What is the best model of the Trinity? Surely there exists a Trinity of persons in God, for that is what God Himself revealed to us, and God must have a plurality of persons in Him in order to be a perfectly loving being. But which is the superior illustration of the nature of the Trinity? Social trinitarianism or anti-social trinitarianism (Thomistic, Latin, etc.)? Which model is independently plausible and does not suffer from the defects of the other models? At this point Social Trinitarianism seems doubtful to me. Any thoughts?
I have the book Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview by William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland. In their wonderful and must-buy book Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland critique Thomistic anti-social Trinitarianism. Their criticisms do not seem to defeat St. Aquinas’ model of the Trinity, however, and I will try to show this by presenting their arguments in a fair and accurate way and providing links to the relevant sections of Aquinas’ must-read theological masterpiece Summa Theologica where their objections are answered.
Is ATS truly orthodox (truly Trinitarian), or does it collapse into the heresy of modalism?
Their logical argument against ATS is composed of the following basic ideas.
- Persons cannot be equated with relations.
St. Aquinas: Relation is the same as person in God.
- If God is absolutely simple, there are no real relations in God.
St. Aquinas: God is altogether simple and yet there are real relations in God; they are intrinsic to the Divine essence and are four in number.
- Furthermore, given divine simplicity, the relations cannot really be distinguished from another.
St. Aquinas: The relations are truly distinct from each other.
- It is not correct to say that there is procession or generation in God.
St. Aquinas: There is procession in God, and one of the processions is generation. The Father is the Principle and it is proper to Him to be unbegotten; the holy doctors correctly assigned attributes to each person. The three persons are co-eternal, and the Father begetting and the Son being begotten are consistent with the omnipotence of all the persons. The persons are co-equal and this fact is harmonious with there being an order of nature in the Trinity. The Father and Son are but one principle of the Holy Ghost, Who proceeds from the Father through the Son.
- The persons aren’t distinguished by the relations and so there cannot really be a plurality of persons.
St. Aquinas: The relations distinguish and constitute the persons, and this is consistent with divine simplicity.
But, let’s assume the relations in God really do constitute distinct persons (see above), Craig and Moreland say. Their ideas, enumerated below, lead to the false conclusion that AST’s proposed subsisting relations do not fit the bill of true personhood.
- Then there would be an infinite regress of persons who understand and love themselves.
St. Aquinas: There are only two processions in God, and only three persons in the AST model.
- The Son cannot be said to be in the Father.
St. Aquinas: The Son is in the Father, and the Father is in the Son.
I will continue in another post…