Trinity, doctrine of the

   The doctrine of the Trinity can be stated in two simple propositions:
   1. There exists exactly one divine substance: God.
   2. There exist exactly three divine persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
   The problems arise in reconciling these two propositions: what is the relation between the persons and the substance? Some Christian philosophers believe that in the Trinity there is one thinker (that is, God) - the challenge for them is to understand how there can be three divine persons. Other Christian philosophers believe that in the Trinity there are three thinkers (that is, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) - the challenge for them is to understand how there can be one God. One suggestion, put forward by Peter Geach and Peter van Inwagen, is that of relative identity: this allows that the Father can be the same God as, but a different person from, the Son. Another suggestion is that 'the Father is God' is not an identity statement at all, but a mere predication of divinity of the Father. This is often coupled with the claim that the divine substance is merely the divine nature - an abstract set of properties instantiated in the divine persons. The charge of tritheism is deflected by the claim that there are not three independent gods or Gods, but three divine persons that always cooperate. These theories are social theories of the Trinity that stress the plurality; other theories stress the unity of the Trinity, claiming that the three persons are different modes of being of the one divine substance or different aspects of his character.
   Further reading: Davis, Kendall and O'Collins 1999; Geach 1980; Swinburne 1994; van Inwagen 1995

Christian Philosophy . . 2015.

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