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. Jimspace
    November 15, 2016 @ 3:24 pm

    Hi, I listened to this as it was linked to your podcast 159. This is excellent, and I will be sure to share this. I’ve heard Trinitarians reply that God could not be loving himself as that would be narcissistic and toxic. To this I reply that God being love does not demand that he was only loving himself, just that he had not yet expressed love through creation. However, even if God was loving himself in some way, it would not necessarily be narcissistic because God transcends our sinful traits. It’s similar to “who was he speaking to?” Why assume that God must have been in constant communication from eternity past? Again, this is attributing a human trait to God.

  2. Menashe Israel
    February 26, 2016 @ 11:26 am

    I’ve thought through the Perfect God argument, and I think that the best way to put it to rest is as follows.

    Ravi Zacharias and many others claim that love cannot exist apart from a tri-personal God. This position reasons that in order for God to be love, and to have love, there had to always have been someone else with him, the Father, from all eternity. But this line of reasoning is unnecessary, and there is a better way to understand the words “God is love” without the need for trinitarian inference.

    When we read our bibles we find that love is marked by sacrifice, service, and making broken things whole. And if we look at all the marks of love as they are defined in 1 Corinthians 13, love is, every time, wholeness instead of brokenness. And Jesus’s words in John 14:15 “If you love me you’ll keep my commandments” show that to have a whole, and not broken, relationship with God the Father by his son, we are instructed to keep his law of life. Life made possible by wholeness and not brought to death by brokenness and decay.

    So before love can be thought of as requiring another, love has first to be viewed by the essence of its marks which is wholeness.

    It would then follow that God can be love without being tri-personal because all the marks of love are wholeness, or oneness, and when any person or thing comes into contact with God’s description and truth of himself, namely his oneness, that thing encounters his nature of wholeness, and then experiences his whole marks which are all marks of love.

    The model of God being oneness, or wholeness, or as the scripture also says, ‘love’, then makes sense.

  3. Justin Eimers
    July 29, 2015 @ 3:18 pm

    I find the arguments here convoluted. What I mean by this is that Dr. Tuggy appears to confuse very foundational issues of historic dogmatic statements as articulated in the ecumentical creeds. He argues for simplicity in the Trinity, but fails to justify such an interpretation using the creeds themselves. In many ways, I find his position in direct opposition to the Cappadocian Fathers, Athanasius, and Augustine themselves. When speaking of simplicity, their referent was in relation to their economic trinity, not in reference to their ontology. In reference to ontology, the church fathers actually say very little but to emphasis that the three members of the Godhead (or divine essence) are all equally God. In this way they are 3 distinct persons in one essence or being. All of the Church fathers expressed that these doctrines had to be understood with mystery in mind. I also find his exegetical argument of Genesis 1:26 poor. In fact I find his defense of such an exegetical argument quite questionable as he himself pulls a reversal maneuver likely to cause philosophical whiplash. In one moment he criticizes Dr. Zacharias’ argument regarding complexity and simplicity (incorrectly I might add) stating church history as an authority for his understanding, and then in the next moment sites modern consensus (which is far from the consensus) in his understanding of Genesis 1:26 in direct opposition to the understandings of church fathers regarding that text. In fact one of the earliest moments we see an argument from majesty (or royal court pronouncement as he called it) was from John Calvin in his commentary on Genesis. The Epistle of Barnabas seems to also confirm the understand of God speaking to another member of the Godhead (albeit to the Son only). These two issues are just two examples from the litany that exist within this podcast. Within the contributors to this site, I do not see any theologians, or bible scholars. It may behoove those who run this site to do so as it appears they are in desperate need of the assistance.

    • Dale Tuggy
      July 29, 2015 @ 4:01 pm

      “desperate need of the assistance” We’re always open to correction, Justin. Thanks for your comments. I am a Protestant. I think we need to first understand the Bible as the writers meant it. If the Fathers help, wonderful. But in practice, often they hurt.

      “mystery in mind” Yes, I thought quite a lot about that. See, e.g. the latter parts of this. http://trinities.org/dale/unfinished.pdf I do think mystery-appeals tend to be an excuse for theoretical or interpretive failure. We don’t see Paul or anyone in the Bible covering up difficulties as “mysteries”. In the NT, a “mystery” is something once unknown, which God has now revealed.

      About the plural pronouns of Genesis 1, I recommend listening to this excellent OT scholar explaining the cultural context. http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-97-dr-michael-heiser-on-the-unseen-realm/

      I don’t understand what you think I’m misunderstanding about simplicity here. If you care to elaborate, I’m glad to hear.

      God bless,

      • John
        July 29, 2015 @ 11:10 pm

        Hi Dale/ Justin
        In my experience, Trinitarians now have their ‘backs to the wall’ and are increasingly appealing to mystery to help them out.
        I have no problem with ‘mystery’ per se. God is a mystery .
        I do however have a problem with ‘man made mysteries’.
        Mere mortals cannot just create something that is inconsistent and unscriptural and then declare their output to be a ‘mystery’
        “Father Christmas’ is a man-made construct. He may be a ‘mystery’ to children but they soon grow up!.
        I thought the ‘Genesis 1 v 26 issue’ had long been dismissed!
        What does verse 27 mean?
        Surely the writer was writing from the assumption of a ‘heavenly council’ by which God orders the affairs of the creation?
        God Bless

      • Justin Eimers
        July 30, 2015 @ 10:27 am

        Trinitarians are far from having their backs to the wall, considering the doctrine is consistent with documents as early as the Didache. I also think a very strong textual case can be made regarding the trinity. In fact, the argument is so strong, that to denounce it is to denounce historic Christian faith. And as Karl Barth implied in his defense of orthodox doctrines through his Church Dogmatics, to deny historic Christian faith is to deny Christ. The appeal to mystery is not some attempt to overcome poor thinking (this is a charge akin to atheists claiming we believe in the God of the gaps). The logic is often used in an attempt to force an answer that is never intended. The mystery involving the trinity is a textually generated mystery. We are not given an exhaustive understanding of the doctrine and the inner workings of God within the biblical narrative. I am not sure how one comes to the conclusion regarding the trinity as a man-made mystery, but those who have done so are in need of a church history class showing the unity of the church on this issue (which if you know anything about the church, it is a miracle that they agree on anything). Theology is philosophy, but it is philosophy from the realm of a text centric, and history centric position. Failing to see this is failing to see where theology fits within the academic disciplines and it is to fail to understand the disciplines of theology within itself.
        Dr. Duggy I appreciate the grace you’ve extended in your response. Firstly, I would like to assure you that I understand the argument regarding the original context of Genesis 1. The issue with such an argument at base however is that we do not know what the original context was. Documentary Hypothesis theory in its proper form posit that it was likely written in Babylon during the exile, but there has been a growing consensus that rejects this idea and believes that the genesis 1 account actually predates a Babylonian date due to the missing themes that would have been found under Babylonian influence (like we see in Daniel and other books within the Apocrypha and Old Testament Pseudepigrapha). I do not want to delve too deeply here since there has been plenty written on it, but I would encourage people to look into progressive documentary hypothesis theory and ANE literary analysis with Old Testament narratives. With this in mind I must reiterate that the hermeneutic used historically is a sound one. We see the apostles themselves utilize such a hermeneutic on several occasions. Just one example can be found in Matthew 2:15 where Matthew refers to a text in Hosea 11:1 where Hosea within that context is referring to the faithfulness of God in attaining and keeping a people for himself. The writer never intended for the text to be referring to the Messiah, and yet, this is the way that Matthew uses it. Are we to say that Matthew was incorrect for doing so? If we are then a litany of other issues must also be dealt with before we can claim within the protestant tradition of “sola scriptura”. I too am a protestant, but I have found great value in the church fathers and their guiding hand in understanding the text in their wisdom and understanding (being much closer to the events and actual culture than we can ever be. For this reason, we must be ever so careful not to speak in opposition to them unless it be a fringe issue. The trinity was so important to the early church that almost every ecumenical council was called to settle issues within reference to it or parts of it.
        With reference to simplicity I am speaking regarding the economic and ontological trinity. Classical theology has articulated the trinity in these two ways. Ontologically all we can know is that the members of the Godhead are all equally and necessarily one God, each completely God in their own person, completely free and autonomous. Economically however (or functionally) each member submits and lifts up the other, always being sure to selflessly serve the other. Within the trinity then there is a hierarchy in which each member of the Godhead plays their part bring about the plan of God. The economic trinity is easily seen and is quite simple, but the ontological trinity is far from simple. The church father’s like Athanasius defend such viewpoints against doctrines from Arius and others like them.
        With Love in Christ

        • John
          July 30, 2015 @ 11:38 am

          By ‘consistent’ I mean logically consistent, makes sense, is not a contradiction.’

          This inconsistency is admitted by many trinitarians. see for example the paper by Rea in Logos (a journal of Catholic thought and culture) Volume 8 number 1 pages 145-157 Winter 2005
          Rea admits that the doctrine is inconsistent .

          The Catholic Encyclopedia proposes a way out of this problem based on ‘Relative Identity in a chapter styled ‘ Blessed Trinity -the divine relations”

          When pressed to give some sort of analogy for their ‘relative identity model ‘ and 3 fold consciousness , Trinitarian ‘thinkers propose something like conjoined ‘Siamese’ triplets

          You should examine this nonsense more carefully It implies that with the conjoined triplets one ‘brain’ or self-consciousness is functionally dominant and bets another, while another emerges via spiration. To make things even more ridiculous one self-cpnsciousness ‘ calls another the only true God”

          What a mess!

          Can I ask you to consider this

          IF God is 3 persons sharing the same divine nature , AND Christ is God , THEN Christ = three divine persons sharing one divine nature.

          Surely you can see the inconsistency !

          Add to this the fact that there is no scriptural support for the Trinity -I challenge you to give me six verses to support your view,

          God Bless

          • Justin Eimers
            July 30, 2015 @ 12:10 pm

            Firstly, proof texting is not a marker of biblical legitimacy. The meta-narrative of the text gives us a Trinitarian Godhead. Now, if Catholicism has lost its ability to consistently articulate an orthodox theology regarding the trinity, then that is on them. But, I am saying that the true church needs to stand consistent where the church has been consistent over the last 2 millennia’s. Over and over again it has been reaffirmed globally again and again that God is a triune God. Father, Son, and Spirit are all God, but the Father is not the Son, nor is the Son the Spirit, nor is the Spirit the Father. This is modalism which is an old heresy long done away with (although it does raise its ugly head from time to time). So with this in mind let me give you two large texts that confirm the divine nature of the God head. Please read all of John 17 for more on the economic and ontological trinity with regard to how the Father and the Son relate to one another in function and ontology. Acts 5:1-11 equate the Holy Spirit with God in how Peter confronts each person within the narrative. Please also look through John 1:1-18. These 3 sections are far more than 6 verses and their narratives within their contexts are powerful proofs of the trinity that cannot be ignored by anyone taking text seriously. Where the English appears ambiguous the Greek is clear.

            • John
              July 30, 2015 @ 2:32 pm

              Hi Justin
              “John Chapter 17 shows how Christ and His Father relate to one another in function and ontology”
              Regarding ontology – of course Christ and His father possess the divine nature – The Father by virtue of his being ‘autotheos ‘ and the Son by inheritance.
              The whole of John chapter 17 and the adjacent chapters show Christ to be God’s divine agent.
              Acts 5 does not prove that the Holy Spirit is a person
              The Holy Spirit is the means by which God acts in His creation. If the Spirit is ‘personified’ in a few scriptures it is because all of God’s attributes are personified in the scriptures.
              As you know ‘pneuma’ in the Greek means ‘air’ or the way air flows. Thus we are said to be ‘filled with IT’, ‘overflowing with IT ” etc.
              The Logos in John Chapter 1 is an attribute of God – of course greatly argued.
              The final chapter of Johns Gospel makes it clear who Christ is. John 17v5, John 20v17, John 20 vs 28-31. Verse 28 reflects what Christ has said about himself -to see Him is to see the Father.
              Thomas was commenting Gods power in the resurrection.
              I’m afraid that I am unimpressed with the early Christian church ( at least after the first century)
              and I do not regard the Early Church Fathers as authoritative.. The doctrine which emerged is exactly what Paul warned about when he warned about man-made philosophies.
              You seem to dodge the issue of ‘consistency’ – try this
              -IF God is the Father
              AND the Father is not the Son
              THEN The Son is NOT God.
              This is not a meaningless syllogism -the three parsons here all have unique IDENTITIES -there is no one-like each of them.
              Trinitarians always confuse nature and identity – or try to ‘hybridise’ them (as Bauckham does)
              Of course we humans see what we want to see!

              • Justin Eimers
                July 30, 2015 @ 3:16 pm

                “IF God is the Father
                AND the Father is not the Son
                THEN The Son is NOT God.”
                My my are you making some grand assumptions. Ok let’s try this a different way. God is the Father, God is the Son, God is the Holy Spirit. The three in relationship constitute the being that we call God (or Elohim if you will, which interesting enough is plural). I am not dodging the consistency issue, but am flatly telling you that you are wrong on the consistency issue. Anyone who has spent any time actually understanding the early councils knows this as fact. Firstly, you sir are an Arian, which is heresy. Second, you are likely a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness as that is the trinitarian theology you are espousing. So let me be quite blunt. The Holy Spirit is a living being personified as “him” by Christ himself in John 16. This personification is not something done by accident. Christ states that he will send him. If the Holy Spirit is merely the acting force of the Father, then WHY, and if Christ is not God then how does he send the acting force of God? You see, human logic (in particular linear logic) justifies your view, but it was declared by the church who had within it the Spirit himself that this linear view was incorrect. For if this is the case, then we no longer espouse a monotheism. Paul makes it SOOO beyond clear that Christ IS God. Read Colossians (like the whole book) but really pick apart chapter 1. Paul does not mince words, he (being Christ) is the visible image of the invisible God. He created all things, sustains all things, and all things were made for him. The Father, Son and Spirit, are ALL God in their distinct persons. We are speaking of Jews naming the Son as God. Jews would not fall into polytheism (like you have) but stay staunchly within monotheism. The Church Fathers affirm this, the reformers affirmed this, and modern theologians affirm this. Arius was the first to popularize your view and he was a Libyan who learned within Alexandria which was so rank with philosophical pollution that it truly is befuddling that anyone from that region didn’t completely pollute the church altogether (Athanasius was bishop of Alexandria who directly opposed Arius and it is to him I am referring as a “miracle”). If you have time read the famous Jewish exegete Philo as an example of how philosophical interpretation and midrash were quite normal within Alexandria. My question, have you ever read the actual arguments used by the church fathers like Tertullian, Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Cyprian of Carthage, Augustine, John Chrysostome, Gregory of Nyssa, Athanasius, Leo of Rome? If you have not read those arguments, then you speak from ignorance. I encourage you to look through these theologians and see their arguments for yourself instead of taking the words of men.

                • Sean Garrigan
                  July 30, 2015 @ 5:47 pm

                  Post biblical writers are not relevant to determining what the biblical writers meant, as they were too far removed in time and intellectual ‘place’, i.e. their presupposition pool was too foreign and not informed by the Jewish categories that comprise the context of the NT.

                  Dale isn’t an Arian or a JW, btw.

                  ~Sean Garrigan

                  • Justin Eimers
                    July 30, 2015 @ 10:47 pm

                    Hello Sean,
                    My reference to Arianism and perhaps being a JW was pointed at John, not at Dale. I certainly understand what you are stating, but I think the issue at hand is that there were actually many Christians within the Palestinian territories that were quite close to the jewishness of the context. I also think its important to point out that while much of the NT is written by Jews, much of it is written to mostly Gentile communities from Gentile communities. So reading a thorough “jewishness” within those documents likely is not wise as the setting and context of such documents were not wholly jewish to begin with. It is also safe to say that at least 2 documents (Acts and Luke) are written from a distinctly Greek perspective with the possibility of the book of Hebrews being added to that (depending on whom you see as its author). So while post biblical writers may not be authoritative they are an authority that if we are prudent and humble we will listen to (considering they lived in a time and place far closer to the original context than any of us). Anyway, thank you for the point because it is a valid one that definitely needs to be dealt with.

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      July 30, 2015 @ 11:20 pm

                      Hi Justin,

                      Thanks for the clarification. In light of comments John has made here, I can say without fear of contradiction that he also is not an Arian or a JW, but I’ll leave him to address that point further with you.

                      I take your point that some NT writings were influenced by the surrounding culture, but that was still considerably earlier than the writings of the Fathers, who, IMO, really were too far removed to be of much value in determining the intent of the original authors.

                      It’s too bad that Thom Stark’s “Oh My Godman” series is no longer available online, because he did an excellent job, I think, in showing how differently the NT can be interpreted if we do so in light of the intertestamental literature, which, while also not inspired, better reflects the Jewishness of the earliest Christian thinkers. He had written a book which was going to be published by Wipf & Stock, but for undisclosed reason(s) that’s no longer the case. He made many good points and also came to a non-Trinitarian understanding of the biblical texts for thoughtful reasons.

                • John
                  July 31, 2015 @ 12:16 am

                  Hi Justin
                  I have read Colossians!
                  To be brief
                  (I) How can the ‘first-born’ also be creator of the heavens and the earth
                  (ii)Christ never claimed to be the Creator
                  (iii) It was GOD who created the heavens and the Earth and rested on the seventh day FIFTY texts say so.
                  (iv) The Lord God formed man from the dust (Gen 2v7)
                  (v)Christ did not exist till he was begotten by Mary
                  Like 1v35 and Matthew 1 18-20 “she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit”
                  I’m afraid that I am unmoved by the Early Church Fathers. Have you not seen how much trouble they caused -burning and torturing anyone who got in their way.
                  THEY are the ones who created this false philosophy which Paul warned us of.
                  THEY are the ones who created unbridgeable schisms which exist until this day.
                  THEY drove a monophysite Christian to a new mono-theistic vision around 620 –
                  What a mess!
                  By the way I am not a JW or a Mormon!
                  I am an Erasmian – I believe in keeping things simple so that we get all good men who love one God into one boat. This can only be accomplished by defining as little as possible.
                  Having translated the NT from the original Greek Erasmus declared that certainty was an illusion.
                  I resist all attempts to get me into a box
                  God Bless You

                • Roman
                  July 31, 2015 @ 3:58 am

                  Colossians says he is the image of the invisible God, the image, “Eikon” in greek, a term used for the mark that a signat ring would leave on wax to seal a letter. Think about this, is Paul saying Jesus is Yahweh here? No, he’s saying Jesus is the Perfect image of Yahweh. The firstborn OF all creation, meaning he is part of creation.
                  Now what a lot of trinitarians say is “oh don’t nit pick the individual scriptures it’s the meta-narrative.” Ok fair enough, but the meta-narrative is decided by the individual passages, so if all of them don’t actually lead toward a trinitarian theology, then neither does the meta-narrative.
                  Funny you bring up Philo, given that People who exegete the prologue of John have to completely ignore the similarities between John’s Logos theology and Philo’s, why? Because it would would hurt trinitarianism, problem is they are so clearly using the term logos in a very similar way. If you read the prologue of John in a trinitarian way, it makes no logical sense, once you allow for a subordinationist Philo style theology then it all fits. and then you get a Perfect answer to the question that will inevitably come up if one read’s the NT all the way through, which is “How can God have a God,” this is not Jesus as a man, this is Jesus ressurected and glorified, he has a God, and that God is Our God as well, Yahweh.
                  As far as the “arians” mixing philosophy With theology, whatever their motivation was doesn’t matter to me, what matters is what the early Church believed and what the bible says. But trinitarianism doesn’t even make sense unless you bring in non-biblical philosophical (Platonic) categories like distinguising between being and person and nature.
                  Now as far as the claim of falling into polytheism from monotheist. What does monotheism mean? Does it mean that if Jesus is called a god in a certain sense then he must be Yahweh or otherwise we don’t have monotheism? Why should we believe that? This has never been the Jewish position, there have always been angels who are called Gods, and even human beings, Israelites and Jews never had a problem With that, why should Christians? The question is not whether Jesus is called “god” in a certain sense, the question is whether that makes him Yahweh.
                  BTW, I’ve read many of the Church fathers, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Origen and Ignatius were subordinationists. Saying trinitarians is “consistant” With Things like the didache or the earliest Christian writings is just false, it’s only consistant if you butcher the texts and re-interpret everything.
                  For example is trinitarian theology consistant With 1 Corinthians 15:24-28? No, not unless you completely butcher the text. Completely inconsistant With the constant usage of Psalms 110:1 and Daniel 7:13,14 as the main types for Jesus.
                  As far as the Hermeneutic, the New Testament Authors were inspired, they had a right to interpret the Old Testament text above and Beyond the historical, literal and even larger intertextual theological meaning moving into allegory becuause they were inspired. If we want to do that we better make damn sure we have scriptural warrent for doing so.
                  The Church has NOT always believed in the Trinity, I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone in the first 150 years after Jesus Death who would have even thought of it, and no the earliest Church texts are NOT consistant With trinitarianism, they don’t even come Close, InFact they exlude the possibility of it, unless you completely butcher the text.
                  BTW, I am a JW.

            • Rivers
              July 31, 2015 @ 8:29 am


              Neither John 1:1-18 nor Colossians 1:15-20 settles the matter (in either Greek or English). Everything remains a matter of interpretation.

              For example, the entire context of John 1:1-18 can easily be shown to be referring to “the beginning of the gospel” (cf. Mark 1:1). Likewise, the context of Colossians 1:15-20 is the death (Colossians 1:20) and resurrection (Colossians 1:18) of Jesus.

              Thus, neither of these passages suggests anything about “preexistence” or “incarnation” of Jesus, nor necessitates concluding anything about a Trinity doctrine.

  4. Rob Bjerk
    November 21, 2014 @ 1:54 am

    Here is a Christian philosopher making a very coherent critique of Calvinism from a logical viewpoint. In passing he makes what I find to be a common disclaimer: it would be wrong to use these arguments to critique the Trinity for it is in a different category…. I think you would enjoy the logical approach used in discussing Calvinism, and perhaps would find it valuable to examine whether or not the Trinity really is exempt from some of the same critiques.