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Saturday, September 12, 2015


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Thanks Bill.

(d)is almost a textbook definition of the 'heresy' of Modalism:

"...this view (modalism) states that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit never all exist at the same time--only one after another. Modalism denies the distinctiveness of the three persons in the Trinity even though it retains the divinity of Christ." (https://carm.org/modalism)

The (pretty much -to me- incoherent) creedal formulae concerning the Trinity have spawned almost all of the so-called heresies in the Christian church.

Honestly, Dave, I don't see how you get modalism out of (d). It is the orthodox doctrine.

As Kreeft puts it, "But the doctrine of the Trinity says that there is only one God and only one divine nature but that this one God exists in three Persons." That is exactly the orthodox, non-heretical Catholic view.

What Kreeft fails to see is the logical contradiction hidden within the doctrinal formulation. He doesn't see it because it is not lying on the surface but has to be dug out.

I understand that Kreeft's statement is the Catholic view. My contention is that (d), not Kreeft's statement, is modalism.
(d) does not state that God "exists in" three Persons - I'm getting at the contemporaneous-ness (awkward, that) aspect of the statements. Modalists would also believe that God is in three persons - but consecutively.

It seems to me that (d) and Kreeft's statement say the same thing -- they are only slightly verbally different.

But let's not discuss this. Just substitute Kreeft's statement for (d).

Kreeft is a popular writer, so it may be churlish of us to hold him to high standards of rigor. And I don't have his book, so I can't check the context of his quotation.

I may not understand "numerical identity," but if (1) implies that there is numerically one God--as opposed to, say, seventeen--I think many big time Christian metaphysicians would deny this claim. On the Aristotelian program that is usually operative in the speculative work of these theologians, "number" is a species of quantity, which is an Aristotelian accident. There are no accidents in God, so any quantitative predicate (even being "numerically one") would not apply properly to God.

I don't know if this ends up dissolving your criticism, but it seems to me that there is quite a bit of disparity between this sort of analytic metaphysics and the radically different metaphysical vocabulary that someone like Aquinas (but not only Aquinas, by any means) is employing. Unum is an analogical predicate (a transcendental, co-extensive with ens), and when predicated of the divine essence it has nothing to do with being numerically one. I think we need this sort of conceptual flexibility if we are to say something about the mystery of the Trinity.

[Note: this is not to say I have anything approaching a good grasp on orthodox trinitarian doctrine]

It seems that the following premises are false:

5. The Father is not the Son.
6. The Son is not the Holy Spirit.
7. The Father is not the Holy Spirit.

The more accurate rendering is: The Father does not have **the same nature as** the Son.
The Son does not have **the same nature as** the Holy Spirit.
The Father does not have **the same nature as** the Holy Spirit.

We have no contradiction here because Personhood is preserved.

That's not right. As Kreeft rightly points out in his third sentence quoted above, there is only one God, and only one nature, the divine nature. That one nature is shared by the Persons.

I stand corrected with regard to the **nature** of the Father and the Holy Spirit. They share only a divine nature. The Son shares the **divine** nature with the Father and the Holy Spirit, but they do not share the same nature as the Son in that the Son also has a **human** nature. So, there may be an equivocation with regard to the term Person. It could mean separate individuals, in which case there is a contradiction. It could mean different **functions,** in which case there is no contradiction.


Right. The Son has both a divine nature and a human nature. But isn't it the case that before the historical event of the Incarnation, the Son had only a divine nature?

God is necessarily triune. But there was no necessity that the Son be incarnated. So, as I understand it, it is contingent that the Son has both a divine and a human nature.

But the Incarnation is a separate topic, and we can discuss the Trinity without making reference to the Incarnation.


Your comment was sent to the spam corral where I just now found it. Perhaps I will find time to address it later.

But for now: numerical identity as opposed to qualitative identity. Surely you are aware of that distinction?

Some have argued that God is essentially agape-love. God didn't need to create other beings in order to love. He is eternally and necessarily loving. But agape-love requires at least two persons. Thus, God is eternally and necessarily multi-personal.

If this line of reasoning is plausible, then we'd have a good reason for holding to trinitarianism despite the logical difficulties.


Without quoting chapter and verse, Aristotle especially and pre-Modern mathematics in general does not consider *one* a number. Or *two*: *three* is the first number as the first number that is for measuring. Think of having a ruler with no marks on it: you cannot 'count' i.e. measure any length shorter than it; any length longer, you might as well say you have a mental ruler made up of two or more of the original.

Instead of 'one' for Latin *unum* consider instead 'unit' as capturing it better. In this conception, nobody 'counts' one cow. (And a little harder for me to grasp, one doesn't count two cows so much as note there is another cow.

Chris Kirk

Regarding the aporetic septad: What if we assume that in (1) the 'is' expresses existence, in (2)-(4) the 'is' expresses constitution, and in (5)-(7), the 'is' expresses absolute identity?

If feasible, this account enables us to avoid the contradictions entailed by assuming that (2)-(7) use the 'is' of absolute identity. This account would also enable us to hold V1, although it would seem to rule out the doctrine of divine simplicity.

So the F, S, and HS are proper parts of God? This has its own problems.

Yes, that would be the idea.

One apparent problem is that if the DDS is correct, this part-whole account doesn't work. And there are reasons to accept the DDS.

Another apparent problem is that the part-whole account would make it difficult to explain the aseity of God, if we assume that a whole depends on its proper parts. But perhaps a whole doesn't always depend on its parts.

A third apparent problem is that omni-attributes such as omniscience and omni-benevolence would seem to be attributes of the persons as parts. But maybe that's not a problem.

W.L. Craig seems to argue for such a view in A Formulation and Defense of the Doctrine of the Trinity.

For example, he writes "Now if a cat is feline in virtue of being an instance of the cat nature, in virtue of what is a cat’s DNA or skeleton feline? One plausible answer is that they are parts of a cat. This suggests that we could think of the persons of the Trinity as divine because they are parts of the Trinity, that is, parts of God. Now obviously, the persons are not parts of God in the sense in which a skeleton is part of a cat; but given that the Father, for example, is not the whole Godhead, it seems undeniable that there is some sort of part/whole relation obtaining between the persons of the Trinity and the entire Godhead."

He also writes "Suppose, then, that God is a soul which is endowed with three complete sets of rational cognitive faculties, each sufficient for personhood. Then God, though one soul, would not be one person but three, for God would have three centers of self-consciousness, intentionality, and volition, as Social Trinitarians maintain. God would clearly not be three discrete souls because the cognitive faculties in question are all faculties belonging to just one soul, one immaterial substance. God would therefore be one being which supports three persons, just as our individual beings each support one person. Such a model of Trinity Monotheism seems to give a clear sense to the classical formula “three persons in one substance.”

Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/a-formulation-and-defense-of-the-doctrine-of-the-trinity#ixzz3lvkoNU8D

I address the cat-skeleton analogy here: http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2013/01/is-the-skeleton-of-a-cat-feline-in-the-same-sense-a-feline-is.html

Thanks for the thought-provoking link, Bill!

You wrote "Since a skeleton is called feline only by reference to an animal whose skeleton it is, I suggest 'feline' in application to a cat skeleton is being used analogically."

Are you assuming that there is only one way to be feline: by being a substance that has the feline nature?

Perhaps there are two ways to be feline: by exemplifying the feline nature and by being a proper part of something that exemplifies the feline nature. If this is correct, then maybe the feline skeleton isn't analogically feline.

Similarly, maybe there are two ways to be divine. Craig notes that God is divine and each of the Persons are divine, but that God is triune and the Persons as individuals are not triune, suggesting that the Persons are divine in a different way.

Consider another analogy: the human soul. Maybe there are two ways to be soul.

Suppose the soul has proper but inseparable parts, such as a rational part and a desiderative part. (I'm not arguing that the human soul has parts, but only supposing it does in order to make the point.) The soul itself is 'soul.' The parts are also 'soul.' The soul is rational. The desiderative part isn't rational, but is 'soul.'

@BV: Yes, I think I have a rough-and-ready grasp of numerical vs. qualitative identity. Does this site have it right? I ask because this is basically the way I understand it.


@Chris Kirk, thanks for that clarification. That makes a lot of sense. Maybe my question can be made clearer if I just ask whether we can recognize a difference between substantial unity and numerical unity, since that seems to be operative in pre-modern approaches to the trinity.

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