• Walter Pound
    199
    Is the trinity logically incoherent?

    Anyone know of any theist who has explained this issue?

    This video is a good introduction to the problem:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_WPuPdFsIg
  • andrewk
    2.1k
    It is not possible to prove the doctrine either coherent or incoherent, because its explanation contains so many undefined terms. All explanations of the trinity that are not rejected by the RC church as heretical are word salads. Thus, for those that wish to believe that it contains some sort of deep, ungraspable truth, there is enough wiggle room for them to do that. For the majority of humans, who have no interest in believing it, there is plenty of room to dismiss it as meaningless.

    Historically, the origin of the doctrine was an attempt by medieval (or earlier) theologians to reconcile the statements in the NT that could be read to imply that Jesus is separate from his 'father' and from the 'spirit', with the doctrine that there is only one god.

    Somebody decided early on that the easy explanation - that the references are just to different manifestations of the one entity - must be rejected, and as a result they've had to struggle with it ever since.

    I read somewhere that muslim scholars regard the doctrine as blasphemous because it suggests there is more than one god.
  • Walter Pound
    199
    thanks for the reply. Yes, I also was worried that some of the supposed answers are just abuses in language.
  • Bitter Crank
    7.8k
    I have always found explanations of the Trinity to be pious gobbledegook. The Trinity can be pleasantly invoked for blessings, and referencing the Trinity is comforting for many people (a comforting ritual, making the sign of the cross...) but once theologians start to explain it, the whole thing falls apart. I'd prefer that there be one god (the father) or there be three -- father, son, and holy ghost. Making one god into three and insisting that you are only talking about one... it's crazy.

    But then there are other difficult things to explain -- like how bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ, and why anyone would especially want bread and wine to be changed into flesh.

    Then there is that star which guided the 3 wisemen to this alleged stable supposedly in Bethlehem: What happened to this exceptionally specific guiding light after the 3 wisemen arrived? Did the star just go out? Did it keep drifting to the west? Did it backtrack to where it started?

    And let's not even get started on the virgin birth.
  • Rank Amateur
    1.6k
    There is nothing in accordance with our human logic that could explain the trinity

    However, if one by faith believes in a god as the creator of all we can imagine. A trinity, a few miracles and even a virgin birth seems rather easy. If one by faith does not believe in such a god. Seems a tad redundant not to believe in the trinity

    Can’t see how there is very much philosophy to discuss on this
  • Walter Pound
    199
    Can’t see how there is very much philosophy to discuss on thisRank Amateur

    The question is not on whether the doctrine of the Trinity is true, but on whether the doctrine is logically coherent; thus, the question is within the domain of philosophy.
  • Terrapin Station
    9.9k
    Wake me when we find the religious claim that's coherent.
  • MindForged
    763
    Well, for it to be coherent the various terms must refer to the same being unless Christians want to be polytheists. By the Identity of Indiscernables if everything that is true of one is not true of the others, they cannot be the same object. And since this doesn't seem to be what they believe - after all, Jesus died but God didn't - I just ended up confused.

    One could, I suppose, articulate some theory of identity that isn't transitive and so maybe try and solve it that way (maybe? This is an idle thought). But this is way to much trouble just to salvage this tenet of a religion. There's little gained by going to all this trouble.
  • Rank Amateur
    1.6k

    As I have argued on other threads, I know of no reason based argument that says we as humans have any basis at all to say anything about the nature of such a thing as God

    What seems to the normal do loop is an atheist will take a theist claim that is solely based on faith, and argue it is not supported by reason.

    The theist response to this should be duh.
  • MindForged
    763
    As I have argued on other threads, I know of no reason based argument that says we as humans have any basis at all to say anything about the nature of such a thing as GodRank Amateur

    Then there is no argument to be had. You're not articulating a viewpoint that can be defended at all. So why even talk about it ever, much less believe in it? After all, if I have no basis (Hah!) on which to point out the notion of the Trinity is incoherent then the Christian has no basis to say it's coherent. You wouldn't accept this kind of reasoning anywhere else.
  • Rank Amateur
    1.6k

    I hold my point is both valid and important. Both theists and atheists make all kinds of propositions about the nature of god in their arguments. Yet I know of no rationale argument that supports we have the ability to make any such claim

    If you know of one I would be truly interested in hearing it
  • Rank Amateur
    1.6k
    After all, if I have no basis (Hah!) on which to point out the notion of the Trinity is incoherent then the Christian has no basis to say it's coherentMindForged

    The Christian is free to believe in the trinity as long as it is acknowledged that this is a belief based on faith, not fact or reason.

    You have every right to say such a thing as the trinity in incoherent with human reason

    And to that I say duh.
  • MindForged
    763
    I hold my point is both valid and important. Both theists and atheists make all kinds of propositions about the nature of god in their arguments. Yet I know of no rationale argument that supports we have the ability to make any such claimRank Amateur

    Define what God is. If this cannot be done then it's both pointless to believe in it and pointless to discuss it at all. If it can be defined - and many people do define the nature of God, from being omnipotent to being part of a Trinity - then that definition can be analyzed and criticized, as I did earlier.

    The Christian is free to believe in the trinity as long as it is acknowledged that this is a belief based on faith, not fact or reason.Rank Amateur

    That's all well and good, really it is. But then proselytizing must forever be acknowledged by its practioners as an attempt to appeal purely to the emotions of others (from fear of hell to desire of an eternal love) and not something where one really defends their faith. Rather, it's just defending the permissibility of having faith of some sort. And that's just a boring discussion IMO.
  • Rank Amateur
    1.6k
    I would highly encourage an end to proselytizing by both theists and atheists.
  • Terrapin Station
    9.9k
    Yet I know of no rationale argument that supports we have the ability to make any such claimRank Amateur

    Again, why would you believe any claim whatsoever about God then? Why not simply move on to something you can make a rational/supported claim about?
  • DingoJones
    796
    I would highly encourage an end to proselytizing by both theists and atheists.Rank Amateur

    What is it that you are doing when you say things like this? Ive observed you seldom miss a chance to make this point, isnt it the same thing?
    Also, if you think nothing can be known about god, what do you actually believe in? Dont you believe is nothing? Why would you believe in something you cant attribute any traits too? How?
  • Rank Amateur
    1.6k
    the only reason based claim I have ever made is the cosmological argument for a necessary being

    I have not made any faith based arguments on here, because they are theology not philosophy

    I have all kinds of faith based reasons why I believe in God, non of which I feel a need to defend, and non of which I feel should be attacked
  • Terrapin Station
    9.9k
    I have all kinds of faith based reasons why I believe in God, non of which I feel a need to defend, and non of which I feel should be attackedRank Amateur

    If you have reasons that support your beliefs, then I'd say that there's (at least putatively) a rational basis for them.
  • Rank Amateur
    1.6k
    What is it that you are doing when you say things like this? Ive observed you seldom miss a chance to make this point, isnt it the same thing?DingoJones

    I feel it is an important point to make, anytime anyone makes a claim about the nature of god. That they have no reason based support to make such a claim.

    I am not sure many are aware of this, and it is relevant for them to understand such propositions are outside reason.
  • Rank Amateur
    1.6k
    I said faith based reasons - again theology not philosophy
  • DingoJones
    796


    Faith isnt a reason. It has no explanatory power at all. Its the answer given when a person has no reason. If you had one, then thats what you would would say.
  • Rank Amateur
    1.6k

    I prefer Thomas Merton’s understaning

    Reason is in fact the path to faith, and faith takes over when reason can say no more.
  • DingoJones
    796


    Im sorry, that just sounds utterly vacuous of meaning to me. It says nothing about why you believe in something. It is just a word you use in place of a reason, because you dont really have one. If you did, again, you would offer that.
  • schopenhauer1
    2.8k


    Judaism around the time of Jesus had incorporated more "other wordly" elements, as opposed to their mainly "this worldly" emphasis in pre-Babylonian Exile period. In the post-Exilic period, after Persia conquered Babylonia, much of Persia's Zoroastrian influence worked its way into the common Judaic practices by at leas the 3rd century BCE. For example, we see evidence in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Enoch 1 and 2 more of an emphasis on angels and heavenly beings. Even towards the end of the Hebrew Bible, in Ezekiel and Daniel we see grandiose visions of angels and God's presence sitting on a chariot situated on strange angel-like wheels and archangels, etc. In the Book of Daniel we see the idea of a Son of Man that sits next to Ancient of Days. This Son of Man is perhaps the missing link in the 1st Century Judaism and the early Jesus movement.

    The Son of Man was associated as God's scribe and helped judge the righteous- this is in books of Enoch I believe. Two things happened- the Son of Man was a nebulous figure in these visions and more elaborate stories developed to the role of this mysterious figure. In early Rabbinic Judaism, if we read Enoch 3 (written in the 500-600s CE), we see famous rabbis of the Talmudic period trying to ascend the heavens in a meditative technique whereby they try to see the vision of the chariot as described in Ezekiel and Daniel. In Enoch 3, it is revealed to Rabbi Ishmael ben Elisha that the Son of Man was once the living man Enoch (Noah's great-grandfather). Enoch was one of the only men transformed into an divine being (like an angel) called Metatron and becomes head of the angels and men in the realm of judgement of sins I believe. So Son of Man = Enoch = Metatron = right hand judgement figure

    Anyways, this is some really escoteric stuff. Being that Rabbinic Judaism (post-Temple Judaism) emphasized this world as opposed to other wordly matters, this is some very fascinating and surprisingly other wordly stuff to be found in the early Rabbinic literature. This proves that the idea of the Son of Man was a powerful idea, so powerful it pokes through even in the post-Temple Judaism of the this-wordly variety typified by Rabbinic Judaism.

    Now, if we only see remnants of this Son of Man emphasis in Rabbinic Judaism, I'm betting it was even more pronounced in Second Temple Judaism in the time of Jesus. That is to say, groups like the Dead Sea Scroll Sect/Essenes had versions of the Enoch 1 and ideas about the Son of Man in their literature. They certainly had more emphasis on the other worldly, with more discussion of angels, End of Times, struggle of good (the elect/saints) vs. the bad people. Sons of Light and Sons of Darkness are big with them.

    So what is the nature of the Son of Man? I am not sure, but some texts identify it as an angelic being (specifically either with Metatron or Michael who could be interchangeable in some stories). Some identify it with the messiah (king from line of David), some identify it with its own being. There is a text in the Talmud where Rabbi Akiva mentions the possibility Daniel's vision was about the messiah. Rabbi Yose quickly dismisses him as being good at the law (halacha) but not good at intepreting/recalling the stories (aggadah).. that clearly (in his Yose's view that is) the figure next to the Ancient of Days was all of Israel. So we can see the impulse to identify the Son of Man as an individual messianic character in the Talmud even, even if ultimately this idea is rebuked.

    So perhaps, Jesus being from the Galilean region was a mix of various Jewish ideas of the time- probably leaning towards a liberal Pharisee message (his ideas about the law essentially echo the debates between Rabbis Hillel and Shamai going on at the time), with heavy influences by the Essenes due to emphasis on other wordly- World to Come, Kingdom of Heaven is nigh!!, End of Times, good vs. evil, mention of angels, and heavy emphasis on idea of Son of Man. This group perhaps thought that Jesus was a human par excellence- with the soul of Adam.. thus the symbolic idea of being baptized by John was symbolic of his soul becoming more aligned with the heavenly sphere, perhaps gaining the abilities of the Son of Man on Earth, but as a human messiah - with these powers- not as a god-figure which he later became.

    From this more nuanced idea of a human representative of the Son of Man, we can see it doesn't take too much for later disciples (after Jesus' death) to take this idea and go even further, making him a literal Son of God. Instead of Jesus being an exemplar of following the Torah to its fullest degree, the religion starts revolving around that actual person of Jesus himself as a divine figure that should be worshiped.. Thus, I think lines like "You can't go through the Father without the Son" in the Gospels, were interpolations after Jesus' death. The Son of Man references are probably more authentic to the original idea about what Jesus' character was in this early movement.

    From Paul's idea of a literal Son of God, we have Jesus being with God since the beginning, and then him being coequal with God as a divine entity to be worshippped with God and from here it doesn't take much to get to the idea of the trinity which had many manifestations until it was "decided" by vote at the Council of Nicea some official version of this represented by the Church Father Athenasius.

    Thus the trinity concept was a later development that evolved from the original Jesus movement by way of incremental steps, especially from people like Paul of Tarsus and later Church Fathers who wanted shape the theology a certain way.
  • Valentinus
    428

    Your account is good but the element of Gnostic influences upon the Pharisees and the early Christians make it more complicated. Jesus is heard countering both Sadducees and Pharisees so it all got mixed up before the Pauline view became dominant.

    The efforts made by the early church Fathers to make all the first arguments disappear into doctrine makes what was happening with the Jews in Jerusalem and the early Christians of many different outlooks very difficult to reconstruct as history. Throw in the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD and you have a perfect storm of conflicting ideas fighting in ever shifting arenas of language and culture.
  • schopenhauer1
    2.8k

    Jesus quotes concerning law seem pretty in line with pharisaic notions. My own theory is he was may have been a part of that movement and when the text say “Pharisees” it means a specific type or group of Pharisees. Or he may have been uniquely representative of the an Haaretz Jews as were found in the countryside of Galllee. That is to say, he emphasized the intent of the law being most important, not the extreme ritual purity aspects which was an innovation/attribute of Pharisees to add Kohein/priestly purity laws upon all Jews. It could have represented class struggles of the time. The lower am Haaretz had it right in other words..

    Gnostics I think came from Greek/Persian/Egyptian influence on diaspora Jews in Syria and Egypt and had less impact on Jews in Judea proper. However, parallels with Gnostic ideas can be seen in angelic beings and layers of heaven which I think were more a general influence fro
    Babylonian and Persian cultures after the Babylonian exile.

    It does seem clear through Paul’s epistles and Acts that the early movement was of a more Torah based character and that he had conflicts with specifically James/Jacob, Jesus brother who headed the early community. I agree with many scholars who argue that there was never a reconciliation of Paul and James. Though Acts make it seem like a clean alliance after a Jerusalem council it seems probable that Paul was not liked by James and changed the fundamental direction of the group. Pauline’s ideas obviously became dominant as it was geared to a more open and wider pagan audience.
  • Valentinus
    428

    Well said. I will take a closer look at those distinctions between Pharisees.

    The struggles between Paul's and James' narrative was the most critical matter at that time.

    It is interesting to me how deeply the Gnostic element got involved very early. Those Babylonian and Persian cultures popping up in different ways, perhaps.
  • schopenhauer1
    2.8k
    Well said. I will take a closer look at those distinctions between Pharisees.Valentinus

    Yes, it is amazing how even scholarly types will forget that none of these Jewish sects/parties during the time of Jesus were monolithic. Just like there are various kinds of Democrats and Republicans, these sects had internal debates within them too that made for even more diverse viewpoints. There were Pharisees who thought divorce was allowed for reasons other than adultry (House of Hillel for example) and there were Pharisees who did not (House of Shammai), for example. There were more lenient Pharisees and more strict Pharisees. Jesus may represent a more lenient Pharisaic faction- one more in touch with the am ha-aretz. It was a sort of reform movement for Pharisees, perhaps. Their oral Torah traditions allowed for a multiplicity of interpretations. If the Talmud represents some viewpoints of pre-Temple Pharisaic thought, then indeed rabbis disagreed on many issues. If John the Baptist has connections with some sort of Essenic sect in the Galilee, then perhaps he represents a more outward-facing Essene vs. the more inward/purity-obssessed facing Dead Sea Scroll sect represented in, of course, the Dead Sea Scroll texts. The Sadducees may also have had some diversity, though their literature is scarcer if at all.

    The struggles between Paul's and James' narrative was the most critical matter at that time.Valentinus

    Absolutely. This is a nuanced but major point people overlook. If Paul's writings in Galatians is examined, it is very apparent that James distrusts Paul to the point of sending spies on him for allowing Jews to eat at the same table as gentiles (who ate unkosher foods). There seems to be little love lost between the two, and I doubt that rift was actually repaired, though Acts tries to gloss over it. James can be said to represent the original movement- a link that can go back to John the Baptist, then Jesus, then James as leaders of this particular apocalyptic Jewish movement.

    It is interesting to me how deeply the Gnostic element got involved very early. Those Babylonian and Persian cultures popping up in different ways, perhaps.Valentinus

    Yes the Gnostic elements were pretty early, but Gnosticism as a movement was around before Jesus. It was very easy to fit him in their scheme of a God of Light above the earthly god, the Demiurge. What people don't take in consideration is how Paul's theology was a sort of "limited" Gnosticism. Instead of the God of the Hebrew Bible being an evil Demiurge who is keeping people from knowing the real God of Light, he replaces the Demiurge with the Torah. The Torah represents the earthly realm and is replaced, via the death/resurrection of Jesus with an easier form of "redemption". The Torah is thus replaced by the dead/resurrected god-man in the figure of Jesus in Paul's conception, just as in Gnosticism, the God of the Hebrew Bible (associated with the Demiurge) is replaced by the God of Light.

    Paul also adds in mystery cultic practices too. The god's death and resurrection and communion through the eating of flesh and blood of the god, while foreign to Jewish ideologies of the time, fit in perfectly with cults like to Mitrhas (heavily practiced in Tarsus.. Paul's home by the way), Isis, Dionysus and several other popular pagan mystery cults. If this is true, Paul essentially fused the pagan Mediterranean influences of both Gnostics (Torah replaced by Jesus death), and Mystery Cult religions (communion with resurrected god through eating blood and flesh..metaphorically in this case).
  • Valentinus
    428

    And if it was not already complicated enough, the sources of different mythologies you cite got mixed into the Plato and Neo Plato thing as those different languages are themselves separate responses to elements that are not clearly recorded.

    This all needs more than one discussion but I will only emphasize before leaving for the night that it did not help clarity these things that all sides of the discussion were all operating in mediums of fluid chaos all at the same time.

    May the days get longer and there be less chaos. The bad kind, anyway.
  • schopenhauer1
    2.8k
    And if it was not already complicated enough, the sources of different mythologies you cite got mixed into the Plato and Neo Plato thing as those different languages are themselves separate responses to elements that are not clearly recorded.Valentinus

    Sure, look at Philo and his idea of Logos already there pre-Gospel/Christian period.. Clearly, Diasporan Jewish thought was influenced through Platonic ideals (as can be seen clearly in Philo of Alexandria, a Jewish diasporean intellect and possibly first theologian of sorts). But, this just lends more credence that Pauline and gentile Christian ideology was borrowing heavily from outside influences that were not there in the original Galilean/Judean Jesus movement. Then in the early Middle Ages, of course there was more influence by the Neoplatonists, but by that time, it was already way off from the original being 300 years removed and redacted/interpolated by Church Fathers with various agendas, descending from an already off- Pauline theology.
  • Mariner
    366
    If one is interested in the history behind the dogma, a good source is "Retrieving Nicaea", by Khaled Anatolios. He shows very well how the "scriptural data" were universally accepted by all parties of the discussion about the divinity of Christ, about the nature of the Holy Spirit, etc.; in other words, the development of the dogma was a response to some aporias that were present in the first texts of the religion, and particularly among the many sayings of Jesus that indicated tensions between Jesus-as-man and Jesus-as-divine. St. Paul's formulation of the issue in Colossians is sufficiently ambiguous to not solve anything :D -- https://biblehub.com/colossians/1-19.htm

    However, it must be noted that the fact of the dogma having been developed as it was (rather than, e.g., in an Arian direction) was predicated on the decisive influence of St. Antony (a very important influence on Athanasius), who, in the third century, was giving direct testimony on the divinity of Christ. To put it differently: the divinity of Christ (rather than his primacy among creatures -- the Arian interpretation of the texts) was selected, among other reasons, because Antony declared that he knew, by direct apprehension of Christ, that Christ was God. And people, including Athanasius, believed in Antony, on account of his all too obvious holiness. In other words, it was not solely a matter of textual interpretation. Of course, since Antony, hundreds of other saints have reinforced that aspect, of the direct apprehension of Christ's divinity.

    In my opinion, there are two great classical sources on the logical analysis of the Trinity itself -- St. Augustine (De Trinitate) and St. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa. Both, in different ways, clarify a lot of the doubts raised here. My own preference is Aquinas: in the Summa Theologiae, the questions 27-43 of the First Part are an in-depth analysis of the Trinity. I still remember the joy of reading it for the first time some 20 years ago, and of understanding so much that is obscure about the idea of the Trinity.

    http://newadvent.org/summa/1.htm
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