Monday, November 9, 2015

My Last Remarks to Dale Tuggy on Triablogue's blogpost "God over all, forever blessed"

I had a long discussion with Dale Tuggy on Triablogue's blogpost "God over all, forever blessed." Dale posted his closing remarks and I wanted to leave closing remarks as well. However, by then the combox was closed so that I couldn't post my closing comments. So, I've decide to post them here. Dale's comments are in blue italics.

[Update: My comments on Triablogue were approved. The following is a reproduction of those comments with only minor changes and additions. I've tried to indicate the changes and additions using the color purple. Though, I don't think I've completely tracked all the changes]

Just a few last points:

Thanks for taking time to interact with me and my arguments. Dialoguing with you has always been intellectually stimulating. These next posts will also be my last. I wish God's blessing be upon you too.

The "two minds" approach to the incarnation is relatively new, is not what was meant by the catholic tradition...

My allegiance is to Scripture and truth, not to Catholic tradition. I go along with Catholic, Protestant (et al.) tradition only to the degree that it's Scriptural.

If you want to cast that as one of Jesus's minds, the human one, being subject to the Father....

My appeal to the two minds view was not specifically to deal with how Jesus could have a God over Him since I don't even think it's necessary to appeal to the incarnation in order to field that objection. Rather, I appealed to the two minds view to anticipate the possible objection that if all three persons of the Trinity are God, then the human Jesus would have to have each person of the Trinity over Him and be obedient to each of the three INCLUDING HIMSELF!

If you want to cast that as one of Jesus's minds, the human one, being subject to the Father, the problem is the God-subject relation is an I-Thou one, a person to person one.

I'm open to William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland's neo-Apollinarian Christology. They make an interesting case that the traditional view is itself Nestorian in that it posits the person the Son having a human soul. If I understand them correctly, it's the human soul itself what makes a human a person. By replacing the human soul with the mind of the Logos that safeguards against Nestorianism.

Thus the bizarre claim that the incarnate Jesus is "man" but not "a man."

I have no problem calling Jesus "a man." Just not "a MERE man."

BTW, your exegesis of John 17:1-3 simply ignores that an identity claim is being made, not a mere description.

But what of the apparent identity claim of 1 John 5:20? Though, admittedly, it's not clear that Jesus is there called the "true God." But a good (not great) case could be made he is.

In brief, John never says that the eternal Logos is Jesus, and 1:14 doesn't say or imply that they are the same person.

True, John never EXPLICITLY states the Logos is Jesus. Though, I think 1:18 [typo corrected] does imply it in light of John 17:5 and the other verses I cited (e.g. John 1:14; 3:13, 31; 6:38, 62; 8:14, 23, 42; 10:36; 13:3; 16:28; 17:4-5 etc. [cf. 1 John 4:9-10, 14]). These verses don't explicitly state that Jesus was personally preexistent, but I think it's a fair (even strong) inference since there are so many such passages, and because the context often wouldn't make sense if Jesus' wasn't claiming personal preexistence. As you know, my theology is very abductive. Also, scholars in Greek have said that the word "pros" in John 1:1 implies a personal and intimate relationship that's "face to face" (so to speak). While John 1:18 doesn't specifically refer to a preincarnate relationship, it might include it. Christ being in the "bosom" of the Father also implies intimacy and relationship. Think of how the beloved disciple was leaning on Jesus' bosom (John 13:23). Jesus' statement in John 8:56-58 that "Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad" better makes sense if Abraham actually did see/interact with the preexistent personal Christ (probably in reference to the incident in Gen. 18). Otherwise, it wouldn't make much sense for Jesus to say before Abraham was I am (or however you'd translate it)" in response to the Jews'  question "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?" If "Jesus" was only the plan of God conceived in God's mind when Abraham rejoiced to see his day, then there would have been no sense in a before and after. Abraham's very knowledge of a coming messiah would itself be his seeing it. Yet, Jesus distinguishes Abraham's past expectation and his latter experience.

The many "I have come" statements of Jesus in the Synoptics suggests a personal preexistence. The fact that 1. so many passages in the NT (from the Synoptics, John, Pauline corpus, Hebrews) suggest a personal preexistence and 2. that no NT passage tells us that Jesus was NOT personally preexistent should lead us to favor a personal preexistence (it's the natural reading of those passages). In what other instance in the the Bible is there a preexistence that's not personal? And especially since a strong case could be made that one of the angels of the Yahweh was a very special Angel (messenger) who is probably Christ Himself. This Angel is treated like Yahweh (if not as actually Yahweh) in the OT in a similar fashion as Christ is in the NT. See for example this excerpt of E.W. Hengstenberg's Christology of the Old Testament on the topic of the Angel of Yahweh

The Word is something like God's plan or wisdom, by which, the OT says in a couple of places, God created.

I'm not sure where those places in the OT that state that Wisdom was created other than Prov. 8. Prov. 8 BTW, was one of the major obstacles in my becoming a Trinitarian over 20 years ago. It's not clear that the impersonal "Jesus" is being referred to in Prov. 8. And even if it has Christological significance, wisdom is personified in a way that would suggest an actual personal preexistence as Prov. 30:4. Also, the NT comes on the heels of the intertestamental apocrypha and pseudepigrapha that many times implies the eternality of personified Wisdom, and so counts against a created Wisdom. Scholars dispute whether Micah 5:2 implies an eternal past preexistence of Christ (personal or impersonal). Nevertheless, at the very least the words are consistent with an eternal past. Also, earlier you seemed to agree that John presents the impersonal Logos as eternally with (pros) God. At least that's how many Greek scholars interpret the word "en" in "en arche en o logos." As one scholar put it, " far back as you wish to push 'in the beginning,' the Word is already in existence. The Word does not come into existence at the 'beginning,' but is already in existence when the 'beginning' takes place."

The "form of God" needn't be having the divine essence, but can be read as a paraphrase of "made in God's image and likeness."

You seem to be saying that the phrases "form of God" and "form of a servant" are both postpartum. However, it's only after Paul uses the phrase "form of a servant" that he says, "being born in the likeness of men." Paul seems to be making a contrast of the two phrases with "being born" the transition point.

Whereas Adam tried to grab at equality with God, Jesus declined to. Remember the ethical thrust of the whole thing (see the start of the chapter); Jesus is being held up as our example based on his actions during his human life.

In context Paul is talking about humility before equals, not humility before a superior. He's talking to Christians in general and how they should treat each other. Christ not grabbing/grasping for God's position which He doesn't inherently possess isn't an act of humility. Refraining from doing that is an act of obedience and submission, not of humility. Only if Jesus actually was equal with God would it be an act of humility. Paul wrote in verse 3, "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves." He didn't say, acknowledge others more significant than yourself. To make Paul's analogy work, either 1. Jesus and God are equals, just as fellow Christians are equals; OR 2.God is superior to Jesus, just as some Christians are superior to other Christians.

No doctrine is *essential* in the sense of you must believe it to be saved unless it is preached to unbelievers in Acts....

I don't believe that one must believe the doctrine of the Trinity to be saved. However, I think as Christians grow in their understanding of the Gospel and Scripture that the truly regenerate among professing believers will naturally tend to accept the Trinity.

That you accepting this reading of "homoousios" is why, I think, you go along with the confused evangelical tradition of identifying Jesus with his God (i.e. asserting them to be numerically identical).

I identify Jesus with God because of both NT and OT reasons. If it weren't for the OT evidences for a plurality in Yahweh, I wouldn't hold to (the meaning) of monoousios. I've collected the OT evidences in my blogpost:

Old Testament Passages Implying Plurality in God    [cf. also my blogposts HERE and HERE. Though, now I suspect the "watchers" in Daniel are members of the Divine Council along with the "us" [in "Let US make man in OUR image"] in the opening chapters of Genesis.

No, these writers assumed that somehow some angels can influence a wide area.

Agreed. However, influencing others by broadcasting subliminal thoughts, temptations, fears etc. is one thing. Reading thoughts, hearing silent prayers, answering such prayers simultaneously, upholding the universe by the Word of His power (as Christ does in Heb. 1:3) is something else. Moreover, "in [Christ] all things hold together" (Col. 1:17) and "through [Christ] we exist" (1 Cor. 8:6). The exploits of demons in the book of Daniel, Job, Colossians, Ephesians and the Gospels pale in comparison.

So Satan is the "god of this world," and they held that angels were put over countries.

Agreed. But Satan works through his demonic cohorts in military or gang-like hierarchical fashion. I don't find Scripture to teach he's globally omnipresent. On the contrary, when asked "From where have you come?," Satan replied, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it" (Job 1:7).

So Jesus, exalted to a higher position than any angel, must also have such powers. Presumably the upgrade in position came with the needed abilities. We may be curious quite how this works, but I guess they were not.

I agree that God can give extraordinary powers to creatures. My citation of Jesus' ability to do the things He does isn't meant to directly prove He's God. I cite them as indirect evidence since everywhere else in the OT and NT such powers are reserved for Almighty God Himself. They are used as a means of identifying and describing God. Often directly or indirectly saying ONLY God can do those things. In which case, when the NT applies such powers, characteristics, attributes to Jesus, it's only natural for the original recipients of the books (who presumably were steeped in OT theology) to infer Jesus' full divinity. Otherwise that would confuse the original recipients since it would result in a contradiction between OT & NT explicit statements and theology.

It's interesting that Unitarians will cite the express and explicit statement in the Old Testament that "God is not a man" and insist that we stick by the exact words of Num. 23:19 and 1 Sam. 15:29. Yet, when the Bible specifically states only God can "know the hearts of all the children of mankind" (1 Kings 8:39) Unitarians change their tune and say (without New Testament justification) that Jesus can share this attribute of God without being God contrary to the express and explicit statement of the Old Testament. Whereas there's no contradiction in saying God can incarnate as a human being. Since that would involve an extrinsic change and not an intrinsic change. The doctrine of the incarnation doesn't teach Christ's divine nature was somehow transubstantiated into human flesh. Rather, that Christ took on human nature without ceasing to be God, and without His divine nature in anyway changing from a divine nature to a human nature. Thus preserving the doctrine of Divine Immutability and Infinity.


  1. Some very interesting thoughts here, thank you.
    Your counter argument to Unitarian insistence that Numbers 23:19 is a good one regarding Jesus knowing human hearts. The thing I don't fully approve of is the extrinsic-intrinsic language of your conclusion, which given the colour may not have seen the light of day in your original discussion. I think a great question for Dale would be: do you think that God COULD have become a man? If you don't then I might.
    On a faith note, I think it is wonderful that we can all agree that God is so wonderful, abounding in love and grace to us. His Son is just extraordinary. His Spirit changes everything. Peace.

    1. The thing I don't fully approve of is the extrinsic-intrinsic language of your conclusion, which given the colour may not have seen the light of day in your original discussion.

      I'm not sure what you mean here. You can rephrase it if you want.

      I think a great question for Dale would be: do you think that God COULD have become a man? If you don't then I might.

      Yes, that is a good, even GREAT question. I think he has been asked that (e.g. by Steve Hays). I forgot what the answer was.

      On a faith note, I think it is wonderful that we can all agree that God is so wonderful, abounding in love and grace to us. His Son is just extraordinary. His Spirit changes everything. Peace.


  2. Also, I don't think your "monoousios" idea is going to float anyone's boat!

    1. Some in the Nicene Monarchist movement use the term "monoousios" to refer to what they think many modern Trinitarians mean when they use the historical term "homoousios." The Nicene Monarchists argue that modern Trinitarians actually misuse the term "homoousios" and are better off using the term "monoousios" to better convey their view.