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.

13 Comments

  1. Matt
    March 21, 2012 @ 7:56 pm

    Dale,

    Thanks for your considered response. Time – yes, a problem I’m finding too! I am keen to give your thoughts (and those of others, like Marg) some proper open thought rather than a knee-jerk reaction or there’s no point to discussion. Which is all a poor apology for a tardy reply – sorry!

    ESV – two comments in a row it seems to have been misleading. I do have a copy and like reading it from time to time but I’m going off it rapidly now!

    “Advocate”. Are you suggesting a courtroom scene where Christ is our Advocate and pleads for us before the Father? Takes our prayers and makes them acceptable before God? If not, please correct me. However it does seem to be a common view.

    First, given the efficacy of Christ’s work as Saviour, the forgiveness of sins and God’s willingness to count faith as righteousness, I don’t understand why we’d need an advocate of this sort, who “stands between” the Father and ourselves. We already discussed John 16:26-27 which doesn’t present this picture, instead Jesus points out that “the Father himself loves you” so he need not pray for us. John 3:16 tells us how the Father loves us. And Hebrews 10:14-22 speaks of the boldness we can have in Christ when we approach the Father.

    Second, what of the faithful of old who predated Christ? Was the Father able to hear their prayers? Did they need an advocate?

    Third, if we carefully consider the way the word “advocate” is used in the NT, I don;t believe we end up with the courtroom scenario – rather we have the view of one who stands alongside to strengthen and help.

    Larry Hurtado sounds interesting – I’ll have to get hold of those books you mention.

    “All early Christians worshipped Jesus” I’ll have to look into this, but it’s not necessarily the same proposition as to “base … belief and practice on the new testament”, which is a fantastic aim we both share! Having said that if the first proposition were indeed true then I’d expect to find evidence for it in the NT, which as of yet I don’t, as discussed (assuming you didn’t mean “worship” in the sense of bowing in the presence of a person).

    Jesus is the Son of God, the great Saviour, the Word of God (Isa 55), the firstborn from the dead, the beginning of a new creation, and is now exalted to God’s right hand. For all these reasons and more, he’s worthy of great honour and respect, and remembrance. He commanded us to remember him in bread & wine. We sing hymns about his wonderful work. However he didn’t ask us to pray to him or worship him, which seems like a significant omission given that you “agree that Jesus’s assumption as a Jew is that prayer is to the father to the one true God.” I still see no reason to challenge Jesus’ assumption.

    Still, there are those in my own denomination who would disagree with me so I don’t see it as a major problem between us! Rather I hope that mutually we might fulfil Prov 27:17.

    I’m saddened when I think of the path and current state of the Unitarian movement. There’s a group in my city, I’d be fascinated to go but maybe even more saddened. Still, there is at least two humanitarian unitarian groups I’m familiar with whose 19th century Christian roots they still hold to.

    Nevertheless I’m not sure you can judge the veracity of the (original) doctrine of a group by its success in holding to those roots. After all, you and I agree that trinitarianism is both a majority current view and one that would have been alien to the disciples. Does this put the disciples’ doctrine under question?

    Blessings & keep up the good work!

    M

  2. Marg
    March 21, 2012 @ 3:34 pm

    Matt – I enjoy your comments and your thinking.

    I agree that WITHOUT a consciousness of Christ’s presence, prayer to him will be just empty words.

    But I believe that the Spirit of God (also called the Spirit of Christ) is actually the “agent” through which God and his Christ are present with us experientially. In that sense, Christ was “present” to Paul when he prayed to have his thorn in the flesh removed.

    Does that make sense?

  3. Matt
    March 21, 2012 @ 2:50 pm

    Hi Marg,

    Thanks for your comment. Not sure if these 2 have already been brought up in this context, but they both conform to the pattern I’ve noted that whenever people “worship” Christ or make requests of him, Christ himself seems to be in view in the context. Stephen saw a vision of the exalted Lord Jesus, and naturally he responded.

    In 2 Cor 12, Paul introduces this section as being about “visions and revelations of the Lord”. For now I’ll presume I can leave you to read the context through to v7-9, except to note that in this case the Lord Jesus replied to Paul. This confirms that Paul’s beseechings were in the presence of Christ himself.

    Why does any of this matter? Precisely because whenever faithful people are in the presence of God’s agents – and especially his anointed – it’s appropriate to respect, bow, even make petitions. Examples multiply but would include Moses at the burning bush, David before Saul (despite Saul’s lack of faith and his days being numbered) and Israelites before the Davidic king.

    Clearly Christ is greater than any of these other agents (see, for example, the whole of Heb!) Still, the examples you gave don’t demonstrate that it’s appropriate to direct obeisance and make petitions to Christ in his absence*. Petitions in absence are what I call “prayer”, and in the OT (I think) that is only ever addressed to God himself. Obeisance in absence I’m going to call “worship” otherwise we get all confused, and again I believe this is only (rightly) directed to God himself in the OT.

    These passages do not make it clear that things have changed in this respect. This may be more troublesome for you than for Dale as he can at least make a claim that there was no worship of Christ in the OT as he wasn’t born yet.

    By the way I loved some of your thoughts on “agency” – hence my borrowing your term here! I think it’s really interesting to develop this further, and I think it’s a really important biblical concept. It seems to me that this goes right back to the beginning (the voice of God in the garden?)

    * – I know Christ promised he’d be present where 2-3 are gathered and I do of course believe this, but what I mean here by presence / absence is “manifest presence” / “absence of manifestation”.

    Thanks!

  4. Marg
    March 15, 2012 @ 2:31 pm

    I don’t know whether there is a command to pray to Jesus, but there are certainly examples of the disciples in Acts doing so. Probably the most remarkable is the prayer of Stephen in Acts 7:59-60.

    And then there is the prayer of Paul recorded in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9.

    Forgive me if this has already been pointed out. I might have missed it.

  5. Dale
    March 15, 2012 @ 1:20 pm

    Hi Matt,

    Thank you for these excellent comments. I do want people to argue back, I just haven’t had the time as of yet to reply.

    About John 14:14 – I had in mind this verse as translated by, for example, the ESV. (“ask me”) I see there is a dispute between the texts here, between the Greek manuscripts. But given the parallel w/13 I think your reading and for example the RSV must have itright.

    I agree that Jesus’s assumption as a Jew is that prayer is to the father to the one true God. That he did not give an explicit command to pray to himself does not, I think, settle the matter either way. Consider this though. Suppose you had a court appointed lawyer, but you could not talk to him. That would be strange, no? But the risen Jesus is our advocate was the father, and the eternal high priest standing between him and us.

    About Larry Hurtado, his most famous book is called Lord Jesus Christ. It is excellent, but is big and long. His aim is to destroy a hypothesis of religious scholars of a past generation, to the effect that early Christians never worshiped Jesus, but this practice arose over a long time, and because of pagan influence. But I would recommend looking first at a shorter book of his called How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God – a deliberately provocative title. In my view, Hurtado reads the new testament *almost* exactly like a unitarian, but he is not one. It is clear, for instance, he does not confuse God and his son, as is so common (as he remarks). Definitely take a look at his work – he is a leading historian and a good man.

    As to the aims of this whole series, you have named two of them, but I do think that all early Christians worshiped Jesus – not because they thought Jesus was God himself, but rather because they believed that God had made him worthy of worship, by raising into his right hand. So it is also my point that Christians like me who seek to base their belief and practice on the new testament should worship Jesus too, which honors the God who exalted him.

    One subject I haven’t brought up thus far is the very interesting question of why early modern unitarianism failed as a Christian movement. It is a historical fact that this thriving movement, to large extent in England and America, went off the rails in the 19th century, and ceased to be a kind of Christianity at all. Why? I don’t know that there is a simple answer. But this could be part of it: following Priestley and Lindsey and others, the movement as a whole have adopted the Francis David type position – that worshiping Jesus is idolatry Maybe God wants to exalt Jesus so much that he would rather have Jesus worshiping trinitarians then a non Jesus worshiping unitarians? I mean, people who confuse Jesus with his God, like the former me, also distinguish between them – the position is one of confusion and inconsistency. But in practice, they are giving honor where honor is due – to both. Now the confusion has bad effects course, I don’t deny that. Its bad effects are theoretical, practical, and spiritual. But God says to him every knee shall bow, and the unitarian says no way – he’s not God – I can’t imagine this is looked upon kindly.

  6. Matt
    March 14, 2012 @ 7:57 pm

    Second attempt, sorry!

    Dale,

    Thanks for your response.

    My understanding of the thrust of this Rev 4-5 series seems to be twofold: a compelling debunking of the “Christ is worshipped so he’s God” argument; and at the same time a demonstration that a careful reading of Rev 4-5 shows that John sees even the exalted Christ as separate from God. On both of these I couldn’t agree more, and have particularly enjoyed the second as I think it’s new to me!

    With that in mind, whilst my query on worship and Christ was provoked by a point you made in this series, it’s fair to say it does not wholly overlap with the series.

    I don’t want to hijack this thread but you did ask me some questions back so please forgive the following response!

    Jesus didn’t teach that we should pray to him because he wasn’t in a position to be prayed to before his exaltation by God.

    The implication here seems to be that the “because” is an exclusive kind of “because” – that this is the *only* reason Jesus didn’t teach us to pray to him. It seems to me that this is not obviously the case. Indeed, presumably nothing would have stopped Jesus from telling his disciples that they ought to pray to him after his ascension. After all he does promise that he will answer prayers asked in his name (Jn 14:14) after he has ascended to his Father. Two points to note: he’s not in a position to answer prayers at this point but he still gives the instruction; and the requests are to be made “in his name”, not to him. To whom, then? Jesus himself supplies the answers in John 16: not Jesus, but the Father himself (v23), and to Him directly, not through some ongoing mediation work by Christ (v26-27).

    Secondly, take care to notice the talk of “calling upon the name of the Lord” to be saved in the NT – this is talking about Jesus (OT texts re: calling on YHWH are there reapplied to Jesus – one comes to God through him – but this arguably involves prayer to him).

    Thanks for pointing out “calling upon the name of the Lord”, I’m keen to have another look at this. However in the light of Jn 14 and Jn 16 above, I believe your “arguable” point needs arguing!

    Larry Hurtado – just had a quick look at what I could find, seems like a very interesting chap and I’d be keen to find out more. For now, though, are you able to point out somewhere I can read him on this topic? I guess my key questions will be “how early” and “which ones”? Either way Scripture trumps tradition for me – witness Paul’s letter to Galatia.

    You’re right that there are places where Jesus is addressed in the NT. It’s not clear to me that distinguishing this from “prayer” is a distinction without a difference – first, the passages in John would need explaining, and second there are plenty of places where angels are addressed in the OT/NT – would this also be indistinguishable from prayer?

    This is also an area I’ve been considering for some time, though I don’t have all the answers (hence asking questions!) Also I do have friends who are humanitarian unitarian, and who believe it’s appropriate to worship/pray to Jesus. They have yet to convince me… but you may yet!

    Thanks again,

    Matt

  7. Matt
    March 14, 2012 @ 7:55 pm

    Oh dear, knew the formatting attempt might be a step too far! Can’t edit…

  8. Matt
    March 14, 2012 @ 7:53 pm

    Dale,

    Thanks for your response.

    My understanding of the thrust of this Rev 4-5 series seems to be twofold: a compelling debunking of the “Christ is worshipped so he’s God” argument; and at the same time a demonstration that a careful reading of Rev 4-5 shows that John sees even the exalted Christ as separate from God. On both of these I couldn’t agree more, and have particularly enjoyed the second as I think it’s new to me!

    With that in mind, whilst my query on worship and Christ was provoked by a point you made in this series, it’s fair to say it does not wholly overlap with the series.

    I don’t want to hijack this thread but you did ask me some questions back so please forgive the following response!

    The implication here seems to be that the “because” is an exclusive kind of “because” – that this is the *only* reason Jesus didn’t teach us to pray to him. It seems to me that this is not obviously the case. Indeed, presumably nothing would have stopped Jesus from telling his disciples that they ought to pray to him after his ascension. After all he does promise that he will answer prayers asked in his name (Jn 14:14) after he has ascended to his Father. Two points to note: he’s not in a position to answer prayers at this point but he still gives the instruction; and the requests are to be made “in his name”, not to him. To whom, then? Jesus himself supplies the answers in John 16: not Jesus, but the Father himself (v23), and to Him directly, not through some ongoing mediation work by Christ (v26-27).

    Thanks for pointing out “calling upon the name of the Lord”, I’m keen to have another look at this. However in the light of Jn 14 and Jn 16 above, I believe your “arguable” point needs arguing!

    Larry Hurtado – just had a quick look at what I could find, seems like a very interesting chap and I’d be keen to find out more. For now, though, are you able to point out somewhere I can read him on this topic? I guess my key questions will be “how early” and “which ones”? Either way Scripture trumps tradition for me – witness Paul’s letter to Galatia.

    You’re right that there are places where Jesus is addressed in the NT. It’s not clear to me that distinguishing this from “prayer” is a distinction without a difference – first, the passages in John would need explaining, and second there are plenty of places where angels are addressed in the OT/NT – would this also be indistinguishable from prayer?

    This is also an area I’ve been considering for some time, though I don’t have all the answers (hence asking questions!) Also I do have friends who are humanitarian unitarian, and who believe it’s appropriate to worship/pray to Jesus. They have yet to convince me… but you may yet!

    Thanks again,

    Matt

  9. john
    March 13, 2012 @ 1:13 am

    Dale
    Sorry about the ambiguity!
    I agree with you. There is no evidence of Christ being worshipped because he is believed to be the Lord God Almighty.
    On a different ‘tack’ I am enjoying your latest posts.
    The concept of one candle igniting another was most interesting.
    There was some wonderful stuff written in the nineteenth century. ..one wonders why it was eclipsed by the ‘modern stuff”?
    Best Wishes and blessings
    John

  10. Dale
    March 12, 2012 @ 1:57 pm

    Dale,

    Love this series, thanks for your work.

    You’re welcome. More to come… Thank you for the correction in my reference. Note the obvious theological motivation of the translation I linked (ESV) – those guys always have evangelical polemics in mind, it seems (not that the translation is strictly incorrect).

    However this nicely brings me to a point you made a few days ago, when I believe you suggested that Rev 4-5 means *we* *should* worship God and the Lord Jesus. I felt at the time that this goes beyond the text, and the OT parallel makes this even clearer. A good Israelite would surely bow before Solomon’s throne. But would he bow towards the King’s throne from afar?

    I think it is not going beyond the text to say that the worship of Jesus is held forth as appropriate, because of his exaltation. I mean, there’s no claim that this was a one time deal, although it is book-ended by worship scenes with only God being the object.

    Re: from afar – I have run into this idea reading some early modern unitarians, that it makes a difference whether or not the object being honored is visibly, or sensibly present to us. I don’t get this… why should that make a difference, e.g. one could bow down when physically in the presence of Jesus, but not honor him when he’s not visible? Can you enlighten me? The object of worship is the same… how how could perceivability be an issue?

    When Christ appears as King I would bow before him who has been exalted above the Angels, “to the Glory of God, the Father” (Phil 2). In the meantime, all things we ask “in his name” (John 16); as he sought the honour & glory of his Father (Jn 8:59), so ought we not to offer prayer & thanksgiving to the Father? Yes, for His Son also, but not *to* the Son.

    I’m happy to be shown a more excellent way here, but I’m not aware of anywhere in the NT we are asked to pray to Christ.

    Also I think everywhere Christ is “worshipped” he is present – in body or vision. This is consistent with obeisance to God’s anointed (King) and I’m yet to be shown we should go beyond this.

    This is an interesting subject, and doesn’t wholly overlap with the subject of present series. A couple of quick comments. Jesus didn’t teach that we should pray to him because he wasn’t in a position to be prayed to before his exaltation by God. Secondly, take care to notice the talk of “calling upon the name of the Lord” to be saved in the NT – this is talking about Jesus (OT texts re: calling on YHWH are there reapplied to Jesus – one comes to God through him – but this arguably involves prayer to him). One should also consider the mass of evidence assembled by the eminent historian Larry Hurtado that Jesus was in some sense worshiped in early Christianity – without being confused with God. There are a few places where the risen Jesus is addressed; unitarians often argue that this isn’t really *prayer*, but it seems in some cases a distinction without a difference. Finally, I note that this issue depends in part on what, if anything, you think Jesus *is doing* nowadays.

    Nevertheless I do not seek to diminish God’s exaltation of His Son who is now above the angels and indeed has been entrusted with the care of His church (Jn 14:13, 16:26, Rev 1:1-3).

    Keep chewing on this. I have thought about this for some years, and am just starting to think I’m sorting some issues out. Trying to produce some stuff that is helpful. Will address the issue of different kinds of worship at some point, and also the relevance of the 1st commandment.

  11. Dale
    March 12, 2012 @ 1:40 pm

    “I cannot see any evidence of Jesus being worshipped as the Lord God Almighty.”

    John,

    This statement, specifically, the “as” is ambiguous. Do you mean to say

    There is no evidence of Jesus being worshiped *because he is believed to be* the Lord God Almighty.

    or

    There is no evidence of Jesus being worshiped in the way that the Lord God Almighty is worshiped.

    In this series, I’m arguing that the first is true, the second false.

    Perhaps you agree?

  12. Matt
    March 12, 2012 @ 12:21 pm

    Dale,

    Love this series, thanks for your work.

    Small point, think you (Morgridge?) meant v20 of 1Chron29, not v30. Fantastic and entirely appropriate OT parallel btw – nobody imagines that David & Solomon must have been God, so why so for David’s greater Son, the Son of God whom God himself anointed, not merely with oil by a prophet.

    However this nicely brings me to a point you made a few days ago, when I believe you suggested that Rev 4-5 means *we* *should* worship God and the Lord Jesus. I felt at the time that this goes beyond the text, and the OT parallel makes this even clearer. A good Israelite would surely bow before Solomon’s throne. But would he bow towards the King’s throne from afar?

    When Christ appears as King I would bow before him who has been exalted above the Angels, “to the Glory of God, the Father” (Phil 2). In the meantime, all things we ask “in his name” (John 16); as he sought the honour & glory of his Father (Jn 8:59), so ought we not to offer prayer & thanksgiving to the Father? Yes, for His Son also, but not *to* the Son.

    I’m happy to be shown a more excellent way here, but I’m not aware of anywhere in the NT we are asked to pray to Christ. Also I think everywhere Christ is “worshipped” he is present – in body or vision. This is consistent with obeisance to God’s anointed (King) and I’m yet to be shown we should go beyond this.

    Nevertheless I do not seek to diminish God’s exaltation of His Son who is now above the angels and indeed has been entrusted with the care of His church (Jn 14:13, 16:26, Rev 1:1-3).

    Please keep it coming!

    M

  13. john
    March 12, 2012 @ 1:47 am

    Dale
    There are many references to the word ‘worship’ in the NT

    (i) Matthew 2,8 baby Jesus worshipped as King of the Jews
    (ii) John 4v22 “you worship what you do not know’
    (iii)Acts 7 v43 worship of idols
    (iv) Coll 2v18 worship of angels
    (v)Rev 12v 25 worship of the beast
    (vi) Rev 13 v15 worship of the image of the beast
    (vii)Rev 14 v11 worship the beast or its image

    With the exception of ‘worship of angels’ (which is treated separately as ‘ritual worship’) the Greek word
    used in all other occasions is’ proskuneo’ -or a derivative thereof.
    The Strongs Concordance number is 4352
    The basic meaning of 4352 proskyneo is to kiss based on ‘pros’ meaning ‘towards’ and ‘kyneo’ meaning ‘to kiss’
    To kiss the ground when prostrating towards a superior
    To worship, prostrate ones -self
    To adore on ones knees
    To do obesiance

    Clearly different entities are woreshipped in the NT – and in different ways.
    The newly-elevated Christ is worshipped by the angels, since he is now ‘higher’ than them.
    I cannot see any evidence of Jesus being worshipped as the Lord God Almighty.

    Blessings
    John