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. John B
    March 22, 2016 @ 5:46 am

    Hi Dale, I agree with Rivers, a really good one, thanks so much, your clarity and experience in this conversation is of great value for me and I am sure many others! As ever good fun images to go with it and, yes, the re-designing is good, even if the previous format already worked pretty well in my view.

    On the “being” thing – when I heard you mention this near the beginning it reminded me of the Son of God book by Irons, Dixon and Smith that you featured recently. On page 11, Irons states: “”the Word (the Logos) existed as a divine being distinct from God the Father”. A divine BEING. Stephen Holmes made the same move: “to the being of the incarnate son” in his 2014 Fuller lecture on Inseparability of divine operations (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jn7SseqwI3o&feature=youtu.be&t=53m). It seems, that even on high-level One-Self Trinitarian discourse, it is permissible to refer to each person as a being. That is quite extraordinary, and certainly, as you point out, inconsistent unless we go significantly further than saying “one what and three whos”. If there are three divine persons, hypostases or beings then I cannot see how you get to one super-being without doing the usual “one sense this, other sense that” manoeuvering for want of any substantial argumentation. What do you think?

    • Rivers
      March 22, 2016 @ 8:41 am

      John B,

      Good catch. Of course, Irons or Holmes would probably just attempt to “clarify” that they were using “being” in the sense of “person” when they made those comments!

    • Dale Tuggy
      March 22, 2016 @ 8:44 am

      Hi John,

      Thanks. Yeah, it’s quite hard to maintain that the Son of God – whether we have in mind the Jewish man, or the pre-human agent who’s creating on behalf of God – is a mere mode! When focusing on the Trinity, many feel the need to reduce him to that, so that he’s not a second god. But then, that’s exactly what he looks like when it comes to christology – someone who’s “fully divine” and also numerically distinct from a numerically different “fully divine” being (the Father). The ancient logos theorists got around this by embracing the second god claim, and making clear that the Son is not divine in the way that the Father, the one true God, is divine. This preserves monotheism in my view, but whether it best fits the scriptures is another matter. It’s a unitarian view, of course, as the one true God just is the Father.

      Another way to make it come out (a one-self Trinity and a Jesus that’s really a who) is to go monarchian. The eternal “Son” isn’t a divine self, but rather a mode of God, and it is this which operates in the man Jesus. But this is to go hard against the logos speculations, which assume that the Logos/Word is personally identical to the man Jesus. I would say that the NT knows of only one unique Son and only one Christ, and this is just the man Jesus. But it’s plausibly a scriptural (unitarian) view if the Word of John 1 isn’t a self, but rather something like a divine attribute. I wouldn’t call it “the Son” though.

      My question, BTW is at 50:46 in that video. I say, basically, that Father and Son differ with respect to their actions. How then can we say all their actions are the same, or that everything that one does, the other one also does? Honestly, I don’t understand his answer.

      • John B
        March 22, 2016 @ 5:41 pm

        Thanks for your thoughtful response and question. As I continue my own response to Irons’ main case, I also realise that the stronger argument of agency in creation (aseity being the distinctly weaker one in my view) is not tied in to sonship by Paul, the Hebrews writer and John themselves.
        On aseity we have a good link to the question about the divine operations. What I love about this argumentation is that it is fairly defensible and very small-t trinitarian. There is nothing I can see from Holmes’ presentation of the early thought (obviously slightly interwoven with his own) that requires the tri-personal or tri-hypostatic God. As far as I can tell, divine operations could perfectly happily be set up by a God who loves to share (I think the confusion you identify can be resolved by distinguishing divine operations and divine actions, although I don’t think Holmes makes that step). I actually don’t think Trinitarians should be too happy with the aseity argumentation, and it is increasingly ironic to me as I go through Irons’ presentation that he considers himself primarily influenced by the Greek Trinitarian thinking when he leans so heavily on a Latin idea! If anyone wants to follow my response, I’m two posts in here (http://faithandscripture.blogspot.fr/search/label/book%20review). Thanks again. J

  2. Jeff Grant
    March 22, 2016 @ 12:58 am

    “People prefer the language to be vague. It’s an interesting question, “Why?” ” Great comment, Dale, and great podcast. Thanks.

    • Dale Tuggy
      March 22, 2016 @ 8:44 am

      Thanks, Jeff.

  3. Rivers
    March 21, 2016 @ 9:10 pm

    This is a GREAT podcast.

    The first five apologist mistakes are very informative. I especially liked the discussion of “being” and “person” and the illustrations that show the difficulties with how the Trinitarian apologists attempt to substantiate the distinction they draw between the “persons” in the Trinity, and how significant it is that the early Christians (who supposedly believed in a Triune God) had no distinct word for that concept. I also like the emphasis on the importance of having “good arguments” as a foundation of our faith.

    In fairness to all sides of the debate, I think Biblical Unitarians also need to heed the opening remarks about “celebrity” in this podcast. I’ve noticed over the years that fellow Biblical Unitarians have a tendency to put a handful of scholars on a pedestal (e.g. Dunn, Buzzard) and then make the mistake of simply “recycling” what these individuals have said as if a selective appeal to the minority opinion of a few published authorities who are sympathetic to non-Trinitarian interpretations is somehow adequate to settle all the issues.

    • Dale Tuggy
      March 22, 2016 @ 8:47 am

      It’s a human tendency to rally around a Big Man, whether scholar, politician, or speaker. It’s interesting though, when you have a historical perspective. Quite often the scholarly Big Men of past ages don’t look so big farther on, the the peculiar assumptions of that age are no longer made. On the other hand, a lot a work really holds up well, centuries on.

      • Rivers
        March 22, 2016 @ 10:02 am


        I agree with your point. I think it’s good for each generation to try to take a fresh look at the biblical evidence since each would inevitably see things from a little different perspective (and perhaps with better resources).

        What shouldn’t change is the need for making good exegetical and logical arguments that either support something that was said before, or compels us to consider a more plausible option.