Consider this sentence: Steve, poster on this blog, likes beer.
Here, I affirm that you like beer. But this also shows I assume what is in the dependent clause. Why'd I add it? To clarify just who I was talking about. I'm not here asserting that you post here, but this does show I assume it.
Now, go back to the verse. Jesus is praying in front of the disciples.
"Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent."
Again, the relative clause specifies who the "you" is. It's the only true God - the speaker here assumes that the Father (v.1) is (numerically identical to) the one true God.
That the Father is the grammatical referent of the phrase “the only true God” in Jn 17:3 is not in dispute.
The only difference between the examples is that "poster on this blog" but not "the one true God" could be predicated of more than one thing.
That’s based, in part, on your persistent failure to appreciate the stereotypical import of that particular phrase, as well as the way Jn 17:3 functions in reference to related statements earlier in the Gospel, although I’ve corrected you on both points.
When you raise an objection, I respond, and you repeat the same objection instead of interacting with my response, that does nothing to advance the argument.
Re: John 17:5 - oh, I see - you think it implies pre-existence. We think it is a matter of foreknowledge - there are other NT examples of this idiom, but I don't have time to dig them up at the moment. This is a wash in the present debate.
i) Jn 17:5 doesn’t use the language of “knowledge” or “foreknowledge.”
ii) Where the Bible uses the Hebraic idiom of foreknowledge, that’s an idiom for prior choice, not prior knowledge.
Eh, no, I don't think so. The question is who John thinks is identical to whom. He can use words however, according to all the normal rules of language.
And John doesn’t say the Father is identical with God or Yahweh in contrast to the nonidentity of the Son with God or Yahweh.
Rather, John posits an equivalence relation between the Father and God or Yahweh, but he also posits an equivalence relation between the Son and God or Yahweh. He does both.
You may think that’s illogical, but that’s Johannine practice.
I think in the phrase "one true god" the noun theos is a common noun, but because of the qualifiers, it can only apply to one being. So, it is much like a proper noun.
i) I think theos is a proper noun in this verse since John typically uses theos as a proper name for the Father.
ii) You’re repeating your earlier mistake of treating the qualifiers as if they were isolated semantic units, which you add together, rather than treating these three words as an idiomatic phrase. I’ve corrected you on that, but you simply repeat your original contention rather than updating your contention to address the counterargument. That doesn’t make a constructive contribution to the dialogue.
iii) Why would you suggest a proper noun can only apply to one being? Does “Dale” only apply to one being? Is there only one “Dale” in the phonebook?
iv) Moreover, it’s exegetically unsound to isolate Jn 17:3 from other Johannine statements which assert or imply the deity of Christ (e.g. Jn 1:1-3,14,18; 5:18,23; 8:58; 10:30; 12:41; 14:9; 17:5; 20:28). What John says here must be counterbalanced against what was said elsewhere to produce an integrated interpretation.
v) Likewise, we need to see how these statements function in the narrative structure of John, with 1:1 and 20:28 forming an envelopment around the revelation of the Son, and recognition of his identity by the faithful, in the course of the unfolding narrative.
No, I do not.
A denial is not a disproof. You’re failing to engage the argument.
Sorry, I don't see what this has to do with a unitarian reading of John 17.
Since I already explained the connection, and you don’t bother to explain yourself in return, my original argument prevails.
Well, sure. The point is not being made, for it is everywhere assumed in the NT. There is no need to make that point. They saw Jesus with their eyes. They touched and smelled him, and knew him to be a man. And they assumed Yahweh to not be a man. And they heard and saw Jesus pray to God, and relate to God, who he said was HIS god too. The agonies of Chalcedonian two-natures theories never entered their heads.
i) You’re completing disregarding John’s incarnational Christology.
ii) Moreover, to assert that the non-deity of the Son is “everywhere assumed in the NT” begs the very question at issue. At the very least, there’s abundant prima facie evidence to the contrary. Evidence that various NT writers did, indeed, affirm the deity of Christ. You can try to argue that down, but to take your unitarian position for granted as if that’s the default position is not an intellectually serious response to the challenge.
Distinction without a difference, I think.
No, the doctrine is based on the testimony of Scripture. The doctrine is not based on a philosophical harmonization showing how Jesus can be Yahweh if the Father is Yahweh.
If there are several incompatible claims which various folk firmly believe is THE doctrine - Sorry, that seems like a doctrinal problem to me. Nor is it separable from interpretive issues.
At a doctrinal level they can affirm whatever the NT teaches without having a recondite theory of numerical identity in their back pocket. They can affirm all of the propositions which comprise the relata even if they can’t finesse their interrelation. I can know that A is true, B is true, and C is true, even if I don’t know how they go together in some neat little package.
Steve, slow down, my friend. It's explicitly said, and plainly assumed throughout the NT, that Father = Yahweh. That needn't confuse anyone, if those names should also be applied to others. (How many "Steves" are there in the world?) The texts do not say anything of the Father that isn't true of Yahweh - if they did, one or more writers would be confused.
i) Among other things, that fails to distinguish between Yahweh qua Yahweh (i.e. Yahweh discarnate) and the advent of Yahweh in the flesh (i.e. Yahweh incarnate). What’s true of Yahweh in the OT and the NT isn’t going to be isometric if the NT involves a Yahwistic event (i.e. the “coming” of Yahweh) which didn’t take place in the OT.
ii) Likewise, you’re singling out NT statements about the Father as your standard of comparison, then using that to demote comparable statements about the Son. But the NT itself doesn’t put your favorite statements in a class by themselves.
Right - so it can't be that each is numerically identical to God. Do you see why?
I see you wielding “numerical identity” to unilaterally preselect for statements about the Father to the exclusion of analogous statements about the Son. But the NT doesn’t share your lopsided selection-criteria. And the NT doesn’t say that if the Father is divine, then the Son can’t be divine.
Add in the point that Father = God/Yahweh, and since the Son isn't = the Father, then he can't be = God. He could (consistently with this) be divine in some sense, and he could be addressed as "God", and even called a god. The fathers like Origen would agree with all this. I think that he's not asserted to be literally divine, because the NT uses the OT concept of divinity, as outlined in Is 40-55. Origin had that concept, but also used a looser Greek concept of a god (on which BOTH f and s count as gods).
i) Except for the awkward little fact that verses like Jn 5:23 and 8:58 have their background in Isaian theology (e.g. Isa 42:8; 48:11; 43:25; 45:19; 51:12), so that John is folding Jesus into uniquely Yahwistic claims.
ii) Likewise, Jesus isn’t designated “God” in a looser sense in Jn 1:1,18.
Not, this is a confusion. They do not identify Jesus as YHWH. Theologians are sloppy in their identity talk; what you say is true if "identify" means "associate with". But not if "identify" means assert or assume to be numerically identical to. But that's how I've been using it all along.
Once again, you’re bifurcating NT predications in a way that NT writers do not.
You grant that no NT author thinks f=s - they deny that. Well, they'd be pitifully confused if they also thought f = g and s = g. Do you see why?
i) I see that you constantly driving a wedge into NT Christology which you didn’t find in the NT itself.
ii) NT writers are witnesses. Reporters. They bear witness to what was said and done. They are on the receiving end of God’s historic self-revelation. In that respect, they don’t control the content. They’re job is to faithful transmit their God-given experience.
We all interpret the Bible assuming laws of logic and other self-evident truths (e.g. no claim can be both true and false, and no contradiction is true).
"You’re using your philosophical categories to prejudge the exegetical results. To preempt what the NT is allowed to say."
is a hollow charge. Compare: you object to my contradictory reading of some passage. I can complain till I'm blue in the face that you're allowing your philosophical commitments distort your reading of the text. You should allow that contradictions can be true, and embrace my nonsense. In a case like this, you'd be in the right; it's called common sense, and we should thank God we've got it.
i) To begin with, logical identity is an abstract principle. It has no predictive power or directional force. It doesn’t tell you in advance how the principle applies to any specific case. Logical identity is not a fingerpost directing you to absolutize NT statements about the Father’s Yahwistic status but relativize NT statements about the Son’s Yahwistic status.
So you’re misusing logic.
ii) In addition, you’re confounding logic and metaphysics. Logical identity is not a theory of numerical identity. It doesn’t include a prefabricated model of what it means for something to be the same something. And, indeed, definitions of identity tend to be circular.
You’re illicitly using logical identity to shortcut intricate metaphysical questions.
As such, you objections are misguided on both counts. Logical identity doesn’t pick out one set of NT statements about the Father to be your benchmark, then demote similar statements accordingly.
Likewise, logical identity doesn’t pick out a particular theory of numerical identity. That confuses logical identity with metaphysical identity. Although they’re related, logic operates at a purely general level.
For instance, you keep using the word “self,” but that’s not a philosophically rigorous category. There’s more than one ontological model of selfhood. Indeed, “self” is just a verbal placeholder waiting in line for a complex theory to fill in.
If you want to know why paradoxes are epistemological trouble, read my "On Positive Mysterianism", which discusses in depth James Anderson's creative attempt, in my view, the best yet, to defend positive mysterianism.
Which misses my point. If paradox is a common phenomenon in math, science, and logic, then why should theology be any exception?
Notice I didn’t say if the Trinity is paradoxical; just that even if it were paradoxical, that’s not surprising, or special pleading.
The crime, I take it, is reading them as assuming the identity of the Father and Yahweh. Sorry, that's just common sense - no big theory at work there. In a way, it's like figuring out that Abram just is Abraham.
No, the crime is your selective, one-sided appeal to some NT data to negate other NT data, even when you’re dealing with the same type of data (i.e. how the NT attributes Yahwistic passages to the Father and the Son alike).
Eh, no. There are many senses in which things can be "the same" or "identical". Having studied and taught metaphysics, I'm probably aware of most. Indeed, most come up in my SEP piece somewhere or other.
In which case you can’t use logic alone to settle the discussion–even on your own terms.
Example please? I'm not familiar with that term.
Enantiomorphism is a technical term for mirror-symmetry. On the one hand this type of symmetry exhibits equipollent correspondence. In that respect we’re dealing with an equivalence relationship. On the other hand it also exhibits chirality, which is irreducible.
For an overview, cf. Symmetry in Science and Art by A. V. Shubnikov & V. A. Koptsik (New York, Plenum Press, 1974), 16-18.
Well, we've finally agreed on something! ;-) The thing is, no one likes contradictions, and everyone has the concept of =, and knows the indiscernibility of identicals. And that's really all the philosophy that is at issue here. The project is finding a charitable and plausible interpretation - one which is seemingly consistent (charitable) and plausible - so it can't require any really out there thesis which only mathematicians or logicians or metaphysicians or physicists can grasp. Unitarian readings are just of this sort - they read the NT as self-consistent, and don't attribute anachronistic ideas to the authors. This is in sharp contrast to some (not all) Trinity theories.
My interpretive project involves allowing the writer to say what he wants to say, not what the reader wants him to say.
This is fine, not confusing, in a context where everyone assumes them to differ.
NT writers assume they differ in one respect (the Father is not the Son, or vice versa), but do not differ in another respect (the Father is Yahweh–and so is the Son).