Divinity compared to other abstractions

We recognize the logical possibility of the Trinity not in spite of the fact that there is only one divinity, but because of it.

Either it is impossible for there to be more than one divinity or monotheism just happens to be true for the moment, but monotheism is not the sort of thing that could just happen to be true for the moment (you might as well say that a mathematical theorem is true in this way. The theorem might be true or false, but not true for the moment.)*

At the same time, divinity is essentially communicable to many, formal, and abstract. The impossibility of polytheism or the necessity of monotheism has to be defended in a way that preserves the indefinite or purely formal character of divinity.

God or divinity, like all intelligible things, is communicable because he is purely formal, in the same way that a mathematical theorem both the one I know and you know and the one common to both of us and to anyone who might know or have known it. In God however, this intelligible existence is real existence and not just logical abstraction. Divinity or God is not just an idea but a self.

But this unity of God arises precisely from his intelligible or abstract existence and so must be communicable to many individuals.

So, in comparing divinity to other sorts of intelligible or abstract existence, we get

1.) Unlike other sorts of intelligible or abstract (IA) existence, divinity/God exists really and not just logically. Divinity/ God is truly a self and not just an idea. The capitalization of ‘god’ means only that the abstraction ‘a god’ or ‘divinity’ differs from other abstractions by being a true self. 

2.) Like all other sorts of IA existence, divinity/God is formal and therefore can exist in many individuals.

3.) Like all other IA existence, the nature is not a thing in addition to what it is communicated to. The DNA one learns about in biology class, which is capable of making us know any relevantly similar real strand of DNA, is not another instance of DNA. You can count up the supposed dozen people who knew the theory of Relativity in 1920, and thereby get twelve instances of the theory, but the theory itself would not make for a baker’s dozen. Though divinity/ God is a true self, (cf. #1) he is not, say, a fourth self in a trinity of divine individuals.

4.) Unlike all other IA existence, when divinity is communicated to another so as to make it fully divine it is logically impossible for that individual to exist apart from all other individual of the same description. Any existent frog can continue to be if another frog dies, but this is a logical impossibility for any divine individual. As a corollary to this:

4a.) Like all other IA existence, divine individuals are relations. What exists abstractly or intelligibly is a formal sign, which is not a sign imposed on some already existing substance but a pure relationship making an object known. But because it is a logical impossibility for one divine individual to exist without another, their existence as individuals is relative.

——-

*This claim even serves as common ground for atheists and theists, especially when reflecting on the Ontological Argument.

Advertisements

5 Comments

  1. William Farris said,

    February 14, 2016 at 6:29 pm

    Interesting. Fermat’s Last Theorem, for example, went for a long time as an unknown insofar as its truth, i.e., existence, was concerned. It was not true for the moment from the perspective of human reason. Then once demonstrated as true via mathematical reasoning – so called intelligibility – suddenly its ontological state was acknowledged: it does exist as a true relationship. The thing is, it existed as a bit of reality (that is, it was true) for all time, after all, but took a process for it to be discovered, as a proof. It could not be invented as such. This is the case for many abstract objects, even some we will never discover. They are real, necessary, atemporal, and a priori nonetheless.

    I assume when you say it is logically impossible for one divine individual to exist without another you are referring strictly to the Trinity. I may be missing your point entirely but I have been inspired nonetheless.

  2. Paul said,

    February 15, 2016 at 5:34 am

    “We recognize the logical possibility of the Trinity [because] there is only one divinity… divinity is essentially communicable to many, formal, and abstract… unity of God arises precisely from his intelligible or abstract existence and so must be communicable to many individuals.”

    This seems an attempt to reconcile the (typical) communicability of abstractions with the particular *content* of the abstraction “divinity.” Given the affirmations and denials that make up the definition of divinity with which we are concerned with here — I am thinking of the conclusions of natural theology — how is your attempt not simply incoherent? or, if you prefer, mysterious?

    Of course, if other, looser definitions of divinity (supremely powerful, supernatural) are used, then this problem vanishes… though the necessity of monotheism vanishes as well.

    • February 15, 2016 at 7:51 am

      Given the affirmations and denials that make up the definition of divinity with which we are concerned with here — I am thinking of the conclusions of natural theology — how is your attempt not simply incoherent

      You’ll need to be more specific. Obviously, I can’t point to what I wrote and say “ah yes, there’s an a claim that is incoherent given the conclusions of natural theology! Let me try to justify it to Paul!” I wrote everything I did because I thought it had coherence. I see that you quoted something that, were it all I said, would raise a good deal of problems, but that’s why I had to write more than what you quoted.

  3. Paul said,

    February 16, 2016 at 6:16 am

    I apologize if my lack of clarity has given offense. I am thinking of conclusions like, “God is utterly simple, without any composition,” “God is perfectly actual, without any admixture of potency,” “God’s essence is identical to his existence,” “God is the first cause,” “God is the last end,” and “God is the necessary being.” These can be predicated of only One.

    You opened your post with, “We recognize the logical possibility of the Trinity not in spite of the fact that there is only one divinity, but because of it.” Granted that this is a striking statement made to engage the reader in the argument, isn’t it striking because it’s exactly backwards? We start with the conclusions of reason above, we need revelation to tell us that the One is Three in some way, and the elaborations of Trinitarian theology endeavor to explain how this is not a contradiction. I’ve heard enough about tawhid to know that these explanations don’t convince some people.

    It’s your #2 that causes me problems: “Like all other sorts of IA existence, divinity/God is formal and therefore can exist in many individuals.” *This exact form* cannot exist in many individuals. If I distinguish between “Paul” and “Paulness,” defined as “all the properties that make Paul Paul,” and then say that Paulness is an abstraction and therefore inherently communicable to others, does that make sense? if I add that any other individual to which Paulness is communicated must therefore be an inseparable part of Paul, does that help? I concede that my essence (“Paulness”) is not identical with my existence, that I am not perfect, or simple, or necessary — but all these properties would make Paulness *less* communicable to other individuals that are *really other*, and not more.

    Isn’t it these kind of questions which led to the development of the theology of the divine persons, who are somehow distinct, but yet are not three individual gods? #4 and #4a may be true as descriptions of the Trinity, but it’s revelation that gets us to these propositions, not #2.

    • Will Farris said,

      February 16, 2016 at 9:35 am

      Might you recommend a DOCTRINE OF GOD theology book of recent date that goes into this kind of detail. Most do not seem to address these finer points.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: