God and the Triviality of Numerical Oneness


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.

(Return to first article)


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8 Responses to God and the Triviality of Numerical Oneness

  1. John B. says:

    If God is the Father
    And the Father is not the Son
    Then The Son is not God

    This is not mindless syllogism
    The Father and Son are persons having distinct identities
    and NOT mere qualities or attributes.
    God Bless


    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      I won’t say the syllogism is mindless, John; but it ignores the the radical reformulation of divinity that occurs in the second through the fourth centuries, precisely because of the Christian insistence upon the full divinity of the Son. Hence the famous saying of St Athanasius, quoted in my first article: “The Son is everything the Father is, except ‘Father.’”


      • John B. says:

        Human mental constructs devised during the second, third and fourth centuries were designed to focus the mind and facilitate prayer and meditation.
        It is when ‘constructs’ become a reality in men’s minds that we have a problem.
        This is a serious problem because it resulted in the alienation of the church in the East and soon after along the shores of North Africa.
        If sense has prevailed the whole area would still be Christian .
        Now we are destined to fight a war against people whose forebears saw the fatal error in the Trinity…or at least Wahabbi fanatics among their number.
        This is a tragedy of enormous proportions! Unspeakable in fact!


      • John B. says:

        Sorry Aidan to interject once more – I missed a point !
        You refer to the Christian insistence upon the full divinity of the Son.

        Of course ‘divinity’ relates to our NATURE and NOT our identity..
        God is divine because of who He is – ‘autotheos’
        Christ is divine by inheritance
        Believers can partake of the divine nature.

        Because I a have a human nature and so does Vladimir Putin does NOT make me Putin.

        We have unique identities -different D.N.A. s

        There are things about me that differ from Putin.

        To try to merge ‘identities’ is to create gobbledygook – as some contributors have done.
        Bauckham has tried to introduce a concept of ‘divine identity’ – but all he is doing is confusing nature and identity- as Adella Yarbro Collins has pointed out.

        God Bless


  2. William says:

    What also might be helpful in these discussions is consideration of the principle of coinherence of the three hypostases of the Trinity, perichorisis — the total and entire and eternal/timeless/unintervalled self-giving of the persons of the Trinity to the others — that gives robust meaning (beyond some kind of sentimentalist psychologizing or mere ‘willing the good’) to the statement that ‘God is love.’ Not to mention statements like ‘I am in the Father and the Father is in me’ or ‘If you have seem me you have seen the Father’ et al.


  3. tgbelt says:

    I’m still a little confused about where Dale thinks various answers to his Triad lead.


  4. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Dr. Tuggy, in the quotation above, is (so far as I can see), is not speaking clearly in terms of the distinctions any Niceno-Constantinopolitan orthodoxy (whether Chalcedonian or non-Chalcedonian) makes. E.g., “Eternally, God does something”: “God” here indicates? “God the Father”? But “God” in that sense is simply full of His/the Divinitas. The Father does not act apart from the Divinitas: ‘they’ are not ‘two’. But God the Son is simply full of the/His Divinitas. So, to say “Eternally, God does something” is ineluctably to say the Divinitas eternally, simply filling the Father and equally simply, eternally filling the Son “Eternally […] does something”.

    Again, “Jesus, if you like, in his eternal, divine nature, does not do this.” “Eternal, divine nature” here indicates? “Jesus” here indicates? “In” here indicates? If “eternal, divine nature” indicates what I designate “Divinitas”, then “Divinitas” does do this as it does any- and everything, and His/the Divinitas does not do so without God the Son being eternally, simply full of the/His Divinitas. “Jesus” indicates? It cannot indicate a particular-male-human-being-born-of-the-Ever-Virgin-Mary apart from God the Son, for there is none. The full, unconfused Humanitas of Jesus Christus Deus Noster, Body, Soul, and Spirit, is never other than simply, fully in God the Son. “Ergo”, what?

    To go, similarly, beyond that quotation, “N*: Jesus and God are numerically one.” “Jesus” here indicates? “God” here indicates? “Jesus” cannot indicate a male human being (as described above) apart from God the Son, for there is none. “Jesus” must then indicate Jesus Christus Deus Noster, God the Son Incarnate, Body, Soul, and Spirit, His full, unconfused Humanitas simply, fully in Him, His/the Divinitas simply, eternally, fully filling Him. There is no “Jesus” apart from God the Son, no Dod the Son Incarnate not having His full, unconfused Humanitas, Body, Soul, and Spirit, simply, fully in Him. Is that ‘to be’ “numerically one”? It is not to be ‘numerically two’ as if there were God the Son and a male human being called “Jesus” apart from God the Son. Or to be numerically two as Jesus Christus Deus Noster and any of, say, the Blessed Virgin, St. Peter, or Dr. Tuggy taken together apart are numerically two.


  5. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Ach, weh! I thought I had just corrected my “D” for “G” typo before hitting “Post”: my apologies.


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