Friday, January 07, 2005

Brandon on the Trinity

The learned Brandon over at Siris writes:

The Quicunque vult says:

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.

And on the above view, this is entirely coherent; the first sentence, taken as expressing predication rather than identity, does not imply three Gods if the divine nature is not divisible in the way that (for instance) the nature of apples is.

BV: I can't see that it is coherent. If the first sentence expresses three predications (as opposed to three identity claims), then the divine nature must be thrice exemplified. If so, there are three Gods. Brandon may be conflating primary and secondary substance. God as primary substance is indivisible. But the divine nature, as something predicable, is a secondary substance and so must be be multiply exemplifiable.

The nature of apples admits of multiple exemplification (instantiation, realization). If you say that the divine nature does not admit of multiple exemplification, then how can three numerically distinct persons be divine, i.e., exemplify the divine nature?

And since there is no reason to think it is, and much reason to think it is not, the above two sentences are entirely consistent. The fact that we are talking about a nature or essence does not, in itself, imply anything about how the nature or essence is divided among its subjects. . .

BV: But if the divine nature is divided among subjects at all, then each of these subjects must be divine, which is to say that each must be a God.

If there are three distinct persons, and each is identical to God, then we have a contradiction. But if you say instead that each is divine (where the 'is' now expresses predication), then that amounts to saying that each is a God, which implies that there are three Gods.

Note that repeating the classical formulae is unavailing, since the question is whether they express a coherent thought. I am not saying that there is no coherent thought that they express, but that Brandon's explanation does not show that there is a coherent thought. There is the appearance of contradiction -- an appearance that has yet to be dispelled.