Dale Tuggy has recently been discussing at some length what he takes to be an inconsistent triad of claims:
1. Jesus died.
2. Jesus was fully divine.
3. No fully divine being has ever died.
He thinks that 1 is beyond dispute for Bible-believing Christians, and that 3 also finds strong support from the biblical affirmations of God’s immortality (Rom. 1:23; 1 Tim. 1:17; 1 Tim. 6:16). He therefore concludes that 2 should be rejected for the sake of logical consistency. That would, of course, require one to reject one of the essential tenets of the doctrine of the Trinity.
I’ve listened to several of Dale’s podcasts on the issue, but not all of them, so I may well be overlooking something here. Still, it seems to me that there’s a fairly straightforward way for a Trinitarian to affirm all three claims without inconsistency. I agree with Tuggy that there’s solid biblical support for 1 and 3, but as I see it there’s an equivocation on the term ‘died’. (I know that Dale has denied any such equivocation, but hear me out.)
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.
“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).
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).
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.
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.