One of the problems with debating Dale Tuggy is that he justifies his unitarianism by reference to Isaian monotheism, yet he’s too indifferent to actually cite the passages he’s alluding to or analyze them in context. So let’s begin by sampling some representative statements that God makes about himself in these chapters:
18 To whom then will you liken God,
or what likeness compare with him?
19 An idol! A craftsman casts it,
and a goldsmith overlays it with gold
and casts for it silver chains.
20 He who is too impoverished for an offering
chooses wood that will not rot;
he seeks out a skillful craftsman
to set up an idol that will not move.
21 Do you not know? Do you not hear?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
22It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;
23 who brings princes to nothing,
and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.
24Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows on them, and they wither,
and the tempest carries them off like stubble.
25 To whom then will you compare me,
that I should be like him? says the Holy One.
26Lift up your eyes on high and see:
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name,
by the greatness of his might,
and because he is strong in power
not one is missing.
10 "You are my witnesses," declares the LORD,
"and my servant whom I have chosen,
that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
nor shall there be any after me.
5 "To whom will you liken me and make me equal,
and compare me, that we may be alike?
6 Those who lavish gold from the purse,
and weigh out silver in the scales,
hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god;
then they fall down and worship!
7 They lift it to their shoulders, they carry it,
they set it in its place, and it stands there;
it cannot move from its place.
If one cries to it, it does not answer
or save him from his trouble.
9remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
10 declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, 'My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,'
11 calling a bird of prey from the east,
the man of my counsel from a far country.
I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;
I have purposed, and I will do it.
12"Listen to me, O Jacob,
and Israel, whom I called!
I am he; I am the first,
and I am the last.
13My hand laid the foundation of the earth,
and my right hand spread out the heavens;
when I call to them,
they stand forth together.
28Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
5Thus says God, the LORD,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
8I am the LORD; that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to carved idols.
9Behold, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
I tell you of them."
6Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel
and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts:
"I am the first and I am the last;
besides me there is no god.
7 Who is like me? Let him proclaim it.
Let him declare and set it before me,
since I appointed an ancient people.
Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen.
8Fear not, nor be afraid;
have I not told you from of old and declared it?
And you are my witnesses!
Is there a God besides me?
There is no Rock; I know not any."
9 All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame.
22Let them bring them, and tell us
what is to happen.
Tell us the former things, what they are,
that we may consider them,
that we may know their outcome;
or declare to us the things to come.
23 Tell us what is to come hereafter,
that we may know that you are gods;
do good, or do harm,
that we may be dismayed and terrified.
24Behold, you are nothing,
and your work is less than nothing;
an abomination is he who chooses you.
12 I made the earth
and created man on it;
it was my hands that stretched out the heavens,
and I commanded all their host
14Thus says the LORD: "The wealth of Egypt and the merchandise of Cush,
and the Sabeans, men of stature,
shall come over to you and be yours;
they shall follow you;
they shall come over in chains and bow down to you.
They will plead with you, saying:
'Surely God is in you, and there is no other,
no god besides him.'"
18 For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens
(he is God!),
who formed the earth and made it
(he established it;
he did not create it empty,
he formed it to be inhabited!):
"I am the LORD, and there is no other. 19 I did not speak in secret,
in a land of darkness;
I did not say to the offspring of Jacob,
'Seek me in vain.'
I the LORD speak the truth;
I declare what is right.
20 "Assemble yourselves and come;
draw near together,
you survivors of the nations!
They have no knowledge
who carry about their wooden idols,
and keep on praying to a god
that cannot save.
21 Declare and present your case;
let them take counsel together!
Who told this long ago?
Who declared it of old?
Was it not I, the LORD?
And there is no other god besides me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
there is none besides me.
22"Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
Let’s summarize what these teach:
1. These demarcate the true God from false gods. They do so in more than one way:
i) The true God is known by what he does. The true God is unique both because of what he is and what he does.
ii) Apropos (i), the true God is the preexistent Creator of the world. The true God is the only savior of his people. The true God foretells the future and brings the future to pass.
iii) The true God is also identifiable by differentiating the true God from false claimants. That’s the sense in which the true God is incomparable.
Unlike the true God, the idol-gods say nothing, do nothing, know-nothing.
Unlike the gods of pagan cosmogony, who are (literally) begotten by other gods, or beget other gods, the true God has no forebears or descendents. He is the “first and the last.”
Unlike the true God, who is the increate Creator of the world, the celestial gods of pagan astrolatry and astromancy are part of the created order.
By contrast, the true God made the stars. By contrast, the true God governs the stars.
iv) In that sense, God will not share his honor with another.
v) That’s what is meant by the frequent refrain that there is no other God besides Yahweh. This is what makes him the only true God.
The unicity of God isn’t a distinctive property, in distinction to these other distinctive properties. It’s not another attribute on a list of attributes.
It’s not as if the unicity of God is a detachable property, over and against, or over and above, these other properties. Rather, these properties are what constitute the unicity of God. This is how Isaiah explicates the unicity of God.
To say there is no other God besides Yahweh is to say there is no one else who is the preexistent Creator of the world, whoforetells the future and brings the future to pass, who saves his people, &c.
2. According to Tuggy, Isaian monotheism contradicts the Trinity. But how is that entailed by the passages I cited?
By Isaiah’s criteria, whoever has one or more of these properties would be Yahweh. Whoever has one or more of these properties would be the only real God.
How does that logically exclude the possibility that Jesus is Yahweh (so defined), or the Holy Spirit? Or that Father, Son, and Spirit meet these conditions?
Remember, Tuggy keeps leaning on logic, so he needs to demonstrate that his position is strictly deducible from Isaiah’s descriptors. That no alternate construction is logically possible given the same data.
Maybe I missed something, but I haven’t seen Tuggy do anything even approaching that level of rigor. Yet if he’s going to keep invoking the law of identity, then that’s the onus which he’s set for himself.
3. But Tuggy has another problem. We have various passages in the NT that ascribe these properties to Jesus. Sometimes this involves quotations or allusions to some of the same Isaian passages I cited. Sometimes this involves quotations or allusions to other OT passages which say the same time. And sometimes this involves this involves the direct assignment of one or more of these properties without the literary mediation of an OT text.
Tuggy tries to reconcile this practice with his unitarianism by invoking the notion of creaturely agents. But one fundamental problem with this harmonistic device is that his Isaian frame of reference explicitly and emphatically reserves these properties for Yahweh alone. That’s what makes Yahweh Yahweh. Yahweh’s exclusive possession or exercise of these distinctives.
By appealing to creaturely agents, Tuggy is decoupling the unicity of God from the very properties by which Isaiah delineates the unicity of God. But if these properties are not unique to Yahweh, if they are transferable to creaturely agents, then there’s nothing to distinguish the true God from false gods.
That’s how Isaiah frames the alternatives. Tuggy can’t simultaneously use Isaiah as a benchmark to chisel out (unitarian) monotheism, only to turn around and suddenly sand down the benchmark to the point where it’s now at the same surface level as the created order.