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. Tuggy’s Trilemma | vexing questions
    April 19, 2017 @ 8:26 pm

    […] Tuggy offers the following trilemma over at his excellent Trinities […]

  2. Skylar McManus
    April 15, 2017 @ 1:31 am


    Here’s another inconsistent triad:

    1. Jesus was born.
    2. Jesus was fully divine.
    3. No fully divine being has ever been born.

    I think this triad is mistaken. Once we see why, I think it might form a relevantly similar setup to yours and illustrate why yours is also mistaken. But I’m not sure, so here goes.

    By “born” I mean “experience birth.” I’m not talking about whether a being whose non-existence is impossible can somehow begin to exist in some possible world. The property “unbirthed” seems to be an essential property of God, and one that the Scriptures testify to.

    It’s true that God is essentially unbirthed, just like he is essentially immortal. So if God is unbirthed essentially, and yet Jesus was born, we should drop (3), right? I don’t think so, because the only reason we arrive at this contradiction, it seems to me, is by assuming an incarnation is impossible.

    Here’s what I mean. If this is at all analogous to your argument in the right ways, then it seems to me you are assuming that an Incarnation is impossible, and therefore your claim (3), and my claim (3), are both false. I don’t see why, given that it is possible for God to become incarnate, that he can’t “experience death” (i.e., “die”) by experiencing something like the separation of the soul from the body. In the same way, I can’t see how a fully divine being cannot “experience birth” by joining himself to a complete human nature.

    Your contradiction only seems to work when when we take “immortal” to mean “cannot cease to exist.” But since you’ve tried to rule that out (notice my similar statement), I don’t see how “immortal” or “unbirthed” rule out experiencing death and birth (respectively) unless we assume the incarnation is possible.

    Thanks for getting me thinking about this. I hope what I’ve said at least clarifies and propels the conversation forward if I’m wrong.

    • Dale
      April 22, 2017 @ 9:16 pm

      Hi Skylar,

      Thanks for the comment. It would be easy for an all-powerful being and all-knowing being to “experience birth.” He could just perfectly mentally simulate it, or he could inhabit a fetus and just get born. But in contrast, it seems that a perfect being would not be able to die, i.e. to lose his normal life functions. And in the original presentation, I argue that the NT implies that God is essentially immortal. So then, anyone who is “fully God” (by this I mean divine in the way the one God is divine) must also be essentially immortal. Yet we know that Jesus died.

      About “assuming the Incarnation is impossible” – I know well that there is not really one such doctrine that all or most Christians hold. It’s like the Trinity – we have mandated language that we then are left to figure out on our own, so to speak. If the idea is that such should show 1-3 to be consistent, I respectually ask: don’t tell me that two-natures speculations show how 1-3 can be understood as coherent – show me how this works by using your theory to better state 1-3 in a way that shows them to be consistent with one another.

      If you meant instead that Incarnation theory shows that 3 is false, please explain how. But then I will ask if it is OK with you if Incarnation theory conflicts with the NT.

  3. Reality Checker
    April 11, 2017 @ 7:40 am

    Thanks Dale, a very thought provoking podcast. I can’t wait for the follow up. It appears that a point to remember about this question is that it is couched in the Anselmian theology of atonement, that purportedly any sin against God is supposedly an infinite sin, hence an infinite price is needed to be paid therefore only God himself can provide atonement by dying. The problem for this reasoning is that when all the dust settles after the transaction, this supposed scenario could only be classified as the greatest bait and switch scheme in history. A human nature is switched in to suffer death instead of an infinite being dying. The supposed necessary price claimed is never paid. That’s why the communicatio idiomatum, communication of attributes, remains important in several strains of theology. I also see verbal substitution whenever john 1:14 is invoked; “the Word became flesh” is always immediately reinterpreted as “So beloved John tells us here that God the Word ASSUMED flesh”.