An Apologetics Primer

My church group began discussing ideas about an apologetics course this summer.  I’m wondering what kind of books to use.  Nothing too advanced.  And I don’t want this to become a “different styles of apologetics.”  Those discussions are usually as fruitful as sucking a gas pipe.  But I have found the following to be good in getting you to think about thinking.

My goal is not to “prove” anything or say x apologetic method is good.  I just want you to be good at thinking, and thinking about thinking.

Moreland, J. P. Love Your God with all Your Mind.  The place to start.  I’ve read it probably half a dozen times.  I used to buy it on the cheap and give it away.

Moreland, J.P.  Kingdom Triangle. Never quite gained the importance of his other book, but in many ways the argument is more focused.

McCall, Thomas.  An Invitation to Analytic Theology.  This will teach you how to break down an issue.

Plantinga, God, Freedom, and Evil and Knowledge and Christian Belief.  After Plantinga atheists realized they could no longer say that evil made the Christian worldview contradictory.

Clark, Kelly James.  Return to Reason. Plantinga’s lieutenant, so to speak.  Read this before you dive into Plantinga.

Clark, Kelly. ed. 101 Philosophical Terms You Need to Know.

Plantinga’s Theses (Does God Have a Nature?)

Theses the analytical theses in his monograph.  It should make following along easier. It should be obvious that these 71 theses are not “71 propositions about God.”  Some are trivial and others are clearly false.  But throughout Plantinga’s narrative he will generate a proposition to show that a particular view has a contradiction, or to set up a future argument.

I laid out these theses because it is getting fashionable in some Reformed social media circles to set forth Aquinas’s view on divine simplicity as the only possible view and that Plantinga rejected classical theism.  Of course, I believe both claims to be false.

  1. God transcends human experience.  We cannot observe or in any other way experience him (this is Kant’s view)
  2. Our concepts do not apply to God.
  3. For any properties and in God, God’s having is identical with God’s having Q, and both are identical with God.
  4. States of affairs x’s having and y’s having Q are identical iff x’s having P is equivalent (obtains in the same possible worlds as) y’s having Q and x = y.
  5. God is sovereign and exists a se.
  6. God is alive, knowledgeable, capable of action, and good.
  7. If (5), then (a) God has created everything distinct from himself, (b) everything distinct from God is dependent upon him, (c) he is not dependent on anything distinct from himself, and (d) everything is within his control.
  8. If (6), then there are such properties as life, knowledgeability, capability of action, power and goodness’ and God has these properties.
  9. If God has these properties distinct from him, then he is dependent on them.
  10. God is a necessary being.
  11. God is essentially alive, knowledgeable, capable of action, powerful and good
  12. If (11), then there are such properties as life, knowledge, capability of action, power and goodness, and God could not have failed to have them.
  13. If (10) and God could not have failed to have these properties, then they could not have failed to exist, arenecessary beings.
  14. If God has some properties that exist necessarily and are distnct from him, then God is dependent on these properties and they are independent of him, uncreated by him and outside his control.
  15. If there is a property with which God is identical, then God is a property.
  16. No property is alive, knowledgeabl, capable of action, powerful or good.
  17. X depends on y iff y’s existence is a necessary condition of x‘s existence.
  18. x depends upon y for P iff if x has P and some proposition or state of affairs relevantly involving y is a necessary condition of x’s having P.
  19. Either Jim Whittaker or the Pope can climb Mt Everest.
  20. Either god or Bertrand Russell created the world is a necessary condition of God’s creating the world relevantly involves Betrand Russell.
  21. I exist.
  22. I have been created.
  23. X depends on y for P iff there is an action A such that y’s performing A is a logically necessary condition of x’s having P.
  24. It’s false that the Taj Mahal is red but not colored.
  25. Any omniscient being knows something.
  26. If God is sovereign and exists a se, then every truth is within his control.
  27. Red is a color.
  28. The proposition all dogs are animals’ is distinct from the proposition ‘all animals are dogs.’
  29. No numbers are persons.
  30. 2 x 4 = 8
  31. It’s not the case that all men are mortal and some men are not mortal.
  32. It’s not the case that God has created creatures that he has not created.
  33. God has created Descartes, but Descartes has not been created.
  34. It is impossible that God has created Descartes and Descartes has not been created.
  35. Possibly p.
  36. Possibly possibly p.
  37. Necessarily, 2 x 4 = 8.
  38. Since God has infinite power, there are no necessary truths.
  39. No particle has both an instantaneous position and an instantaneous velocity.
  40. 2 x 4 = 7.
  41. God has infinite power.
  42. That God has infinite power entails that no propositions are necessarily true.
  43. No propositions are necessarily true.
  44. The proposition ‘if God is infinitely powerful, then there are no necessary truths’ is a necessary truth.
  45. If God has infinite power, there are no necessary truths.
  46. If God has infinite power and if God has infinite power there are no necessary truths, then there are no necessary truths.
  47. God has made p true and has created in us a powerful tendency to believe p; we do believe p; and if we believe p we know p.
  48. We don’t know p and p is in fact false.
  49. 2 + 1 = 3.
  50. If, if p then q, and p, then q.
  51. God knows that he does not exist.
  52. God is omnipotent.
  53. If God is omnipotent, then his power is absolutely unlimited.
  54. If his power is absolutely unlimited, then he could make (51) true.
  55. If he could make (51) true, then (51) could be true and is possible.
  56. (51) is possible.
  57. God is sovereign.
  58. If God is sovereign, then everything is dependent on him.
  59. If everything is dependent upon him, then every truth is within his control.
  60. If every truth is within his control, then (51) could be true and is possible.
  61. (51) is not possible.
  62. There is a property that both exemplifies itself and does not exemplify itself.
  63. Whatever the Bible teaches is true.
  64. The Bible teaches that (61) is false.
  65. God has a nature.
  66. There are some necessary propositions.
  67. God has some property P.
  68. 7+5=12.
  69. God believes (68).
  70. Necessarily 7+5=12.
  71. It is part of God’s nature to believe that 7+5 = 12.

Review: McCall, Invitation to Analytic Theology

This is an old review, but I thought I had already posted it.  I hadn’t.

Despite it’s relatively simple-sounding and generic title, this book is unique in offering both a model for analytic theology as well as a brief crash course in certain debates. There are a handful of books (Richard Muller’s Dictionary is one) that could replace a seminary class. This is one of them.

McCall begins by dispelling myths about analytic theology (hereafter AT). AT doesn’t *necessarily* entail univocal language, substance metaphysics or naivety about church history (though that probably is true about analytic philosophy–JBA).

McCall makes clear that AT doesn’t entail the following

  1. A univocal view of language (25). (NB: Does William Alston hold to univocity?  Cf. Divine Nature and Human Language, pp. 17-117).
  2. AT entails natural theology (26).
  3. AT is naive about the history of doctrine.
  4. AT is apologetics for conservative theology.  Depends on what we mean by “conservative.” Plantinga, for one, has advanced problems of divine simplicity; yet, it probably is true, pace the current leadership of the Society of Christian Philosophers, that analytic theologians are committed to Christian orthodoxy and ethics.
  5. AT relies on substance metaphysics (30ff).  The battle isn’t between pre-Kantian and Kantians, but between Kantians and post-Kantians.  It is possible to read Kant and remain unconvinced.
  6. Analytic Theology isn’t spiritually edifying.

The true gold-mine of the book is McCall’s “Case Studies” dealing with metaphysics, compatibilism, and evolution. Particularly, one gets a refreshing survey of what it means for something to have an essence (kind-essence, Individual essence, common properties, merely human, fully human) and how this pays significant dividends for Christology.

Analytic Theology and Scripture

How does the Bible control and authorize analytic statements?  McCall offers an interesting model that can be applied elsewhere in theology (55ff). Let P be a primary true proposition.

RA1: The Bible contains propositions that explicitly assert P.

RA2: The Bible contains propositions that entail P.

RA3: The Bible contains propositions that that are consistent with P and suggest P.

RA4: The Bible contains propositions that that do not entail ~P, and is consistent with P (it is neutral with respect to P)

RA5: The Bible contains propositions that entail neither P nor ~P, but suggests some Q that is inconsistent with P.

RA6: The Bible contains propositions that entail ~P.

RA7: The Bible contains propositions that which assert ~P.

RA8: The Bible contains propositions that assert P and assert ~P

RA6-8 are incompatible with orthodoxy, yet RA1-5 are compatible and are far more robust than stereotypes of inerrancy.



Individual essence (haeccity): set of properties one must have for this distinct individual.  The full set of properties possessed by that person in all possible worlds in which that person exists.

Kind-essence: the full set of properties individually necessary and sufficient for inclusion in that set.

Common human properties: a property possessed by many or most humans.  Most humans can have a property without its being essential.

Essential human properties: an object has a property essentially iff it has it and could not have not had it.  It belongs to kind-nature.

Merely human: to exemplify only that kind-essence of humanity.

Fully human: to exemplify the kind-essence of humanity.

How does the two-minds approach account for Jesus’s being omniscient per divine yet nonomniscient per human?  Thomas V. Morris suggests an asymmetrical accessing relation.

Concretist Accounts

The “natures” are reified, not properties.

Every primary substance (Fido the Dog) has a secondary substance-kind (caninity) that pertains to it without which it could not exist (104).

For every primary substance x, there is only one secondary substance-kind K that pertains to x through itself and is essential to it.

Unfortunately, this rules out the incarnation, since there can’t be more than one secondary substance-kind to a primary substance.

Medieval theology modified this Aristotelianism: it is possible for a primary substance x that is essentially of a substance-kind also to possess/be/come to be of a substance kind K’ (where K is not the same as K’) contingently and non-essentially (105).

Concretists affirm a part-whole (mereological) account of the Incarnation.  There

He gives a wonderful rebuttal to theistic evolutionism simply by showing how sloppy their language is. Thus, the whole point of analytic theology.

My only criticism of the book is the lack of survey on how to get started in AT (e.g., which texts to read first).

Review: What Sort of Human Nature?

Medieval analytic philosophy gets to the heart of the problem:  If Christ has two natures, one of which he assumed as a human nature, and if he is consubstantial with us in our humanity, yet our nature is sinful, how is Christ not sinful?  Saying he chose not to sin doesn’t answer the question, as merely possessing a human nature tainted by sin makes one guilty. human nature

The short answer to the question is that we only need to show that Christ is fully human, and a tainted human nature is not necessary to the definition of what it means to be human.  Yet this reveals the deep octopus of questions that occurs at the intersection of anthropology and Christology.  Marilyn McCord Adams sets forth several questions on this topic and shows how (and why) the medievals answered the way they did.


(1) Metaphysical size-gap between God and man.
(2) There is a top-down pressure to regard Christ’s human nature with maximal perfection.
(3) Christ assumes something from each of man’s fourfold states. He has to have something to guide human beings into Beatific glory.

Adams interprets Chalcedon as defining person: Per 451, Person = supposit = individual substance (Adams 8). Other questions that arise: how much did the human soul of Jesus know?  Did it experience defects? If so, what kind?  Was it impeccable?

Anselm denies Christ is born in original sin. If he were, then he would be personally liable.  Anselm says Christ’s human soul was omniscient, yet he doesn’t explain how a finite human mind could have infinite cognitive capacity (17).

Lombard on Christ’s human knowledge: “Once again, Lombard charts a via media: the scope of Christ’s human knowledge matches the Divine, but the created act by which it knows will not be so metaphysically worthy or furnish the maximal clarity of knowledge found in the Divine essence. Even so, it will enable the soul of Christ to contemplate each creature clearly and as present and will include a contemplation of God as well” (21).


The book admirably serves as a fine example of analytic theology. Adams plumbs the issues and shows the tensions and advantages in each theologian’s position.  I do feel the book’s conclusions were rushed at times, but given that it is actually a lecture and an essay, I suppose that can’t be helped.


Review: God Incarnate

I’ve gotten to the point that if someone asks me for a basic book on Christology, I point them to Oliver Crisp. Any of his works. I learned more Christology from this book than in my week long Christology course in seminary. Crisp’s stated goal is to use to the tools of analytic theology to focus on key areas in Christology. Show problems and point to solution. He succeeds magnificently.

try to find the picture where he has a beard

The Election of Jesus Christ

Standard received Reformed view: the sole cause of election is the good pleasure and will of God (Crisp 36). Turretin and others want to deny the claim that Christ’s foreseen merit is the ground of predestination.

Moderate Reformed view: Christ is the ground of election in just one important sense. God decrees election, and he decrees that Christ be one of the ends. Here is where the MRP view points out a tension in the standard treatment: if all of the ad extra works of the Trinity are one, Logos must also be a cause of election, and not just a means.

This section could have done more. I think he pointed out a key insight of the Moderate Reformed group, but he didn’t deal with Bruce McCormack’s reading of Karl Barth (he acknowledged it, though). There is still blood on the ground from the “Companion Controversy.”

Christ and the Embryo

This is where the money is. Chalcedonian Christology demands a pro-life position. If you aren’t willing to use your theology to fight a war to the death against Moloch, then go sit down. This honor isn’t for you. And it gives sometimes strange (yet welcome) implications. For example, human personhood and human nature aren’t the same thing. Christ is fully human, but not a human person.

We need to be clear on this, otherwise we fall prey to Apollinarianism. All humans are created with something like a built-in God-shaped port that the Word can upload himself at the moment of conception. Where this divine upload takes place, the Word prevents the human nature from becoming a human person (107). In other words, if God the Son doesn’t “upload/download” himself into human nature’s hard drive, then personhood begins at conception.

While the demons at Planned Parenthood probably don’t care about Apollinarianism, that line can work well against those who claim a high church conciliar Christology, yet are scared to fight this war. I have in mind the Rachel Held Evans and Calvin College faculty.  If you don’t believe personhood is live at conception (be it divine or human), then you are an Apollinarian.  Now, that should bother the “ancient/liturgy/conciliar” crowd. If you are in that group and you reject the Apollinarian implication, then you probably don’t need to be voting Democrat.  I am not saying you should be Alt Right and posting Crusader memes, but you need to move in that direction.

Materialist Christology

The upshot: not all alternatives to substance dualism are physicalist. Global materialism: the idea that all existing things are essentially material things; there are no immaterial entities. Christian materialists do not necessarily hold this view, as they would acknowledge at least two existing immaterial entities: God and angels.

Global substance dualism: all existing things are composed of matter or spirit (mind), or both matter and spirit. This position can include Christian materialists-about-the-human-person.

The problem in question: can a Christian materialist about the human person hold to Chalcedonian Christology? It initially appears not, as Christ’s has a rational soul? If Christ’s divine mind/soul were to substitute, then Apollinarianism would follow.

Reductive materialists: a human’s mental life can be reduced to some corporeal function.
Non-reductive materialism: the human’s mental life cannot be reduced to some corporeal function.
Property Dualism: a substance that has some properties that are mental and some that are physical.
Substance: a thing of a certain sort that can exist independently of other things of the same sort, has certain causal relations with other substances, and is the bearer of properties (145). A property is an abstract object that either is a universal or functions like one.

Crisp probably should have said why property dualism is false while he was at it.  Nevertheless, a simply grand book.

Review Thomas V Morris Idea of God

This is a toned-down version of his Logic of God Incarnate and in many ways it is just as powerful and more accessible..  With the exception of his take on foreknowledge and eternity, I whole-heartedly recommend this book.

Leadlight Window St Anselm
Founder of analytic theology

Furthermore, this book is a skillful exercise in analytic theology.  Morris invites us to think deeply on what we mean by God.  And we mean by God:

God is the greatest possible array of compossible great-making properties.

Morris explains some of the terms:

Great-making property: a property it is initially good to have.
Compossible: a set or array of properties is compossible if it is possible that they all be had by the same individual at the same time, or all together.

Morris’s take on God’s knowledge starts off well and cuts finite goddism off at the knees:

If God has to depend on any intermediary for knowledge, then this defeats creation theology: God would then be the creator of the intermediary, yet also lacking the knowledge of what he creates.  Morris then defines two useful concepts in analytic philosophy: de re and de dicto.

The proposition

(1) God is omniscient

Is necessarily true.  True in every possible world.  It has both de dicto and de re status.

G1: Necessarily, God is omniscience (de dicto status)

G2: God is necessarily omniscience (both de dicto and de re).

I am going to skip what Morris says about Molinism, Presentism, and Eternity.  His true skill is in Christology.  Is it logically incoherent to say that Jesus is both God and Man?  Morris shows that when we gloss our terms, there is no problem.  He writes,

“Divinity, or deity, we shall continue to construe as analogous to a natural kind, and thus as comprising a kind-essence, a cluster of properties individually necessary and jointly sufficient for belonging to the kind, or in this case, for being divine” (162).

Morris then capitalizes on the argument in several crucial sentences:

“An individual-essence is a cluster of properties essential for an individual’s being the particular entity it is, properties without which it would not exist. A kind.essence is that cluster of properties without which, as we have seen, an individual would not belong to the particular natural kind it distinctively exemplifies. Of necessity, an individual can have no more than one individual-essence, or individual nature, but it does not follow from this, and is not, so far as I can tell, demonstrable from any other quarter, that an individual can have no more than one kind-essence” (163).

Let’s cash this out.  Humans are sinful. Jesus was human.  Yet, Jesus was without sin, so how could Jesus be human?  Morris shows that sin is a common human property, but not an essential one (since it wasn’t there originally and won’t be there in heaven).  Further, we say that Jesus is fully human, not merely human.

Fully human: exemplifying all of the properties in the kind-essence humanity

Merely human: exemplifying only those H-properties.

Two Minds Christology

They stand in an asymmetric accessing relation.  Jesus typically drew upon his human resources.

This book is easier to read than Logic of God Incarnate, and can probably be found cheaper than Logic.  It ends with a short bibliography.

Initiation into Analytic Theology

The analytic method is a way of doing theology by clarifying terms.  There is nothing evil or sacred about it.  I am writing this to help students get their feet wet without getting turned off by multiple pages of mathematical notations and Baye’s Theorems.

Some of these are on analytic prolegomena, while others are forays into specific theological loci.


Abraham, William.  Analytic Theology: A BibliographyRead it for free here.

Crisp, Oliver. Retrieving Doctrine.  Focused on topics in Reformed theology, but employs the analytic method. Very accessible.

McCall, Thomas. Invitation to Analytic Theology.  It’s exactly what it says.  The book was a treat to read. 

Morris, Thomas V. Our Idea of God.  Good primer on how to think about God from an Anselmian perspective.


Alston, William. Perceiving God.  Alston didn’t intend it as such, but this has a payout on the cessationism/continuationism debate.

Anselm. The Major Works.  It’s hard to imagine Philosophy of Religion without Proslogion and Monologion.

Augustine. The Confessions.  Specifically books 10-13 on time and creation.

Crisp. An American Augustinian. A leading analytic theologian meticulously examines WGT Shedd’s unique theology.

Crisp and Rea. Analytic Theology: New Essays in Philosophy of religion.  Some essays are classic.  Others are meh.

Helm, Paul. Faith and Understanding.

McCall, Thomas. Which Trinity? Whose Monotheism? Have you ever come across an idea and despite its initial plausibility, it seemed off?  This book will show you why.

Plantinga, Alvin. God, Freedom, and Evil.  The layman’s version of Nature of Necessity.

Nash, Ronald. The Concept of God.  Nash took Plantinga’s Nature of Necessity and made it accessible for dummies like me.


Craig, William Lane. Time and Eternity.  He moved to quickly on God’s relation to eternity.  Read Helm instead.

Edwards, Jonathan. Freedom of the Will.  Ok. I cheated on this one.  But Edwards’ defense of determinism is still worth reading.

Moreland and Rae. Body and Soul.  Fantastic defense of substance dualism.

Morris, Thomas V.  The Logic of God Incarnate.  Probably the most important book on Christology in the last 30 years.

Plantinga, Alvin. Does God Have a Nature? A critique of some versions of Thomism.  Still not sure what Plantinga’s conclusion was.

————. God and Other Minds.  Good discussion of natural theology.

Richards, Jay Wesley. The Untamed God.  Magnficent defense of essentialism.



Review: Retrieving Doctrine (Crisp)

Crisp, Oliver.  Retrieving Doctrine: Essays in Reformed Theology.

Crisp highlights key (but often marginalized) ideas from several Reformed thinkers.  He is “retrieving” aspects of doctrine that aren’t usually talked about.  He analyzes Calvin on Creation, Providence and Prayer; Edwards on Original Sin; Turretin on sin and necessity; Barth on universal salvation, and others.

The book is a short model on how to do analytic theology.  It mostly succeeds.  There are a few chapters where Crisp either spent too much time with too little payout, or not enough time at all.  Nonetheless, some essays, like the ones on Barth and Nevin, score major gains.

Non-Penal Substitution

Crisp examines the argument of John Macleod Campbell who argues for a substitution but one that isn’t penal.  Christ isn’t punished for my sin, but he undergoes some kind of penitential act.  In response Crisp notes that this view doesn’t remove any of the key objections.  It’s not clear how Christ’s “feeling sorry” for my sin actually removes my sin.  Further, it’s not clear on what ground Christ has any right to “feel sorry” for my sin.  Therefore, in response, penal substitution is a more viable model. Or at least, the main criticisms against PS also obtain here.

Karl Barth’s denial of universal salvation

Barth’s problem was that he posited a model of Christology and election that entailed universal salvation, yet he denied this was his teaching.  Crisp shows that it was. Introductory premises:

A1. There is a domain of moral agents comprising all human agents.

A2. By Christ’s death atonement is procured for the sin and guilt of those for whom he died.

(1) Given A1 and A2, Christ’s death atones for the sin of all human agents.

(2) Christ’s death is sufficient for all human agents (CD II/2, p. 271).

(3) This work is completed at the cross.

(4) This work is appropriated, not on the traditional gloss of ‘repent and believe,’ but by agents coming to realize that ‘this is what God in Jesus Christ has done for you’ (Ibid., 317ff).

(5) Christ is the Elect One.

(6) Christ is the Reprobate One.

(7) All human agents are elect only in a derivative sense of having a saving relation to the set of the Elect and its single member, Christ.

(8)The Sin of all human agents is atoned for by Christ, the Reprobate one.

But (8) seems to entail universalism, which Barth does not want.  So perhaps he means it in this sense: 

(8*) All human agents are reprobate only in the derivative sense of having a relation to the set of the reprobate and its single member, Christ.

But this would entail: 

(9) All human agents are simultaneously members of the sets ‘elect-in-Christ’ and ‘reprobate-in-Christ.” 

But this is incoherent.  Therefore, Barth must mean (8) instead of (8*).  Given (8) we now have: 

(9*) All human agents are members of the set ‘elect-in-Christ.’ 

At this point Barth can escape (9*) by affirming some sort of Libertarian free-will, but Barth doesn’t do this (and he gives good reasons for not doing it).  Therefore, Barth must hold to something like,

(10) All human agents are necessarily (and derivatively) elect-in-Christ by virtue of his universally efficient atonement.

But now we are back at universalism, unless Barth can posit a new way out:

(11) A human agent whose redemption Christ purchased may reject Christ and may ultimately not be saved.

This is fallacious, given (1)-(4) and (5)-(8) and (9*).  Further, (11) is Arminianism, which Barth claims to reject.

John Williamson Nevin on the Church

Instead of the visible/invisible church, Nevin posits the Ideal Church and its manifestation in time.  It is an organic whole springing from a common ground.  While Nevin has much good to say, it’s not clear he can fully escape “visible” and “invisible” categories.  For example, he would rightly want to affirm OT saints as part of the church, yet since they have died they aren’t “visible.”

For all of Nevin’s problems, though, much of his teaching is simple Augustinian realism.  One wonders, though, what it would take to shore up Nevin’s conclusions without using his German Idealism.

Another difficulty: if there is a metaphysically real union with the old Adam and a metaphysically real union with Christ, then how are these two distinct? This isn’t a problem but only a place where he isn’t clear.

Crisp gives a fine summary of Nevin’s conclusions on p. 172:

(1) The Church is mystically united to Christ.

(2) The church isn’t the Incarnation, part two.  Rather it is a continuation of the new creation brought about by the Incarnation.

(3) OT sacraments are largely preparatory (I think Cocceius held to a similar view).

(4)The Church has an ideal aspect and a concrete (externalizing) aspect.

(5) The ideal is perfect in all respects; the concrete is imperfect but gradually realizing the perfect.

(6) Adam and his progeny are an organic whole.

(7) Christ and the church are another organic whole.

Review: The Logic of God Incarnate

by Thomas Morris.

This is an incredible primer in analytic theology. Not the first intro text to be sure (that would be McCall), but indispensable nonetheless.

Does the claim “Jesus is God the Son” introduce incoherence into the Incarnation? Morris says no, provided that we properly understand what is meant by key philosophical terms. His argument trades on a number of similar philosophical tools: what is a concept? What is a natural-kind? Does fully-human = merely-human? Modern theologians who reject the Incarnation rarely examine these issues.

According to Morris (Morris 21ff), we hold to the proposition

(C) Jesus is God the Son


(C’) Jesus is God

Modern critics of the Incarnation say that humanity and divinity are contraries, so one subject cannot exemplify both. The heart of Morris’s book is that these are not contraries and Jesus does, in fact, exemplify both the properties of humanity and the properties of divinity.

Some of the difficulty comes with the undefined usage of the term ‘nature.’ Critics of the Incarnation think that the properties in human nature and in divinity are logical complements, thus precluding any bearer to exemplify both. Morris argues this isn’t necessarily the case. We aren’t saying that Jesus held to two undefined natures, but rather two natural kinds, or kind-nature. Natural kind: a shareable set of properties (39ff). Jesus had all the kind-essential properties of both humanity and divinity (40). It’s not clear where the contradiction, if any, is.

So far Morris has cleared orthodoxy of the charge of incoherence. But are divinity and humanity compossible?

Divine and Human Existence

Is Death annihilation? If it is, then Jesus, as one bearing divine properties, cannot die.
But why should the theist accept this? Doesn’t the soul outlive the body? Morris doesn’t take this argument, though. He rather points out that Jesus bore essential, if not common, human properties. Either one works.

Jesus and the Attributes of Deity

Problem: how can Jesus bear the property, say, of omnipresence during the Incarnation?

Anselm: God is a maximally perfect being who exemplifies a maximally perfect set of compossible great-making properties.

Great-making property: a property it is intrinsically better to have than to lack.
Degreed: something you can have more of
Logical maxima: highest possible degrees
Non-logical maxima: capable of infinite increase

The Properties of the God-man

Alvin Plantinga: the divine persons can differ in the modal status of their properties (94-95). The Son can exemplify some of those properties contingently.

Morris explores a number of options to avoid the kenotic conclusion.

Range of consciousness = collection of belief-states (102).
Two minds = two ranges of consciousness. Morris writes, “The divine mind of the Son of God contained, but was not contained by, his earthly mind” (103). There is an asymmetric relationship.

Review: Untamed God

This is a magnificently fine book.  Richards seeks to offer a robust defense of classical theism, yet he is sensitive to the challenges. He mostly succeeds.

Thesis:  “Christians should affirm that God has an essence, which includes his perfections and essential properties, and should attribute to God essential and contingent properties” (Richards 17).

Essentialism: belief that so-called ‘de re’ modality is relevant to our understanding of God.  It is appropriate to speak of a cluster of properties which God necessarily exemplifies and without which he would not be God, and contingent properties which he only has in some possible worlds (18 n1).

In chapter 2 he gives a dizzying, yet helpful account of modal logic.  He presents the S5 system, in which all possible propositions are necessarily possible.  This allows him to draw upon Plantinga’s account of possible worlds as “maximally consistent states of affairs.”  

The definition of essence is a set of properties that an entity exemplifies (64). A property is some fact or truth about an entity in the world.  In our usage we want to say that Socrates has necessary/essential properties without saying that Socrates is necessary to every possible world.  We would say it like this:

“S has P and there is no W in which S has the complement ~P of P.  

Property actualism states that S has no properties in worlds in which he does not exist.

□(x)(P(x) → E(x))

Therefore, The essentialist argues that there is a distinction between essential divine properties and accidental (contingent) divine properties (90). Property: a state of affairs concerning entities of different types. While saying there are contingent properties in God seems to depart from the tradition, it really doesn’t.  God’s deciding to create the world is a contingent divine property. God has P in every world.  God’s essence is concretely instantiated in every possible world (95). God’s essential attributes, those he has in every possible world, are divine ‘perfections’ (96).  “They include all those properties susceptible to perfection.”

Richards has several chapters on Barth and Hartshorne, noting some promising moves in the former and rebutting the latter.  The chapter on Barth traded on an unresolved question:  Did Barth hold to strong actualism?  I think he did.  Richards isn’t so sure.

He ends the book with a fine chapter on divine simplicity, noting the numerous ways it has been employed in the Tradition:

(1) all divine properties are possessed by the same self-identical God.
(2) God is not composite, in the sense that he is not made up of elements or forms more fundamental than he is.
(3) God’s essence is identical with his act of existing.
(4) All God’s essential properties are coextensive.
(5) All God’s perfections are identical.
(6) All God’s properties are coextensive
(7) God’s essential properties and essence are strictly identical with himself.
(8) All God’s properties are strictly identical with himself.

Question: when the medieval denied God has accidents, is he denying what the essentialist is affirming, that God has contingent properties (225)?  Maybe not.  The essentialist, for example, says contingent relations are divine accidents, but Thomas calls these external relations ad extra.

The medievals denied that “goodness” and the like were accidental to God, because they (rightly) wanted to deny that God participates in the form of Goodness.  But this isn’t what the essentialist is claiming.

Therefore, the essentialist accepts (1)-(4), noting that “existence” today doesn’t have quite the same connotations as existence did for Thomas.  (5) is tricky.  (6) seems unproblematic.  (7)-(8) are deeply problematic.