In response to my article “Debating the Tuggy Triad,” Dr Dale Tuggy has revised his triad to address my belief in the traditional understanding of divine eternity:
D*: Jesus and God differ.
N*: Jesus and God are numerically one.
I*: If any X and Y differ, then they are not numerically one.
All the verbs underlined here I mean to be in the timeless tense.
(“dialogue on God, Jesus, and identity“)
Besides making this change, nothing else has changed. Evidently the arguments advanced in my first article missed the key point. So let’s take a look once again at statement D. Dale writes:
Should a Christian who believes in divine timelessness affirm D*? I think so. Eternally, God does something which in the temporal realm results in people hearing “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Jesus, if you like, in his eternal, divine nature, does not do this. Ergo, D*. I don’t think the difference in verb tense is going to matter for N* or I*. I* will, like I, be self-evident – something one knows to be true as soon as one has a good understanding of it.
As I stated in my first article, I agree with statement D at the level of hypostasis: the Father and the Son are two distinct hypostases. Theologians may debate the precise definition of the word, but its operational intent is clear—namely, to specify the divine “whos” of the gospel narrative. For our purposes, let’s also posit that “hypostasis” is equivalent in meaning to “person,” which is the preferred term in the Latin tradition. Following the theological tradition, I will also use the word “nature” to specify the “what” of the hypostases. I do not know if the analytic philosophical tradition uses “nature” in this way, but I think that is the operational intent of the word in the theological tradition. And let’s also posit that “nature” is equivalent to “substance” and “essence.”
When we read the gospel narratives, do Jesus and God differ. Clearly yes—at the level of hypostasis: there is the God to whom Jesus prays and names “Father, and there is the Jesus whom God acclaims as “my Son”—two distinct hypostases. I therefore affirm D.
Now on to statement N. Are Jesus and the Father numerically one? Dale chides me for not abiding by his definition of what it means to be numerically one. Fair enough. He insists that if one can name even one difference between Jesus and the Father, they are not numerically one. Given that I have already admitted that they differ hypostatically, I therefore have to state my disagreement with N: Jesus and his Father are not numerically one.
And so the triadic thought experiment is concluded. Has anything been accomplished, beyond what might be judged a trivial clarification? No. I misunderstood the intent of Dale’s original article, thinking that he was hoping to demonstrate that the doctrine of the Trinity is logically absurd; but he assures us that was not his intent: “I don’t claim that ‘the classical trinitarian doctrine’ is committed to all three of those claims.” The Tuggy triad would only become more than trivial if someone were to argue that the notion of “numerical oneness” in some sense denies, excludes, or renders incoherent the ecumenical Christian claims about the one God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. At that point I would then roll out the homoousion and the Chalcedonian definition regarding the two natures of Christ. But apparently there’s nothing to see here. And so I move along.