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.

4 Comments

  1. Benjamin Scott
    October 26, 2017 @ 12:52 pm

    Dale,

    Robert has paid a lot of careful attention to the texts in order to come up with his views. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in the past pondering these same issues and come to very similar conclusions. I really appreciated this interview.

    Much of the NT texts which are conscripted in support of penal substitution and other related theological ideas such as imputed sin and righteousness, are taken completely out of context by evangelicals and others. When understood in context they are most often clearly in reference to the law of Moses.

    The law of Moses was clearly given to Israel as a covenant between exclusively them and God. That Old Covenant was not eternal, it did not include Gentiles, and it did not precede Sinai, (contra SDA assertions). The Old Covenant is now an obsolete covenant which Jesus fulfilled, bringing the Gentiles into one people with Israel through the new means of approaching God, Jesus Christ. This point is HUGE in Paul. Note also that before the law, Abraham approached God on the basis of faithfulness and so this seems to be an indication that it is God’s primary desire from us, as opposed to law keeping.

    Several questions do come out of all this. Death was before the law, Rom. 5:12-13, etc…. More of a discussion of Genesis here is really helpful, therefore. If death was a problem not of the law but previous to this, then a complete view of Jesus’ work must include this. Was the cross not just God’s way of saying, “I am willing to accept you and forgive you” and “The law of Moses is done away with.” But also, with this, a way of proving that death had been conquered in Christ? I believe so. The cross is a doorway to the resurrection and ascension which are also things His disciples share with Christ when he returns to establish God’s Kingdom, where they will reign with Him. Without death you can’t have resurrection from death. And without our participation in Christ’s death we cannot be resurrected as he was. Jesus’ cross is thus our cross and an appeal for us to find our own unique crosses. If we miss this then we don’t follow Jesus and cannot follow him in his death or resurrection, since we will be following the world instead. Paul reflects upon all of this in the book of Philippians.

    Evangelicals typically miss all of this because they don’t actually believe in death. They think death is just a transmigration to the afterlife for our immortal souls, rather than a real enemy to be conquered which would otherwise result in eternal non-existence. They think death is “spiritual” rather than real. Paul counts death an enemy in 1 Cor. 15 and makes a big point about the resurrection as a necessary ingredient to salvation.

    I think another important point Robert brought up, although he used different words, is that God’s nature is relational, not legal. God is faithful to relationships He establishes and asks the same of us. No wonder God specifically hates divorce. Love is about value and human dignity, not moral law and demand. It’s about what we recognize to be true or are blind to, not about human performance. Dualism, such as in good and evil, etc…, are actually consequent of the fall. Previous to this Adam and Eve were “imperfect” beings who were acceptable before God and in relationship to Him. They had to grow in wisdom like any and they realized they didn’t have it. Analogically speaking, one could say that the cross was two trees joined together. The tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil seem to be joined into one new tree and the curse broken upon them by Christ, who bridged the gap, bringing both life and wisdom together in one place. The curse was the curse of the garden, not just the law of Moses. Try putting that one in an evangelism tract instead of the typical illustrations used which incorporate the cross, and I think a much more accurate and biblical picture will be created in people’s minds.

    One area that gets somewhat difficult is in how the sacrificial system was an accommodation to surrounding cultural practices…. Modern OT scholarship does point out numerous striking similarities between Israel and surrounding cultures. Michael Heiser is an accessible source for this information and it seems like this is the right tract to take. Yet if you read the OT it’s hard to get that when you’re in the midst of that covenant and it’s hard words. The words are strongly in support of the Old Covenant. It it’s clearly a manner of speaking…. Isn’t this what God’s faithfulness is all about? God is relational, not legal in character, yet God is faithful to any covenant He enacts with us, whether legal or not. He expects the same from us. He was being merciful both through the Old and New Covenants and He’s faithful to both for those who are willing to accept the terms. God can keep a legal covenant; it’s we who don’t.

    This double approach to God shows God’s nature to not be rigid but actually shows He has great freedom in the way He interacts with us. God is free, He’s relational, and He is faithful to His covenants, whatever sort they may be. God is love. God is no longer offering us a legal covenant but one based again on faithfulness, like the one He offered Abraham. In fact this covenant is lead by the Messiah, Jesus, who proved the covenant is operable and offers us a helping hand to keep it. The New Covenant could even be described primarily as a covenant between Messiah and God rather than between us and God. It is not God we have to deal with so much as Jesus.

    Where God is rigid is in His faithfulness to covenant. He makes promises and keeps them, expecting the same from others. So those under law must keep the law. Those in Christ must take up their own crosses and follow Christ. And to reject Christ is to reject God’s covenant faithfulness to Him and consequently to those who are with Christ.

    • Benjamin Scott
      October 26, 2017 @ 1:15 pm

      One more small point.

      First it was Rom. 5:12-14, not 13 that shows that death preceded law.
      Second, if you think about how we raise kids. We first teach them manners, rules, etc…, etc…, so that they can learn the proper way to do relationship. In the end we are wanting them to sprout wings and fly themselves as they begin to understand that it’s not the rules that matter but the relationships themselves. But it is in the heart that this happens and if our children misbehave constantly then our own ability to reach their hearts is diminished as it is eclipsed by discipline, which can only change behavior, not the heart. People with manners who don’t have love are obnoxious and sickening to be around, but people raised without manners may in the end still learn to truly love.

      To say God is love is to say in human language that God is relational. The reverse is also true. Love fulfills the law, indeed it transcends it. Love gets at the core realization that the person or people I am interacting with matter. Love is the proper valuation and recognition of human value and dignity as image bearers of God. Love is not a character trait. It is not a moral practice or even a discipline. Lov is just going through life without blinders on. Those who love are those who see. To step back into morality after being released into love is to take a step backwards into immaturity and blindness. Love, as Jesus expressed it and asks the same of us, is the relational goal God has been trying to condition us back into through all of this journey.

      “All things are lawful but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful but not all things edify.”

      Paul expresses his ways of thinking about life several times in this manner.

  2. Dale
    October 26, 2017 @ 6:17 am

    Thanks for the comments!

    “God is quick to forgive sin if we humbly seek forgiveness, but if we do not, we’re damned. Quite literally. ”
    “God noting all of our sins”

    Right. He agrees with all of that. By “holding” he means something very specific – as in, holding them as a barrier to relationship until there has been some sort of full payback or compensation.

    Same with the alienation. We indeed and offended him and need his forgiveness, but God stands ready to forgive – yes, on the condition of repentance – without demanding anything like a paying of a bill.

    “He downplays sin to the point of teaching that sin almost doesn’t matter. He downplays the need to seek forgiveness from God, assuming that we have it regardless of our actions. He completely blows off God’s requirement for sacrifice of various kinds in both Testaments. Worse, he seems to make the argument that the God of the Old Testament really can’t be the same God of the New Testament unless it’s explained away be God permitting the Hebrews to be savages because their neighbors are savages, and well, those crazy kids just don’t know any better. I’ll send Jesus to teach ’em up right later.”

    Yeah, I could see why you think he doesn’t properly emphasize sin, judgment, and the need for repentance. But it’s not clear that any of the above follows from what he says here or in his book. And those last two sentences are an unfair parody of his views on “accommodation” in the OT. For some perspective, consider that Jesus explicitly taught one kind of accommodation. (Matthew 19:8)

    Your last two paragraphs – those don’t engage his views. Don’t be so quick to throw around charges like deism and universalism. Ism-ism is a serious, highly contagious illness which seriously stifles theological thinking.

  3. Douglas
    October 26, 2017 @ 2:02 am

    Where to start with this mess..

    “God doesn’t hold sin against us”

    This contradicts virtually the entire Bible. God is quick to forgive sin if we humbly seek forgiveness, but if we do not, we’re damned. Quite literally. That’s the ultimately proof that He holds unforgiven sin against us. “God is not a respecter of persons”.

    “God doesn’t keep an accounting of sins”

    What??? Of the dozens of passages about God noting all of our sins, this one sticks out the loudest: “”But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.” And there’s plenty more where that came from.

    “God was never alienated from us”

    Just what Bible is this man reading? It doesn’t seem to be the same one I have. “Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear.”

    He downplays sin to the point of teaching that sin almost doesn’t matter. He downplays the need to seek forgiveness from God, assuming that we have it regardless of our actions. He completely blows off God’s requirement for sacrifice of various kinds in both Testaments. Worse, he seems to make the argument that the God of the Old Testament really can’t be the same God of the New Testament unless it’s explained away be God permitting the Hebrews to be savages because their neighbors are savages, and well, those crazy kids just don’t know any better. I’ll send Jesus to teach ’em up right later.

    In short, his whole approach seems to be “I don’t understand why the Bible says X, so I’ll make it rational to myself by saying that it REALLY means Y”. Look, if you’re going to toss the Old Testament because it doesn’t seem very Jesus-like, then you may as well hang it up and become a Deist. Because if the Old Testament isn’t true down to it’s foundations, then nothing in the New Testament can be trusted either. The OT is quite literally the bedrock of which the NT is built upon. Truth cannot be built upon lies. As for his not understanding God, tough. God often tells us straight up that we can’t always understand Him. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.”

    His whole approach here is simply warmed-over Universalist claptrap.