Tuesday, March 10, 2009

AGAINST SUBORDINATIONISM SECTION D: Thoughts on the Theories of the Trinity



Cynthia M. Kunsman

Upon my personal study of both Bruce Ware’s doctrine of Trinity as well as the Federal Vision doctrine of the Trinity, it is my opinion that these views are consistent with what Robert Leftow, JP Moreland and William Lane Craig describe as functional monotheism. In my opinion, based on how a person makes sense of the world and which cerebral hemisphere they prefer, which affects learning and accommodation of knowledge, I believe that a person will either prefer a social trinitarianism or an anti-social trinitarianism. I suspect that Left-Brained individuals (those whose personalities and brains prefer to use the left cerebral hemisphere predominantly) will tend prefer Social Trinitarianism Theory, and the Right-Brained individual will tend to prefer Anti-social Trinitarianism. Remember that because we do not have God’s perspective, no man has seen God at any time and we see through a glass darkly, all attempts to wrap our minds around God will be incomplete and so our concepts are theories only.
Through the application of good hermeneutical principles, I believe that one of these theories can be ruled out because it anthropomorphizes the Trinity and descends rapidly and unavoidably into polythieistic tri-theism, somewhat of a redundant term. Because the theory is so limited to human perspective, I believe that it does not provide cogent arguments for the nature of the Divine Three. Both Brian Leftow (who holds to group mind monotheism, as defined below); and Moreland and Lane Craig (who hold to trinity monotheism, as defined below) deem the view of functional monotheism as this tritheistic view. I believe that it is this view that characterizes both Bruce Ware’s social Trinitarian teachings as well as the Federal Vision Trinitarian views (though they have their minor distinctions from one another) as Functional Monotheism. Per the grammatico-historical method of hermeneutics, one cannot take something about which we know much less in order to develop practical ideas about things of which we clearly know much more. Scripture offers an abundance of examples of proper human interaction and conduct within relationships, so to appeal to the Trinity as a prime example of how we should then live violates this basic hermeneutical principle. Based on the principle of perspicacity, we should always reason from the clear and simple things, and then progress to the complex. We invite error when we conceptualize from the less defined and obscure principles then projecting these principles into the practical areas of living about which Scripture speaks clearly and directly.
I would also like to point out that Augustine maintained that the Trinity has a single action and a single will. He also stated that there are not three omnipotents but one, and maintained that with the exception of the functional or economic Trinity that was necessary for the unfolding of the history of Redemption during the period in history of Christ’s kenosis, that the divine persons were equal in power. I believe that Scripture clearly points out that Jesus the Messiah had a will and the power to abandon His cause and was not a duty bound automaton that did not function as an agent of the Father without option. His loving, immutable nature and His great compassion for us held him to the course which was the will of the Father as well as His own and of the Spirit as well, but his dedication to the will of the Father does in no way and need not suggest that Jesus was without the authority to choose otherwise.
Borrowing from the thoughts of Philosophy Professor Emeritus Nick Gier at the University of Idaho, Augustine said that the Divine Persons had one will, which need not mean that they did not act in accordance to one another, but this does not support or suggest that the Divine They had the capacity for disparagement of wills. That would demonstrate yet greater anthropomorphization. We have three wills that are portrayed in Bruce Ware’s theology as well as in Federal Vision, and in my own evaluation of these views, the Holy Spirit is reduced significantly from true Divine Personhood to a substance that passes between These Two more human-like conceptions, the Father and the Son. It is this same concept that Ware describes in Jesus giving of the Spirit to His followers when He ascends into heaven. Karl Barth argued staunchly against the concept of making the Divine Three into human-like personalities after human-like understanding, and in so doing, I believe that both these contemporary teachers of the hierarchical Persons do precisely that which Barth warned against.
Gier goes on to say, and I agree, that two more contemporary theologians also support my thesis that this hierarchical view in question demonstrates a polytheistic confusion of and three Gods. “To hold that there are three distinct centers of consciousness, three self-conscious personal beings, comes close to tritheism” (Bloech, pg 48, footnote). “If these are taken as three separate centers of consciousness in an individualistic way, as some modern thought seems to do, then one would end up with tritheism, a denial of the Trinity” (Thompson, pg 6). Augustine was unhappy even about the use of the term ‘person,’ which to him, smacked of too much individualism” (Thompson, pg 128). Gier also suggests that the church fathers would have used the Greek word “prosopon” if they intended to indicate that the Divine Persons had a self-conscious personality to the degree that is required by the Divine Persons under their conceptions of the distinctive personalities within the Trinity. I believe that these assertions are fully applicable to both Bruce Ware’s and Federal Vision’s concepts of the Trinity (see applicable highlighted secions), even though each view has significant distinctions.

Now you have a bit to chew on regarding my problems and issues with the Trinitarian views of Subordiantionism, and I have not yet picked up Kevin Giles book.
Find a general overview of the concepts of Trinity below, derived from a host of different sources.


Trinitarian models can be basically broken down into two models:
Social Trinitarianism and Anti-social Trinitarianism

Defining Aspect
Social Triniarianism

(Bruce Ware’s Focus)

Anti-social Trinitarianism
Greatest Emphasis

Diversity of Persons
Unity of God
Central Commitment

In God , there are three distinct centers of self-consciousness, intellect and will;

Two wills in one person

All are omnipotent and perfectly good, cooperating in all their operations

There is only one God whose unity of intellect and attributes such as authority is not compromised by the diversity of the Divine Persons
Unique Key Concepts
Of Emphasis

Mutual inter-penetration and indwelling of the Father and the Son.

"That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us." (John 17:21)

God’s attributes are not merely analogy or ad hoc functions
Divine Simplicity:

(Thomas Aquinas)

The being of God is identical to the attributes of God.

Love, power are identical to God’s being and not qualities that comprise God’s being.

God’s attributes can only be spoken of by analogy

Favored Sources of Origin
Cappadocian Fathers
Most Latin Church Fathers
Historical Examples

John of Damascus

Karl Rahner
Richard Swinburne

For the most part, these meet the criteria:

Thomas Aquinas
Potential Pitfalls


Trinities website:
Arians made Christ a creature. Their take on the emerging orthodoxy has a marked social trinitarian spin.


Moreland & Craig, pg 586:
Without begging the question in favor of social trinitarianism, it can safely be said that on no reasonable understanding of “person” can a person be equated with a relation.

Mereological relations, familial relations, and relations of necessary mutual interdependence among deities are neither alone nor in conjunction sufficient to secure monotheism. This is not to say that there is anything like consensus on the nature of either monotheism or polytheism. Far from it. But amidst the disagreement there is a remarkable absence of support outside the writings of Social Trinitarians themselves for the conclusion that Social Trinitarianism is monotheistic.
Moreland & Craig, pg 587:
First, there arises an infinite regress of persons in the Godhead…

The Son seems but a name given to the Father’s “me.” …Subsisting relations posited by the anti social Trinitarian do not rise to the standard of personhood.

To put it ontologically rather than linguistically, the modalist is someone who takes some or all of the persons of the Trinity to be modes of the one God, the other(s) being identical to God.

is defined as above, and any modalistic theory will fit into one of the three following categories.

· sequential or non-overlapping modalism: there is no time at which God exists or lives in more than one of his modes

At the other extreme, we have
· eternally concurrent, or maximally overlapping modalism: God eternally or omnitemporally exists in all of his modes.

Then in the middle, as it were,
· partially overlapping modalism: God sometimes, but not always, exists or lives in more than one of his modes.

Brian Leftow’s Theory of the Taxonomy of Social Trinitarianism

Functional monotheism
Group mind monotheism
Trinity Monotheism

Functional Montheism
Group Mind Monotheism
Trinity Monotheism

Harmonious, interrelated functioning as the basis for Them being one

Trinity as a mind composed of the minds of the Divine Three in the Godhead.

Each of the three are "sub-minds" in the mind of God as Trinity.
It equates personhood with the mind and has some problems regarding understanding God's consciousness because we cannog comprehend God's consciousness.

Like the human mind has two hemispheres that take over different functions but must act together to function and be a whole mind, and in that sense the human mind is a group mind.
(From Moreland & Craig)

(Like the “Borg collective”? per the Trinities website)

Maintains both the idea that each of the Persons are Divine in and of themselves,

it is the Trinity together that comprises God.
Presumably, each Divine Person is not God in and of themselves.

So how do they head off the Quaternity problem? Simple.
Only the Trinity is an instance of the divine nature, as the divine nature includes the property of being triune; beyond the Trinity “there are no other instances of the divine nature.” (590)

So if “being divine” means “being identical with a divinity” (i.e. being a thing which instantiates the nature divinity), then none of the persons are “divine”.

But they don’t put it that way. They want to say that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each “divine” in another sense, and they labor to make that clear.


“Each divine person is in the Unity, yet no person is the one God”
(Hilary in On the Trinity 7.2; cf.7.13, 32)


See Flow Charts Below following this chart

Leftow, pg 232: A “refined pragmatism” and a thinly veiled form of polytheism.

Moreland & Craig,
pg 588
The Father's begetting of the Son amounts to creatio ex nihilo, which as Arius saw, makes the Son a creature... There just happen to exist three divine beings all sharing the same nature... Thus there is no salient differences between functional monotheism and polytheism.

Moreland & Craig, pg 589:
But if, as seems plausible, we understand minds and persons to exist in a one-to-one correspondence, then the emergence of three distinct persons raises once again the specter of tritheism.

The driving force behind group mind monotheism is to preserve the unity of God's being in a way functional monotheism cannot. But once the divine economy has been deployed, the group mind has lapsed away, and it is unclear why we do not now have three Gods in the place of one.

Trinities website:
Note –citing pages in Moreland & Craig.

If not, then the theory seems to say that there’s one person - God - who has three minds (or subminds), which “falls short of the doctrine of the Trinity”. (pg 589)

Yup - that’d be a kind of modalism. On the other hand, if “minds” or “subminds” just are persons, then it looks like tritheism, and so must be rejected as inconsistent with monotheism. So on the whole, this route doesn’t seem promising.

It has a potential for there being four persons and not three. Each is God and yet all together create a fourth God.

Leftow, pg 221
Either the Trinity is a fourth case of the divine nature, in addition to the Persons, or it is not.

If it is, we have too many cases of deity for orthodoxy. If it is not, and yet is divine, there are two ways to be divine -- by being a case of deity, and by being a Trinity of such cases.

If there is a more than one way to be divine, Trinity monotheism becomes Plantingian Arianism.

[Note: Plantingian Arianism basically means that there are two ways to be divine.]

But if there is in fact only one way to be divine, then there are two alternatives.

One is that the only Trinity is God, and God is composed of non-divine persons.

The other is that the sum of all the divine persons is somehow not divine.
To accept this last claim would be to give up Trinity monotheism altogether.


Richard Swinburne

Brian Leftow

Moreland and Craig

Moreland and Craig’s Chart of Trinity Monotheism (pg 590):

According to “Dale” (philosophy professor at SUNY, Fredonia) at Trinities: Theories About the Father Son and Holy Spirit website, this is a better representation of what Moreland and Craig argue in their text:
Further Clarification of Trinity Monotheism

Moreland and Craig (pgs 590 -591):

It now becomes clear that the reason that the Trinity is not a fourth instance of the divine nature is that there are no other instances of the divine nature. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not instances of the divine nature, and that is why there are not three Gods. So while the statement, “The Trinity is God” is an identity statement, statements about the persons like “The Father is God” are not identity statements. Rather, they perform other functions such as ascribing a title or office to a person (like “Belshazzar is king,” which is not compatible with there being coregents) or ascribing a property to a person (a way of saying , “The Father is divine” as one might say “Belshazzar is regal.”

So if the persons of the Trinity are not divine in virtue of being instances of the divine nature, in virtue of what are they divine? Consider an analogy. One way of being feline is to instantiate the nature of a cat. But there are other ways to be feline as well. A cat’s DNA or skeleton is feline, even if neither is a cat. Nor is this a sort of downgraded or attenuated felinity: a cat’s skeleton is fully and unambiguously feline. Indeed, a cat is just a feline animal, as a cat’s skeleton is a feline skeleton. Now if a cat is feline in virtue of being an instance of the cat nature, in virtue of what is a cat’s DNA or skeleton feline? One plausible answer is that they are parts of a cat. This suggests that we could think of the persons of the Trinity as divine because they are parts of the Trinity, that is, parts of God. Now obviously, the persons are not parts of God in the sense in which a skeleton is part of a cat; but given that the Father, for example, is not the whole Godhead, it seem undeniable that there is some sort of part-whole relation obtaining between the persons of the Trinity and the entire Godhead.

[Blog Host’s Better Half (husband) adds: The cat skeleton is feline, but the skeleton alone is not a cat – it does not embody all feline-ness while at the same time, it is exclusively feline so the cat embodies all aspects of feline-ness, part of which is a feline skeleton, without which it is not fully feline. ]

Moreland and Craig’s Chapter Summary (pg 595):

The doctrine of the Trinity arises from reflection on the scriptural data affirming the personal distinctiveness and deity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Early Logos Christology sought to explain the person of the Son in terms of the external projection of God’s immanent reason. Rejecting modalism’s denial of the distinctiveness of the persons and Arianism’s denial of the full deity of the persons, the church articulated the position that there exist three persons and one substance in God. Contemporary thought on the Trinity tends to divide between two camps: social trinitarianism and anti-social trinitarianism.

According to the former there are three centers of self-consciousness in God, whereas the latter tends to think of God in terms of a unitary consciousness. Anti social trintarianism finds it difficult to avoid modalism, while the danger facing social trinitarianism is tritheism. Of the various forms of social trinitarianism, such as functional monotheism, group mind monotheism and Trinity monotheism, the latter has the best prospects for facilitating an orthodox account of how the one God can be three persons. Since God is essentially self-giving love, the doctrine of the Trinity is a more plausible than any other unitarian doctrine of God.


Augustine. Matthews, GB (ed.) On the Trinity(De Trinitate): Books 8 - 15. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Bloesch, D. Essentials of Evangelical Theology. New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1987.
“Dale” (Dale is Associate Professor of Philosophy at SUNY Fredonia). Trinities: Theories About the Father, Son and Holy Spirty (website). http://trinities.org/blog/about

Davis, ST, Kendall, D & O’Collins, G (editors). The Trinity: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Trinity. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Feinberg, JS. No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2001.

Gier, N. Wondrous Trinities Everywhere: A Response to Douglas Jones' "Spoiled by the Trinity.” Moscow, ID: Department of Philosophy, University of Idaho. http://www.class.uidaho.edu/ngier/trinity.htm
Hall, DC. The Trinity: An Analysis of St. Thomas Aquinas' Exposito of the De Trinitate of Boethius. Euronext, Amsterdam: Brill Academic Publishers, 1992.

Howard-Snyder, D. Trinity Monotheism. Bellingham, WA: Department of Philosophy, Western Washington University.

Leftow, B. “Anti Social Trinitarianism” (book chapter) in The Trinity: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Trinity. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Moreland, JP, W L Craig. (Chapter 29: The Trinity) Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003.

Rea, MC. Polytheism and Christian Belief. Journal of Theological Studies, NS, 57:1, Apr 2006.
Swinburne, R. The Christian God. New York, NY: Clarendon/Oxford University Press, 1994.

Thomson, J. Modern Trinitarian Perspectives. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1994.


These thoughts of Dr. R. K. McGreggor Knight, author of “No Place For Sovereignty,” on the Women In Ministry Blog in response to a discussion of the Doctrine of Subordination that I also offer for consideration. His views echo the inherent tendency of Social Trinitarianism to descend into Arianism, as indicated above. I offer his comments here as an adjunct to these perspectives on Trintarian Theory.

Dear Cheryl:
Subordinationism is a heresy of very long standing, that re-entered the protestant movement soon after the Reformation through Socinianism. These people inherit the argumentaton of the Arians of the fourth century. This is why they have similarities with the JWs. I don’t know how much historical background you have been able to consider for the forth-coming DVD, but this issue is also tied up with the Socinian assertions about libertarian freewillism. They argued that if freewill is essential to personhood, it follows that the Persons of the Trinity must also have this kind of freewill, and this makes the Trinity a committee of voluntary members. The only question then is who is the most powerful member, and naturally they held that the Father holds this position. Mormons reason similarly. Arians also used this libertarian freewill argument to change the Bible’s doctrine of salvation through Grace alone. Read the book Early Arianism on this topic of Arian salvation theory, by Gregg and Groh. It’s on BookFinder.com for less than $20 including S&H. Libertarian freewillism is also the guiding principle behind Openness Theology, as I argued in “No Place For Sovereignty” (IVP, 1996). The error of Subordinationism was long ago declared a heresy by historic Christianity in Church Councils, and the result is summarized in the “Athanasian” Creed at articles 25-26. The argument for eternal subordination of the Son and Spirit is only made plausible by abandoning the orthodox distinction between the ontological Trinity (as it was in Eternity before creation) and the economic Trinity (as it is viewed during the drama of redemption in time. To blend time and eternity is a philosophic disaster for Christian theology, and leads to pantheism in which the world and God are part of the One Ultimate. The appeal to an eternal subordination of the Persons in the Trinity is probably the most dangerous heresy to reappear in many years, and will decimate the Evangelical movement. There can be no compromise with it. It just goes to show how far redeemed sinners will go to protect their male supremacy stance. If Bruce Ware became an egalitarian he would be fired immediately by Mohler.
Bob K. Wright
Cheryl K’s thoughtful comments (at 18 above) prompt me to comment on the technique of quoting early church Fathers to support a resurgent heresy. Most of us who have read somewhat in the Fathers (the field is called “Patristics”) know quite well that most of them were unsound on one thing or another. Many are also wordy, inexact, boring and idiosyncratic). One can always select from such a large body of documentary testimony, the kind of emphasis that will support one’s views. The Tractarians (the Anglo-Catholic movement in England in the 1800s) soon discovered that when they pleaded that the earliest Christianity must have been the purest, they quickly confronted the fact that the Fathers contradicted each other on almost everything .
Since references to the Trinity in the Fathers fall into the two categories of references to the Ontological OR the Economic Trinity, and since most of the references are to the Economic Trinity as God interacts with history in time, the vast majority of quotes on the Trinity in the Fathers is naturally going to include a lot of verses and interpretations implying subordination of the Son in time to the Father. This is NOT EVIDENCE OF ETERNAL SUBORDINATIONISM, but only of passages describing or assuming the Economy of redemption. Like certain other speculative theories, eternal subordinationism has disastrous implications for other areas of theology, as the followers of Origen eventually were forced to see. There are very good reasons why, despite his real devotion to Christ, and his enormous scholarly output and vast and respectful following in the ancient churches, Origen is not “Saint Origen.” The main one is that eternal subordinationism is flatly a heresy and the Holy Catholic Church has recognized this uniformly for well over 16 centuries (i.e., since 325 AD with the use of homoousios at Nicea). Once more, notations of the economic aspects of God’s actions to redeem us in time have no bearing whatever on whether the three Persons are related in Eternity by a subordination of either function or being. When the Reformed half of the Reformation insisted that “Finitum non capax Infinitum” (the finite is not capable of encompassing the Infinite) they were making this very point. Therefore it is a serious error to measure what God “must” be like in Eternity (before the creation), by what we see him doing in the flow of time. It should be the other way around: the Trinity is the presupposition and Origin of Meaning for understanding everything else. Without assuming the Creator-creature distinctionm, we are just stuck with various grades of Pantheism.
The methodology of the New Subordinationism is to start with how they think of women in their churches, then move from that as a model to insist that Jesus was subordinate to the Father in the drama of redemption (which nobody denies, as it was a condition of the Incarnation) to then arguing what God “must” be like in Eternity. In the fourth century, this was the method of Arius, with VERY bad results.
Bob K. Wright
It seems Don Johnson sees eye-to-eye with me on these issues. The systematization of the contents of the Bible is certainly not an exhaustive deductive process, but it is true that because of the “unity of Truth in the Mind of God,” it is both appropriate and necessary that we uncover the internal relations and interconnectedness of the various doctrines found in the Word as written. God doesn’t tell us lots of things we would like to know, however, so we have to be satisfied with what he does give us, and not water it down with alien philosophic notions from the surrounding culture. Many of the Fathers of the first five centuries certainly were guilty of this sort of thing. If anyone wants my essay against allegorism it can be sent from my e-mail at rkwjc@charter.net as an attachment and printed off to read at leisure.
Bob K.
Truthseeker asks a perfectly good question in #34 above. The answer, I would think, is not to deny that under particular circumstances, person X may be subordinate, or subordinates his/her self to person Y, but whether this is a natural ontological order of a hierarchical nature, or simply a moral relation in a particular context. Ephesians 5:21 states as a general principle that Christians should be mutually submissive “to each other.” This is strictly unintelligible on a hierarchical basis, but is a perfectly normal moral relation between believers, on which the rest of the examples in the verses following make sense. It suggests that in one situation, I will be “submissive to” my wife and in other situations she will be to me. that in some situations I will give place to a respected Christian leader who I differ from on some point, while on some matter in which he realizes I know more than he does, he will “submit” to me. This is not some ontological rigidity, but a flexible pattern of relationships conditioned by love of the brethren, like everything else in the Christian life. It’s GIFTS that should determine who takes the lead in a particular situation, not an ontological hierarchy. My wife has different gifts than I do, and I submit to that fact, ordained as it is by God (1 Cor 12:4 fol.)
Mutual submission is much more difficult to practice than hierarchical submission. The first is a moral relationship, a balancing act within a love-framework, while the second is an automatic acceptance of an inflexible state of affairs. There is no question that hierarchicalism if assumed, will trump love every time….
Bob K.

Another Social Trinitarian Summary Copied from a Blog Post
The Coherence of the Trinity Thread at IIDB (Internet Infidels Discussion Board)

It was claimed in another thread that the Trinity is an incoherent concept and, thus, the actually Trinity could not exist. I posted a response, however, because it came in very late in the conversation and was very long it did garner much of a response. Thus, I am posting it as a new thread. Please enjoy and suffer through it, although it is long. The basic claim is that the Trinity is a coherent concept and, thus, it is logically possible that an actual Trinity exist. Here is the post in full.

The Trinitarian Problem

At first glance it seems that the mainstream Christian accepts contradictory statements. That is, it seems that the Christian must affirm both
(1) There is only one God
and at the same accept the contradictory statement
(2) There are three Gods.
However, since no contradiction can possibly be true, it seems that in order to remain rational the Christian must deny either (1) or (2). The question then is this: Does the doctrine of the Trinity involve a contradiction?

How to Solve the Trinitarian Problem

Now since the Christian is charged with believing a contradiction, the only thing a Christian must do to defend herself is to show a possible way in which the two statements can be reconciled; for the objector by charging contradiction is stating that there is no possible reconciliation. The possible way does not need to be the actual way, but it should at least be plausible. Is there a way to reconcile both (1) and (2) to make them coherent?

Attempted Solutions to the Trinitarian Problem

Today philosophers have attempted to defend the doctrine in various ways. These modern attempts may be generally categorized into two broad categories, namely social trinitarianism and, for lack of a better term, anti-social trinitarianism.

The former strategy lays emphasis on the distinctiveness of the divine persons; whereas the latter strategy focuses on the unity of the divine being. Since social trinitarianism is easiest to understand, let us go that route.

Social Trinitarianism

The person most associated with social trinitarianism is Cornelius Plantinga, a professor of philosophy at Calvin Theological Seminary. Social Trinitarianism is at least committed to the following two principles:
(1) The Father, Son, and Spirit as distinct centers of self-consciousness (i.e., they are three distinct persons), which includes, but is not limited to, knowledge, will, love, and action.

(2) Father, Son, and Spirit must be properly related to each other so as to form one single entity.
Social Trinitarianism runs the risk of falling into Tritheism (or polytheism). But is it blatantly incoherent. Is it possible that many distinct centers of self-consciousness or persons constitute one single entity? Brian Leftow discerns three attempts to provide a plausible answer to that question.

Functional Monotheism (FM)

According to functional monotheism, the persons are one in the sense that they function as one. That is, the persons all share the same knowledge, moral character, and have the same inclinations to love and faithfulness. In other words, they share the same will and purposes and, thus, never oppose one another. This unity of will and purpose, it is claimed, is enough to render the judgment that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God.

Objections to FM

Refined Paganism

Leftow does not think FM is a tenable solution. Indeed, he believes this view is nothing but “refined paganism.
��? That is, it is polytheism in disguise. Leftow asks you to imagine the gods of the Greek pantheon. Now, suppose “Zeus, frustrated with his Olympian cohorts, wipes, them out one by one and gradually replaces them with gods qualitatively just like himself [that is, they no longer are opposed to his will] . . . In the end, we have a Greek religious in which Zeus is kinf of the gods, Zeus-2 is god of war, Zeus-3 is god of metallurgy, etc.��? After stating this asks, “Has Greek religious now become monotheist?��? He concludes, “Surely not.��?

Perhaps we can go a step further.
Suppose the 33,000 gods of Hinduism held a council in heaven and all decided to agree with each other and never oppose one another. It may now be asked: Has Hinduism become a monotheistic religion? Intuitively, I think one must say, no.

Can a Monotheist Religion become Polytheistic?

According to FM, agreement makes the various beings count as one. But what if they were to disagree? If they did disagree (which is conceptually possible) then it seems that a religion that says only one god exists could now be considered polytheistic. But that is absurd. Either a religion is monotheistic or not. Further, we may ask these questions: How much must the gods disagree before the religion is considered polytheistic? What types of disagreement must they have?

The Number of Beings Does not Count

What FM really seems to be saying is that the number of beings is not what matters is a monotheistic religion. Rather, it is if these beings agree or not. But is this really what monotheism means, agreeing gods. Is there no limit to the number of agreeing being to be considered monotheistic. Is there no cut off point? Could 1,000,000,000,000 gods in agreement and cooperation count as monotheistic? It seems the fuctional monotheist is saying that it is not the quantity of gods that makes a religion monotheistic but rather the quality of gods. But this seem patently false.

Divided Devotion

What is more, it seems at least intuitively true that monotheism should make it so that your religious allegiance cannot be divided. However, according to functional monotheism, you devotion can at least conceptually be divided. That is, if Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three distinct entities, then, it is possible that you only worship one of them. One may perhaps makes argument for why you should worship one and not the others. Perhaps, only the Son should be worshiped because he gave his life for us and the Father and the Holy Spirit only watched. Perhpas one may make similar arguments for the Father and HS. But this should not be possible if only one God exists.

With these objections, Leftow believes that FM does not provide adequate reasons for being considered monotheistic.

Group Mind Monotheism (GM)

Leftow also considers a theory know as Group Mind Monotheism. A group mind is a mind that is composed of other minds. Thus, according to this view, the Trinity is a mind that is composed of the minds of the three persons in the Godhead. That is, from the three minds of the self-conscious beings, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you get one Master mind that arises. A new mind emerges from the three sub-minds. There would, thus, be “one God on this view in the sense that there is just one ‘minded being composed of all divine beings.
Cerebral Commissurotomy

Leftow believes that this idea of a group mind is at least possible. In order to make this view intelligible, Leftow looks to recent scientific experiments done with the human brain. Recently, doctors in search for a cure for sever epilepsy have performed surgical operations in which the severe the cerebral commisures, the network of nerves connecting the two hemispheres of the brain. The results are quite provocative and controversial. After severing the cerebral commisures patients sometimes behave as if the two half of their brain are functioning independently of each other.

Leftow quotes on researcher as saying
If the word ‘hat is flashed on the left, the left hand will retrieve a hat from a group of conceal objects if the person is told to pick out what he has seen. At the same time he will insist verbally that he saw nothing . . . if two different words are flashed to the two half(-visual) fields (e.g., ‘pencil’ and ‘toothbrush’) and the individual is told to retrieve the corresponding object from beneath a screen, the both hand, then the hands will search the collection of objects independently, the right hand picking up the pencil and discarding it while the left hand searches for it, and the left hand similarly rejecting the toothbrush which the right hand light upon with satisfaction.

A pipe is placed out of sight in the patient’s left hand, and he is then asked to write with his left hand what he was holding. Very laboriously . . . the left hand writes the letters P and I. Then suddently the writing speeds up and becomes lighter, the I is converted to an E, and the word is completed as PENCIL.
One interpretation of such results is that the patients’ hemispheres constiture two distinct functioning minds, which ordinarily so cooperate that the patient is not conscious of the spit but can be brought to act independently. If this is true, then, the human mind is a group mind.

Objections to (GM)

As Leftow sees it there are two ways to use GM with regard to the Trinity, both he thinks are problematic.

A Quaternity, not Trinity

First, one could hold that a fourth divine mind somehow emerges from the three divine mind, each one being self-conscious. However, if this were the case then technically you would not have a Trinity, but rather a Quaternity, so to speak. Thus, this does not seem to be an option for an orthodox understanding of the Trinity.

Neither Self-Aware or Other-aware

Second, one could liken the Trinity’s group mind to our mind. It could be one self-conscious divine mind that emerges from three minds that are not self-conscious. This certainly give us a strict monotheism. However, it does at the price of denigrated the other three persons; for how can we consider something to be a person if it is not self-aware? So on this alternative there is one mind that can refer to itself as ‘I’ and not a real Trinitarian society. No real mutual love for one another. The Father does not love the Son because they are not really aware of each other. Further, this move seems to invert the orthodox understand from “one God in three persons
��? to “one Person in three minds.��?
Trinity Monotheism (TM)

Trinity Monotheism holds that while the persons of the Trinity are divine, it is the Trinity as whole that is properly called God. If this view is to be credible, it must hold that the Trinity alone is God and the persons making it up are not Gods.

Leftow sees these problems with TM.
Either the Trinity is a fourth case of the divine nature, in addition to the Persons, or it is not. If it is, we have too many cases of deity for orthodoxy. If it is not, and yet is divine, there are two ways to be divine – by being a case of deity, and by being a Trinity of such cases. If there is more than one way to be divine, Trinity monotheism become Plantingian Arianism. But if there is in fact only one way to be divine, then there are two alternatives. One is that only the Trinity is God, and God is composed of non-divine persons. The other is that the sum of all divine persons is somehow not divine. To accept this last claim would be to give up Trinity monotheism altogether.
William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland respond in the following way to these criticisms.

Starting with the first injunction, he [the Trinity Monotheist] will clearly want to say that the Trinity is not a fourth instance of the divine nature, lest there be four divine persons.

Moving then to the next set of options, he [the Trinity Monotheist] must say that the Trinity is divine, since that is entail by Trinity monotheism. Now if the Trinity is divine but is not a fourth instance of the divine nature, this suggests that there is more than one way to be divine. This alternative is said to lead to Plantingain Arianism. What is that? Leftow defines it merely as “the positing of more than one way to be divine.
��? This uninformative, however; what we want to know is why the view is objectionable. Leftow responds, “If we take the Trinity’s claim to be God seriously, . . . we wind up downgrading the Persons’ deity and/or [being] unorthodox."

This inference would follow, however, only if there were but one way to be divine (namely, by instantiating the divine nature); but the position asserts there is more than one way to be divine. The persons of the Trinity are not divine in virtue of instantiating the divine nature. For presumable being triune is a property of the divine nature. . . . yet the persons of the Trinity do not have that property. It now becomes clear that the reason the Trinity is not a fourth instance of the divine nature is that there are no other instances of the divine nature. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not instances of the divine nature, and that is why there are not three Gods. The Trinity is the sole instance of the divine nature, and therefore, there is but one God. So while the statement “The Trinity is God
��? is an identity statement, statements about the persons like “The Father is God��? are not identity statements. Rather, they perform other functions, such as ascribing a title or office to a person (like “Belshazzar is king,��? which is not incompatible with there being coregents) or ascribing a property to a person (a way of saying, “the Father is divine,��? as one might say, “Belshazzar is regal��?).

So if the persons of the Trinity are not divine in virtue of being instance of the d
ivine nature, in virtue of what are they divine. Consider an analogy. One way of being feline is to instantiate the nature of a cat. But there are other ways to be feline as well. A cat’s DNA or skeleton is feline, even if neither is a cat. Nor is this a sort of downgraded or attenuated felinity: A cat’s skeleton is fully and unambiguously feline. Indeed, a cat just is a feline animal, as a cat’s skeleton is a feline skeleton. Now if a cat is feline in virtue of being an instance of the cat nature, in virtue of what is a cat’s DNA or skeleton feline? One plausible answer is that they are parts of a cat. This suggests that we could think of the persons of the Trinity as divine because they are parts of the Trinity, that is, part of God. Now obviously, the persons are not parts of God in the sense in which a skeleton is part of a cat; but given that the Father, for example, is not the whole Godhead, it seems undeniable that there is some sort of part-whole relation obtaining between the persons of the Trinity and the entire Godhead.

Far from downgrading the divinity of the persons, such an account can be very illuminating of their contribution to the divine nature. For parts can possess properties which the whole does not, and the whole can have a property because some part has it. Thus, when we ascribe omniscience and omnipotence to God we are not making the Trinity a forth person or agent; rather, God has these properties because the persons do. Divine attributes like omniscience, omnipotence and goodness are grounded in the persons’ possessing these properties, while divine attributes like necessity, aseity and eternity are not so grounded. With respect to the latter, the persons have these properties because God as a whole ahs them. For parts can have some properties in virtue of the whole of which they are parts. The point is that if we think of divinity of the persons in terms of a part-whole relation to the Trinity that God is, then, their deity seems in no way diminished because they are not instances of the divine nature.

Thus, the Trinitarian Monotheist does not affirm the two statements that that we started with. That is, they do not affirm
(1) There is only one God

(2) There are three Gods

Rather they affirm
(1) There is only one God

(2*) There are three divine persons that make up the one and only God.
Now, whereas (1) and (2) are clearly contradictory, (1) and (2*) are logically coherent. Thus, the Trinitarian Monotheist has avoided the charge of contradiciton. But, one may still ask how three divine persons can be one God. If they are stick to the orthodox understanding of the Trinity, how can three person be one substance.

How Can Three Persons Be One Being?

Craig and Moreland recognize that this may still leave one wondering how three persons could be parts of the same being, rather than three separate beings. They ask “What is the salient difference between three divine persons who are each a being and three divine persons who are together one being?
Cerberus the Guardian Dog of Hades

In order to explain this they start off with an analogy. They ask you to imagine the three-headed dog, Cerberus, that guards the gate of Hades in Greek Mythology. At this point they states,
We may suppose that Cerberus has three brains and therefore three distinct states of consciousness of whatever it is like to be a dog. Therefore, Cerberus, while a sentient being, does not have a unified consciousness. He has three consciousnesses. We could even assign proper names to each of them: [1] Rover, [2] Bowser and [3] Spike. Despite the diversity of his mental states, Cerberus is clearly one dog. He is a single biological organism having a canine nature. Rover, Bowser and Spike may be said to be canine, too, though they are not three dogs, but parts of the one dog Cerberus.
After imagining this dog, now further suppose that Hercules were attempting to enter Hades and Spike, the second head of Cerberus, snarled at him or bit his leg, he might well say, "Spike snarled at me��? or "Spike attacked me.��? However, he could also say "Cerberus snarled at me" or "Cerberus attacked me." All statements would be true.

We can enhance the Cerberus story by supposing he is rational and self-conscious. In that case, Rover, Bowser and Spike are plausibly
personal agents and Cerberus a tripersonal being. If asked what makes Cerberus a single being despite his multiple minds, we one would likely respond that it is because he has a single physical body.

But now suppose Cerberus were to be killed and his minds survive the death of his body. Could we still consider them one being? It seems that we could. Perhaps we could do this by positing that Cerberus has a soul. If that were the case then Cerberus' soul would just have three minds.

At this point Craig and Moreland state
Now God is very much like an unembodied soul; indeed, as a mental substance God just seems to be a soul. . . . Suppose then that God is a soul which is endowed with three complete sets of rational cognitive faculties, each sufficient for personhood. Then God, though one soul, would not be one person but three, for God would have three centers of self-consciousness, intentionality and volition, as social trinitarianism maintains. God would clearly not be three discrete souls because the cognitive faculties in question are all faculties belong to just one soul, one immaterial substance. God would therefore be one being that supports three persons. . . . Such a model of Trinity monotheism seems to give a clear sense to the classical formula “three persons in one substance.
It seems then that there is a way to state the Trinity so that a contradiction does not result and so that it is reasonable to say that God is three person in one being. Thus, the doctrine of the Trinity is not incoherent and is possibly true. Accordingly, the Christian may maintain their rationality in believing in the Trinity, in the sense that they do not believe anything that is logically impossible.


Last edited by mnkbdky : April 12, 2005 at 07:03 PM.

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