Friday, December 10, 2021

Why the Trinity does not have three centers of consciousness

As Platinga describes it, ST is any theory of the Trinity that satisfies these conditions: "the theory must have Father, Son, and Spirit as distinct centers of consciousness ... (and) Father, Son, and Spirit must be tightly enough related to each other so as to render plausible" claims to monotheism. (Thomas H. McCall, Which Trinity? Whose Monotheism?, 12)

In line with the growth in interest in Classical Theism, Social Trinitarianism (ST) has garnered a bad rap as being fundamentally heterodox. When it was first promulgated by Cornelius Platinga and others however, it was meant to be an orthodox way of explaining how God is not unitary and yet God is still one. While there are still Social Trinitarians around, and I do not believe any of them should be necessarily tarred with the label "heretic," I am not convinced that Social Trinitarianism works as an adequate explanation of the Triune God.

A main aspect of Social Trinitarianism is its view that the persons of the Trinity are to be viewed in some manner as a community of persons, or "three centers of consciousness." The Father, Son and Spirit relate to each other analogous to a society of three persons. Such a view imbues the term "person" with its full meaning booth ancient and modern. Depending on the proponent of ST, the persons of the Trinity can be more or less analgous to a human person in his interaction with the other persons. Regardless of which version of ST is promoted or held, the idea of the persons forming a commmunity is fundamental to any view being labeled "Social Trinitarianism."

Much ink has been spilled over whether ST is a viable model of the Trinity. But perhaps the simplest way of showing the defect of ST is to view it from another angle. If the persons of the Trinity are centers of consciousnesss, then one can have one center of consciousness without involving the other two centers of consciousness. It seems therefore that one can "split" off one person of the Trinity from the others. One could make the argument that the three centers necessarily involve the others, but that is to make an argument from effect not from cause. Just because something is does not mean that it could or could not be. In other words, just because the persons would necessarily involve the others in reality does not mean that they cannot not involve the others hypothetically. Put another way, a claim of necessary involvement because that is how the Trinity works does not preclude that the persons of the Trinity could be separate if they so choose to. ST's view of necessary involvment of the persons is a weak form of unity, making the unity of the persons in the one God one of choice rather than one of absolute being.

This is of course not to claim that the argument here is a definitive response to Social Trinitarianism. Rather, it is an argument that I am personally convinced of. Having a necesary unity by choice among three consciousnesses instead of a unity of being because there are no centers of consciouness seems to be an inadequate model of the Trinity. That is why I am personally convinced that Social Trinitarianism, and any view with an idea of three centers of consciousness, is a defective view of the Trinity.

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