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.

30 Comments

  1. Helez
    May 25, 2010 @ 10:40 am

    Dale, thanks for your response. I think pre-Nicene theology is clear and well-developed enough to recognize it as essentially subordinationist.

  2. Dale
    May 25, 2010 @ 8:44 am

    “laughably out of date”

    I’m so glad that we’re providing comedy here. 🙂

    As you can tell by my choice of pictures, this is always *a* goal. Laugh on.

  3. Dale
    May 25, 2010 @ 8:42 am

    Helez,

    1. I meant what you said. For subordinationists, God=Father, and the because the Son depends on the Father, he isn’t God/the Father.

    2. Clarke is really the central figure of subordinationists in that era, with his very carefully done Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity, and his long series of public debates. These were widely read, off and on, up into the early 1800s. The other main, early guys – Whiston, Isaac Newton – their views were essentially the same as Clarke’s. There are some less important later guys, but as the century moved on, for a couple of reasons, most unitarians shifted to a view like Burke’s. For people curious about all this, this is an excellent book, which also briefly canvasses the 4th c. “Arian” stuff.

    I don’t agree with you that pre-Nicea, Christian theology was universally subordinationist. Was it, say in Justin and Irenaeus “clear and well-developed”? I don’t think so, mainly because of lingering confusion about the Spirit, as well as the matter of how far back Jesus’ existence goes (all the way, or to the point at which the internal Word was “spoken”).

  4. Helez
    May 25, 2010 @ 7:48 am

    Dale, I read your Unitarianism supplement before, but now that you refer to it, I like to ask you some things about it.

    1)
    In the introduction of “Subordinationism” you write that “Subordinationists hold that the Son is *in some sense ontologically dependent* on God, that is, the Father.” As this is a subsection in an article about unitarianism, I wonder why you didn’t simply say that subordinationist unitarians by definition believe that “the Son is ontologically distinct from and subordinate to God, that is, the Father”? (Because only subordinationist binitarians or trinitarians would hold that the Son is a subordinate person of God’s being.) Or is this just my misunderstanding of your language?

    I also don’t understand why you state that “Clear and well-developed subordinationist unitarianism mainly belongs to two periods of history, the fourth and the eighteenth centuries,” while demonstrably, before Nicaea, Christian theology was almost *universally* subordinationist, as well as it being very alive and articulated today.

    2)
    Why do you spent 82% of the section “17th-18th Century English Subordinationists” on the subordinationist tritheist Clarke, with his eternal existence of the Son and his personal Holy Spirit? Is that well-balanced?

  5. Helez
    May 25, 2010 @ 7:45 am

    I see, Jimbo, you are clearly not an exegete indeed…

  6. Jimbo Fisher
    May 25, 2010 @ 6:47 am

    Helez,

    I never said I wasn’t interested to check the data. I simply have enormous doubts that any of the locutions ought to be stricken from the set.

    The relevant debate for Christians has to do with the set, not about whether any of locutions belong in the set. The question is not whether biblical belief entails belief in the Trinity; the question is what a Trinity is.

    Questions like “Does the Bible really say that Jesus is God?… like the real God?” are so laughably out of date… centuries out of date. When I hear that kind of stuff I think of Jehovah’s Witness cartoon pamphlets.

  7. Helez
    May 25, 2010 @ 4:33 am

    Jimbo, as you acknowledge your data set to be at least apparently inconsistent, I think it is rather remarkable that you are “not interested” to even carefully check the Bible for the correctness of that data yourself, especially in the light of the historical facts about the way your data set became accepted by mainstream Christianity in the long run.

  8. Dale
    May 24, 2010 @ 11:28 pm

    Hi Jimbo,

    What you’ve given there are what most Christian philosophers, following the Athanasian Creed, take to be the starting points of any interesting discussion. That those claims do best represent the contents of the Bible is of course the very thing at issue. If “it is obvious” to you… you’re a blessed man. 🙂 Seriously, having read a lot of the historical debates, I find it unjustifiable that the theological academy has pretty much forgotten a huge 16th-19th c. series of discussions. Even the 2nd-5th c. debates are in some ways just coming to be well understood.

    I can’t make you take debates like this seriously; I can only say, that if you delve into really serious work on NT thought, and into early patristic specialists, you find out (1) how much they debated different ways of understanding the status of the Son and Spirit from the 2nd through the 5th c., and (2) how dodgy some of their arguments and interpretations are, at least by our lights. And there’s plenty of philosophy in the mix too – for better and worse.

    Burke and current day “biblical unitarians” deny 2 & 3, but they are not “Arians” (i.e. subordinationists who hold there was a time the Son was not). Nor is the discussion stuck in the 4th c. – both debaters have brought into play some important recent scholarship, and Burke has been (largely indirectly?) influenced by some of the later parts of early modern unitarian thought. Here’s a synopsis.

    You’ll be happy to know that Bowman is defending the correctness of the apparently inconsistent data set. But he has not lifted a finger to show it is merely apparent. Perhaps you and I agree that he should?

  9. Jimbo Fisher
    May 24, 2010 @ 10:46 pm

    Well Dale, I think you’ll agree that the NT data is clear enough. The following locutions are both accurate representations of the NT data and critically important to Christian orthodoxy.

    1. “The Father is God”
    2. “The Son is God”
    3. “The Holy Spirit is God”
    4. “The Father is not the Son”
    5. “The Father is not the Holy Spirit”
    6. “The Holy Spirit is not the Son”
    7. “There is one God”

    The task of Christian theology is to make sense of this prima facie incompatible set of claims. That’s the intramural discussion.

    Others come along and say, “Hey! I don’t like #2 at all. I’m not sure that’s even in the Bible.” Or they don’t like #7 (Mormons) or they don’t like 4-6 (modalists). Fair enough. But that’s an external debate. That debate is for exegetes and apologists.

    I’m not an exegete, I’m a theologian. So forgive me for not being interested in any debate that wants to dismantle the set of data rather than deal with it. The set is obvious enough to me but if others want to have exegetical debates that are stuck in the 4th century… that’s OK, I suppose.

    Bowman shouldn’t be arguing for the Trinity (and I’m not sure he really is) he should be arguing for the inconsistent set of data. If he’s successful there then we’re left with the metaphysical task which is where the church has been doing it’s important thinking.

    It certainly would be nice to be able to throw out #2 and #3 and just be Arians. That’s simpler. But, alas, Christian theology has never been so simple.

  10. Jim R
    May 24, 2010 @ 8:53 pm

    The believers were 1st called “Christians” in Antoch Acts 11:26
    They believed what the Apostles taught; in the Acts you get no hint of a Trinitarian formula
    but you do get the teaching that long after the ascension Jesus was still called “a man”
    Acts 17:31 see f 1Tim 2:5

  11. Marg
    May 24, 2010 @ 3:05 pm

    On the subject of biblical consistency:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think there is ANY passage which says, “The Father is God.” (Could that be called a tautology??) The consistent biblical testimony is, “God is the Father.”

    On the other hand, no passage states that “God is the Son,” or “God is the Spirit”.

    The consistent language of the Bible is:

    1. God the Father [NOT “Father of God”]
    2. Son of God [NOT “God the Son”]
    3. Spirit of God [NOT “God the Spirit”.

    On this score, I don’t think the Bible can be accused of inconsistency.

  12. trinities - SCORING THE BURKE – BOWMAN DEBATE – ROUND 5 – BOWMAN – PART 3 (DALE)
    May 24, 2010 @ 12:54 pm

    […] divinity of each just is asserting each to be numerically identical to God. I looked into this more last time, but briefly, this won’t fly, as it’ll make the persons identical to one another. So it […]

  13. Helez
    May 24, 2010 @ 12:36 pm

    Dale wrote: “Is Burke a Christian? Well, by definition he’s not a catholic Christian. But is that as wide as we want to think the body of Christ goes? This is a big and hard question, in my view.”

    It can likewise be questioned (and some do) if that what is considered to be ‘catholic Christianity’ is part of the actual body of Christ.

    Shouldn’t we be able to say about those who are part of the body of Christ:
    “that all of you [them] agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you [them] and that you [they] may be perfectly united in mind and thought” (1Co 1:10), and that they are “of one mind” (2Co 13:11)?

  14. Helez
    May 24, 2010 @ 12:21 pm

    Dave, I was only trying to express that what is now considered to be orthodox Trinitarianism is a relatively late ‘clarification’.

  15. Dale
    May 24, 2010 @ 11:20 am

    My point is that the data is prima facie inconsistent and the task of Christian theology is to show that it’s not inconsistent (by means of some heavy metaphysical labor), not to simply strike out some set of biblical data.

    Jimbo – this would be convenient – then it would only be Christian philosophers who have important work to do. I kind of wish that were so, but I don’t think it is. You should know that your harsh evaluations of other people’s integrity and ability don’t come off well. Would you be so harsh on someone offering a non-mainstream interpretation of Hume’s Treatise, or of Plato’s Republic?

    As you’re thinking about the “data” or what is simply observed and which needs explanation, you think it is a paradoxical, broadly catholic interpretation of the Bible. Why you’re so certain of that is a mystery to me… Bowman concedes, in my view rightly, that this can be argued about. Isn’t it more careful to think of the data as the language, the text of the Bible? Although this is to a degree the output of textual criticism, in a sense this is what we all observe, right? Interpretations, then, are judged on how well they explain these sayings. Your line encounters a problem (I don’t claim that it is obviously insurmountable) – that it is attributing a seemingly inconsistent set of claims to the Bible’s authors. Is this not contrary to what Swinburne calls the principle of charity?

    Is Burke a Christian? Well, by definition he’s not a catholic Christian. But is that as wide as we want to think the body of Christ goes? This is a big and hard question, in my view.

  16. Dave Burke
    May 24, 2010 @ 10:18 am

    Helez, I made no comment about the date of the Athanasian Creed or the Scutum Fidei, except to say that they are past the Nicene era. I certainly did not claim that they represent “the early catholic tradition”!

    The AC was composed long after the death of Athanasius, and the SF later still. Neither of them are representative of the early church.

  17. Helez
    May 24, 2010 @ 9:22 am

    Dave wrote: “But once we are past the Nicene era, composition becomes a significant issue, as demonstrated by the use of the two formulae in the Athanasian Creed and the Scutum Fidei.”

    The New Encyclopædia Britannica writes:
    “The creed was unknown to the Eastern Church until the 12th century. Since the 17th century, scholars have generally agreed that the Athanasian Creed was not written by Athanasius (died 373) but was probably composed in southern France during the 5th century. . . . The creed’s influence seems to have been primarily in southern France and Spain in the 6th and 7th centuries. It was used in the liturgy of the church in Germany in the 9th century and somewhat later in Rome.”
    (15th Edition, Volume 1, page 665)

    The question is: does this creed really represent “the early catholic tradition”?

    The Scutum Fidei seems to be high medieval.

  18. Helez
    May 24, 2010 @ 9:14 am

    Jimbo, you wrote that ‘as far as you can see’ it is “simply beyond dispute whether or not Jesus should be considered God as the Father is considered God as the Holy Spirit is considered God,” and on the basis of this observation you conclude that “of course” Christadelphians are not biblical and “of course” they are not Christians.

    Since there is (unarguably) a lot of dispute about these things, we are forced to conclude that you are unable to see very far. 🙂

    Anyway, besides your reasoning being unsound (the “as far as I can see” is incompatible with the subsequent “of course”) and your premises disputable, I also wonder what you try to achieve by expressing yourself in such a manner in the context of this blog.

    But you are only trying to honest [sic], right? (And registering your studied *opinion*, of course…)

  19. Jimbo Fisher
    May 24, 2010 @ 12:38 am

    Dave,

    I don’t really want to debate your responses since they were largely off the mark; at least they weren’t responses to things I actually said or intended to say. You read a lot into my comments.

    Your comment that I was employing “presuppositional Christology” is not correct. I didn’t commit any ad hominems; I was only registering my studied opinion that the question of whether the NT identifies three distinct persons as the one God is beyond debate. And your last comment about the “inconsistency chestnut” was completely, even ridiculously, misguided. I wasn’t saying that my view of God is incomprehensible or illogical and so must be true. I can’t see how anyone might get that out of what I said. My point is that the data is prima facie inconsistent and the task of Christian theology is to show that it’s not inconsistent (by means of some heavy metaphysical labor), not to simply strike out some set of biblical data.

    In any case, your through misreading of my comments and long-winded to response to points I never even made don’t give me any confidence in your theological abilities. Maybe that’s ad hominem, I don’t know. I’m only trying to honest.

  20. Dale
    May 23, 2010 @ 7:11 pm

    I don’t see any hint in the Athanasian creed of parts (etc.) of God, the Trinity, or the divine essence. This is what we’d expect, given that whoever wrote it had read Augustine – that it should be at least on the surface compatible with the doctrine of divine simplicity.

  21. Dave Burke
    May 23, 2010 @ 6:36 pm

    Dale:

    Jimbo is right about this: nothing in the early catholic tradition requires any idea of composition (the persons as parts).

    I agree, and that’s a fair point. But once we are past the Nicene era, composition becomes a significant issue, as demonstrated by the use of the two formulae in the Athanasian Creed and the Scutum Fidei.

    Unless Bowman wants to claim that he only confesses a 5th Century Christology (or perhaps a unique model of his own invention) he’s locked into the Athanasian model by default.

  22. Dale
    May 23, 2010 @ 2:59 pm

    Jimbo is right about this: nothing in the early catholic tradition requires any idea of composition (the persons as parts). In a way, Dave is right too – most Christians think of the Trinity as being in some sense complex, and this has been so for quite some time. (Even many modalists, I think, hold that there is *some* sort of complexity involved.) But it is not clear that the “pro-Nicene”, 4th-5th c. guys thought this. Some time I’ll blog on some recent, fascinating work by Richard Cross, in which he argues for an interpretation of the Cappodocian fathers on which the Trinity doesn’t involve any kind of intrinsic distinctions within God / the divine nature (which is utterly simple). About the Social-Latin distinction – Cross, Barnes, and Ayer have in my view recently shown that this distinction is a poorly-founded 19th c. invention! I only use it in my “Trinity” entry because (1) it is so entrenched in people’s thinking, and (2) I haven’t settled on any better way to organize things.

  23. Dave Burke
    May 23, 2010 @ 9:42 am

    Jimbo:

    You say: “The problem is, unless Bowman has a trinity of persons comprising a triune entity, he doesn’t have orthodoxy.”

    No, not really. The language of composition that you use is entirely rejected by Latin trinitarians. I take it that Rob is a Latin trinitarian. He wants (or needs) to argue that the “=” does not mean strict identity (as Dale mentioned). He is closer to modalism that tritheism.

    I don’t know if Bowman views himself as a Latin Trinitarian or not, and you don’t either (you’re just speculating). In fact, I doubt he even thinks in those terms. He rejects my language of composition because he can’t prove the second formula (by his own admission) and thinks it’s unfair. I press the point because he still hasn’t presented a set of fully fledged Trinitarian formulae.

    We can play semantics all night, but my argument still stands: Bowman needs to show that all three persons are God (ie. existing as deity), and that God is one being consisting of three individual persons. If you don’t like my terms of reference I can rephrase them, but it won’t change anything for Bowman.

    The fact of the matter is that the Trinity is not adequately defined by the statement “three individual persons are God.” Just look at the Athanasian Creed, for example:

    And the Catholic Faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal…

    So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God…

    For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords.

    The Creed affirms that the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God, and that God consists of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It says that all three are individually God and Lord, but that the Godhead of three persons is “all one.”

    So the Creed affirms a trinity of persons who are individually God, and equally affirms God as a triunity of persons – just as I’ve been saying. Those are the two formuale Bowman needs to prove.

    I do agree with you that he is closer to modalism than tritheism, but that’s a game for another time.

    If you were talking to a social trinitarian then the request for a clear account of how 3 individuated persons “comprise” or “compose” one being would make more sense.

    Yeah, probably. But since neither of us really knows what type of Trinitarian Bowman believes himself to be (and perhaps even Bowman isn’t sure) this aspect of the discussion is largely speculative.

    And I think you are partially to blame for the confusion that this debate has cultivate since you and Rob have agreed to a fully “biblical” debate about a philosophical problem.

    If you go to the blog and flip back a few pages to the week just before the debate started, you’ll see that I did not agree to a purely Biblical debate.

    I agreed to a debate in which both sides recognise the primacy of Scripture as a basis for authoritative doctrine, but I also said that I would be raising historical, logical and philosophical arguments at my own discretion (which is precisely what I’ve done).

    It’s not clear to me that either of you are up to the task of genuinely handling the philosophical entailments of the biblical data.

    That sort of judgement sounds a lot more credible coming from people like Dale Tuggy, who are actually qualified to make it. And on the basis of Dale’s analysis, I reckon I’m not doing too badly.

    Frankly, the New Testament simply does present a prima facie inconsistent set of data about God. Whether or not Jesus should be considered God as the Father is considered God as the Holy Spirit is considered God is simply beyond dispute as far as I can see. The problem for Christians is to make sense of these affirmations.

    LOL, presuppositional Christology. Never been a fan myself, though I can see the attraction. Start with a conclusion and force the data to agree. If the data doesn’t completely agree, that’s OK because it’s supposed to be “inconsistent” anyway. Good times! 😛

    Of course you Christadelphians are not biblical, of course you’re not Christians. Sorry to burst your bubble but there’s no debate there.

    Meaningless ad hominem.

    If it turns out that the data cannot be reconciled then biblical Christians have a problem but solving it by denying the prima facie inconsistency of the data is always the easy (and hence heretical) way out.

    Ah, the good old “inconsistency” chestnut.

    “My theology is illogical and nonsensical, so it must be right. Your theology is logical and comprehensible, so it must be wrong. Why would God provide us with a divinely inspired book that actually made sense? Far more sensible to believe that He divinely inspired a self-contradictory mess of inconsistent data!” Heheh… yeah, right. 😀

    Doesn’t it strike you as odd that Jesus and his apostles never made this claim? Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why they spend so much time demonstrating the consistency of the data? It’s worth a second thought.

  24. Jimbo Fisher
    May 22, 2010 @ 3:53 pm

    Dave,

    You say: “The problem is, unless Bowman has a trinity of persons comprising a triune entity, he doesn’t have orthodoxy.”

    No, not really. The language of composition that you use is entirely rejected by Latin trinitarians. I take it that Rob is a Latin trinitarian. He wants (or needs) to argue that the “=” does not mean strict identity (as Dale mentioned). He is closer to modalism that tritheism.

    If you were talking to a social trinitarian then the request for a clear account of how 3 individuated persons “comprise” or “compose” one being would make more sense.

    And I think you are partially to blame for the confusion that this debate has cultivate since you and Rob have agreed to a fully “biblical” debate about a philosophical problem. It’s not clear to me that either of you are up to the task of genuinely handling the philosophical entailments of the biblical data.

    Frankly, the New Testament simply does present a prima facie inconsistent set of data about God. Whether or not Jesus should be considered God as the Father is considered God as the Holy Spirit is considered God is simply beyond dispute as far as I can see. The problem for Christians is to make sense of these affirmations.

    Of course you Christadelphians are not biblical, of course you’re not Christians. Sorry to burst your bubble but there’s no debate there. If it turns out that the data cannot be reconciled then biblical Christians have a problem but solving it by denying the prima facie inconsistency of the data is always the easy (and hence heretical) way out.

  25. Dave Burke
    May 22, 2010 @ 12:25 am

    ^^ Good suggestion; I’ll do that.

  26. Fortigurn
    May 22, 2010 @ 12:15 am

    Dave, I would suggest directing Bowman to Dale’s useful post here, so that he can see the problem from the position of a sympathetic observer.

  27. Marg
    May 21, 2010 @ 11:56 pm

    The doctrine depends on the ambiguity created by the two meanings for “is” that you have explained once again, Dale.

    One trinitarian teacher wrote that although it is right to say “the Father is God,” we cannot say, “God is the Father” (because God is three).

    Strange – Paul and Peter and Jesus all said it. Why can’t I?

    But I do agree that I can NOT say, “God is Jesus,” and no biblical writer says such a thing.

    Dave’s question is the crux of the whole argument. A trinity of persons I can see. A tri-une entity is something altogether different. If such a thing exists, there should be some evidence for it.

  28. Dave Burke
    May 21, 2010 @ 11:27 pm

    The problem is, unless Bowman has a trinity of persons comprising a triune entity, he doesn’t have orthodoxy. All I’m asking him to do is prove these two propositions. The latter does not necessarily follow from the former, so he must demonstrate them both independently of each other.

    This is widely recognised in Trinitarian scholarship. It’s not some radical idea I’ve sprung on him just to make life difficult.

  29. Dale
    May 21, 2010 @ 11:11 pm

    In fairness to Bowman, the mainstream catholic tradition to which he ascribes has long been unclear on the relation between each person (or “person”) and God, as well as on the relation between the group of them and God. I’ve run across a good number who seem to think this is a parts/whole relation, but this as far as I can tell was never meant by the mainstream tradition. Evangelical confessions often say that there are three persons “in” God, but what this means is unclear. Current Christian philosophers often have a carefully worked out view on these things, but they don’t represent the mainstream.

  30. Dave Burke
    May 21, 2010 @ 10:54 pm

    I really am quite surprised to see that Bowman is still evading this. Classical Trinitarianism teaches that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all God, and that “God” (ie. the Trinity) consists of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I am pretty sure this was thrashed out at Chalcedon.

    If Bowman only goes as far as “Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all God”, he has given us no reason to accept a Trinity. If he wishes to argue that “Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all God” means “Father, Son and Holy Spirit comprise a triune being”, he will need to use the term “God” twice, in two different ways (once in reference to the nature of the three and once in reference to the triunity).

    This is, in fact, exactly how traditional Trinitarianism has always argued. It is why the Athanasian Creed requires a confession that the three are individually God, yet there is only one God.

    I am not placing an unreasonable burden upon Bowman; I am simply asking him to prove what he himself has told me he believes. It’s not my fault that his doctrine is logically inconsistent. That’s a problem for him to deal with.