Relative Identity and the Doctrine of the Trinity

Michael C. Rea

in Philosophical and Theological Essays on the Trinity

Published in print October 2009 | ISBN: 9780199216215
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191695995 | DOI:
Relative Identity and the Doctrine of the Trinity

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This chapter begins by describing the doctrine of relative identity (RI) in some detail. It then identifies and describes two versions of the relative identity strategy — the pure RI strategy and the impure RI strategy. It briefly discusses the standard criticisms of the RI strategy. It also presents the objections to that strategy. The chapter argues that invoking the pure doctrine of relative identity as a solution to the problem of the Trinity implies that the difference between the divine persons is theory-dependent, thus forcing either modalism or anti-realism — two equally unpalatable alternatives. It concludes that the RI solution to the problem of the Trinity, taken as a stand-alone solution to that problem, is unsuccessful.

Keywords: modalism; relative identity; pure strategy; Trinity

Chapter.  7243 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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