Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Blessed Quaternity?

Dale Tuggy has posted another reply to my previous response(s).

Because he says this nature is shared, I’m going to infer that it is a universal – something capable of being had by multiple subjects.

That’s equivocal. That framework generally involves an abstract/concrete, property/property-instance distinction, in which a particular is a specific finite exemplification or approximation of an abstract property.

But the members of the Trinity subsist on the same ontological level as the divine nature or attributes. Outside of time and space.

Moreover, the individual members of the Trinity don’t finitely exemplify or merely approximate the divine nature.

If we use that framework (i.e. nature as a universal), that’s subject to major caveats.

Rather, I’m trying to figure out what the relation is, in your view, between God/The Trinity and those three Persons. If it isn’t whole-parts, help me out!

Take the Mandelbrot set. That’s a symmetry. Internally self-similar. Is the Mandelbrot set a ‘compound’ or composite entity?

That’s an odd way of characterize an abstract object. True, there’s a sense in which the Mandelbrot set is a “complex” object. Infinite iterations. An actual infinite. 

Yet it’s not a complex object in the same sense that a Swiss watch is a complex object. If a Swiss watch and the Mandelbrot set are both “compounds,” then we’ve stretched the meaning of composition to such a degree that it seems either fatally equivocal or uselessly indiscriminate.

Sure you do - this is a rough, vague concept we all have. It is a thing which is conscious (yes, of self as well as other things), which can act for a reason (can choose, has a will), which is intelligent (has knowledge), and which can engage in friendship. If you speak to something, and think it may understand, even speak back, you think it is a self. Thus, I submit that you think God is a self, as I assume you speak to him. You sort of say that any divine person will be only analogous to a human self. Well, sure. But we have a more abstract concept of a self (which doesn’t imply being a human, or even being created, or having a body) which we should both agree is satisfied by, e.g. the Father.

Since the issue of analogy often crops up in theology, now might be a good time to do a little sidebar on the issue. There’s nothing exceptional about God-talk in this regard. It’s not unique to a doctrine of divine incomprehensibility.

Whenever we compare two (or more) things, we’re moving into the realm of analogy. If I compare two Welsh Corgis, that’s an analogy. They are much alike, but the very fact that I’m comparing them, the very fact that there are two of them to compare, means they are unlike as well as like.

In one respect, two male Welsh Corgis are more alike than a male and female Welsh Corgis. On the other hand, a male and female might be more temperamentally alike than two male Welsh Corgis.

When I compare a four-legged dog to a four-legged chair, that’s analogous. Which is more analogous–a four-legged dog and a four-legged chair, or a three-legged dog and a four-legged chair? (Say the dog lost a leg in a traffic accident.)

Which is more analogous, a Welsh Corgi and a Russian Wolfhound, or a real Welsh Corgi and a wax statue of a Welsh Corgi?

On the face of it, a sundial and a digital watch are quite dissimilar, yet they are functionally identical. Which are more alike, a sundial and a digital watch, or two digital watches–of which one is broken?

I’m just making the preemptive point that it wouldn’t be special pleading for a Trinitarian to note the inherent limitations of any theological analogy.

I think I basically got his view right: there are four divine selves: God (The Trinity), the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.

I think Tuggy is now insinuating that the Trinity devolves into the Quaternity. But that’s equivocal. The Trinity would not be a “self” in the same sense that the constituent members are “selves.” The Trinity is not a fourth person, over and above the three persons. Rather, each person is conscious of what the other two are conscious of. Not just that each person is conscious of the other two persons, but conscious of their consciousness.

This is confirmed by what he says after noting that in his view, each Person of the Trinity has a first-person point of view…This “corporate viewpoint” must have an owner, a subject, and that can only be the Trinity – that complex self.

No. The “owner” of the “corporate viewpoint” is each member of the Trinity. That’s because each person not only has his own first-person viewpoint, but is also privy to the viewpoint of the other two.

Sorry, but I think this is confused. If I think, as an American, that football beats the crap out of soccer, that’s just another first-person point of view. It is just that the explanation for my having it, we’re assuming, is that I’m an American. The analogy would rather be this: just as each American has a first person perspective, so does America. So in his view, if e.g. the Son has a viewpoint as member of the Trinity, that just means that some subjective state of his is caused or explained by his relations to the Father and Spirit. This would be a three-self view of the Trinity, not a four-self view, which I think Steve holds to. But I’m sticking with the four-self interpretation, which is what I take it he thinks, or usually thinks.

This ignores the fact that I was using an a fortiori argument. Suppose Americans were telepathic. In that event, you’d have their collective consciousness as well as individual consciousness (or self-consciousness).

Yet that wouldn’t be something over and above the individual minds which constitute it. Rather, each mind would have access to every other mind. A bottom-up model, not a top-down model. There wouldn’t be a logically prior super-mind in which all sub-minds participate.

And that’s in the case of discrete, self-contained entities (i.e. human beings), in contrast to the Father, Son, and Spirit.

He emphasizes that this is theological speculation, which it surely is. But I was asking what this Trinity theory is, which makes such great sense out of the Bible, better sense than any rival theory. I take it that this is it. If he wants to clarify further the relation between Trinity and the members of it, I’m all ears.

i) Theological speculation is inevitable whenever we ask questions that revelation doesn’t answer. The only way to avoid theological speculation is to refrain from asking certain questions.

Theological speculation isn’t distinctive to Trinitarian theorizing. A unitarian philosophical theologian will also speculate on the meaning of certain attributes like omnipotence, omnipotence, and eternality. He will speculate on how to correlate the attributes. He will speculate on who is the real “God,” in contrast to divine projections or emanations or agents or whatever.

You have open questions in theology. That’s because answers to questions give rise to new questions. Because revelation answers some questions, wherever revelation ceases to speak, that will raise further questions.

ii) I’m not using a “theory” of the Trinity as a hermeneutical lens. Rather, a theory of the Trinity is the next step as we move from exegetical theology to systematic theology or philosophical theology.

iii) Scripture reveals that:

a) In some sense there is only one God.

b) The Father, Son, and Spirit are each divine (i.e. possessing the divine attributes).

c) The Father, Son, and Spirit are not interchangeable. 

That’s not speculation. That’s the revealed data.

iv) For instance, I say “in some sense” there is only one God, not to be evasive, but because Scripture doesn’t rigorously define the unicity of God. Rather, it uses the historic example of paganism as a foil. 

As such, the Bible leaves a certain amount of elbowroom for more than one possible formulation. At the same time, any alternate formulation must integrate the totality of the revealed data.

A theory can go beyond the evidence as long as it doesn’t contradict the available evidence. But by the same token, a theory that goes beyond the evidence is underdetermined by the evidence, and so we’re not going to wax dogmatic about the conjectural details, viz., philosophical extrapolations or interpolations.

I’m speaking as a Protestant. Obviously there are theological traditions which do wax dogmatic about extrabiblical details.

To evoke Quine’s celebrated web of belief, some threads are more important than others. You can snip various threads, yet the essential structure will remain intact. However, some threads anchor the web to branches. Snip one of those lines and the entire web collapses in on itself. 

No comments:

Post a Comment