Trinity

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THE DOGMA OF THE TRINITY: The Trinity is the term employed to signify the central doctrine of the Christian religion — the truth that in the unity of the Godhead there are Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, these Three Persons being truly distinct from one another.
—The Catholic Encyclopedia[1]

The Trinity (not to be confused with the nuclear bomb or a chick female character from the Matrix) is a central concept in most branches of Christianity, describing the relationship between The Fava,Wikipedia's W.svg the Sun, and the Holy Goat God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Paradoxically, these three things, or hypostases,Wikipedia's W.svg are understood as fully complete in and of themselves, yet undiminished in their completeness when regarded as separate aspects of the also fully complete and indivisible godhead. This concept of completeness arises from the Platonic and Neoplatonist idea of The One, or ultimate being,[note 1] who in comparison, the rest of reality is diminished and incomplete. Defining the trinity is like defining the outside of a Mobius strip, and many attempts have been made to clarify the matter. After two thousand years of effort, it is fair to say that none have fully succeeded. Much like reconciling the concept of Jesus being both fully human and fully divine, philosopher Søren Kierkegaard believed the only means to reconcile the nature of the Trinity is a "leap of faith".[2] Even when their single God is actually a triumvirate, the fact remains that none of the deities are female, as the Holy Spirit is genderless (probablyWikipedia's W.svg). Apparently, God is not an Equal Opportunities deity.

Pre-Christian origins[edit]

Triads of complementary gods were a common theme in pre-Christian mythology. One such example is Zeus, Poseidon and Hades in Greek mythology. The Romans had the additional concept of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva which they developed from Tinia, Uni, and Menerva, part of the pantheon of ancient EtruriaWikipedia's W.svg. Cynics may argue that the early Roman Catholic Church copied the concept of the Trinity from the many current examples in the Roman world round them.[3] Family relationships between members of a trinity were also common in Babylonian mythology.[4]

Another possible source is the philosophy of ancient Greece including Pythagoras and Plato.[5] Judaism in the Zohar also has some concept of God as three, "secret, hidden 'Wisdom'; above that the Holy Ancient One; and above Him the Unknowable One"'.[6]

Philo of Alexandria was a Platonist who was focused on combining Judaism and the philosophies of Plato so much so that Saint Jerome wrote that "Concerning him (Philo), there is a proverb among the Greeks 'Either Plato philonized, or Philo platonized'."[7] One of the challenges Philo encountered when trying to harmonize Judaism with Platonism was Genesis 1:27. This passage states "So God created man in his own image, in the image God created he him." The problem, of course, was how could God make man in his own image if God lacks a body, is omnibenevolent, omniscient, and omnipotent? Philo’s solution involved the concepts of the trinity and logos. The work On Abraham describes Philo’s conception of the trinity.

The one in the middle is the father of the universe, who in the sacred scriptures is called by his proper name, I am that I am; and the beings on each side are those most ancient powers which are always close to the living God, one of which is called his creative power, and the other his royal power. And the creative power is God, for it is by this that he made and arranged the universe; and the royal power is the Lord, for it is fitting that the Creator should lord it over and govern the creature.[8]

Philo considered the creative power to be the Word (logos), and the royal power is stated to be the Lord, thus Philo’s conception of the trinity was Father of the Universe, the Word of God, and the Lord. Humans, as they can’t be modeled after an omnipotent and omnibenevolent power, were modeled after his creative power (logos). Philo describes this belief in the following quote: "No mortal being could have been formed on the similitude of the supreme Father of the universe, but only after the pattern of the second deity, who is the Word of the Supreme Being."[9]

The Greek philosophical concepts of logos and pneuma also became identified with God by the author(s) of psalms.

By the word (dabar) of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath (ruach) of his mouth.
Psalm 33:6

Christian origins[edit]

"19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen."
—Matthew 28:19, 20[10]

Justin Martyr was an early Christian apologist who believed Heraclitus was Christian and Socrates was a Christian persecuted for being an atheist.[11] He was also instrumental in the development of the trinity doctrine by incorporating Greek philosophy. The philosophy of the Platonist philosopher Numenius appears to have influenced his ideas.[12] Martyr's first god was the demiurge, a platonic conception of god who was said to have fashioned and shaped the world. His second god was logos and his third god was pneuma.[12][13] When logos is "translated" into English it is the Word and when pneuma is translated it is the Holy Spirit. Marian Hillar characterizes Justin Martyr’s beliefs as a metaphysical triad.[12]

Tertullian was another early Christian important in the development of the trinity doctrine. He said

As if in this way also one were not All, in that All are of One, by unity (that is) of substance; while the mystery of the dispensation is still guarded, which distributes the Unity into a Trinity, placing in their order the three Persons -- the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.[14]

A series of church councils led to the trinity doctrine in its current form. The relevant ones are the Council of Nicea, the First Council of Constantinople, the Council of Chalcedon, the Third Council of Toledo, the Fourth Lateran Council, and the Council of Trent.[15] This is only a brief summation of important milestones in the development of the trinity. The exact details of how Greek philosophy became Christian theology or how the concept of "the Lord" fits into all of this is extremely convoluted.

The Bible does not contain any explicit mention of the doctrine of Trinity, though there are several fragments claimed to indirectly support it. There are also several fragments that appear to explicitly deny it, but this does not appear to be a problem. The only explicit trinitarian passage, known as Comma Johanneum (1 John 5:7-8), was deliberately added to the Bible sometime during the 4th century - around the time when the doctrine itself was officially formed. That's actually a grave sin in Christianity.[note 2] Oops.

Some interpretations[edit]

Scutum Fidei

St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the trinity to the people of Ireland: one shamrock, three leaves.[note 3] The Jesus at the Holy Land Experience theme park used the analogy of water; which can be ice, liquid water and steam, three different properties of the same thing. This even managed to impress Bill Maher. (Although if you think about it, that would simply make it a monotheistic religion with a polymorphic God. And given there are more than 10 different solid phases of iceWikipedia's W.svg any new form of God suddenly "being observed" is totally in line with this interpretation). In theological terms, both of these analogies constitute an endorsement of modalism (also known as Sabellianism, after Sabellius who supposedly originated it), the doctrine that the three parts of the trinity are distinct expressions of one personage. This was condemned as an unpardonable heresy by the first general council at Constantinople in 381. Amusingly, the converse theory, partialism, that the three parts of the Trinity are distinct personages united in essence, is also considered an unpardonable heresy, making the Trinity a concept that, while considered foundational to Christianity, can't actually be explained in a coherent way. Arianism, note below, is loosely related to partialism.

Christian thinkers have debated, fought and killed over the matter, especially during and after the reign of Constantine. The differences between the various forms of (from one end of the spectrum to the other) Arianism, Semi-Arianism, orthodoxy and Gnosticism are so minute that one's head spins. Thus, understandings of the nature of the Trinity have historically been grounds to excommunicate and exile opponents. The Roman Catholic Church observes a middle ground in this matter between the rather logical and clear three extremes (the three are perfectly equal and separate; the three are perfectly equal and the same; God created the other two to feel less lonely).

The Shield of the TrinityWikipedia's W.svg or Scutum Fidei is a traditional Christian symbol which is supposed to explain the trinity.

Bizarre implications[edit]

When you keep in mind that Jesus is supposed to be God, the New Testament ceases to make any sense whatsoever, because in many passages Jesus acts as if he was distinct from God. Some examples:

  • Mark 1:35: Jesus prays alone... to himself? This is some serious schizophrenic shit.
  • Mark 16:19: Jesus was taken up to heaven to sit at... his own right hand?
  • John 20:17: Jesus talks about returning to himself.
  • Matthew 27:46: Jesus, dying on the cross, asks himself why he's forsaken himself and let himself be crucified. Yes, you read that part right (Mark 15:34 mentions this too).

These "implications" arguably stem from a mistaken view of the Trinity. One explanation is that Jesus was explicitly praying to God the Father, a distinct person in the Godhead, and he was not praying to himself.[16]

Some attempts at formal logic[edit]

???
(now, this is just for fun, remember...)

This derivation assumes that the word "is"[note 4] is used as the subset relatorlink=wp:Copula_%28linguistics%29#Subset_relator, e.g. in the same sense as in the sentences "Mary is running" or "The ceiling is white". Note that this is less strict than the traditional Christian interpretations.

The shield presents the following 12 statements simultaneously:

  1. "The Father is God"
  2. "The Son is God"
  3. "The Holy Spirit is God"
  4. "God is the Father"
  5. "God is the Son"
  6. "God is the Holy Spirit"
  7. "The Father is not the Son"
  8. "The Son is not the Father"
  9. "The Father is not the Holy Spirit"
  10. "The Holy Spirit is not the Father"
  11. "The Son is not the Holy Spirit"
  12. "The Holy Spirit is not the Son"

Since \forall A,B \in X: \left(A \subseteq B \and B \subseteq A\right) \Rightarrow A = B, the statements 1-6 can be restated as follows:

God = Father
God = Son
God = Holy Spirit

while the statements 7-12 can be restated as:

Father ≠ Son
Father ≠ Holy Spirit
Son ≠ Holy Spirit

Conventional logic says that equality is transitive: \forall A,B,C \in X: \left( A = B \and B = C \right) \Rightarrow A = C. Let's start from one of the "is not" relations.

Father ≠ Son

Now let's substitute the left side with the statement "God = Father":

God ≠ Son

and then substitute the right side with "God = Son":

God ≠ God

Further application of transitivity leads to the following statements:

Son ≠ Son
Father ≠ Father
Holy Spirit ≠ Holy Spirit

We conclude that God is not God, and so the doctrine of the Trinity implies that God as well as all three persons of the Trinity violate the law of identity.Wikipedia's W.svg One of the fundamental assumptions of conventional logic is that objects that violate the law of identity do not exist: there is no entity that is not itself. This means several things:

  • If trinitarianism is true, then God does not exist, and neither do any of his three persons.
  • If God exists, then by the law of noncontradictionWikipedia's W.svg the Trinity is a false doctrine.
  • If God exists and the Trinity is true, it can mean two things:
    • Logic is meaningless, because it is possible to prove anything, including the existence and the non-existence of God.
    • Trinity means something else than its Christian definition.

It requires a "special" kind of brain to hold on to beliefs like this. The exercise is reminiscent of the Orwellian "logic test" 2+2=5,Wikipedia's W.svg which signified to the party that someone has been "broken", since anyone capable of accepting that could accept anything. Non-mystics may experience difficulty in envisaging 1 = 3 and 3 = 1 - even though the two statements appear commutative.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. In Platonism, "Being" is considered better and more virtuous than "Unbeing", therefore an omnipotent/omnibenevolent entity must choose existence over nonexistence.
  2. Revelation 22:18 — "I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book." Note that it's unclear whether this is the punishment for tampering with the Book of Revelation or any portion of the Bible.
  3. No word on who the occasional fourth leaf (Or rarely, the extra 15+) represents.
  4. Sorry Bill Clinton.

References[edit]