Many‐One Identity and the Trinity

Shieva Kleinschmidt

in Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion Volume 4

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199656417
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191742163 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion Volume 4

Many‐One Identity and the Trinity

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The doctrine of the Trinity is a conjunction of these three claims: There are three distinct Divine Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; each Divine Person is God; and there is exactly one God. However, if there are three distinct Persons that are each God, we should get the result that there are three Gods. It seems Trinitarian Christians are having trouble counting: they need 3 to equal 1. There has been a flurry of discussion about the claim that ‘composition is identity’, i.e., that pluralities are identical to the things that they compose (if there is something they compose). Many can literally be one. This chapter argues that this claim is not helpful to Trinitarians. Section I begins by discussing the many-one identity claim. Section II applies the claim to the Doctrine of the Trinity, presenting how it might seem to help the Trinitarian. Section III argues that upon closer inspection it proves not to help at all, but instead leaves us with the same options that we began with. The chapter also discusses the difficulties appeals to Composition as Identity generate for the intelligibility of monotheism. It concludes that, while it is an interesting metaphysical thesis, the Composition as Identity claim is not useful in helping reconcile the claims in the Doctrine of the Trinity.

Keywords: divine persons; Father; Son; Holy Spirit; God; Trinitarians; monotheism; composition as identity

Chapter.  7416 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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