Monday, April 30, 2018

Meltdown in progress

Apostate Dale Tuggy was really triggered by my review: 

This review is by the slandering, long-winded polemical blogger Steve Hays, of Triablogue - you can search and find this post. This sort of "critique" is what he thinks apologetics is. He's obsessed with me and my work, and loves to accuse me, as here, of being an incompetent weasel. 

i) The accusation of obsession is revealing. I often do posts defending the Trinity, Incarnation, deity of Christ that have no reference to anything Dale wrote, yet he frequently swoops in to comment, so who's obsessed with whom?

ii) It's best to douse a wildfire before it burns down the whole neighborhood, which is why I stay on Dale's case. The talent pool for unitarianism is about as shallow as a mud puddle. I focus on Dale because he's the best they've got. Not saying much, I know.  

'Apostate' is a wicked slander, as has been pointed out to him. I was born again and baptized in 1978, and have been following Christ in various churches since then. I have never at any point left the faith or denied my savior. 

i) Dale's reaction reflects his immaturity. He acts shocked that when he switched to unitarianism, that cut him off from the Christian community, as if this is just another one of those in-house debates like amillennialism/premillennialism or credo/paedobaptism. He lacks social intelligence if he couldn't anticipate that he'd be shunned when he took that step. Assuming his disillusioned reaction is sincere and not a rhetorical ploy, he's a babe-in-the-woods if he didn't realize that's a bridge way too far to maintain Christian fellowship. 

ii) The Incarnation is rock-bottom foundational to the Christian faith. Dale used to be a professing Christian who like all other professing Christians affirm the Trinity, Incarnation, deity of Christ. Now he denies it. That's textbook apostasy. Sure, he doesn't see it that way because he's a unitarian, but he's hopelessly native when he imagines that Christians will judge him by his adopted unitarian yardstick. It's like a sexually active "gay Christian" who expects evangelicals to affirm his piety. 

iii) And it's not like Dale quietly lost his faith. He's the stereotypical apostate who goes on the attack against his former faith. The stereotypical apostate zealot who evangelizes for his new position. 

'Propaganda' is vicious slander. The book is deadly serious, and is based on more than fifteen years of professional scholarship on this topic, with many peer-reviewed publications. It is packed with historical information and (I hope) helpful analysis.

Who said propaganda can't be deadly serious? 

It is at best a foolish mistake, at worst a lie, to say that the book is 'in defense of unitarianism.' That is my theology, biblical unitarian, which I don't hide. But the book doesn't argue for it, but only lays out a number of helpful historical and logical and theological distinctions which I claim can help Christians to make up their minds on this difficult topic. I have actually argued for my views on the basis of scripture in other places. But my aim in this book is really to stimulate Christians to informed, critical thinking on this topic, and ultimately, to re-visiting the scriptures with these distinctions in hand.

Dale is submerged in self-delusion if he sincerely imagines that his book isn't in defense of unitarianism. Of course it is. His book is a pop-level tract for unitarianism. Why does he even wish to deny it? Given his outlook, he should be proud to admit his agenda.  

'Deconversion' is a vicious slander. So is the comparison with the arch-anti-evangelical, ex-evangelical agnostic scholar Bart Ehrman. By many the common criteria, I am an evangelical Christian. There is no deconversion part of the book. 

Except for the central criteria like the Incarnation. 

This is where my family and I currently fellowship. 

How's that any different from a Kingdom Hall, where Jehovah's Witnesses fellowship? Unitarianism is a cult. Dale is a cult-member. Indeed, Dale is a cult-leader. Cults have fake churches. Why not show a picture of the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, for all the difference that makes. 

BTW, I'm a bit unclear on how a resident of Fredonia NY regularly attends a unitarian shrine near Nashville TN. That's a ten hour drive, one-way. But I do appreciate the irony that it's about 666 miles from Fredonia to Nashville. The Old Serpent has a wry sense of humor by stamping the mark of the Beast on Dale's travel itinerary. 

Hays is a mean sectarian, and if you don't accept his sort of theology, what he deems essential, 'you're not a real Christian.' You must have left the faith. But in truth, my several theological adjustments have strengthened my faith, and helped me to better follow Christ.

I may or may not be mean, but it's preposterous to claim that the Incarnation is a "sectarian" belief. Dale is using the same "inclusive" boilerplate rhetoric as LGBT activists in mainline denominations.  

To call the great English philosopher-theologian Dr. Samuel Clarke an 'Arian polemicist' is ignorant. He was a far greater scholar and Christian than our blogger here. While some have (inaccurately) described his views as 'Arian,' he was not influenced by those ancient catholics, but rather by pre-Nicene catholic theologians like Origen, Novatian, Tertullian, and Irenaeus. I have learned much from him, though I disagree with him on much, and am not ashamed to own him as an influence, stimulating me to a closer look at the scriptures.

It's revealing that Dale is so defensive about standard theological labels. I didn't coin them. The fact that he's so touchy is very telling. Dale suffers from a persecution complex. But he brought it on himself. Becoming a unitarian is an act of self-excommunication. Of course he's getting the cold shoulder. Is that really surprising to him? 

To call me a 'double agent for the dark side' is a silly slander. 

If he resents that characterization, I'm happy to retract it and replace it with some other. What about "dupe for the dark side" or "recruiter for the dark side"? I'm flexible. 

My Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on 'Trinity' fairly discusses a wide range of (especially) 'analytic' work by recent Christian scholars trying to make sense of the traditional trinitarian formulas. Many people have found it helpful, and have never, to my knowledge, complained of some wicked agenda therein. It fairly reviews recent work by many recent trinitarian theologians.

His SEP article is a Trojan Horse for unitarianism. It's slanted to debunk the Trinity and orthodox Christology. 

Well, Reformed and Anglican evangelicals have that creed in their official sources. And I believe that at least once in a while, they recite it, although surely the 'Nicene' creed ' discussed and analyzed in great detail in What is the Trinity? is more central to such traditions. Christian philosophers very often, strangely, start with this creed, as it sets up an apparent contradiction for them to try to solve.

Yet Dale indicated that Christians in general, garden variety Christians, have an aversion to thinking about the Trinity due to the damnatory clauses in the Athanasian creed. What's his evidence for that sweeping generalization? 

This misses the point. What those folks can be saved without, nearly all Christians agree, is believing in 'the Trinity,' which that creed says you'll be damned unless you do. (pp. 10-11) This is reflected in nearly all Christian practice, and in particular, in evangelistic presentations, e.g. in how they coach volunteer counselors at Billy Graham crusades.

Nearly all Christians agree that children and mentally handicapped can be saved without affirming what mentally competent adults are required to affirm. That's true for Christian essentials in general, not the Trinity in particular. 

Someone actually serious about the topic would dwell on the in-depth analyses in these chapters and in chapter 6 on rival understandings of 'Persons' in the Trinity, and with my suggestions about what the creed-makers must have meant and not meant. But our 'reviewer' instead launches into his own irrelevant opinions (which I omit here).

It's amusing to witness Dale's duplicity. I don't dwell at length on his discussion of the Nicene creed because I'm a low-church Protestant. The Nicene creed isn't my benchmark. I "launch into my own opinions" because I don't allow Dale to frame the issue for me by dictating the benchmark. He castigates traditional ecclesiastical creeds, but when I exercise independent judgment, he turns around and castigates that too! The poor guy can't think straight. Dale's a reactionary who careens from one extreme to another. 

As the book makes clear, I think every Christian, and in particular Protestants, must wrestle with whether the Bible teaches the Trinity (not explicitly, or 'philosophically' ' but at all, in any way, even implicitly). Hays prefers to change the subject to 'Does scripture contain a philosophically articulated doctrine of the Trinity?' To which the answer, all agree, is: 'Of course not. Cause the authors weren't philosophers!' But, who cares? The initial question stands, its importance undiminished.

On my blog I've done scores of posts presenting copious exegetical evidence for the Trinity. Question asked and answered. 

I think he's trying to gesture at a 'Yes' answer here to our question. But he doesn't get very far, does he? 

I don't get very far because it's a book review. It's hardly incumbent on a book reviewer to make a detailed case for his own position. I've done that elsewhere. 

If the Bible teaches 'the deity' of Father, Son, and Spirit, and we distinguish these from each other, why isn't this a doctrine of three gods? Does that sound correct, that the NT presents us with three gods? 

I've been over that ground many times.

I discuss Hays's sort of facile apologists's argument from the NT to the Trinity in chapter 10, and painstakingly explain why it doesn't do enough. Naturally, he ignores that bit.

Dale does nothing of the kind. He's substituting arguments he thinks are easy to knock down. It doesn't engage my arguments at all, either in the book or in his response to my review. 

Ugh, such a poor reader, and such a careless charge. Chapter 4 explains why 'the deity of Christ' and 'the Trinity' are really two different topics, though often confused together. It does also, yes, point out the convenient ambiguity of talk of 'deity' or 'divinity' in theology and christology, as this sloughs over many different ideas discussed in chapters 6, 7 and 9.

Ugh, such a poor reader, and such a careless charge. Dale routinely generates contradictory formulations of the Trinity by resorting to equivocal usage. Indeed, he repeats that ruse on pp101-02 & pp127-29 in his book, by using simplistic, unqualified formulations. 

The point of ch. 5 is to explain how history shows it is at best misleading to say that 'Christians have always believed in the Trinity' (p. 43). 

That's one of Dale's sophistical ploys: erect a straw man, then burn it down. 

As I explain in the chapter, people like Origen and Tertullian were considered leading lights and leading defenders of mainstream, catholic Christianity in the first half of the 200s. But both are demonstrably 'subordinationist' by later standards, and non-trinitarian. E.g. Tertullian thinks there was a time when only the Father existed (pp. 47-48), and Origen thought that the Logos was a second god, less divine than the Father (p. 49). Our reviewer shrieks 'heretics' ' hoping this'll be enough to distract you from thinking through the implications of these facts. But I think we need to look these clear historical findings in the eye. At that time, they were not viewed as heretics, not in their views on God, his Son, and his Spirit.

i) I didn't name Origen and Tertullian as heretics. I wasn't referring to Christians like Tertullian, Origen, Irenaeus, or Justin Martyr. Rather, I was alluding to Gnostics, Arians, Ebionites, Adoptionists, Docetists, Marcion, Apollinarians, Sebellians. Dale keeps appealing to diverse Christologies in the early Christian era, as if that in and of itself discredits orthodox Christology. But many were rank heretics. 

ii) Yes, Origen and Terullian have substandard views by Nicene standards. By the same token, Origen and Tertullian have substandard views by unitarian standards. Tuggy is so dense that he keeps wielding the same double-bladed sword. But it's fine with me if he succumbs to self-inflicted wounds. 

What? What is this dilemma? Our intrepid reviewer doesn't say.

I said that in the very statement Dale quotes: "by 'compromising' monotheism, which is supposed to be 'nonnegotiable'".

Not that I concede that's a dilemma. I'm just stating Dale's allegation. 

Well that's interesting, as that is the key term in the Nicene creed! What might be in that chapter? What nine (!) possible interpretations does our learned author lay out, and which does he rule out as what the creed means, and why? Nope, none of that is of interest to our 'reviewer.' He instead gasses off the cuff, at length, which I omit. 

It's not incumbent on me to rule out a particular interpretation of the Nicene creed inasmuch as that's not my benchmark in the first place. One problem is the target audience for Dale's book. Is it Roman Catholics? Eastern Orthodox? Evangelicals? Unitarians?

Dale is too addlebrained to follow his own argument. On p123, he criticizes Protestants who rubber-stamp ecumenical councils. Well, I don't rubber-stamp ecumenical councils. But look how he responds to that! Poor little Dale can't make up his mind. If you blindly follow the ecumenical councils, he will attack you, and if you don't blindly follow the ecumenical councils, he will pivot to attack you. 

It is very silly for a unqualified polemical blogger to try to 'school' me on this topic, telling me what 'the role' is.

So, I'm a professor of Philosophy, an ivy-league PhD who has taught Logic, and Metaphysics at the university level, and this blogger, with the philosophy skills of a C student, loves to shriek about how 'simplistic' my views are here, as I don't buy into some of his confused suggestions. 

Now Dale tries to pull rank. But who's the target audience for his book? He says:

This book is meant for you, the curious Christian, whatever your level of education (3).

Of course, no Christian should ever adopt a theology because some supposedly Christian scholar told her so (133). 

But in response to me he whips out the scholar card. I do appreciate how Dale has preemptively disqualified every layman. By his own lights, they're incompetent to evaluate the arguments in his book. But Dale now needs to see a podiatrist to treat his self-inflicted gunshot wound. 

Steve Hays persistently confuses qualitative sameness with numerical sameness, and theories of personal identity through time with the more basic issue of numerical identity for any sorts of things. 

The Trinity involves personal identity. Moreover, Dale thinks God is in time. So diachronic identity is an issue for unitarians like him. Likewise, he's committed to transworld identity as a freewill theist (i.e. counterfactuals, alternate possibilities). 

I've tried to help resolve his confusions, and have pointed him to helpful sources, but he, ridiculously, prefers to shriek that I am confused on this topic, though I am not. 

Consider the emotional resister of Dale's response and ask yourself which one is "shrieking". 

Characteristically, he thinks he is making a point about numerical identity/sameness, but he is not ' he's talking about a special case of similar things (note the 's'), things which are qualitatively 'the same' in a sense. This is a beginner's mistake. Numerical identity is a relation that can't possibly obtain between things which are (at one time) different. It's a relation that a thing can only bear to itself, and it doesn't come in kinds of in degrees. It is a fundamental human concept, not definable in terms of others.

Characteristically, Dale is a rote thinker with formulaic responses. What makes Dale suppose reflection symmetries are merely "qualitatively" the same? What makes him suppose reflection symmetries come in degrees? 

Not a controversial point, actually. This principle of charity is carefully observed, especially by scholars working in the history of philosophy, reading, e.g. Aristotle, Kant, or Mill. Hays doesn't get it, so it is 'obtuse.' 

Notice how Dale ducks the supporting argument I gave. Dale ducks more often than a green-headed Mallard. 

He proceeds to gas about how he rather likes apparent contradictions, ignoring that fact that we all consider them to be strong evidence of falsehood ' except, perhaps, when defending pet speculations.

I never suggested that I rather like apparent contradictions. Rather, I said paradox is a tenacious feature of human experience (in math, logic, and physics). That doesn't mean I like or dislike paradox. Rather, we must accommodate reality since reality won't accommodate us. 

This last is a vicious lie. What makes the questions 'loaded'? 

Notice how excitable Dale is. His entire response is so overwrought.  

Does the NT in any sense appeal to 'mystery' about the Trinity or the trinity? [See ch. 3 on that important distinction, passed over in silence by our 'reviewer.'] If so, what is meant by 'mystery' there?

Yes, that's a loaded question. The insinuation is that if God is Trinitarian, and the Trinity is mysterious, then we'd expect the NT to appeal to the mysteriousness of the Trinity. See how he's slanted the question? See how he built a tendentious assumption into the question? Based on how the question is framed, if you answer in the negative, then that's a damaging admission. 

But that's a rhetorical ruse. What's the justification for supposing that if God is Trinitarian, and the Trinity is mysterious, we should expect the NT to appeal to the mysteriousness of the Trinity? See how he's tried to box in the Christian respondent? But why should we go into his box? 

Let me conclude by relating that in the process of writing this book, I asked three longterm, godly, trinitarian, evangelical Christian friends to read it, as well as a brilliant and well educated internet friend who I think would call himself a trinitarian, as well as an evangelical Christian. All supplied helpful comments, written or spoken, on various drafts. Three found the book stimulating, informative, and interesting. One found that he disagreed with some things in it, although I think to a large degree he wasn't sure what to make of it; he sort of let the matter drop. They all thought it was pretty well written. But none of them were offended, thought their faith was being assaulted, or thought the book was in any sense 'propaganda.' 

I wasn't offended by Dale's book. Dale's the one exhibits a highly offended tone throughout his response. 

His book is no threat to my faith. But make no mistake–Dale is a bully. He picks on soft targets. An ambush predator, Dale tries to get the average Christian layman tied up in knots. Caught in Dale's sophistical spiderweb. 

There are lots of nominal Christian philosophers. Consider how SCP representatives like Michael Rea, Christian van Dyke, Eleonore Stump, Helen De Cruz, and Edward Hackett reacted to Swinburne's mild reaffirmation of a very traditional position on homosexuality. Or consider this anecdote by a friend of mine regarding Dallas Willard:

I first met him when I was an undergraduate philosophy major at UCLA in the early 1990's. He had a significant influence on me just through his example during a "Bible and Philosophy" conference organized by Robert Adams at the time. He was also the first example to me of an academic who was willing to go against majority opinion in a public context for the sake of Christian truth. Incredibly, none of the presenters at this UCLA conference was willing to defend the proposition that Christ is central to Christianity, except Dallas Willard. It made a deep impression on me as an undergraduate, as I had only been a Christian for about five years.

When Dale appeals to the guild of Christian philosophers, keep these examples in mind. 


  1. Dale thinks “apostate” means the same thing no matter the context. That he won’t accept that he’s an apostate is mystifying. Maybe it’s because he seeks the approval of trinitarians, which is also a bit odd given he has renounced the triune God.

  2. “Hays is a...sectarian”

    Can Dale name a NAPARC church that wouldn’t have excommunicated him? How about any intentional Baptist church? Intentional Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox? Any credal abiding church?

  3. “He's obsessed with me and my work”

    I could be wrong, but I’d be willing to bet there’s been more from Steve ober the years on Carrier than Tuggy. At least it would be close. Does that mean he’s obsessed with Carrier?

  4. The biblical evidence existing in support of the Trinity doctrine is simply overwhelming. This guy doesn't have a clue.

  5. A lot of Unitarians appeal to Samuel Clarke's book and his proxies Arthur Ashley Sykes and John Jackson. But there were defenders of orthodox Trinitarianism during that time who responded to Clarke's views. Daniel Waterland is the most well known of those contemporary defenders in opposition to Clarke's views. I've collected some of Waterland's works HERE. Other responders to Clarke during that time were John Edwards, Francis Gastrell, James Knight, Robert Nelson, Richard Mayo, Stephen Nye, Edward Welchman, Edward Wells and Edward Hawarden. Some of their works are at and google books. There are also George Bull's three works on the Trinity which were written just prior to Clarke's book to which Clarke responded. Bull's works [translated from the Latin] are also online at and google books.

    I'm about 60 pages (out of 494) from finishing Waterland's A Vindication of Christ's Divinity [which he wrote in response to John Jackson who defended Clarke's views, and who may have had help from Clarke. Since Clarke had promised not to write on the topic again]. Even assuming modern interpreters are generally correct in saying that Clarke better represented the actual views of Ante-Nicene, Nicene and Post-Nicene fathers than Waterland did, Waterland nevertheless exposes some of the faulty logic, translations, misrepresentations and non-sequiturs of Clarke and Jackson. BTW, I do plan to read Clarke's book that set off the controversy. So, Unitarians don't need to tell me to read Clarke. But have they, or are they willing to read Waterland and some of the others I've mentioned? Probably not.

    1. One thing to keep in mind is that Clarke did not believe that the Son or the Spirit are creatures whom God created and brought into being. Rather, he clearly believed they were eternal/uncreated/beginningless but subordinate to the Father who was chief over them since they derived their Deity from him. So I don't know how this helps heretics like Tuggy.

  6. This is a complete mess. Indeed, 'Meltdown' is an appropriate term. As much as I disagree with Tuggy and loathe his theology and his academic snootiness, I take no pleasure in noting that he has been made to look foolish by the 'unqualified polemical blogger' Hays. The snootiness has backfired in spectacular fashion with Tuggy ranting and 'shrieking' like a 'blogger...with the philosophy skills of a C student...'! The irony is breathtaking and painful. Did Tuggy even pause to compose himself between reading Hays' review and 'reviewing' the review? Seldom does one see a case of an author tripping over themselves in such spectacular fashion.