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.

19 Comments

  1. Marg
    June 4, 2010 @ 7:29 pm

    Hi Marg, just being interested: do you agree with Clarke about the eternal existence of the Son (the concept of “eternal generation” was introduced by Origin in the third century, being heavily influenced by Platonic philosophy), or do you rather believe he is begotten/created by the Father before the creation of the universe? Do you also agree with Clarke that the holy spirit is a divine person, an agent distinct from God, instead of God’s active force (as most subordinationists believe today)?

    Sorry, Helez, I missed this.

    I don’t know where all the terms come from. I know only bits and pieces of church history. But at the moment, I believe exactly what Clarke expresses so well. I wish I had made his acquaintance sooner.

    It took me awhile (during the past year or two) to get a feel for what “eternal generation” means, but I believe it makes sense, and fits what the Bible says.

    I am amazed that Clarke got away with writing what he did. But in my view, he is “spot on”.

  2. trinities - SCORING THE BURKE – BOWMAN DEBATE – Final Reflections (DALE)
    June 3, 2010 @ 10:49 am

    […] of debate on the status and relations between especially the Father and the Son of God. As we saw in round 5, 2nd & 3rd century guys thought Jesus was “divine” or shared the divine substance, […]

  3. Helez
    May 31, 2010 @ 8:15 am

    Sorry, “Origen”. 🙂

  4. Helez
    May 31, 2010 @ 8:04 am

    Hi Marg, just being interested: do you agree with Clarke about the eternal existence of the Son (the concept of “eternal generation” was introduced by Origin in the third century, being heavily influenced by Platonic philosophy), or do you rather believe he is begotten/created by the Father before the creation of the universe? Do you also agree with Clarke that the holy spirit is a divine person, an agent distinct from God, instead of God’s active force (as most subordinationists believe today)?
    Thanks and peace to you,
    Helez

  5. Marg
    May 30, 2010 @ 11:17 pm

    Thank you for the references to Samuel Clarke. I like what he taught. It expresses what I believe. (At the moment, anyway.)

  6. Helez
    May 29, 2010 @ 5:21 pm

    Dale wrote in regard of Philo: “Something, probably, should be said about the influence of Philo, and of Platonism generally – but to me it is obscure how and just when this came in.”

    I don’t think John was using the word “Logos” in the same way as Philo did, and also that Philo’s teaching about the Logos later contributed to the development of the Trinity, but is it convincing to argue that, considering the historical context of the word “Logos” in the time John wrote his Gospel, John in his poetic prologue wasn’t referring to Christ’s prehuman existence as “the beginning of the creation” at all? (Re 3:14)

  7. trinities - SCORING THE BURKE – BOWMAN DEBATE – ROUND 5 – BURKE – Part 3 (DALE)
    May 29, 2010 @ 3:35 pm

    […] there to be a bulk of humanitarian unitarians in the times immediately after the apostles. Here, as we saw last time, Bowman pounces. All the main 2nd century theologians, he urges are confused or near trinitarians. […]

  8. Dale
    May 29, 2010 @ 2:44 pm

    Sorry Sam.

    Yes, that’s what I’m saying. There are only two good books. For a secondary source and overview of the controversies, this. The primary sources are all in here, in a big paperback, the only easy way to get them. That’s where all the quotations occur.

    Free summary is here. The Ferguson book is not a good book overall, but does slog through the controversies in some detail, and has a good bibliography of primary sources.

  9. Dale
    May 29, 2010 @ 2:40 pm

    I’m certainly looking forward to tune in next time, and hope you keep apart humanitarian unitarianism from adoptionism.

    It’s not clear to me that they were entirely separate… Many NT readers think something important happened to Jesus at his baptism, when the spirit came down. Was he that anointed with power for his ministry? If so, did he at that moment become the Christ? I suspect that a broad swathe of 1st c. people thought this… but the guys I’ll discuss next time – their views on this are not clear to me.

  10. Sam Shamoun
    May 29, 2010 @ 2:05 pm

    Dale, still looking forward to the answers to my questions. Thanks.

  11. Helez
    May 29, 2010 @ 10:51 am

    I’m certainly looking forward to tune in next time, and hope you keep apart humanitarian unitarianism from adoptionism.

  12. Dave Burke
    May 29, 2010 @ 10:36 am

    Dale:

    Dave – you’re right, I left out the point about the Jews of apostolic times.

    I’m a little confused, though, by what you have above. It’s not like the apostles not teaching the Trinity would by itself make it likely that subordinationism would be popular in the 100s. That’s a problem for your position – why isn’t humanitarian unitarianism still predominant then, or at least a strong minority report? (I think it may have been – stay tuned for the next post.)

    Yes, you make an excellent point. I do not argue that the apostles’ teaching makes subordinationism more likely; instead I argue (Week 6) that doctrine historically evolves from the minimal to the complex, so subordinationism is what we’d expect to find as Christology developed away from unitarianism.

    We would not expect an immediate leap from unitarianism to Trinitarianism, so the emergence of subordinationism within the immediate post-Biblical era makes sense on theological and historical grounds. Furthermore, if subordinationism was the first-century belief, we would have good grounds for expecting Trinitarianism (or a similarly complex Christology) to emerge faster than it did.

    Something, probably, should be said about the influence of Philo, and of Platonism generally – but to me it is obscure how and just when this came in.

    I have refrained from raising is partly because of the obscurity to which you refer, and partly because it is difficult to work into a debate of without perplexing the audience or making them think you’re just reaching for excuses.

    Justin Martyr was undoubtedly Platonist, but finds some parallels (admittedly very basic ones) between Platonism and certain OT Jewish beliefs. On that basis he believes he can claim that Plato borrowed from Moses, which in turn opens the door to a greater acceptance of Platonic thought within other contexts. It is a deliberate process of legitimisation in order to justify the retention of his pre-Christian views (see Stuart G. Hall’s Doctrine and Practice in the Early Church for more on this).

    Origen, too, was a Platonist, though he comes much later. Philo’s influence is less clear, though Eusebius demonstrates familiarity with Philo’s De Vita Contemplativa and writes the most glorious nonsense about him.

    The real task here is to map a progression of thought from Plato through Philo, the Apologists, Origen etc. and finally the Cappadocians (or however far it goes). But that would require far more time and space than this debate allows!

    About your 1 above – note that Bowman claims at most that the Trinity was *implicit in* the apostles’ teaching. But then, would it necessarily have aroused a big Jewish reaction? Hard to say…

    This is precisely why I have continued to press him for a definition of “implicit.” At the moment it’s just a handy weasel word, and it will remain a handy weasel word until he is pinned down on a precise meaning.

    Nevertheless, if even some form of Trinitarian or proto-Trinitarian material was being preached by the apostles, we would expect to find it in the apostles’ preaching lectures, and we would expect a massive Jewish reaction. Yet that is precisely what we do not find.

    In any case, as I’ve already pointed out, a position which only argues for “implicit” Trinitarianism in the 1st Century is theologically weak. It fails the test of logic and precludes any possibility that Trinitarianism was revealed by divine inspiration.

  13. Dale
    May 29, 2010 @ 9:51 am

    Fortigurn: exceptionally well said (throw in the same point re: the Holy Spirit).

    There is a big divide between folks like Bowman and trinitarians steeped in the patristic and/or medieval traditions. In a way, the real interest of the former is christology – we have to push back against the liberals who think Jesus was just a man. And so, Burke’s an enemy too (even though he’s miles apart from theological liberals, over the top pluralists, new agers, and people who think Jesus was just another swell guru). Even though, stepping back from a wider perspective, you’d think Burke and Bowman would be on the same team – theists, holding the authority of the Bible, intending to live as disciples of Christ.

    American evangelicals have a self-image that their views are simply those of the Bible. Further, they think that what the Bible says about the Trinity (i.e. Bowman’s list of propositions) is pretty obvious. So, unitarians’ problem just must be that they are uninformed about the Bible, or they’re distorting what is obviously there because they’re allergic to mysteries. Of course, other peoples’ mysteries (apparently contradictions) are patently unreasonable – the enterprise of apologetics depends on this.

  14. Dale
    May 29, 2010 @ 9:39 am

    Dave – you’re right, I left out the point about the Jews of apostolic times.

    I’m a little confused, though, by what you have above. It’s not like the apostles not teaching the Trinity would by itself make it likely that subordinationism would be popular in the 100s. That’s a problem for your position – why isn’t humanitarian unitarianism still predominant then, or at least a strong minority report? (I think it may have been – stay tuned for the next post.)

    Something, probably, should be said about the influence of Philo, and of Platonism generally – but to me it is obscure how and just when this came in.

    About your 1 above – note that Bowman claims at most that the Trinity was *implicit in* the apostles’ teaching. But then, would it necessarily have aroused a big Jewish reaction? Hard to say…

  15. Dale
    May 29, 2010 @ 9:32 am

    According to this definition, subordinationists do not necessarily hold that the holy spirit is a person/self.

    That’s right. One can be a subordinationist with respect to the Son only (so taking a view of the holy spirit like Burke’s), or also for the Spirit. Although I believe that most in this period, again following Philo, go for the two.

  16. Fortigurn
    May 29, 2010 @ 1:12 am

    Dale, like most lay Trinitarians, Bowman’s definition of the Trinity basically rests only only the premise that there is only one God and that both the Father and Jesus are identified as God. That’s it. As long as they think they’ve proved that, they believe that’s sufficient to define the Trinity. This is why lay Trinitarianism typically looks like Modalism. It’s not until they are required to justify why the call this ‘the Trinity’ that they bother to spend time trying to describe in detail a truly ‘Tri-une’ theology. Most of the time the actual ‘Tri-une’ Trinity is irrelevant to them, they’re just interested in Jesus as God.

    This is why Bowman is content reading early Christian sources identifying Jesus as in some way divine, and interpreting them as Trinitarians. For Bowman, that’s basically all you need to believe in order to be a Trinitarian.

  17. Sam Shamoun
    May 28, 2010 @ 9:57 pm

    Dale, let me understand what you are saying about Clarke. He believed that the Son and the Spirit are eternal and shared every essential divine attribute except aseity since their Deity is derived from the Father who alone has aseity? He also believed that the 2nd-3r century church fathers believed the same thing? Have I understood you correctly?

    Moreover, which one book of his would you recommend for someone like myself to read? I would also be interested in the one where he quotes extensively from the Fathers. Thanks.

  18. Dave Burke
    May 28, 2010 @ 6:16 pm

    Dale:

    As we saw last time, Burke in round 5 argues like this:

    1. 2nd c. catholic theology was predominantly subordinationist.
    2. If the apostles had taught the Trinity, this wouldn’t have been so.
    3. Therefore, the apostles did not teach the Trinity.

    This is accurate to a certain degree but doesn’t quite do justice to my full argument, which contains a number of elements omitted by your summary:

    1. If the Trinity was apostolic doctrine, we would expect to find it preached by the apostles (particularly in Acts) and we would expect to find a Jewish reaction to it, equal to or greater than their reaction to the apostles’ preaching about the Gospel and identity of Messiah
    2. We find no teaching of the Trinity or proto-Trinitarian concepts by the apostles, nor do we find any corresponding Jewish reaction from which we might infer such a teaching
    3. Therefore the apostles did not teach it
    4. 2nd c. catholic theology was predominantly subordinationist as a result of this

    That is the argument I have consistently presented.

    I am bemused by Bowman’s response to the historical data. While it is obvious that history is one of his weak points, I had expected better.

  19. Helez
    May 28, 2010 @ 5:05 pm

    According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy “Subordinationists hold that the Son is in some sense ontologically dependent on God, that is, the Father. (Some also allege a similar dependence of the Holy Spirit on the Father.)”

    According to this definition, subordinationists do not necessarily hold that the holy spirit is a person/self.

    🙂