Saturday, April 22, 2006

John 1:1c and Relative Predication

Regarding John 1:1c, both Jehovah's Witnesses
and Trinitarians

say that the Logos is deity in a qualitative sense (i.e. he is

The difference, however, is that Witnesses employ the adnominal
"divine" in its weaker sense, whereas Trinitarians utilize
"divine" per its stronger sense or meaning, so that it only applies
to Almighty God. Professor Dale Tuggy helpfully has distinguished these senses
of "divine" in his work on the Trinity doctrine.

Another difference is that while Trinitarians such as Richard A. Young or
Daniel Wallace

are inclined to view QEOS in John 1:1c as a "monadic" or
one-of-a-kind noun, Witnesses evidently believe it is a count noun since the
plural QEOI is found in both the LXX and NT with no indication that the writers
are using the nominal QEOS pejoratively.

One nagging logical difficulty that I think attends the Trinitarian proposition,
"Jesus is God," is that Trinitarians are forced to view the Father,
Son and Holy Spirit as "relatively identical" with the Godhead (i.e.
God) and not absolutely identical with DEITAS.

Yet, those who study identity in a non-theological context have pointed out
that there is no such thing as "relative identity." A logician named
Peter Geach worked up a very sophisticated argument for relative identity that
Bill Cartwright and other logicians (IMO) rightly took to task. An elementary
datum of logic is that A is A:

(1) Cicero is Tully.

(2) Water is H20.

(3) Heat is the motion of molecules.

(4) Hesperus is Phosphorus.

(5) 2 + 2 = 4.

Leibniz' law also comes into play here and says that if X and Y commonly
exemplify all properties, then X and Y are identical in an absolute sense. That
is why Cicero (X) is said to be identical with Y (Tully), KAI TO LOIPON. 2 + 2
and 4 also are numerically identical.

But Trinitarians are saying none of the above when they assert, "Jesus is
God." Rather, the proposition "Jesus is God" only claims that
the Son of God is relatively identical with the Godhead. The Trinitarian proposition
is thus akin to the assertions, "God is love" or "Socrates is

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Illocutionary Speech Acts

John L. Austin began undertaking a form of research
known as speech-act theory approximately fifty years
ago. The publication in which he introduced
nomenclature such as illocution and perlocution was
How to Do Things with Words. For Austin, locutions
either are written or spoken, and are illocutionary or
perlocutionary. Austin further contends that when an
agent speaks, he or she enacts x or y. Austin thereby
proposes five classes of illocutionary performatives:
(1) Verdictives (the act of giving a finding or
verdict); (2) Exercitives (the act of exercising a
power or right); (3) Commissives (the act of
committing oneself to an action verbally); (4)
Behabitives (the act of expressing attitudes about
social behavior); (5) Expositives (the verbal act of
fitting locutions into discourse). These five
taxonomies supposedly account for the manner in which
humans do things with words. Speech-act theory has
morphed, however, since its inception. Hence, this
study will now turn its attention toward one of
Austin's students, who expanded on his work. That
student of philosophy and language is John Searle,
whose thought on brute and institutional facts we
analyzed in section F of this chapter. Searle not only
differentiates an illocution from a perlocution, he
also distinguishes direct from indirect speech-acts,
with metaphors belonging to the latter category.
Searle categorizes illocutionary utterances somewhat
differently than Austin does, but his work
nevertheless remains an extension of his mentor's
theoretical framework.

John Searle defines an indirect speech-act (the type
to which metaphor belongs) as a lingual performance
whereby a certain phatic agent means "S is R" when he
or she states: "S is P." According to Searle, an
adequate metaphorology should thus explain how a
communicant arrives at "S is R" from "S is P" since
that is putatively an agent's pragmatic intention.
However, some have questioned whether Searle himself
actually demonstrates the means by which a
communicative agent by means of an indirect verbal
performative successfully shifts from "S is R" to "S
is P." For instance, Swinburne contends that a
metaphorical utterance likely does not set forth one
proposition ("S is P") while intending or implying
that something else ("S is R") is the case. Rather, he
suggests that a speaker "uses a sentence which
independent of context would mean one thing" but in a
determinate or specified situation means "something
else." If Swinburne is correct, then the
truth-conditions of a complex metaphor or simile are
identical and neither rhetorical trope says, "S is P"
but means "S is R." One simply needs a context in
order to decipher a communicative agent's intent "S is
P." Hence, it is more than likely the case, as
Swinburne argues, that the Shakespearean indirect
speech-act, "Life is a tale told by an idiot; full of
sound and fury, signifying nothing" has the same
truth-condition as "Life is like a tale told by an
idiot; full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
For it is clearly problematic to assert that the
truth-condition alluded to above differs from metaphor
to corresponding simile. In the final analysis,
therefore, Swinburne's account of indirect speech-acts
may be preferable to Searle's theory of indirect
sentential locutions. It may better account for the
phenomenon of metaphoric significance and more
adequately explain the illocutionary force of the
indirect speech-act "S is P." However, it is not
necessary for this study to determine which theory
(Searle's or Swinburne's) is more adequate. The
salient point here is how John Searle formulates
indirect speech-acts, which include metaphors and

Building on the theoretical research of Austin and
Searle, Vanhoozer similarly proposes that human
utterances are intrinsically performative;
communicative agents enact intentions when they
articulate speech, whether it entails promising,
greeting, commanding, exhorting, prognosticating,
interrogating, informing or requesting. Such
performative acts are illocutionary: they constitute
ways of doing things with words (i.e. acting out
intention X or Y verbally). Language thus becomes "a
means by which one human person acts in relation to
other people." Saying "I do" is consequently an
illocutionary speech-act as is "Can you pass the

Monday, April 17, 2006

Metasememes and God the Father

I submit that metasememic constructs are as-if structures.[1] Metasememes evidently do not predicate metaphysical or literal properties of a subject, but only affirm tropically that “S is P.” Consequently, even though the appellation “Father” may be reality-depicting, it does not necessarily delineate the mind-independent properties of God the Father.[2] Paternal metaphors for God may speak to the deity’s relationship with his people or the manner in which the divine one functions vis-√†-vis the Son of God and creation as a whole.[3] However, imagery couched in masculine terminology does not necessarily disclose anything substantive about God quoad se (Poetica 25). Tropes depicting a paternal deity are as-if structures that affirm unfamiliar identity syntheses (i.e. father/God); conversely, they are not metaphysical pronouncements.[4] When Scripture refers to God as a Shepherd, King, Warrior, Lord or Father, it is employing metaphorical speech to predicate X or Y of God in a figurative manner. It does not seem that one can rely on metaphorical locutions in Scripture to discern whether masculinity or femininity are immanent divine categories of being.[5]

[1] Von Bernhard Debatin, Die Rationalität der Metapher.

[2] As an illustration of metaphorical speech applied to divinities, Aristotle writes: “Hence Ganymede is said ‘to pour the wine to Zeus,’ though the gods do not drink wine” (Poetica 25). A similar claim is being made in this study with respect to “Father” as a divine appellation. When ascribing paternity to God, it seems that Scripture and a number of pre-Nicenes do not mean to say that God is inherently masculine. Rather, the Bible refers to God as “Father,” even though the infinite God evidently transcends gender categories (Bloesch, Is the Bible Sexist, 80) in order to depict his relationship with the Son or creation as a whole.

[3] Clement 1.19.

[4] See Caird’s work on Biblical Imagery.

[5] Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way, 33-34 argues “there is in God no such thing as sexuality.” An infinite God by definition cannot be male or female, masculine or feminine since a limitless God transcends these categories of being. Yet, Ware maintains that “Father” is a divinely given symbol. However, why should Christians continue employing masculine symbols if they do not tell us what God is immanently? Ware’s answer is that God has revealed and vouchsafed the symbol “Father” to Christians; moreover, it is rooted in being itself.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

My Amazon Review of George H. Guthrie's "The Structure of Hebrews"

Guthrie begins his discussion on the text of Hebrews by reviewing past scholarly attempts to discern the structure of the Christian epistle. He convincingly demonstrates that scholars have found it rather difficult to ascertain the precise textual structure of Hebrews: it is no wonder that he humbly approaches his task.

Since Patristic times, attempts have been made to discern the structure and the recurring theme of the letter to the Hebrews. Text-linguists currently endeavor to apply their knowledge of discourse principles to this Bible
book. Guthrie's work shows that these efforts can produce valuable fruitage.

After examining the numerous theories posited vis-a'-vis the structure of Hebrews, Guthrie proceeds to explain his own approach to structuring it. Highlighting the author's use of inclusio and "hook-words," Guthrie provides an enlightening study on the rhetorical devices employed in Hebrews and the main point the writer is attempting to make. He concludes the book on a very somber and humble note, observing that "the problems caused by the complex stucture of Hebrews are not easily answered; they may never be answered with a consensus of New Testament scholarship" (146). He reasons nevertheless: "I enjoy the music of Mozart. I do not read a note of music and certainly do not understand how the great composer brings all the various themes together in such powerful performances; but I do not have to in order to recognize them as powerful. I can be moved even in my ignorance" (147).

Comparing the writer of Hebrews to a highly skilled
virtuoso, Guthrie exaltedly states that while he
does not understand or comprehensively fathom all of the
rhetorical devices the writer of Hebrews utilizes in
his discourse to the first-century Christians living
in Jerusalem and Judea, that fact notwithstanding, Guthrie
argues that he can still appreciate the hortatory or
expository messages loftily conveyed in the book
written by a "Mozart" of oratory (147). What
insightful remarks!

In closing, I would say that Guthrie is a pleasure to
read: I thoroughly enjoyed this book. After one peruses
_The Structure of Hebrews_, he or she not only comes
away with an increased knowledge of this beautifully
written Bible book--one also comes away with an
increased literary education. Guthrie's thorough
knowledge of discourse analysis, rhetoric, and
rabbinic practices are truly astounding. Furthermore,
his approach to the whole problem of the arrangement
of Hebrews is both balanced and reasonable.

He employs charts to help the novice understand
difficult concepts and his explanation of cohesion
shifts and hook-words are simultaneously lucid and
instructive. Guthrie remains focused on the task at
hand and very seldom diverges to make theological
points. His goal is grasping the structure of Hebrews:
from that goal he will not be deterred.

The only drawback to this study is that it is primarily
written for specialists who have a working knowledge
of Greek and rhetoric, as well as some knowledge of
Hebrew and the rabbinic writings. The neophyte could
quickly find himself or herself lost in the sea of
technical terminology employed by Guthrie. If you like
struggling with difficult subjects, however, then the
book will be worth the read.