Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Definition of Trinity

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Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Definition of Trinity

Post by darinhouston » Sat Mar 06, 2021 11:51 am

One of the challenges in discussion the Trinity is because there is no consensus on what is meant. Even "what is a person" is a mixed bag as is "Jesus is God." What you mean by that significantly affects the direction of a discussion, and folks aren't often aware what they mean by the positions they take. This is a pretty comprehensive discussion of the various views of the Trinity. I thought it could assist our discourse and perhaps lead to some other interesting discussions.


A Trinity doctrine is commonly expressed as the statement that the one God exists as or in three equally divine “Persons”, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Every term in this statement (God, exists, as or in, equally divine, Person) has been variously understood. The guiding principle has been the creedal declaration that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit of the New Testament are consubstantial (i.e. the same in substance or essence, Greek: homoousios). Because this shared substance or essence is a divine one, this is understood to imply that all three named individuals are divine, and equally so. Yet the three in some sense “are” the one God of the Bible.

After its formulation and imperial enforcement towards the end of the fourth century, this sort of Christian theology reigned more or less unchallenged. But before this, and again in post-Reformation modernity, the origin, meaning, and justification of trinitarian doctrine has been repeatedly disputed. These debates are discussed in supplementary documents to this entry. One aspect of these debates concerns the self-consistency of trinitarian theology. If there are three who are equally divine, isn’t that to say there are at least three gods? Yet the tradition asserts exactly one god. Is the tradition, then, incoherent, and so self-refuting? Since the revival of analytic philosophy of religion in the 1960s, many Christian philosophers have pursued what is now called analytic theology, in which religious doctrines are given formulations which are precise, and it is hoped self-consistent and otherwise defensible. This article surveys these recent “rational reconstructions” of the Trinity doctrine, which employ concepts from contemporary analytic metaphysics, logic, and epistemology.

1. One-self Theories
1.1 Selves, gods, and modes
1.2 What is a mode?
1.3 One-self Theories and “Modalism” in Theology
1.4 Trinity as Incoherent
1.5 Divine Life Streams
1.6 Analogy to an Extended Simple
1.7 Difficulties for One-self Theories
1.8 The Holy Spirit as a Mode of God

2. Three-self Theories
2.1 Relative Identity Theories
2.2 20th Century Theologians and “Social” Theories
2.3 Ersatz Monotheism
2.4 Trope-Constitution Monotheism
2.5 Trinity Monotheism
2.6 Material Monotheism
2.7 Concept-relative Monotheism

3. Four-self, No-self, and Indeterminate Self Theories
3.1 God as a Functional Person
3.2 Temporal Parts Monotheism
3.3 Persons as Relational Qua-Objects
3.4 Persons as Improper Parts of God

4. Mysterianism
4.1 Negative Mysterianism
4.2 Positive Mysterianism

5. Beyond Coherence
5.1 “The Trinity” and Tripersonality
5.2 Logic Puzzles and Language
5.3 Foundations
5.4 Competing Narratives

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