Saturday, March 2, 2013

Classification and Trinitarianism

If we were to construct a Porphyrian tree, we would begin with the denotative list of all possible subjects and then, by naming in descending order of scope various genera in which we are interested, narrow this list to find individuals or species which fit our criteria. In the case of the Trinity, this process might look as follows:

Being: {personal, impersonal}
Personal: {divine, angelic, demonic, human}
Divine: {Father, Son, Spirit}

Insofar as the Father, Son, and Spirit are acknowledged by all Trinitarians to be three distinct persons, it is remarkable that some resist the inference that when we speak of the Trinity, we also speak of three distinct beings or divinities. Why is this the case? The Trinity are as much concrete members of these classes as they are of the class of persons. 

I suppose that in the case of "being," there may be an equivocation - for what some think "being" means might be something other than "the denotative list of all possible subjects," in which case they would have to specify just what they think it does refer to - but clearly there are three distinct members of the genus "divine." I can only think that the rejection of three divinities would be because so many [monotheistic] Trinitarians equate the concept of being "divine" with being "God" without any means of avoiding the implication of tritheism. But this is just special pleading.


徐马可 said...


Great post!

From my exchange with my former Pastor, a very learned gentleman, in the context of Trinitarian theology, being is the English word for the Greek "ousia". Why in our understanding, being is the proper translation of the Greek word, subsistence.

The same goes with the definition of person, in our case, we take it to be simply an intellectual being. But in their case, as you know stands for a special "attribute" of the one essence.

Patrick McWilliams said...

This is why Clark rejected the meaningless word "being."

Ryan said...

Connotatively, yes. Denotatively, no. Surely it is useful to know that two subjects are or aren't numerically united, and an easy way to express whether or not this is the case is by stating whether one being or two beings are in view.