Home > Philosophy of Religion Articles > Trinity

info.gif Trinity: "The Christian understanding of God as one in essence though consisting of three distinct persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The seeds of the doctrine lie in the New Testament witness that God reveals himself in three forms: as the Father who is the source of all things, as the divine Word who came in flesh to reveal the Father and redeem the fallen race, and as the Spirit who gives life and unity to the church and witnesses to the Father and divine Word. The theological terminology used by the church to express the doctrine has shifted meaning over time. The Greek fathers spoke of three hypostases (entities) in one ousia (being or substance), which became in Latin three personae in one substantia. The term for a person, however, in both Greek and Latin, did not carry the strong sense of individual self-consciousness found in the contemporary term."

Evans, C. (2002) Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

  • File

    Anderson, James


    In Defence of Mystery: a Reply to Dale Tuggy

    "In a recent article, Dale Tuggy argues that the two most favoured approaches to explicating the doctrine of the Trinity, Social Trinitarianism and Latin Trinitarianism, are unsatisfactory on either logical or biblical grounds. Moreover, he contends that appealing to ‘mystery’ in the face of apparent contradiction is rationally and theologically unacceptable. I raise some critical questions about Tuggy’s assessment of the most relevant biblical data, before defending against his objections the rationality of an appeal to mystery in the face of theological paradox."
  • File

    Brower, Jeffrey E.


    Abelard on the Trinity

    "In this chapter, I show how Abelard’s treatment of a deep, logical problem associated with the Christian doctrine of the Trinity give rise to important developments in his philosophy. As will emerge, in addressing this problem he not only presents a philosophically interesting account of the Trinity, but also develops a highly sophisticated theory of identity or numerical sameness, as well as a distinctive approach to issues now generally recognized under the rubric 'the problem of material constitution'."
  • File

    Brower, Jeffrey E.


    The Problem with Social Trinitarianism

    "In a recent article, Edward Wierenga defends a version of Social Trinitarianism according to which the Persons of the Trinity form a unique society of really distinct divine beings, each of whom has its own exemplification of divinity. In this paper, I call attention to several philosophical and theological difficulties with Wierenga’s account, as well as to a problem that such difficulties pose for Social Trinitarianism generally. I then briefly suggest what I take to be a more promising approach to the Trinity."
  • File

    Clark, Kelly James


    Trinity or Tritheism?

    "In The Christian God (hereafter CG), Richard Swinburne offers a series of arguments which a priori support the necessity of the doctrine of the Trinity. If his arguments are successful, he has dramatically narrowed the field of logically possible religious beliefs to (Christian) trinitarianism. I contend that Swinburne’s arguments necessitate the existence of more than one quasi-independent divine being; indeed Swinburne’s arguments move us in the direction of tritheism rather than orthodox trinitarianism."
  • File

    Craig, William L.


    A Formulation and Defense of the Doctrine of the Trinity

    "One of the most noteworthy developments in contemporary philosophy of religion has been the ingress of Christian philosophers into areas normally considered the province of systematic theologians. Inasmuch as many theologians, either in the thrall of post-modernism or safely sequestered in harbor of biblical theology, have largely abdicated their traditional task of formulating and defending coherent statements of Christian doctrine, it has fallen to Christian philosophers to take up this challenge. One of the most important Christian doctrines to have attracted philosophical attention is the doctrine of the Trinity."
  • File

    Davis, Richard B.


    Haecceities, Individuation and the Trinity: a Reply to Keith Yandell

    "In this paper I reply to Keith Yandell’s recent charge that Anselmian theists cannot also be Trinitarians. Yandell’s case turns on the contention that it is impossible to individuate Trinitarian members, if they exist necessarily. Since the ranks of Anselmian Trinitarians includes the likes of Alvin Plantinga, Robert Adams, and Thomas Flint, Yandell’s claim is of considerable interest and import. I argue, by contrast, that Anselmians can appeal to what Plantinga calls an essence or haecceity – a property essentially unique to an object – to distinguish Trinitarian members. I go on to show that the main Yandellian objection to this individuative strategy is not successful."
  • File

    Merricks, Trenton


    Split Brains and The Godhead

    "I believe in the Holy Trinity. So I believe that there are three divine persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—and one God. Now the mere claim that there are three of one thing and one of another is logically unproblematic. After all, there is no problem with the claim that, for example, there are three musketeers and one Eiffel Tower. But the Doctrine of the Trinity says more than just that there are three divine persons and one God. It seems to say that each of these three persons is the one God...I shall defend the Doctrine of the Trinity from the charge that it is contradictory. But before presenting my own arguments, I shall examine two other ways one might try to defend the Doctrine, one involving 'relative identity' and the other 'social trinitarianism.' My own defense does not require that these familiar defenses fail. But—I shall argue—they do fail. And, in the course of arguing for this, it will become clearer what a successful defense must do."
  • File

    Rea, Michael and Jeffrey Brower


    Material Constitution and the Trinity

    "The Christian doctrine of the Trinity poses a serious philosophical problem. On the one hand, it seems to imply that there is exactly one divine being; on the other hand, it seems to imply that there are three. There is another well-known philosophical problem that presents us with a similar sort of tension: the problem of material constitution. We argue in this paper that a relatively neglected solution to the problem of material constitution can be developed into a novel solution to the problem of the Trinity."
  • File

    Rea, Michael and Jeffrey Brower


    Relative Identity and the Doctrine of the Trinity

    "The doctrine of the Trinity maintains that there are exactly three divine Persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) but only one God. The philosophical problem raised by this doctrine is well known. On the one hand, the doctrine seems clearly to imply that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are numerically distinct. How else could they be three Persons rather than one? On the other hand, it seems to imply that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are identical. If each Person is divine, how else could there be exactly one God?...The main challenge...[in dealing with the Trinity] to find some way of respecting the Christian commitment to monotheism without incurring other problems in the process."
  • File

    Rea, Michael and Jeffrey Brower


    Understanding the Trinity

    "Theologians and philosophers throughout the ages have devoted a great deal of effort to trying to understand the doctrine of the Trinity. Here we will summarize some of the fruits of their labor. We begin with a brief discussion of the doctrine in historical context, explaining more fully the nature of the problem it raises. We then turn to the most important strategies that have been developed by Christians to resolve this problem."
  • File

    Wierenga, Edward


    Trinity and Polytheism

    "This paper develops an interpretation of the doctrine of the Trinity, drawn from Augustine and the Athanasian Creed. Such a doctrine includes Divinity Claims (the persons are divine), Diversity Claims (the persons are distinct), and a Uniqueness Claim (there is only one God). I propose and defend and interpretation of these theses according to which they are neither logically incompatible nor do they entail that there are three (or four) Gods."