Defend the Trinity

I think that depends to no small degree on who you consider intellectual ancestors. There were some pretty dramatic changes in outlook on a lot of things when the church became a political factor in addition to a spiritual. As soon as worldly power is an issue, you tend to see some things in a different light.

See above. There is quite a varying attitude among the ‘different branches’, and not all get their ‘panties in a bunch’.

I don’t think that is an accurate description. If it would manifest itself as a particle, or a wave, it would be all that, and not the other, at that particular moment. Rather, the particle, or wave aspect, contribute to a different degree to different observables (e.g. the photoelectric effect). But they don’t manifest themselves in those effects at the expense of the other.

Maybe because you try too hard to have something either all wave or all particle?

Perhaps this is the problem; that you desire a logical/rational solution to the problem doesn’t necessarily compel one to exist. If this is the case, it can be interpreted in (at least) two ways:

-It isn’t logical/rational, therefore the base proposition (that there is a God or that it is triune) is false.
-It isn’t logical/rational, therefore it may still exist as a real phenomenon but may by defintions be outside the scope of our comprehension.

Actually, the dyophysite view is defended by the Orthodox. The 4th ecumenical council declared Christ to have two natures, while the 6th declared Him to have two wills. He is still one hypostasis, though. Christ acts and has knowledge both in His divinity and in His humanity. The Oriental Orthodox are the ones who said that Christ has one nature, a view that has traditionally been considered heretical by the Orthodox.

The Palamite distinction between essence and energies actually doesn’t have much to do with Trinitology, but rather the limits of human interaction with God. The essence of God is, by definition, the aspects of Him (no matter what member of the Trinity you are speaking of) that are unknowable. The energies are what we can know and participate in.

Not to hijack the thread or anything, but I’m curious: Are these very precise concepts of the Trinity – and how they vary from branch to branch of Christianity – widely understood? Or are they understood only by those who’ve made an especially scholarly study of them, as have our resident scholars on the SDMB?

Oh, to make a contribution to the thread, another possible analogy for the impossibility for understanding the divine: a two-dimensional creature observing something something in three-dimensional space, or something similar, probably couldn’t make heads or tails of what it was seeing.

Of course, that’s coming from a confirmed polytheist, so YMMV :wink:

FriendRob, you’re operating on one basic assumption which I don’t: that God can be bound by mere, human logic. If God is truly omnipotent, then, in my own personal belief system, trying to bind Him with logic and force Him into a human-defined box is as ridiculous as drawing an imaginary line and tellng me I can’t cross it. There are probably billions of things in this world which I don’t understand; I place great faith and take great comfort in the idea that God does.

As for water not existing in 3 states simultaneously, mangetout, I suspect that if I were to get out my camp stove and brew up a cup of tea on my snow-covered porch right now, I could come close to that. Of course, since it’s about 1 degree Farenheit (too damned cold Celsius), my neighbors would probably think I was nuts, but it should be possible.


There is actually something called the ‘triple point’ of water which I think is a certain temperature and pressure where water can exist in all three states indefinitely, but the catch is that a given set of molecules of water can’t do all three things simultaneously.

This shouldn’t be a worry though - all analogies are flawed, by definition.

:: tiptoes into Great Debates ::

I don’t think I saw this analogy used…

I read the water and wave particle analogies. What I use is something like this:

“Bob” is my dad. To me, he’s a father. But to his brothers, he’s a brother. To my mom, he’s a husband. To my grandparents, he’s a son.

So one person can simultaneously be a father and a son, a brother and husband, a co-worker, a boss, an underling, etc. But he still remains the same person the entire time. That’s kind of how I see the trinity doctrine.

Does that make sense?

No. Not at all. Not to me. None of these arguments for/rationalizations about the Trinity do. It all seems like sophistry to me.

But then maybe that’s why I’m a Unitarian.

:: shrugs ::

Didn’t say that I necessarily believed it myself. I was raised Catholic, and that’s one of the explanations that was given to me. I can see what they’re getting at (that each person has different aspects that mean something to different people, like how the one god has), but I myself go for a more “there’s a God, just one God, and that’s about it” kind of thing. No real trinity here.

Perhaps the Trinity has developed into a sort of loyalty test. Even though you can’t understand it, you are supposed to say you believe it to be true to show that you are willing to be a good believer, even if you don’t really understand what it is you are supposed to be believing.

zweisamkeit- your proposed explanation for the Trinity has been discussed here as Modalism, that Father-Son-Spirit are roles/modes/jobs that God holds (another version is Creator, Savior, Sanctifier).

I don’t know why it took me so long to suggest this- One Being with Three Harmonious Personalities. Individual humans can have multiple personalities- why not God, except that His are totally in synch?

It’s hard (for an outsider, anyway) to see it any other way. Look at the terms used to make these distinctions: “essence”, “person”, “nature”, “energies”. Since God is, almost by definition, unknowable, how much sense can it make to claim detailed knowledge of the “persons” or “natures” of God?

Siege - Logic, however, is fundamental to any kind of understanding or discourse. If I say, “Flipper ate my choptank, and gravy isn’t modulated, therefore there is a Trinity!” I can hardly expect acceptance. In formal logic, if you accept one contradiction, then every statement is true. Also, every statement is false. If you believe that something is unknowable, or a mystery, fine. But if you believe two things that are contradictory, watch out! The very concepts of truth and falsehood go out the window.

As a scientist, I think about it in analogy to science. There are certainly “mysteries” in science, for instance, what happened before the Big Bang. In our current state of knowledge, the answer is unknown. It might even be unknowable. It might not even be a valid question: perhaps time started at that instant, and there was no “before”. But there are various logical possibilities that can be explored. What I’m asking in this thread is whether there are any logical possiblilities left in orthodox (small o) Christianity.

Apparently Orthodox (big O) Christianity has a different solution from Roman Catholicism. What is the source of Orthodox theology, yBeayf? At what point did it split from Roman Catholicism? Can you point me to a good reference on this? Does Orthodox include Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox? What is Oriental Orthodoxy, and how is it different?

Is it not possible though, to hold the position that while the local observable manifestations of a set of phenomena are knowable, that the fundamental causes of them, including how they relate to one another (by which I mean the relation of the concepts of oneness and threeness, not any other kind of relation), are not?

Hmmm. It’s not really logic that’s necessary (or at least, not just classical logic).

I can tell you that I was both elated and miserable when Adam Vinatieri kicked that field goal yesterday. Miserable because I was really rooting for Carolina to win, and elated because they’d beaten the point spread and I’d won a nice steak dinner.

You don’t have trouble understanding that, even though it is surely a (classical) contradiction.

But why not? I would claim that it’s because the antecedent(s) is not relevant to the consequence. But if you go down that road you will end up with a denial of the law of non-contradiction (or at least, that a contradiction does not entail acceptance of everything). And you seem quite wedded to non-contradiction as a guiding principle.

Again, that’s classical logic, not formal logic. Classical logic is a pretty narrow framework to fit our discourse in. Much of formal logic consists of alternative, non-classical semantics for the connectives, such as intuitionistic, linear, conditional, relevant, fuzzy, or many-valued logic.

The best introduction to Eastern Orthodoxy in the English language is Abp. Kallistos (Timothy) Ware’s The Orthodox Church. Failing that, this is a good enough source. Also see Ask the Orthodox Christian.

Briefly, Orthodox theology takes as its sources what the Orthodox believe to be the unchanging faith of the Church, as handed down through the apostles and codified in the 7 Ecumenical Councils (the proclamations of which can be read here). There are two further councils that are sometimes reckoned as ecumenical, but not universally: the Photian council, which rejected the filioque, and the Palamite council, which rejected Baarlamism, or the idea that grace is created rather than uncreated, and also clearly set down the distinction between the essence and the energies of God.

The split between Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism is traditionally dated to 1054, when Cardinal Humbert excommunicated Patriarch Michael Cerularius and vice-versa, but probably was not solidified until after the sack of Constantinople by crusaders and the failed reunion council of Florence-Ferrara.

The Eastern Orthodox communion consists of 15 fully independent churches and a few smaller, dependent churches. The Russian, Greek (in Greece), Greek (in Constaniple), Alexandrian (primarily Egyptian, Kenyan, and Ugandan), Antiochian (Lebanese and Syrian), Jerusalemite (Palestenian), Serbian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Georgian, Czech, Slovakian, Albanian, Ukrainian, Cypriot, Polish, Finnish, Japanese, Chinese, American, and Sinaite Orthodox Churches, along with the Greek Old Calendarists and the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad make up Eastern Orthodoxy.

The Oriental Orthodox split from the Eastern Orthodox in 451 over the council of Chalcedon, which the Orientals reject. Their communion is made up of the Coptic, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Armenian, Syrian Jacobite, and Malankara Indian Orthodox Churches, with the British Orthodox Church as a dependency of the Coptic Church.

It’s only a contradiction if we accept an additional assumption, “It is impossible to be elated and miserable at the same time”. This assumption is pretty much ruled out by your claim, though.

Still, I think you make a valid point. Perhaps classical logic is too narrow a framework for discussing something as ill-defined as the nature of God. My point is simply this: that the modalist heresy makes sense to me (one God, three aspects of Her revelation to us), as does polytheism (three Gods, or four if you count the Godhead as a separate entity), but the orthodox Christian view doesn’t. I think the continuing appeal to “mystery” is an admission that it doesn’t.

Thanks for the references, yBeayf. Don’t you find it odd that Jesus could know something in his divine nature, and not know it in his human nature? Doesn’t this turn him into some weird creature with two individuals in one body?

yBeayf, I’d add Ware’s THE ORTHODOX WAY for a good deep but easily readable
insight into the theology, while his THE ORTHODOX CHURCH seems more academic and historically-focused.

FriendRob- RE Jesus knowing something in his divine natuer that he doesn’t in his human nature- isn’t it the same with us in the relationship of the conscious mind with the sub- and the pre-conscious aspects of the mind? Trinitarian theology strikes me as essentially depth psychology applied to God.