Sunday, April 03, 2016

Persons and Points (Trinity Doctrine): A Thought Experiment

Imagine a straight line with three points (A, B, and C) plotted on it. Let A = the Father, B = the Son, and C = the Holy Spirit. In that case, we would have three points (with zero-dimension) that are distinct and collinear, but each point would still have something in common with the other; namely, they are all points (they all exemplify pointness) on a straight line, yet each point is distinct from the other. Would it be possible to illustrate the Trinity doctrine by using this geometrical example?

I've never seen anyone use geometrical points to illustrate the Trinity, but maybe someone who lives somewhere has done it. Thanks to Euclid and his successors. I'm just toying with possible arguments that Trinitarians might use.

After completing this post, I did find (via Google):

(A very complex article)


Anonymous said...

I am not sure, if three points are a good example for the Trinity Doctrine. I know, that there is a common misrepresentation of it, but correct me, if I'm wrong, there is only one God (one point in your example), and that what is commonly called persons (three) is not "person" in the sense we use this word today, an individual, but more a "presenatation" towards others. Isn't it the same word, which is used for the masks, actors in antique theaters were wearing to present emotions? So if you want to use an example for the Trinity Doctrine, what about a ball or a sphere with three different colours outside? Or even better: a ball which can be illuminated from outside in different colours, without changing it's actual substance?

Having said this, one can have as many examples as one want, the IDEA or CONCEPT of the Trinity Doctrine is not based on the Bible. At least that is what I was taught in my Old Church History lessons in Catholic Theology at university.


Edgar Foster said...

Dear Bernd,

I would concur that the Trinity doctrine is not biblical. We've been discussing the early church councils in one of my classes, and almost every student is confused or stops trying to understand the Trinity. Of course, the church/theologians say that it's not fully comprehensible (it's a divine mystery). And you also point to another difficulty: what do Trinitarians mean by the word "person"? It clearly does not mean the exact same thing as a human person. Their use of person stems from the Greek hypostasis and the Latin word "persona." Persona was used for mask or presentation as you note. Yet Trinitarians say they want to avoid modalism (three successive modes).

Even if they've avoided modalism, they have not prevented a muddle of ideas. However, I just wanted to explore a new way of illustrating the Trinity besides using water, clovers, and eggs. :)



Edgar Foster said...

I also like your example of the ball

Sean Killackey said...

WLC compares it to one triangle with three angles.

Edgar Foster said...

Sean, thanks. That illustration is a common one that has even been diagrammed by Trinitarian theologians.