Does Logic Presuppose the Christian God? Part II: Reasons Why Logic Cannot Presuppose the Christian God, #4: The Trinity
Now, the notion of the Trinity is perplexing enough by itself. Christian theologians throughout the centuries have tried their best to make sense of the doctrine of the Trinity, but at the end of the day they all seem to finish by throwing up their hands in resignation, only to announce that it's a big “mystery.”
To then turn around and claim on top of this that there could be no logic without the existence of the Trinity, stretches credibility to new heights of absurdity.
The question I’ve always had for the doctrine of the Trinity, and one which I’ve not seen the literature address explicitly, is: how many consciousnesses are we talking about? Is the Trinity one consciousness, or three consciousnesses? How could one discover this? Or could it be discovered? Christians tend to claim that they can only know what their god has “revealed” to them about itself, suggesting that one could not discover these things without such spoon-fed information. I have not found any text which directly speaks to this, but it seems a most basic question. Often we see statements to the effect that the Christian god is
three unique persons, each one with individual personality traits… Trinity does not mean three gods exist who together make up God. That would be tritheism. God is one…. There is only one God, but within that unity are three eternal and co-equal Persons – all sharing the same essence and substance, but each having a distinct existence… There’s no question that the Trinity is one of the great mysteries of God and the Bible. Yet that should not keep us from trying to understand it and what it means for us. (Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz, Knowing God 101: A Guide to Theology in Plain Language, p. 57)
God the Father is God
Jesus the Son is God
The Holy Spirit is God (Ibid., pp. 58-59)
But no, Christians insist that the Christian god is only one god: “Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God, the Lord is One” (Deut. 6:4).
Are you with me so far?
Let’s see if some other statements can help clarify the matter. Regarding the so-called “Trinitarian” nature of the Christian god, John Frame explains:
the Christian God is a three in one. He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is only one God… But the Father is God…, the Son is God…, and the Spirit is God… Somehow they are three, and somehow they are one. The Nicene Creed says that they are one “being” but three “substances,” or, differently translated, one “substance” and three “persons.” I prefer simply to say “one God, three persons.” The technical terms should not be understood in any precise, descriptive sense. The fact is that we do not know precisely how the three are one and the one is three. We do know that since the three are God, they are equal; for there is no superiority or inferiority within God. To be God is to be superior to everything. All three have all the divine attributes. (Apologetics to the Glory of God, p. 46; emphasis added)
Recalling the teaching of his professor, Cornelius Van Til, on the quagmire haunting the doctrine of the Trinity, Frame writes:
With regard to the doctrine of the Trinity, Van Til denies that the paradox of the three and one can be resolved by the formula "one in essence and three in person." Rather, "We do assert that God, that is, the whole Godhead, is one person." Van Til's doctrine, then, can be expressed "One person, three persons" -- an apparent contradiction. This is a very bold theological move. Theologians are generally most reluctant to express the paradoxicality of this doctrine so blatantly. (Van Til: The Theologian, p. 14)
In trying to sort all this out, Frame writes elsewhere:
How, then, do we relate the “one person” to the “three persons”? Van Til asserts that “this is a mystery that is beyond our comprehension.” Indeed! But he does not say that the two assertions are contradictory. Are they in fact contradictory? That may seem obvious, but in fact it is not necessarily the case. Anybody who has studied logic knows that something can be both A and not-A if the two A’s have different senses. In this case, God can clearly be both one person and not-one person, if the meaning of “person” changes somewhat between the two uses… How is the word person used in different senses or respects? Obviously, there is some difference between the sense of “person” applied to the oneness of God and the sense applied to the three members of the Trinity. Van Til would agree, for example, with the creedal statements that the Father is the begetter, the Son is begotten, and the Spirit is the one who proceeds; the whole Godhead is neither begetter, begotten, nor proceeder. But neither Van Til nor I would claim to be able to state, precisely and exhaustively, the difference between God’s essence and the individual persons of the Godhead. (Cornelius Van Til: An Analysis of His Thought, pp. 68-69; quoting Van Til, Introduction to Systematic Theology, p. 230)
Perhaps Frame would redirect at this point, indicating that no theory of concepts which man is capable of understanding would be sufficient to overcome the difficulty here. Indeed, Frame himself admits the assault which the doctrine of the Trinity poses on reason: “there is a point at which our reason must admit its weakness and simply bow before God’s majesty” (Ibid.). So now the problem is not with the doctrine, but with reason. But the method of reason is logic, the art of non-contradictory identification. So if the weakness is with reason, then this weakness must also infect logic. But the Trinity, since it is the nature of the Christian god, would have to lie at logic’s foundations if it were in fact the case that logic presupposes the Christian god. How can a system built upon a foundation suddenly fail when it comes to understanding that foundation?
John Frame concludes:
On the basis of Scripture, we can say that God’s nature and revelation are noncontradictory. That is a “good and necessary consequence” drawn from the truth and faithfulness of God. But Scripture does not promise that we will always be able to demonstrate the consistency of biblical teaching, apart from the general consideration of God’s truth and faithfulness. We may not always be able to show how two concepts can logically coexist. There may well be times when our inability to specify exhaustively the precise senses of terms we use will result in unresolved apparent contradictions. But why not? We walk by faith, not by sight. (Cornelius Van Til: An Analysis of His Thought, pp. 70-71)
In fact, what we have in the doctrine of the Trinity, as it has been described in the foregoing sources, is a three-fold contradiction. Expressed in terms of the law of identity, the doctrine of the Trinity reduces to the following formulation:
A is both A (itself) and non-A (more than itself)
When applied to the different members of the Trinity, we then have the following:
A) God is both (i) God the Father (itself) and (ii) the Godhead (more than itself)
B) God is both (i) God the Son (itself) and (ii) the Godhead (more than itself)
C) ) God is both (i) God the Holy Spirit (itself) and (ii) the Godhead (more than itself)
God the father is both God the father and more than God the father – i.e., also God the son and God the Holy Ghost. In other words, God the father is both itself and more than itself at the same time. It is both A and more than A.
In conclusion, the doctrine of the Trinity is hopelessly contradictory.
So the presuppositionalist claim that the Christian god is the basis of logic, or that logic reflects the character of the Christian god, apparently rests on ignoring what Christian theology teaches about its own god. For it would have us believe that logic is based on three distinct instances of something being both itself and more than itself at the same time (i.e., for all eternity, since the trinity is supposed to be eternal).
Van Til tells us that “God must always remain mysterious to man” (The Defense of the Faith, p. 14). If this same god is supposed to be the foundation of logic, this would mean that the foundation of logic “must always be mysterious to man.” But why should one accept this? We understand what logic is, what its purpose is, why man needs it, etc. Logic itself is not mysterious in any way. Why should we think its foundation “must always remain mysterious to man”?
I submit, then, that the presuppositionalist claim that logic presupposes the existence of the Christian god, cannot be true and in fact should be rejected completely.
by Dawson Bethrick