Just a suggestion to all debunkers of Christianity: before going to print, make sure you get your facts straight.
Jonathan M.S. Pearce recently published a brief critique of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity: “The Holy Trinity as Incoherent.” Why incoherent? Because if each Person of the Trinity possesses all the “existence properties” of Godhead, then the divine persons are indistinguishable:
Logically, Jesus is God as well as God the Father being God. Where A = God the Father, B = Jesus and C = the Holy Spirit:
A = B
A = C
A = D
But B ≠ A
B ≠ C
C ≠ D
and so on.
Okay, team, what’s wrong with these equations?
One doesn’t have to be a philosopher to observe that Pearce has conflated that which the 4th century Nicene Fathers struggled to differentiate—ousia (substance) and hypostasis (subsistence). Whether it makes the trinitarian doctrine more coherent to “outsiders,” I don’t know; but following St Basil the Great, the Church now distinguishes between hypostatic properties and essential properties—yet of this Pearce makes no mention. The Father, Son, and Spirit equally possess the one essence of divinity; therefore, all essential properties may be predicated of them. This does not render the hypostases indistinguishable, however: they are distinguished by their personal properties–specifically, their relations of origin. Surely Pearce should know this. After all, he is a well-trained opponent of all things Christian, right? But one’s confidence begins to quickly erode when one notices that his primary source for the doctrine of the Trinity is … tada! … Wikipedia!
Now I am not going to pretend that if Mr. Pearce had a solid grasp of trinitarian doctrine, he would withdraw his allegation of logical incoherence. Quite the contrary. The Church Fathers were very much aware that the revelation of the transcendent Creator as Father, Son, and Spirit transcends our logic and conceptuality. The heresies of modalism, Arianism, and tritheism, are all so very logical and all so very comprehensible; and yet, for some strange reason, the Church refused to take any of these easy philosophical roads.
Mr Pearce needs to understand—and accurately verbalize—why the Church Fathers refused to formulate a “rational” and “logical” doctrine (at least “rational” and “logical” by non-Christian criteria). Maybe, just maybe, the Church Fathers understood the grammar of the apostolic faith far better than the detractors of trinitarian Christianity did and do.
Quite honestly, I do not care whether the catholic doctrine of the Holy Trinity is deemed rational by analytic philosophers, unitarians, atheists, or whomever. Athanasius & Company weren’t trying to concoct a logical formula; they were trying to find a way to speak a revealed Mystery for which all words are inadequate. Or as Stephen R. Holmes puts it, they were seeking for grammar, not logic. The rationality of trinitarian faith is not apprehended by the reading of theology books but by personal immersion in the liturgical, sacramental, and ascetical life of the Church.
No matter what the defects of any specific formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity may be, God remains the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.