The Mathematics of the Trinity


#1

1 x 1 x 1 = 1

Why do some people try to add what needs to be multiplied?


#2

Then there’s the old math joke:

1 + 1 = 3 for large values of 1


#3

That’s no joke. That’s Riemannian geometry.


#4

James

Perhaps the error is that 1 Person + 1 Person + 1 Person does indeed = 3 Persons in the Trinity. Nothing wrong with adding them there! The error is to suppose that we are adding 1 God + 1 God + 1 God. If we were then we would have 3 Gods. But we are not. Each of the Persons is not a distinct God.

I am not suggesting that there is not a problem with understanding how one God can be three Persons but the point is that it is not obviously contradictory to maintain that there is one God in three Persons. (To say that God is only one Person but three Persons or there is only one God but three Gods is a contradiction).

There are indeed issues - complex ones. I am not sure that multiplying the Persons makes sense. It may but I am just not sure what you are doing when you do that.

I do not understand how God can be triune but I believe that he is on the besis of revelation.

Pax


#5

Gregory,

I agree that this is a complex subject. For example, the substance of the three hypostases multiplies together while the number of the hypostases add together.

We have a paradox where we need both 1 + 1 + 1 and 1 x 1 x 1. And I’ve faced various critics including modalists, unitarians, polytheists, and nontheists who used to say that 1 & 1 & 1 can never equal 1.


#6

Interesting Subject. My 2 cents are probably worthless, but when I saw the trinity of man, spirit-soul-body-, The Trinity of God made more sense (to me at least).

Man is made in the image of God. Therefore consider that God is one, and The Holy Spirit would correspond to man’s spirit, God the Father would correspond to man’s soul (or mind), and Jesus Christ the Son( God incarnate in human flesh) would correspond to man’s body.

I realize this is probably too simplistic, and if it’s one of those heresies (like modalism) or something, please set me straight. It just seems logical to me.

Respectfully,

Lynda


#7

Lynda, I’m sorry that I missed this for a couple of weeks. I don’t see the body, soul, and spirit analogy describing a trinity. It sounds more like modalism to me. I disagree with modalism but modalists at least hold to the original deity of Jesus Christ, so modalists can be saved. For example, TD Jakes is one of my favorite modalists.

Anyway, years ago I prayed and struggled to find a good analogy for the trinity. And I discovered the analogy while reading a business magazine. I read about US business partnerships. In a partnership, each partner has total authority to represent the partnership and make contracts. The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit each have the total authority of God while they are one God. The Athanasian Creed clearly describes this.

No analogy is perfect. The differences include:

  1. The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit have always been one while all business partnerships have a beginning
  2. The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit always work in harmony while business partners can conflict with each other

#8

James,
Your last statement is where I see religious dogma totally working against the kingdom of God as you equate proper theological belief with the ability to be ‘saved’.

Well, when I first got 'saved' I thought God was an alien or something. I was an atheist with no theological understanding whatsoever. Guess what - that lack of understanding was no barrier to God absolutely transforming every area of my life. In fact, I suspect the lack of theological dogma assisted in the transformation process as my understanding wasn't contaminated by flawed interpretations of what was happening. I understood God's nature (as He personally enveloped me), I knew what the 'old me' (old man - carnal nature) was comprised of, I knew that I had been reborn into a new man. I knew what God's absolute forgiveness and unconditional love was about and that a death had occurred (in me) and a new man was raised up (in me). This happened outside of church completely. Later I found the scriptures confirming what had already taken place. Later God did place me in a 'body' where I functioned well for just over 30 years (under 4 different Pastors).  

Once I understood that "God was **in Christ** reconciling the world to Himself" I simply understood HOW he went about saving me, but I did not have to understand and believe a specific doctrine for that to happen. 

Religion obsesses upon the technicalities of belief while God obsesses upon the hearts of people (relationship).

#9

Perhaps the math of the trinity is something more like this…

OK OK OK off we go to the HUMOR forum…

Aug


#10

I do believe that the notion of three persons as one God is logically impossible, unless at least two of the divine persons possess personal attributes that are not divine. If each person of the Godhead is fully God (possess all the personal traits of God), then what is there to distinguish between them?


#11

How does this statement square with Jesus explicitly saying that the Father is His God (as well as the audience’s God)? That sounds fairly distinct to me. If in reply we are saying that this is only the case for the earthly manifestation of the Son then I would say that the Son on earth cannot be fully God as how can God have a God? In other words if Jesus emptied himself of his divinity then in what way does he remain fully God?

round and round we go again :angry:


#12

So should the equation be 1/3 God + 1/3 God + 1/3 God = 1 God ?


#13

The only problem is that “the trinity of man” does not constitute three persons. So the analogy seems to fail in this crucial point. This analogy would make more sense for modalism than for Trinitarianism.


#14

Does God really care about belief in the Trinity?

As a thought experiment suppose a human being created a 2 dimensional life form (I know God himself has done something similar with ‘celebrities’ but they are one dimensional and don’t count). For this life form the human is God. Would the human seriously hold it against the life form that it could never grasp the concept of its creator’s true form due to a lack of the ability to visualise a 3rd dimension?

The bible stresses over and over and over that it is in the way we relate to each other that is important (with a bit of belief in God and his Son thrown in) which is where I think Jason comes from in that, because this interpersonal relationship stuff is so prominent in the bible, it reflects the nature of God (hence trinitarianism or binitarianism).


#15

They have different roles. I think the problem is that people view the word ‘God’ as describing a person instead of a state of being. It perhaps made more sense to polytheists because they had many gods and therefore understood that being a god involved a state of being and not being a specific person.

The Father is the omnipotent one who sits on the throne of the universe. He is the source of all loves, all hopes, all peace, all trust, all harmony. All tribute is due to him. He depends upon no one for life, but everyone depends upon him for life.

The Son takes what love and life the Father gives and gives it back to Him, sharing in His life. He is the perfect expression of the Father in a more limited (condensed?) form. The only one greater than him is his Father. The Father is infinite, but the Son is lesser in existence only to Him.

The Spirit takes the love of the Father and gives it to the Son, then takes the love the Son gives back to the Father, and on and on in a continuous cycle, a never-ending relationship.

This is the relationship of the Trinity that is the foundation for our universe. And this entire world is somehow incorporated into this relationship. The Father creates the world through the Son, and the Son offers it back to the Father.

Thus we have the Father, the one and only invisible God, and His Son whom we have seen enter the space-time continuum (who is able to do so because of His more limited nature) and the Spirit who communicates the life of both to us, their creation.

Without any one of them the Godhead would be incomplete. None of them can fulfill any of the others’ roles. They are interdependent upon each other. Without the Father, there would be no Son, and without the Son, the Father would be no Father, and would not be what He is at all, although no hypothetical situation could construct such a scenario since the entire world would then not exist. And without both of them, the Spirit could not exist, and without the Spirit, their relationship, and thus their entire existence, could not be possible.

Thus the need for the Trinity.

This saying, which appears to be some kind of ancient Christian hymn, actually just states that Jesus emptied himself. It does not say of what. Of course, since the subject is about being equal with God, and it not being something to be seized, we can conclude that he emptied himself of something having to do with divinity and godlikeness. However, in what way?

It says that he took the form of a slave - he didn’t become a slave, but rather, took the form of one. But in order to do so, he could not remain an infinite being beyond our comprehension. He had to be made small and extremely limited. Thus, what was emptied out of him was something pertaining to infinite capabilities. His omnipresence, omnipotence, omniscience, etc.

But does this therefore mean he was no longer in any sense God? Not at all, for scripture declares many more things about God than this. In fact, it seems to declare that the most important aspect of God is his love, his charity, his peace, graciousness, longsuffering, patience, meekness, justice, kindness, etc. In other words, his nature. Now, it is said that this love rules the universe, that this love conquers all. That is what the Father is. It is his role, as the very essence of love, to rule this universe. However, the Son, also being love, can limit himself and become something very condensed and familiar to us - a human being, even, while still retaining the same nature.

It is God’s love which is the source of his omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, yet it is also this love which can limit such attributes and become paradoxically stronger (at least towards us) through becoming a limited human being suffering like the rest of us. This self-limitation does not make the Son less God than before; in fact, it makes him even moreso, giving his newfound humanity the right to inherit the name that is above all names and to sit at the right hand of his Father of whom he is the perfect expression.


#16

Hi Stellar,

Welcome and nice to see you posting. As a non-believer I tend to throw in references to both sides of this debate (it being an intellectual exercise for me rather than an article of faith).

You make some interesting and coherent points.


#17

Thanks!

I thought I read you saying that you believed in God in general but either disbelieved or were agnostic about miracles? I’m confused as to what your stance is now.

Either way, I appreciate the welcome and the compliment.


#18

If I am to remain honest and not hypocritical I would have to say that I am still agnostic about the existance of God (If you have a look at my introduction you will see that I am one of those who came from a fundamentalist background) Hello all

As for miracles - by nature I am the uber-sceptic :smiley: who would probably only be impressed by something like an amputee having a limb re-grow on the spot (and even then I expect I would try to explain it away :smiling_imp: ).

I do, however, retain a deep affection for much of the Christian tradition (not in a Roman Catholic understanding of tradition) and would love UR to be true - not as a way of avoiding any future punishment but because it would triumph over my inability to believe now in this life (I am 50 years old and have been immersed in the bible and Christianity from birth).

To paraphrase and misapply Paul from the epistle to the Romans ‘He who is a christian is not one who is one outwardly but who is one inwardly’. I could undoubtedly pass myself off as a committed Christian to most people but that would be a lie and so I don’t play that game (I would be a whitewashed tomb).


#19

Ah, I see.

I would say that the Spirit of Christ is the same for those who do and those who do not proclaim the name of Christ. And the fruits of that Spirit are love, joy, peace, goodness, patience, etc.

But God is good towards all people, especially to those who are in some way seeking truth and love. They are more His children than those who do not (including the many who merely follow tradition). I suspect many atheists and agnostics will be saved much faster than many professed Christians when they encounter the glorious revelation of the liberating Son of God.

And I understand how hard of a teaching it is to accept that there is an all-prevailing infinite Love at the center of the universe whom will continue to prevail until everyone is wrapped in its eternal embrace, especially for those raised under twisted teachings of condemnation.

However, all must accept one day, and so I would not stress too much about it. It is with patience that many are redeemed.

Good day to you, sir!


#20

So I think that would make you… a mud covered diamond? :smiley: