Introduction to Vol. 7

Our seventh volume of the Journal of Analytic Theology showcases a rich diversity of work in analytic theology that pushes boundaries. If this were a planned volume it might be termed “New directions in Christian theology”, as it presents conceptual innovations and challenges for how we should understand established theological doctrines such as the Chalcedonian conceptualization of Christ’s divinity and humanity, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, trinitarianism, and ecclesiology. We start with a link to Lauren F. Winner's 8th Annual Analytic Theology lecture, given in Denver in November of 2018. She brings her expertise in the history of Christian practice alongside AT to examine brokenness in liturgical practices.

The volume then moves to a symposium on Jc Beall’s paper “Christ – A Contradiction: A Defense of Contradictory Christology”. Beall proposes a solution for the theologically orthodox position that Christ is both fully human and fully divine, yet one person. On the face of it, this appears to be a logical contradiction, and much discussion in theology has focused on how to resolve it. Jc Beall’s solution is to accept the contradiction at face value: Christology is indeed logically contradictory. This requires a logic that allows for contradictions, and Beall’s solution is to wield paraconsistent logic, notably first-degree entailment (FDE), to cash this out. His paper’s second main aim is to clarify the use of logic in theology.

Timothy Pawl, Thomas McCall, A.J. Cortnoir and Sara Uckelman provide thorough criticisms to this proposal. Tim Pawl provides two basic criticisms: first, he offers reasons to think that theological contradictions remain theologically problematic (even if the issues about logical contradiction are put to the side), and second, on Beall’s account of logic we would have an inference from one contradiction to the truth of all propositions, i.e., one can derive any other proposition (so-called explosion). Next is Thomas McCall who asks whether it is truly necessary to give up philosophical orthodoxy in order to defend theological orthodoxy. A. J. Cortnoir takes issue with Beall’s conceptualization of the use of logic in theology. He argues that theologians should use logical methods as tools for constructing theories, not as a universal foundation for all possible theories. Sara Uckelman considers the historical context in which Conciliar theology was developed, noting that the theologians who developed orthodox Christian theology through the Councils of Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon in the 4th and 5th centuries, did not yet have access to the notion of logical consequence or entailment, which was not developed until the twelfth century. She notes that medieval authors avoid some problems Beall encounters, as they made a distinction between contradictions and impossibilities, arguing that the former are always the latter, but not the reverse. Beall responds in detail to each of these objections.

Our first regular paper is Joshua Cockayne’s “Analytic Ecclesiology: The Social Ontology of the Church”. This paper engages with fundamental questions about what the Church is, particularly how it can be united (in terms of purpose and agency) and yet be composed of many individuals and that it exhibits enormous diversity and fragmentation. Located within the constraints of orthodox theology, Cockayne conceptualizes the Church as a group agent, using illuminating (if somewhat disquieting) parallels of group agency in honeybees and terrorist cells.

In “Indwelling without the Indwelling Holy Spirit: A Critique of Ray Yeo’s Modified Account” Kimberley Kroll provides a detailed and sustained critique of Ray Yeo’s modified account of indwelling of the Holy Spirit (also published in the Journal of Analytic Theology, volume 2, 2014). Yeo argues against William Alston and Jonathan Edwards, who propose that indwelling happens through a form of merging, and instead proposes an indirect form of indwelling where indwelling occurs by the human person’s mind being put in a relationship with the human mind of Christ, rather than Christ’s divine mind. Kroll argues that this proposal introduces new metaphysical lacunae, and also runs counter to orthodox theological views. For example, as she shows, under Yeo’s account Christ’s human mind has properties that are not available to other human minds.

Samuel Lebens and Dale Tuggy continue the deep engagement with Christian theology in this volume by a consideration of dormant (latent) dispositions and arguments in favor of the Trinity in “Dormant Dispositions, Agent Value, and the Trinity”. They use a thought experiment to show that there is no moral difference between having the disposition to have a certain moral disposition (e.g., courage) that is never actualized, and having a moral disposition that is actualized. They use this to critique a prominent line of a priori arguments in favor of Trinitarian theology, which say that unipersonal God would be less perfect than a multi-personal God, in virtue of valuable dispositions (to love), which would be left dormant.

R.A. Wellington’s “Divine Revelation as Propositional” argues that the propositional model of divine revelation deserves new attention. According to this model, God reveals propositions (statements that are truth bearers), usually in speech format, to humans. Wellington defends this model using three assumptions that he takes to be basic elements of Christianity, and then explores why the model is doctrinally significant: understanding divine revelation as propositional guards against humans shaping Christianity according to their own desires, against revisionist attitudes in the Church, and also helps to preserve the unity of Christian belief across time.

The volume concludes with a reflective piece on the place of analytic theology in the context of universities by Andrew Torrance. The paper asks how we can distinguish analytic theology from analytic philosophy. Torrance’s central claim is that the distinction lies in the fact that analytic theology is committed to being “scientific”. He uses the term “scientific” in the sense of scientia, understanding reality (i.e., God, and all that is in relation to God). Analytic theologians thus put themselves in a tradition that studies this reality, to try to say true things about God. He makes the case that this intellectual endeavor has a place in the plural academic context of universities.

The editorial team would like to express their deep gratitude to Kevin Diller, who steps down as executive editor for JAT with the completion of this volume. Kevin was part of the original team that set up the journal, and has worked tirelessly to ensure that each subsequent volume has maintained the highest standards of academic excellence. He has given himself unstintingly to this work, which is often unseen, and occasionally thankless. But without him the journal would not have gotten off the ground, let alone continued to this point. We wish Kevin every success as he lays down this substantial responsibility, and look forward to seeing the way in which he continues to make a contribution to analytic theology through his own research and publications going forward.

The Editors