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. Why John Sanders won the Unbelievable Debate on Open Theism and Heresy | Randal Rauser
    May 23, 2016 @ 10:38 am

    […] If you’re interested in further reflection on the topic of heresy, I highly recommend Dale Tuggy’s podcast episode “Heretic! Four Approaches to Dropping H-Bombs“. […]

  2. Roman
    May 6, 2015 @ 4:40 am

    I think the history behind the term Heretic has kind of made it difficult to use. It’s some what similar to the word communism, which cannot really be used since it automatically is Associated With the history of Mao or Stalin. If a Heretic is someone what teaches against the truth of Christianity, then basically anyone who teaches against something which someone consideres fundemental to Christianity is a Heretic.
    As to what is fundemental, I dont’ think what all Christians at all times believed would work for everyone. Many trinitarians would say that the early Church had the different parts of the Trinity, but it took later theologians to actually examine the parts carefully to Discover the truth of the Trinity, and once that turth is found it’s seen that this truth is an essencial part of Christianity.
    I would use this analogy, if we’re on a safari and we see an animal in the distance, and we agree “this is a large animal, at least bigger than a dog,” then when we get closer we see more and then agree “ok this is definately a large cat” then we get closer and we all agree “this is a Cheetah.” The animal was a Cheetah the Whole time, we just had to look at it closer to find out, when we were farther back, we wern’t wrong, we were correct, so we weren’t Heritics, but we just didn’t see the Whole Picture. However once we see the Whole Picture, and it has become Clear that it’s a Cheetah, and that is established, then it becomes part of the Safari Group doctrine, and if someone stands up and says “that Animal was an Aligator” then he’s a Heretic.
    This, I would assume, (playing devils advocate), would be the position of some trinitarians that insist on calling Unitarians Heretics.
    Me personally, I don’t think the term is useful due to it’s historical baggage, the term Apostate Works, someone who leaves the faith or leaves it and opposes it, and the term False Teacher can also work, for someone who teaches false doctrines. But Heretic, it’s just not that useful, since when one is described as such it almost damns them right away. I also don’t think we can establish what all Christians thought from the begining, I mean take for example Stephan who was stoned while Saul (who later became Paul) watched, what did he believe? He certainly didn’t have any of Pauls epistles, or any gospels, we know he believed Jesus was risen and exaulted, sure, but if we reduce “Heretic” to anyone that doesn’t believe that, it’s kind of a useless term, since it would just mean “not-Christian,” the historical meaning of the word was someone in the Church who was pushing false doctrines. So for example Open Theists are considered by many to be heretics, Unitarians, since they are pushing a false doctrine (according to Trinitarians), but People can argue over other aspects of Christian life that are not really doctrinal but rather practical, or details/implications of doctrine.
    Unfortunately however, I think the term is too wrapped up in Catholic history and the Catholic usage of the word to be of use that much to non Catholics in a meaningful sense.

  3. Randal Rauser
    May 5, 2015 @ 7:03 pm

    Dale, great talk. I wish you would write a book about these issues. God knows he doesn’t need all the heresy hunters who wreak untold havoc in his name.

    That being said, let me push back a bit. Rather than talking about how many sides a triangle has, let’s talk about relationship development. A child who is in a healthy relationship with her mother need not believe certain propositions about her mother when she is six weeks or six months old. But if she doesn’t believe those propositions by the time she is six (or sixteen, or twenty-six) years old then something is amiss.

    Mightn’t there be something like this that is true of the Christian community? NT minimalism is seductively simple (if that doesn’t sound too pejorative, I don’t mean it to be), but what if the (mature) Christian community is expected to have attained a higher level of understanding of God and his relationship to us by this time in our relationship? In that case, it isn’t helpful to return to NT minimalism.

    • Dale Tuggy
      May 5, 2015 @ 9:20 pm

      Hi Randal – thanks for the comments! Yes, God willing, I may write a book about this some day. I think it is a really important topic. Too often I see creedal orthodoxy equated with genuine Christian belief. But many have had the second without the first. (And I would add, many have had both.)

      I don’t have the book in front of my now, but Locke deals with this sort of objection. Yes, one ought to believe what one has enough evidence for, including the evidence of divine revelation, understood in a way, e.g. that a new believer, a child, or a uneducated person is not capable of. If you refuse to believe what you have strong enough evidence for (and not too much against!) that can be a sin. But I don’t think in that case one would be violating a necessary condition for being in the faith; the minimum isn’t going to change, right? That is, the minimum for membership, not the minimum for being a good, e.g. Christian theologian.

      But I think perhaps you have in mind the whole community… e.g. now post-Constantinople we are all obligated to believe things that weren’t obligatory (for being a Christian) in, say, the year 150. e.g. the eternity of Jesus, or the full divinity and personality of the Holy Spirit. Is that what you’re suggesting?

      Granted, we could (in principle) have obtained some new evidence between 150 and 381 – though I don’t see that this is so. But mustn’t the new covenant be just what it was in the time of Acts? I’m supposing that a Protestant must say that it is the same. Of course, a Catholic may think that the deal requires just what the bishops then ruling say it does… What do you think?

      • Randal Rauser
        May 6, 2015 @ 9:15 am

        Regarding the possibility of “new evidence”, so long as one believes the Spirit leads the church into all truth in history, that could be cashed out in many ways that would allow for the possibility of an expanding set of minimal beliefs. But I thought your strong caution at the end of your talk about adding burdens to community membership was spot on.

        In addition to the question of what one ought to believe there is also the question of what one ought not believe. For example, Smith might believe Jesus is God’s messiah and God raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9). That might be sufficient for community membership. But what if Smith also believes that God was once a man who evolved to the point where he could get his own planet? And if we follow God then we too can evolve to the point of becoming deities with our own planets? Do these additional beliefs undermine the belief in Jesus’ messiahship and resurrection?

        I also wonder about degrees of conviction: how persuaded of the truth of a proposition does one need to be in order to believe it in the right way? Jones may not be able to affirm the proposition “I love my wife” on average three days of the week. But if he lives 7 days as if he loves his wife, do we penalize him? On the contrary, isn’t there a particular kind of virtue in maintaining the relationship even when belief wavers? And mightn’t the same be true of Christian convictions? My dad had a mystical experience in 1950 and has never had a doubt since. Others, deprived of that kind of experience, regularly trudge through the dark night of the soul. And what about autistics who have an especially difficult time relating to (or maintaining belief in) a non-physical being?

        Okay, here’s my final comment (drawn from one of my books). Bartolomé de las Casas recounts the mass extermination of tribal peoples in Hispaniola under the conquistadores. The caciques (tribal leaders) were rounded up to be slaughtered. Just before they were to be killed they were given the option to confess the Apostles’ Creed and so go to heaven. One leader named Hatuey asked, “Where do the conquistadores go?” “Heaven” came the answer. “Then,” he said, “I want to go to hell.”
        Can’t say I blame him.

        • Roman
          May 6, 2015 @ 9:40 am

          About what one ought to believe and what one ought not to believe, I’ve found With many “liberal” Christians, a affirmation of creedal statements, or of the Language of Orthodoxy, while defining the meaning of such statements to such a point that there is more difference between them and a Conservative Protestant of Catholic Christian, and an Open Theist Unitarian like myself and a Conservative Protestant or Catholic Christian, and not just differences on the edges of belief or doctrine, but differences in basic worldview and fundemental theological grounds.

          • Randal Rauser
            May 6, 2015 @ 11:32 am

            The best exemplar of this is confession in the resurrection of Jesus cashed out in the terms of the church as his resurrected body: i.e. “God raised Jesus” means something like “God formed a people to be Christ’s body in the wake of his death.”