Last time we looked at Daniel Howard-Snyder’s published attack on Moreland’s and Craig’s Trinity theory they call “Trinity Monotheism“. Bill Craig, never one to duck a fight, fired back. (“Trinity Monotheism Once More,” Philosophia Christi 8:1, 2006, 101-13)
First, he complains that Dan “fusses terribly over the analogies” they use (e.g. a human, Ceberus) while not saying much about the actual proposal. This is a little odd, I think. Dan picked on the analogies at length because they were offered in order to give some meaning to some of the theory’s central claims; he was hardly off topic there. In any case, Dan’s attack provokes Craig to give a very short and clear view of their theory (quoted more fully here) – basically, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit “are the minds of God.” (101) Now in their original piece, I think it wasn’t fully clear that they meant the persons not to be things, but rather faculties of a thing (God). Mustn’t parts, we might think, be things, things which compose some greater thing? Because of the talk of God being a soul which “supports” persons, Dan took them to be saying that God isn’t a person, though it is composed of three persons, its parts. But here, Bill Craig urges that God has three minds, three sets of cognitive faculties “sufficient for personhood” – that is, for God’s personhood. This seems to me a new tack, though Craig doesn’t advertise it as such. Problem? Now there’s exactly one divine person – God. God is a thing with the right sorts of powers to be a person, but the persons are not – they aren’t things at all, but just faculties of a thing, God. You can call them minds, but they’re just God’s powers. So the persons… aren’t. To my eyes, it seems they’ve veered into modalism – to the persons each being modes of God. But back to Craig’s reply to Howard-Snyder.
Dan objects that Cerberus would be three dogs with overlapping bodies, and so just is inappropriate as an analogy here – they don’t want to say that the Trinity is three overlapping Gods. Craig fires back with… pictures! 🙂 Sadly, the url he gives is now down. But it contained pics like this one:
How many turtles do you see here, one or two? Craig urges, we all call this a (single) turtle, a two-headed one. Thus Dan’s claim that this is really two overlapping turtles is “astonishing”. (102) Here, I think Craig overstates the strength of his case. How many of us think of Eng and Chang as a two-headed man? What? That’s right – none. Why? We think that with each brain goes a single person, whether we’re dualists or materialists about persons. So… maybe it’s just pragmatic reasons (e.g. buying and selling, collecting) that make us count one turtle about. And if we thought that God was so kind that he was going to resurrect all animals as well, giving them blissful eternal lives in perfect bodies, we’d think that the two little fellows above would each have their own distinct body. I claim that as soon as we start caring about actual sentient beings, I think we switch to thinking there’s two turtles above, and also, we feel kind of sorry for them. Craig says, these examples are of defective creatures – but what if there was a race of dogs like Cerberus, or like the critter(s) above. They might reproduce and everything, their offspring also having more than one head. (102-3) Sorry, but this seems like a distraction to me. We could say, for different purposes, that Mrs. Turtle or Mrs. Cerberus had four or eight babies, but we’d switch to eight in contexts where we care about the sentient beings as such. Sure, it seems possible for there to be a species like that; it’d just be a species which could only reproduce by twos.
Again, if Eng and Chang would’ve been separated, they, and especially their wives and children, would’ve rejoiced – assuming that doctors had thus separated two persons, two humans, who’d existed all along, formerly with intertwined bodies. Craig puts it in terms of Rover, Bowser, and Spike – the components of Cerberus. His answer? He kicks up a cloud of dust here, but in the end, he thinks that whether these are brains, brain-parts, or immaterial persons (dog personalities?), Rover, Bowser, and Spike would survive the operation, but would be dogs neither before nor after the operation. If there are any surviving dogs (say, constructed by adding miscellaneous dog spare parts to the mix) Rover, Bowser, and Spike would be “material or immaterial parts of those animals.” (103-4) In my view, this is a tough sell. Suppose little Sally fell in love with Spike, but hated Rover and Bowser. So she persuades Daddy, a great dog-surgeon, to (she thinks) separate the three dogs. She keeps the newly separate Spike, and she says “Now I can finally enjoy my beloved pet dog Spike in peace.” Again, there’s Eng and Chang. (Make ’em only have one body from the neck down.) How goofy would it be, after the operation, to say that Eng and Chang survive, as parts of the two people now walking around – but Eng and Chang never were humans? Sorry, this looks like biting the bullet, chomping down hard, to save one’s theory.
Regarding the mysteriousness of the idea that the soul God “supports” the persons, Craig gets a little testy, and says that Dan misinterpreted them. I’m not clear about whether that’s so. In any case, Bill seems to say, forget about “supporting”; we think God is a being with three “self-consciousnesses”. (104) To clarify, Bill says
[In my brief talk of “support”] I was trying to express… the idea that a soul’s cognitive equipment is explanatorily prior to the number of persons there are: the reason why there are three persons in the Godhead is because God is endowed with three sets of rational faculties sufficient for personhood… (104)
As we saw last time, a number of Dan’s complaints hinged on their holding that God isn’t identical to any personal being. Bill fires back: that’s right, but it doesn’t follow that God isn’t personal. He is personal, because he has personal parts, and moreover he’s tripersonal. Further, the view that God isn’t itself a person “is part and parcel of Trinitarian orthodoxy. Unfortunately, Howard-Snyder evinces a disturbing proclivity toward unitarianism.” (105) Whoah – gloves off! Still, the first part of this comeback is just a verbal move – of course Dan will grant that God is “personal” in their view, in the sense of God’s having parts which are personal in the sense of being identical to persons. Craig recognizes this, though, and so he says more.
Howard-Snyder assumes that God cannot have such properties unless He is a person. But it seems to me that God can have them if God is a soul possessing the rational faculties sufficient for personhood. (105)
If I understand Craig here, he’s implicitly claiming that Dan misread them; they meant all along to say that God is a person – a being with a mind (and two more to boot), not a non-person composed of persons. This goes along with his moving away from the “persons” of the Trinity being thought of as things, rather than as faculties of a single thing. But they need the persons to be things, it seems to me. They want to say that God is omniscient etc. because the persons are. No faculty is or ever could be all-knowing – only conscious beings can be knowers. But maybe all they meant to say was that God is all-knowing because he’s got at least one unlimited mind, or something like that. Fine – but note the “He” in the proceeding quote – it refers to God. Why, by their own lights, doesn’t this fall short of trinitarianism being a kind of modalism? (their book 589) Hasn’t God (the Trinity) been posited as the one divine person, the “persons” being demoted to God’s powers?
Finally, what of Dan’s objection that they’re changing the meaning of monotheism, and that they’re not monotheists as that term is ordinarily understood? Bill argues that
[Dan] confuses unitarianism with monotheism. Monotheists concur that God is personal, not that He is a person. Monotheists agree that one need not be a unitarian to be a monotheist. Thus, by Howard-Snyder’s reasoning, it is he who fails to be a monotheist. ” (106, emphasis added)
I can’t get too excited about this verbal dispute. His use of “unitarian” here is a little odd – that’s the name of sect – actually, a couple of different ones, depending on the time and place. It’s not too helpful to tag Dan with that label, as he belongs to none of those groups, and shows no signs whatever of being influenced by them. And some Muslims, Jews and others would disagree the statement I bolded. But whatever – these are just words.
Next time: Bill fires back, part 2