Saturday, October 19, 2013

Why BW3 is not a Calvinist

Ben Witherington has a little speech explaining why he's not a Calvinist:

Of course, it's absurd for him to think he can do justice to the issue in a 6-minute speech, but it's fine with me if Arminians wish to be absurd.

I'm going to comment on some of his statements. It's possible that I misheard a word here or there. 

I really didn't believe that before the foundation of the world God had chosen some to be saved and others to be eternally lost…I really didn't believe that the character of God at the end of the day was well represented with the theology that suggests that before anyone was ever created God decided that some were going to be eternally lost and burn forever.

I'd turn that around. I don't think God's character is well represented by a theology in which God creates people who will live forever, but leaves their eternal destination indeterminate. That's pretty callous. If God is going to create people who will live forever, how can God be said to care for them if he leaves the outcome to chance? 

Before God creates a human being, he ought to decide what will happen to that individual. Don't create them unless you already decided what will become of them. If you make a sentient being, a being who, once he comes into existence, will never go out of existence, how is it loving to let him take his chances? 

On Ben's view, God shoves them into the deep end of the pool to sink or swim. What is more, God knows ahead of time who will drown, and he consigns them to that fate by shoving them into the deep end of the pool. 

I really didn't believe that when the Bible commends love, it means God is making an offer you can't refused.

That may explain why Ben is not a Calvinist, but it fails to explain why Ben shouldn't be a Calvinist. It simply begs the question. 

In the NT there are only three nouns used of God: God is love, God is life, and God is light. Everything else is an adjective. God is righteous, adjective. God is holy, adjective. God is sovereign, adjective.
But it's got to be significant that when we're tailing about God and using another noun, it's love, light, and life.

Why think the nouns are more significant than the adjectives? Why not think that's two different ways of saying the same thing–for stylistic variety? To say God is love means God is loving. Love is a divine attribute. Same thing with divine holiness. 

Now my understanding of love is that it's got to be freely given and freely received. If that's is the heart of the Gospel…then that has got to be freely received and freely returned.

He gives us no reason to think his understanding of love isn't a misunderstanding of love. Why accept that definition?

Here's a different understanding of love: being a better friend to your best friend than he is to himself. Suppose your friend becomes clinically depressed. He's dangerous to himself. In that state he's susceptible to self-harm. So you protect him from himself, in spite of himself, until he gets better. 

How many people did Jesus die for? 1 Tim 2 is perfectly clear. He died as a ransom for all. And "all" means all.

i) To begin with, even Arminians disagree on what it means for Jesus to redeem the lost. Some Arminians affirm penal substitution while other Arminians deny penal substitution. So "ransom" becomes a cipher. Fill in the blank. 

ii) Ben also commits the popular semantic fallacy of failing to distinguish between the sense of a word and the referent of a word. What "all" means is not the same thing as what "all" refers to. 

If I walk into a tavern and tell the bartender that I want to buy drinks for "everyone," everyone means everyone, but it doesn't refer to everyone. It only denotes a tiny subset of humans who happen to be in that particular tavern at that particular time. Not an hour before or later. No one outside the tavern. 

Why would God in a really inefficient manner send his Son to die for some when in fact his death atones for the sins of all.

i) "Inefficient" in relation to what? Not inefficient in relation to Calvinism, for Calvinism doesn't say the Father sent his Son to die for some when in fact his death atones for the sins of all. 

ii) But if we're going to infer the extent of the atonement from "efficiency," then what could be more inefficient than Christ dying to save all when all are not saved? 

Prevenient grace that gives everyone the opportunity to respond to the grace of God.

That's a nice sounding sentiment. Why think it's true? For instance, did God bestow prevenient grace on all the heathen peoples in OT times? Does the OT consistently distinguish God's redemptive grace for Israel from all the pagans he leaves in darkness? There are exceptions (e.g. Rahab)–but they are just that: exceptional.

The Bible says Israel is the elect people of God, and those who are in Christ are the elect people of God, and in regard to individuals you could either be in or out. 

In the OT, God chose a people-group. A particular clan which descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You were "elect" if you were born into that ethnic group. If you had those bloodlines. You could be an elect Jew all your life even if you were a closet atheist. As long as you were outwardly observant, you were elect. Does Ben think Christians are elect in that sense? 

NT is replete with passages that talk about those who have make shipwreck of our faith. You can't make shipwreck if something you never had in the first place. If you ain't sailing on the boat you can't shipwreck the boat.

Is Ben really that clueless? Calvinism doesn't say apostates never had faith in the first place. Nominal believers can lose their faith. Indeed, apostates were predestined to lose their faith. 

What you can't lose is your salvation. If you lose your faith, that means you never had grace in the first place, not that you never had faith. ("Grace" in the sense of "saving" grace, viz. monergistic regeneration–in contrast to common grace.) 

And that has reference to dying in a state of impenitent unbelief. God restores some backsliders to faith. 

Buried treasure

44 The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it (Mt 13:44-46).
Most of us have heard or seen variations on the story of a genie who offers someone three wishes. It may be a beachcomber who discovered the bottle washed ashore. It may be someone who bought the antique bottle at a garage sale. 
He uncorks the bottle and out pops the genie in a puff of smoke. Materializing in Ali Baba garb, he will grant the surprised individual any (but only) three wishes. 
The fiction is appealing because it makes the audience prioritize. If we were in that hypothetical situation, what three things would we choose? 
The dilemma this fiction poses is that many of us have more than three wishes in life. So it would be hard to narrow down the list to just three items.  It's not merely that we wish for more than three things. It's that we equally wish for more than three things. We may be torn by the same degree of desire. 
Paradoxically, sometimes it's easier to choose one thing rather than three. Take a lovesick boy in high school who wants to marry Emily. He's been secretly in love with Emily since they were in grade school. His heart is set on her. He's holding out for her. Even though other girls express interest in him, he passes up their invitations.
Of course, if Emily marries another boy, he will be heartbroken. In that event, he will settle for a different girl. But at the moment, the choice is easy. There's no real competition. 
Or take a young man who's training to compete in the Olympics. That requires singleminded devotion. He puts his social life on hold. Puts his career on hold. Turns down promising job offers. Works odd jobs so that he can spend most of his time at the gym, working with his trainer. 
If he washes out, he will be disappointed, but he won't regret the effort. Even though winning is sweeter than losing, failing to win is better than failing to try. 
Sometimes the choice is even more austere. I read about a mother with three young daughters. The house caught fire. There wasn't time to get all three to safety. One choice was to save herself and leave her daughters behind. Another choice was to save one or two. 
When the firemen were sifting through the ashes, they found four bodies huddled together. The charred remains of the mother, embracing her three incinerated daughters.
Because she couldn't save them all, she didn't save any–including herself. She couldn't bring herself to choose one over another. Better that all die together than most survive, if that meant leaving even one behind. Although the story may be apocryphal, the maternal psychology is realistic. 
Not the decision a utilitarian ethicist would make, but I wouldn't fault her. 
When we want one thing more than anything else, when nothing comes a close second, then it's easy to pass on other offers. We're all in. We keep no chips in reserve. 
We may die waiting. Our treasure is buried in heaven. 

Bridge burning

I think it's very unfortunate that many MacArthurites seem ready to burn bridges with Messianic Jews over the charismatic issue. Why can't they have a civil debate with Brown? Sadly, this is not an isolated example:

Brett Coffrini commented on a post.

"Is Cessationism Responsible for David Hume?"

Zero tolerance cessationism

Conservatives and libertarians periodically highlight stories about zero tolerance policies run amok. This typically happens in public schools. If a 5-year-old makes a hand gesture miming a pistol, he's expelled. If a student plays with a toy gun on the front lawn of his home, he's expelled. If an asthmatic student brings an inhaler to school, he's expelled. If he suffers an asthma attack at school, teachers will stand by while he dies of asphyxiation rather than administer the forbidden inhaler to the incapacitated student. If a 5-year-old hugs his kindergarten teacher, the police are called. He's charged with sexual harassment. Labelled a sexual predator. 
Zero tolerance policies are applied robotically, without any regard for accidents or extenuating circumstances. Enforcement fails to distinguish between appearance and reality. 
This is appealing because it's simplistic. Once you put the rules in place, you can turn your brain off. You mindlessly enforce the rules, regardless of whether they are good rules or bad rules. Regardless of whether they make any sense in any particular situation. 
When MacArthurites attack charismatic theology, they often mirror the zero tolerance mindset of public school teachers and administrators. They decry the lack of discernment in charismatic circles, yet they themselves resist elementary standards of discernment when it comes to distinguishing between behavior and theology, charlatans and reputable charismatics. Unfortunately, MacArthur and his acolytes are teaching Christians to be singularly undiscerning. 
Genuine discernment requires you to differentiate the best representatives from the worst representatives. The worst representatives are fair game. But it's undiscerning to imagine that doing exposés of the worst representatives ipso facto discredits the best representatives. That's illogical. That replicates the brainless mentality of so many teachers and principals in public schools.  Pinhead bureaucrats who refuse to exercise rational discrimination. 

Judging by appearances

10 And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”…17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone” (Mt 15:10-11,17-20).  
25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (Mt 23:25-28).
In attacking charismatic theology, one tactic MacArthurites use is to show YouTube clips of Pentecostals engaged in bizarre behavior. Now, up to a point, I don't have a problem with that tactic. Wherever that happens, it's fair game. However, there are limitations to the value of that tactic:
i) One problem is the fallacious extrapolation from examples like that to charismatics in general, much less charismatic theology in general. When MacArthurites use these YouTube clips to discredit charismatic theology in principle, they are encouraging others to draw a blatantly fallacious inference. They need to demonstrate that this behavior is representative of charismatics. They also need to demonstrate that this behavior is a logical outcome of charismatic theology. 
At the risk of stating the obvious, suppose you're a continuationist. Suppose you think the charismata listed in 1 Cor 12 continue during the church age. Unless MacArthurites think Pauline churches practiced what these YouTube videos show, continuationism doesn't entail this behavior. So that behavior is not an implication of continuationism. 
Indeed, MarArthurites typically claim that charismatics are redefining the charismata. But assuming for the sake of argument that that's true, that would be discontinuationism rather than continuationism.
ii) It's spiritually hazardous to treat these YouTube clips as an implicit standard of comparison. I'm reminded of obese people who complain that they are one of the few remaining groups it's socially acceptable to make fun of. 
Obese people are easy to target because obesity is visible. Smokers are another easy group to pick on because smoking is often done in public. Smokers light up in social gatherings. 
The danger here is for MacArthurites to compare and contrast themselves to charismatics based on appearances–as if the fact that MacArthurites wouldn't be caught dead doing what these crazy Pentecostals on YouTube clips are doing distinguishes true churches from false churches. That's a very deceptive standard of comparison.
For instance, I never attended a Mormon service, but I imagine that Mormon services are very staid and respectable. Nothing sensational or embarrassing usually happens. Everyone behaves themselves.
Same thing with most services at liberal mainline churches. Congregants dress in business suits. Recite the liturgy. Everything you see is very decorous. No faux pas. 
But, of course, appearances can be deceptive. For their theology is heretical and their ethical policies are abominable. 
From what I've read, you have Southern Baptist megachurches where there may be three times as many people on the membership rolls as actually attend. On the face of it, that's a very impressive church. But the stats are misleading. 
Likewise, I've read that traditionally, many Southern Baptist laymen were also Free Masons. Outwardly, they were God-fearing, churchgoing men. Elders and deacons. Pillars of the community. But under the surface something was very wrong.
A church can look good, but be riddled with theological dry rot. Be eaten away by theological terminates that rarely see the light of day.
Don't be so quick to judge by appearances. Jesus reminds us that some of the worst sins are sins of the heart. 

The Church Prior to the Reformation: Francis and the Jews

Catholic Magisterial Anti-Semitism
As we move into “Reformation Season”, when we contemplate the approach of the traditional anniversary of the Reformation (October 31, 1517), I wanted to provide a few small snippets about the western church prior to the Reformation – the way things were in the middle ages. What follows is a word about the movement started by this current pope’s namesake, Francis of Assisi:

Francis of Assisi, that generous-hearted and anarchic preacher of God’s love, started a great renewal movement in the thirteenth-century Church; in part it was institutionalized as the Franciscan Order of Friars, who did much to revive preaching in the western Church. Franciscan preachers urged the crowds who came to hear them to meditate devotionally on the earthly life of Christ. That had the logical consequence of making the faithful also think about the death of Christ on the Cross, and often this led directly to deep hatred of the Jews. Franciscans thus ironically became major exponents of anti-Semitism in medieval western Europe and were deeply involved in some of the worst violence against Jewish communities; their fellow friars and rivals, the Dominicans, were not far behind.

Not surprisingly Jews tended to live together for safety, a trend which Christian rulers increasingly turned into an obligation: this developed early in Italy and the word ‘ghetto’ to describe such enclosed areas is of Italian origin, although there is more than one explanation of what it might have originally meant. Jewish physical isolation made matters worse, and bred new legends among a suspicious population: that the Jews were ready to poison Christian wells, for instance, steal consecrated Eucharistic wafers to do them terrible dignities, or collaborate with the Muslim powers which threatened the borders of Christendom (Diarmiad MacCulloch, “The Reformation: A History” (New York, NY: Penguin Books, ©2004, pg 9).

For more background, I’ve written a brief series based on David L. Kertzer’s work, “The Popes Against the Jews”.

See also Steve Hays’s article Catholic Magisterial Anti-Semitism featuring Canons from the 4th Lateran Council (1215).

Friday, October 18, 2013

Brown v. Turk

Frank Turk offers an equivocal comparison:

Dr. Brown obviously belongs to the school of Charismatics who think that their cautious and pious version of the movement represents most practitioners, but it doesn't by a longshot.  Let's assume for a second (and this is a mightily-generous assumption) that all the US congregations of the AOG, the Apostolic Church, COG and COGIC, International Foursquare, and International Pentecostal Holiness are all wholly and fully inside what someone might call the "cautious Charismatic" camp.  That is: let's say they never have anything happening inside them that looks like barking like a dog, or prayer for healing that looks like a slap fight, or preaching which equates personal prosperity to the objective of the Gospel, and they never have a substantially-false prophecy which harms anyone.  According to ARDA, a generous headcount there is 5 million people.
Globally, TBN reaches 100 million people.  In Sub-Saharan Africa, there are over 500 million sociologically-Christian people (PEW research says 517 million)-- and of that number, 15% self-select as "Pentecostal." (source: ARDA)  That's 75 million Charismatic adherents who, frankly, are not as cautious as Dr. Brown are.  My suggestion here is that it turns out that the cautious fellows have, for so long, merely sighed heavily when someone is exposed as a fraud that now they are in the tiny minority of people in their own theological camp.

Problem with that comparison is that it really involves a distinction between the laity and Bible scholars or theologians. Yes, I expect many or most lay charismatics are less cautious than Keener, Fee, Turner, Twelftree, &c. 

Needless to say, it's easy to parallel that with other lay/"expert" comparisons. A good theologian will have a more refined formulation of the Trinity or the hypostatic union than the average layman. A good commentator will have a more accurate understanding of Romans or Ephesians than the average layman. A good Christian philosopher will have a more sophisticated grasp of the cosmological argument than the average layman. So Turk's argument boomerangs on lay cessationists. 

Identity and Trinity

This is a follow-up to my previous post:

Because Tuggy replied, I'm going to repost my responses:


"Is that an objection to Bauckham? Read all the way through, then think, and then, finally start objecting."

It does nothing to show that Bauckham's exegesis is flawed. It's only relevant to high-church Christians who think the creeds must be isometric with the NT.

"About the 'fatal concession', I'm afraid you're mistaken. The time-explicit version of the indiscernibility of identicals is all I need to make the point. Jesus and God have, at one time, differed. It follows that they are not identical (by the time-explicit version). "

You're not entitled to both invoke and modify Leibniz's law Your time-explicit version abdicates the principle of strict, abstract identity. Once you make allowance for identity that falls short of strict, abstract identity, you disqualify yourself from wielding Leibniz's Law to attack the Trinity. For, by your own admission, you now operate with a more flexible concept or standard of identity.

"Eh... no. "

Eh…yes. If according to your time-explicit version of Leibniz's law, it's possible for the same individual to undergo intrinsic change, then your definition of identity is now consistent with one or more intrinsic differences.

"This is what is impossible: Steve being dismissive and not being dismissive at one and the same time, in one and the same 'possible world'. In another possible world (at this same time), it may be that Steve is not dismissive. That is wholly compatible with him being dismissive in this, the actual world."

Dale, you're fudging strict identity. Is he the same individual in two or more possible worlds? Is he the same self in both the actual world as well as an unexemplified possible world (where things turned out slightly differently)? If you allow for him to be the same individual, despite alternate life-histories, then you ditched strict identity for a more flexible standard.

"Has God himself told us this? If so, we might try to overlook that it seems as obviously false as any claim does."

There's an elementary distinction between what a writer means, and whether you agree with him. An honest interpreter is concerned with what the writer meant. Whether the interpreter personally agrees with the writer is a separate issue.

"Of course, the point of the whole paper, which I don't think you've really digested, is that Bauckham's theory seems ill-equipped to help us understand the texts."

The duty of an interpreter is to construe the text on its own terms, not reinterpret the text the according to what he would say if he were the writer.

"When faced with such a patent incoherence, we really ought to doubt our theory, and see if we can make better sense of the text. We should be afraid that the apparent contradictions have come from our own confused theorizing, and not from the texts themselves. In every other context, we rightly hesitate to attribute an obviously confused message to a text."

This is not a question of what the text means, but whether you're prepared to believe it. The fact that a unitarian reader can't bring him to accept what a Bible writer said is irrelevant to exegesis. The object of exegesis is not to pacify the reader, but to ascertain the meaning of the text.

"Is it arrogant to refuse to believe what appears contradictory? It can be. It doesn't seem to be in the above case; it is the humble course to try to make the best sense out of a text."

You systematically confound the outlook of the reader with the outlook of the writer. At best, the outlook of the reader would only be relevant in reference to the implied audience, viz. John's 1C audience. 

But where a modern reader is concerned, his beliefs, his plausibility structure, is irrelevant to what the ancient writer meant. Writers can say things readers disagree with, Dale.

Of course, due to the authority of Scripture, Christians are supposed to align or realign (if need be) their beliefs with what the Bible teaches. That's your predicament.

"But it is plainly arrogant to foist a demonstrably incoherent theory on the Christian public, and if they point out its incoherence, accuse them of sitting in judgment over God's self-revelation. I dare say God does not appreciate this condemnation; as we listen to him, he expects and requires us to use the minds he so generously gave us."

That's a transparent rhetorical ploy. This is about you screening the Bible through your extraneous filter. Because you refuse to believe what the Bible says about Jesus, since that conflicts with your metatheory, you're the one who's foisting makeshift interpretations onto the text.

"The fact is that the argument above was not endorsed by a great many historic mainstream theologians. e.g. They called Jesus 'God' and thought of him as in a lesser sense divine, but they demonstrably did not draw the conclusion that Jesus and the Father were the same being, or the same God. Instead, the argued that the one God of the OT is the Father, who is greater than Jesus. In your mind, Steve, the numerical identity of Jesus and God is an obvious implication of the NT. Well, then Justin, Origen, Tertullian, etc. didn't get the memo. Which is to say, no - that's not at all an obvious implication of the NT, but rather a controversial theory about it."

The early church fathers were groping with how to model the deity of Christ in relation to their preconceived notions of monotheism, using the conceptual resources of Greco-Roman philosophy at their disposal. They were experimenting with various Christological and Trinitarian paradigms. Historical theology evolves. And that's continuous, from Clement of Rome to Oliver Crisp and beyond.

But that's a separate question from what the Bible teaches.

"At different times, yes. Identity is the relation that everything bears to itself, and not to anything else, and which forces indiscernibility."

Is it the same "itself" at different times if it changes through time? If you allow for diachronic change, then you admit differences. Yes, the individual is self-identical at any given time. That's not the issue, The issue is whether the individual is the same individual across time. The same individual between T1 and T2, given the changes it undergoes. Clearly your definition of sameness falls short of strict identity. And then moment you allow for a concept of personal identity that's looser than strict identity, you're dealing with degrees of similarity. More alike and less alike. At that point, what basis to you have to attack the Trinity?

"Steve, I'll wager that you assume Ind Id, in my preferred formulation, in all other contexts. e.g. in a court case."

The question is whether your preferred formulation waters down the indiscernibility of identicals to something less than strict identity.

"No, sorry. Steve in the other possible world is not real. So, he's not identical to you, the Steve in this actual world. To talk about "possible worlds" is just to talk about how things might (logically) have been - it's a way of talking about mere possibilities. To say that Steve in the other word is not dismissive, is just saying that Steve (the real, actual one - here in this world) could have been, at this time, not dismissive."

The question at issue is the nature of counterfactual identity. Who are counterfactual statements about Dale about? Are they about the real Dale in the real world? Yet they are contrary to fact statements. Statements that aren't true of what Dale actually does in the actual world. So what's the reference point for the truth of these statements? Are counterfactual statements about you about you, or about someone like you?

"Really? How so? Note that the tools I'm wielding are very simply ones, that all people at all times possess: concern with consistency, the concept of a single being, and the belief that a thing can't at one time be and not be a certain way, simple plainly valid arguments. Pretty plain-Jane stuff, no? I stick deliberately to common sense there. Show me where any speculations intrude, if you think they do. It's easy to accuse."

i) Dale, you're prevaricating. There's no philosophical consensus on the conditions under which individuals are identical or distinct. Consider the intricate debate between endurantists and perdurantists.

Do you think "all people at all times" possess formal criteria for personal identity? Do you think "all people at all times" have a solution to Frege's Julius Caesar problem?

ii) Ironically, if you're going to appeal to pretheoretical intuitions of identity, that undercuts your definition. Let's compare two definitions back-to-back, beginning with yours:

"This principle is sometimes called 'Leibniz's Law.' It is commonly expressed in standard logical symbols like this: (x)(y)( x = y (F)(Fx Fy)). (Necessarily, for any x and any y, x is identical to y only if for any F, x is F if and only if y is F.) Roughly: it is impossible for numerically identical things to differ. In my view, this principle should be explicitly complicated so as to allow that a thing may intrinsically change through time."

This is Tuggy's definition of numerical identity, which he expounds in relation to Leibniz's law. Notice that his definition allows for persistence through time.

Let's compare that to another definition:

"Butler said there are two senses of the word 'identity.' There is, he says, identity in the strict sense and identity in 'a loose and popular sense.' The problem that Butler was concerned with was that of identity of persons and other objects over time. We say that a certain person we saw today is the very same person that we saw yesterday. Does that mean that the person today and the person yesterday are actually identical?…'The same river' would equally well do as examples. Here is an argument for saying that a person today and a person yesterday are not strictly identical: Strict identity is governed by a principled that is called the Indiscernibility of Identicals. This says that if a is strictly identical with b, then a and b have exactly the same properties. Sameness of thing gives sameness of properties. It is sometimes called Leibniz's Law. Now consider a person yesterday and a person today. Many of the person's properties will be different on different days. The person may have been cold yesterday and may be hot today, standing up yesterday and sitting today. So it seems that we conclude, by the Indiscernibility of Identicals, that the person yesterday is not strictly identical with 'the very same person' today. This is where Butler's distinction can be used. We can soften the blow by saying that what we have when we speak of a person yesterday and the same person to day is identity only in a 'loose and popular sense' of the word 'identity.'" 
D. M. Armstrong, Universals: An Opinionated Introduction (Westview Press, 1989), 2-4.

Notice that Armstrong definition distinguishes between strict and loose senses of identity. He defines strict identity by reference to Leibniz's law. But he sets that in direct contrast to persistence through time. For Armstrong, personal identity, involving diachronic change, falls short of strict identity (i.e. the indiscernibility of identicals).

So you and Armstrong present diametrically opposing definitions of identity. Your common man appeal only gets you the "loose and popular" definition of personal identity, in contrast to strict identity (i.e. the indiscernibility of identicals).

iii) Let's run with Armstrong's definition. Timeless (abstract) objects are paradigm cases of strict identity. Temporal objects can have incompatible properties by losing or gaining properties over time. That results in some differences–before and after. Some discontinuity.

By contrast, timeless objects have no incompatible properties. They don't change over time. They don't undergo change because they are timeless. So they are what they are without qualification. 

If that's how we define numerical identity (a la Leibniz, Armstrong), then personal identity may only been identity in the loose rather than strict sense of the term. Tuggy tries to play both ends off the middle. Where the Trinity is concerned, he seems to demand strict identity, as if he were using abstract objects (e.g. numbers) as the paradigm of personal identity.

Yet he defines identity to make allowance for change. However, that's a a looser definition of identity than strict identity. And once he forfeits strict identity, I don't see how Tuggy can attack the Trinity as a violation of Leibniz's law. 

iv) In addition, Tuggy rejects divine eternalism for divine temporalism. So he thinks the same God (same divine "self") has incompatible properties, spread over time. 

How is that consistent with personal identity, but the Trinity is not?

"Agreed. But my point is that we think it important to be charitable in what interpretation of their speech or writing we adopt. Normally, it's a deal-breaker in the interpretation we're considering is plainly self-contradictory - we resist this, the more we have reason to think the speaker non-confused. Here, I take it, we have a lot of reason to think that, because we agree that the inspirer is God himself."

i) It's not as if we're born with innate definitions of personal identity or numerical identity.

ii) Moreover, if God reveals himself to be Trinitarian, then we should allow that divine self-disclosure to inform or reform our preconceived notions of numerical identity or personal identity.

"Really? How so? Note that the tools I'm wielding are very simply ones, that all people at all times possess: concern with consistency, the concept of a single being, and the belief that a thing can't at one time be and not be a certain way, simple plainly valid arguments. Pretty plain-Jane stuff, no? I stick deliberately to common sense there. Show me where any speculations intrude, if you think they do. It's easy to accuse."

I've already presented a lengthy response, but to make some additional points:

i) Take a stock definition of numerical identity: "to be one and the same: one thing rather than two."

Problem is, that's not very informative. For it fails to explain what *makes* something to be one and the same thing. And that's the nub of the issue. So you can't get much milage out of that minimal definition. It's practically a cipher.

ii) Apropos (i), the popular concept of a "single being" involves a fuzzy notion of personal identity rather than strict identity. So your man-on-the-street appeal backfires.

iii) It's unitarians rather than Trinitarians who disregard the "identity" statements in Scripture. Trinitarians accept the "identity" statements that Scripture makes about the Son's relationship to God (as well as the Spirit's relationship to God). We take it as far as Scripture takes it. Unitarians are the ones who stop shot of accepting the predications of Scripture.

"Steve, what I called incoherent was precisely *your* claim that both Father and Son are identical to God, and yet they differ from one another. If you think the Bible says that, you're saying something pretty bold."

You're equivocating. Are you using "God" as a common noun or proper noun? Are you using "identity" in some technical sense of personal identity or numerical identity? There's no philosophical consensus on personal identity.

Do you equate numerical identity with strict identity? Apparently not.

"(that Jesus and the Father are and aren't identical)"

Don't be simpleminded. Individuals can be identical in one or more respects, but distinct in one or more respects. It's not all or nothing.

"but people who hold out hope that what the Bible says is *true*, and who don't accept your special pleading appeal to 'mystery' are going to be looking elsewhere to understand what the Bible really says."

i) I needn't appeal to "mystery." If that's what God reveals about himself, then that's sufficient justification.

ii) However, appealing to paradox is not ipso facto "special pleading." Paradox is a common and tenacious phenomenon in logic, science, metaphysics, and mathematics.

"It's relevant in that it shows that what you claim the Bible obviously says or implies, is not so."

That's a non-sequitur Dale. The fact that you imagine the Trinity to be incoherent based on your preconception of identity conditions or identity relations hardly obviates what the Bible "obviously says or implies."

And the formal criteria for determining identity conditions or identity relations is a vexed issue in philosophy and mathematics. That's not something you're entitled to treat as a given. Far from it, that's a matter of ongoing debate.

"Careful, Accuser. I said that I was deliberately sticking with *common sense* - not that the assumptions I made were one's that all or most philosophers agree to. Most philosophers, these days, are naturalists. And philosophers, naturalist and not, say some very strange things. But my argument is with Christians, and it seems to me that all Christians agree, e.g. that the one who dies = the one who is raised from the dead, and that the one who sins = the one who suffers in hell."

Since you're raising philosophical objections to the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the deity of Christ, you don't get to evade philosophical objections to your position by "sticking with common sense." That oscillation is an example of your studied duplicity.

"All people believe, in my view, that they endure through time; at least, that's the default position. Memory and anticipation presuppose endurance. Buddhist or four-dimensionalist philosophy make intrude. Note that I don't adhere to "criteria of identity" - I think identity-facts are basic, and are not to be analyzed in terms of anything else, e.g. memory, bodily continuity."

Dale, you act as if you can resolve philosophical controversies by edict. That's not how it works.

"Look around - you'll see that basically no Christian philosopher, and wider than that, no moral realist endorses this, for the reasons above. Another reason is that we experience true change. Change, properly speaking, presupposes that one and the same thing is first one way, and then that same thing is another way. If it's not the same thing both times, we have replacement, not change. The four-dimensionalist doesn't believe in change. He reduces the appearance of change to replacement, or simply to differ person-stages at different times. But I know that I'm the person who typed the last sentence. And you know you're person who made this blog post on Oct 9."

Dale, I've cited specific counterexamples like the endurantist/perdurantist debate and Frege's Caesar problem which belie your facile assertions.

"A related point: 'loose and popular identity' is not a kind of identity, not a kind of numerical sameness. There are no kinds of it. So no, there's nothing tricky going on... on my side. On your side, I note that you're endorsing, at least in this discussion, an implausible and revisionary metaphysical theory, only because you suppose that it'll help you maintain a cherished Trinity theory. This is ad hoc. But also, it doesn't work."

I quoted David Malet Armstrong. Are you suggesting that he's a fringe figure in modern philosophy? He's a leading philosopher on attribute-agreement, so he has well-considered views on the nature of identity. You're free to disagree with him, but don't pretend he's eccentric. That tactic exposes your desperation.

"the Father and Son. You say that these are "loosely" identical, meaning that they can have different properties at different times. Great!"

No, that's not what I'm saying. I'm simply using diachronic change to illustrate the claim that personal identity doesn't presuppose strict identity.

I don't think the Father or the Son qua Son undergo change. The Son qua Incarnate is subject to change.

"But, in the NT, they have incompatible properties at the same time. And even if you didn't see that, it would remain that it is possible (non-contradictory) on your own views, that Father and Son differ at a given time."

Meaning the Father is not the Son, and vice versa. Needless to say, that distinction is an essential component of the Trinity.

"It follows that they are not numerically one."

That only follows if you beg the question of makes something to be the same thing. If you assume, in the teeth of arguments to the contrary, that strict identity must underwrite numerical identity and/or personal identity.

"About God and time: my view is, like Craig's, that if there is time, everything's in it, even God. But this is good - he couldn't respond to us if he weren't temporal, due to his free creation."

Which ducks the question I raised by changing the subject.

"About your last question, my reply is: intrinsic change is actual - we know this by experience. Thus, it is possible. Thus, change is real. Thus, Leibniz's Law must be understood to allow the reality of change."

That's a non sequitur. The fact that change is real doesn't mean Leibniz's law must be redefined to allow for the reality of change. Rather, that would restrict Leibniz's law to abstract objects. Although concrete objects (or relations) could approximate Leibniz's law, concrete identity would be less stringent. Analogous to the way in which real space exemplifies geometrical universals.

"Thus, the theory above implicitly affirms and denies the same claim - a theoretical disaster."

Don't be a simpleton. Same in most respects, different in another.

"Finally, let me substantiate my claim that you, and every reader of this blog, are committed to something like my version of Leibniz's Law (aka the Indiscernibility of Identicals). You're on the jury, and they've hauled in Joe Biden. They know *someone* spray-painted 'You should move to Kolob' on the side of Romney's bus, but they don't know who. Joe is a suspect. How will he be acquitted? This will suffice, for you, and for any juror - that there has been a time, any time, no matter when or how brief, that the spray-painter was one way, and Joe was another. Why? You infer, that as they have differed, they (Joe and the spray painter) are not numerically the same."

That doesn't pick out any particular theory of personal identity.

"To the contrary, the concept of identity is built-in. So is the concept of a self. I don't think the former concept is really definable. The concept of a self is certainly understandable, or explicable - maybe even definable. 'Personal identity' is just whether or not some x and y are the same self - i.e. x is a self, y is a self, and x=y."

The man on the street has crude notions of personal identity, which is consistent with conflicting philosophical models.

"Numerical sameness is a rock-bottom, basic items in our conceptual toolbox."

Which is a cipher, as I pointed out (see above).

"But the biggest problem is just that the Bible everywhere supposes God to be a uniquely great self…"

That's tendentiously one-sided. The Biblical data is more complex. Unitarianism simplifies theology by simplifying the data.

"Just numerical identity. Again, 'personal identity' isn't really a kind of identity - see above."

Which is unfortunately for your argument.

"Numerical identity IS all-or-nothing."

Really? A few days ago, Alexander Pruss said: "distinguish two different kinds of identity, identity of person and identity of essence, and say that that some predicates only transfer across one of these two identities."

But I guess he's a philosophical bumpkin.