is not alone. He has a fellow or rather, fellows. The number of persons is yet to be revealed in the New Testament.

    There is a hint of some sort of unity due to the exclusivity of the only God against the false gods.

    New Testament Complete Revelation on God’s Plurality and Unity

    In the New Testament, it was revealed by the Messiah himself that God’s fellows are the Son and the Holy Spirit.

    Matthew 3:13-17
    Matthew 28:19
    John 1:1-18
    John 14-16

    There exists a Trinity of persons in one nature. The oneness that exists in these three persons is a oneness in nature.In other words, God is Triune (i.e. Three in Unity).

  2. Ben Nasmith
    November 12, 2013 @ 11:52 am

    Hi Dale,
    I read Samuel Clarke’s Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity and Bauckham’s book back-to-back this past week and a half so I’ve got both on my mind. Unfortunately for me (and sleeping at night) I like them both a lot! I’ve written a post trying to discern Bauckham’s monotheism (from his confusing language) here – http://bennasmith.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/the-heresy-of-clarity-wherefore-the-mono-in-monotheism/. Maybe you’d be willing to comment there?
    Some more thoughts.
    1. I am perplexed by the usage of the word “God” or “Lord” in scripture. After reading Clarke, I tend to agree that it never denotes a tripersonal being and most often denotes the Father. However, the Son is still styled God on occasion and regularly styled Lord. I’m torn between Clarke’s and Bauckham’s explanation of this (basically that the Father just is God or that the divine persons collectively just are God). Not sure, although I do recognize the simplicity and good fit with Scripture of Clarke’s view.
    2. Still not convinced that “God is one” means there is just one supreme person. I think Bauckham’s discussion of inclusive vs exclusive monotheism (p 108-109) gives reason to believe that the relevant sort of monotheism is all about rejecting degrees of divinity (exclusive). Divine persons create, rule, receive worship, etc. This does not rule out the existence of supernatural servants (or enemies) of the divine person(s) who do not perform these functions. But divinity is a unique category of its own in Bauckham’s exclusive monotheism (he calls it the “unique divine identity”, I call it divinity simpliciter for clarity). You’re either in or out, you’ve got it or you don’t. Given that the line is drawn between “God” and the rest of reality, and that multiple persons (Jesus and his Father) stand on the divine side of the line, they must be united in some non-modalistic way. To say that the Father just is God won’t work if the line between God and the rest of reality is drawn between those who create, rule, etc and those who don’t. An exclusive monotheistic unitarianism (as Bauckham describes exclusive monotheism) would not include the Son in creation and ruling. What you describe sounds like inclusive monotheism.
    3. Maybe as I interpret him I’m just retooling his work to support my tentative ST. As I read him (from an ST perspective) I never interpreted any “Jesus is God” statements to mean that Jesus just is the Father. He says things like “is identified with God” but I take that to mean “is placed on the divine side of the God-world divide”. He is certainly aware of the threat of modalism when he discusses the tendency towards modalism at the popular level in the early church (p.146ff).
    4. What is interesting is how he suggests (p.149) that the intellectual Christian circles (i.e. Origen, etc) adopted a gradient view of divinity (inclusive monotheism). The Father was supreme and the Son was worshiped in proportion to his level of divinity. Plenty more quotes to that effect are found in Clarke’s selection of texts from the fathers. So perhaps, and this is difficult to prove, the unitarian-sounding fathers are drifting away from Jewish exclusive monotheism towards Greek inclusive monotheism. Perhaps they are allowing talk of degrees of divinity to enter their thinking?
    Thanks again

  3. Dale
    November 12, 2013 @ 10:17 am

    Hi Ben,

    Thanks for the comments.

    First, a crucial point: orthodox / traditional / catholic belief does not depend on accepting Bauckham. Reject his theory completely, and still the whole range of traditional views is open to you. He claims, implausibly, to improve on tradition.

    “There is nothing in Jewish monotheism that prohibits multiple agents belonging to the divine portion of reality. God’s Wisdom and Word count as counter-examples (even if only as personifications”

    If God’s word and wisdom are only personifications, they can’t then be agents in addition to God. Philo is the big source here, and he’s horribly confusing (and, I think, confused). See Andrews Norton’s insightful chapter on Philo is his Reasons for Not Believing…

    It is fair enough to interpret B. as saying merely that Jesus must be “divine” because he is said to create and govern. This flies in the face of his clear statements that only God himself can do those things, but we should try to make sense of him somehow, if there’s any way to do that.

    “There is nothing in Jewish monotheism that prohibits multiple agents belonging to the divine portion of reality.”

    Sure there is – the clear monotheism of Isaiah and Deuteronomy, which is reaffirmed by Jesus. YHWH there is the only God there, and a God is understood to be, essentially, a uniquely great agent. But if he’s the only one of those, then no one else can be. This whole “divine portion of reality” talk, note, is wholly alien to ancient Jewish thought. When they asserted that “God is one” they did not mere merely that there is one divine portion of reality, remaining neutral on how many great selves were in that!

    Still, it is true that monotheism allows any number of lesser “divine” beings, who are not Gods. And sometimes Jews went pretty far out speculating about such. But it was always (at least, by the post-exile period) assuming the unique divinity of YHWH. This doesn’t help a three-self Trinity theory, though, because such needs three equally divine agents.

    So, any portion of the divine reality (stuff?) can use “YHWH”? I don’t see that usage anywhere in the Bible, although God can give his name (authority? glory?), as it were, to others.

    On your point #4 – yes, I think he wants to be a social trinitarian. That doesn’t, of course, cohere with his frequent implications that Jesus is God himself. Or with his talking of God as having a “personal identity” – only persons / selves have those. As a ST theorist, though, I just don’t see any “meat” in the theory. There’s not enough effort to show how the three constitute one God and not three, nor even a clear statement that the three are so many selves.

    I think he could retool to be a constistent ST person. But he’d need to really clean up his language – and I think then it would no longer fit the confused evangelical tradition of thinking that Jesus is God himself – which is its main selling point, as I see it.

    “equivocation in his talk about God…from his perspective also biblical.”

    The Bible is very clean, actually. In the NT, “God” is almost always the Father. “Lord” is more equivocal. But it’s still pretty clear to whom it refers, *most* of the time. Neither term, scholars not, refers to a group of three divine persons, or to a tripersonal God.

    In sum, I think your interpretation is clear, clearer than the source. But that’s because monotheism has been abandoned.

  4. Abel
    November 11, 2013 @ 11:26 pm

    Ben,
    Most interesting!
    It all looks very scritural to me !
    Abel

  5. Ben Nasmith
    November 11, 2013 @ 8:33 pm

    I appreciate this paper Dale, and I’ve gone back and re-read Bauckham’s book to compare your analysis with the book itself. Yes, Bauckham should be criticized for using unclear language. But I think his Christology of divine identity is still helpful and, as I understand him, his thesis is actually quite clear. I won’t interact with your whole paper (that would be a lengthy comment), but here is how I understand Bauckham in my own words. Any further criticism is welcome!
    1. Bauckham suggests that Jewish monotheism partitions reality into two parts: divine and non-divine (as opposed to natural and supernatural). If someone or something carries out certain functions (like participation in creation, the exercising sovereign rule, or the receiving of worship), then we can know that that person or thing belongs to divine portion of reality, or at least not to the non-divine portion of reality. So when Bauckham says that Jesus is included in the divine identity, I simply take him to mean that Jesus is divine where divinity is a black and white category rather than a gradient scale of relative greatness (see his comparison of inclusive vs exclusive monotheism).
    2. There is nothing in Jewish monotheism that prohibits multiple agents belonging to the divine portion of reality. God’s Wisdom and Word count as counter-examples (even if only as personifications rather than hypostatizations). Rather, Jewish monotheism requires that the one divine reality creates, rules, receives worship, etc in a perfectly unified manner, i.e. all divine agent are perfectly united in all dealings with creation. To help me understand this, I asked myself what polytheism would look like in this context. If polytheism isn’t necessarily multiple divine agents, it could instead be a partitioned divine reality engaged in separate creations and fiefdoms. Polytheism partitions both the divine and non divine portions of reality into multiple creations, multiple realms of authority, multiple allegiances for worship. Divine agents that act as one, such as Jesus and his Father, do not divide the divine reality or the non-divine reality.
    3. The divine portion of reality is often styled “God” by Bauckham (and, unhelpfully, so is the Father). Part of belonging to the divine portion of reality is the right to bear the name YHWH without indicating strict numerical identity with the entire divine portion of reality. Perhaps this means that all divine persons perfectly represent the authority and character of the others.
    4. Why does he persist in calling God a “he” and not an “it”? Bauckham answers this question, if perhaps unsatisfactorily, on pages 55-57. He regards referring to the divine reality as a he as an analogy that has its limits. The divine reality, or God, certainly acts as one agent, but he thinks that the revelation of a new divine name in the Great Commission, (i.e. the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit), is the most up to date understanding of revealed divine reality. He clearly still feels comfortable calling God he. Bad habit perhaps, but I can overlook this as I try to understand the overall message of his book.
    5. To sum up, this seems like a high Christology to me, and it certainly isn’t modalism or incoherent. There is just a lot of equivocation in his talk about God, which is unfortunate, but from his perspective also biblical.