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


proklos said...

I do not believe that the last word has been said by those back absolute identity. Geach does reject absolute identity with respect to the Trinity and Eucharistic change. But I fail to see how this puts Catholic teaching on these matters at a disadvantage.

Edgar Foster said...

Christopher Hughes take Geach's version of sortal-relativity to task in _On a Complex Theory of a Simple God_. See pp. 157-158 of that work.

The difficulty with positing relative identity as rational justification for belief in a triune God or an incarnate God-man is that this type of identity is highly suspect, as brought out not only by Hughes but also by Bill Cartwright and John Perry.

Leibniz' Law poses genuine difficulties for Trinitarians since the following reasoning seems untenable if one espouses absolute identity or Leibniz Law:

1) The Father is God
2) The Son is God
3) The Holy Spirit is God
4) The Father is not the Son

See TV Morris' _Logic of God Incarnate_.

Best regards,