1+1+1=1, or What's Up with the Trinity?

Lewis, the Crown Prince of Logical Fallacies? After laboriously dissecting his various Christian apologies that have been flung in my face, I’m a bit skeptical (still love the Narnia series, though). He’s logical enough, but his initial premises have been uniformly flawed. Still, if I just want to undertstand the reasoning, not necessarily consider it valid, it might be useful.

See, but that’s a sort of metaphorical reading, which I can accept pretty well…but I keep getting told, “no, no, they’re really three separate persons. No metaphor, no nothin’ like that. Three people each wholly God yet just One God.”

Once when I got dragged to Sunday School, the teacher was covering this very thing! She had an egg, and she said the trinity was like the egg: you have the yolk, the white stuff, the shell, but it’s all one egg. Likewise, you have these three beings, but they’re all God, see?? Doesn’t that clear it up??

A girl

You should have asked her to fry up just the shell for breakfast. :wink: “But, the shell must be Wholly Egg, not lacking in any part, right? So why can’t you make Eggs Bendict out of it?” Heck, even the water analogy’s better than that one.

Actually, it’s quite effable. Tom gave the traditional statement quite clearly, and Joel has been amplifying it before and after with a well-thought-of link.

IIRC, Phil Dennison has a traditional technique for debunkery that involves taking a “defective” human – i.e., one with some ailment appropriate to the situation, and reviewing the argument in light of his/her (limited or nonexistent) options.

I want to reverse that for this post, for reasons that will become clear in a moment.

A human being is possessed of at most one personality. In cases of “multiple personality disorder” the function is that the person has several defective personae attempting to vie for control of his one body, and rarely if ever working cooperatively, except (so I am given to understand) in temporary alliances to defeat a third personality. In true schizophrenia, as opposed to MPD, the personality disintegrates.

Imagine a being with three distinct personalities cooperatively working together and loving each other, all in control because their will is unified (not one but directed at one end). In the “economic Trinity” as Joel notes, the analysis is directed at the functions of the three persons, each person playing a separate role vis-a-vis mankind. Eastern Orthodox theology gets into great depth regarding the internal functional relationships of these three persons; if it is desirable, I have an online Orthodox acquaintance I can ask to give some details of that concept here.

Because God is greater than man, He is able to manage three personalities at once, working them together like a centipede’s legs, so to speak. (Probably the first time in history for that analogy! :))

As for Jesus as god and man, the simplest explanation I know of is referred to as the kenosis (“emptying”) theory. Given the old conundrum of a possible rock that is so heavy God can’t lift it, the explanation being that He can choose to be unable to lift such a rock, denying Himself that ability, one features God the Son divesting himself of omnipotence and omniscience in order to be born a human baby, and live a human life as one of us. This kenosis is what He did, humbly, in order to feel what we feel, know only what we know, etc.

Does that cover it?

And this is effable how, exactly?

And how can the personalities be “different”, exactly? God is Perfect; if He were other than He was, He would not be Perfect. He cannot be lacking in any one area; He must be uniformly perfect. Therefore how can any part of Him be different?

…and hey …can God make a rock that he cant lift? :stuck_out_tongue: Word games are fun…

So Gaudere since you know what perfectness can and can’t be why don’t you tell us the limitations of being perfect?

You might find this reference helpful if you still wonder what the Catholic stance is on omniscience (and other things). The entry on “omnipotence” provides some scriptural cites for this notion. It likewise explains in at least a little detail how the idea of omnipotence includes the concept of omniscience (i.e., omnipotence is not logical if it does not include omniscience).

Asmodean, what definition of “perfect” would you have her use?

I don’t think we’ve got a transcript of the meeting where the church leaders “decided” on the Trinity. The opening lines of John’s gospel (90 - 105 CE, depending on who you ask) are taken from what appear to be a liturgical hymn–meaning they are older than the gospel. They include (among others) the phrases that The Word (clearly Jesus, even if you’re a gnostic) “was with God and, and the Word was God.” John then goes on to quote Jesus speaking of the Father and of the Spirit on numerous occasions.

To my mind, that is a pretty clear indication that by the end of the first century, the idea that God entailed Father, Son, and Spirit (while remaining One) was already pretty well established. The least Trinitarian statements in the NT (aside from letters where the subject does not even come up) are the two letters to the Thessalonians where nearly every place that Paul speaks of God, he speaks of the Lord Jesus separately (yet does not include the Spirit in those linked references). The Thessalonian letters date to the early 50’s, I believe, so the written evidence seems to indicate that the concept of the Trinity was fully developed in about 50 years.

(There is nothing in Thessalonians that directly argues against a concept of the Trinity. It is just that Paul’s references to God and to the Lord Jesus are paired in a striking way, throughout. There is always the danger of reading too much (negative evidence) into the text when we do not have a record of Paul’s actual discussions in Thessalonika. He may have had a natural reason for his phrasing that we simply cannot see without context.)

Gaudere, I’m afraid you’re never going to get a satisfactory answer to this question. The truth (if you are a believer) or belief (if you are not a believer) was set out by people who were not trying to establish nice logical constructs. Everything that we know on the subject has been conjectured by people who have only the Scriptures to examine–and Jesus was not recorded as having said “I am God as my Father is God and we’re all bound up with our Spirit, but there is only one of the three of us.”

In Boolean algebra, 1 + 1 + 1 does equal 1.

Anyone else humming a Beatles tune right now? :wink:

Thanks Gaudere, I too felt that Lewis’ explanations were far too convenient. Besides assuming an inherently evil nature of man, he also makes the claim that religion should be difficult to comprehend. Regardless of Occam’s razor, something so fundamental as spirituality is ipso fact comprehendable. However abstract the concept of spirituality may be, a conscious mind possesses the cognitive ability to adequately embrace the notion of it’s own spirit.

To claim that such a core concept as spirit should be elusive is redolent of mumbo jumbo and a throwback to the days when there were no common language bibles. To feel that it is purposeful for religion to be hard to interpret and beyond the abilities of normal perception seems to be intentionally obsfucative. I find it odd to think that the mind is able to conceive of a notion that it cannot fully comprehend. This smacks of the “Can God create a stone so heavy that He cannot lift it?” argument.

Anyway, let’s see if we can’t get some sort of concensus on this rather ticklish concept.

How dare you make me laugh out loud within the sacred confines of a religious debate!

Boolean Algebra :smiley:

Or you can do just plain ol’ multiplication: 111=1

Actually from what I’ve read Poly’s MPD description is the closest to explain’ the unexplainable.

A good site, if it will hold you attention that long…

The Trinity

Have fun.

The following is from the Creed of St. Athanasius:

There ya go: it’s all incomprehensible. Hope that clears everything up! :wink:

GAUDERE, I think you’ve been given many answers, both personal and the, shall we say, party line. You just choose to reject them by putting your own “rules” around your acceptance (“God cannot be compared to water, he must be compared to a human person” – paraphrasing.) You are of course free to do this – and more power to you. But I’m sure you recognize that there is a huge difference between providing you with explanations and somehow making those explanations acceptable to you.

To me you ask:

No, that is not what I mean, nor is that what I said. I said:

I’m afraid I can’t explain it any better than that, and will leave you in the capable hands of Polycarp. :slight_smile:

To elaborate on what Bob Cos already posted:

From the 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia:

“That God is omniscient or possesses the most perfect knowledge of all things, follows from His infinite perfection. In the first place He knows and comprehends Himself fully and adequately, and in the next place He knows all created objects and comprehends their finite and contingent mode of being. Hence He knows them individually or singularly in their finite multiplicity, knows everything possible as well as actual; knows what is bad as well as what is good. [“You better not pout, you better not cry…” – MEB] Everything, in a word, which to our finite minds signifies perfection and completeness of knowledge may be predicated of Divine omniscience, and it is further to be observed that it is on Himself alone that God depends for His knowledge…In classifying the objects of Divine omniscience the most obvious and fundamental distinction is between things that actually exist at any time, and those that are merely possible…That God knows infallibly and from eternity what, for example, a certain man, in the exercise of free will, will do or actually does in any given circumstances, and what he might or would actually have done in different circumstances is beyond doubt – being a corollary from the eternal actuality of Divine knowledge…” The Nature and Attributes of God: Divine Knowledge

The article Knowledge of Jesus Christ seems to be suggesting that Jesus the Man was a really smart guy, but not omniscient. (I’m paraphrasing here. I confess, I’m not sure how well I understood this article.) Given this, I still don’t really understand how Jesus the Man can be said to be united with God in any meaningful sense. If Jesus the Man knows the will of his Father, but does not possess the absolute and perfect knowledge of all things which is an essential attribute of God, then it seems to me Jesus the Man is merely a prophet, or perhaps a glorified creation–a kind of super-angel–which God uses for his purposes. But that would be Arianism, not Catholicism (or any other sort of traditionally orthodox Christianity).

Re: kenosis:
If God “empties himself” of omnscience and omnipotence, how can he remain God? (In a Christian theological sense, as opposed to the sense of Greco-Roman paganism, say.) God “conceives” a being called his “son”; it’s somehow claimed that this being is God, yet this being lacks what are elsewhere called essential attributes of God. Again, it seems like the “son” isn’t really God, but rather a creature to whom God is especially attached. But that takes us back to Arianism.

I’m afraid I keep trying to hijack Gaudere’s thread. Perhaps this whole “God-Man” thing should be in its own thread, the Trinity and the Dual Natures of Christ being related but distinct issues.


Jodi, I think you’re viewing my posts a bit unfairly here. The reasons I brought up such analogies is because they were given to me; if the analogies are faulty for their intended purpose of describing the trinity, I think I should point out where they fail. If the analogy is in fact strong, my objections to it should be able to be answered. Sure, a bad analogy is one explanation of a concept, but it is not a useful one, and I should not be accused of not comprehending the concept because I am “choosing to reject [it] by putting [my] own rules around [my] acceptance.” If y’all want to simply say “it’s a mystery, you can’t possibly make it understandable”, fine; but my purpose in starting this thread was to understand the concept, not just learn the proper terms to parrot. Nor do all agree that the concept of the trinity truly is ineffable.

I guess I was confused by your car analogy, as well as by your statement that you worshipped God, not Jesus. So Jesus is God in fleshly form, and the Holy Spirit is God in Spiritual form. What is God the father? Is He the same as the unified God, or does He have a separate personality–aside from the Unified God–as God the father?

Nav: Your link actually reminds me a lot of Lib’s beliefs. Only in this case, instead of all loving spirits being part of the infinite essence that is God, you have only three who can properly call themselves “God”. (As a side note, his argument that God, who created all, must be more complex than anything He created would be a decent argument against creationists who believe the world is too complex to come about without a Creator; if God is even more complex than the world, by that argument He’d “need” a creator even more than the world does! :wink: )