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Research, Reflections & Commentary

My Academic Blog consists of posts where I share preliminary thoughts about early stage academic research, reflections on theories and methods in the study of religion and Islamic studies, commentaries, summaries and excerpts from primary and secondary sources that are of interest, and short academic essays on topics that serve other scholars and the general public. While none of the posts are peer reviewed academic publications, they cite and comment on others' academic work.

  • Writer's pictureKhalil Andani

Debate Review: Dyer's Monarchic Trinity vs. Jake's Anthropomorphic Allah

This evening saw a much anticipated debate between the Orthodox Christian thinker Jay Dyer and the Salafi Muslim Jake Brancatella, a self-styled metaphysician.

It is worth mentioning that in the Christian tradition, there are many models of the God as the Trinity. These include the Monarchical Trinity, the Thomist Trinity based on “Relative Identity”, Constitutive models of the Trinity, and Social models of the Trinity. I once hosted 3 Christian scholars as shown in this video.

Likewise, in Islam, there are numerous models of Tawhid (God’s Unicity). These include the Mu‘tazili, Ash‘ari, Maturidi, Hanbali, Salafi, Taymi, Ismaili, Twelver, Avicennian, and Sufi Akbari models of Tawhid. I explain some of these in this video.

This was a debate over which theology is true: Dyer’s Orthodox model of the Christian Trinity known as the Monarchical Trinity vs. Jake’s Salafi model of Islamic Tawhid. Without doing a full-blown review of this, below are my immediate comments.

First, neither debater really offered positive arguments for their positions. Jake simply asserted his Salafi Athari model of Tawhid, which he bases on the views of Ibn Khuzayma, Muhammad b. Isma‘il al-Bukhari, and Ibn Taymiyya. Jake affirms that God has real-distinct attributes that are not identical to God’s Essence and not separable from God’s Essence. This is already a major problem because the Sunni doctrine of “entitative attributes” (sifat ma‘nawiyya) effectively means that Allah is a metaphysical composite. These divine attributes are uncreated and eternal but they are not identical to God Himself, which begs the question as to whether they are dependent upon God or whether God is dependent upon the attributes. Both options are fatal to Tawhid. Most recently, even Dr. Hasan Spiker, a Sunni Akbari metaphysician (he is a real metaphysician unlike Jake), told Dr. Shadee Elmasry that the Ash’ari/Maturidi/Hanbali doctrine of God having real-distinct attributes is devoid of intellectual content (see video).

Overall, Jake's theological positions were weaker and poorly defended against Dyer's attacks. Like Ibn Taymiyya, Jake affirmed the plain meaning (zahir) of all the anthropomorphic descriptions of God found in the Qur’an/Sunni Hadith including Allah’s face, hands, eyes, feet, descent, sitting, etc. On the face of it, this type of theology is contradictory. One cannot claim that God has no likeness to His creation and affirm a real face, hand, eyes or descending for God (as Jake's friend Dr. Chowdhury argued in a journal article).

Jake pre-emptively tried to defend against the charge of anthropomorphism - of making God similar to creatures - by claiming that the shared wording and shared meanings between God’s face/hands/feet and creaturely face/hands/feet does NOT entail any ontological similarity between them. Jake committed to a nominalism, thinking that this allows him to avoid the problem of anthropomorphism. After all, if there are no universals at all, then words like face, hands, etc. no longer designate things that share any similarities.

The problem with Jake’s “apparent meaning” position is that the “apparent meaning’ (al-ẓāhir) is what first comes to the mind from that text, irrespective of whether it is literal or metaphorical” (Ibn Qudāmah 2002, 55). Dyer pounced on this and argued that Jake must choose between two options: either the plain meaning renders God similar to His creation - after all, what else can be the basis of referring to God’s "Foot" and a creaturely "foot" unless there is a real semblance? Alternatively, one can claim that there is no similarity at all between God’s Foot and a creaturely foot; but in this case, Jake’s entire discourse of affirming these attributes is uninformative and meaningless.

Jake also affirms that God performs temporal actions - like speaking, forgiving, commanding, etc. - which Taymiyyan Atharis regard as uncreated actions that subsist in God’s Essence. Hoover refers to these as God’s “voluntary attributes”. This leads to the paradoxical belief that God performs temporal yet uncreated divine actions - an idea that Jake ascribes to al-Bukhari himself.

Jake went on to attack Dyer’s Trinity model by arguing that the Monarchic Trinity amounts to tri-theism using 3 arguments from his older debates: first, he argued that the Orthodox Trinity is polytheistic because the doctrine admits of 3 "gods" (three beings that are predicatively divine); second, Jake argued that the the Father, Son, Spirit cannot one God because they do not have the same power or knowledge; third, Jake charged Dyer's methodology for proving Orthodoxy with epistemic circularity; fourth, Jake argued that the the Trinity was not affirmed by the earliest Christian Church fathers and is not really orthodox.

Dyer devoted his opening statement to launching several fatal arguments against Jake's Salafi theology. First, he charged Jake with a gross double standard: Jake made his career attacking the Orthodox for affirming 3 "gods" and chiding them for not counting by identity; instead, the Orthodox count by division and thereby claim that there is but one God. However, Dyer notes, Jake himself asserts that there is only one God yet he affirms that this God has multiple uncreated and mutually distinct attributes. There is an analogy between what Trinitarians call Divine Persons and what Sunnis call the uncreated Divine Attributes. As I noted in my debate against Jake, some important Christian theologians writing in Arabic such as Abu Ra'ita, Ammar al-Basri, Bishop Elias, Ibn Tayyib, argued that what Muslims call divine attributes (such as the divine life, knowledge, power), the Christians refer to as the divine hypostases (see Hussaini 2014). Thus, Dyer makes a good point here and Jake never dealt with this. I discuss this Person-Attribute connection based on scholarship in this video.

Dyer further pushed Jake on God's attributes like hands, eyes, feet, etc. He argued Ibn Taymiyya and Jake are not consistent on this: is the similarity between God's hand and creaturely hands only in name? Or is it also in meaning? If it is only in name, then these predications are uninformative. If the similarity is in meaning, then God and creatures share a real similarity. In Dyer's words: "What is an uncreated foot that is nothing like a human foot? What is a more perfect foot?" For those who do not know, Dyer was picking up on Ibn Taymiyya's argument that God must have attributes like hands, eyes, etc. because He must possess all perfections. As summarized by Hoover:

A living being who can see and hear is more perfect than one who cannot. Similarly, one who is living and knowing is more perfect than one who is not. Moreover, God must be qualified as hearing and seeing lest He be imperfect and dependent upon another... One who has power to act by his hands is more perfect than one who does not because the former can choose to act with his hands or through some other means whereas the latter does not have the option of using his hands. By implication, God’s hands are among His attributes of perfection.
Jon Hoover, Ibn Taymiyya's Theodicy of Perpetual Optimism, 64-65

Dyer went further and asked Jake - are the divine attributes a-se or dependent on God? Or is God dependent on His mutually distinct attributes? These were questions I asked Jake in our 2022 Debate and he has yet to provide an answer.

Furthermore, Dyer caught on to the absurdity of believing that God has uncreated yet temporal attributes. Dyer rightly argued that temporal divine attributes or temporal divine actions issuing from God and subsisting in His Essence entail that God’s Essence itself must be temporal. This was the position of the Karramiyya, whom orthodox Sunnis like al-Juwayni condemned as heretics. Dyer went on to attack Jake's epistemology as problematic because it rejects universals and is wholly nominalist.

I encourage everyone to watch the entire debate and be prepared to laugh out loud at certain points.

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4 comentários

Ahmed Sheriffdeen
Ahmed Sheriffdeen
28 de jun.

If Jake/Ibn Taymiyah are nominalists about predications, since they also hold that space and time to them are more like attributes of extended things or changing things and not something existing above and beyond, how do they then ascribe/apply spatiality and temporality to both God and creatures?


29 de abr.

A great insight doctor


KGN 360
KGN 360
22 de abr.

Disgusting Ismaili, the AnlulBayt’s Hadith are crystal clear about your heretical sect and yet you shamelessly ignore them

29 de abr.
Respondendo a

Why you spreading hate? Do you have an argument other than ad hom, You can't even qoute the hadiths

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