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. Dave Basford
    May 20, 2010 @ 7:31 pm

    With regard to the sheep comment. I find it odd that there is any question about the two being equal.

    If a human master had a shepherd the two phrases would not state the shepherd and master were the same. But if the shepherd keeps the sheep safe (they canot fall from his hands), then by definition, they cannot fall from the hands of the master either.

    Put master=God (the Father) in that concept and it shows that taking the two verses does not mean God and Jesus (master and shepherd) are in any way the same being or person.

    While I am more than happy with Dave Burke’s performance, I do thing Mr Bowman is doing well so far, and I do know that the Trinitarian doctrine is a hard concept to get across – especially when the standard method of teaching it in churches is “this is how it is and that’s all you need to know.”


  2. John Brien
    May 14, 2010 @ 4:36 pm

    I was interested in the way Mr. Bowman comments on Margaret Davies ‘tortured comments” that ‘my God” referred to the Father while “my Lord” referred to the Son.

    The same thought occurred to me without reading Ms. Davies work… without any ‘tortured ‘thought processes.
    (i) In many, many verses witnesses glorified God for miracles they had just witnessed
    Mat 9 v8 “and glorified God who had given such authority to man”
    Mat 15v31 “… they glorified the God of Israel”

    (ii) and if that does not satisfy the skeptics consider a few verses on, from the verse in question …verse 31 states ” and these are written that you may (come to) believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God…”This was doubtless written to ensure that people don’t misinterpret verse 28! Which they have!!
    I have no doubt Trinitarian ‘gymnastics experts’ will come up with some sort of convuluted answer- as usual!
    Your debate is most useful !
    Best Wishes
    John Brien


  3. trinities - SCORING THE BURKE – BOWMAN DEBATE – Bowman 3 (DALE)
    April 30, 2010 @ 10:38 am

    […] doctrine Bowman means to defend. (Some kind of modalism?) After round two, I said that Bowman has owned up to affirming a contradiction – trying to pass it off as a “mystery”, i.e. a merely apparent […]


  4. Scott
    April 29, 2010 @ 9:04 am

    Hmmm.. “unity of essence” can be cashed out different ways metaphysically. When I read that, I can think of at least two ways to interpret it.

    @Dale: Is numerical identity equivalent to numerical sameness? Also, if the divine persons differ numerically, would that require they each have numerically distinct essences? If so, that would be consistent with the approach of Basil of Ancrya–a leading ‘homoiousian’ (mid-4th c.). If not, then well … there’s lot to talk about.


  5. Dave Burke
    April 26, 2010 @ 12:10 pm

    I am intrigued by the thought of anyone extrapolating “unity of essence” from the Shema.


  6. J.W. Wartick
    April 26, 2010 @ 10:11 am

    Dale, thanks for the response. If numerical identity is intended then I see the inconsistency. The identity I have always heard about in the “Shema”, for example, is intended “unity” of essence, not numerical.


  7. Dave Burke
    April 25, 2010 @ 12:11 am

    Norman Geisler admits the problem, though his attempted resolution is feeble. He says it is not a logical contradiction, but merely a paradox. Exactly why a paradox is more acceptable than a logical contradiction, I have no idea. Surely they’re both aspects of the same problem?


  8. Dale
    April 24, 2010 @ 8:40 pm

    Hey J.W.

    I used the = sign (and in 4 the = sign slashed through – sorry, I don’t know why WordPress changes it to “?”) because I meant numerical identity. Because = is a transitive relation, they can’t all be true. e.g. If the Father just is God, and the Son just is God, then it logically follows that the Father just is the Son. “Two” things which are each numerically identical to another, must also be identical to each other – that’s one way to put it.

    Your examples are cases where the “is” is not identity, but some other relation (composition)? But when Bowman says “Jesus is God”, at least sometimes *as best I can tell* he means that Jesus and God are numerically one thing (=). Since “both” are divine, if this were not so, there would be more than one god. And so on for the other two. Yet, he holds them to differ qualitatively (and so the must differ numerically) – so I do think he has the problem i highlighted – so long as he sticks with the interpretation of the Trinity sketched in my post.

    No Christian philosopher defends this view in print, as it is inconsistent. To avoid inconsistency, they get very creative in interpreting the various “is”s and “is not”s in the doctrine. But Bowman, in declaring the doctrine a “paradox”, I believe means that it is apparently contradictory.


  9. Dave Burke
    April 24, 2010 @ 2:33 am


    Re: Mt 28 – I wonder if anyone can find a commentator who takes Bowman’s reading? I’m not saying there are none out there, but it was certainly new to me.

    I tried. I honestly tried. Twelve commentaries later, I’ve concluded that Bowman’s interpretation is theology on the fly. He needed to say something, so he said it. The statement itself does not fit into some larger picture; it’s just a throwaway line.

    What’s needed, I think, is a full treatment of the biblical concepts of worship and monotheism.

    Agreed. But it would be a hefty read, and I am not sure if the audience is up for that. A summary of “worship principles” and “worship vocabulary” would be helpful, though.


  10. J.W. Wartick
    April 24, 2010 @ 1:26 am

    I don’t know why but my not-equal signs got turned into ?’s.


  11. J.W. Wartick
    April 24, 2010 @ 1:20 am

    I’m unsure of this statement: “I’m now inclined to think that at least sometimes he holds it to be no more or less than this inconsistent tetrad of claims (they can’t all be true – from the truth of any 3, it follows that the 4th is false).

    1. f = g
    2. s = g
    3. h = g
    4. f ? s ? h”

    Why should we hold that these are indeed a contradiction? I suppose your argument would be from identity, but there are analogous cases where it could be the case that 1-4 are true.

    Note I’m not suggesting any of these is an effective analogy for the Trinity.

    Take the case of Siamese Triplets, Trisha, Suzy, and Megan, who share a body, call it B. It is the case that T=B, S=B, and M=B but it also seems to clearly be the case that T?S?M.

    I think perhaps Paul Moser’s suggestion in “The Elusive God” might help also. In it, he suggests that “God” could be taken as a title, just as “king” could be taken. But then take another analogy: it could be the case that in the country of Ur, there are three kings, Ahab, Gaz, and Jurg. But if this is the case, then A=K, G=K, J=K but A?G?J. I realize problems in this analogy, but it seems to me t oat least make sense.

    I find the section I quoted above at least somewhat uncharitable, because I can readily think of cases in which it could be true that:

    “1. f = g
    2. s = g
    3. h = g
    4. f ? s ? h”


  12. Dale
    April 23, 2010 @ 10:25 pm

    which, just to be clear, are that (1) Bowman’s readings of John are uncharitable, (2) the Trinity theory he *seems* to espouse is plainly inconsistent, and so plainly false.


  13. Dale
    April 23, 2010 @ 9:58 pm

    Bowman responds here, comment #3.

    Re: not making a full positive case – that was meant more description than criticism – but I see that the way I wrote it sounds like a cheap shot – so, I fixed that above. It’s perfectly fair to refer to the book. And it’s perfectly fair for both sides to put off some matters till later rounds.

    Re: Mt 28 – I wonder if anyone can find a commentator who takes Bowman’s reading? I’m not saying there are none out there, but it was certainly new to me. But it’s clear that this text won’t count much for either side. What’s needed, I think, is a full treatment of the biblical concepts of worship and monotheism.

    Re: Jesus being given authority, he misses the point. If having the divine nature, being the creator, and so on logically implies having all authority, then Jesus never could have lacked it, and never could have been given it. I don’t know if Bowman instead means to make a qua move here, or to hold that it was only the human nature that received authority… but it is clear that Jesus can’t at one time both have it and lack it, and he owes us a consistent account, if he thinks both that Jesus is God, and that Jesus received authority from God. On the face of it, if you’re God himself, you’ve already got it.

    On the baptismal formula, any unitarian can hold that a believer is baptized into the reality, power, and life of God, the Son of God, and the power of God. So Bowman should concede that that verse does nothing to mediate the dispute between unitarians and trinitarians. The point of my post was that nothing can be made of the singular “name” – a point lost on many, if not on Bowman.

    “The point in Matthew 28:20 (and 18:20) is that Christ speaks about his presence with his people in terms that clearly echo Jewish ways of speaking about the presence of God with his people (as I explained in my post).”

    I understood this; seems to me that the unitarian can concede it with no injury to her cause. “This is all too quick” – those are the important words in my comment. Omnipresence is a tough topic.

    Rob seems to think I’ve somehow weasled re: the significance of “Immanuel”. Not so. What was “destroyed” was the claim that this clearly implies that Jesus is numerically identical to God. It does not. But of course, it is consistent with that claim. So, it does nothing to settle the matter at hand.

    Finally, all of this is sidestepping my main criticisms…


  14. Dale
    April 23, 2010 @ 8:19 pm

    Hey cherylu,

    According to the classical doctrine of divine simplicity, God just is each of his attributes, and vice versa. This too is controversial, but suprisingly, it is something all the later patristic theologians and medieval theologians hold. IF this made sense (I’m sort of agnostic) then it could be read this way. BUT I don’t see the doctrine of divine simplicity anywhere in the Bible. All we need, to read it the way I suggested, is the point that the author is predicating divinity of the Logos – not identifying the Logos and God. This is in fact what a number of commenters and translators (trinitarian ones) think it means. They translate/intepret it as “and the Word was divine” or “and the Word was what God was”. This understanding is consistent with the reading I was talking about. And it is the kind of thing one might say if one was talking about God’s wisdom as if it were an agent or a helper in the work of creation, but wanted to signal that it wasn’t another self alongside the one divine self.


  15. cherylu
    April 23, 2010 @ 11:44 am


    It seems to me that your interpretation of John 1:1 has a major problem. If the “Word” referred to here is indeed wisdom, then you have this verse stating that not only was wisdom with God but that wisdom IS God.

    If this attribute of God, wisdom, is God, then we would also have to say that love IS God, that holiness IS God, that wrath IS God, that omnipotence IS God, etc, etc. would we not?

    I don’t know about you, but to me that is an impossible scenario and I don’t believe it has any Scriptural backing at all. God has many attributes, but those attributes are not God.


  16. Helez
    April 23, 2010 @ 9:03 am

    (Wish I could edit my spelling mistakes: it is “arbitrarily” and “nonsensical”, excuse me.)


  17. Helez
    April 23, 2010 @ 9:00 am

    Can we regard it as intellectually dishonest that some educated Trinitarian scholars, like Bowman, still use John 1:1 as if it somehow suggests that Jesus is theos in a definite sense? (Or am I being harsh now?)

    And if theos in John 1:1b refers to the Father exclusively, of course it arbitrarilly cannot refer to the Father in John 1:1c, according to the Trinitarians, or this verse would rather end up supporting Modalism, not Trinitarianism…

    He says about the paradox between 1:1b and his outdated definite interpretation of John 1:1c, “why not allow the apparent paradox to stand and accept what both clauses say about the Word? This is what Trinitarians do.”
    Is this an admission that his theology is ultimately nonsenical, but that this is okay because God is not supposed to make sense to our limited human brains?


  18. ScottL
    April 23, 2010 @ 8:18 am

    I, too, though Bowman’s explanation that some disciples were doubting whether Jesus should be worshipped in Matt 28:16-20 was a bit off.

    Thanks for your comments on Bowman’s article and where he could have improved.


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