The Trinity: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Trinity

By Stephen T. Davis; Daniel Kendall et al. | Go to book overview
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9 Anti Social Trinitarianism

Brian Leftow

The Athanasian Creed tells Christians that 'we worship one God in Trinity . . . the Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.' 1 Such odd arithmetic demands explaining. The explanations I have seen fall into two broad classes. Some begin from the oneness of God, and try to explain just how one God can be three divine Persons. As Boethius, Anselm, and Aquinas pursue this project, let us call it Latin Trinitarianism (LT). Others start from the threeness of the Persons, and try to say just how three Persons can be one God. Some call this theological project Social Trinitarianism (ST). I now try to recommend LT over ST. I now argue that ST cannot be both orthodox and a version of monotheism. I show en route that LT does not have ST's problems with monotheism.


I Two Problems Posed

In LT, there is just one divine being (or substance), God. God constitutes three Persons, but all three are at bottom just God. Thus, the Creed of the Council of Toledo has it that 'although we profess three persons, we do not profess three substances, but one substance and three persons . . . they are not three gods, he is one God. . . . Each single Person is wholly God in Himself and . . . all three persons together are one God.' 2

Again, Aquinas writes that 'among creatures, the nature the one generated receives is not numerically identical with the nature the

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