The Egalitarian Trinity by Steve Dancause


#1

I wasn’t sure which of the trinity flame wars threads to use for this link :mrgreen:

emergingchurch.info/research … /index.htm

I would be interested in people’s thoughts.


JRP's scriptural digest toward orthodox trinitarianism
#2

Hi Jeff, we’ll give this its own topic.: )

As I wrote elsewhere, I believe that that persons of the Trinity are egalitarian in regards to eternal origin while they also revealed themselves as hierarchal in regards to creation. And the example of the Son submitting to the Father is a critical example for humanity.

The Athanasius Creed dates back to the sixth century and makes crystal clear egalitarian statements about the Trinity.

For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son,
and another of the Holy Ghost.
But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one,
the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal.
Such as the Father is, such is the Son,
and such is the Holy Ghost.
The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate,
and the Holy Ghost uncreate.
The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible,
and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible.
The Father eternal, the Son eternal,
and the Holy Ghost eternal.
And yet they are not three eternals,
but one eternal.
As also there are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated,
but one uncreated, and one incomprehensible.
So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty,
and the Holy Ghost Almighty.
And yet they are not three Almighties,
but one Almighty.
So the Father is God, the Son is God,
and the Holy Ghost is God.
And yet they are not three Gods,
but one God.
So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord,
and the Holy Ghost Lord.
And yet not three Lords,
but one Lord.

But the Athanasius Creed also appears to contradict itself.

The Father is made of none,
neither created, nor begotten.
The Son is of the Father alone,
not made, nor created, but begotten.
The Holy Ghost is of the Father [and of the Son],
neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

My philosophical deduction of the Bible is that each person of Trinity could have handled the role of the Father or Son or Holy Spirit. My view might conflict the phrases The Son is of the Father alone and The Holy Ghost is of the Father [and of the Son].

The Ancient Church Fathers came incredibly close to formulating statements about the equality of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but I think that they missed it by a hair.

I agree with Dancause when he says,

What makes my project compelling is that it removes the traditional notion of the Father as the anchor of absolute divinity and instead understands the Trinity as the anchor of absolute divinity.

I see no startling theological conclusions from this while I prefer the consistency.


#3

I haven’t had the time yet to check this article myself, Jeff, for catching up on the topic elsewhere. Sorry. I hope to get to it eventually. Just wanted to let you know I hadn’t forgotten it.


#4

No problem - to be honest I was a bit surprised at seeing this as a separate thread as for me the points he makes get quite technical and obtuse and I’m not sure I have a lot to offer in this thread myself (rather hoping others can dumb it down a bit for me).


#5

Hi Jeff,

Sorry that I jumped into criticizing the article and ancient trinitarian creeds without introducing the critical ideas in a simple summary. The article deserved its own topic and I’ll try to dummy down the debate. And please feel free to ask questions if you have no idea what I’m doing. LOL

Ancient trinitarians affirmed that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were equally God while there is only one God. The ancients had some caveats to the equality that went beyond voluntary roles of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The ancients implied that the Father always had headship in the Trinity while egalitarian trinitarians see the headship of the Father as a voluntary role.

Do you understand these basic concepts in the debate? I’ll try again if you don’t. And we need to grasp this to discuss the article any further.


#6

I tend to be fairly agnostic about the Trinity, but when I read this paragraph I found myself disagreeing very strongly. The precise Trinitarian definition laid out in the Creeds and various formulations throughout Church history can hardly be said to support the entire Christian faith, since many Christians throughout history did not affirm them.

Consider the early Logos Christologians. They believed, as far as I understand it, that the Logos was begotten in time through the speech-act of the Father.

Do we deny they were true Christians?

What’s worse is that if I am being very honest, it appears to me that the concept of the Trinity is far too precise and far too forced to be the absolute and final authority. God is way too mysterious and invisible for that.

If I had to pick, I do like the (egalitarian) idea of Social Trinitarianism(or Binitarianism) which suggests that perhaps it is the collection of divine Beings which can alone be truly called God, while each being is divine in a second sense - that is - - being a member of the society of divine Beings.


#7

James,

Thanks for that - I can certainly follow that summary ok. As with the last post I have no real difficulty with 3 separate individuals who are divine acting as one God (perhaps they are so telepathically linked that that composite mind is the one God). I struggle with the concept of 3 individuals who are really only one individual (but are really 3 as well but only one) - if you see what I mean :cry:

Apart from anything else of course I am hamstrung by my doubt that any of it is true at all and so it is all too easy for me to say ‘I can’t be bothered with this headache over something that in all probability doesn’t exist’

Peace…


#8

I certainly don’t recommend trinitarian belief to anyone who is having trouble even believing in God to begin with! :slight_smile:

So, my advice is not to worry about it. Ortho-trin is a pretty complex doctrinal set that depends on a bunch of other things having been accepted as true first. It’s kind of an in-house debate among theists (and not even among all theists.)

That doesn’t mean I think it’s unimportant. (I wouldn’t spend any time on it at all if I thought it was unimportant.) But, “If I have all knowledge but do not have charity, then I am worth nothing.”


#9

I just thought those two statements, made back to back, were kind of interesting. :smiley:

i.e., the “far too precise” and logically “forced” belief ends up being too paradoxically mysterious for one person and not mysterious enough for the other one.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I was just thinking when I read JD’s comment, “well, I know ortho-trin ends up being rather mind-bogglingly mysterious as the logical conclusion; rather moreso than three separate entities simply teamworking together.” And then when I read Jeff, I started laughing, because of course one common complaint among non-trinitarians is that it’s too mindboggling.

For what it’s worth, I can sympathize with the “it’s too mindboggling” complaint more than the “it’s too logical and not mysterious enough” complaint. I’m a rationalist; I like things being logical. I’m also a positive mystic and artist; I like it when logic leads me to the limits of my comprehension of truth and says ‘here is something greater than whatever I am’ that I may be lost in the marvel of it.

(Not that I need God for that. Being a positive mystic, I’m also a romantic. :smiley: But I understand that the foundation of reality would provide the ultimate experience of that.)


#10

There’s nothing mind-boggling or mysterious about the idea of the Trinity. The concept is merely unintelligible.


#11

I think I meant mysterious in the sense of lacking knowledge, not in the sense of having paradoxical or confounding knowledge. To me, such doctrines are sort of like someone asking you to guess a number between 1 and 100 and you guess 3.14159265.

Everything about this notion of God suggests that God would utterly transcend such categories as “person” and “nature” as to make a precise formulation meaningless.

What is really going on here, is that there are certain people (I was one of them in a former spiritual life) who have a need to talk about God in such ways. I won’t cast judgement as to whether thats good or bad - but what is bad is to demand that everyone talk about God in this way and condemn and exclude if they don’t.

I am just as comfortable talking about God as a Unity as I am as a Trinity as I am as a Binity. None of these things seem exceedingly more probable, neither is there very much evidence for any of them over and against evidence for the others.

But I could come up with an infinitely complicated formula for God with 23 Persons and 1 Nature and each of those have Trinitarian natures, etc. and that would confound your senses and make you wonder - but that wouldn’t mean its right. Being confounded, even if it leads one to awe, cannot be evidence for the truth of that doctrine.

The awe would still be good, though.

Peace,
JD


#12

It’s certainly not unintelligible. There is at least one formulation (Social Trinitarianism) that is logically consistent.

But, its certainly not the only possibility.

Peace,
JD


#13

I rather like that comparison, actually! :slight_smile: And I can see why that would be annoying if we were being asked to guess a number between 1 and 100–why not guess some whole integer, and make life simpler? After all, pi, though certainly an answer to the question, is no better an answer to that question than any other answer within the range (though no worse either, except for being needlessly complex perhaps. Still better than an imaginary number like the square root of negative one, maybe. :wink: )

But then, I don’t consider theological doctrines to be tantamount to making a random guess of a number between 1 and 100. I consider them to be answers (right or wrong, more or less accurate) to what provides the shape of the data.

In that regard, pi and its practically sufficient estimation, would be the proper answer to the question of how to calculate the circumference or area of a circle (or the volume of a sphere)–along with other factors, of course. (Even the square root of negative one turns out to be a real and proper and useful answer to some mathematical questions.)

I am not sure what you mean by “this notion” (ortho-trin theology? randomly guessing between 1 and 100 as an analogy to theology? something else?). But it’s impossible to precisely say that a precise formulation of God is meaningless, if it is impossible to make a meaningful precise formulation about God. (Similarly, if that really was true, it would be impossible to meaningfully claim that God would utterly transcend such categories as “person” and “nature”, or even that everything about some notion of God suggests this.)

So the situation must be rather more hopeful than the end of your compound claim would imply. :slight_smile: (Despite what some negative theologians, even among Christianity, would have us believe. :wink: )

Which is also rather a precise formulation (i.e. that it is bad to demand such things). But I pretty much agree that it’s bad to condemn and exclude people if they don’t. (Except, in the latter case, insofar as one is simply acknowledging the truth that two parties are not in agreement on a topic and therefore not in ‘communion’ to that extent. I don’t blame the Roman Catholic Church for recognizing that I am not in dogmatic agreement with them on a few important points. It might be rather unfair for me to insist that they treat me as being in full communion with them anyway. Certainly it would be untrue.)

Obviously I and others disagree with the last portion; but, just as obviously, my rationales and my estimation of the case are not your estimation or your rationales. You’re required to walk the best you can according to what light you can see, not according to what light I (or anyone else) can see. So no problem from me there. :slight_smile:

To which I’ll incidentally add, that a Trinitarian (as I know from practice as well as from principle) can be just as comfortable talking about God in single and double terms, too, so long as I don’t mean something exclusive to the larger (and more inclusive) claim by doing so. (In fact, I get edgy when the OT talks about God in plural terms as much as it does! :laughing: I much prefer the Greek and English grammar ways of approaching the issue.)

Of course not! Where in the quote to which you were replying (and which you copy-pasted) did I ever say that??

On the contrary, I spend quite a bit of time in an early chapter of that synthetic metaphysic hyperlinked in my sig below, talking about how mindboggling confusion should not be sought as evidence in itself for the truth of a doctrine (including any Christian doctrine). And in the quote of mine which you quoted, I specifically said that I could sympathize more with the “too mindboggling” complaint than I could sympathize with a complaint about a doctrine being “too logical”. After which I presented my mysticism as being a result of logic.

Sheerly asserting some infinitely complicated formula of God or some overtly contradictive expression of God (such as the famous Buddhist koan of God being the sound of one hand clapping), is not the same as arriving at a legitimately paradoxical truth by logical inference.

Which leads into my reply to Paidion’s comment, too. Obviously, despite what he said, logically incoherent doctrines can be mindboggling and, in a perverse sense, ‘mysterious’. But I don’t therefore assess logically incoherent doctrines to have value thereby. If trinitarian doctrine (of this or that type, or altogether) is logically incoherent, it will naturally also be mindboggling (to anyone trying to nevertheless accept it anyway); but I would consider that to be a worthless kind of mindboggling. If trinitarianism is logically incoherent, then certainly it should be rejected; and in fact I affirm that people should reject trinitarianism or any doctrine or doctrinal set, if they perceive it to be logically incoherent in itself, even if they’re the ones in error about this assessment.

It is better to call what seems to be darkness darkness than to call what seems to be darkness light. The second of those, we’ve been told, is even tantamount to being the sin against the Holy Spirit. (As is squinting shut the eyes so as not to see the light. But such intentional fudging is emphatically not what I’m talking about here. On the contrary, I’m defending honest disbelievers in doctrinal sets from being wrongly judged by people on my side of the aisle–who themselves might be the ones guilty of sin against the Holy Spirit! Jesus has some alarming things to say about who exactly some unexpected sinners are, in the Gospels and RevJohn; which I take very seriously.)