Sunday, December 22, 2013

Dale Tuggy: "Does Mark teach that Jesus is God?"

I've argued or observed on these pages that the prevailing political theology of the American Founding was theologically unitarian (or at least, a lot of leading light Founding Fathers and their theological influences seemed to sympathize with it).

One argument goes, since the Bible clearly teaches the doctrine of the Trinity, an endorsement of unitarianism is necessarily rationalistic, or something that relies on man's reason as opposed to what the Bible really says.

That may be valid. Others assert the pages of the Bible itself, properly understood and interpreted teach theological unitarianism.

The distinguished theologian of classical theism -- Samuel Clarke -- was a theological unitarian of some sort (how Clarke exactly understood the doctrine of the Trinity is a subject for another post; at the very least he didn't hold to what the classic ecumenical creeds taught on the Trinity).

Clarke was a rationalist. But was it his "reason" or the pages of the Bible itself that led him to his views on the Trinity? That's a question I'll leave unanswered for the moment.

Dale Tuggy, a Professor of Philosophy at SUNY Fredonia, was influenced directly by Samuel Clarke's arguments to reject the classic doctrine of the Trinity, for something that might be more aptly called "biblical unitarianism." Or perhaps Dr. Tuggy, after Rev. Clarke is coming to unitarianism because his own reason so concluded. Anyway here is the link to the above mentioned title.

1 comment:

Tom Van Dyke said...

FTR, THE classical theist in the Western tradition remains Thomas Aquinas. One of the top "Aristotelian-Thomistic" scholars is Dr. Ed Feser and you can read his exchanges with Tuggy, et al., here.

Dale, for his part, essentially confirms this characterization of his position. Indeed, he sounds positively Feserian in the brash confidence of his assertions, glibly averring in the combox of a follow-up post of his own: “Feser’s ‘theistic personalism’ is just what most philosophers call ‘theism,’ i.e. monotheism.”

Now, if by “most philosophers” Dale means “most contemporary philosophers who subscribe to Faith and Philosophy and Philosophia Christi, and who hang out in the faculty lounge at Calvin College or Biola,” he may well be right, and by a comfortable margin. But, ecumenical guy that he is, I’m sure he wouldn’t want to leave out readers of ACPQ and The Thomist, or the lounge dwellers at Fordham or CUA. And when we factor those votes in, things start to look more like the 2000 presidential election rather than the 2008. Then there is the consideration that the American Philosophical Association has, I believe, recently declared it discriminatory to leave metabolically challenged philosophers out of one’s Appeals to Authority-cum-Majority. And when we factor in all the dead guys, it’s a Reagan-in-‘84-style landslide for the classical theists, both in quantity and quality. We classical theists have Plato, Aristotle, Philo of Alexandria, Plotinus, Augustine, Boethius, Anselm, Maimonides, Avicenna, Averroes, Aquinas, Scotus, and about a gazillion other Scholastics, Neo-Platonists, and Aristotelians. Not to mention a lot of early Protestants, and not a few later ones. Dale’s got Plantinga, Swinburne, Hartshorne, and the SCP email list. Really smart guys and gals, to be sure, but… well, there it is.

Here’s what else I think Dale’s got: a bad case of presentism. (And like Dale, I say this not to abuse, but only to describe!) This presentism is obvious enough from the straight-faced, flat assertion that God-as-Being-Itself is “not a Christian view of God” and indeed “is a kind of atheism.” If your standard of what counts as “a Christian view” is the conventional wisdom in contemporary American academic philosophy of religion circles, then I suppose such a claim could pass the laugh test. But if your standard is what most Christian philosophers and theologians have held historically, then Dale’s assertion is just a howler.