Debunking the Trinity?

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.

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62 Responses to Debunking the Trinity?

  1. John B says:

    God is always the Father
    If God is the Father and
    The Father is not the Son then
    The Son is not God! !!!

    Blessings
    John

    Like

    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      John, the whole point of the condemnation of Arianism was to reject and move beyond that sort of syllogism.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Timotheos says:

      @ John

      God is Love
      Love is not Omnipotence
      Therefore, God is not Omnipotent!!!

      As Clinton once reminded us, it all depends on what one means by ‘is’

      Like

  2. John B says:

    Hi
    Corinthians 8 vv 4-6
    There is NO GOD BUT ONE
    There is but ONE GOD, THE FATHER

    John 17 v3
    FATHER the ONLY true GOD

    John 20v17
    I am going to MY FATHER and your Father
    To MY GOD and your God

    Ephesians 1 v 17
    THE GOD of our Lord Jesus Christ

    WHO DID CHRIST PRAY TO ? HIS FATHER

    WHO DID CHRIST TELL US TO PRAY TO ? OUR FATHER

    WORSHIP NO OTHER GOD THAN THE ONE CHRIST SERVED AND WORSHIPPED

    Blessings
    John

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    • Canadian says:

      John, your issue is old news and dealt with ages ago. We affirm with the creed…. “I believe in one God, the Father….” The Father is the source of the other Persons and he gives them his own unchanging divinity. The creed rightly affirms the Father as the one God then proceeds to affirm, as does scripture, that this God has an eternally begotten Son and a Spirit that proceeds from Him. If the Person of the Father gives His unchangeable divinity to the Son and Spirit, then the only difference between them is their mode of origin/existence: the Father is unbegotten, the Son is begotten without beginning of the same divinity, and the Spirit proceeds without beginning, also of the Father. The Father is the God of Jesus Christ, but just not in the way you think.

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    • Canadian says:

      John, As with scripture in numerous places, the Son is called God. Thomas, who knows the shema (Israel’s God is one) still calls Christ “God”. He knows Christ is not the Father, but he also discerns that Christ is a divine Person.

      Like

  3. John B says:

    Timotheos,
    That is trite!
    I am not talking about arbitary words snatched from your mind.
    The ‘persons’ I have mentioned are three independently acting and reasoning ‘beings’
    They are not numerically identical since there are things about each one which are unique and different from the other,
    Three persons… three Gods!

    Aidan
    We know why the Early Church Fathers supported the notion that Christ was God.
    As several scholars have noted, it was this notion that gave the early church an initial impetus.
    In ‘marketing’ terms it was a ‘unique selling proposition’ which created a unique ‘brand’.The trouble was it was not scriptural – and was behind many evil deeds . Without this unfortunate doctrine we might not have had Islam today!

    Blessings
    John

    Like

  4. John B says:

    Fr Aidan
    Sorry but It’s you who keep missing the point.!

    In my post at 1,19pm I showed that God is the Father on the basis of plain scripture.
    If He is the Father, and the Father is not the Son, then the Son cannot be God. That is not a trivial syllogism. The ‘links’ can be tested!.

    In my post of 2.34 pm I made the point that the ‘persons’ referred to were NOT numerically identical since there were things about each that do not apply to the others. If the ‘persons’ are not numerically identical then there are three persons, three Gods.

    No amount of eloquence will overcome the fact that
    -the doctrine of the trinity makes no sense at alll
    -the doctrine is not scriptural.

    Blessings
    John

    Like

    • ddpbf says:

      “That is not a trivial syllogism.”
      Its not trivial, its wrong.

      “No amount of eloquence will overcome the fact that
      -the doctrine of the trinity makes no sense at alll
      -the doctrine is not scriptural.”

      Well, you are wrong in both your claims, John. First, doctrine of Trinity is matter of faith, but its more philosophically (and logically articulated) than any kind of its criticism. Fr Aidan, just showed us one terrible critique of Trinity. (I am speaking from aspect of its philosophical articulation, Johnatan MS Pearce, failed to see distinction between person and essence).

      As matter of “scriptural doctrine”, Holy and Divine Scriptures are history of Salvation of mankind, not schoolbook of Dogmatics. But, when you say, Doctrine of Trinity, and specifically whether Lord Jesus Christ is God or not, has no scriptural foundation, you are simply wrong. I believe you are aware there are quite a fe passages where Christ is called God, for example John 1:1, Acts 20:28, Titus 2:13. And I hope you realise, that most of reinterpretations of those passages, are, lets say, based on quite un-natural reading of Scriptures.

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      John, it may appear that I am missing the point, but that is only because I am trying to stick to the point, namely, the thesis that internet critics of the Trinity too often do not educate themselves about what the catholic doctrine of the Holy Trinity actually says. Pearce’s article is but one example of this deplorable trend.

      I gather that you wish to debate the question whether Holy Scripture supports the catholic doctrine. I’m afraid I cannot oblige you—not because I fear that the doctrine lacks biblical support but because you and I would have to clarify so many other prior issues before we could even begin talking biblical exegesis. For example, when you tell me that the NT contradicts the Trinity, are you speaking as a skeptic who reads the Bible through the lens of the historical-critical method (e.g., like Bart Ehrman), or are you reading the Bible as a sola scriptura evangelical unitarian (e.g., like Dale Tuggy)? These would be two very different conversations.

      If you happen to fall into the Dale Tuggy camp, then I can only refer you to a series of articles I wrote on sola scriptura that were inspired by Tuggy’s “evangelical unitarianism.” The series begins with “Unitarianism and the Bible.” If you should read the entire series and would like to engage me on its arguments, I’d be happy to respond in this thread.

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  5. John B says:

    ddpbf
    “most re-interpretations of these passages are, let’s say, based on un-natural reading of the scriptures’
    Let’s take three you mentioned and see who is doing the ‘gymnastics’

    John 1 v1
    In the beginning was the word
    and the word was with God
    and the word was God

    1.1.3.
    and the word was god
    kai theos en ho logos

    Several points
    The syntax, in the Greek shows that the subject is ‘logos’
    Note that the subject is prefixedby the definite article ‘ho’
    Note too that the word ‘theos’ has no definite article.

    This means that 1.1.3 is NOT referring to the one true God but it may refer to
    ‘a god’ -or refer to an attribute or quality of God.
    That’s why some scholarly Bibles say ‘the word was divine’

    People I talk to say they often wondered how someone could ‘be with’ someone and ‘be’ that someone at the sale time. It’s because we are not referring to a person!

    John was doubtless trying to subtly integrate ‘Word’ and ‘Wisdom’ philosophy in a way that would have appealed to a wide audience (i.e. neo-Plaronism with Hebrew)

    Back shortly
    Blessings
    John

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    • Canadian says:

      John, So above you have declared there is no God but the one God….the Father, yet Heb 1:8 calls the Son “God”. So either you defy scripture and say Christ is a subordinate God or you defy scripture and say he is a creature. Yet if he is a creature, how then are all things created BY him (not just through him), as scripture says? If he created all things including time, how could there be an interval of time, which he created, prior to his existence?

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      • There is only One and Only God, yes. The Most High, Yahweh (Deut. 6:4). But that does not mean that God did not have angelic and human representatives who were also addressed as God (Ex. 7:1, 23:21, Ps. 82, Zech. 1, etc.). The confirmed cultural assumption was representation or intentionality (philosophy of mind). When the messenger spoke, it was God’s message. The prophet’s word was God’s word, etc. Since that is a perfectly valid pattern in ancient monotheistic Judaism, it would have been odd that the one who claimed true and ultimate representation, namely Jesus (John 5-7, 14:6, 9; Heb. 3:1, etc.) were not included in this profound pattern. It is therefore perfectly fine for the true Messiah to be called God, to fulfil the typology when the Judean king was called God in Ps. 45.

        Scripture nowhere states that all things were created ek autou. Di autou and en autou, yes. And you would still have to allow for typology here.

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  6. John B says:

    ddpbf
    To continue
    Regarding Acts 20 v 28
    My first encounter with this verse was with the KJV translation, and I always wondered
    how God had blood to shed!
    I then noted that more modern bibles read ‘ purchased with the blood of his son’ and the NAB Bible notes by way of footnote that an alternative translation is ‘acquired with the blood of his own ..i.e. Christ.
    The word ‘own’ is interesting in that it can refer to close relatives . See John 1:11
    “he came unto his own, and his own did not receive him”
    The Zondervan Greek interlinear supports this interpretation.

    Regarding Titus 2 v 13
    Again the NIV translation was misleading
    “the glorious appearing of the great God and our saviour Jesus Christ”

    Contrast this with the NAB translation
    “Awaiting the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ”

    Note that the NIV translation has turned a noun into an adjective -no doubt to try and reinforce doctrinal compliance.

    Trinitarians say that Unitarians break the Granville Sharp Rules.

    Unitarians say that , properly translated , their solutiondoes not break the rules and that it is the trinitarians who have got it wrong.
    Look at the Greek and consider two things.

    Who is our Savior?
    Verse 10 of the same chapter shows it is GOD

    Who is the glory of God’
    Many scriptures attest that it is Christ

    Clearly Jesus is the glory of our great God and Savior

    Now apply the Granville Sharp rule to ‘ ‘of the great God and savior of us , Jesus Christ”
    We have two nouns not being proper names
    Joined by the conjunction ‘kai’
    With only ONE definite article ‘tou’
    The rules say only ONE person in view,

    I’m sorry my friend, but there are no scriptures which support the doctrine of the Trinity!
    Blessings
    John

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  7. John B says:

    ddpbf/Canadian
    You both make reference to Thomas s alleged reference to Christ as ‘God’
    No doubt you are referring to John 20 v 28
    “My Lord and my God’

    ho kyrios mou kai ho theos mou ”

    Again we must refer to the Granville Sharp rules-
    Two nouns not being proper names
    Each preceded by the definite article (ho)
    Joined by the conjunction ‘kai’
    Means that there are TWO persons in view.

    Surely it is clear that Thomas enmters the room and acknowldges the risen Christ

    He then acknowlewdges God who is the source of this miracle.
    see Matthew 15v31 “and they glorified the God of Israel” -in response to a miracle performed by Christ.

    As always the Unitarian position requires no gymnastics
    Blessings
    John
    joined by the conjunction ‘kai’

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  8. John B says:

    Canadian
    The rules say that if you have a NOUN plus NOUN situation you have two persons in view.

    In this case you have
    ‘ho kyrios mou kai ho theis mou

    Two nouns
    Not being proper namrs
    Each preceeded by the definite article “Ho”
    Joined by the conjunction ‘kai’

    Means TWO people in view – God and Christ.

    What is nice here is the context…

    John 20v17 shows that Christ has a God who is also his Father – and the same being is also our God and Father

    John 20 v 31 ‘but these are written that you may come to know that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.

    No chance of Christ= God here!

    Blessings
    John

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    • Canadian says:

      In keeping with Father Kimel’s point of this post, please stop implying that for the Orthodox the Father is not God, or the God of our Lord Jesus Christ. We believe in one God…..the Father! The whole point is that Christ is a divine Person. Christ is not God of himself. Only the Father is. You have not adressed how all things including time was created by Christ, yet also have an interval of time between the Father and the Son coming into existence.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        I would like to add an important point of which St Athanasius delighted to repeat: God the Father is eternally Father of the Son. This is not a fourth century invention. We find it stated or implied throughout the New Testament, particularly in the Gospel of John and the epistles of Paul. “Father” was not a dominant title for God in Second Temple Judaism. It only came into its own in Christianity, in which “God” becomes identified specifically as the Father of Jesus Christ. Only by adoption are the rest of us given to know and address God as “Father.”

        For everyone’s interest: “The Trinity: Scripture and the Greek Fathers” by Fr John Behr.

        P.S. I suspect the Greek Fathers knew how to read Greek, and they did not have any difficulty reconciling the New Testament with the Nicene doctrine of the Trinity. 😉

        Like

  9. Далибор Ђурић says:

    “Several points
    The syntax, in the Greek shows that the subject is ‘logos’”
    Its visible in English, Serbian, Church Slavonic, Russian, Croatian (I am speaking about languages in which I had chance to read Bible). I absolutley fail to see what is your point here. Its like saying sky is blue.

    “Note that the subject is prefixedby the definite article ‘ho’
    “Note too that the word ‘theos’ has no definite article.”

    Do you udnerstand Greek? Predicate nouns do not require article in Anceint Greek. Anyway, even if we agree that rule is not applied here, it does not change a thing a lot. There is distintion of Persons not of Nature, which bring us back to awkard silogism from Fr Aidan’s post.

    “People I talk to say they often wondered how someone could ‘be with’ someone and ‘be’ that someone at the sale time. It’s because we are not referring to a person!”
    Read entire

    “John was doubtless trying to subtly integrate ‘Word’ and ‘Wisdom’ philosophy in a way that would have appealed to a wide audience (i.e. neo-Plaronism with Hebrew)”
    Neo-Platonism before it even existed? Sorry, John, but you are obvioulsy having no clue what are you copy-pasting. Anyway, its ridiculous suggestion. God is beyond being, according to Neoplatonism. Also there is not something to “be with” God, which is beyond being etc…

    “ddpbf/Canadian
    You both make reference to Thomas s alleged reference to Christ as ‘God’
    No doubt you are referring to John 20 v 28
    “My Lord and my God’”
    No. I was refering to Acts 20:28. ποιμαίνειν τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ θεοῦ, ἣν περιεποιήσατο διὰ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ ἰδίου. Ok?

    2My first encounter with this verse was with the KJV translation, and I always wondered
    how God had blood to shed!
    I then noted that more modern bibles read ‘ purchased with the blood of his son’ and the NAB Bible notes by way of footnote that an alternative translation is ‘acquired with the blood of his own ..i.e. Christ.
    The word ‘own’ is interesting in that it can refer to close relatives . See John 1:11
    “he came unto his own, and his own did not receive him”
    The Zondervan Greek interlinear supports this interpretation.”
    And NAB translation is only modern English translation? Not to mention translations to other languages. Anyway, variant: “Church of God” is better attested in old manuscripts.

    “Granville Sharp rulles”
    We are speaking about Greek grammar. Granville Sharp was not grammarian of any language, AFAIK. Anyway, what are you trying to argue, is off topic here, I believe. Fr. Aidan did not start this about post for exegesis/or eisegesis.

    Could we please now return to your syllogism:
    “If He is the Father, and the Father is not the Son, then the Son cannot be God. That is not a trivial syllogism. ”
    You do not understand doctrine of Trinity, or you dont know formal logic. “Father is not Son” is atribute of Person of God Father, not atribute of Divine Nature. Your syllogism is built on false premise.
    PS
    “As always the Unitarian position requires no gymnastics”
    Eh? Why then introducing of Neoplatonism and Granville Sharp?

    Like

  10. Jonathan MS Pearce says:

    I can’t think that you have read the original article in its entirety, on account of the above OP.

    Like

    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Mr. Pearce, I’m always happy to be corrected. Please point out where I have misunderstood or misrepresented your piece. Upon re-reading your piece, my criticisms of it still seem to be on target. What am I missing?

      Like

      • Jonathan MS Pearce says:

        Hi and thanks.

        I feel you concentrate on the opening syllogism without trying to look at the nonsensical and blurred ideas of existence properties, essences, nature and so on, particularly looking at the claim of being fully God and fully man.

        “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. ”

        So they all have essential properties of Godhood. Thus all other properties are contingent. But a necessary being cannot have contingent properties, surely. Whatever those hypostatic properties are, they are not essential to godhood, since that would invalidate each of the hypostases being fully god.

        When you then look at the data of Jesus praying to himself, not knowing what the Father knows and so on, you have a complete mess of ideas. I applaud theologians for doing what seems to be the impossible. I actually think theology can be seen in terms of cognitive dissonance. How can we harmonise problematic data with core beliefs?

        I simply cannot see a coherent way out of this unless you just throw your hands up, as many do, and defer to mysterianism.

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        • Canadian says:

          Jonathan, Christ is not a blend of God and man. He is not 100% God and 100% man. There are Personal properties and Natural properties. Christ’s single Personhood is completely divine and not human, the only distinguishing properties in this Personhood is that of origin: unbegotten-begotten-proceeding. The Natural properties of Christ’s divine nature are shared with the other divine Persons. But Christ has all the properties of the human Nature he has taken on. Each nature does what is appropriate to it and both are operated by Christ’s single divine Person. In Gethsemane, Christ submits his human will freely to the Father, he is not praying to himself. When he thirsts, he thirsts as man not as God, etc.

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          • Jonathan MS Pearce says:

            “Eh? You dont pray to something but to someone. Christ prayed to God Father, as to person (prosopon, hypostasis) not to Divine Nature (physis) or essence (ousia). There is no confussion if you acctually get what theologians are talking about.”

            OK, so perhaps you did not read the OP. The idea of praying to himself (where did I say something?) implies two minds. Two minds is a really weird concept when trying also to deny modalism or tritheism or any other heresy. I would like to see you work that out. But it is harder wheen the Jesus is supposed to have every divine property that makes him fully, essentially God. But that seems not to be omniscience, and it seems not to be the power to which he is appealing in praying to his Father. And such shared essence apparently means they do not know each other’s thoughts.

            It is terribly confusing!

            “According to Church teaching all men share same essence to, but they are different persons, ”

            Please define essence. I mean really establish what it is, ontologically. eg http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/properties/

            I wonder whether such a belief in the Trinity necessarily means you must be a (Platonic) realist, thus encountering further problems, potentially.

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          • Jonathan MS Pearce says:

            ” There are Personal properties and Natural properties. Christ’s single Personhood is completely divine and not human, the only distinguishing properties in this Personhood is that of origin: unbegotten-begotten-proceeding. The Natural properties of Christ’s divine nature are shared with the other divine Persons. But Christ has all the properties of the human Nature he has taken on. Each nature does what is appropriate to it and both are operated by Christ’s single divine Person. In Gethsemane, Christ submits his human will freely to the Father, he is not praying to himself. When he thirsts, he thirsts as man not as God, etc.”

            That all sounds lovely, but it is rather soundbitey with little clarity.

            So Christ’s personhood is divine. No, that is a contradiction. His divinity is divine because divinity means he has the properties of divinity. His personhood means he has the properties of personhood. I would actually contest this on philosophical grounds given I deny any such objective claims (I am a conceputal nominalist so such claims are simply nonsensical to me). Does Jesus have full human properties? Because I would include lust, sense of humour, fallibility and so on in that list (if I was to accept such an objective list).

            Then to say that the only disitinguishing properties of Jesus to Father is the begotten issue (er, please sxplain that for a starter) goes against the data as mentioned in the other comment – two minds which clearly have differing knowledges and abilities.

            “Christ submits his human will freely to the Father, he is not praying to himself. When he thirsts, he thirsts as man not as God,”

            That’s just an ad hoc rationalisation that simply makes no sense to me. It might cut the mustard for you, but not for me.

            Cheers.

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        • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

          Ah, okay. I see you point. You feel I did not pay sufficient attention to the following paragraphs in your piece:

          Anyhow, one God-essence is tapped into by three persons, without there being any clarity as to what a person might be. But if Jesus can tap into the essence of God, then he must have that exact same essence as shared between all the Trinity, and the whole. But for Jesus to be identified as a different person (hypostasis) but have the same nature as the others means that Jesus has properties that the others do not have and vice versa. So whatever is claimed of Jesus, he cannot be fully God. There is equivocation here on what nature means. These different properties which each person of the Trinity must have in order to identified as different to the others must, therefore, not be properties of being God, must not be essential properties of being God, must not be the essence or nature of God.

          And here is the problem, the contradiction. The Christian needs, obviously, the properties of all three persons to be godly, and yet they must be individual to each one. Again, Jesus cannot be fully God because he, in his person, has some essence of God that he shares with the others, and yet not all essential properties. Unless the other properties are not essential. But then they are contingent, and we have non-necessary elements of all persons of the Trinity. But surely all persons are necessary (in the beginning was the Logos). This is a problem which, to me, seems insurmountable.

          I acknowledge that I did not specifically address these paragraphs, partially because I find them confusing and partially because they merely confirm my critique—namely, in your article you do not attempt to describe the catholic doctrine on its own terms, as it was developed in the fourth and fifth centuries. The key Nicene move is the distinguishment between ousia (substance) and hypostasis (subsistence). This move allowed allowed the Nicene (or Pro-Nicene) theologians to think of the one God as existing in three modes of being, defined by their mutual relations: the Father is unbegotten; the Son is begotten by the Father; the Spirit proceeds from the Father. That you ignore this critical element of trinitarian doctrine in your article is telling, Jonathan, and invoking contingent properties here is just besides the point.

          All I am asking is for critics of the doctrine of the Trinity to so acquaint themselves with the doctrine that they can state it accurately and fairly.

          Is the doctrine “coherent”? Instead of thinking of it as a piece of philosophy that can be reduced to syllogisms, think of it (1) as grammatical instruction on how to properly speak of the God who has revealed himself in Scripture and the life of the Church, and (2) as the stipulation of dogmatic boundaries that exclude the various heresies you mention in your article. I commend to you a recent series I did on St Gregory of Nyssa.

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        • ddpbf says:

          “Whatever those hypostatic properties are, they are not essential to godhood, since that would invalidate each of the hypostases being fully god.”
          You should think abou hypostatic properties as about personal traits. According to Church teaching all men share same essence to, but they are different persons, (person-hypostasis) and have different personal traits. Hope this analogy will help you to understand our position.

          “When you then look at the data of Jesus praying to himself, not knowing what the Father knows and so on, you have a complete mess of ideas. I applaud theologians for doing what seems to be the impossible.”
          Eh? You dont pray to something but to someone. Christ prayed to God Father, as to person (prosopon, hypostasis) not to Divine Nature (physis) or essence (ousia). There is no confussion if you acctually get what theologians are talking about.

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        • Canadian says:

          Jonathan, Christ has a divine mind and will as well as a human mind and will. He has the fullness of both by nature. A Person uniquely operates the faculties of nature. So Christ as a divine Person uniquely operates our human nature. Lust is a Personal misuse of our nature, and Christ never acts against Nature because he is a divine agent/Person, we are human Persons and act against nature (sin). In the garden, Christ is praying AS MAN, his human mind and will are wrestling with what is coming yet submit freely to the will of the Father. He is not struggling with fear in his divine nature, but his human nature. Just like he sees Nathaniel under the tree without being there, by his divinity, yet he does not know the day or the hour in his limited human mind.

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          • Jonathan MS Pearce says:

            Hi Canadian

            “Jonathan, Christ has a divine mind and will as well as a human mind and will.”

            To have two minds is to be two people/persons. This means we now have a Holy Quaternity. I don’t accept your claim as being coherent.

            “He has the fullness of both by nature.”

            If you don’t have unity of mind, you don’t have agency or, well, anything like making sense.

            “A Person uniquely operates the faculties of nature. So Christ as a divine Person uniquely operates our human nature.”

            ?

            “Lust is a Personal misuse of our nature, and Christ never acts against Nature because he is a divine agent/Person, we are human Persons and act against nature (sin).”

            Utter tripe, no disrespect intended. Jeez, if you had humans without lust, the species would die. I just utterly disagree with that entire sentiment. Word salad.

            “In the garden, Christ is praying AS MAN, his human mind and will are wrestling with what is coming yet submit freely to the will of the Father.”

            Nonsense again. To have a different will and mind to the Father is to be a different entity, a la modalism or tritheism. I don’t buy that last statement at all if you want to keep within doctrinal orthodoxy.

            “He is not struggling with fear in his divine nature, but his human nature. Just like he sees Nathaniel under the tree without being there, by his divinity, yet he does not know the day or the hour in his limited human mind.”

            As above. You really are advocating some degree of schizophrenia.

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        • Canadian says:

          My, my, Jonathan. Fr Kimel was right. Your utter unfamiliarity with what I am saying reveals you have no familiarity with the Christology of the Conciliar church. Word salad to you for this reason. Become familiar first, then critique.

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          • Jonathan MS Pearce says:

            Canadian, this is brilliant.

            “My, my, Jonathan. Fr Kimel was right. Your utter unfamiliarity with what I am saying reveals you have no familiarity with the Christology of the Conciliar church. Word salad to you for this reason. Become familiar first, then critique.”

            Apparently, becoming familiar with the Christology means, not having a clue what it means, as per the author of this blog:

            “an accurate presentation of the trinitarian doctrine will precisely be one that acknowledges God as absolute Mystery and which does not pretend otherwise. Sorry. That’s just the way it is. And until that is done, it will not be a doctrine that Orthodox and Catholics will recognize as in any way approximating what they believe and teach.”

            I think you are trying to have your cake and eat it. Until you can answer how one entity can apparently have three minds which do and don’t know what each other is doing, but somehow allows these distinguishable entities to be called one unified entity beggars belief. And then to proclaim Danth’s Law is a little bit insulting. No one here seems to have the first idea of how to clarify something when asked. To answer a mystery with another mystery whilst at the same time proclaiming love for that mystery is, well, a mystery.

            Like

  11. ddpbf says:

    “OK, so perhaps you did not read the OP. The idea of praying to himself (where did I say something?) implies two minds.”
    I did ommit it, but its because you are now confusing two different fields of Orthodox doctrine, altough related. You mix Christology (Who is Jesus Chris and What is He by His nature). Christ has two Wills, one human and other Divine, which is same with Father. Passage you are refering to, was taken as ground for dyothelite doctrine (Shared by Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics and Protestants).

    “Please define essence. I mean really establish what it is, ontologically. eg http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/properties/
    I believe fr Aidan provided you with link towards his post about Saint Gregory.

    Like

    • Jonathan MS Pearce says:

      “I did ommit it, but its because you are now confusing two different fields”

      They are one and the same. What Jesus is is defined by who he is.

      Having two wills is nonsensical, the sort off thing you would say if you needed to get yourself out of a tight spot. Is he now schizophrenic?

      Something being doctrine is BY NO MEANS grounds for it not to be nonsense.

      “I believe fr Aidan provided you with link towards his post about Saint Gregory.”

      That’s a no then (especially since the link does no such thing anyway).

      Like

      • ddpbf says:

        “They are one and the same. What Jesus is is defined by who he is.”
        You misunderstood me. Your are confusing two fields of Christian doctrine. Triadology (doctrine of Holy Trinity) and Christology (doctrine of Christ).

        “Having two wills is nonsensical, the sort off thing you would say if you needed to get yourself out of a tight spot. Is he now schizophrenic?”

        Ok, now you are again proving fr Aidan’s post. You dont understand doctrines you are criticizing.
        http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/const3.asp
        PS. Apropo remark about schysophreny. You cant invoke that paralel in talk about Christ. Remember we are allready talking about somethign supernatural (man born from Virgin)

        “That’s a no then (especially since the link does no such thing anyway)”

        Did you read Saint Gregory’s letter? Capadocian Fathers put a lot of effort in defining terms ousia and hypostasis.

        Like

        • Jonathan MS Pearce says:

          “You misunderstood me. Your are confusing two fields of Christian doctrine. Triadology (doctrine of Holy Trinity) and Christology (doctrine of Christ).”
          No I am not, say they are inextricably linked.
          “Ok, now you are again proving fr Aidan’s post. You dont understand doctrines you are criticizing.”

          Some of the claims I am being confronted with a fascinating in their reliance on a mixture of mere assertion, together with vagueness and dollop of Danth’s Law. The doctrines don’t do the job you think they do, from a philosophicl point of view. It’s that simple. As the SEP states:

          In fact, the SEP gives a pretty fair synopsis of the state of affairs in the ruminations upon trinitarianism. I advise perusing the synopsis: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/trinity/

          As the IEP states, though:

          “The problem posed by the material composition and other identity puzzles, including the Ship of Theseus and the problem of the dividing self which figures in discussions of personal identity, is that there are a great many cases where we want to say that objects x and y are the same thing but where the relation between x and y is such that it violates the formal features of identity—either because it is one-many rather than one-one or because it is not an unrestricted indiscernibility relation. And this is precisely the problem posed by the doctrine of the Trinity.
          It was noted above that the proposal in 3.b, that the “is” in (1) – (3) should be interpreted as the “is” of predication, is also unacceptable because it is tri-theistic. It was also noted that the accounts suggested in 3.c and 3.d are not overtly incoherent but ultimately depend respectively on whether a mereology and an account of relative are workable. The relative identity account has been discussed extensively in the literature. The worry about the relative identity account is not that it fails to produce the right results as regards the doctrine of the Trinity, but that relative identity is itself a questionable business and in any case carries metaphysical baggage that may be theologically unacceptable.
          The moral of this story should perhaps be that “identity,” as Frege famously remarked, “gives rise to challenging questions which are not altogether easy to answer” (Gottlob Frege, “On Sense and Reference”). For all that critics have ridiculed the doctrine of the Trinity as a prime example of the absurdity of Christian doctrine—as the late Bishop Pike did when he suggested that the Trinity was “a sort of committee god”—Trinity talk is no worse off than much non-theological talk about the identities of non-divine persons and ordinary material objects.”

          http://www.iep.utm.edu/trinity/#SH3E
          The final part being almost precisely why I am a conceptual nominalist.

          “PS. Apropo remark about schysophreny. You cant invoke that paralel in talk about Christ. Remember we are allready talking about somethign supernatural (man born from Virgin)”

          Nice way to frame a debate and inoculate it from logical incoherence.

          Like

  12. ddpbf says:

    Johnatan, I hope this link could help you to understand our position, regarding your questions:
    https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2014/03/12/father-son-spirit-as-divine-selves/

    Like

  13. jrj1701 says:

    Jonathan MS Pearce your confusion is typical of those that wish to fit the infinite into finite definitions. The problem with this is that finite definitions always lack something, yet can indicate greater truths. The point that has you confused is your perceptions that are influenced by rational modern day secular beliefs, and these influences deny God. Christ was fully human, and as fully human he had to do what humans must do to open themselves to God’s uncreated energies, Christ had to fully experience the human condition to heal the brokenness of the human condition. Christ had to have a finite human will, so that human will can be healed, thus he had to expose himself to temptations and actually experience our fear, thus defeating our adversary that proscribed death. Christ has to be fully divine for there to be healing, it is the divine that heals, if Christ ain’t who we claim then it is all vanity, yet there is indications in how things are today that indicate to me that the claims are the Church have to be true, for left to ourselves we would destroy ourselves, and we ain’t done that yet, we keep getting close, yet we are always given another chance, and despite our fears, the world keeps coming to God and His Commandments.

    Like

    • Jonathan MS Pearce says:

      “Jonathan MS Pearce your confusion is typical of those that wish to fit the infinite into finite definitions.”
      Having edited a book on the infinite with regard to God, I find this fascinating and would wager you cannot adequately describe what you mean. This is a side issue to the debate here, but infinite as meaning infinite is not possible (and people using the KCA to argue FOR God would agree). So any kind of quantification of abilities or properties instantiated in God is somewhat problematic. It depends what axiomatic system you want to set out your maths by here, but I can guarantee it is an equivocation of the term infinite.

      http://www.amazon.com/dp/0956694896?tag=atipplingphil-20&camp=213381&creative=390973&linkCode=as4&creativeASIN=0956694896&adid=0J92E3RVKNSY37V99WW6&&ref-refURL=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.skepticink.com%2Ftippling%2F

      “Christ was fully human,”

      Define that.

      “ and as fully human he had to do what humans must do to open themselves to God’s uncreated energies,”

      Word salad.

      “Christ had to fully experience the human condition to heal the brokenness of the human condition. Christ had to have a finite human will, so that human will can be healed, thus he had to expose himself to temptations and actually experience our fear, thus defeating our adversary that proscribed death. Christ has to be fully divine for there to be healing, it is the divine that heals, if Christ ain’t who we claim then it is all vanity, yet there is indications in how things are today that indicate to me that the claims are the Church have to be true, for left to ourselves we would destroy ourselves, and we ain’t done that yet, we keep getting close, yet we are always given another chance, and despite our fears, the world keeps coming to God and His Commandments.”

      Goodness, that’s just assertion after assertion of things which assume so many other things that make no sense whatsoever (eg the Atonement). Using one mystery to explain another mystery about a mystery does nothing for clarity. Listen to your doomsday predictions about humanity. Wow!

      Like

      • jrj1701 says:

        Jonathan MS Pearce your comments only reaffirm what Scripture already says (1Cor.1:23) You have constantly refuted with folks claims by saying it was “word salad”. The debate of Trinitarian theology has been going on for millennia and I have study it a wee bit, and I haven’t seen you bring anything new to the table. Bottom line, it is what has been divinely revealed and can only be confirmed through divine revelation, it is beyond reason. There is a prerequisite to acquiring this divine revelation, it is a foolish thing called FAITH, a belief in a power in the universe that is beyond the rational comprehension of man. You seek to disprove Christian doctrine and theology because you can make no sense of it and you never will unless you turn to God with just the faith of a mustard seed. No matter how logical the explanation, you will reason against it because you can’t make logical sense of it. You want clarity, then seek the source of the mystery, swallow your pride in your intellectual knowledge and seek God instead of denying His existence.

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        • Jonathan MS Pearce says:

          “The debate of Trinitarian theology has been going on for millennia”

          And yet you seem to claim on the one hand it is all sewn up and that I don’t know what I am talking about, whilst on the other admitting it is still open to debate, whilst then deferring to mysterianism! Gregory of Nyssa recognised this problem for what it is… a problem.

          Again, how can you be expected to love something which you ostensibly do not understand, cannot see and touch, cannot converse with in any proper sense, which cannot realistically have free will or personhood (having to do at all times that which is maximally perfect, not contravening its own foreknowledge of its own actions, and existing ex-temporally, negating any ability to have personhood)?

          Swallowing my pride should not be replaced with unwarranted belief predicated upon t he luck of my birthplace. Belief without enough evidence is simply irrational.

          Like

        • Andy Schueler says:

          Bottom line, it is what has been divinely revealed and can only be confirmed through divine revelation, it is beyond reason.

          I´ll grant that for the sake of the argument. So, what is the point of revealing something that doesn´t make any sense? God might as well have revealed: “90t23hfgbqweifgbo1289rjfui23fgvuh3pogp23hq9fjq3wk.fb8o37q2fhun3nfl knb j,bf3q”
          => If that were “beyond reason” but “confirmed by divine revelation”, how would it be any less useless than the concept of the trinity? Both make no sense, and both would only be accepted on faith and against reason.

          There is a prerequisite to acquiring this divine revelation, it is a foolish thing called FAITH, a belief in a power in the universe that is beyond the rational comprehension of man. You seek to disprove Christian doctrine and theology because you can make no sense of it and you never will unless you turn to God with just the faith of a mustard seed.

          Now you are contradicting yourself. You already defined the trinity as being “beyond reason”, and you, despite having faith, cannot explain in a coherent way what the trinity would actually mean (no surprise, given that it is “beyond reason”).
          And now you claim that by FAITH, you can “make sense of it”, no, you cannot, if you could make sense of it, then you could explain in a coherent way what it means – you cannot, ergo, you cannot “make sense of it” as well. You don´t make sense of it by faith, faith is the reason for why it doesn´t make any sense to you, but you believe it anyway.

          You want clarity, then seek the source of the mystery, swallow your pride in your intellectual knowledge and seek God instead of denying His existence.

          Even if your God would exist, what you say here would not be true – you talk about “clarity”, but you have no clarity, the trinity is just as much “beyond reason” to you as it is for anyone else, it doesn´t make any sense to you at all, but you believe it anyway – because *that* is what faith means.

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  14. Pingback: Slugging out the incoherence of the Trinity | A Tippling Philosopher

  15. John B says:

    All
    Is there not a confusion of :”nature” and “identity’ in what some of you are saying?

    Nature is ‘ WHAT ‘ we are

    “Identity; is WHO we are

    My nature is human – but my identity is JOHN B.

    One cannot say that because I have a human nature and so does Adolf Hitler, that I am Adolf Hitler.

    John B is my unique identity – my DNA as it were.

    GOD has a divine nature and his identity is the one true God

    CHRIST has allegedly a double nature
    (i) A human nature
    (ii) A divine nature by INHERITANCE from his Father and his identity is Jesus son of Joseph
    and Son of God

    MAN – has a human nature and a unique name.

    BUT NOTE -believers are partakers of the divine nature.

    Most of the confusion that seems to arise is a confusion nature of ‘nature, and ‘identity’

    Blessings

    John

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  16. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    I didn’t follow this thread yesterday, so I’m just catching up. So much might be said but I’m not sure if much constructively can be said, at least by me. So let me just reiterate the gravamen of my article. Too often critics of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, especially on the internet, do not do their homework and therefore do not accurately present the doctrine they are criticizing. Jonathan, in my judgment your article I cited qualifies. Perhaps you have accurately written on the Trinity elsewhere, but you didn’t do it in this article. Sorry.

    It really is crucial, don’t you think? First acquaint yourself with the doctrine and make sure you understand it. Then present it in such a way that advocates of the doctrine will be able recognize it and say, “Yes, that’s what I believe.” And then and only then present your objections. I love good arguments as much as the next guy (though as I get older, I find that my relish in them has dramatically diminished); but if someone ain’t willing to do these three things, what’s the point in talking?

    And please remember: Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christians (unlike perhaps our evangelical Protestant brethren) really do believe that God is absolute and infinite Mystery who transcends all of our conceptions and philosophical categories. We do not invoke mystery when our reasoning hits a dead-end. Our reasoning begins with the recognition that the divine substance is utterly incomprehensible and remains incomprehensible even in God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ.

    Like

    • Andy Schueler says:

      How does this:
      “…present it in such a way that advocates of the doctrine will be able recognize it and say, “Yes, that’s what I believe.””
      not completely contradict this:
      “Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christians … really do believe that God is absolute and infinite Mystery who transcends all of our conceptions and philosophical categories.”
      ?
      You are asking Jonathan to present the doctrine accurately, but then immediatly resort to declaring the doctine a mystery that “transcends all of our conceptions and philosophical categories”. You are asking Jonathan to present something which he cannot possibly present, because you have *defined* it as something that is beyond philosophical description.
      And if the doctrine is what you describe it is, then it might be true – but you would have no idea what it means. It´s like saying “I believe x!” and when someone asks you “so what does x mean?”, you´d reply “I have absolutely no idea and it is in principle impossible for the human mind to understand, but it is of utmost importance that you believe this thing that I cannot describe and that is in principle incomprehensible!”

      Like

      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        Yes, exactly–an accurate presentation of the trinitarian doctrine will precisely be one that acknowledges God as absolute Mystery and which does not pretend otherwise. Sorry. That’s just the way it is. And until that is done, it will not be a doctrine that Orthodox and Catholics will recognize as in any way approximating what they believe and teach.

        Like

        • Andy Schueler says:

          Yes, exactly–an accurate presentation of the trinitarian doctrine will precisely be one that acknowledges God as absolute Mystery and which does not pretend otherwise. Sorry. That’s just the way it is. And until that is done, it will not be a doctrine that Orthodox and Catholics will recognize as in any way approximating what they believe and teach.

          Fair enough.

          However, then there was absolutely no reason for you to write things like:
          “…do not do their homework and therefore do not accurately present the doctrine they are criticizing”
          Because when you say such things, you are insinuating that the doctrine COULD be criticized, but people like Jonathan are not doing it properly, because he didn´t do his homework. But that is not what you mean, what you apparently mean is that the doctrine cannot possibly be criticized because it cannot even be described beyond being a mystery that transcends human comprehension.
          So, the doctrine is perfectly immune from criticism, because lacking a (humanly intelligible) description is part of its definition and you cannot criticize what you do not even understand.
          What you should have thus told Jonathan, at least IMHO, is something along the line of:
          “you cannot criticize the doctrine of the trinity because it is an absolute mystery that transcends human comprehension, you could do your homework and study every available theological treatise and any other piece of information relevant for this concept and you still could not possibly criticize it, nothing you could possibly do could count as proper criticism of the doctrine because we have defined it that way”.
          That would be a huge time saver for everyone, wouldn´t it?

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        • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

          Andy, I’m not sure why you keep misunderstanding what I write.

          The key point of my article is simple: critics of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity need to do their homework so that they can present it in such a way that we Christians recognize it as the doctrine we believe in and teach. This should be fairly obvious. If I’m going to criticize, say, Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity, I had better understand it accurately enough that Einstein would recognize it as his theory. Or as Daniel Dennett phrases it in the first of his four rules of civil argument: “You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, ‘Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.'” My criticism of Jonathan’s article is that he did not do that.

          I have of course at no point said that any particular theologian’s formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity is beyond criticism. Theologians argue and criticize each other’s doctrinal formulations all the time, and when it comes to mysteries such as the Trinity, they know that they cannot capture God in their formulations and analogies. All we can do is approach the mystery. Some approaches are better than others, and some are just wrong. Our language inevitably breaks down when attempting to speak of the God who radically transcends the world he has made from out of nothing. How could it not?

          If what I am saying still doesn’t make sense, then I have to assume that you simply are not acquainted with the patristic writings on the Church Fathers. I do not know upon whom you or Jonathan are relying as sources for Christian doctrine. All I can really do at this point is urge you to read the primary sources, just as I have been doing for the past two years. That’s the whole point of this blog. Check out my various writings on St Gregory of Nazianzus, St Gregory of Nyssa, St Basil, and St Athanasius, as well as my other articles in the category “Holy Trinity.”

          Like

        • Andy Schueler says:

          Aidan,
          yes, if you want to criticize something, you should do your homework, no disagreement there at all. But that wasn´t my point.
          You can´t have your cake and eat it too – if you pull the mystery card and declare the trinity to be “beyond human comprehension”, a “mystery only understood through faith”, an “absolute and infinite mystery”, something that “transcends our philosophical categories”, and so on and so forth, then you cannot simultaneously pretend that the trinity is a concept that is still up for honest debate and criticism.
          What is Jonathan supposed to criticize after he has read everything you ask him to read? Could he use the toolkit of a philosopher to describe and criticize the doctrine of the trinity after that? If he could, then why did you explicitly tell him that it is a concept that cannot be understood and that doesn´t fit into our philosophical categories? You can´t have it both ways, choose one – either it can be understood and criticized OR it is an infinite mystery, beyond comprehension, and transcending human philosophy.
          And yes, I´m aware that theologians debate stuff, but wrt the trinity, it does seem as if your church has declared every interpretation of the trinity that is not transparently self-refuting (or an “infinite mystery only understood through faith” if you prefer) to be heretical a very long time ago, so the “debate” in this respect nowadays seems to boil down to accepting the “infinite mystery” interpretation or be labelled a heretic – doesn´t sound like much of a debate to me.

          Like

          • Jonathan MS Pearce says:

            I have to say, Andy, I am hearing different things from different people here, and that has to tell you something about the state of play. And yet some of them seem to claim to know what is going on, whilst others remain mysterians. But no one has actually dared stick their heads above the parapet and define what they think the coherence of Trinity amounts to. All we get is claims that the early church fathers got it, so there.

            And despite the claims that I have not done my research, no one has been able to answer simple questions about existence properties and minds and agency. That there are some three minds with different wills in this equation, according to people here, means that the idea of a unified God is nonsense, especially given that one person of the Trinity seems not to know what the other is doing.

            Not only that, but Jesus apparently has two wills himself. Now, the idea that an entity can have some four or five distinguishable minds and yet be coherently called one entity is utterly bizarre. That agency can be unitarily assigned is bizarre. That all share essential properties and yet be distinguishable but not have contingent properties is bizarre. And so on. But apparently mentioning Gregory a lot solves the problems.

            Either it is a mystery, or it’s knowable and coherent. You can’t, as you so rightly said, have both.

            But the commenters here seem to want both without picking each other up on their apparent contradictions. No, it appears easier to have a rather vague go at secularists rather than each other without ever really spelling out what they believe. The only conclusion I can draw is that they don’t know what they believe. At least Aidan is being honest to that degree,

            Like

        • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

          Jonathan: “Either it is a mystery, or it’s knowable and coherent. You can’t, as you so rightly said, have both.”

          Jonathan, Orthodox and Catholic theologians acknowledge from the get-go that the Church’s doctrine of the Trinity is paradoxical and antinomic. I suppose therefore that by your criteria the doctrine is “incoherent.” That’s fine. That’s fine with me. Thats fine with the Orthodox Church. No only are we not embarrassed to acknowledge that the most Holy Trinity is infinite Mystery who transcends all our attempts to comprehend him, we rejoice in this truth. And so every Sunday we acclaim God in his ineffable reality:

          It is meet and right to hymn Thee, to bless Thee, to praise Thee, to give thanks unto Thee, and to worship Thee in every place of thy dominion: for Thou art God ineffable, inconceivable, invisible, incomprehensible, ever-existing and eternally the same, Thou and thine Only-Begotten Son and thy Holy Spirit. (Anaphora of St John Chrysostom)

          O Master of All, Lord of heaven and earth and of all created beings both visible and invisible! You sit on the throne of glory and look upon the depths; You are invisible, unknowable, indescribable, without beginning and without change, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our great God and Savior. (Anaphora of St Basil the Great)

          The Orthodox Church did not formulate her doctrine of the Holy Trinity to satisfy the questions and objections of atheists, agnostics, or even analytic philosophers. If you wish to characterize the doctrine as “mysterian,” go right ahead. But you still have a moral obligation to fully inform yourself of the doctrine and to state it accurately.

          (One hint: if you want to know what the ecumenical doctrine of the Holy Trinity actually says, don’t rely on the analytic philosophers to tell you. They approach the doctrine as a conundrum to be solved, which is precisely the wrong way to think about the doctrine.)

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  17. John B says:

    I sympathasise wirg many of the comments made above.
    We seem to have several trinity models being discussed.
    For more than half a century I was happy to accept some sort of “Godhead’ existed and that it contained the tthree ‘persons’.
    I then found myself surrounded by people holding the view that “Christ is God’
    I could not ‘see’ this and started questioning the whole thing.
    Now I find that no-one seems able to give me a coherent definition of terms like ‘person’ and ‘substance’. I could not ‘see’ that the Holy Spirit was a person – and was struck by how few scriptures contained references to F, S and H. S. except in some form of doxology.
    I find concepts like ;numerical identity’ being trashed without good explanation… merely that they are ‘unreliable’ or words to this effect.
    I find appeals to follow man- made ‘things’ – like the writings of the Early Church Fathers and ‘mysteries’ to be difficult – especially when combined with what seems to me, like an appeal to neglect scripture.
    Why is that Trinitarians continually neglect the very clear language of Christ, in favour of the few scriptures that are highly argualble. Why ignore the clear words that I expressed in my post of 13th March at 1,19pm in favour of verses like Acts 20 v 28?
    And why do contributors continue to confuse ‘nature’ and ‘identity’ I accept rthat Christ had a divine nature by inheritance from his Father – but his identity is not ” The Father’ of all.”
    I emphesise Jonathan MS Pearce when he suggests that we are being asked to support trinitarian models which are not being adequately defined.-using words which lack adequate definition.
    Blessings
    John

    Like

  18. ddpbf says:

    “No I am not, say they are inextricably linked.”
    Really? On basis of what you claim so? Where did you study Orthodox theology? Its acctually main point of most reponses to you: You never properly studied Christian teaching (I dont mean by that attending seminary, or anything alike, but you obviously never read any schoolbook of Dogmatics, or even Katehisis). In order to debunk some doctrine, you need to understand it properly. At leas

    “In fact, the SEP gives a pretty fair synopsis of the state of affairs in the ruminations upon trinitarianism.”
    But, judging from your article we are discussing here, you did not read article before “debunking” Trinity.
    For example if you realy bothered to research what we complained to your approach, you would find some data about Capadocian fathers, for example they were philosophers, at least by fatc two fo them got education on Neo-Platonistic Academy of Athens. They, also defined things, we were mentioning here, hypostasis, ousia, energia,.. I could write you what each of this terms means in their system fo Triadology, but, it would be me doing your homework. Sorry, you ought to do it. You got clue where to start.

    “Something being doctrine is BY NO MEANS grounds for it not to be nonsense.”
    My point was: JUDGING BY YOUR ARTICLE, we are discussing here, there is no SLIGHTEST IMPLICATION you udnerstood doctrine of Trinity. Thats why, I pretty to dissmiss your article as serious criticism, on spot.

    “Nice way to frame a debate and inoculate it from logical incoherence.”
    Could you please refrarain from using unusual words? I mean, English is not my native language. I could bombard you with Ancent Greek terms here, or from my native Serbian, but it wont help our dialogue. Anyway, whats point of your alegory with vaccination here? If you are discussing Christianity, you must know by know, that it rests on belief. Christians ,believe, I underline word believe, Christ is full God and full man, mentioning of schisophrenia here, will not make any serious impression here. We allready know we are making paradoxical claim. This question was eithere is Doctrine of incoherent. There are certain starting premises for Triadlogy, of course when we speak from Theological point of view. Hope you could understand that.

    “Define that.”
    It si defined. You should found that defintion before writting that article. Again, you took Wikipedia article as your source of Doctrine of Trinity. Quite questionable choice of source.

    I would call this proper source:
    http://www.oodegr.com/english/dogmatiki1/perieh.htm
    (At least that was what I used when I was attending University)

    “Goodness, that’s just assertion after assertion of things which assume so many other things that make no sense whatsoever (eg the Atonement).”
    Oh, and whats your source for critique of Atonment? (Christian soteriology).

    “Belief without enough evidence is simply irrational.”
    That is kind of topic here. But what thinks we base our belief on rational premises?

    “To have two minds is to be two people/persons. This means we now have a Holy Quaternity. I don’t accept your claim as being coherent.”

    This is again misunderstanding of Eastern Orthodox Doctrine. Mind=/= Person. Person is matter of relation. There is no Descartes here. (read more please.) Church is teaching Christ has two wills, not two identities.

    “I have to say, Andy, I am hearing different things from different people here, and that has to tell you something about the state of play.”

    Not quite. I really mean no disrespect, but judging from Orthodx responses, we were all trying to explain you you dont understand our position. Believing in Father, as One God, Cause of other two Persons, teaching about Christ as Person of Holy Trinity who took full Human nature into His hypostasis etc… All of that is coherent. You had to gather all pieces before going in discussions like this.

    Further you go in discussions, you are furthers showing we are talking two different languages. I mean, you are criticizing Christian Doctrine how you percieve it, not how it is. Like 99,99% of critics of Christianity so far.

    Like

    • Jonathan MS Pearce says:

      This is getting painful.
      Of course Christology and the Trinity are linked. Who Jesus claims to be has rather a lot to do with his nature, essence and ontology. Whether he was necessary or contingent, the eternally existing Logos or not.

      But, judging from your article we are discussing here, you did not read article before “debunking” Trinity.
      Whatever. Since no one has been able to answer any of my points, this claim of yours is nonsense.

      “For example if you realy bothered to research what we complained to your approach, you would find some data about Capadocian fathers, for example they were philosophers, at least by fatc two fo them got education on Neo-Platonistic Academy of Athens. “
      I couldn’t give two monkeys who they were or what their credentials were. Their claims, any claim, of the Trinity is not coherent. Can’’t you understand that the author of this blog has admitted that it is an infinite mystery? But you don’t ask HIM up on that because you seem to think it is all wrapped up without ever explaining how it is. If I hear one more deference to the Cap Fathers without setting out any substance…
      “They, also defined things, we were mentioning here, hypostasis, ousia, energia,.. I could write you what each of this terms means in their system fo Triadology, but, it would be me doing your homework.”
      But their definitions are philosophically defunct. As I have mentioned in talking about minds and agencies and essential properties. Do you even understand the philosophy of existence properties, natural kinds, conceptual nominalism at the sort? You have the audacity to make such claims of me without showing that you indeed have the slightest philosophical idea of what it is you are talking about!

      My talk of hypostasis and, in the comments, about ousia show knowledge of the CF approach. My own approach encompasses all known ideas of a 3 in 1 Godhead being incoherent.

      Look, here is what the SEP has to say on the history of the Trinity and how it is not clear, and how one defers to mysterianism:

      Thus, while it is left unclear what the persons are, it is emphasized that a distinction between them hasn’t been obliterated. Being a Platonist about universals, he holds that the Three share one universal nature (i.e. deity). But he is hard pressed to show why it doesn’t follow that there are three gods (264-6). In the end, his main aim is simply to uphold the mysterious tradition passed down to him (257; cf. Nyssa Great, ch. 1-3).

      The bedrock of pro-Nicene trinitarianism is a metaphysics of God as unique, simple (lacking any sort of parts, composition, or differing intrinsic aspects), and therefore incomprehensible (we can’t grasp all truths about God, or any truths about God’s essential nature) and ineffable (such that no human concept applies literally to it). Thus as Ayres notes,

      Pro-Nicenes assume that one can draw no analogies between God and creation that will either deliver knowledge of God’s essence or that can involve us in grasping clearly where and why an analogy fails. (Ayres 2004, 284)

      Any analogy offered is therefore quickly supplemented by others. Its opponents view this as obfuscation, while its proponents consider the differing analogies to be complimentary and in some sense informative. While pro-Nicenes hold the persons to be (somehow) distinct, they show little interest in developing a metaphysical account of what it is to be a divine person. In sum, the Nicene pattern of speech and thought about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is held by them to be spiritually beneficial, but it doesn’t admit of clarification. This view is strongly mysterian (see main entry, section 3).

      http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/trinity/trinity-history.html

      This entry seems to key into exactly what I am talking about. But apparently they don’t know what they are talking about.

      Look, you have not addressed an of my points, from ideas of ontic existence of abstracts and universals to ideas of multiple minds and wills apparently not meaning separate deities, though one can call them separate persons.

      I will continue later with the rest of what you said. You seem to be at loggerheads with the author of this blog who seems to agree with the SEP entry, though you seem to allow him to essentially say the same thing as me, but when I say it, I don’t know enough about X r Y. Such annoying double standards.

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  19. ddpbf says:

    “I emphesise Jonathan MS Pearce when he suggests that we are being asked to support trinitarian models which are not being adequately defined.-using words which lack adequate definition.”

    Well I emphasise, terms used for model, we Orthodox Christians suscribe to, are proeprly dfiened, just you and Jonathan M. S. Pearce never bothered to find defintions before critique.

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  20. John B says:

    Hi
    I guess that we are all talking different languages- and I would like to ‘throw into the hat’ my understanding of the Doctrine of the Trinity”

    As I understand things ‘God’ is defined as ‘three persons sharing one substance’.

    My impression is that these persons are entities which are independently thinking and acting.

    My impression of ‘substance’ is ‘divine nature’

    As defined above my criticism would be
    (i) Absence of secriptural support
    (ii)No credible refuation of ‘numerical identity’ arguments
    (iii)Some Trinitarians seem to confuse ‘nature ‘ with ‘identity’

    I must admit that I do not accept dogma and doctrine easily.

    I also admit that I am more attracted to the ‘Eastern’ (orthodox) thinking than I am to the
    ‘Western” variety.

    I sense different ‘othodox’ models on offer above and would be grateful if someone could provide me with a simple and coherent model… and afew key definitions.

    Every Blessing
    John

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  21. ddpbf says:

    “Look, here is what the SEP has to say on the history of the Trinity and how it is not clear, and how one defers to mysterianism:”
    What makes you to think I did not read it? Or what makes you to think I didnt allready know it? Anyway, here I will try again just to point few things.
    1) It is ratehr confusing to somebody who is not farmiliar with topic. For example it touches Gregory of Nyssa, and says he is Platonist, without explaing why and where… I would rather suggest they (Capadocians were more influneced by Aristotelian methods, and St. Gregory, as Chrisitan would immediatly reject Plato’s doctrine of God. Christians believe in Omnipotent God who is creating world, nt some Demiourgos who is formating things on basis of ideas from Kingdom of ideas.
    2) It still does not give you Doctrine as defined by Capadocian fathers and has soem misunderstandings.
    3) Its again somebodies perception of Doctrine of Trinity, which is not necessary, (I am here putting myself in your position as reasearcher without previous knowledge), same as original. I gave you link to acctuall lessons from Orthodox Bishop, to students of Theology on University, where he explains teaching from position of Capadocian fathers. You also have defintion of terms we are using, with brief history of that terminology.
    4) As bonus, you would got another model of Triadology by Blessed Augustine.
    Why do you insist on SEP? I mean, you ought to know, you are here criticizing Church doctrine, so read Church doctrine first. Ok?

    “Look, you have not addressed an of my points, from ideas of ontic existence of abstracts and universals to ideas of multiple minds and wills apparently not meaning separate deities, though one can call them separate persons.”
    Why should I? You are constantly any link I was sending you with text where your questions are adressed?
    For example, If you red Zizioulas’ lessons of Dogmatic, you could find some surprising relevations (for you):
    1) Accrodding to Capadocians essence replies on question: ti esti? What is. Hypostasis is answere on question opos esti (How it is? In wich whay it exists)
    2) You could find defition what is: Hypostais, what is Prosopon and Ousia.
    3) That Ousia (Essence) of God is unrecable, un-understandable and uncomperhensable
    4) Three Persons of God do not mean separation? Why? There is no time and space for God. How so? He created time and space.
    Also I posted you article from this blog, where there was talk about how will of God belongs to Nature, and Three persons have One will and One action (approximation for energy)

    “But their definitions are philosophically defunct”
    You dont even know what their definitions are. There are no their defitions on Wikipedia, nor on SEP.

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  22. ddpbf says:

    Hi
    I guess that we are all talking different languages- and I would like to ‘throw into the hat’ my understanding of the Doctrine of the Trinity”

    “As I understand things ‘God’ is defined as ‘three persons sharing one substance’.”

    That’s classic reference to Tertulian: “Una substantia, tres Personae”, but Tertulian after all heretic. But let’s say, he started working on Doctrine on Trinity. But translated in Greek, Hypolitos of Rome, translated it Greek, “mia hypostasis, treis Prosopa”. It was also what was taken as Orthodox doctrine in front of Arianism. But Capadocian Fathers, Basil the Great, Gregory Theologian and Gregory of Nisa (younger brother of Basil), confronted with radical Arianism, in person of Eunomios, changed terminology. Thes say, God is Father, who is giving birth to Son, and from whom is Spirit proceeding. We have three persons who share one Essence (preferable to substance, I will explain latter). “Treis Hypostaseis, Mia Ousia” Hypostaseis, as ontological category, was changed from signifying Nature to signify prosopon. Originaly just mask, that was why Tertulian’s formula was lacking, it could be easily taken as modalism. Modalism is explaination of Trinity from relevation, as Three modes God took in History of Human salvation.

    “My impression is that these persons are entities which are independently thinking and acting.”
    Well you are partialy right. With terms hypsotasis, Perosn is getting ontological meaning. But, as for Orthodox doctrine, will belongs to Nature (which we can not reach. Remember, God is transcendent). Also, apropo acting, Three Persons have one Energy. Energeia, is what is getting shown on others. So acting falls in here.

    “My impression of ‘substance’ is ‘divine nature’”

    For Hypolitos, Tertulian, St. Athanasius beofre 362, yes. In Latin language, it is still like that. But, Capadocians moved, susbatantia (Greek hypsotasis) to signify person. They gave ontological meaning to Person. There is no naked essence.

    “As defined above my criticism would be
    (i) Absence of secriptural support
    (ii)No credible refuation of ‘numerical identity’ arguments
    (iii)Some Trinitarians seem to confuse ‘nature ‘ with ‘identity’”
    Apropoe (i) we allready touched this. We would cite dozens of places, and we would disagree how to interpret it. That’s why we Orthodox believe in Tradition. Scritpures could not be interpreted by itslef. It allways turn to be personal interpretaion of reformers. (Calvin, Zwingli, Luther etc etc….)
    (ii) I think Canadian allready poited you. When we say: “One God”, its Father. “Pistevomen is ena Theon, Patera, Pantokraora, Poieten of ouranos…”
    (iii) Eh, I dont know, maybe somebody think, One Essence is One God, but we say: One God is Father.

    “I must admit that I do not accept dogma and doctrine easily.”
    It is matter of belief. I dont know what to say. I am craddle Orthodox, and I allways believed so. Latter of course, I learned how to express it on paper in order to pass exam from Dogmatics, and what I wrote is mainly what I recolect from University. But to accept belief… well its not matter of intelect.

    “I also admit that I am more attracted to the ‘Eastern’ (orthodox) thinking than I am to the
    ‘Western” variety.”
    Well, this is off topic, but our respected host is Western Eastern Orthodx. I mean, he is Eastern Orthodox priest, but if I understand properly, he does not use Byzantine rite. (We in Serbian Church use exclusively Byzantine rite, except few parishes in France).

    “I sense different ‘othodox’ models on offer above and would be grateful if someone could provide me with a simple and coherent model… and afew key definitions.”
    I tried my best. Maybe other could also add their opionions. Especially fr. Aidan. I am not priest.

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  23. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    A general comment about Dale Tuggy’s article on the Trinity in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: as a review of current analytic philosophical discussion of the doctrine of the Trinity, it appears to be reliable; but it is an unreliable guide to the teaching of the Orthodox Church on the Holy Trinity (as ddpbf has noted). Dr Tuggy is not well-acquainted with the teaching of the fourth and fifth century Church Fathers. I know that he has read some of the secondary literature, such as Lewis Ayres essential book Nicaea and its Legacy (as he has mentioned it on his blogsite); but I honestly do not know what else in the secondary patristic literature he has read. As far as I can tell, for example, he has not read John Behr’s also essential The Way to Nicaea and The Nicene Faith or Khaled Anatolios’s Retrieving Nicaea. These books represent the best in patristic scholarship on the development in trinitarian doctrine, and I recommend them wholeheartedly. Stephen R. Holmes has a couple good chapters on the patristic doctrine in his recent book Quest for the Trinity, though he tends to read the Eastern Fathers through a Western lens (which is really hard for us Westerners not to do).

    Of course, reading the primary sources is best.

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  24. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    Folks, I’ve decided to close this thread. I think everything all of us wanted to say has been said. Time for us to move on to another topic. Thanks for contributing to the conversations.

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