This is the Voice of the Mysterians…

The Maverick Philosopher, Bill Vallicella, has turned his attention to the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation in recent weeks. In one post he makes a preliminary critique of “Negative and Positive Trinitarian Mysterianism”, drawing on Dale Tuggy’s excellent “Trinity” article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Since Dale’s article discusses my defense of theological paradox under the heading of “Positive Mysterianism” I decided that any self-respecting Mysterian ought to speak up in his own defense — and I did so, here and here. The whole comment thread is worth a read.

Update 1: The conversation continues here, on the question of whether materialists can also move in mysterian ways.

Update 2: Further discussion can be found here, on the question of whether inconceivability entails impossibility.

Update 3: Still further discussion here, as atheist philosopher Peter Lupu tries to show that my position leads to theological skepticism, and I demur in the combox.

Update 4: Peter Lupu takes another shot, this time focusing on whether divine revelation could warrant the conclusion that the doctrine of the Trinity is a MACRUE.

Update 5: Peter Lupu strikes again! Does my proposal face the specter of “semantic defeat”? He thinks so; I say no.

4 Responses to This is the Voice of the Mysterians…

  1. Hi James,

    I find Vallicella’s latest post (materialist mysterians) is wide of the mark too. I’m not sure why the possibility that a cognizer might appeal to mysterianism about some subject matter means that appeal to mystery is ruled out in principle. Many philosophers have appealed to mystery (e.g., PvI (freewill), McGinn (consciousness)), and surely they wouldn’t have that move refuted because of the possibility that a determinist or a Cartesian might also appeal to mystery. This move strikes me as somehwat analogous to those who think Plantinga’s defense of the rationality of Christian belief can be undermined by the possibility that some non-Christian might develop something similar and claim his beliefs are likewise rational.

    Second, and this is probably because he hasn’t read your book, he errs in thinking that if your appeal to paradox works so can any appeal. The propriety of accepting paradoxical beliefs, as you point out, comes from some specific theological claims about God and the world. Accordingly, the materialist in Vallicella’s example can’t ride your coattails. If said materialist wants to develop his own non-theistic case for the propriety of believing in paradox, then he’s free to do so. As of yet, no proposal is on offer. So, just because you have put forward a specific case for the rationality of a Christian believing in paradox in no way entails that just anyone can claim that just any set of apparently contradictory claims are paradoxical and, viola, rationality emerges.

    Third, I just now checked the post again and saw some comments when there were not the when I last checked it this morning. I see that we made similar points. The question now is, should I feel happy or should you feel nervous? :-)

  2. Yikes, my last paragraph was a mess:

    “Third, I just now checked the post again and saw some comments when there were not the when I last checked it this morning. I see that we made similar points. The question now is, should I feel happy or should you feel nervous? :-)”

    Er

    “Third, I just now checked the post again and see some comments that were not there when I last checked this morning. I see that we made similar points. The question now is, should I feel happy or should you feel nervous? :-)”

  3. I feel affirmed. :)

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