A Philosophical Analysis of the Doctrine of the Trinity

The doctrine of the Trinity is described as three persons of one essence. I discussed in my previous post that it is logically incoherent to say that three can be God but not also be each other, since this would go against the Transitive Law: if a (the Father), b (the Son), and c (the Holy Spirit) are all equal to d (God), then each must also be equal to (or simply be) each other. Of course, if each person be each other (that is, if the Father and the Son be each other and also each be the Holy Spirit), they are not separate persons. Now we will make a more philosophical analysis of the doctrine of the Trinity.

DIFFERENTIATION IN GENERATION

I have already mentioned briefly in my previous analysis of the Trinity that the Trinity is often described in terms of generation. The Father is said to be unbegotten; the Son begotten; and the Holy Spirit proceeding. Now, if no other difference is listed among the persons, then at least this one usually is, especially since this difference is found in the Nicene Creed, which is largely responsible for defining the doctrine of the Trinity.

With that said, this differentiation of generation would seem to imply different essences. If the Son is begotten of the Father and if the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, then the Father is the source of both. However, something cannot generate itself. Therefore, a difference in generation implies a difference in essences and in beings.

THE INDIVIDUALITY OF THE PERSONS

Personhood necessarily implies individuality. Therefore, each person of the Trinity must have individuality. However, individuality always implies differences, such that each person is itself and not another. Because of this, each person of the Trinity must be said to not be each other; that is, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit must all not be one another. Going back to the Transitive Law, if each member of the Trinity is not each other, then each cannot be identified as the one being God. (Again, according to the Transitive Law, if a and b are both equal to c, then they must both be equal to each other. This can be expanded to include more terms.) On the other hand, unless each member of the Trinity is not each other, then they cannot be separate persons.

THE DEATH OF THE SON

Another difference among the persons that needs to be discussed is the death of one of those persons—the Son. If the Son died and if all three are one, it would seem as if all three would have died. However, this is not said to be the case. The Son, that is, Jesus, died: this is generally agreed upon among Christians. If Jesus were God, it would follow that God also died, yet the Father and the Holy Spirit did not die. This creates an incoherence. If the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all God, then to be logically coherent all must have died if God dies. Seeing that this is not the case with the death of the Son, the Son cannot be the same being as the Father or the Holy Spirit.

Saying that Jesus died according to the human nature but not according to the divine nature does nothing to the argument. Either Jesus is God, or he is not God. If Jesus were God, then God would have died when Jesus died. Furthermore, it was the person of Jesus that died, not merely his human nature. Therefore, if he were both a human and God, then both a human and God died at the death of Jesus.

CONCLUSION

It does not appear as if there is any logically coherent way for there to be a God who is three persons yet one God. Appealing to mystery is unsatisfactory and only admits the logical incoherency of the doctrine. Furthermore, the Trinity cannot properly be called a paradox, since a paradox only at fist appears contradictory but can be shown to be logically coherent after further analysis. Because the Trinity, even after further analysis, is shown to be logically incoherent, it is not a paradox.

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