The Trinity and Coherency

When I hear things like this (taken from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but could well be from any Christian Church):

The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the “consubstantial Trinity”.83 The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God whole and entire: “The Father is that which the Son is, the Son that which the Father is, the Father and the Son that which the Holy Spirit is, i.e. by nature one God.”84 In the words of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), “Each of the persons is that supreme reality, viz., the divine substance, essence or nature.”85

254 The divine persons are really distinct from one another. “God is one but not solitary.”86 “Father”, “Son”, “Holy Spirit” are not simply names designating modalities of the divine being, for they are really distinct from one another: “He is not the Father who is the Son, nor is the Son he who is the Father, nor is the Holy Spirit he who is the Father or the Son.”87 They are distinct from one another in their relations of origin: “It is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds.”88 The divine Unity is Triune.

This is what I hear:

a=b=c\\  a\neq b\\  a\neq c\\  c\neq b

And then when I hear a Christian say something like this, which was on the Unbelievable facebook forum,

We […] stress the Trinity a lot, not only because we think it is true but because it explains some things.

For one thing, it means that the ideas of personal relationship and love are built into existence and have always been. For another it helps us understand how God can be completely transcendent (the Father) and yet reveal Himself to us (via the Word and Spirit).

What I hear is:


Not only do I think
a=b=c\\  a\neq b\\  a\neq c\\  c\neq b
is true, but it explains a number of things. For one thing, it means that
is built into the system. For another it helps us understand how
a-x\neq b-x
and yet

So where am I going wrong here? Where does the analogy break? If you say that the Trinity is a “mystery”, that is simply an admission that the Trinity is incoherent. If you say that I am not using the word “is” correctly, then please enlighten me as to the proper definition, but make sure it is well defined.


About brianblais

I am a professor of Science and Technology at Bryant University in Smithfield, RI, and a research professor in the Institute for Brain and Neural Systems, Brown University. My research is in computational neuroscience and statistics. I teach physics, meteorology, astonomy, theoretical neuroscience, systems dynamics, artificial intelligence and robotics. My book, "Theory of Cortical Plasticity" (World Scientific, 2004), details a theory of learning and memory in the cortex, and presents the consequences and predictions of the theory. I am an avid python enthusiast, and a Bayesian (a la E. T. Jaynes), and love music.
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2 Responses to The Trinity and Coherency

  1. Michael Gravier says:

    But Brian, you are a “Trinity in One!” Your mind consists of a network of neural connections that move electricity around, and is influenced by chemicals suspended in a salt water solution. The whole messy bag of mush is mounted atop a bestial body with other organs and sensory inputs vying to influence it. Yet somehow you manage to experience an existence that is beyond bestial–your mind processes animalistic urges, yet also functions as a marvelous computer (you are particularly blessed in that regard), with a plethora of emotions that ameliorate the recommendations of both while ensuring your survival and happiness. Given that humanity experiences such a split and incoherent experience, is it any wonder that we contemplate models for how to deal with it?

  2. brianblais says:

    So going with this analogy, one can test individual components of the mixture – I can look at brain activity without any body, I can look at body chemistry and mechanics without the brain, etc… I can understand each individually, in great detail. Can I do that with the Trinity? I can replace certain parts as well. Can you do that with the Trinity? At best this gets you polytheism – there are three distinct persons that come together and accomplish something that, say, each individual can’t do. This is not at all the Christian conception of the Trinity, as I understand it.

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