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.

Christology

Abstractionism:

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 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.

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

not

(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.

Two-Minds
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.