Dale Tuggy’s Podcasts on the Trinity. The Athanasian Creed

0. As something of a follow-up on my post of April 4, 2014, “The Inconsistency of the Doctrine of (the Distinction of Divine Persons and so That of) the Trinity with Monotheism,” I have started listening to Dale Tuggy’s podcasts on the Trinity on YouTube. That Tuggy is one of today’s leading students of the topic is amply evidenced by his being the author of The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy‘s article* on the topic. Yet the podcasts are quite accessible to the non-specialist. As there are to date 58 such podcasts and as they together represent a relatively full introduction to this central topic in the philosophy of religion and Christian theology, I recommend them to you heartily.

The first of the 58, “trinities 001: Introduction,” can be found at:

trinities 001 Introduction – YouTube

I will pass on, however, to the second in the series, “trinities 002 – the ‘Athanasian Creed,’” devoted to, as it tells you, the so-called Athanasian Creed, “the longest of the standard Christian creeds.”** The podcast can be found at (of course):

trinities 002 – the “Athanasian Creed” – YouTube

I am, necessarily, going to leave the listening to the podcast up to you; you may well want to read the widely available text of the creed, perhaps at the About Religion site.** For my part, I will point to some of the comments which Tuggy offers on the Athanasian Creed and then offer some of my own.

1. The first of Tuggy’s comments to which I wish to draw your attention is his taking note (beginning at ca. 10:18 of the podcast) of what he calls the “strongly paradoxical character of the creed.”

He goes on to lay out for us (ca. 10:55) “three indisputable facts about the Athanasian Creed.” Pertinent to this post is, as he states it (ca. 14:24):

“the third indisputable fact about the Athanasian Creed, which is that its claims are, apparently, self-contradictory.”

After having his listeners hear again some of the “apparently” contradictory statements, Tuggy goes on to tell us (ca. 15:58):

[E]ach one of the [three divine] persons has something which the other two don’t have and it follows that they are truly three. A thing can’t differ from itself, so if you’ve got a couple of things and they do differ, then you know that they are not numerically the same thing. They are definitely truly three; they’re not just apparently three and we’re not dealing, it seems, with three names for one being.

That is, on the one hand: there are, the creed holds, three distinct divine persons. On the other hand (16:22):

And yet it goes on to say that each one is God; seemingly, each one just is the one God and yet there’s only one God. So each of them is God, they’re different from each other, but there’s only one God.

Tuggy goes on to point out (16:36):

That seems like an inconsistent triad, that is, three statements which could not all be true and such that, if you accept any two of them, you have to deny the third.

2. Let me spell out a bit more completely what the three statements enunciated just a bit above say, for we in fact have at hand more than just three statements. Given that it is affirmed that there are three persons, Tuggy’s “each of them is God” actually states:

1. a. The Father is God.

1. b. The Son is God.

1. c. The Holy Spirit is God.

His “they’re different from each other” actually states:

2. a. The Father is not the Son.

2. b. The Father is not the Holy Spirit

2. c. The Son is not the Father.

2. d. The Son is not the Holy Spirit.

2. e. The Holy Spirit is not the Father.

2. f. The Holy Spirit is not the Son.

We can take the remaining statement as it is given:

3. There is only one God.

3. It is evident that Tuggy has no good reason for saying merely that there seems to be an inconsistency or, earlier, that the doctrine the Athanasian Creed is but “apparently, self-contradictory.” He did not have to describe the “character of the creed” as but “strongly paradoxical,” for it simply is inconsistent and really self-contradictory. Mere inspection of the ten statements just listed should reveal that that is the case; for those who need a more rigorous demonstration, let me refer you to the post mentioned at the outset, “The Inconsistency of the Doctrine of (the Distinction of Divine Persons and so That of) the Trinity with Monotheism,” wherein I presented a rigorous proof of, as its title says well enough, the inconsistency of the Trinitarian doctrine.

4. Unless I am wrong.

Until next time.

* Tuggy, Dale, “Trinity”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.) http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2013/entries/trinity/. Accessed October 21, 2014.

**Scott P. Richert, “The Athanasian Creed,” About Religion. http://catholicism.about.com/od/beliefsteachings/qt/Athanasia_Creed.htm. Accessed October 21, 2014.

About Rchard E. Hennessey

See above, "About the Author/Editor."
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