The Trinity

Michael C. Rea

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199596539
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

The Trinity

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One of the central mysteries of the Christian faith concerns the tri-unity of God. According to traditional Christian doctrine, God is three persons who are somehow consubstantial – one in substance. The persons are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each person possesses all the traditional divine attributes – omnipotence, omniscience, perfect goodness, eternality, and so on. And yet (in the words of the Athanasian Creed), ‘they are not three eternals, but there is one eternal...there are not three almighties, but there is one almighty...there are not three Gods, but there is one God’. This article focuses on the question commonly referred to by philosophers as ‘the logical problem of the Trinity’ and by theologians as ‘the threeness–oneness problem’. Section 1 explains in some detail just what the problem is supposed to be. It begins by stating the central theses of the doctrine of the Trinity. The section then formulates the logical problem of the Trinity and lays out the constraints that a solution must satisfy in order to preserve an orthodox understanding of the doctrine. Section 2 briefly sketches a few of the most important solutions to the problem. Finally, Section 3 presents the author's own view of the Trinity and argues that it has both a better historical pedigree and better prospects for solving the problem of the Trinity than the rival views presented in Section 2.

Keywords: God; Holy Trinity; Holy Spirit; Father; Son; Christianity

Article.  13833 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Philosophy of Religion ; Christianity

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