The Difficulties With The Trinity - From The Philosophical Side
By Hal Flemings
Jehovah's Witnesses over the years have demonstrated repeatedly from the Holy Bible that the doctrine of the Trinity is not a Biblical doctrine. Thus their attack against the Trinity has been one relying heavily upon the Scriptural material with some additional support from historical sources. This paper will analyze the doctrine from a different perspective. The analysis will show that not only are there Scriptural difficulties in defending the Trinity but there are philosophical ones as well.
Firstly, how has the Trinity been defined? There are three principal versions of this teaching which need to be defined:
(1) The most popular version declares that there are three distinct persons in one God and that each of the distinct persons is equal in age, knowledge, power and glory to the others. This version is sometimes called the "Athanasian Creed".
(2) Another version called "modalism" argues that there is only one person in one God but that that one person can be revealed as the Father or the Son or the Holy Spirit.
(3) Finally, the version some call "tritheism" is the view that there are, in fact, three different persons and three different Gods forming the Trinity.
While the modalist would hold that the Son and the Father are the "same person", the mainstream Trinitarian would argue that that is not true but that they are different persons in one God. The tritheist would disagree with both and propose that the Father and the Son are not the same person and not the same God but nevertheless make up the same Trinity. All three varieties of trinitarians are quite certain that Jehovah's Witnesses are incorrect in their view of this subject.
Is "Some of God" God?
If it is the case that God is composed of three distinct but equal persons, that would mean that God "equals" all that makes each of the persons distinct from each other, the sum total of the persons. None of the persons in this model have the distinctions of the other persons. If they did, they would not be distinct. Since God would be all that makes each of the persons distinct but none of the persons shares this capacity or characteristic of God, then none of the persons could claim to be God. Each could claim to be an "aspect" of God but that would be different 'from being God. If God equals three distinct persons but each of the persons does not equal three distinct persons, then none of the persons could be God.
Do All the Persons Making Up One God Have the Same and Equal Knowledge?
If it is the case that each of the persons of the Godhead share the same knowledge, then a number of problems emerge.. Among them are these. Since it is taught that Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity and that he is the only member of the Trinity to die, then it follows that he alone knows the experience of death. The other two in this paradigm would know the concept of death but that is qualitatively different from knowing the experience of death. Hence Jesus' knowledge at least in this instance would be different from the knowledge of the other two persons. And, even if the three persons knew everything else the same, Jesus' independent knowledge of the experience of death would make his knowledge also quantitatively different from the other two.
If it is indeed the case, that there are three distinct persons in the one God that share the same knowledge, some other matters come up. Since it is claimed that the Son has always been distinct from the other two and the Holy Spirit has always been distinct from the other two and so, then it follows that only the Son knows the experience of being the Son and only the Father knows the experience of being the Father and so on. That would then mean that each person knows something having to do with "himself" that the others do not know. Their existential difference has created a cognitive difference and thus a difference that makes a difference.
If Jesus as the Second Person of the Trinity now pleads*to God in behalf of repentant Christians, what would he be saying or feeling in his interceding and pleading to God that God did not already know and feel since God is supposed to include in his nature the Second Person and all of the persons are supposed to share all things in common? If then either of the first two cited versions of the Trinity is true, then the notion of the Son interceding or pleading to God means nothing if it means anything.
* See Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25 and 1 John 2:1.
All Persons Have The Same Age?
One view of the Trinity says that the Son "proceeded" from God the Father and in that sense he is eternal since the substance of God is eternal. If true, then it would not be true that the Son has always existed since. by definition the Son is the being "proceeding" out of or from God. His substance may be ever existent but that is different from saying that the Son as the Son and thus the Second Person of the Trinity has always existed. A similar argument could be made for humans and animals. Since God is the source of life* and life has always existed in God, does his gift of life to men and animals mean that men and animals have an eternal past, one equaling God's?
Do All the Persons Share Equal Glory?
According to Trinitarian teaching when Jesus returned to. heaven following his resurrection, he resumed an equal nature with the other members of the Godhead. This egalitarian feature included an equality of dignity and glory. Assuming this. to be true, it would mean that neither person had more or less glory than any of the other persons. Yet the Bible specifically declares that at the "Second Advent" of Christ, the Father confers or gives dignity and glory to Jesus Christ (Daniel 7:13, 14). If Jesus had already been equal to the Father in glory and dignity, what does this addition of glory and dignity do for the concept of equal glory between members of the Trinity?
Foreclosure on an Untenable Doctrine
The doctrine of the Trinity has failed to make a solid case from the Bible. Even its protagonists equipped with Grecian philosophy who integrated this dogma into the Church after the death of the Apostles had not thought through the philosophic consequences. The truth is that God is a being independent of his Only Begotten Son and that the Holy Spirit is God's agent to accomplish his purposes throughout the universe. The Trinity doctrine has been constructively notified to move out because it has not earned a right for unchallengeable, qualified acceptance.
* See Psalm 36:9 and Jeremiah 2:13.