The Problem of the Trinity
Mohamad Mostafa Nassar
Our question concerns the logical consistency of the following septad, each limb of which is a commitment of orthodoxy.
How can the following propositions all be true?
1. There is only one God.
2. The Father is God.
3. The Son is God.
4. The Holy Spirit is God.
5. The Father is not the Son.
6. The Son is not the Holy Spirit.
7. The Father is not the Holy Spirit.
If we assume that in (2)-(7), the ‘is’ expresses absolute numerical identity, then it is clear that the septad is inconsistent. (Identity has the following properties: it is reflexive, symmetric, transitive, governed by the Indiscernibility of Identicals).
For example, from (2) and (3) taken together it follows that the Father is the Son by Transitivity of Identity. But this contradicts (5).
So we have an inconsistent septad each limb of which is a commitment of orthodoxy. The task is to remove the contradiction without abandoning orthodoxy. There are different ways to proceed.
We hear others say:
2*. The Father is divine
3*. The Son is divine
4*. The Holy Spirit is divine.
But this implies that there are three Gods=Polytheism, which contradicts (1). The trick is to retain real distinctness of Persons while avoiding tritheism.
Trinitirians also blends the above strategy wth a mereological one. Following W. L. Craig, he thinks of the Persons as (proper) parts of God/Godhead. Each is God in that each is a (proper) part of God/Godhead.
The idea, I take it, is that Persons are really distinct in virtue of being really distinct proper parts of God, but that there is only one God because there is only one whole of these parts. Each Person is divine in that each is a part of the one God.
The parts of God are divine but not God in the way that the proper parts of a cat are not cats but are feline. Thus the skeleton of a cat is not a cat but is feline. The skeleton is feline without being a feline.
But I have a question. On orthodoxy as I understand it, God is one, not merely in number, but in a deeper metaphysical sense. Roughly, God is a unity whose unity is ‘tighter’ than the unity of other sorts of unity. Indeed, as befits an absolute, his unity is that than which no tighter can be conceived.
The unity of mathematical sets and mereological sums is fairly loose, and the same goes for such concrete aggregates as Kerouac holding his cat. Although we are not forced to take the whole-part relation in the strict sense of classical mereology,
I think it remains the case that the unity of anything that could be called a whole of parts will be too loose to capture the divine unity.
For one thing, wholes depend on their parts for their existence, and not vice versa. (Unless you thought of parts as abstractions from the whole, which the Persons could not be.) Parts are ontologically prior to the wholes of which they are the parts.
This holds even in the cases in which the whole is a necessary being and each part is as well. The mathematical set of all primes greater than 1 and less than 8 is a necessary being, but so is each element of this set: 3, 5, and 7 are each necessary beings.
Still, the existence of the set is metaphysically grounded in the existence of the elements, and not vice versa. The divine aseity, however, rules out God’s being dependent on anything.
So my question is does the view that God is a whole of parts do justice to the divine unity?
None can worship three distinct Divine Persons Equally
According to the ‘doctrine’ of the Trinity, the three persons of the Trinity are DISTINCT persons which means one person is not the other — the Father is NOT the Son and is NOT the Holy Spirit and vice versa.
And each of these three distinct/ separate allegedly divine persons receives Christian worship which means each of these three separate persons is an object of Christian worship.
So, the one million dollar question here is: could Christians render divine worship to all these three separate objects of divine worship equally without loving, adoring and worshipping one more than the others?
The answer is an emphatic NO because man is naturally unable to love, adore and worship two or more separate objects of divine worship equally.
The consequence of this fact is that the Christian worshipper unknowingly treats the he/she loves and worships most as the supreme object of worship while the two others whom he/she loves and worships less as less important!
This is the very problem with all other forms of polytheism which is why polytheism is practically unrealistic and wrong.
In the parable of two masters, Jesus teaches that no man can worship two masters equally: –
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24 KJV)
Berne’s Note on the Bible on Matthew 6:24 says:
“a servant cannot serve two masters at the same time. His affections and obedience would be divided, and he would fail altogether in his duty to one or the other. One he would love, the other he would hate.
To the interests of the one he would adhere, the interests of the other he would neglect. This is a law of human nature. THE SUPREME AFFECTIONS CAN BE FIXED ON ONLY ONE OBJECT.”
Pulpit Commentary of the Bible says on Matthew 6:24: –
“No man can give due service to two masters. For, apart from the extent of the claim of each master – total bond-service (δουλεύειν) – thorough service of two masters is incompatible with the effects produced upon the servant himself. The result of service is to incline him towards the one master and against the other.