A Brief Reply to Tuggy’s Clarifications

In response to one of my recent posts, Dr. Tuggy wrote three posts that clarify some issues that I raised. Here are some things that I found puzzling about those posts.

1. Incomparable herds? We aren’t given any reason why the point I’ve made about the “herd of jostling, competing theories” for the Trinity and the UCA’s own herd of theologies aren’t really comparable. Is it because there are only “two general sorts” of Christologies in the UCA versus the three sorts of Trinity theories that Tuggy mentions? If so, I’m not sure why it should matter how many genera we’re comparing here.

Other than this, why are we supposed to think the herds aren’t comparable? Here’s an analogical argument, just for starters:

  1. “The Trinity” is a herd of jostling, competing theories. (Tuggy’s premise)
  2. “Unitarian theology” is a herd of jostling, competing theories. (My worry)
  3. “The Trinity” is doubtful on account of involving a herd of jostling, competing theories. (Tuggy’s premise)
  4. Therefore, probably, “unitarian theology” is doubtful on account of involving a herd of jostling, competing theories.

The question is this: What conditions can we plug in to (1) and (2) that both make (3) plausible and (4) implausible? I’d like to hear some. For more on responding to analogical arguments like this, I recommend Walter Sinnott-Armstrong’s material on Coursera.

2. Why the feelings? The point about monarchical Trinitarians (MTs) feeling unwelcome is this: If they ought to be considered “like-minded” believers in the “one God” message, why exactly is the UCA attacking their beliefs?

It seems odd to me that he would “set aside this sort of concern” and fail to give any sort of response to it. I think this point is worth taking seriously, especially since we’re told again and again in the UCA’s introductory material that they want to bring together “like-minded” believers. Count me in on the basis of the affirmation if you want, but the video I mentioned sure doesn’t show that I’m “like-minded” with other UCA members.

3. Asserting victory? Tuggy states that I apparently began to recognize I was just asserting the point at issue (just call it what it is: question begging) when I said I don’t need to replace his definitions. Naturally, I don’t think that’s what I was doing. I was actually drawing attention to what looks like a red herring. I don’t see why anybody has to replace his definitions when it seems like there are reasons to think that, if we assume his definitions are right, we get counter-intuitive results that I believe are untenable. Replacing the definitions is another point entirely.

Besides, how does my (approving) citation of Branson’s paper count as “asserting the very point at issue”? I have no idea.

4. Cataclysmic error? As soon as he said that I made a mistake in the argument that I gave, I knew where he was going to go with it. Here’s my argument again as he restated it:

(1) S just is god if and only if (a) S is a deity and (b) S is an ultimate.
(2) The Father is a deity.
(3) The Father is an ultimate.
(4) Therefore, the Father is a deity and is an ultimate. (Conjunction: 2, 3)
(5) Therefore, the Father just is a god. (1, 4)

Notice what he didn’t quote me on: “In what follows, we are going to consider this argument.” What this means is that, instead of considering what each of the premises mean in the context of the section within which it appears, Tuggy has read it quite apart from the point I was making.

Here’s what I mean: Sure, anybody could come along and even at random see (5) and affirm it. That doesn’t make them a unitarian. But I’m not considering the argument under any old situation. I’m considering the argument in the context of individuals who affirm the divine processions. That makes fussing over condition (3) of his definition of “unitarian” irrelevant, and an uncharitable reading of what I wrote.

This is because, by the time we get to (5) in the context of what I discussed, the reason Augustine, Aquinas, and even Hasker have for accepting that conclusion is what makes them unitarian (on Tuggy’s definition). And again, what did I argue in literally that entire section? All these men accept (3), and therefore (4), because of the divine processions. If the Father really is the “principle” or “cause” of the Son and Holy Spirit, then on the divine processions, condition (3) of Tuggy’s definition of “unitarian” (“and is not numerically identical with anyone else”) is met. I’m not sure how this means that I “unaccountably” left out the condition.

While I’m on condition (3) of the definition of “unitarian,” I have suspected (and it has now been confirmed) that it’s meant to rule out Leftow and Oneness Pentecostals from being unitarian. Tuggy says this:

A Oneness person may believe that the Father just is (is numerically the same as) God, but he can’t be a unitarian if he also thinks that the Son just is God.

Quite frankly, I don’t get the motivation for ruling Oneness out. But does Oneness fail to satisfy condition (3)?

Nope. If one accepts both a standard Oneness Christology and a Model A compositional Christology, then the Father is “in” the composite Christ, but the Father isn’t numerically identical to Christ. This is what I have argued is David K. Bernard’s view. And then Oneness Pentecostal can just say (as they sometimes do) that the Holy Spirit refers to “God in spiritual action.” That some Oneness Pentecostals could count as unitarians while others don’t seems odd. I hope that he might explain this to me.

Notice what his explanation of condition (3) just above does as well. It rules out anybody who believes God just is the Father and who believes that “Holy Spirit” sometimes also refers to the Father. If there’s even one case in the NT where the (supposed) unitarian believes the Holy Spirit just is God (some use Luke 1:35 to show this), then that individual is not a unitarian after all. So either we need to modify condition (3) of the definition, or we need an explanation for what I’ve misunderstood here so we can leave it as-is.

At the very least, what I I’ve tried to show is that his definition of “unitarian” isn’t as “clear and uncontroversial” as he claimed in “Tertullian the Unitarian.”

5. Going for the kill? What I argued in the last section of my post wasn’t meant to get all MTs “to avoid the ire of the U-word.” It was meant to show that if Augustine, Aquinas, and Hasker can all count as “unitarian,” something has gone awry.

The problems here are even more significant than I was able to raise in that post. In the near future, Beau Branson and I are releasing some videos where we raise three problems for Tuggy’s definition of “unitarian.” Sticking to his definitions, come what may, doesn’t look like a good option to us.

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