A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

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A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby DaveB » Tue Dec 03, 2013 11:47 am

This is from an old post at MavPhil - Jason, you've probably read this at one time or another - I ran across it today, and it really encapsulates why I have so much trouble accepting//understanding trinitarianism, if that is even a word. :)
Now I do know that the mental strivings on this have been going on for centuries, by the brightest minds on the planet, which I am not one of (awkward sentence, there) except in my own mind :) - but still, it does not take a genius to understand MavPhil's POV on this. Any comments would be welcome, on this perhaps over-worked subject that is still always fresh to me.
Sorry for the length of the article.

BV - stands for Bill Villacilla, the Maverick Philosopher; he is responding to questions from Joseph Jedwab. I will BOLD BV's responses.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004
Incarnation and Identity

Joseph Jedwab is a doctoral candidate at Oriel College, Oxford University. He is writing his dissertation under Richard Swinburne, who is among the top two or three philosophers of religion at work today. What follows are his penetrating comments on a published paper of mine available on-line here. He actually nails me on a couple of logical points. Jedwab writes:

I enjoyed your paper on the Incarnation very much. It matters not that it does not refer to the most recent literature. Here are some comments.

Briefly my own view is the following. There are mental subjects (i.e. subjects of mental properties--entities that perceive, think, feel, and act). There is one divine subject: a mental subject who has the divine properties that include being necessary and essentially eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, perfectly free, and perfectly good. And there are human subjects: mental subjects who are humanly embodied in human biological organisms. Human embodiment nvolves reciprocal pairs of causal powers between the mental subject and the organism, powers to affect the organism in characteristically human ways and powers to be affected by the organism in characteristically human ways. God becomes human by coming to stand in the relation of human embodiment to a human biological organism. Suppose that we want an account where the Son has a distinctively human sphere of consciousness in which he humanly experiences and out of which he humanly acts. Then I say the Son's sphere of consciousness divides in the Incarnation into a stream that has distinctively divine conscious mental states and a stream that has distinctively human conscious mental states.

BV: If there are two streams of consciousness, one human, the other divine, then presumably there are two (synchronic and diachronic) unities of consciousness. But it is not clear how one person can encompass two distinct unities of consciousness. The Chalcedonian definition requires that there be exactly one person with two natures. Now if there is exactly one person, then it seems there would have to be exactly one (synchronic and diachronic) unity of
consciousness. Otherwise, there would be something like multiple personality disorder.


I believe that the Son is Jesus, 'the Son' and 'Jesus' if ordinary names at all are two names for one and the same mental subject.

BV: Suppose that proper names are Kripkean rigid designators, where T is a rigid designator iff T denotes the same object O in every metaphysically possible world in which O exists. Then:
1. ‘Son’ denotes the Son in every possible world, because the Son is a necessary being.
2. ‘Jesus’ denotes Jesus in some (but not all) possible worlds, because Jesus is contingent.
Therefore
3. There are possible worlds in which ‘Son’ and ‘Jesus’ do not denote the same object.
4. If two rigid designators are coreferential, then they denote the same object in all possible worlds in which they denote any object.
Therefore
5. “Son’ and ‘Jesus’ are not coreferential rigid designators.


To put the point in material mode, how can a necessary being (the Son) be identical to a contingent being (Jesus) given the necessity of identity, to wit, if x = y, then necessarily x = y? For if x = y, and this identity holds across all possible worlds, then either both beings are necessary, or both beings are contingent (and exist in all the same possible worlds). Given that the Son is necessary, and that the Son is identical to Jesus, then Jesus must be necessary. But this contradicts the fact that Jesus is a contingent being.

The Son assumes humanity, that is acquires the property of being human by becoming humanly embodied. The Son also assumes a human rational soul and human body. 'Soul' is ambiguous here. Perhaps one can say that it means principle of life. But then perhaps this phrase turns out to be ambiguous too. In the Platonic sense, a soul is an immaterial mental substance. In the Aristotelian sense, a soul is a substantial form or property in virtue of which a living substance is alive. In the Platonic sense, the Son assumes a human rational soul by becoming a human rational soul.

BV: How exactly? By becoming identical to a human rational soul? How then could the Son retain its divine properties?

In the Aristotelian sense, the Son assumes a human rational soul by acquiring a property in virtue of which he is a human rational living substance. This could involve acquiring a distinctively human rational stream of consciousness. More straightforwardly, the Son assumes a human body by coming to stand in the relation of human embodiment to a human biological organism. I am taking 'human body' as human biological organism.

This is my substance dualist account of the Incarnation. But another account that equally defends the doctrine from the charge of inconsistency is the one Trenton Merricks provides in his paper 'The Word became Flesh: Dualism, Physicalism, and the Incarnation' (unpublished), where to be human is to be a human biological organism, in which case God becomes human by becoming a human biological organism.

BV: Both on your and Merrick’s accounts, I am left with my question of how one thing can have incompatible properties.

You present three problems:
(P1) How can one person have apparently incompatible natures?
(P2) How can one person have apparently incompatible non-nature properties?
(P3) How can there be one person in the Incarnation if apparently one person incarnates himself in another person?

(P1&P2): You say the difficulty common to (P1) and (P2) is the apparent commitment to the indiscernibility of identicals, the discernibility of the Son and Jesus, and the identity of the Son and Jesus. I want to defend the claim that it can be that something is divine and human. For nothing can have incompatible properties, be they natures or non-nature properties. So my view is different from van Inwagen's application of relative-identity to the doctrine of the Incarnation, where, for example, God the Son is divine, Jesus of Nazareth is human, nothing is divine and human, but God the Son is the same Person as Jesus of Nazareth, though God the Son is not the same Being as Jesus of Nazareth. So I go for the indiscernibility of the Son and Jesus. In fact, the alternative seems to involve relative identity or Nestorianism.

BV: I take it you are saying that the relative-identity approach to the Incarnation flirts with the Nestorian heresy according to which there are two persons in two natures rather than one person in two natures. That’s interesting, and I hadn’t thought of it. In an ancestor draft of the published paper I had a long critique of relative identity theory, which I find dubious. So, between us, relative identity theory is off the table.

What about the reduplicative strategy such as we find in Aquinas? Suppose H and I are incompatible predicates. Then ‘x is H and x is I’ is contradictory. But ‘x qua F is G and x qua H is I’ seems to avoid contradiction. For example, ‘The Son qua divine is necessary, but the Son qua human is contingent.’ Does this collapse into the relative identity approach, or is it distinct? Whatever the answer to this question, the reduplicative approach seems deficient. In the end, one and the same x is both H and I.

But this leads to deeper and more general ontological questions about individuals and how they have properties. The distinction between constituent and nonconstituent ontologies comes into play.


(P3): I do not believe that, in the Incarnation, one person incarnates himself in another person. The Son becomes incarnate or humanly embodied in a human biological organism. But this human biological organism is not a mental subject. So the Son does not incarnate himself in another person.

BV: The trouble with saying this is that the Son does not become man by assuming a human body, but by assuming a human body together with its animating rational soul, which latter is a mental subject. That a divine mind should acquire a human body is not so problematic; but that a divine mind should acquire a human mind-body complex is quite problematic. How can two minds/persons be one mind/person?

Here are some critical remarks and points of interest:

1. Footnote ii: I do not think there are intentional properties like being believed to be a philosopher. If there were there would be quotational properties that are not intentional like being so-called because of its appearance in the night sky which applies to Hesperus but not Phosphorus.

BV: I tend to take a somewhat sparse view of properties myself: I do not believe that every predicate expresses a property. But there are people who take a latitudinarian view of properties, and I wanted to block a possible objection from their quarter to the Indiscernibility of Identicals according to which, e.g., Hesperus is not identical to Phosphorus because one has an intentional property the other lacks. I take it your point is that the objection can be blocked simply by denying that there are intentional properties. OK.

2. p.2: You call the defense of the Incarnation that says the relation between the Son and Jesus is like the relation of embodiment between a soul and body 'the Apollinarian defense'. But the Apollinarian view says the Son assumed a human body with non-rational soul but did not assume a rational soul also. As far as I know, it does not concern itself with whether the Son is identical
to Jesus, saying that Jesus is the composite of the Son and the human body with a non-rational soul, or that Jesus is the human body with a non-rational soul.

BV: Bringing Apollinaris into the discussion may have only muddied the waters. I wanted a convenient tag for the fallacious maneuver whereby the God-man relation is likened to the mind-body relation. Hence ‘Appollinarian defense.’

There are two issues here that need to be separated out: (a) Is the Son identical to Jesus or not? If not, what is Jesus? A human subject, a human body, a composite of a human subject and human body, a composite of the Son and a human body, or a composite of the Son, a human subject, and a human body? I say the Son is Jesus.

BV: I take it you mean the ‘is’ of identity, and that you accept the strictures I placed on strict numerical identity, to wit, total reflexivity, symmetry, transitivity, necessity of identity, and Indiscernibility of Identicals. But then the puzzles I mentioned seem to remain standing.

(b) Does the Incarnation involve the Son becoming humanly embodied in a human biological organism or does it involve the Son coming to stand in some unique relation to a human subject who is humanly embodied in a human biological organism which subject is distinct from the Son? I say the Incarnation involves the former. If the Incarnation involves the latter, I cannot see how one avoids Nestorianism.

BV: I think you are right about this. The latter alternative amounts to the Nestorian heresy. But it is not enough to say that the Son becomes embodied in a human biological organism; what must be said is that the Son becomes a human being with body and mind. A biological organism is an organism from the point of view of biology. The latter has no truck with souls as animating principles – Vitalism is dead (to put it paradoxically) – or with minds.

So the name of the defense could be misleading because it does not separate out these distinct issues. Any defense that thinks of the Son and Jesus as mental subjects who are distinct from each other I would call a Nestorian defense.

BV: Here is the problem in a nutshell. Two persons in two natures gives you the heresy of Nestorius. But one person in two natures presents the problem of how one person can have radically different natures. If Christ is both fully divine and fully human, then Christ does not merely have a live human body, he also has a human mind. But how can there be two minds without two persons? If you say that a divine mind occupies a human body, then that is the heresy of Apollinaris.

3. Footnote viii: you say property P includes or entails property Q just in case it could not be that P is instantiated but Q is not. But this has the strange result that the property of being even includes or entails the property of being odd if numbers are necessary beings. Rather one should say P entails property Q iff it could not be that something instantiates P but not Q.

BV: Well, I didn’t use the word ‘include’ in my formulation, and removing that word removes some of the sting of your objection. But yes, my definition does have the consequence you note. I concede that I was wrong and that your definition is correct. It amounts to

(A) P entails Q iff ~Poss(Ex)(Px & ~Qx)

whereas what I said comes to

(B) P entails Q iff ~Poss[(ExPx) & (Ex)~Qx)].

The right-hand side of (A) entails the right-hand side of (B), but not vice versa.

But note that your definition also has paradoxical consequences, namely, that every impossible property entails any property, and that any property entails any tautological property. Thus, being both round and square entails being human, and being human entails being either round or not round. But these paradoxes are well known.


4. p.7: You identify begging the question with a kind of premise circularity. So one begs the question in an argument if one must know the conclusion in order to know one or more of the premises.

You consider the following two arguments:
(6) The Son is accidentally human.
(7) Jesus is essentially human.
So
(8) ¬ The Son is Jesus.

(6) The Son is accidentally human.
(¬8) The Son is Jesus.
So
(¬7) ¬Jesus is essentially human.

(By the way you make a mistake of no consequence when you say on p.8 that the negation of (7) is the proposition that Jesus is accidentally human.)

BV: Given that Jesus is human, then he is either accidentally human or essentially human, but not both. I take your point to be that the negation of a statement of the form a is essentially F is not a is accidentally F, but a is either accidentally F, or else not F.

You say the friend of OCI begs the question against the foe by arguing from (6) and (¬8) to (¬7), but the foe of OCI does not beg the question against the friend by arguing from (6) and (7) to (8).You say this because, though there is reason to believe (7)independently of (8), there is no reason to believe (¬7) independently of (¬8). But this does not constitute begging the question with respect to the second argument. What you would have to say if you wanted to make out that the friend begs the question with respect to the second argument is that there is no reason to believe (¬8) independently of (¬7). But in fact there is: I presume Jesus was so-named at birth (or the Aramaic equivalent) but he came to be called 'the Son' by himself and his followers from the title for the messiah 'the Son of God' and the title for the angelic figure of Daniel 7 'the son of man'. So I think neither the friend nor the foe begs the question with respect to the argument he is advancing.

BV: I think you are right. I blundered again. You are right that neither friend nor foe begs the question. I can see from this that you have studied my paper with great care and that you have a penetrating intellect.

5. p.8: You say we must distinguish between the agent and locus of the Incarnation for we must distinguish between the claim Jesus is the Incarnation of the Word and the Word is the Incarnation of Jesus. I take it you think friends of OCI think the first claim true and the second claim false. This is interesting. If so, there is already a problem. For if the Word is Jesus, then either both claims are true or both are false.

BV: We could frame it as an argument:

a. Identity is a symmetrical relation
b. Incarnation is an asymmetrical relation.
Therefore
c. A case of incarnation cannot be a case of identity.

I take it you would argue from the negation of (c) to the negation of (b).


I concede that some friends say something like this. Actually, they say Jesus is the Word incarnate but the Word is not Jesus incarnate. Perhaps they think of 'Jesus' as a title that applies to the Word if and only if the Word is incarnate.

BV: We need to distinguish names from titles. ‘Tathagata’ and ‘Buddha’ are titles meaning he who has thus come, and the enlightened one. Titles are definite descriptions, not logically proper names. ‘Siddartha’ and ‘Gautama’ are proper names. Similarly, ‘Christ’ is a title meaning the anointed one, whereas ‘Jesus’ is a name. To further complicate matters, titles can be used as proper names just as definite descriptions can sometimes be used as rigid designators. (Cf. Donnellan’s distinction between referential and attributive uses of definite descriptions.) And I suppose names can be used as titles. Ordinary language is fluid. Maybe later I can clarify some of this.

I have more things to say, points of interest to make, and questions to ask, but this is perhaps sufficient for the moment.

BV: These were excellent comments, and I look forward to reading more of them.
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby Paidion » Tue Dec 03, 2013 12:38 pm

I cannot understand Trinitarianism either. But the quoted dissertation doesn't strengthen my position at all.

The problem which is brought out vanishes if we can accept that the Son of God actually BECAME man, rather than being the pre-incarnate Son clothed with a human body. The latter necessitates that the human body also include a human mind, while retaining the divine mind. Thus, as a human the Son becomes "double minded."

My understanding is that the Son of God became COMPLETELY human. The human body and the human mind are inseparable. I do not believe in a human immaterial soul that somehow dwells in the body and can be separated from it and still go on functioning. This idea is derived from Greek thought, not Christian.

In becoming human, the pre-incarnate Son retained no divine attributes—only His identity as the Son of God. In Himself, He was unable to perform ANY miracles. It was His God, His Father, who performed the miracles THROUGH Him. Because of His intimate connection with His Father while He was on earth, the Father willingly did many wonderful works through Jesus. In this way, Jesus was the supreme example of how any other human being can so relate to the Father and to the Son in such a way that many wonderful works can be performed though him also.
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby DaveB » Tue Dec 03, 2013 1:54 pm

Paidion, you said "The problem which is brought out vanishes if we can accept that the Son of God actually BECAME man, rather than being the pre-incarnate Son clothed with a human body. "

That's where I'm at as well. I just cannot see how to go any further. I'm trying though, for many reasons, to grasp what I am missing in the argument for the Trinity, if I am missing something.

Scripture does of course talk about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I of course accept that. The incarnation, though....man, that is a tough one, unless the Son actually became MAN.
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby JasonPratt » Tue Dec 03, 2013 2:37 pm

I'll have to go over Bill's comments (and Joseph's letter to him) some other time.

Trinitarians don't always appreciate that the kenosis (pouring out, self-sacrifice) of the 2nd Person must be fundamental to the distinction of that Person in the deity of God: even at the level of God's own eternal self-existence, the Son receives all things from the Father and does nothing except (analogically speaking) what He sees the Father doing. The act of creating not-God entities (if my metaphysical logic is correct) involves a concurrent but different self-sacrificial action of the Son (different from the self-sacrificial action of God's coherent self-existence I mean), and that goes so far that any Incarnation personally as a baby of two natures would be less of a kenosis by comparison!

The pouring out of the 2nd Person in Incarnation, consequently, can go very far without losing the personal identity of the Son, even if in regard to the particular action of the Incarnation there are various mental and physical limitations.

In regard to any natural miracle at all, God is "doing" something in Nature in a limited way while "also" actively self-existing eternally as God transcendent to all natural space-times, and while "also" self-sacrificially keeping any not-God realities in existence. The Incarnation isn't an exception to that capability, assuming we have already inferred (or are at least prepared to grant for sake of argument) that God acts particularly in any natural system at all. The Incarnation would rather be the example par excellance (or however the French spell it ;) ) of that capability.

I'm leading out with this because my quick scan of Bill's reply (and thanks for bolding his portions, Dave!) gives me a (perhaps mistaken) impression that he's critiquing a point that Lewis used to stumble over, namely how can the Incarnation and also orthodox trinitarianism both be true if Jesus is so fully human (as the Gospels certainly testify) that He has human limitations? -- wouldn't that mean the Son inherently has only human limitations and characteristics, or that the Son stops existing as divine and starts existing as human and then goes back to existing as divine (so cannot be never-endingly divine, a necessary characteristic for the one and only God Most High)?

But I may have quickly misunderstood what Bill was after. I'm running a bit late already this afternoon and need to move along. Hopefully later!
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby DaveB » Tue Dec 03, 2013 2:41 pm

Thanks, when you get caught up with things please pay a visit back to this, if you remember. Better yet, I'll nag you on it in a few weeks :D

The OP was an obvious troll for you and Paidion :oops: - all are welcomed of course, to comment or just read.
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby lotharson » Tue Dec 03, 2013 3:27 pm

The trinity seems really to be a late theological development.

Neither Peter nor James nor Mark believed in it.
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby DaveB » Tue Dec 03, 2013 3:33 pm

Perhaps you are right; however a late development does not mitigate against it being true.
I know what you're saying but I don't think we can sew up the argument one way or the other with that reason alone.
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby Stefcui » Tue Dec 03, 2013 3:51 pm

Just to unload a heretical proposition here (trolls allowed?), I think the term "God" is a term relative to a domain, kingdom, phylum, division, class, order, family, genus, species, etc. There is only one (numerically) God domain, but there are three that may legitimately use that title (God) because of the intrinsic properties that belong to that title (creator, before all, omnipotent, omnicient...). There is an order within that domain, just as there is an order within every kingdom, phylum, division, class, order, family, genus, species. The Father is superior to the Son- in that the Son submits to the Father, but not vice versa. The Son only does what the Father instructs, but not vice versa. The Son is legitimately God - God the Son.

The physical universe was created through and for the Son. The Son was intended, from the only-begotten past, to bridge the physical and the spiritual worlds together into the Father. God the Father is spirit. God the Son is physical. God is within all things, spiritual and physical. This was not caused by sin, it was brought about through the operation of sin. God has intended a great marriage take place between humans and God Himself - through the Son. This marriage of the bride of Christ was always intended. God's will is to have the entire physical universe ruled by the unique Kingdom, which is a select group of humans who are to rule over the universe with their Christ. Again, this was not an afterthought, nor was it a compensation or compromise because of sin. This was God's eternal purpose. Sin was the means in which to bring all things into a new creation. That was always intended, but the journey of sin unfolds our individual merits of being co-rulers with Christ. This role is not for every Christian - it is for a select few. This is the primary purpose of creation. The secondary purpose is to sort out humanity, after they have been tested by sin, into division, class, order, family, genus, species. This is not the destination - this is the journey. Our destination is based on the merits of our lives of faith and sin.

Jesus became man to reconcile man to God, and to allow man to identify their heavenly bridegroom before the wedding takes place. As this is a mystical wedding, so too, God has concealed his plans in a mystical and mysterious body of writings and life experiences. Some will refuse God's wooing and poetic hymnology as barbaric. Others will be seduced into their lovers embrace, and like the true love of the Sulamite, they will find no fault in their courtier, and they will wait faithfully as virgins for their scheduled unification.

The current Nicene model of the trinity does not allow for any spiritual recognition of God's eternal purpose in the Son becoming man. The atonement and the cross are means to an end - they are not themselves the end. They are simply the means to achieve what God had eternally planned - the unity of the entire universe into the Son. This eternal will of God has been confounded in the Nicene dogma, and it has divided the world through compounding the mystery and will of God. Like an old school uniform, the Nicene dogma will soon be a relic of the past as something we have grown out of. It was needed for a time (apparently), but the rigidity it left has now become a barrier for comfort and freedom. It is akin to the Old Testament laws, and rightly, it developed close to that time frame. Paidion has a very close model (IMO) to the biblical mystery of the Godhead. I also think that Eunomius of Cyzicus, Sir Isaac Newton and William Whiston had done a great service to the church in rattling the cage of incongruence (when they translated and published the lost work of Eunomius: The First Apology).

(See Eunomius: The First Apology - against which, Basil the Great wrote his Confutation)
http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/eunomius_apology01.htm

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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby DaveB » Tue Dec 03, 2013 4:01 pm

Lots to think about there, Steve, and I will.
I am trying - trying - to keep myself focused on the Trinity OP, and then all these tempting by-ways are opened up. Show some mercy on a poor hobbit and let me push the two natures-one person thing further before drawing me off into the wilderness?? :lol:
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby Stefcui » Tue Dec 03, 2013 4:31 pm

LOL. Bless you Dave. I will try to stop trolling now.

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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby DaveB » Tue Dec 03, 2013 4:50 pm

:lol: Thanks for your understanding.
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby Paidion » Tue Dec 03, 2013 5:46 pm

Wouldn't that mean the Son inherently has only human limitations and characteristics, or that the Son stops existing as divine and starts existing as human and then goes back to existing as divine (so cannot be never-endingly divine, a necessary characteristic for the one and only God Most High)?


Good perception, Jason. I didn't get that out of the article, but perhaps it's there and I missed it. Wouldn't be the first time I didn't read carefully enough. And indeed, I think that His ceasing to be divine while He lives as a man, and then becoming divine again at His resurrection may be the case, although I feel a little uneasy about that, and would never have put it in that way. As I did, in fact, put it, He divested Himself of all of His divine attributes (Heb. 1:3), and retained only His identity while He was a son of man.

Stef wrote:Jesus became man to reconcile man to God, and to allow man to identify their heavenly bridegroom before the wedding takes place. As this is a mystical wedding, so too, God has concealed his plans in a mystical and mysterious body of writings and life experiences. Some will refuse God's wooing and poetic hymnology as barbaric. Others will be seduced into their lovers embrace, and like the true love of the Sulamite, they will find no fault in their courtier, and they will wait faithfully as virgins for their scheduled unification.


Great paragraph, Stef!

Stef wrote:The Son is legitimately God - God the Son.


Yes, the Son is "God" in the sense of being "God stuff" or divine as in John 1:1. For that reason second-century Christian writers, such as Justin Martyr, referred to Him as "God". Even the apostle John called Him "the ONLY-begotten God" in John 1:18, but the expression "God the Son" to the best of my knowledge is never affirmed by any but Trinitarians.

There are 18 occurrences of "God the Father" in the New Testament.

How many occurrences of "God the Son"? ZERO.

How many of "God the Holy Spirit"? ZERO.
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby Stefcui » Tue Dec 03, 2013 6:24 pm

Paidion wrote:
Stef wrote:The Son is legitimately God - God the Son.


Yes, the Son is "God" in the sense of being "God stuff" or divine as in John 1:1. For that reason second-century Christian writers, such as Justin Martyr, referred to Him as "God". Even the apostle John called Him "the ONLY-begotten God" in John 1:18, but the expression "God the Son" to the best of my knowledge is never affirmed by any but Trinitarians.

There are 18 occurrences of "God the Father" in the New Testament.

How many occurrences of "God the Son"? ZERO.

How many of "God the Holy Spirit"? ZERO.


You are right! But, ... using a non-biblical term does not make the term wrong... it depends what is meant by it and why it is used. Jesus was clearly the Son, and Jesus is most definitely referred to as God. To distinguish Jesus from God the Father... it is appropriate to use the terms "God the Son".

For me personally, I think classical trinitarians (post-Nicaea) have used the term in an erroneous way, and they have constructed a vision of God which is quite... hmmm... illogical. God's mystery does not need to become weird to be a mystery. The distinction between the Father and Son was made quite clear by the ECF like Justin in the concept of subnumeration. This view (of subnumeration) was eventually rejected by the 4th century church, but it is undeniable within the 2nd and 3rd century christians. This classification within the subject of the Godhead was a safeguard against the runaway mysticism which followed after the 4th century.

150 AD - Justin Martyr
"We will prove that we worship him reasonably; for we have learned that he is the Son of the true God Himself, that he holds a second place, and the Spirit of prophecy a third."
(First Apology 13:5-6).


190 AD - Clement Of Alexandria
"I understand nothing else than the Holy Trinity to be meant; for the third is the Holy Spirit, and the Son is the second, by whom all things were made according to the will of the Father."
(Stromata, Book V, ch. 14)


200 AD - Tertullian
"[God speaks in the plural 'Let us make man in our image'] because already there was attached to Him his Son, a second person, his own Word, and a third, the Spirit in the Word....one substance (domain) in three coherent persons."
(Against Praxeas, ch 12)


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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby DaveB » Tue Dec 03, 2013 6:40 pm

Steve - Could you give any more examples of first/second century subnumeration in the ECF?
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby Stefcui » Tue Dec 03, 2013 7:13 pm

Ok, Dave, I will probably get back to this tomorrow. I will see how time greets me :)
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby DaveB » Tue Dec 03, 2013 8:43 pm

I have edited down the long OP to four of the more obvious arguments. I have numbered them, strangely enough, One through Four.
Do trinitarians have any answers to these specific questions?
The response that 'we know the Trinity is a clear scriptural truth, but wrapped in mystery so unfathomable that we can't....fathom it" seems to me to be arguing backwards. If it was clear, there would have been a whole lot less meanness in church history, on both sides of the issue. If it isn't clear, then it's only natural to try to clear it up. If we can't clear it up, then the jump to 'well it is too ginormous for us to comprehend' may be the only answer, but only if it is shown to be true.
There are acres and acres of smart trinitarians; I've read a few but still cannot get past things like 1-4.
I know that this has all been hashed and re-hashed for centuries, but it is evergreen in mankind's attempt to understand God.
I'd prefer to have comments on this by referring to the aforementioned complicated numbering system. :lol:


One
BV: If there are two streams of consciousness, one human, the other divine, then presumably there are two (synchronic and diachronic) unities of consciousness. But it is not clear how one person can encompass two distinct unities of consciousness. The Chalcedonian definition requires that there be exactly one person with two natures. Now if there is exactly one person, then it seems there would have to be exactly one (synchronic and diachronic) unity of
consciousness. Otherwise, there would be something like multiple personality disorder.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
TWO
The Son assumes humanity, that is acquires the property of being human by becoming humanly embodied. The Son also assumes a human rational soul and human body. 'Soul' is ambiguous here. Perhaps one can say that it means principle of life. But then perhaps this phrase turns out to be ambiguous too. In the Platonic sense, a soul is an immaterial mental substance. In the Aristotelian sense, a soul is a substantial form or property in virtue of which a living substance is alive. In the Platonic sense, the Son assumes a human rational soul by becoming a human rational soul.

BV: How exactly? By becoming identical to a human rational soul? How then could the Son retain its divine properties?

In the Aristotelian sense, the Son assumes a human rational soul by acquiring a property in virtue of which he is a human rational living substance. This could involve acquiring a distinctively human rational stream of consciousness. More straightforwardly, the Son assumes a human body by coming to stand in the relation of human embodiment to a human biological organism. I am taking 'human body' as human biological organism.

This is my substance dualist account of the Incarnation. But another account that equally defends the doctrine from the charge of inconsistency is the one Trenton Merricks provides in his paper 'The Word became Flesh: Dualism, Physicalism, and the Incarnation' (unpublished), where to be human is to be a human biological organism, in which case God becomes human by becoming a human biological organism.

BV: Both on your and Merrick’s accounts, I am left with my question of how one thing can have incompatible properties.
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
THREE
I do not believe that, in the Incarnation, one person incarnates himself in another person. The Son becomes incarnate or humanly embodied in a human biological organism. But this human biological organism is not a mental subject. So the Son does not incarnate himself in another person.

BV: The trouble with saying this is that the Son does not become man by assuming a human body, but by assuming a human body together with its animating rational soul, which latter is a mental subject. That a divine mind should acquire a human body is not so problematic; but that a divine mind should acquire a human mind-body complex is quite problematic. How can two minds/persons be one mind/person?
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
FOUR
BV: Here is the problem in a nutshell. Two persons in two natures gives you the heresy of Nestorius. But one person in two natures presents the problem of how one person can have radically different natures. If Christ is both fully divine and fully human, then Christ does not merely have a live human body, he also has a human mind. But how can there be two minds without two persons? If you say that a divine mind occupies a human body, then that is the heresy of Apollinaris.
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby DaveB » Tue Dec 03, 2013 10:47 pm

I think this refers mainly to ONE in the above post.
From Wm. Ellery Channing. I don't think that this essay (this is only an excerpt) or any other single work will settle the case, ever, one way or t'other.
But this is a very clear, moderate, and thoughtful presentation on the subject, and not to be taken lightly:

We object to the doctrine of the Trinity, that, whilst acknowledging in words, it subverts in effect, the unity of God. According to this doctrine, there are three infinite and equal persons, possessing supreme divinity, called the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Each of these persons, as described by theologians, has his own particular consciousness, will, and perceptions. They love each other, converse with each other, and delight in each other's society. They perform different parts in man's redemption, each having his appropriate office, and neither doing the work of the other. The Son is mediator and not the Father. The Father sends the Son, and is not himself sent; nor is he conscious, like the Son, of taking flesh. Here, then, we have three intelligent agents, possessed of different consciousness, different wills, and different perceptions, performing different acts, and sustaining different relations; and if these things do not imply and constitute three minds or beings, we are utterly at a loss to know how three minds or beings are to be formed. It is difference of properties, and acts, and consciousness, which leads us to the belief of different intelligent beings, and, if this mark fails us, our whole knowledge fall; we have no proof, that all the agents and persons in the universe are not one and the same mind. When we attempt to conceive of three Gods, we can do nothing more than represent to ourselves three agents, distinguished from each other by similar marks and peculiarities to those which separate the persons of the Trinity; and when common Christians hear these persons spoken of as conversing with each other, loving each other, and performing different acts, how can they help regarding them as different beings, different minds?
We do, then, with all earnestness, though without reproaching our brethren, protest against the irrational and unscriptural doctrine of the Trinity. "To us," as to the Apostle and the primitive Christians, "there is one God, even the Father." With Jesus, we worship the Father, as the only living and true God. We are astonished, that any man can read the New Testament, and avoid the conviction, that the Father alone is God. We hear our Saviour continually appropriating this character to the Father. We find the Father continually distinguished from Jesus by this title. "God sent his Son." "God anointed Jesus." Now, how singular and inexplicable is this phraseology, which fills the New Testament, if this title belong equally to Jesus, and if a principal object of this book is to reveal him as God, as partaking equally with the Father in supreme divinity! We challenge our opponents to adduce one passage in the New Testament, where the word God means three persons, where it is not limited to one person, and where, unless turned from its usual sense by the connexion, it does not mean the Father. Can stronger proof be given, that the doctrine of three persons in the Godhead is not a fundamental doctrine of Christianity?
This doctrine, were it true, must, from its difficulty, singularity, and importance, have been laid down with great clearness, guarded with great care, and stated with all possible precision. But where does this statement appear? From the many passages which treat of God, we ask for one, one only, in which we are told, that he is a threefold being, or that he is three persons, or that he is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. On the contrary, in the New Testament, where, at least, we might expect many express assertions of this nature, God is declared to be one, without the least attempt to prevent the acceptation of the words in their common sense; and he is always spoken of and addressed in the singular number, that is, in language which was universally understood to intend a single person, and to which no other idea could have been attached, without an express admonition. So entirely do the Scriptures abstain from stating the Trinity, that when our opponents would insert it into their creeds and doxologies, they are compelled to leave the Bible, and to invent forms of words altogether unsanctioned by Scriptural phraseology. That a doctrine so strange, so liable to misapprehension, so fundamental as this is said to be, and requiring such careful exposition, should be left so undefined and unprotected, to be made out by inference, and to be hunted through distant and detached parts of Scripture, this is a difficulty, which, we think, no ingenuity can explain.
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby DaveB » Wed Dec 04, 2013 2:41 am

For the rest of that, as well as his considerations of the unity of our Lord, I'll just post the link:
http://www.americanunitarian.org/unitar ... ianity.htm

My purpose in these posts is selfish - I want to understand, and I have been unable to - as concerning the Trinity and the Incarnation. I'm hoping to shake loose some new thinking on my part by stimulating those who are pro/con on these important issues.

Far and away, Channing is, for me, the clearest expositor on the questions.
But I am really, really willing to be taught otherwise.
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby Stefcui » Wed Dec 04, 2013 4:30 am

Dave, I will give you some more subnumeration quotes tomorrow. I have found some. In the meantime, I want to show you another consideration concerning the earliest teaching on the trinity...

While we today think of the trinity only from the perspective of the 4th and 5th century councils, such as Nicaea and Chalcedon, the earlier christians had much more freedom to explore the Godhead without the fear of being labeled a heretic. This position is shown in the commentary given by Origen on the different views of the trinity that were then entertained:

However, many of those who profess to believe in Christ differ from each other not only on small and trifling matters but also on subjects of the highest importance. I mean, for example, the things concerning God, or the Lord Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit. ... For that reason, therefore, it seems necessary first of all to fix a definite limit and to lay down an unmistakable rule regarding each one of these [Persons].

... The particular points that are clearly delivered in the teaching of the apostles are as follows: First, that there is one God, who created and arranged all things, and who, when nothing existed, called all things into being. ... Secondly, that Jesus Christ Himself; who came, was born of the Father before all creatures and that--after He had been the minister of the Father in the creation of all things ("for by Him all things were made"), He in the last times divested Himself and became a man. He was incarnate although still God. ... And thirdly, the apostles related that the Holy Spirit was associated in honor and dignity with the Father and the Son. But in His case it is not clearly distinguished whether He is to be regarded as born or unborn--or also as a Son of God nor not.

Origen (c. 225)


These 3 clauses of Origen were the earliest acceptable boundaries in which the dogma of the trinity was communicated (Justin Martyrs, and later, Nicaean views, were equally compatible within Origens outline). Notice that the third clause is the position (or doubts) which Paidion holds. This was an acceptable view in the 3rd century, but today it is conceived in terms of heresy. It is our modern post-Nicaea view of the trinity, insisting that it alone is fundamental to Christianity, which is truly heresy (or rather, to be rejected). Most people who discuss the trinity are speaking in reference to the Nicaean Creed, which is quite unfortunate. The definitions of the trinity from the 2nd and 3rd centuries encompass a far greater array of views which were all orthodox. One of those most frequent orthodox views were subordinationism and subnumeration. The Godhead had a clear hierarchy, and many of the earliest fathers had emphasized the order of the Godhead in very clear terms. The 4th century church, which adopted a universal pope, statues, bribery, violence, pagan churches, forgeries, celibacy for clergy, Mariology, etc, had also adopted a dogma on the trinity which is devastatingly wrong.

Dave, I firmly believe in the trinity, but the Catholic version of the trinity is just as wrong as their version of Mary, the rosary, celibacy and statues. I am a Catholic, I was baptized as Catholic, so I do not hate catholics. We were the first sect of the church to become recognized as the "institutional church". Like any sect, we manipulated the scriptures and the teachings to accommodate our own misconceptions. The early Protestants were not very well educated on the 4th century history, nor on the earlier teachings of the 2nd and 3rd centuries fathers. They knew of them mostly through the eyes of Eusebius and Jerome. They were not able to discern the great drift that occurred with the earliest church. This drift is enormous, yet difficult for so many to acknowledge. The implications seem too astounding, so they are swept under the carpet. It makes no difference to me. This is not my hobby-horse. If people want to be confused, that is their problem. I had enough problems just surviving life, so I am not too worried that others are still caught in this diabolical dogma conundrum. God helps us all anyway, whether we are Catholic or Protestant. It is only from the perspective of accuracy, which is my personal agenda. It doesn't bother me that others believe that the pope was truly chosen by Christ to rule over the entire church, and that the pope is infallible, and that this pope has decided most of the dogmas of the existing churches up until now. Everyone is free to believe whatever their heart desires. I have rejected these teachings on the basis of seeking accuracy, and my understanding of the trinity is based on the same objective.

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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby Paidion » Wed Dec 04, 2013 6:31 am

To distinguish Jesus from God the Father... it is appropriate to use the terms "God the Son".


If the object is to distinguish Him from the Father, why not refer to Him as "The Son of God" as the scripture does? For He is the ONLY begotten Son of God.

When NT uses the phrase "ho theos" (the God) without any other modifiers of "God", it ALWAYS refers to the Father, and never to the Son.
NOWHERE does the phrase in the NT refer either to the Son or to the holy spirit. And NOWHERE in the scripture does the word "God" refer to a Trinity.
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby DaveB » Wed Dec 04, 2013 9:12 am

And a practical consideration also:

True piety, when directed to an undivided Deity, has a chasteness, a singleness, most favorable to religious awe and love. Now, the Trinity sets before us three distinct objects of supreme adoration; three infinite persons, having equal claims on our hearts; three divine agents, performing different offices, and to be acknowledged and worshipped in different relations. And is it possible, we ask, that the weak and limited mind of man can attach itself to these with the same power and joy, as to One Infinite Father, the only First Cause, in whom all the blessings of nature and redemption meet as their centre and source? Must not devotion be distracted by the equal and rival claims of three equal persons, and must not the worship of the conscientious, consistent Christian, be disturbed by an apprehension, lest he withhold from one or another of these, his due proportion of homage?

Again this is not THE proof against trinitarian thought, but it is clearly a sober assessment of this part of the subject.
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby DaveB » Wed Dec 04, 2013 10:10 am

BTW, I've contacted the moderators and welcomed them to reign in my 'fixation' on this subject if they feel I'm running wild. :D
I can get carried away; and I don't want to do anything if it is not edifying to the Body of Christ.
Let me know if this is causing waves - Christian unity in love is more important than anything else.
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby Stefcui » Wed Dec 04, 2013 1:50 pm

Paidion wrote:
To distinguish Jesus from God the Father... it is appropriate to use the terms "God the Son".


If the object is to distinguish Him from the Father, why not refer to Him as "The Son of God" as the scripture does? For He is the ONLY begotten Son of God.


Paidion, within reason, we are all free to use whichever language we wish to describe God. If the term 'God the Son' is offensive to you, then don't use it. That is the point of my previous post; we have a freedom to use certain language (or not use certain language) as our understanding permits. We don't need to reel in the polar extreme and forbid the usage of certain terms.

Paidion wrote:When NT uses the phrase "ho theos" (the God) without any other modifiers of "God", it ALWAYS refers to the Father, and never to the Son. NOWHERE does the phrase in the NT refer either to the Son or to the holy spirit.


The use (or disuse) of the definite article, "the", before God does not prove or disprove the identity of God. This idea, that the absence of the definite article made the reference to a lessor god, was first introduced by E.W. Bullinger and Bishop Middleton. This idea is shown to be false in scripture in Luke 1:35 where "Holy Spirit" and "Most High" are both without the definite article. In Matthew 3:16 - the Holy Spirit is referred to without a definite article, and in Luke 3:22 - with a definite article. Again, in John 7:39 the Holy Spirit is referred to with the definite article, and in Acts 1:5 the Holy Spirit is referred to without the definite article. Also in John 14:26 the Holy Spirit is referred to with the definite article.

Professor Gordon Fee explains why there is a distinction of the usage of the definite article:

"the presence of the article ['the'] with the Spirit is always controlled by whether the noun it modifies is articular [has the definite article] or not, not by a distinction between 'a spirit' and 'the Spirit'."


Colored emphasis added...

This 'definite article' theory was not used by the early church fathers to distinguish between persons of the Godhead, and it should also be rejected today. It is sit on very shaky ground, and it is contradicted by scripture itself.

Paidion wrote:And NOWHERE in the scripture does the word "God" refer to a Trinity.


Again, this is a very unstable argument. The trinity is a word which describes the unique relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There are many different models of the trinity that can be used, even the one that you use, Paidion, which rejects the Holy Spirit. I personally had problems with the term because of its association with gnosticism, as the 2nd century gnostic (and bishop), Valentinus, had proposed a model of the trinity which was eventually adopted by the bishops of Rome, and it is very close to the Nicene model of the trinity that the entire churches have now succumbed to, as confessed by Marcellus of Ancyra:

Now with the heresy of the Ariomaniacs, which has corrupted the Church of God... These then teach three hypostases, just as Valentinus the heresiarch first invented in the book entitled by him 'On the Three Natures'. For he was the first to invent three hypostases and three persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he is discovered to have filched this from Hermes and Plato."


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentinus_(Gnostic)

It was Valentinus who opened the can of worms and poisoned the trinity well. 2nd and 3rd century Roman bishops, Zephyrinus and Callistus, had first entertained the gnostic trinity; but that alone does not disqualify the usage of the term. There is no need to throw the baby out with the dirty bath water. The term can be used to describe the Godhead as I understand it, as well as it can be used to describe the Godhead as you understand it. The problem lies in the word association, not in the word itself.

Another non-biblical word that is frequently used by christians is incarnation. The fact that the word is not found in scripture does not negate the usage of the term.

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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby DaveB » Wed Dec 04, 2013 2:06 pm

What is 'the Godhead'?
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby Stefcui » Wed Dec 04, 2013 2:21 pm

Acts 17:29
Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device.


Romans 1:20
For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse...


Colossians 2:9
For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby DaveB » Wed Dec 04, 2013 3:54 pm

Def: the essential being of God.
That's a 'good enough' definition?
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby Stefcui » Wed Dec 04, 2013 7:25 pm

Yes, it is a term that represents the entire domain of God rather than the individual persons of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby Paidion » Wed Dec 04, 2013 8:01 pm

Stef wrote:Paidion, within reason, we are all free to use whichever language we wish to describe God.


Certainly we're free to do that. No one is preventing us from using "Turnip" or any other word.

If the term 'God the Son' is offensive to you, then don't use it.


I'm not offended. I simply think it does not correctly describe the Son of God.

We don't need to reel in the polar extreme and forbid the usage of certain terms.


To the best of my knowledge, no one is forbidding the usage of ANY term.


The use (or disuse) of the definite article, "the", before God does not prove or disprove the identity of God.


Of course not, but it clearly denotes the Father, only true God, whereas the concept of Trinity seems to be a mere man-made invention which we find nowhere in scripture (I am not referring to the word "Trinity", but to the concept).

This idea, that the absence of the definite article made the reference to a lessor god, was first introduced by E.W. Bullinger and Bishop Middleton.


I don't think those two men invented the idea. Clearly in some cases the absence of the article DOES refer to a lesser god (Acts 12:22, 26:6).
In other cases the word "theos" without the article or any other modifier refers to the QUALITY of being divine, such as the second occurence in
John 1:1 (Note: there is not a "definite" and "indefinite" article in Greek as there is in English. There is just an article.)

This idea is shown to be false in scripture in Luke 1:35 where "Holy Spirit" and "Most High" are both without the definite article. In Matthew 3:16 - the Holy Spirit is referred to without a definite article, and in Luke 3:22 - with a definite article. Again, in John 7:39 the Holy Spirit is referred to with the definite article, and in Acts 1:5 the Holy Spirit is referred to without the definite article. Also in John 14:26 the Holy Spirit is referred to with the definite article.


This doesn't prove anything about it, since "the idea" doesn't apply to words other than "theos". However, having said this, let me affirm that I do not believe that "theos" without the article necessarily refers to a lesser god. The second occurence of "theos" in John 1:1 refers to the Logos, the Son of God, and He is no less divine than the Father. Nevertheless, He is secondary in POSITION. He always obeyed the Father both here on earth and in His pre-incarnate state. And in the end when everything comes under His dominion, He will turn the kingdom over to the Father that God (the Father) may be all in all! (I Cor. 15).

It still stands that when "theos" is used WITH the article (and no other modifier) it ALWAYS refers to the Father alone. He is "the God." Jesus is divine. He may be called "God" in the generic sense, but He is not "the God". In His prayer to the Father, Jesus addressed Him as "the only true God." (John 17:3)
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby Stefcui » Wed Dec 04, 2013 8:23 pm

Fair enough. Thanks for your comments.
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby akimel » Sat Dec 07, 2013 9:42 pm

A late, and brief, contribution to this thread.

I have to admit that I find the work of analytic philosophers on the doctrine of the Trinity and the Incarnation virtually useless and perhaps even dangerous. Dangerous because it treats Trinity and Incarnation as logical problems to be "solved," I find this approach utterly foreign to the Church Fathers who sought to articulate the two doctrines. In my judgment the trinitarian and christological dogmas. as defined by the ecumenical councils, set forth a grammar for Christian discourse and doxology. The Fathers knew full well that the dogmas involved paradox and antinomy, but they were convinced that the data of revelation required this.
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby DaveB » Sat Dec 07, 2013 9:51 pm

"they were convinced that the data of revelation required this."

I'm not at all certain about that, but I am certain that analytic philosophers, striving for conceptual clarity, can be a very helpful part of the discussion. You do not find them helpful, and that's fine. I do, I respect their work, and they are trying to solve a problem. So were the Fathers, and they used every analytic tool they could and might have welcomed even more.
It's not like the problem has been 'solved', after all, whether you consider it analytic or not..

There is certainly a very open question as to whether revelation requires this.
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby Stefcui » Sat Dec 07, 2013 10:17 pm

akimel wrote:A late, and brief, contribution to this thread.

I have to admit that I find the work of analytic philosophers on the doctrine of the Trinity and the Incarnation virtually useless and perhaps even dangerous. Dangerous because it treats Trinity and Incarnation as logical problems to be "solved," I find this approach utterly foreign to the Church Fathers who sought to articulate the two doctrines. In my judgment the trinitarian and christological dogmas. as defined by the ecumenical councils, set forth a grammar for Christian discourse and doxology. The Fathers knew full well that the dogmas involved paradox and antinomy, but they were convinced that the data of revelation required this.


Great comment, akimel. I thoroughly agree with you.
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby Cole » Sat Dec 07, 2013 10:26 pm

Dave,

The trinity says God is one in essence and three in persons. The problem people have in trying to understand it is that they are using the rational mind of either/or thinking. Paradoxes are not either/or. This is where you have to go beyond the dualistic mind into the both/and. Reality is full of paradoxes. People are a mixture of both good and bad, living and dying. We are a mixed blessing. Paradox is hidden and obvious, everywhere and always - unless you have repressed one side of your very being. There's no need to try to understand the trinity with the rational mind. It's a mysterious paradox.
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby DaveB » Sat Dec 07, 2013 10:50 pm

Have I stirred up a controversy here by a simple appreciation of the hard work of analytic philosophy?

Steve if you totally agree with Akimel's post, I am surprised - not at the ECF recognizing a paradox, even I, a non-expert, recognize that.
But at the unnecessary and unfounded dismissal of other philosophers - that does not ring true.
You both are incorrect in that dismissal and you need to study further.

As to the ECF - I have an appreciation for them - but I do understand and appreciate the work of those trying to elucidate the paradox more completely.
I am not or ever will be a second century Christian - the fights of today must be waged by well-intentioned and God-gifted philosophers as well, learning from all those giants whose shoulders they stand on.

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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby Stefcui » Sat Dec 07, 2013 11:36 pm

DaveB wrote:Steve if you totally agree with Akimel's post, I am surprised - not at the ECF recognizing a paradox, even I, a non-expert, recognize that. But at the unnecessary and unfounded dismissal of other philosophers - that does not ring true.


Hi Dave, I don't think I was dismissing other philosophers generally, but I do so in relation to understanding the trinity, and I think akimel summarized the problem succinctly when he said:

akimel wrote:Dangerous because it treats Trinity and Incarnation as logical problems to be "solved," I find this approach utterly foreign to the Church Fathers who sought to articulate the two doctrines.


I have personally found much of modern theology to be closer to philosophy than they are to biblical theologians. It is only my opinion, but I think that the modern theologian struggles with faith in the biblical account, and they seek assistance from secular philosophy to accommodate their own lack of spiritual clarity. It is often easier to get a consensus among secular philosophers than it is to understand biblical revelation. From my observation, as the church had fallen into greater secular compromise, they have done so with equal and opposite loss of spiritual comprehension. This was seen particularly from the 4th century onwards, where many church doctrines became entwined with secular reasoning. Even today, you can become a minister or church leader in exactly the same manner in which one becomes a science teacher, or an electrician. The boundaries of the sacred and secular have become blurred, and there are none more confused than the modern philosopher/theologian. I think they have lost the teaching of the early church almost completely. Only a small resemblance remains. Just my opinion. :)

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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby DaveB » Sun Dec 08, 2013 8:31 am

I value your opinion, Steve. Thanks for clarifying.
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby Paidion » Sun Dec 08, 2013 9:01 am

Stefcui wrote:I have personally found much of modern theology to be closer to philosophy than they are to biblical theologians. It is only my opinion, but I think that the modern theologian struggles with faith in the biblical account, and they seek assistance from secular philosophy to accommodate their own lack of spiritual clarity.


Philosophy as it is understood today simply means "thinking about..." or "reasoning about..." For example "philosophy of mathematics"="reasoning about mathematic". "Philosophy of religion"="Reasoning about religion". Isn't that what we are all doing in this forum? It is such reasoning that GIVES us spiritual clarity.

Michael wrote:The trinity says God is one in essence and three in persons. The problem people have in trying to understand it is that they are using the rational mind of either/or thinking. Paradoxes are not either/or. This is where you have to go beyond the dualistic mind into the both/and. Reality is full of paradoxes. People are a mixture of both good and bad, living and dying. We are a mixed blessing. Paradox is hidden and obvious, everywhere and always - unless you have repressed one side of your very being. There's no need to try to understand the trinity with the rational mind. It's a mysterious paradox.


I have always found it almost unbelievable that so many people can hold to a self-contradictory concept and justify it in their own minds by relegating it to the realm of the "mysterious" or "paradoxical".

The basic meaning of paradox is "a self-contractory statement". When one fully understands the situation the paradoxical statement must be denied. That which is truly self-contradictory can never be explained. For example "This book cover is both black and not black" is self-contractory and therefore false. However, "I am both hungry and not hungry" may appear self-contradictory but may really mean, "I want to eat some things but not others."

1. A simple example of a paradox is the Sentence paradox: "This sentence is false." For if the sentence is true, then it is false. If it is false, then it is true. If "logical statement" refers to a sentence which is either true or false, the sentence is not a logical statement at all. For it is neither true nor false. When one understands that, the sentence loses its "mystery" as a supposed statement.

2. Let's consider the Barber's Paradox. In a particular town a barber shaves all men and only those men who do not shave themselves. Does the barber shave himself? If the answer is "yes" then he must not shave himself. For he shaves ONLY those men who do not shave themselves. So the answer must be "no". But in that case, he must shave himself. For he shaves ALL men who do not shave themselves. So what do we do with this paradox? Do we have to say we "cannot understand it with the rational mind"? Do we classify this paradox a deep mystery along with the mystery of the Trinity? No. We need to realize that such a barber cannot exist.

3. It was once thought that any set at all could be represented mathematically. For example, the set of positive intergers is represented as {1,2,3,...}. Even the set of pink elephants now in this room can be represented as { }. In other words the empty set. But then Bertrand Russell came up with a description of a set which could not be represented: "The set of all sets and only those sets which are not members of themselves." Let's assign S as the name of that set.Then we ask "Is S a member of itself?" If the answer is "yes", then S is NOT a member of itself. For S is the set of only those sets which are NOT members of themselves. If the answer is "no" then S is a member of itself. For S is the set of all sets which are NOT members of themselves. How could such a set be represented mathematically? The answer is that such a set cannot exist, and for that reason cannot be represented mathematically.

So we found:
1. In the Sentence Paradox, no such logical statement exists.
2. In the Barber Paradox, no such barber exists.
3. In Russel's Paradox, no such set exists.

And in my opinion:
4. In the Trinitarian paradox, no such entity exists.

Now of course, one can be in such a psychological condition that he wants to affirm these paradoxes.
1. In the Sentence Paradox, the sentence actually IS a logical statement. It is true and yet it is false. A great mystery!
2. In the Barber Paradox, there CAN be such a barber. Somehow it is true that he both shaves himself and does not shave himself. A great mystery!
3. In Russel's Paradox, there IS such a set. It is a member of itself and yet it isn't a member of itself. A great mystery!
4. In the Trinitarian paradox, there IS such an entity as the Trinity. He is one, and yet He is three. A great mystery!
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby akimel » Sun Dec 08, 2013 9:22 am

DaveB wrote:"they were convinced that the data of revelation required this."

I'm not at all certain about that, but I am certain that analytic philosophers, striving for conceptual clarity, can be a very helpful part of the discussion. You do not find them helpful, and that's fine. I do, I respect their work, and they are trying to solve a problem. So were the Fathers, and they used every analytic tool they could and might have welcomed even more.
It's not like the problem has been 'solved', after all, whether you consider it analytic or not.. There is certainly a very open question as to whether revelation requires this.


Dave, I am not dismissing the work of analytic philosophers; but I have read enough of their work on both the Trinity and Incarnation to be convinced that much of this work is simply unhelpful to Christian theology, which is probably why it is mainly ignored outside philosophical circles. All one has to do is to read Swinburne's book The Christian God. I read it when it was first published, and all I could do is throw up my hands in frustration. The curious thing is that Swinburne's theological work is completely out of touch with the theology of his own Church (i.e., the Eastern Orthodox Church).

Conceptual clarity is fine, but the fourth century Church Fathers were not driven by the need for conceptual clarity. Aetius and Eunomius and their followers certainly were, and the Cappadocians responded to their "logic-chopping" by emphatically reasserting the incomprehensibility of God. For two good examples, read St Gregory Nazianzus's Theological Orations and St Basil's Contra Eunomium. They did not view the trinitarian doctrine as solving a conundrum but as stating the Mystery. They reacted so strongly against Eunomius because they saw him as rationalistically truncating the revelation of Christ as given in Scripture and embodied in the trinitarian life of the Church. The Eunomians were the analytic philosophers of their day. They strove for conceptual clarity, and on the basis of that clarity and precision they thought they had achieved, they rejected the trinitarian formulations and affirmed a unitarian deity with two creaturely subordinates, Son and Spirit.

I am beginning to suspect that the principal reason that the Christian analytic philosophers are so unhelpful here is somehow connected to their commitment to the category of "person" as the best way to think about God (see "How Anthropomorphic is Your G-O-D?"). As a result, God's truly radical difference from creation gets lost somewhere. The trinitarian God becomes "three selves," and so we are all left wondering how it is possible for three selves to be one God and not three gods. Similarly, the Incarnation becomes an impossible problem because we cannot figure out how to unite the divine psychological apparatus with the human psychological apparatus. But these are pseudo-problems created by the failure to understand God's radical difference from the world. It is precisely the radical difference between uncreated nature and created nature that allows him to assume human nature without in any way compromising human nature. Etc.

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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby DaveB » Sun Dec 08, 2013 9:24 am

Excellent post Paidion.
If the concept 'The Trinity' is a paradox, then making it a dogma or a creedal/catechismal necessity seems mis-placed, to me.
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby DaveB » Sun Dec 08, 2013 9:33 am

Akimel - thank you for your clarification of the problems and the difficulties in this. You made some excellent points.

In general, I support this non-technical view of supposed 'paradoxes' in revelation:

"We answer again, that, if God be infinitely wise, he cannot sport with the understandings of his creatures. A wise teacher discovers his wisdom in adapting himself to the capacities of his pupils, not in perplexing them with what is unintelligible, not in distressing them with apparent contradictions, not in filling them with a skeptical distrust of their own powers. An infinitely wise teacher, who knows the precise extent of our minds, and the best method of enlightening them, will surpass all other instructors in bringing down truth to our apprehension, and in showing its loveliness and harmony.
It is not the mark of wisdom, to use an unintelligible phraseology, to communicate what is above our capacities, to confuse and unsettle the intellect by appearances of contradiction. We honor our Heavenly Teacher too much to ascribe to him such a revelation. A revelation is a gift of light. It cannot thicken our darkness, and multiply our perplexities."

That quote is from Wm. Ellery Channing who was of course a Unitarian, but not necessarily therefore wrong. :D
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby Cindy Skillman » Sun Dec 08, 2013 9:35 am

I don't know how much time I'm going to have, Dave, so without reading everyone else's comments, I'll jump straight to ONE. ;)

Maybe I'm not thinking this through deeply enough, but it seems to me that Jesus having a divine and a human nature isn't really a problem. This is the way I see it. Jesus came to be an example for us for the way we can live when depending on Father for everything (as He did/does). Perhaps He's been doing this always, since He goes forth from the Father always. He has that divine nature of the Father, but perhaps Father gave all of us that, in the Spirit of life He gives to each of us. I don't know. He's God and He came and inhabited the body (complete with human nature) that Father prepared for Him. It's not like He was neurotic, suffering from multiple personality disorder. He lived as a man, having emptied Himself of His godhood, though still having that divine nature (as is now available to us). He lived by the power of the Holy Spirit in obedience to the Father. His advantage was to have an unfallen human nature (which of course we do not have), but to even the score, He stood in for the whole family of mankind as our representative and died on our behalf, destroying that old man once and for all. He was raised and we are raised in Him to newness of life. We have defiled our humanity and must climb out of the hole -- a thing He did not do -- but He is here, our shepherd, to pull us out so long as we're willing to allow it and cling to His hand best we can. Jesus was MASTER of His body (mind, will, emotions) as we are to BECOME master of our own bodies though we do this in concert with Him and trusting Him to complete that work in us.

Think of His first miracle. He turned the water into wine. The water is still there, but now it's infused with life and nourishment (the blood of grapes, you know) and makes glad the heart of man. AND it's really, really GOOD wine! :lol: Somewhere around 150 gallons of it! Jesus gives life and life in abundance. So now He lives in us via the Holy Spirit and our natures are also mingled divine and human. He is special though, because He has always been with and of the Father. For us, this is an imparted nature whereas for Him it is intrinsic. Will we be like Him? Yes. What does that mean? I honestly dare not go any farther -- it's more than I know.

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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby Paidion » Sun Dec 08, 2013 9:58 am

Cindy wrote:His advantage was to have an unfallen human nature (which of course we do not have)...


How do you know that, Cindy? Didn't he inherit the same fallen, human nature from His mother Mary that we all inherit from our parents?
It is my opinion that though He had inherited the fallen, human nature, He was always able to overcome temptation, and therefore was never involved in wrongdoing.

... for we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.(Heb. 4:15)

If He hadn't had a fallen, human nature, He wouldn't have been tempted at all, would He have been?
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby DaveB » Sun Dec 08, 2013 10:13 am

Cindy, I just don't think your comments - which I appreciate - answer the questions posed by ONE. I'm not saying you are wrong, just that the questions 1-4 pose certain unavoidable paradoxes that necessarily are entailments to trinitarian thought.
I think Paidion is on the right track on this one, and that goes along with my general view of scripture, a part of which I posted to Akimel above.
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby Paidion » Sun Dec 08, 2013 11:45 am

Stefcui wrote:Acts 17:29

Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device.

Romans 1:20

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse...


Colossians 2:9

For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.


I'm not sure of your purpose with these quotes, though I know you were somehow trying to answer Dave's question, "What is the Godhead?"

Does the word "Godhead" from the middle ages have a special connotation for you?
Modern translators render the word as "divinity", "divine nature", etc. I, myself, favour "deity". That the deity is very unlike man-made gods is clear (Acts 17:9). That God possesses eternal power and deity as in Romans 1:20, there is no doubt. That the fullness of deity dwells within the resurrected Christ bodily as in Col.2:9, there is no doubt. So I'm puzzled what these verses mean to you, and would much appreciate your expounding them in light of what you had in mind when quoting them.
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby Stefcui » Sun Dec 08, 2013 1:20 pm

Paidion wrote:
Stefcui wrote:I have personally found much of modern theology to be closer to philosophy than they are to biblical theologians. It is only my opinion, but I think that the modern theologian struggles with faith in the biblical account, and they seek assistance from secular philosophy to accommodate their own lack of spiritual clarity.


Philosophy as it is understood today simply means "thinking about..." or "reasoning about..." For example "philosophy of mathematics"="reasoning about mathematic". "Philosophy of religion"="Reasoning about religion". Isn't that what we are all doing in this forum? It is such reasoning that GIVES us spiritual clarity.


Hi Paidion,

I thought I made the distinction clear so as not to confuse "reasoning about..." anything, as opposed to the adoption of "secular philosophy to accommodate their own lack of spiritual clarity."

Paidion wrote:
Stefcui wrote:Colossians 2:9

For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.


I'm not sure of your purpose with these quotes, though I know you were somehow trying to answer Dave's question, "What is the Godhead?"

Does the word "Godhead" from the middle ages have a special connotation for you?


I was not trying to give any special interpretation, only to show why I would use the term. The term has been part of christian culture for many hundreds of years. I think the term is apt to describe a dynamic of relationship within the "Deity"; just as we would talk about the "Hypostatic Union" (speaking of secular philosophy) to describe the dynamic of Christ's God-man relationship in Christological discussions. I do not have any problem with this term to describe relationship within the Deity... "Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness."

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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby Stefcui » Sun Dec 08, 2013 2:02 pm

akimel wrote:The only way forward is to return to the beginning and think over again what it means for God to be the Creator who has made the world from out of nothing.


Another great post, akimel. I found it interesting that Basil was said to have died after reading the (second?) letter of Eunomius. I don't think it was a case of "the letter kills", but it does show how passionate the subject can be.

I agree that a re-analysis of our christian roots is imperative. So much of our beliefs, whether we are Orthodox or Protestant, are built upon the foundations of 4th century Catholicism. We need to re-align ourselves according to earlier fathers, and get away from Athanasius, Jerome, Cyril, Augustine, the Cappadocian fathers, Hilary, etc. The 4th century was the church's darkest hour up until that time. No longer was the enemy seen to be the Devil, or Jews, Romans, Gnostics... now the enemy was within - and we fought the enemy with axe, sword and torch. Within one year of the Council of Nicaea, Constantine had his wife and son killed, and yet he was still seen as a Christian equal to bishops. Over 10,000 followers of Origen were rounded up and butchered. The great Cyril did not stop there... the famous Hypatia was ripped apart, literally, by a church gone mad. Then followed the gangsters synod, where bishops were killed by bishops. Something terrible had happened to the church, and no good fruit would come of it. We need to completely scrap the 4th century church, and return to the church prior to the darkness setting in. This was the view of Isaac Newton, which he, to me, was a true visionary and reformer. I believe we will return to our roots through the instigation of persecution and seizure of the church in the near future. These will be the beginnings of sorrow and woe! but a faithful church will recognize this as a signal for Christ's return.

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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby Stefcui » Sun Dec 08, 2013 2:19 pm

Paidion wrote:
Cindy wrote:His advantage was to have an unfallen human nature (which of course we do not have)...


How do you know that, Cindy? Didn't he inherit the same fallen, human nature from His mother Mary that we all inherit from our parents?
It is my opinion that though He had inherited the fallen, human nature, He was always able to overcome temptation, and therefore was never involved in wrongdoing.

... for we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.(Heb. 4:15)

If He hadn't had a fallen, human nature, He wouldn't have been tempted at all, would He have been?


I think you have assumed too much here, Paidion. Jesus does not need to have a "fallen, human nature" in order to be tempted (tested). "And the tempter [3985] came to Him, "If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." (Matthew 4:3) He was tempted simply because of the notion that He was "the Son of God". He was given temptations similar to us all; but because He was "the Son of God" (i.e., perfect - as was Adam); He succeeded every test and temptation... yet allowing Him to "sympathize with our weaknesses". Jesus knows the temptations placed before us because the devil had also tempted Him to rebel against the Father. It does not require that Jesus had a fallen sinful body. I am surprised that you have suggested that...
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby DaveB » Sun Dec 08, 2013 3:14 pm

His body did age, he did have to eat and drink...apparently it was like ours, or what was the point....I don't know if we call that a 'sinful' body or not - are our bodies sinful? I think not.
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby Stefcui » Sun Dec 08, 2013 3:27 pm

DaveB wrote:His body did age, he did have to eat and drink...apparently it was like ours, or what was the point....I don't know if we call that a 'sinful' body or not - are our bodies sinful? I think not.


It depends what you mean, Dave... Using biblical terminology, it is taught that sin resides within our bodies. So yes, our bodies are sinful...

"Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin,
and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned
..."
Romans 5:12

"For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.
For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out
."
Romans 7:18
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Re: A challenging article re: Trinitarian thought.

Postby DaveB » Sun Dec 08, 2013 3:36 pm

Don't see any mention of the body there, Steve.
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