The logic of the Trinity
I want to do a few blogs on the Trinity. The first one will be about the logic of the Trinity. The second one will be about Biblical arguments for the Trinity. The third one will address common objections to the Trinity. This comes from an outline I did when I taught on the Trinity in Sunday school a few years ago.
First, let me give a definition of the Trinity: There is one being who is God, and that God exists as three distinct persons, namely the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who are coequal and coeternal. The one uncreated God is a tri-personal being.
I'll admit that the Trinity seems odd, but it is not, as some suppose, self-contradictory. On the surface, to say that God is One and Three at the same time seems contradictory, but we must remember what a contradiction is. Two claims can only contradict each other if they are talking about the same thing at the same time and in the same sense. God is not three in the same sense that God is one. If the Trinity required that God was one being who was three beings, that would be a contradiction. Or if the Trinity required that God was one person who was three persons, that would also be a contradiction. But the Trinity requires that God is one being who is three persons. There is no contradiction, because God is one in a different sense than God is three.
This being/person distinction strikes us as odd for the simple reason that in or ordinary experience, all people and animals are uni-personal beings. "Being" and "person" are nevertheless distinct categories. A being is anything that exists. A person is a particular kind of being that posesses personhood. Here's an analogy to explain this categorical difference:
rock: 1 being, 0 persons.
human: 1 being, 1 person.
God: 1 being, 3 persons.
Since not all beings are persons, "being" and "person" are distinct categories. If it's possible for there to be one being who is not a person, and another being who is one person, there's no difficulty in supposing the possibility of there being another being who is three persons.
To further clarify what exactly the Trinity is, I'll contrast it with three other views. These views go by different names, so I'll mention all that I'm aware of.
Trinitarianism = tri-unitarianism
one nature or being (God) who is three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)
Modalism = Sabellianism = Jesus Only = Oneness = Patripassionism
One person (Jesus) who manifests himself in three modes or natures (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)
Arianism = Subordinationism = Unitarianism
One being (God = YHWH) who is one person (the Father). Jesus is a created being.
Tri-theism = polytheism
Three separate and distinct gods.
Arians (especially Jehovah's Witnesses) often confuse Trinitarianism with either tri-theism or modalism. Trinitarians do not believe the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are separate and distinct Gods (tri-theism), but rather they are separate and distinct persons. Neither do Trinitarians believe that the Father and the Son are the same person (modalism), but rather that they are the same being.
The Trinity is arrived at by deductive reasoning. It's based on the logical consistency of various points found in the Bible.
1. There is one and only one God.
2. The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God.
From these two points, it follows deductively that:
3. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the same God.
But there's another point:
4. The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not the Father.
From 3 and 4, it follows deductively that the one God is a tri-personal being.
The question now is whether or not these three points are Biblical. If they are, then the Trinity is Biblical.
For the Trinity, part 1