Are there any publications in the field of Philosophy of Religion that have attempted to provide a formal ontological definition of the Christian God as portrayed by the doctrine of the Trinity?

Take for example what the Athanasian Creed postulates about the Trinity:

"So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord".

How would a sentence like this be parsed with a more rigorous ontological formalism? Should we understand "Lord" as a predicate over entities rather than an entity itself? And what about the verb is used in phrases of the form "X is Lord"? Should we interpret it as an identity between entities, as a universal applying to a particular, as inclusion into a composite entity, etc.?

Does anyone know a publication that has attempted to define the Christian Trinity with a rigorous ontological approach?

  • 3
    Plenty, see IEP's review and Paoletti, The Holy Trinity and the Ontology of Relations for a recent take. – Conifold Feb 25 at 0:15
  • Your question belongs on Christianity SE as the question immediately becomes embroiled in Christian polemics. The evolution, history, and meanings of and in the two major polemic traditions; the anti-Platonic/anti-Trinitarian controversialists has been argued for literally centuries by both history pathologists as well as theologians of different Christian traditions. . – Swami Vishwananda Feb 25 at 7:21
  • The earliest known reference of the trinity being Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is late 2nd century (ref: Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire). It was not common in primitive Christianity. Elaine Pagels in her book "The Gnostic Gospels" and the Nag Hammadhi refer to the trinity as Divine Father, Divine Mother, and Son. Pagels also goes through the etymology of it in the Greek and Hebrew. – Swami Vishwananda Feb 25 at 13:15


While no doubt the Fathers of the [381] Council did not have a clear view of what was the sense in which there is just one “God” and the sense in which each of the three beings is “God” the distinction between the two senses of the crucial words makes available one obvious way of resolving the apparent contradiction. This is by thinking of these words as having the former sense [i.e. referring to one thing like a name] when the Creed says that there is “one God”, and as having the latter sense [i.e. being equivalent the adjective “divine”] when it claims that each of the beings “is God.” Thus understood, the Creed is saying that there is one unique thing which it names “God,” which consists of three beings.

Read the article, and edit the question into something more useful / specific.

  • Thanks for the link. I'll definitely going to take a look at it. As to making the question more useful / specific, how about you apply what you understand from the article to the sentence I quoted from the Athanasian Creed? So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord - how do you understand this sentence in light of the article you just shared? – Spirit Realm Investigator Feb 24 at 23:47
  • i cannot comment. and the question too broad imho. – user50495 Feb 24 at 23:52

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