If the Trinity is the height of revelation, what could the revelation be?

Principle: The Trinity of God is the summit of all revelation.

So we have to speak of the Trinity in a way that faithfully conveys the idea of it being the greatest thing that could be revealed. But if modalism/ Sabellianism is true, then, at its heart, the revelation of the Trinity is nothing more than God does three different things. But we need no revelation to know this, so it makes no sense to call it the greatest possible revelation. Again, if Arianism is true, then the revelation of the Trinity amounts to saying God has a special relationship with the most special creature; but this is a tautology, and so we obviously need no revelation to know it. (We can leave off a discussion of Tritheism, since it is not a doctrine anyone advances but only an accusation of the ineptitude of another’s belief.)

So what about utter mysterianism? First of all, the name is inept – what one means to say is that the point of the revelation of the Trinity was to show that God was wholly unknowable. But this seems to be an even worse option than the other two since the whole point of revelation is to make something known to another. If the point was simply to convince us of ignorance, why bother saying so much about the Son and the Holy Spirit? Either the revelation of the Son and the Spirit tells us something about God or it doesn’t; if so, then mysterianism is false; if not, then the revelation is false – though one would only posit mysterianism to explain the truth of some revelation and so, on this second option, mysterianism becomes superfluous. If we say there is no Son of God, we need no theory (whether mysterianism or any other) to give an account of what role the Son of God might play in the life of God himself. Muslims or Buddhists are not mysterians about the Trinity, they simply do not assert that such a being was revelaed,  and therefore have no need for a theory of the revelation.


  1. October 24, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    I like this approach very much.

  2. PatrickH said,

    October 25, 2012 at 9:54 am

    Right. Revelation is precisely unveiling, apo-calypse. Revelation removes a barrier or obscuration: “I was blind, but now I see”; “the scales fell from my eyes”. So revelation cannot reveal a mystery, since the mystery is the obscuration, not the reality obscured. Mysterianism amounts to the claim that the veil is swept away to reveal…the veil.

  3. thenyssan said,

    October 25, 2012 at 10:03 am

    Echoing Brandon, I enjoy the approach. I’ve got some reservations though. Is “Trinity as greatest revelation possible” really our (i.e., Catholic) principle or starting point? That seems to be rather a conclusion. I take it as essential to the doctrine that it be an explanation of how various Scriptural and Tradition-al claims can be true. I’m not sure even St. John’s gospel is worded strongly enough to give you your starting idea, but I’d be happy to be pushed off that complaint.


    • October 25, 2012 at 12:41 pm

      I don’t know exactly what I want to say to this, but any answer I gave would just exemplify my desire to say “The Trinity was revealed”. Maybe this means my idea of revelation includes the rational efforts to work on texts that were also revealed, and maybe this in turn means I have two senses of “revealed”. I’m not sure. But it seems to me we have to be able to say “The Trinity was a revealed” and mean it simply and without qualification.

      To labor the point: I don’t have a theory of color, but whatever theory I formulated would have to account for how I can say that grass is green and mean it simply and without qualification. If some guy says “actually, grass isn’t green, in fact, green is the only color that it is not, since it is the only color that the surface does not absorb”, then I don’t know what I would say to him that wouldn’t simply strike him as begging the question.

      • thenyssan said,

        October 25, 2012 at 1:54 pm

        I’m very curious to figure out how we are approaching this differently, so I hope you don’t think I’m being argumentative for the heck of it.

        In trying to boil this down, I think I want to say this: the Incarnation reveals the infinitely rich inner, personal life of God; tri-personal existence that radically challenges all our usual ways of thinking about person, being, nature, division, composition, etc. Precisely because it is the “infinite riches” of the inner, personal life of the infinite God, this is the “greatest revelation possible” about God.

        The impression I had, or the reservation, or the whatever, is that I heard you saying the reverse of my terse summary. I wonder now if I should understand you to mean the following: whereas I want to fight the heretic on the grounds that their explanation doesn’t do justice to all that has been revealed (the first half of my summary), you seem to want to fight on the grounds that their explanation junks up the consequent of my summary.

        I feel like I’m getting closer to what you are thinking but I’m not sure yet.

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