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Christianity has its roots in Judaism, as such some of the teachings in the Old Testament have carried into and are reaffirmed in the New Testament, one such being is the monotheistic belief in one God. When Jesus is asked which is the most important commandment he replies:

Mark 12:29 "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one..

This is reminiscent of Deuteronomy 6:4 in the Old Testament:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

Therefore in Christian theology God is declared to be one as in Judaism. However, due to the the myriad of descriptions of Jesus and his relation to God, early church Fathers trying to make sense of said descriptions therefore formulated the Athanasian Creed defining God as is revealed in the New Testament. If you want, you can read it in full in the attached link, but to paraphrase, it states that the one God is not one in the strictest sense, but is triune (what is known as the Trinity).

What we call God in fact subsists of three persons -- the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Their being of one lies in their shared godly substance (i.e their nature/genus). What follows, is that the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God, but the Father is not the Son, nor is the Son the Father, the Father is not the Holy Spirit, nor is the Holy Spirit the Father, and the Son is not the Holy Spirit, nor the Holy Spirit the Son. The persons of the Trinity also share a close-knit relationship and co-dependency on each other.

The concept of the Trinity is illustrated in this picture:

Trinity

As such, you can pray to either the person of the Son, the Father, or the Holy Spirit and still be praying to the same "one God" in Trinitarian belief. To me, the idea of one God seems to be defied the moment you speak of a multiplicity of persons instead of one.

When I think of a monotheistic God, I think of one person of one substance, rather than 3 different persons of one substance. You and me are different, because what characterizes our distinction and separate us from one another is the independence of our minds. If we were both under the control of one mind, it could be said that we are still the same person. Likewise conjoined twins who belong to the same body are distinct persons because it is theirs mind, their consciousness and their ability to think that defines their distinction from one another. The moment you have more than one person involved it logically follows that you have more than one human involved.

As such, when you pray to 3 different recipient persons who are all God, are you really praying to one God instead of three Gods? Can the the Trinity be logically justified as the belief in one God?

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    Not "logic" at all here... A religious belief is ... a religious belief. There are many different ones. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Sep 12 at 16:15
  • Spinoza proved that God (only one) is the only substance of the universe, This God and universe are the same. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Sep 12 at 16:18
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    This question is better suited for Christianity SE. But it can be justified because it has been justified at length in theological literature, and analogies to human persons are emphasized there as inappropriate when it comes to God. "Some truths about God exceed all the ability of the human reason. Such is the truth that God is triune", as Aquinas put it. – Conifold Sep 12 at 21:37
  • @Coinfold I would have posted it in Christianity SE, but I'm sure it would've been closed for being too philosophical. But what you are saying is that the nature of God's triunity is simply beyond our human comprehension? – RandomUser Sep 13 at 7:51
  • It is beyond reason, not necessarily beyond comprehension. There are other ways of comprehending, such as religious insight or revelation, but they are presumably achieved through spiritual transformation and grace, not earthly analogies and logical dissections. – Conifold Sep 13 at 13:54
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A passage in the Church of England liturgy, which I have heard many times, says of the Trinity

"And yet they are not three incomprehensibles but one incomprehensible".

This is implying that logic is quite the wrong tool to be applying to the mystery of the Divine. That is to say, whether the Trinity can be logically supported as monotheistic is neither here nor there.

Nevertheless I am minded of the Classical god Janus who had two faces, and of certain Hindu traditions which regard their many divinities as emanations of the one Brahma. It does not seem intrinsically illogical to regard the Trinity as three fundamental aspects or personas of the One God.

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When you say "logically supported," the answer is probably not, logic being a system of strict distinctions and exclusive identities braced up by such dichotomous principles as "law of the excluded middle."

But the real mystery of the Holy Trinity may be that it is considered so mysterious, when so much of philosophy and human thinking in general operates via triadic or dialectical structures, from Plato to Fichte and Hegel to Freud and Saussure, etc.

Even in our ordinary thinking we envision objects in "three dimensions," and a human being is always the "conception" of trinitarian relations, being literally two persons in one, within the mother, and assuming the nominal identity of the mother's opposite in the father. The three family identities are only physically separated out by a spacetime grid that presumably does not apply to God.

In the Bible, Jesus in "his own words" only hints at the idea that he was the "son of God," though the idea was stated more explicitly a century or so later by the Gospel writers. I believe Paul, closer in time to Jesus, introduced the "Spirit," which was already a Judaic life-force mentioned in Genesis, for example. The cultural milieux was Greco-Roman, in which there are many examples of mortal offspring of immortals.

By the time the Bible was more or less formalized, you had a complex patchwork of centuries of stories, etymologies, metaphors, and lost references. So the Church Fathers were left with the task of squaring the circles, with the most dire consequences for authoritative practice and the fate the soul. By expunging the heresies of Origin, the Church set itself up for problems when dealing with rationality in such matters as the relations of a "universal being" and a "particular" individual.

But the tripartite structure is, logic aside, widely viewed as irreducible for the description of any form of "self" or "self-consciousness" or dialogue or motion, including the "motions" of symbolization, communication and living reproduction. It is only logic that throws up a kind of hermeneutical problem here.

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Aquinas describes the persons as self-relations of the divine nature. If we waive the doctrine of divine simplicity, let's say that God has three properties that we'll call F, S, and H. Suppose that we can order the properties such that there is an ordered set F:S,H, another S:F,H, and lastly H:F,S. Each set is the whole divine nature, and there is only one instantiation of this nature by itself. So perhaps the ordering from F is the Father, etc.

Of course this depends on the level of composition we attribute to the divine nature, and our sense of orderings, and so on. There is a history of emphasizing certain correlations, e.g. we might pair the three persons with the theological virtues and say that love is ordered around the Spirit especially, or the Son is the foremost expressor of wisdom (in a different frame than the theological virtues); this is not to deny love and wisdom to the Father.

I personally find these answers sufficient for my faith but I would not dream of enforceable orthodoxy on such a basis.

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As I type this, there are any number of different wildfires raging across the US Pacific states. They all have different designations — different names — and they all threaten different locales. But they are all essentially 'wildfire', more or less indistinguishable from each other. It would not be wrong for me to say: "The West coast is being devastated by wildfire." The plural is conventional, not essential.

The question of 'identity' has plagued philosophy since ancient times. We only need to think about the fable of the three blind men: one who thinks he's found an odd snake, another who thinks he's stumbled into a tree trunk, a third who's discovered a length of dangling rope, and none of them able to see the elephant in the room, whose trunk, leg, and tail they are all misinterpreting as separate objects. In this sense the trinity is merely a reflection of human blindness: we cannot understand the notion of 'God' in its proper form, so we latch onto aspects of it that we can understand and give them separate identities. Your argument effectively says that an elephant can't be a snake and a tree trunk and a length of rope. That's true enough, but it does kind of miss the point.

Please see this short, relevant YouTube video for context. Apologies that it's not exactly kosher...

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    That's nonsense, of course Trinitarianism is subject to logical analysis. – curiousdannii Sep 13 at 4:54
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    Most of the early church debates were fought over the implications of positions and whether they were logically compatible with credal declarations such as the Nicene Creed. For example Monophysitism/Eutychianism was rejected for being incompatible with the doctrine of the immutability of God. While the Bible is relevant to these debates, they are most concerned with whether one position is logically compatible with another. – curiousdannii Sep 13 at 5:03
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    That's not what you said though. You said it's not subject to logical analysis. But it can be logically analysed as a system of propositions, etc. That's a very different matter from saying that you can do away with the mysteries of faith etc. I had interpreted your comment as referring to the kind of logical analysis you could do on Brandon Sanderson's fiction's magic, but you couldn't do on Harry Potter's magic - one follows rules, the other is ad hoc and inconsistent. I'd say Christianity is akin to Sanderson's magic, whereas Greek mythology is closer to Rowling's. Sorry if I misunderstood. – curiousdannii Sep 13 at 7:25
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    Both ;) That God is transcendent doesn't mean that he cannot be truly understood in part. – curiousdannii Sep 13 at 8:08
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    @curiousdannii: you are splitting hairs for some reason that is not immediately clear to me, but... ok. – Ted Wrigley Sep 13 at 15:43
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I will quote the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

The Trinity is a mystery of faith in the strict sense, one of the 'mysteries that are hidden in God, which can never be known unless they are revealed by God'.

But his inmost Being as Holy Trinity is a mystery that is inaccessible to reason alone

Emphasis mine.

It is part of the teaching that it can not be, in fact, "logically justified" to human minds.

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  • We can't know God as God knows himself, but that doesn't mean that God can't effectively and truthfully reveal himself to us, or that we can't make accurate logical descriptions of that revelation. – curiousdannii Sep 13 at 4:38
  • @curiousdannii That would entirely depend on the actual nature of God and whether our minds can comprehend that nature. – Mary Sep 13 at 14:51
  • Your answer is misinterpreting the Cathechism's narrow statement about understanding the fully transcendency of God and implies that Catholics teach that God cannot be logically justified to human minds, which is not what they teach. – curiousdannii Sep 13 at 15:02
  • On the contrary, I am explicitly quoting what the Cathechism teaches about the doctrine of the Trinity, which is indeed part of the full transcendency of God. – Mary Sep 13 at 15:18

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