Monday, January 04, 2016

Does the Trinity Doctrine Transcend Human Reasoning? (Aquinas)

"There is a twofold mode of truth in what we profess about God. Some truths about God exceed all the ability of the human reason. Such is the truth that God is triune. But there are some truths which the natural reason also is able to reach. Such are that God exists, that He is one, and the like. In fact, such truths about God have been proved demonstratively by the philosophers, guided by the light of the natural reason" (Summa Contra Gentiles 1.3).

"Est autem in his quae de Deo confitemur duplex veritatis modus. Quaedam namque vera sunt de Deo quae omnem facultatem humanae rationis excedunt, ut Deum esse trinum et unum. Quaedam vero sunt ad quae etiam ratio naturalis pertingere potest, sicut est Deum esse, Deum esse unum, et alia huiusmodi; quae etiam philosophi demonstrative de Deo probaverunt, ducti naturalis lumine rationis."

Translation by Anton C. Pegis.


Matt13weedhacker said...

The translator missed a word in the phrase: ut Deum esse trinum et unum

He only put: "that God is triune", whereas, the Latin is: "such as that God is three [Or: "consists of three" "triple"] and one."

"Triune" or: "Triunity" is anachronistic in this context. "Triune" is a word that was first used in English, early in the 17th century.

The translator also put: "He is one" instead of: Deum esse unum "God is one".

I'm being pedantic.

"Now there is a twofold mode of truth in the things that we confess about [Or: "concerning"] God. For some things that are true about God exceed all the ability of human reason, such as, that God is three [Or: "consists of three" "triple"] and one. Now there are other things to which natural reason can attain, even, such as that God exists, God is one, and suchlike, which is also proved to be demonstrated by the philosophers in things concerning God, who were guided by the natural light of reason."

Edgar Foster said...

Your comments are well taken, Weedhacker. Thank you. I agree that the translator made some errors in the rendering. It can happen, but I was surprised at some of the mistakes he made.

He renders trinum as "triune," and you translate the word as "three" or triple (which is better IMO). Trinum (in this context) is accusative neuter singular of trinus. As a literal translation, "triune" would seem to be wanting and anachronistic, like you point out.

Sean Killackey said...

“[T]he Scriptures express the fact that God is one, yet He exists as three co-equal and co-eternal Persons, each fully being God, while simultaneously not exhausting the Godhead. While we humans cannot understand how such an existence could be possible -- the Trinity is a contradiction in our plane of existence! -- we can still, through diligent study, understand that, whether we agree with it or not, the language of Scripture presents God as Triune. We can't understand the hypostatic union of the divine and human natures in the Christ. But yet through diligent study, we can understand that the language of Scripture is communicating this proposition to us, like it or not.” – Eric Vestrup

At the same time, they argue against the "all religions lead to the same God," since the religions make different claims about God and they can't all be right. Sure they can, just not on our plane of existence!

The aforementioned writer identifies Jesus as God, but William Craig, to my knowledge, only describes him as having divinity (being detiy), so William Lane Craig doesn't see the same logical problem Mr. Vestrup acknowledges and tries to ignore. He says that the law of non-contradiction applies to God. (I think he said it, but I haven't found the article I read it on. I think it applies to the Trinity and Islam.) I agree that the law of contradiction applies to God, or it springs from him, so how could you reason with those who, like Eric, argue that the law of non-contradiction doesn't apply to God. Do they assume that there is some higher law that does - if so, could a Baha'ist argue the same way?

Sean Killackey said...

Here is the article by William Craig:

"It is not the self-contradictory assertion that three Gods are one God, nor again that three persons are one person. That’s just illogical nonsense. Rather it is the claim that the one entity we call God comprises three persons. That is no more illogical than saying that one geometrical figure we call a triangle is comprised of three angles. Three angles in one figure; three persons in one being!"

I am not so confident that his interpretation of the Trinity is valid, afterall Jesus is "reckoned by himself to be Lord and God." He does think that the law of non-contradiction applies to God.

Sean Killackey said...

And here is another relevant qoute:

Why think then that such self-evident truths as the principles of logic are in fact invalid for ultimate reality? Such a claim seems to be both self-refuting and arbitrary. For consider a claim like "God cannot be described by propositions governed by the Principle of Bivalence." If such a claim is true, then it is not true, since it itself is a proposition describing God and so has no truth value.

Edgar Foster said...


All Trinitarians (pretty much) identify Jesus as God, including WLC. But what they mean is that he's the second person of the Trinity--he is just as much God as his Father and the Holy Spirit are.

A common approach to refuting the law of noncontradiction doesn't apply to the Trinity is WLC's argument. I've posted material here about CF Henry that replies to the argument too.

The bottom line is that one, who denies the applicability of reason to the triune deity, has the burden of proof on him/her. Secondly, when someone denies that reason applies to the three persons, he/she normally uses reason when making that denial. So the denial is self-refuting.

I have another paper somewhere on my computer that offers another perspective. I will try to find it.

Sean Killackey said...

So, when they say "fully God," do they mean, "Each is fully divine [as each other and the Godhead." If so, what is surprising that they don't fill up the Godhead? (I am just as human as ten men.) However, if he means "fully God" as in "fully Jehovah," then it would be surprising (and, I say, impossible) if they didn't exhaust the Godhead, since Jehovah is the Godhead, and therefore all three.

WLC, seems to refrain from identify Jesus as Jehovah, yet Eric seems to identify him as Jehovah.

The problem in perceiving what they mean by "God," is that they often use it to refer to (and identify) Jehovah, or describe Jesus or to identify Jesus, as you say, as the second person of the Godhead. It seems that this is just equivocating; or that it borders on equivocation.

Edgar Foster said...

The language "each Person is fully divine" means that each Person is truly God: is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, etc. Each Person is also ontologically identical to the other Person, but not hypostatically identical. Furthermore, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are identical to the Godhead (i.e., each is the ens realissimum and a se esse, and so forth). That means, according to the Trinity, that each Person is fully Jehovah (YHWH) since He is the only true God. However, Trinitarians would then usually distinguish between Jehovah the Father, Jehovah the Son, and Jehovah the Holy Spirit.

I would have to check, but I don't see why Craig would have difficulty identifying Jesus as Jehocvah or YHWH. He might not agree with the pronunciation; however, I'm almost certain he would say that Jesus is YHWH incarnate or YHWH the Son.

Yes, IMO, Trinitarians do equivocate when using "God." See Murray Harris' "Jesus As God" for a good Trinitarian explanation of how "God" is understood by them.

Edgar Foster said...

Sean, please see the links below:

Edgar Foster said...


here's a paper I had in mind by Dr. Pratt that deals with the law of noncontradiction. See

Best regards!