Let me say from the outset that the statement by Rob Bowman in the endorsements is relatable. This book will indeed challenge and stretch you.
Dale Tuggy and Chris Date set off to debate a most crucial question: Is Jesus human and not divine? Dale Tuggy is a unitarian who is primarily known for his Trinities website and podcast. I’ve been listening to Tuggy for several years now and he’s far from the usual unitarian you may encounter on the internet or elsewhere. While you’ll certainly hear scriptures cited by Tuggy, you will hear much more in the way of philosophical argumentation along with quotes from the church fathers.
Chris Date is, of course, a Trinitarian. Until this debate book publication with Dale Tuggy, that wasn’t what Mr. Date was most well known for. I personally knew Chris from his Theopologetics website and podcast which I had the pleasure of appearing on years ago. In recent years, Chris really came to great recognition in apologetical and theological circles with his formation of Rethinking Hell. I could imagine those not familiar with Chris’ prior experience at Theopologetics or his theological training at Fuller being tempted to think he is not equipped to deal with Tuggy, considering this is truly his area of expertise. However, knowing Chris’ well rounded background in his Theopologetics days, I was confident he’d be up to the task.
One of the difficulties in positing and defending theology is that we are all forced to use human language to describe what we think Scripture means. If we say, “Jesus is theos,” a unitarian and a Trinitarian will mean something different, even if they’re citing the same verse (John 1:1, 1:18, 20:28, etc.). Dale Tuggy will argue that Jesus just is the human Messiah and the Father just is the one God. But if Jesus just is God, what does that mean to the Trinitarian? Is Jesus the Father? Is Jesus the Trinity? Is God a self or three selves? You can also expect Tuggy to throw in a few syllogisms as he seeks to bring these questions to bear. However, if Chris’ exegesis is correct, then these questions are secondary. The first task is to determine what Scripture means (e.g. Jesus is God in the same way the Father is) and then determine what philosophical language we should use to describe it.
Dale Tuggy’s arguments centered around three areas: philosophy (which seemed to be primary), the church fathers, and Scripture. Chris Date’s argument centered around two areas: the church fathers and Scripture. While it would be disingenuous to argue that Tuggy didn’t rebut with Scripture and theology, he primarily reverted to logic and philosophical argumentation. There’s a sense it which this was frustrating because philosophy and logic simply weren’t Chris’ focus in his opening. Yet, Chris took it upon himself to address Tuggy’s philosophical case.
Like nearly every debate I encounter, my favorite part of this book was the cross examination. And there was a lot of it. In most debates, you get maybe 10-20 minutes each of cross examination. The difference is, the debaters get to think more carefully about their answers and without interruptions.
In conclusion, I would be surprised if someone doesn’t learn something from this exchange. In fact, I plan on re-reading it again at some point. There’s especially a lot to delve into as it relates to the church fathers because both men argued that the fathers were largely in support of their own positions. It would also be helpful to take a closer look at Tuggy’s philosophical arguments to see if there are ways in which Trinitarian language can be further clarified or improved.
Chris Date and Dale Tuggy set a very good example here. We need more books like this.