Sunday, April 05, 2009

A defense of the AFR, and the Trinity

From Phantaz Sunlyk. I didn't know this paper was still on the internet.


Gregory said...

Interesting article. However, the discussion of the Holy Trinity is muddy.

The article states this:

"The Father is the source and font of all that is"

That is absolutely true. However, the author goes awry in his explanation of the hypostases of the Godhead.

He says this:

"It is by bringing forth the Son that God the Father is God; as God the Father is personal, it is by loving the Son that he is a person. The Father brings forth the Son, and as the Father of the Son, he sends forth his Spirit upon him by loving him; the Son is the Son and personal by being the Son of the Father; by receiving the self gift of the Father in the Spirit, the Son returns the same Spirit to the Father and thus gives himself to the Father; the Spirit of the Father and the Son is such by receiving from the Father and the Son and returning perpetually to them."

This is a poor statement of the doctrine of the Trinity.

The Father is not "God" because He brings forth a Son. In fact, this sounds Arian. To "bring forth" sounds like "create". It's very "fuzzy", at any rate.

But, the scripture says Christ was the "only Begotten Son of God" (John 3:16)....not to suggest that the Christ came to be. "Only begotten" does not imply either a synchronic nor a diachronic event, as the Arians would insist; but, instead, the phrase delineates the Son as a Person distinct from the Father.

The Father is the Father, precisely, because He is the "Source" of the Son; as the author ineptly tried to point out.

But the Father is such, not only because He begets a Son; but, also, because He "sends" the Holy Spirit. That is what it means to say, of the Father, that He is the "Source/Font".

I'm going to confess my "bias" here by saying that I reject the "filioque" doctrine. I reject it, in large part, because it's unnecessary. Why?

Because if God is immutable/unchanging, and He is appropriately called "Father", then from eternity He must have a "Son". The Father, qua an "eternal" father, can't be a father to finite being....and the Father can't be the Father of Himself. Therefore, He must be a Father to another eternal Person...and this Person, we also call God. But in order that we might distinguish this Person from created persons, and from the Person of the Holy Spirit, we are told that the Father has an "only Begotten Son". And, what else can a father be a father of?

This is the necessary and sufficient condition for establishing the Deity of Christ.

Therefore, it's superfluous to co-attribute the "procession of the Holy Spirit" to the Father and the if this, then finally, had provided a definitive resolution to the Arians, as Augustine had thought. But now, see, that the Holy Spirit is left hanging as a third wheel....without the benefit of either "begetting" or "sending". The implication is that the Holy Spirit is not "equally" God.

The terms "Only Begotten" and "Proceed" are, precisely, what constitutes the hypostases of the Holy Trinity. Allotting mutual "sending" and "begetting" only blurs and distorts those relationships, as the author had regrettably done.

note: the Deity of the Holy Spirit is established in a similar way as the Son. Because the Father is the "Source", the Holy Spirit's "procession" must be from eternity, as well. Since a "spirit" is personal...and since God, alone, is "holy"....then the "Holy Spirit" must be God. The term "proceeds" is what distinguishes the personhood of the "Father" from the personhood of the "Holy Spirit".

So, if we contemplate the Father as "Source", then the Deity of the Son and Holy Spirit flow from that.

The datum of the Holy Trinity, first and foremost, comes from a living relationship to the One, True God who reveals Himself to us as Triune. While the scriptures mention the Persons of the Godhead, they [scriptures] do not offer a safeguard from erroneous and false interpretations of those terms. Hence, the necessity of a "credo".

I leave it at that for poor health won't permit a more adequate personal edit, so I apologize for any lack of clarity or insight.

One final thought:

To say that Anselm's treatise "On the Procession of the Holy Spirit" is confusing, is to wholly understate the case. The truth is, that particular work is mind-numbingly insane. It devolves into an incoherent mess about 1/3 into incomprehensible mantra. I couldn't figure out, for the life of me, what he was trying to say.

Walter said...

The Trinity concept is completely irrational (to me anyways). No matter how many ways I tried to spin it 1+1+1=3 and not 1.

Trinitarian Christians seem to be polytheists, not monotheists.

Gregory said...

The problem with non-Trinitarian rationalists is the propensity towards falsely assuming a numeric identity between "person" and "substance".

Yet, these same people will content themselves with the "scientific" belief that light can exhibit "wave-like" and "particle-like" behavior. Or that a singularity-state of zero energy/mass can "bang" into a universe, and evolve from zero complexity to enormous complexity.

For those "monotheists" who reject Trinitarian theism:

A "mono-person" godhead cannot be "personal", since there was a time in which there were no "persons" to relate to. What you have, in that case, is simply a non-personal Monad.

A person qua person, is completed within the context of community. A mono-personal god, before the creation, lacked community and relationship. Therefore, that kind of "god" is incomplete and lacking.

Walter said...

Robert Ingersoll said it best:

Christ, according to the faith, is the second person in the Trinity, the Father being the first and the Holy Ghost third.

Each of these persons is God. Christ is his own father and his own son. The Holy Ghost is neither father nor son, but both.

The son was begotten by the father, but existed before he was begotten--just the same before as after. Christ is just as old as his father, and the father is just as young as his son.

The Holy Ghost proceeded from the Father and Son, but was equal to the Father and Son before he proceeded, that is to say, before he existed, but he is of the same age as the other two.

So it is declared that the Father is God, and the Son and the Holy Ghost God, and these three Gods make one God. According to the celestial multiplication table, once one is three, and three time one is one, and according to heavenly subtraction if we take two from three, three are left. The addition is equally peculiar: if we add two to one we have but one. Each one equal to himself and to the other two. Nothing ever was, nothing ever can be more perfectly idiotic and absurd than the dogma of the Trinity.

Gregory said...

Robert Ingersoll's "argument" is pedestrian and sophomoric, at best. Especially since he claims to be an "agnostic" about God. How can a man who claims that he cannot "know" God, then proceed to pontificate about Him?

Secondly, he mistakenly presumes a numeric identity between "person" and "substance". Let demonstrate his folly:

I am, myself, a "person". Presumably, I am also "human". But according to Ingersoll logic, I would be the only human, since only one "person" can actually instantiate a "substance".

Hence, this "brilliant" piece of rhetoric:

"So it is declared that the Father is God, and the Son and the Holy Ghost God, and these three Gods make one God"

So I say:

"Gregory is human, Victor is human and Walter is human, and these three humans make one human."

That assumption [i.e. a person is numerically identical with substance] is the error which under-girds the flavor and texture of this kind of anti-Trinitarian "logic" pretzel.

If you're going to quote from a skeptic, at least quote from one who also possesses some common sense.

Gregory said...

But at least Mr. Ingersoll now "knows" that the Christian Church has been right all along....and that's what really counts.

Walter said...

If you're going to quote from a skeptic, at least quote from one who also possesses some common sense.

I, too, am an agnostic. I was not approaching the topic from a non-trinitarian Christian viewpoint.

The Trinity is a human invented doctrine created to salvage the belief that Jesus was God. Problem was: If Jehoveh/YHWH is God and Jesus is God, then we have a problem, Houston. Too many Gods!

If God has given me the gift of reason, then He expects me to use my reason. If a human doctrine defies reason, then I must abandon that doctrine. I can make no rational sense out of the dogma of the Trinity.


Ilíon said...

VR: "I didn't know this paper was still on the internet."

This seems to imply that it has a certain age. Do you have any idea when it was written?

Ilíon said...

Phantaz Sunlyk: "... From here onward, the atheistic naturalism described above will simply be referred to as atheism. Any form of atheism which, somehow, acknowledges the mental as a fundamental metaphysical reality, is not the object of my attack."

Any so-called atheism which, "somehow, acknowledges the mental as a fundamental metaphysical reality" is not really atheism at all.

There are no such things as universals: there is no such thing as 'the mental' existing all by itself -- there is no 'the mental' if there is not at least one mind.

So, to acknowledge or assert or imply -- or even merely to speculate -- as some incoherent so-called atheists do, that 'the mental' is a fundamental metaphysical reality is to acknowledge that there exists at least one ACTUAL MIND which is a fundamental metaphysical reality.

Is it really any wonder that most pretend-atheists prefer to disparage metaphysics and philosophy (and those who are professional philosophers seem the worst of the lot)?

Gregory said...


I can appreciate where you are coming from. Although I'm not "agnostic" about the reality of God, I can understand the agnostic motive.

On the other hand, your claim cannot be, simply, that the Trinity doesn't exist. Isn't your "bottom line" claim, that, you don't know whether or not the Trinity exists? In other words, you aren't categorically denying the existence of the Holy Trinity. You are making a modest epistemic proposal.

I have already affirmed my conviction that that the concept of the Holy Trinity does not suffer from "logical" defects. But for the sake of argument, I will say that the idea of the Trinity is difficult to comprehend, since there is no direct correspondance to the Holy Trinity in human experience.

I don't happen to agree with that analysis. I happen to think that human community, ideally, reflects the communal nature of God; but that this "oneness of mind, heart, spirit and love" is not fully realized yet. Ultimately,that is part of the telos/goal to which Christians are being directed towards, within the Church.

The Church has taught that sin has broken up our relationships with God, with others and with ourselves. This has caused a deep narcissism and individualism to become part of our thinking. So when we then turn to contemplate the Triune nature of God we, then, read our "individualism" into our theology or a-theology.

Humanness, perfected, would very much express the communal nature of the Holy Trinity. After all, Christianity teaches we are "created in the image and likeness of God". While we still retain the image, and thus personhood, we have completely lost the likeness to God (i.e. loving community).

But taking away the explicit religious symbology, there is yet a common institution that we can draw on to flesh out my point: family

For those who come from good homes and good family relationships, the analogy between their family and the communal Godhead is easier to see, because it's already a part of their experience. Hence, a great part of why Christians are dogmatic about "focus on the family".

But for those of us who don't come from good homes, we can imagine what an "ideal" home would be like. We can imagine what such a closeness would be like; not merely "getting along" with everybody, but having the kind of intimacy by which each person thinks, looks and acts like, say, "the Johnson family". And we can imagine the sort of familiarity that doesn't breed contempt, but instead, breeds caring and affection. That, I believe, is a decent analogy to the Holy Trinity. Notice, I haven't claimed it's perfect....hence my previous mention of the effects of "sin" on community. If you aren't comfortable with the term "sin", then feel free to substitute "evil" in it's place.

And I think, more apropos, is the feeling that it would be better that you and I agreed on the same thing, rather than just "agreeing to disagree".

The upshot of all this is that I'm inclined to say that there's a kind of analogy between human nature and human persons (i.e. ideally), on the one hand, and the Divine Nature and the Divine Persons (i.e. fully actualized), on the other. And so the same kind of objections that have been leveled at the "logic" of the Trinity are, by the same token, "reductio ad absurdum" objections against human beings; both human persons and human nature.