Let me begin this essay by sketching out some intriguing features of the context in which the current trinitarian debate is taking place. In the remarkable recent outpouring of writing on the doctrine of the Trinity we may detect, I suggest, an interesting double paradox.
On the one hand, sophisticated logicians amongst the analytic philosophers of religion have devoted much energy to defending the so-called 'Social' (or 'Plurality') doctrine of the Trinity, whilst decrying the coherence of a 'Latin' (or 'Unity') model. 1 In so doing, however, they have—with only one or two important exceptions, to be examined below—paid relatively little attention to the type of entity that they are calling 'person' when they count 'three' of them in the Godhead. Indeed, when we probe a little with the tools of the hermeneutics of suspicion, we may detect distinct whiffs of influence from 'modern' perceptions of 'person' (or 'individual') smuggled into the debate, and read back into the patristic texts which are being claimed as authoritative.
On the other hand, and simultaneously, systematic theologians have been at work debunking precisely those 'modern' notions of individualism that they perceive to have distorted Christian anthropology since the Enlightenment and to have undermined trinitarian conceptuality altogether. 2 For them, construing 'persons' as 'relations'