This article contains two things: my opening statement and an examination of how Jake Brancatella failed to respond adequately to it in our debate (11/9/2022). I reproduced my opening statement in the same form that I originally wrote it. Also, it contains the headings, paragraph numbers, and underlines (all original). This was so I could reproduce it here and refer to various elements via paragraph number. I planned to do this well before the debate occurred. Furthermore, I did not believe that Mr. Brancatella (the Muslim Metaphysician) would be able to refute the points I brought up. I was right. He didn’t. He buried his failure in verbal carpet bombing and some rather confusing ‘logical’ formulations – some of which I was surprised that he would actually use. Furthermore, according to his own words, when someone does not answer the challenges, then he loses the debate. So, Jake provided his own criterion, and he failed to live up to it because he did not refute the main points of my opening statement: 1) syllogism, 2) the issue of identity and predication regarding the Triune Being, and 3) the one and the many, of which the Trinity can make sense. After the opening statement, I expand on the issues and his failure.
To watch the debate Matt Slick versus Jake Brancatella, “Is the Trinity necessary to explain reality?” go to https://youtu.be/fqR7Xr_9lAg
MATT’S OPENING STATEMENT
Our debate topic is whether or not the Trinity is necessary to explain reality.
In order to proceed, we must define our terms.
The Trinity is one God in three distinct, simultaneous persons. I’ll expand on this in a bit.
Reality includes all that exists, including the laws of logic, angels, demons, stars, energy, and our debate here tonight.
We are dealing with the Trinity’s necessity for reality, not if the Trinity is true.
From within my Christian worldview, I assert the Trinity is necessary for reality.
He asserts the Trinity is not necessary.
INTERNAL & EXTERNAL CRITIQUE
Now, this is very important. The debate falls under the domain of an internal critique, not an external one.
An internal critique examines the Trinitarian position on its own merits.
An external critique examines the Trinitarian position on the merits of another position. But we are not arguing another position. We are arguing whether or not the Trinity is necessary to explain reality. So, this works with the Trinitarian position and examines it for coherence.
This does not necessitate that my opponent accepts that the Christian Trinity is true, but that given the Christian Trinity, is it necessary for reality?
Remember, the debate title is “Is the Trinity necessary to explain reality?” not “Is the Trinity true?” That would be an external critique. The latter is a different topic worthy of its own debate.
Yet, Jake must attack the truth of the Trinity because if he does not, then the Trinity is necessary for reality. In order to not commit a fallacy of an external critique, he must work within the doctrine and examine its coherence. More on this in a bit.
SYLLOGISM (deductive argument)
In light of this, let me offer a syllogism supporting my position.
God is necessary to explain reality.
God is a Trinity.
Therefore, the Trinity is necessary to explain reality.
If premises 1 and 2 are both true, then the conclusion is logically necessary. This would be a Valid Argument.
But let me clarify. A valid argument does not state whether or not the premises are true, but that IF they are true, then the conclusion is necessary.
I assume that my opponent and I agree that premise 1 is true (that God is necessary for reality). Therefore, he is left with attacking the second premise, that God is a Trinity.
He must prove that the Trinity is false in order to invalidate the syllogism.
If he fails to demonstrate that the Trinity is false, then my syllogism stands, and the Trinity is necessary for reality.
I will now offer my definition of the Trinity, which I have written and is on the CARM website.
“The Trinity is one God in three distinct, simultaneous, eternal persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is monotheism. However, the Father is not the same person as the Son. The Son is not the same person as the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is not the same person as Father. They are not three gods nor three beings. They are three distinct persons, yet, they are all the one God (Divine Simplicity). Each has a will, can speak, can love, etc., demonstrating personhood. They are in perfect harmony consisting of one substance (Ontological Trinity).”1
If my opponent does not address this definition, then he is not engaging in the debate. If he asserts there are other so-called definitions of the Trinity, then he is free to debate those so-called definitions with their respective adherents. But not here because he is debating me and what I believe, not anyone else and what they believe, whether it be John Calvin, Athanasius, William Lane Craig, or the accountant who lives next door.
Now, let me define two terms.
(BEING): The word ‘Being’ refers to the unique essence of the Triune God, who eternally exists as three simultaneous and distinct persons. In the context of this debate, the Abstract Universal of “Being” is not an impersonal category that is grounded in anything other than the Christian worldview. That would be an external category and an invalid external critique.
(PERSON): Furthermore, the word ‘person’ here refers to the characteristics of personhood such as self-awareness, awareness of others, having a will, can love, etc. In the context of the Trinity, a person is not an individual being but is related to the Triune God.
IS OF IDENTITY AND PREDICATION
Now, one of the things my opponent routinely brings up to attack the Trinity are the issues of identity and predication as they relate to the persons in the Trinity.
The “Is of Identity” would be a statement like, “Fido is my dog.” Fido and “my dog” are identical to each other without distinction. Therefore, the “is” demonstrates identity.
However, the “Is of Predication” would be “My dog is brown.” This “is” predicates a characteristic to my dog. “My dog IS brown.” This designates distinction. So, though it is not merely as simple as this, basically, identity deals with the nature of something, and predication deals with the attributes of something. Therefore, they are c
In this case, that something is the Trinity. This relationship of identity and predication in Trinitarianism is equally ultimate. The statement, “God is a triune Being,” is a statement of both identity and predication at the same time – AND THIS IS CRITICAL.
Within this statement, “God is a triune Being,” the persons of the Trinity have their ontological unity and functional distinction that eternally exist as part of the Being of the Triune God in which is both identity and predication. The three persons are the one God, and the one God is the three persons.
It is not as though the three persons are attributes or properties of God the Trinity. Rather, they ARE the one God, and the Trinity is the three persons.
Therefore, in the context of the Trinity, to state that identity and predication are dichotomous and not harmonious would be a problem because it fails to acknowledge their equal ultimacy – IN the Christian GOD.
In the Trinitarian context, and the requirement of an internal critique, the categories of identity and predication cannot exist independent of the Trinitarian God. So, they must be understood in that context, and they must retain their intricate relationship of representing God equally. Again, “God is a triune Being” is both identity and predication.
This is relevant to our debate because my opponent is known for challenging the Trinity by asking….“Is Jesus God a statement of identity or predication?” Now, I do not know if he will ask it. But, I’ll address it nonetheless.
First of all, the question does not represent the Christian perspective sufficiently, where identity and predication are equally ultimate in the one God who is the Triune Being.
It is like he is separating Jesus from the whole and asking if he has a property of the whole. It is a fallacious approach. Remember, “God is a triune Being” is both identity and predication and this relates to Jesus in the Hypostatic Union – which I’ll get into later.
Second, asking if Jesus is identical to God in every aspect is a wrong question because God is a Trinity, and Jesus is not the Trinity. This is the fallacy of equivocation.
Third, to ask if Jesus is God as an inquiry of predication, where Jesus has some property of God the Trinity, does not work because the divine nature of the person of the Divine Word is not a property of God. Remember, “God is a triune Being” is both identity and predication.
Fourth, the statement “Jesus is God” can be understood in different senses.
Jesus is a single person with both a divine nature and a human nature. This is called the hypostatic union.
So, Jesus is God in one sense that He is the Divine Word that became flesh. The person of the Divine Word is an aspect, or concrete particular, of the Trinitarian Being.
Yet, there is a sense in which the property of divinity is attributed to Jesus because Jesus IS a person with two natures. This deals with the communicatio idiomatum – which I will address.
In regard to Jesus and His two natures, there is the doctrine known as the communicatio idiomatum where the attributes of both natures are ascribed to the single person. So, if my opponent asks, “Is Jesus God a statement of identity or predication?” then is he taking into account the communicatio idiomatum? In other words, is he referring to the person of Jesus who is ascribed both divine and human attributes, or is he referring only to the divine nature of Jesus?
So, within this topic of the person and attributes of Jesus, rests the one person with many natures, in His two natures, which in itself is a reflection of the issue of the One and the Many in flesh, an ultimate expression of God’s nature in reality! Therefore, in Jesus, we can touch the one and the many, which is the ultimate nature of God revealed.
ONE AND THE MANY
There is a very serious topic that has plagued philosophers for millennia. It deals with what is called the One and the Many. It arises when we ask, “What is the ultimate nature of reality?” – which is germane to our discussion. Is reality ultimately one thing or ultimately many particular things? If it is one thing, then there are no distinctions between objects, like chairs and trees – because they would all be one thing. This leads to incoherence and undermines truth values as they relate to particulars. If plurality is ultimate, then we’ve lost unity and coherence between the particulars, and reality becomes a set of unrelated items and this also undermines coherence and truth values. This is an ancient problem in philosophy that has not been solved by non-Christian Philosophers. It is still a huge issue today.
But this problem is solved in the Trinity because The Christian God is One Being and Many Persons in His Divine Nature, and therefore, the One and Many are equally ultimate. It is not an “either or” situation. In The Trinity, there is the equal ultimacy of both unity and diversity, the one and the many, identity and predication. Let me elaborate.
We can see the reflection of the nature of God in His Creation. Gen. 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” In Gen. 1:26, “Let US make man in our image.” In these statements, we are the creation of God in the creation of God. We are unified and diverse. We are humanity and particular humans. This is our reality and within it we recognize universals such as chairness and treeness. Also, because we are made in His image when we can encounter particulars of individual chairs and trees, logic statements, truth values, and more, and we can bring them all into unity, a unity that rests in the nature of God from whom all categories derive. We can then say that universals (chairness and treeness) are equally ultimate with particular chairs and trees because the One and the Many have their equal ultimacy in God.
Furthermore, the one and the many are reflected in John 1:1, which says, “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.” This is a statement of the one and the many since within it, the one God and the Word have relationship and distinction, as well as identity as God.
In addition, since God is one and many (God is a Triune Being), and since creation is comprised of oneness and manyness (chairs and trees with chairness and treeness), then we see a correspondence and consistency in Trinitarianism with reality – and by extension, we can justify all causality, uniformity, and intelligibility.
Furthermore, Jesus is an aspect of the one and the many since He is one person with two natures. AND…Col. 1:15-17 says that He is the creator of all things and holds all things together – which is also referenced in Heb. 1:3. So, Jesus stands in causal relation to the creation in the same way that God, the Trinity, stands in causal relation to reality.
In addition, Jesus reflects the one and the many, in his personhood with two natures, and stands in causal relation to reality per scripture Col. 1:15-17, Heb. 1:3; John 1:1.
Let me reiterate in closing. The Trinity is not that the individual persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each identical to the other in every respect because they retain, for example, differences of function. The Father sent the Son. The Son and the Father sent the Holy Spirit, etc.
Instead, the persons are aspects of the Trinity. Remember, “God is a triune Being” demonstrates both identity and predication, distinction and unity. Along with this are sub-topics that time does not allow me to examine.
Furthermore, The Trinity is one God in three persons, which deals with the issue of One and the Many. Since they are equally ultimate in the Triune Being, then we can make sense of the ultimacy of reality being rooted in both the one and the many of God’s nature.
Therefore, God is necessary for reality to exist. God is a Trinity. Therefore, the Trinity is necessary for reality to exist.
FOLLOW UP ON THE DEBATE
So, the perennial question is, “Who won the debate?” The answer depends on what you were looking for. In my opinion, Jake Brancatella was good at verbal carpet bombing, throwing out lots of attacks, and providing the occasional condescending comment – many people pointed this out, too. But he failed to adequately respond to the topics of my opening statement in three significant areas, and so, he lost.
Here are the three main points I made that he failed to refute.
My syllogism clarification.
The “God is a Triune Being,” being identity, predication, or both.
The issue of the One and the Many.
If you don’t respond, I win.
Let me revisit something from the first paragraph. The Muslim metaphysician has routinely stated in debates, as well as a debate that I had with him, that if his opponents do not respond to his challenges, then he wins the debate. Well, according to his own logic, he lost because he failed to refute the challenges in my opening statement. 1) syllogism, 2) the issue of identity and predication regarding the Triune Being, and 3) the one and the many, of which the Trinity can make sense. I’ll get into those here.
Please note that each of these topics was brought up in my opening statement. The only one he seriously interacted with was the syllogism. Apparently, he was not able to deal with the other two, which I had to bring up later and to which he responded poorly.
He attacked the syllogism in my opening statement, which was…
God is necessary to explain reality.
God is a Trinity.
Therefore, the Trinity is necessary to explain reality.
He asked me what “God” referred to in premise 1. Since I wasn’t sure where he was going with it, and if I remember correctly, I said that, ultimately, it was the Trinity. He then said that my response made the syllogism invalid since the premise included the conclusion. I agree with his criticism since it would be begging the question. However, once I understood what he was getting at, I clarified premise one by saying that the clarification was already included in the opening statement, namely, that it was a premise that both he and I could agree to. His version of god and my version of God both include the idea that “God” is necessary to explain reality. Instead of adapting to my clarification, he ignored it repeatedly and continued to attack the first premise with his criticism. I offered the same clarification at least three more times, yet he continued to ignore it. Why? I can only conclude that he did so because he was looking for anything to criticize, since he could not refute the logic of the syllogism – once clarified.
“God is a Triune Being,” being identity, predication, or both?
In his previous debates, he is has challenged the Trinity by asking, “Is Jesus God a statement of identity or predication?” (par. 35). In my opening statement, I showed why his question is invalid by offering several reasons (par. 36-43). I stated that “God is a triune being” is both identity and predication (par. 30-34). This is a very significant point that he ignored. My statement drastically undermined his attack on the Trinity regarding asking if “Jesus is God” is a statement of identity or predication.
So, during cross-examination, he stumbled when I asked, “Is the statement ‘God is a triune being’ a statement of identity, predication, or both?” He said he didn’t agree with the Trinity and wouldn’t respond. Seriously? I pointed out that he didn’t have to believe in the Trinity to answer the question – because it’s an issue of logic regarding a statement! He would not concede this point, which was a bad move on his part. In my opinion, it exposed the weakness of his identity-predication challenge. So, we haggled over this a little bit, and he still refused to answer the simple question.
Nevertheless, I then asked him if he would define the hypostatic union. He had no problem answering that question (of which he did a good job). But hold on! He didn’t believe in the hypostatic union either, yet he responded to that easily enough. So why refuse to answer my first question, “Is the statement ‘God is a triune being’ a statement of identity, predication, or both?” yet answer the second – when he didn’t believe in either!? I pointed out his inconsistency, and it was a big one.
Obviously, he was stumped by my first question, which is why he refused to answer it.
Remember, according to his own reasoning, if he could not refute my arguments, then he lost the debate.
One and the Many
During more of our cross-examination, I was seriously surprised at his inability to articulate the problem of “The One and the Many.” For those who don’t recall, let me quote my opening statement.
46. “What is the ultimate nature of reality?” – which is germane to our discussion. Is reality ultimately one thing or ultimately many particular things? If it is one thing, then there are no distinctions between objects, like chairs and trees – because they would all be one thing. This leads to incoherence and undermines truth values as they relate to particulars. If plurality is ultimate, then we’ve lost unity and coherence between the particulars, and reality becomes a set of unrelated items, and this also undermines coherence and truth values. This is an ancient problem in philosophy that has not been solved by non-Christian Philosophers. It is still a huge issue today.”
I went on to state that the Trinity solves the problem.
47. But this problem is solved in the Trinity because The Christian God is One Being and Many Persons in His Divine Nature, and therefore, the One and Many are equally ultimate. It is not an “either-or” situation. In The Trinity there is the equal ultimacy of both unity and diversity, the one and the many, identity and predication.
During cross-examination, I asked if he could explain the problem of the One and the Many. At one point, he actually said, “What problem.” That surprised me. Did he not know, or was he just stalling? I had explained it in the opening statement, and since he apparently ignored it, I found his response perplexing – especially since he and I had previously talked about the issue before outside this debate. So, I can only conclude he was just stalling so as not to avoid answering my second challenge. Anyway, I was again shocked when he said he had solved the problem (more on this in a bit). How can that be when previously he had asked, “What problem?” Inconsistency anyone? But, as best that I could remember, and via confirmation of other listeners, he failed to articulate the problem when I asked him to do so. I was again surprised by his additional failure to step up. I then explained the problem of the one and the many (see par. 46 above) and told him I provided it in the opening statement. Then, after some confusing verbiage, he claimed he had already explained the problem and mentioned that he had mentioned it early dealing with universals. Now, he hadn’t. I distinctly remember being surprised at his weak comeback. After the debate, I asked several people if he had clarified the problem when I asked him to, and everyone said he didn’t.
Now, what floored me was when he stated that he had solved the philosophical problem of the One and Many. Okaaaaay…. I responded that for thousands of years, secular philosophers haven’t been able to do it – but he had? Really? So, I asked him to explain his solution, but he wouldn’t. Wow. Weird. So, he stated that he had solved an issue that centuries of philosophers failed to do, yet wouldn’t tell us the solution. Weird.
So, he clearly did not refute my trinitarian explanation for the one and the many and failed to back up his claim that he could explain the “One and Many” issue apart from the Trinity. Not good.
Other problems with Jake Brancatella’s arguments
The three things I mentioned weren’t the only problems with his argumentation. Here are a few more.
Quote mining He kept quoting other people (Brant Bosserman, James Anderson, and Lane Tipton) to attack the trinity, yet they affirmed the Trinity. That was really weird. I pointed it that Jehovah’s Witnesses do the same thing. They quote Trinitarians, out of context, to attack the Trinity. Furthermore, I clearly said in the opening statement that quoting others’ opinions on the Trinity was not germane to the debate. After all, neither he nor I were debating them. Yet, he ignored that, went to others, and basically challenged me to answer them. But, he was not debating them.
Three minds are three gods He said that three wills mean three minds, and that is three gods. I then asked him to define perichoresis… he did it properly. I showed him how the three persons inter indwell each other and, due to divine simplicity, they acted as one. Yet, he still proceeded with the same argument that there are three minds, which means three gods. He ignored the explanation I gave regarding the ontological trinity and perichoresis and confused the persons relating to ontology yet denying distinction, which is not the Trinity.
Eternal Begetting He ignored the answer I gave about the logical priority re: eternal begetting. I responded to his challenge by differentiating between logical and temporal priority. Yet, he seemed to ignore it, especially when I asked in cross-exam what they were and what the differences were. He ‘said’ he knew the differences but didn’t explain them. In my opinion, this was another failure.
Quadrinity To my surprise, he proposed a confusing argument: The father is God. The Son is God. The Holy Spirit is God. And the Trinity is God. Therefore, that is four gods. Did I mishear him? I asked others if that is what they heard, and they routinely said, “Yep.” Strange. Nevertheless, I pointed out that the equal ultimacy of God refutes the idea of a quadrinity. In addition, I responded that he was using impersonal categories apart from the Trinitarian context and applying them incorrectly. And he seemed to imply those different categories as they relate to God, separated the persons from the Trinity, and contrasted them. I pointed out that there is a difference between distinction and separation and that he was confusing them. He ignored that, too.
God as parts There was a point where he moved into partialism as an attack on the Trinity. Basically, he said the Father is divine. The son is divine. The Holy Spirit is divine. Therefore…he was asserting that the persons were like parts of the whole… he did this with the pen analogy that has parts. But that was very wrong. He was confusing the parts with the whole and brought out the issue of the fallacy of composition.
So, I’ll give Jake the, Muslim metaphysician, credit for his ability to do verbal carpet bombing and appear to be providing answers when, a lot of time, he was not. He raised some things I was unfamiliar with (indexicals), not that I couldn’t refute them once studied. But I did respond to most everything he raised. But not everything, because time and the pace in debates often leave various points unaddressed. Nevertheless, he failed to refute the challenges I brought up in the opening statement. So, draw your own conclusions.