Tag Archives: paradox

Further Thoughts on Tuggy’s Challenge

Dale Tuggy has replied to my brief response to his challenge to “Jesus is God” apologists. In this follow-up post I’ll clarify the thrust of my earlier response and add some further thoughts.

Dale’s original challenge presented an argument, with premises he thinks orthodox Christians should accept, to the conclusion that Jesus “is not a god.”

I offered a parallel argument as a means of indicating where I think Dale’s challenge goes awry. Dale seems to think that I was arguing along these lines: Michael Rea’s view of material constitution is correct, therefore premise 4 in the parallel argument is false, and hence premise 4 in Dale’s original argument is false. To be fair, I can understand why he might have interpreted my response that way, but that wasn’t quite my point.

As it happens, I don’t endorse Rea’s position on material constitution. I think it’s plausible and defensible, but I recognize that there are some serious arguments against it. I have an open mind on the issue, because it’s a difficult one to resolve. There are competing metaphysics of material objects, each with its own virtues, and it’s a tough debate to adjudicate. And that’s my point — or at least part of it.

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Paradox in Theology

IVP’s New Dictionary of Theology is an outstanding reference work. (Just look at the original editorial team and you’ll see why!) So I was delighted not only to learn that a second edition is in the works but also to be invited to contribute an updated entry for ‘Paradox in Theology’. The editors of the new edition have kindly granted me permission to reproduce the article here.

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The Most Important Question

Question Mark

What is the most important question of all?

On the face of it, that question seems like a sensible one, even an important one. We ask many questions in life, and some are clearly more important than others. For example, the question “Where are my car keys?” is more important than the question “How many ducks are there in Belgium right now?” It’s possible, in principle, to rank questions in order of importance.

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Positive Mysterianism Undefeated

“Positive Mysterianism Undefeated: A Response to Dale Tuggy” is the paper I presented at the EPS Annual Meeting last November. It’s too long as it stands, and some of the arguments need further development (perhaps in separate papers), but I’m posting it online because a number of people have asked about it and I’d like to get more feedback on it. I’ve already received some valuable critical comments from several folk, including Dale. Comments welcome below or via email (contact details here).

Did God Change at the Incarnation?

The Gospel Coalition invited me to answer the question. They’ve just posted my response.

Interview with Christ the Center

I was recently interviewed for the Christ the Center program by the good folk at Reformed Forum, and they’ve just posted the audio on their website. I’ve enjoyed and benefited from listening to a number of their podcasts over the last couple of years, so I was honored to be invited to contribute to one of them. Among other things we discussed presuppositional apologetics, John Frame’s perspectivalism, and my book on theological paradox.

Gordon Clark’s Paradoxical View of the Trinity

Some years ago I wrote a short article defending some of Van Til’s remarks on the Trinity and offering some criticisms of Gordon Clark’s view of the Trinity. In that article I noted a point of disagreement with Steve Hays. Whereas Steve had argued that Clark’s view reduces to modalism, I argued that his position is clearly a form of social trinitarianism (which I’ve contended elsewhere is not a form of monotheism and is thus unacceptable as an interpretation of orthodox trinitarian doctrine).

Well, after re-reading some of Clark’s writings on this issue, I’ve changed my mind. I’m happy to report that I no longer disagree with Steve. But that’s not to say I’ve abandoned my earlier conclusion. Rather, I now think we were both right (which is a much more agreeable position to take).

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Response to Gary Crampton

The December 2009 issue of The Trinity Review featured a review of my book. The review, which is highly critical, was written by Gary Crampton. I’ve posted a response on my website. It’s lengthy and forthright; but given the serious deficiencies of the review, it had to be.

I have copied below the section on Gordon Clark’s treatments of the Trinity and the Incarnation, because it may be of wider interest.

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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.

TurretinFan Strikes Back

A couple of months ago, I offered some criticisms of an argument given by TurretinFan against the claim that there are irresolvable paradoxes. (As a side note, it’s worth mentioning again that this claim can be understood in several different ways.)  His argument was apparently aimed at paradoxes in general, not just theological ones.

TurretinFan has now responded by offering a restatement of his argument and a rebuttal of my criticisms. Here are some comments by way of reply:

1. The most serious problem with his argument is that his premise P1 misrepresents my position (and Van Til’s, as I read him). As I make clear in my book, I firmly reject the idea that a paradox necessarily involves some proposition P being both true and false at the same time and in the same way. As I also make clear in the book, I reject the idea that a paradox can arise for just any proposition (or set of propositions).

2. The conclusion of his argument — “if we accept the existence of unlimitable paradoxes, we must also be prepared to accept at least the possibility of the nonexistence of unlimitable paradoxes” — is far too weak to do my position any harm. In fact, I’ll even grant it! Of course it is possible that there are no irresolvable paradoxes. My defense of theological paradox doesn’t imply otherwise. But what of significance follows from that? Certainly not the fact that there are no irresolvable paradoxes, theological or otherwise.

Bottom line: TurretinFan’s conclusion is no more problematic for me that the mere possibility that I am a brain in a vat (which I am also willing to grant).

3. TurretinFan also offers an “enhancement” and “simplification” of his original argument. On examination, his second argument turns out to be neither an enhancement nor a simplication of the first, but a different argument altogether. In any case, it’s no more successful as an objection to my position, and for much the same reason: it attacks a straw man. In my book I argue against the idea that theological paradoxes should be construed as genuine violations of the law of non-contradiction. So his enhanced argument also badly misses the mark.

4. I’ll also mention in passing that while I would grant his premise P4, it isn’t beyond reasonable dispute.

5. TurretinFan adds by way of conclusion: “I don’t see any good reason to accept the existence of irreconcilable paradoxes.” I don’t want to be uncharitable, but I suspect he says this because (i) he hasn’t read much if any of the literature on philosophical paradoxes and therefore doesn’t appreciate how challenging some of them are to resolve and (ii) he hasn’t read much if any of the literature on theological paradoxes, particularly on the difficulties of explicating the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation in ways that are both orthodox and non-paradoxical. I could be wrong about this; if I am, it shouldn’t be any trouble for him to set me straight.

Regarding (i), I wonder whether TurretinFan thinks there is a straightforward solution to, say, the Sorites Paradox.

Regarding (ii), I wonder how he would state the doctrine of the Trinity in such a way as to rule out all heterodox views while avoiding any trace of apparent logical inconsistency.

6. TurretinFan goes on to say, “I have seen no reason to reject the strongly intuitive position of the universality of the laws of logic and particularly the law of non-contradiction.” But as I’ve pointed out (and not for the first time) this simply isn’t an implication of my position; on the contrary, my defense of theological paradox is designed to accommodate that very intuition.

7. It should be evident by now that TurretinFan’s arguments miss the mark in large part because he’s tilting at windmills. I don’t deny the law of non-contradiction or advocate dialetheism (although refuting dialetheism is harder that you might think) even though I believe that certain Christian doctrines are paradoxical (i.e., they seem to imply a logical contradiction). At this point, I can only recommend that he obtain a copy of my book (perhaps via interlibrary loan) and interact with it directly. Until he does that, I doubt any further exchanges between us will bear much fruit. If he does read it, however, I’m confident it will only be a matter of time before he joins us on the Dark Side.