IS THE TRINITY A NECESSARY LOGICAL CONTRADICTION?
Sometimes I like to pose a question before answering this one. That is, when I hear non-Christians refer to anything that has to do with “logic” I want to know what it is exactly that they are referring to. I find that what many people have in mind has more to do with just general critical thinking. In the filed of philosophy logic becomes more technical and precise. But what I really want to know is from the non-believer’s perspective what is logic? what is its origin, nature, essence, etc? I usually don’t ask for a whole lot of detail since this question is still trying to be answered logicians today. My point is, apart from the Trinitarian understanding of reality, laws of logic become problematic. Non-Christian philosophical systems seem to have a great deal of difficulty explaining the nature of the laws of logic but they ironically insist on using them. I know this is confusing to grasp at this point in the discussion so I will briefly say that within Trinitarian understanding of reality we have a foundational understanding for the existence of universal, abstract, invariant, entities such as those described in logical laws as well as an account of how the particulars of experience are universalized. Hopefully I can get into more of this in a later post.
SO!, is the Trinity a necessary contradiction? The reason people say that it is might be because we haven’t done a very good job at explaining it. First, I will begin with what the Trinity is not. It is important to understand what I am about to say. Here it goes; God is NOT a mathematical singularity. This is the first mistake that is always made not only by non-believers but by believers alike. By necessity the Trinity must be an ontological necessity. This is why the author of the book of Acts refers to God as the “Being in whom we live, move, and have our being (Acts 17:28).”
Moving forward, what we often hear from non-believers is “how can God be ‘one’ (Deut. 6:4) if he is three? From their perspective we are saying 1+1+1=1. Interestingly the word for “one” in Deuteronomy 6:4 is the same word for “one” in Genesis 2:24 (Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh). But from the particular perspective of the non-believer they are correct; that does present a logical contradiction. It’s like we are saying God is A but he is also -A. But in reality what we are saying is that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is A in person and B in unity and essence. However, after I neatly phrased the explanation it is important to understand that this does not give us the totality of understanding about God’s nature.
There is indeed much that is left to the mystery of God. However, some push that “mystery” terminology too far as if any time we talk about the relationship we find in Scripture between the three persons we are talking about the unknown. That is inherently wrong. The reason we are talking about it is because we found it in Scripture and therefore the “mystery” has been revealed not exhaustively but particularly. That is to say not totally but as much as a finite man or woman can understand.
It is within this finite understanding that we come to understand that the three persons of the holy Trinity are One. Our understanding of this truth is not exhaustive nor should we ever claim it to be since as Martin Heidegger once quipped any god that we can understand exhaustively is no god for me.
Tell me your thoughts. More to come.