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Trinity and Identity

Trinity and Identity

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Published by: Volnei Ramos Martins on Oct 13, 2012
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IdentityandTrinity*
A.P.Martinich/
UniversityofTexasatAustin
Alltheologiansunderstandhat the centralproblemnvolvingthemysteryof theTrinityis toexplainthepossibilityhat thereis one God but threepersonsn Godwithoutfallingintocontradiction.Many,if notmost,contemporaryheologianswho writeabouttheTrinitybelieve hat thekeyto the solutionof thisproblemiesinadequatelyanalyzingone ormore of theconceptsofaperson,anature,a sub-stance,orGod,or inconstructingomenewconcept,say,that of"personsncom-munity"or"asocietyofpersons."'Suchtheologiansveryoften talk about themetaphysicsrontologicalimensionsf theseconceptsndexplainthemechanisms,theontologicalmechanisms,peratingn theTrinity.Thealmostclinical accountsof the lovelife and intimateactivitiesftheTrinityare at bestveryhardto reconcilewiththespiritoftheTrinityas amystery.Worse,such discussionsmislocatehe sourceof theproblem,whichis thatFather,Son,andHolySpiritare somehow denticalandyetnot identical.As the notionofidentitysgenerallyonstrued,his is incoherentomatterhow"person,"nature,"orwhat-have-yousanalyzed.In thispaperIwantto sketchan accountofidentitythat willforestalltheseemingincoherenceoftheTrinitariandoctrine.
I
In On ChristianDoctrine1,5,5St.Augustineprovidesa clear statementof the or-thodoxdoctrineof theTrinity.2Thus thereare heFather,heSon,and heHolySpirit,andeachsGod,andat thesame
*Iwanttothank BernardKatz,DavidMcKenzie,andJohnDavid Stone forreadingand com-mentingonthepenultimatedraftof thispaper.1See Bernard
J.
Cooke,Beyond Trinity,AquinasLecture(Milwaukee:Marquette UniversityPress, 1969);JosephA.Bracken,"TheHolyTrinityas aCommunityofDivine Persons.I,"HeythropJournal15(1974):166-82;"TheHolyTrinityas aCommunityfDivinePersons.I,"ibid.,pp.257-70;and theliteraturecited in Bracken.
2
For thepurposesfthispaper,"orthodoxy"eferso the doctrinesormulatedn theNiceneCreed,theNicene-ConstantinopleCreed,theCreedofEpiphanius,andtheAthanasian(Quicumquevult)Creed.?1978byTheUniversityofChicago.0022-4189/78/5802-0005$01.09
169
 
TheJournalofReligion
time allareoneGod;and eachof them is afullsubstance,and atthe sametimeallareonesubstance.The Father isneither theSonnor theHoly Spirit;the Sonis neitherthe FathernortheHolySpirit;heHoly Spiritis neither heFather northeSon. But the Fathers theFatheruniquely;the Son is the Sonuniquely;and theHoly Spiritis theHoly Spirituniquely.The central theses of thispassageinclude thefollowing:1.ThereisonlyoneGod.2.The Father is God.3.TheSonis God.4.The Father is not theSon.5.TheHoly SpiritisGod.6. TheHoly Spiritis not theFather.7.TheHoly Spiritisnot the Son.ThedoctrineoftheTrinityascapturedinthesesevenpropositionsisparadoxical,if for no otherreasonthanthattheyseem to formaninconsistentset,andaccordinglynotallofthem can betrue;one or moreof them mustbefalse.If1-7 do formaninconsistentset,then itfollows thatpartoforthodoxyis false.Propositions1-7 seem tobe inconsistent several timesover,and one of these in-consistenciescan beshown to follow from 1-4. ThusIshallrestrictmydiscussiontothesefourpropositions.Infact,itis usual for TrinitariandiscussionstofocusontheFatherand theSon;iftheycan belogicallyreconciled,thenthe "love"therebygeneratedcan be extended toinclude theHolySpirit.Theapparent inconsistencyinvolvedinpropositions1-4can be shownby derivingacontradiction from them. To dothis,we have to show whatstepsinreasoningjustifytheinferences that lead to thecontradiction. What we are committed to isaproofof the contradiction. Wewillofcourserequirethat theproofberigorous;for if itwerenot,wewould not beforced toaccepttheconclusion. Since thebest,if nottheonly, placeto find the kindofrigordemandedisinthedisciplineof formallogic,it is toformallogicthat we mustgoforproof.All theresources we need for therequiredproofcan be foundinanystandard,first-orderpredicatelogicwithidentitytheory.The additionofidentity theorytothepredicatelogicconsists inselectingsomepredicatetoexpress identityandaddingrules that are suitable andsufficienttopermitinferencesjustifiedbytheconceptofidentity.For ourpresentpurposesweneedonlyto addrulesthatarejustifiedbythefactthatidentityisanequivalencerelation,thatis,arelation that has thethree characteristics ofreflexivity, symmetry,andtransitivity.Sinceidentityis re-flexive,thefollowingprincipleholds:Everythingsidenticalwith itself.Insymbols,
(x)x=x.
170
 
IdentityandTrinityUnder the rubric of Laws ofThought,manyphilosophershaveknightedthisprinciplethe "LawofSelf-Identity"andhavemadeextravagantclaimsforitsimportanceinmetaphysics.Weshall not need toformulate aruleof inferenceforreflexivity.Next,sinceidentityissymmetrical,thefollowingprincipleholds:If x isidenticalwithy,thenyisidenticalwithx.Insymbols,(x)(y)(x=y-y=x).Thecontentoftheprincipleofsymmetrycanbecapturedin aruleofinferencewhichallows one toreverse thesingulartermsflankingtheidentity sign:TheRuleofSymmetry.Where aand0areindividualconstants,fsomethingofthe forma=
30
is apremiseor alineofproof,enter-0=aasaline ofproof.Finally,sinceidentityistransitive,thefollowingprincipleholds:Ifx isidenticalwithyandyis identical withz,thenx isidenticalwithz.Insymbols,(x)(y)(z)[(x=y&y=z)-3x=z].The contentof theprincipleoftransitivitycan becapturedinthefollowingruleofinference:TheRuleofTransitivity.Wherea,
0,
andyareindividualconstants,fa=3aand
7/
=yarepremisesorlinesofproof,then entera=-yas aline ofproof.We arenowpreparedtoderive acontradiction from1-4usingthe rules ofnaturaldeduction,symmetry,andtransitivity.1.(3x)[Gx
&(y)(Gy
ky=x)]2.Gf3.Gs4.f54sa.[Ga&(y)(Gy -, y =a)]
f.(y)(Gy y=a)
y.(Gf--f=a)1,existentialnstantiation.a,simplification.3,universalnstantiation.171

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