Saturday, December 21, 2013

Tuggy's latest failure


This is my brief sequel to my earlier post:


I'll review some of Tuggy's other arguments against the deity of Christ in Mark's Gospel:

(11) Tempted. (12) But, you can’t tempt God. 

i) Does Mark say God can't be temped? Or is Dale importing that from Jas 1:13? If so, he first needs to exegete Jas 1:13. And he needs to show that Mark means by "temptation" what James means by "temptation." As a rule, it's unsound semantics to use one Bible writer's usage to gloss another Bible writer's usage. 

ii) Keep in mind, too, that this isn't about tempting God in general, but about Christ's distinctive mission. 

“Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him.” (41) Answer: the Son of God, and Messiah. (ch. 1-3)

In Christology in the Synoptic Gospels: God or God's Servant (T&T Clark 2012), 47-48, Sigurd Grindheim has argued that this scene is a divine theophany, like OT counterparts, which attests the deity of Christ.  

and obviously, a real man – that’s presupposed throughout. He seems to need a retreat after the murder of John the Baptist. (30-31) And to recharge through prayer. (46)

Since Trinitarian Christology affirms the full humanity of Christ, this is not a counterexample to the deity of Christ. 

“The Father” here is obviously, YHWH, the one true God.

Is Tuggy borrowing this phrase ("the one true God") from Jn 17:3? If so, why use that to filter Mark? Moreover, he needs to exegete Jn 17:3 in context. 

The high places in his coming Kingdom are not Jesus’s to grant. (40) We are to infer that this is God’s prerogative, not Jesus’s. 

That division of labor is consistent the economic Trinity. Indeed, it's called economic subordination. Although Tuggy doesn't believe in that, he needs to make allowance for that explanation when he presents evidence that's allegedly inconsistent with Trinitarian Christology. 

God does not serve us. But Jesus, this “son of man,” does. (45) And he’ll give his life – that is, die, as a ransom for us – something an essentially immortal being could not do. (45)

Yes, God qua God can't die. But God Incarnate can die. 

The day and the hour “nobody knows” – not even God’s angels, or the unique Son of God, but only God. (32) If you’re still wondering whether Jesus is God himself, the answer is no – for God knows at least one thing that Jesus does not.

Once again, the fact that Jesus is humanly ignorant of many things is entirely consistent with the Incarnation. Although Tuggy rejects the Incarnation, he needs to assume the viewpoint of the opposing position for the sake of argument if he's going to argue against it. His attempted counterevidence is perfectly harmonious with the two natures of Christ. 

Let us note that God cannot die. But, Jesus died. So, he’s not God. And he wasn’t faking it. (40-47)

Which fails to take the Incarnation into account. Tuggy acts as if this is at odds with Trinitarian Christology. But Trinitarian Christology doesn't take the position that Christ is divine rather than human. He's both. 

Tuggy's presentation operates at the level of a Jehovah's Witness tract. 

Pious agnosticism


I'm going to comment this post by Scott Clark's on John Frame's new systematic theology:


I think readers should read widely but they shouldn’t believe everything they read. So we should read liberally but we should read critically, i.e., thoughtfully and always asking ourselves: “Is that true?”
That's excellent advice. Unfortunately, Clark fails to heed his own advice. 
The second divergence, closely related to the first, is theological. Frame has come to defend views that are flatly contrary to the Reformed confession on a number of topics from the definition of theology through to Christian ethics.
Of course, one could say the same thing about Clark. He's a selective confessionalist. It's a pity that Clark is a hardened hypocrite. He constantly exempts himself from the consistency he demands from others.
There are presently two competing approaches to Reformed theology. One approach seeks to appreciate and appropriate the Reformed tradition and the confession of the churches and from that starting point and with those resources read the Scriptures and engage the state of the art. 
Is that the starting point? Didn't Clark just admonish us to read critically, i.e., thoughtfully and always asking ourselves: “Is that true?”
Why is Clark a confessional Calvinist rather than a confessional Lutheran? Do they just have different arbitrary starting points? How does Clark think we should come to believe the Reformed confessions in the first place? Does he think we always ought to read the Scriptures through the lens of Reformed tradition? If so, what about a Lutheran who shares the identical methodology, but plugs that into Lutheran creeds rather than Reformed creeds? 
The other approach, however, seems to regard the tradition with a wary eye and seeks to revise Reformed theology in sometimes radical ways. The volume before us, though it has traditional elements, falls into the second category. This approach, which is more “biblicist” than confessionalist (on this see Recovering the Reformed Confession), has produced some significant divergences from historic Reformed theology.
Does Frame seek to revise Reformed theology? Is that his objective going in? Or is that the occasional, unpremeditated result of his studies? 
By dialectical I mean an approach to theology that affirms and denies something at the same time. Frame does this through a method he describes as triperspectivalism. 
Clark makes it sound as if Frame affirms and denies the same thing in the same respect. But there's nothing incoherent or contradictory (if that's what Clark is insinuating) about affirming something in one respect, but denying that in another respect. 
In his earlier volume on the doctrine of God, he defended the proposition that God is three persons and one person, a view at which, in the present volume. he seems only to hint. Last I knew, few reviewers noted this significant departure from catholic (i.e., universal Christian) dogma and the Reformed confession.

i) In what sense is that a departure from dogma? Is he saying Frame's conceptualization of the Trinity marks a departure, or Frame's terminology

ii) In Trinitarian and Christological usage, "person" (along with its Greek and Latin cognates) is a term of art. The terminology was fluid in early church history. And theological jargon has stipulative definitions. So it's a question of how the term is used. 

iii) We need to distinguish between Frame as an expositor of Van Til, and Frame's own preferred formulations. In explaining and defending Van Til, Frame is exegeting Van Til's usage. How Frame interprets Van Til is not the same thing is how Frame might choose to formulate the issue when speaking for himself. 

iv) Clark mentions Frame's conclusion while ignoring his supporting arguments. 

The doctrine of divine simplicity, however, is not a remnant of Thomas’ neo-Platonism. It is the interpretation of Holy Scripture and the confession of the Reformed and Presbyterian churches. 
i) To begin with, his claim is a non-sequitur. How does the fact that it's nominally codified in Reformed confessions entail that it's not a remnant of Thomistic Neoplatonism? 
ii) What does Clark mean by saying divine simplicity is the interpretation of Scripture? For instance, does Clark think there's no difference between divine justice and divine mercy? Are these identical? If so, that's a problem for Reformed theology, according to which God can be unmerciful, but never unjust. 
The churches have not confessed a conviction about every theological question or debate but where they have confessed we are bound to it and we do not confess that God is simple and complex. We confess one thing: that he is simple, that he is without parts and we do so, as Luther said, without horns (we don’t say this and not this or Sic et Non). Neither the Trintarian persons nor the attributes make God complex. 
i) What happened to Clark's admonition that we should read critically, i.e., thoughtfully and always asking ourselves: “Is that true?”
ii) Does Frame say God is composed of parts? 
iii) Clark uses "simplicity" as a buzzword. He stays on the verbal surface. Does he even grasp the metaphysical machinery or varied models? For instance:
In The Christian Faith (2011), pp. 228-30, Mike Horton...appeals to the essence/energies (working) distinction in Basil.
So Frame stands accused of deviating from Reformed tradition because he doesn't recast Reformed theology in Greek Orthodox categories. I didn't realize Gregory Palamas presided at the Synod of Dordt or the Westminster Assembly. I salute his Methuselean longevity. 
More recently, the classical Reformed doctrine of simplicity has been a bulwark against the heresy of Open Theism, the doctrine that future contingents are unknowable to God. 
i) Why would we rely on such a convoluted argument to refute open theism? Surely there are more direct arguments we can deploy against open theism.
ii) Since an open theist won't treat divine simplicity as a given, it would first be necessary to argue for divine simplicity, then argue for how that's at odds with God's ignorance of future contingents. An approving quote from Berkhof is not an argument.  
This passage gets us closer to the heart of the problem, his apparent revision of the traditional Reformed doctrine of the incomprehensibility of God. As a matter of truth, God’s essence is a dark, unrevealed entity. God, as he is in himself (in se) is hidden from us…We know that God’s hidden essence is but we don’t know what God’s essence is. We’re not capable of knowing or understanding that essence. We know what God has revealed of himself to us. God has given us pictures, illustrations, analogies, but he has not revealed himself as he is in himself…The Reformed want to affirm both the mystery of God’s hiddenness and the utterly reliability of his self-revelation. 

i) Clark confuses the order of being (i.e. what God is in himself) with the order of knowing (what God is like). Since we're not God, we can't know God as he knows himself. But that doesn't mean we can't know what God is truly like. We just can't can see it from God's unique, first-person perspective. And God must take the initiative in disclosing himself.   

ii) If God's essence is unknowable, then Scripture is not a divine self-revelation. God hasn't revealed himself to us in Scripture. Rather, God has revealed something other than himself. 

Our Lord himself said:  
No one has ever seen God. The only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known (John 1:18).

So, according to Clark, the Son isn't God in himself? The Son isn't essentially God? The Incarnation of the Son fails to reveal what God is really like? We can't know God's true nature by knowing Christ? 
1Timothy 6:16 says “no one has ever seen or can see” God. 1John 4:12 says that “no one has ever seen God.”
How does Clark make the logical leap from verses about the invisibility of God to to the incomprehensibility of God? 
Frame has defended the right of the self-described Federal Visionists to teach their doctrines. In the present volume he offers a (remarkably revisionist) defense of the principal godfather of the FV theology, Norman Shepherd. 

It's unclear what exactly Clark is alleging. His accusation seems to amount to this:

i) Frame's exposition of justification is traditionally Reformed.

ii) Shepherd's exposition is contrary to traditional Reformed theology.

iii) Frame superimposes his own exposition onto Shepherd. Frame imputes to Shepherd a position at odds with Shepherd's actual position. 

But if Frame's own formulation is sound, then Frame's association with Shepherd, even if that's injudicious, is a red herring. 

Put another way, even if Frame's friendship with Shepherd affects his objectivity, making him an unreliable interpreter of Shepherd, how is that germane when Frame is speaking for himself rather than putting in a good word for an old friend? 

….His method is not only dialectical, it is a latitudinarian, i.e., the goal is that we should tolerate doctrines that the Reformed churches have condemned. 

That raises an interesting question. Since the classic Reformed confessions weren't responding to the Federal Vision, modern-day Reformed churches must go beyond the historical purview of 16-17C Reformed confessions to adjudicate the specifics of that particular position. 

Who really hates homosexuals?


Who hates homosexuals? GLAAD hates homosexuals. GLAAD is a hate group. Piers Morgan hates homosexuals. The only homosexuals they love are dead homosexuals. The more dead the better.

Just Google what the politically correct CDC has to say about the health risks. It's a dangerous, deadly lifestyle.

Piers Morgan and hate-groups like GLAAD are no different than dope dealers who get teenagers hooked on heroine or cocaine, then keep feeding their habit until they die from the medical complications. Glamorizing homosexuality is no different than glamorizing hard drug addiction. 

Years ago there was a special about a Half Ton Teen. He was supermorbidly obese. He was eating himself to death. He was bed-ridden. 

In fact, he was too incapacitated to get that overweight. He couldn't shop for himself or cook for himself. How did he get that overweight? He had a doting mother. She was the enabler.

Although she viewed herself as a loving mother, she was literally killing her self-indulgent son by pandering to his insatiable appetite. 

That's how GLAAD loves homosexuals. That's how Piers Morgan loves homosexuals. When you reinforce someone's high-risk behavior, when you reinforce their destructive lifestyle, you aren't acting in their best-interests. Just the opposite. You are contributing to their demise. 

It's like handing a suicidal teenager a loaded revolver. Is that love?  

God came down


I'm going to comment on two posts by Dale Tuggy attacking Mark's high Christology:



i) First off, let's comment on his treatment of Mk's introduction. Mark says:

1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,    who will prepare your way,the voice of one crying in the wilderness:    ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,    make his paths straight,’”4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Keep in mind that Tuggy is a "humanitarian unitarian." He believes that Jesus is merely human, although God has given Jesus godlike prerogatives to act on God's behalf, in God's stead.
This would be a consistent unitarian gloss on the fulfillment of Isaiah:
Yahweh is to the Father 
As Elijah is to Jesus
Jesus takes the place of Elijah. Jesus is the counterpart to Elijah. 
That, however, is not how Mark structures the fulfillment. Instead, this is the Markan scheme:
Yahweh is to Jesus
As Elijah is to John the Baptist
In the Markan parallelism, Jesus is the counterpart to Yahweh while John the Baptist is the counterpart to Elijah.
In Mark's introduction, Jesus is not a prophetic emissary. Rather, that's the role assigned to John the Baptist. By contrast, Jesus is the God who's coming is heralded by the Baptist. 
ii) Let's now consider some of Tuggy's evidence that Jesus is not God in Mark:
No, he’s the Son of God. (1) So, not God himself. God endorses him. (14-15) He’s the messenger, not the sender, so, not God.

Jesus, son of the Most High God” (7) So, not the most High God, not YHWH himself, but rather, his Son.

He’ll return “in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” That’ll be when we see “the kingdom of God come with power.” (9:1) “The Father” here is obviously, YHWH, the one true God.

He calls himself the “son of man” (12, 31), which seems an obvious reference to Daniel 7:13 – to the “one like a son of man” whom God makes a supreme ruler. (Daniel 7:13-14).

The high places in his coming Kingdom are not Jesus’s to grant. (40) We are to infer that this is God’s prerogative, not Jesus’s. 

His authority and power are from heaven – that is, from God. (27-33) 

But then, how can David, in Psalm 110:1, call the messiah his “Lord” – when that same messiah is David’s “son” (descendant)? We’re not supposed to think that Jesus is called “Lord” because he’s God himself. God is the one who sent him, and is, his god, the one Jesus prays to.

Even the pagan soldier realizes that this man is a son of a god, or the Son of God. (39) 

Let's take a comparison:
11 And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker (Acts 14:11-12). 
6 They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god (Acts 28:6).
For the sake of argument, let's play along with that framework. Notice how Tuggy's objections instantly fall flat if you throw them against that paradigm:
Hermes is the son of Zeus. He's not Zeus. He's a messenger of Zeus. Zeus sends him. He comes down from Olympus and returns to Olympus. Zeus is the king of the gods. Hermes is authorized to speak and act on his behalf. Hermes could call on Zeus if he needed to. 
Yet none of this would prove that Hermes is not divine. Hermes is a god in his own right. Zeus is a father god, and Hermes is his divine son. 
The fact that Hermes isn't Zeus doesn't mean Hermes isn't divine. He's divine in the same way Zeus is divine. They are two of a kind. 
The fact that Hermes is sent by Zeus doesn't mean Zeus is divine but Hermes is not. 
Likewise, if Zeus chose to abdicate, he could designate Hermes as his rightful heir. Hermes would become the king of the gods. 
Hermes looks human, but there's more to Hermes than meets the eye. 
iii) Now, Tuggy might object that I'm resorting to a pagan polytheistic frame of reference. Surely that's not analogous to the Father and the Son in Mark.
But keep in mind that Mark is addressed to a Gentile audience–unlike Matthew. So "the son of God" might well have different connotations for his audience. Tuggy even mentions the exclamation of the Roman centurion. 
Even though Mark operates with a monotheistic paradigm, he may play on the cultural expectations of his target audience, to correct and refine their understanding. When Tuggy says Jesus can't be "God" because he's "God's son," is he hearing that designation the same way Mark's original audience heard it? Would they share his facile dichotomies? 
My comparison is an a fortiori argument. Yes, there are fundamental differences, but we're moving from the lesser to the greater.
For instance, the notion of God coming down from the sky isn't uniquely pagan. That's an ancient Biblical motif. We have that going all the way back to the introductory book of the Bible (Gen 3:8; 11:5; 18:1ff.). We also have that in the NT (e.g. Phil 2:6-8). 
iv) Tuggy mentions the parable of the tenants:

The vineyard-owner’s “beloved son.” (6) Vineyard owner represents God, the son is Jesus. Too obvious to need spelling out.

And what lends force to the illustration is the fact that his son is not equivalent to servants who are unrelated to the vineyard-owner. 
v) What's the significance of "God's son" in Mark? In principle, it could be a simile for Davidic sonship. God was like a father to David. David was like a son to God.
And that's undoubtedly one of the connotations of "God's son" in Mark. Jesus is the Davidic Messiah. 
vi) However, there's more to divine sonship in Mark than Davidic sonship. For one thing, in Biblical typology, the antitype is characteristically greater than the type. 
vii) Likewise, if Jesus is merely human, why does Jesus take David's place? Why is David just a stand-in for Jesus? If the Davidic Messiah is merely human, why doesn't God come bring David back? Resurrect David in the 1C? If the Davidic Messiah is merely human, there's no need for David to be a placeholder for someone else. Why can't David himself reprise that role? Why must a different human being take over the same role? 
viii) Moreover, Davidic sonship doesn't adequate to account for some of the Markan data. We've already discussed Mark's introduction. In addition, Tuggy hurries over the fact that Jesus is convicted of blasphemy. But if he is merely claiming divine sonship in the Davidic sense, then there's nothing blasphemous about that claim. Even if the Sanhedrin rejected his claim to be the Davidic messiah, it wouldn't be "blasphemous" to make that claim. At worst, it would be mistaken. If the Sanhedrin misunderstood the nature of his claim, Jesus could easily refute the charge by clarifying the nature of his divine sonship. He could explain that he calls himself the "son of God" in the Davidic sense. That's not a claim to deity. 
ix)  Likewise, Tuggy mentions the demonic recognition of Christ (Mk 1:24-25,34; 3:11; 5:7), but fails to probe the significance of that phenomenon.
If Jesus is merely human, if he is God's son in the Davidic sense, then why are demons credited with perceiving something about Jesus that's hidden to human observers?
Human observers are confined to sensory perception. To the empirical Jesus. But demons are privy to extrasensory perception. They enjoy direct, supernatural insight into the person of Christ. 
This is reminiscent of recognition scenes in the OT involving theophanies or angelophanies. When the Angel of the Lord appears to someone, he often assumes a humanoid appearance. It's only at some point in the conversation that his true identity dawns on the human observer, which triggers fearful reverence.
It's similar in Mark, except that in the case of demons, you have instant recognition and sudden fear. They immediately sense that there's more to Jesus than meets the eye. They instantly perceive his true identity. And that terrifies them. They are confronting their Master and Judge. 
They've encountered him before. They remember him. Before they fell. Back when he and they were both in heaven. God's abode. 
Moreover, one spirit, one numinous being, can discern the presence of another spirit or numinous being. In this case, an inferior being who perceives a superior being. 

Operation Clambake

Here is an article about seven people who successfully left the Church of Scientology.

I notice three of the seven are Katie Holmes, Nicole Kidman, and Mimi Rogers.

What's more, all three were evidently once married to operating thetan Thomas Cruise Mapother IV. Otherwise known as Tom Cruise.

And it would appear Cruise has not married nor divorced any other person besides these three women.

Hence I surmise a potentially efficacious means by which to leave the Church of Scientology is to marry and divorce Tom Cruise.

Perhaps Cruise is an inside man for Operation Clambake. A real life IMF agent. Dropped in behind enemy lines when he parachuted from a rocket propelled DC-8 like spacecraft. Primed and ready to wage a war between worlds. To bring us across the bridge to total freedom.

Pajama boy Christianity

I think another thing the controversy over Phil Robertson exposes is that there are at least two types of secularists - the bona fide secularists and the secularists in sheep's clothing.

In a strange way, I can respect secularists who say the Bible including its morals and ethics is outdated more than I can respect secularists who want to fuse together the Bible with their morals and ethics.

The former believe Christianity is a long bygone superstition best left for dead. That's one thing which we can address directly. A war of the worldviews.

However, the latter think we should accept the parts of Christianity we like and reject the parts we dislike. Update Christianity for the modern era. That's more insidious. It'd perhaps be a fifth column if it weren't so obvious. I think this is represented by some professing Christians who think it's all well and good for Robertson to be a Christian but he was grossly immoral to say what he said about homosexuality, even though Robertson was essentially paraphrasing what the Bible teaches.

The fact is these so-called "Christians" are the ones sitting in judgment over the Bible since they themselves are ultimately the ones who are the arbiters for what morals and ethics should or should not be part of Christianity. God's word is at best secondary to their own authority. And as best as I can tell what they decide to accept happens to reflect our secular morality and ethics.

Instead, they should either reject or submit to the whole counsel of God. Either bow their hearts and minds to God's word and become teachable like John Calvin who said "God, by a sudden conversion subdued and brought my mind to a teachable frame," or throw off God entirely and like Dylan Thomas "Do not go gentle into that good night" but "Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

What they shouldn't do is pretend they can have it both ways. The result would be an effete Christianity, where the "icky" bits are tossed aside or glossed over while the "nice" bits are kept in - as they define "icky" and "nice." This might make for a good bedtime story for pajama boy, but it would scarcely suit the real world.

Friday, December 20, 2013

English as a criminal language

Phil Robertson said:

It seems like, to me, a vagina - as a man - would be more desirable than a man's anus. That's just me. I'm just thinking: There's more there! She's got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I'm saying? But hey, sin: It's not logical, my man. It's just not logical.

Some people including some Christians are in a tizzy over Robertson's language. They think it's ugly, crass language.

  1. What should be the real focus - what Robertson said, or what homosexuals do? See what Steve pointed out here.

  2. Ugly language isn't necessarily identical to bad language. It's not as if Robertson used swear words or blasphemous language or the like.

  3. Language isn't only spoken but also heard. So (though it cuts both ways) it also depends in part on the audience. For instance, soccer moms may think differently, but medical professionals are accustomed to hearing words like "vagina" and "anus," and hearing such words in the same or similar context of sexual intercourse.

  4. Likewise, sex ed teachers and classes make use of this language. But I somehow doubt there'd be any sort of an outcry from liberals such as wanting to censor or otherwise get rid of sex ed classes even though sex ed classes and teachers could very well use words like "vagina" and "anus," teach kids stuff like "some men would prefer other men's anuses, while some women would prefer other women's vaginas," etc. The double standards are so blatant.

  5. The Bible itself uses ugly language. See here for example.

  6. Robertson doesn't come from a refined and polished background. He has even said he comes from a "poor white trash" background. This isn't an excuse, but it should be something to take into consideration.

Sacred cow

From A&E:

We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson's comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty.

A&E is disingenuous. It's not like they didn't know the Duck Dynasty family members were conservative Christians prior to this incident. It's not as if they didn't know conservative Christianity would be an obvious aspect of the TV show. However, A&E was perfectly content to profit off of the Robertsons this whole time. At least until Phil Robertson ran afoul of one of the liberal media's sacred cows.

"Just a Little Persecution"

Prof. James Anderson weighs in over the Phil Robertson and Duck Dynasty fracas.

Why I'm not a Tuggyist


I'm going to comment on a post by anti-Trinitarian Dale Tuggy:
Before I get specific, I'll make a few general observations:
i) Dale is sort of responding to Ed Feser. Feser is a Thomist. I'm not. It's not incumbent on me to defend everything Feser says. He buys into the whole Thomistic package. I don't. Mind you, the fact that I don't accept Thomism in toto doesn't mean I reject Thomism in toto.
ii) In his sort of response to Feser, Tuggy tries to pass himself off as the man in the pew, unlike those coneheaded philosophical theologians. Tuggy just goes with what the Bible says. 
But the problem with that pose is twofold: Tuggy is a philosopher rather than an exegete. He's just as philosophical as Feser. He simply tries to conceal the fact when he's playing to the peanut gallery. 
Conversely, Tuggy is out of step with serious exegetical theology on the Trinity and the person of Christ, viz. Gordon Fee, Richard Bauckham, Darrell Bock, Simon Gathercole, Larry Hurtado, Sigurd Grindheim, Murray J. Harris. So his back-to-the-Bible pose is pure hokum. 
iii) I say he "sort of" responds to Feser because he never directly engages Feser's central argument. Among other things, Feser says:
The idea is that if God were not Being Itself then he could not possibly be the ultimate cause or explanation of things.  Anything less than Being Itself would merely participate in being
When they say that God is not “a person,” what they mean is not that he is impersonal but rather that he is not an instance of the kind “person,” for the reason that he cannot intelligibly be said to be an instance of any kind or property.

At that level, I agree with Feser. To say God is "a being" in that sense would mean he exemplifies an abstract divine nature that's more ultimate than himself. Conversely, to say God is Being in itself means that God is the ultimate source of all other beings. 

As Feser defines his own terms, and differentiates his position from the opposing position, I think his position is theologically unobjectionable. 

Now Feser might include some include metaphysical accessories that I don't grant. But in that broad sense, he's unpacking a categorical difference between the creature and the Creator. 

Feser goes on to say:

John 14: 6 tells us that Christ is the truth, and John 4:6 tells us that God is love -- as opposed to merely instantiating or having love. 

Here I do think Feser overinterprets the surface grammar. I think "God is love" is simply a stylistic variation on "God is loving." Love is a divine attribute. It uses a noun adjectivally. 

Moving on to Tuggy:

As best I can tell, most Christians – Catholic and Protestant, pentecostal and Orthodox, Anabaptist and nondenominational, think, and have always thought of God as a great self. 
That's a half-truth. The Bible often depicts God as "a self." Unfortunately for Dale, the Bible also depicts God as three selves. 
Conversely, we can say the Trinity is one being. There is only one Trinity. 
Why do I say this? Listen to what they say, particularly in unguarded moments which reveal what they really think. For them, God is a “He.” 
Another half-truth. The Bible often depicts God  as "a he." Unfortunately for Dale, the Bible also depicts God as three he's. 
Dale's rudimentary prooftexting does nothing to advance his position. For Trinitarians can match him move for move.
The consensus of interpreters now is that this is God, YHWH, talking to his heavenly court, to his angels – to what in Old Testament lingo are, along with him, and sometimes various humans, termed elohim.
That's a legitimate interpretation, although Dale overstates the degree of consensus. An alternative interpretation (Robert Alter) regards this is a literary convention: interior monologue. 
Another alternative (e.g. David Clines), which is at least as good, if not better, has God addressing the Spirit of God. On that interpretation, there are two divine parties in this passage.  
BTW, the angels aren't termed elohim in Gen 1. That's a designation for God in Gen 1, in contrast to creatures. 
We have in this passage one Self consulting others, about an intentional action, a thing which can only be done by a self…God takes pity on us. He is compassionate, and sympathizes with our plight. He is supremely loving. He forgives. These actions, emotions, and character trains logically presuppose that he’s a self, a being capable of consciousness, with intelligence, will, and the ability to intentionally act.
i) If that's how Dale defines a "self," fine. But that applies to the Son and the Spirit as well as the Father. Take Paul's statement:
10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God (1 Cor 2:10-11).
That clearly depicts the Holy Spirit as a "self." It trades on a body/soul metaphor, where God's Spirit is analogous to the soul. God's soul. So Dale's "self" criterion fails to select for unitarianism.  
I am not ashamed to follow Jesus in calling God and thinking of God as a our heavenly Father.
But in both Johannine and Pauline usage, there's a categorical difference between Christ's Sonship and Christian sonship. So Dale is equivocating. 
God gets mad. Literally? Yes.
Literally "yes" if you're an open theist like Tuggy. Literally "no" from my own standpoint. 

When Christians Are Represented Well

Alan Kurschner drew my attention to a video of Michael Brown on Piers Morgan's television program, discussing the Duck Dynasty controversy. It's good to see somebody like Brown representing Christianity so well against such irrational opponents. It's rare to see this sort of thing in the mainstream media.

When "tolerance" is a euphemism for compliance

http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2013/12/19/duck-dynasty-bible-religion-palin-robertson-column/4124181/

Penultimate thoughts on Duck Dynasty



As we head into Christmas vacation, many people will tune out of the blogosphere, so I'll post my exchanges from Joe Carter's Duck Dynasty thread.

steve hays December 19, 2013 at 12:04 AM
He's a layman with a working class background. Not a theologian. So, no, he doesn't express himself in highbrow terms. So what?

steve hays
December 19, 2013 at 12:01 AM
When did supporters of "marriage equality" suddenly become so prudish? It's not like the LGBT lobby is queasy about explicit content.


Ben 
December 19, 2013 at 1:00 PM
If his words are too graphic for TGC than maybe TGC shouldn't discuss the topic.

steve hays 
December 19, 2013 at 1:25 PM 

TGC can discuss a topic without using Phil's terminology.
steve hays
December 19, 2013 at 10:43 AM
He was punished for speaking the truth, to send a message to others not to speak the truth.

Lori
December 19, 2013 at 11:28 AM
What message?

steve hays
December 19, 2013 at 11:45 AM
His paraphrase of 1 Cor 6. 


You seem to be offended by his comparison between homosexuality and bestiality. Why is that? Are you saying bestiality is morally wrong? If so, by what standard do you judge bestiality to be evil, but not homosexuality?

steve hays
December 19, 2013 at 6:59 PM
"The reason the comparison is offensive and should not be used is because it has been used for a very long time to degrade and dehumanize gay people. We do not compare other sins to bestiality: I have never heard anybody compare adultery to bestiality, or claim that societal acceptance of premarital sex will lead to bestiality. It is a comparison that has been pretty much exclusively reserved for homosexuality, because it is particularly cruel and hurtful. It degrades and demeans LGBT people. The issue isn't that it's comparing two sins. Saying "homosexuality is like gossip" wouldn't cause that level of pain. It's saying that a man who engages in a sexual relationship with another man is no different than a man who engages in sex with an animal; by doing so, it's implying that the other man and the animal are no different."

The comparison operates at two levels:


i) To begin with, both sodomy and bestiality are contrary to nature. Not every sin is contrary to nature. Premarital and extramarital sex are both sinful, but they aren't contrary to nature. There's a reason why so many homosexual men undergo colectomies, in comparison to heterosexual men and women (to take one example). 


ii) It's also a test-case of whether homosexual advocates can draw a moral line. Do they have a basis for objective moral norms? Do they think bestiality is intrinsically evil. If so, why? If so, why is bestiality evil, but homosexuality is not? If not, then why is the comparison offensive?


iii) You fixate on allegedly "demeaning" and "degrading" rhetoric while you remain consciously silent on the degrading nature of homosexual behavior. So you feigned concern is superficial and disingenuous. If you really cared, you would focus on objectively degrading behavior rather than subjectively degrading rhetoric.


iv) You also play into the stereotype of homosexuals as emotionally fragile creatures. Some of them would find that
offensive. Speaking of which, do you think homosexuals always use nice language when talking to or about each other?

Ryan
December 19, 2013 at 12:21 PM
No, he was punished for making a statement that conflicts with the views of the corporation he agreed to represent.

steve hays
December 19, 2013 at 1:29 PM
He was punished for making a statement that conflicts with radical chic patronage for the current social mascot of the power elite. I daresay most of the constituency for Duck Dynasty has no problem with his statement. So in this case the A&E executives are dissing the customer to please outside pressure groups.

Ryan
December 19, 2013 at 12:40 PM
As others have said, the problem is when asked to explain sin, he began with homosexuality. I'm not saying that Christians all need to support gay marriage, but I think I can say with confidence that regardless of your theological convictions, if, when asked to explain sin, the first thing your mind jumps to is homosexuality, there's something very wrong. It places homosexuality on an unnecessary pedestal, yes, but this has already been pointed out. More egregiously, it asserts that the definition of "sin" is "things that Christians find icky," rather than a more Biblical definition of evil and rebellion.
I'm going to give Phil Robertson the benefit of the doubt and assume that this isn't what he actually believes, but it's how it came across - or at least, how GQ made it sound - and as a result I think that even the most adamantly anti-gay Christians should be put off by his statements.


steve hays
December 19, 2013 at 1:33 PM
You mean, the way St. Paul begins with homosexuality in Rom 1? 


Since the power elite is putting homosexuality on a pedestal, there's nothing wrong with using that sin as an index of social mores. 


Likewise, there's nothing wrong with having an instinctual revulsion for certain sins, just as we have an instinctual revulsion for cannibalism. That's something we ought to have.



Ryan
December 19, 2013 at 1:41 PM
Paul begins with giving a brief outline of the nature of sin (Romans 1:18-23
). The bit about homosexuality comes after that.

steve hays
December 19, 2013 at 1:48 PM
What you call the "bit about homosexuality" is the sin Paul uses to showcase the principle. That example is central rather than incidental.


Ryan
December 19, 2013 at 12:53 PM

To be honest, I don't totally grasp the outrage over his firing. When you are employed by someone, you are - either tacitly or explicitly - their representative. As a result, any employer is perfectly within their rights to fire anyone who they feel is misrepresenting them. We understand and accept this. When a pastor is preaching something that misrepresents the church's theology, he will often be fired. When a police officer is dismissed because private comments he made endorsing use of hallucinogens become public, we understand. We don't complain.
Yet when the shoe is on the foot, when the person coming under fire is someone we like and agree with, all of a sudden it's "free speech" this and "relativistic anti-truth society" that, as though a corporation's prerogative to maintain its image has suddenly vanished into thin air.
We can't draw arbitrary lines to make sure freedom always works in our favour. We can't have our cake and eat it, too. If it is wrong for A&E to fire Phil Robertson because his views misrepresent the perspectives of the corporation, then it is wrong for a church to fire a pastor for teaching heresy.

steve hays
December 19, 2013 at 1:46 PM
To begin with, you're artificially separating an abstract the right to fire an employee from what is right (or wrong). Your moral equivalence is false. Firing a pastor for heresy isn't just about the legal right to discharge him, but the substantive grounds for his dismissal. Was it justified? 


And who do you think A&E represents? Outside pressure groups like GLAAD? Or the constituency for Duck Dynasty?

Ryan
December 19, 2013 at 1:52 PM
Ah, I see. So whether it is acceptable to dismiss someone for expressing their views or not depends on whether you agree with those views?

steve hays
December 19, 2013 at 2:04 PM
Are you a moral relativist?

Lori
December 19, 2013 at 3:34 PM
I think his point is that you are taking a relativistic position. You are saying that firing a person who represents a business/institution and says something that doesn't agree with the values and beliefs of that business/institution is okay if you think the statements are wrong but not okay if you think the statements are right.
And if we want to talk absolutism, then why agree to have a show that makes you beholden to a corporation that promotes wrong views?



steve hays
December 19, 2013 at 7:05 PM

You're profoundly confused about what constitutes moral relativism. Here's the correct distinction: treating like things alike and unlike things unalike. Let's take two comparisons:


Example A: An employee is fired after he's caught diverting customer payments to his private offshore account.


Example B: A whisleblower is fired after he's caught leaking to a journalist information about how the company is selling customers defective products.


It isn't relativistic for me to support A but oppose B.


Chris
December 19, 2013 at 12:43 PM
Michael,
Persecution? That seems like too strong a word for this situation. Has anyone tried to take his life or imprison him?


steve hays
December 19, 2013 at 1:35 PM
That misses the point. To some extent, Phil is insulated by his wealth and popularity. If they can go after him, they will go after Christians who lack his buffers.


Lori
December 19, 2013 at 9:57 AM

Robertson's statements did not elevate the discourse. I think sometimes we like to get ourselves off the hook for not speaking in love by thinking things like, 'Well, they won't be satisfied until everybody says homosexuality is great.' I'm sure that's what many LGBT people want, ultimately. But, are they going to bristle at anything else? I don't think so. Especially by making the parallel between homosexuality and bestiality, he used the same language that has traditionally been used to marginalize, degrade, and dehumanize LGBT people.
I do think there are ways he could have talked about homosexuality, that were true to his convictions, that would not have caused such an uproar.


steve hays
December 19, 2013 at 1:38 PM
Why are you concerned about allegedly degrading rhetoric rather than the actually degrading sexual practices
of "LGBT people"? Do you have a detailed knowledge of homosexual practice?

Chris
December 19, 2013 at 12:44 PM
I am astonished to see you or anyone else defending his crude language.


steve hays 
December 19, 2013 at 1:40 PM 

He could have been infinitely cruder by describing actual homosexual practices in detail. If anything, he was fairly euphemistic when you stop to consider the nitty-gritty of what it amounts to.

Joe
December 19, 2013 at 5:23 AM
The problem with Phil's statement is "Start with homosexual behavior..." Why START with this sin? Admit it, we do have a homophobia problem if homophobia means an irrational fear of gay people - leading to distorted and reactionary opinions about how much of a threat this tiny minority presents.


steve hays
December 19, 2013 at 10:38 AM
The fact that he was suspended shows this is not an "irrational fear."

Lori
December 19, 2013 at 11:28 AM
What message? That is you make comments correlating homosexuality and bestiality--as well as some truly ignorant and racist comments about the pre-civil rights South

steve hays
December 20, 2013 at 12:18 PM
It's striking how people read more into Phil's statement about blacks than he actually said. Now, it's quite possible that he suffers from tunnel vision.


But he was simply discussing his personal experience. What he observed growing up. His experience may well be quite provincial. If you interviewed some of the blacks he grew up with, they might well have experienced some things he didn't observe. After all, he isn't black. He didn't have their experience. 


He's just talking about what he happened to see and hear. He could be misremembering. But it's specifically his first-person observation and recollection from that particular time and place.


Piers Morgan is so pompous. Did Morgan every do fieldwork side-by-side blacks? Of course not. So what does he know about it?


Phil is describing what he witnessed in rural Louisiana when he was young and poor. 


He's talking about how much he had in common with blacks back then. A shared work ethic. By his own admission, he was po' white trash. 


How can one get racism out of his self-deprecating comments? 


He's an up-by-your-bootstraps kinda guy. He got where he is without gov't aid.