Christian Doctrines

Christian Doctrines

Articles exploring various Christian doctrines such as the Trinity, Incarnation, Providence, and so forth.

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Time, Eternity, And Eschatology

In order to explore the interface of time, eternity, and eschatology, we must first come to a differentiated understanding of these three notions.

"Time, Eternity, and Eschatology." In The Oxford Handbook on Eschatology, pp. 596-613. Ed. J. Walls. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. By permission of Oxford University Press, Inc. www.oup.com

A Formulation and Defense of the Doctrine of the Trinity

After a brief historical survey of patristic Trinitarian thought, I contrast Social and "Anti-Social" Trinitarian views. A Social Trinitarian model is then presented, according to which God is a soul endowed with three sets of cognitive faculties, each sufficient for personhood. I close with a plausibility argument for God's being multi-personal.

"A Formulation and Defense of the Doctrine of the Trinity." Unabridged version of Chapter 29 in Philosophical Foundations of a Christian Worldview. Downer's Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 2003.

Trinity Monotheism Once More: A Response to Daniel Howard-Snyder

A response to Howard-Snyder's criticism of the Social Trinitarian model laid out in Philosophical Foundations of a Christian Worldview. Exploiting insights from mereology, I offer a possible alternative to my previously defended view that the Trinity is strictly identical to God, taking the Trinity to be a group concept instead of the name of a substance.

"Trinity Monotheism Once More: A Response to Daniel Howard-Snyder." Philosophia Christi 8 (2006): 101-13.

Pantheists in Spite of Themselves? Pannenberg, Clayton, and Shults on Divine Infinity

Christian theology has traditionally affirmed that God is infinite. But some contemporary theologians seem to think that this affirmation stands in tension with the Christian belief in the reality of a finite world distinct from God. These theologians exhibit an unsettling tendency toward monism and, hence, toward pantheism. Although they may shrink from this conclusion and try to provide ways to avoid it, these escape routes are less than convincing, so that their rejection of pantheism represents merely a failure on their part to carry out their views to their logical conclusions. I show that there is no reason to think that God's metaphysical infinity entails being absolutely unlimited in the radical sense presupposed by these theologians. Indeed, such a notion is shown to be self-referentially incoherent. Rather God's metaphysical infinity should be understood in terms of His superlative attributes which make Him a maximally great being.

Does the Problem of Material Constitution Illuminate the Doctrine of the Trinity?

Michael Rea and Jeffery Brower have offered a provocative new model of the Trinity on the analogy of the Aristotelian solution to the problem of material constitution. Just as a fist and a hand can be distinct entities composed of a common matter and yet numerically the same object, so the persons of the Trinity can be distinct entities (persons) composed of a common "matter" (the divine essence) and yet numerically the same object (God). I express doubts about the degree to which this analogy sheds light on the doctrine of the Trinity due to the disanalogy that neither God nor the Trinitarian persons are to be thought of as composed of any sort of stuff and to the model's lack of explanatory power as to how a common matter can be simultaneously imbued with seemingly incompatible forms to constitute one object.

"Does the Problem of Material Constitution Illuminate the Doctrine of the Trinity?" Faith and Philosophy 22 (2005): 77-86. 

Flint's Radical Molinist Christology Not Radical Enough

In a pair of recent articles Thomas Flint has offered what he calls "some radical Molinist suggestions" for Christology. In the first of the pair, he argues that despite divine impeccability Christ's individual human nature had the freedom to sin, but that were it to do so, then Christ's individual human nature would not have been hypostatically united with the divine nature of the second person of the Trinity, that is to say, that individual human nature would have been a human person. God infallibly preserved the sinlessness of Christ's individual human nature by not permitting it to be placed in circumstances in which God knew that it would sin. In the second of his two articles Flint draws out some of the truly radical implications which seem to flow naturally from such a thesis. He argues, for example, that any one of our individual human natures, rather than Christ's, might have been hypostatically united with the second person of the Trinity. In this response I argue that Flint's Molinist Christological reflections do not constitute a viable approach to the problem of the freedom of Christ's human nature to sin. Nonetheless, I think his reflections do have the salutary effect of raising profound questions about how best to preserve the integrity of Christ's person within the context of a two natures Christology, questions which merit further exploration.

"Flint's Radical Molinist Christology Not Radical Enough." Faith and Philosophy 23 (2006): 55-64.