Matt Slick and The Doctrine of the Trinity Exposed Part 3 Thursday, May 22 2014

Matt Slick Hangs Up on Me in the Middle of Our Conversation About the Trinity Wednesday, May 21 2014 

I come on at 6:15.



The Doctrine of the Trinity Exposed Part 3 Tuesday, May 20 2014

The Doctrine of the Trinity Exposed Part 2 Tuesday, May 13 2014

The Doctrine of the Trinity Exposed Part 1 Wednesday, May 7 2014

An Excursus on Metaphysics Concerning Divine Will, Moral Inclinations, Grace and Nature Monday, May 5 2014 

During my ministry on the streets here in Louisville, Ky I have come across two issues that have spurred deep thought and reflection:

1. Why is it that I can complain that the Christian doctrine of the Trinity has an arbitrary explanation for the relationship between the “divine persons”, not grounded in ontology,  while I myself affirm that Yahuwah chose his elect without any regard for their deeds or their ontology as if it was arbitrary?

2. When I am speaking to atheists I must admit that it gets difficult explaining the difference between the morality of God and his decreed will; that is explaining the fact that God wills that adultery and murder and such evil happens but only with regard to his decreed will not his moral will.

To #1. This is a confusing and a collapsing, an Occam’s Razoring if you will, of grace and nature or grace and ontology. That is, when I am complaining that Christianity has no ontological groundwork for the supreme role the Father plays in the economia,  I am affirming that one divine person is ontologically superior to another and that is why one plays a superior role and another plays an inferior role. One person is absolute and independent. The other person is derived and thus dependent. I am not suggesting that one earned a superior role through meritorious actions. The supremacy pertains to the order of being not to merit.

The issue of election has nothing to do with superiority and inferiority. Both the elect and the reprobate are equal concerning their fallen humanity. Election concerns an outgrowing of grace from Yahuwah. It says nothing about the superiority or inferiority of the elect or the reprobate considered in their inherent nature or ontology. Blessedness and ontological superiority are not synonymous terminology.

The objection is apples and oranges from the start. The first issue pertains to why a divine person is a certain thing. The other pertains to why a divine person does a certain thing. The former pertains to ontology, the other to merit

Rav Shaul is clear that Yahuwah chooses the elect for the purpose of honorable use and the reprobate for dishonorable use.  That is not arbitrary. The essence of the Trinitarian argument is “Why does God view one more worthy, more meritorious, of salvation rather than another”? Is there a meritorious cause of election? No. Election is gracious. If election could be earned it would no longer be gracious. Our opponents here seem to conflate the word grace with the word  arbitrary and they also conflate a material with a meritorious cause. In doing so they are making a parallel between an object, a person, in this case Yahushuwah and an action, election. Could it also be that they are also conflating the words arbitrary and unjust?

To #2. I think the terminology of “the moral will” as distinct from “the decreed will” is the problem from the start. Morality in this context is not an action, it is a tendency, an inclination or habit within the person. It is a state of being (Not to confuse the reader into thinking that morality cannot refer to an action; it can, just not in this context). The decree is an action. It is a decision made upon the basis of intellectual deliberation. Yahuwah knew that he would have to permit certain actions that violated his moral inclinations in order for his decree to come to pass. However, in order to satisfy that moral inclination, he also decreed the establishment of institutions, both civil and religious for the punishment and forgiveness of said violations. Both having their ultimate fulfillments in Hell and the Atonement.

Reply to Edward Feser: Why Is There Anything At All? It’s Simple Sunday, Dec 22 2013

“For wherever we have a composite thing, a thing made up of parts, we have something that requires a cause of its own, a cause which accounts for how the parts get together.”

>>>Assertion. Is this an empirical observation? Does a hive of bees require another hive or another supra-bee to collect them together? If it is an empirical observation of things in-ousia, is this assumption not asserting the very thing it denies, that God is huperousia, and thus not capable of being known in essence or spoken about in essence? If knowledge is one thing for me and another for God, why would causality for me and causality for God be the same?

“This is obviously true of the ordinary things of our experience.  For example, a given chair exists only because there is something (a carpenter, or a machine) that assembled the legs, seat, etc. into a chair.  And the chair continues to exist only insofar as certain combining factors — such as the tackiness of glue or friction between screw threads — continue to operate.  The point applies also to things whose composition is less crudely mechanical.  A water molecule depends for its existence on the oxygen and hydrogen atoms that make it up together with the principles of covalent bonding.”

>>>This definitely seems to be where this is heading.

“But it is true at deeper metaphysical levels as well.  Any changeable thing, the Aristotelian argues, must be composed of actuality and potentiality.  For example, an ice cube melts because it has a potential to take on a liquid form that is actualized by the heat in the surrounding air.”

>>>But an ice cube is in-ousia.

“In any contingent thing, the Thomist argues, its essence is distinct from its existence.  That is why a tree (say) can come into existence and go out of existence, since what it is to be a tree — a tree’s essence or nature — by itself entails nothing one way or the other about whether it exists.  Whether it is, you might say, is distinct from what it is.  Actuality and potentiality, existence and essence are thus components of any thing that has both — even if they are metaphysical components rather than material components — and their composition entails that such a thing depends on a cause, on something that actualizes its potentials, that imparts existence to its essence.”

>>>But a tree is in-ousia.

“So, whatever the ultimate source, cause, or explanation of things is — again, refrain from calling it “God” if you want — it cannot be made up of material components”

>>>I don’t believe in ADS and I don’t believe that Yahweh is made up of material components.

“or actuality and potentiality”

>>>I don’t believe that there are any historical existent potentialities in Yahweh.

“or existence and essence”

>>>I believe that existence and essence are distinct in Yahweh, not chronologically, but logically.

“Nor can it be composed of any other metaphysical parts — genus and difference, substance and properties, or what have you.”

>>>This is a conflation between the genus of being and the genus of epistemology. Genus is not a historical thing. Genus pertains to epistemology. That is genus informs us to the meaning of a historical thing. Genus is not a thing or a part of a thing.

“It cannot be an instance of a genus, for then it will require some aspect or other that differentiates it from other instances of that genus, and that entails having metaphysical parts.”

>>>You keep assuming that a Genus is some historical entity or being. The way you are using the word “require” does not pertain to the order of being but to epistemology. Yes, in order for a person to know the difference in meaning between the Father and the Son, the Father’s hypostatic property of supremacy and independence will need to be known.

“It cannot instantiate properties since that would, again, require some differentiating feature that sets it apart from other instances of those properties”

>>>There are no other instances of the Father’s properties. And you keep conflating historical being with epistemology. By “sets apart” are you referring to logical distinction? If so, you have admitted to a conflation between ontology and epistemology.

“which again entails having metaphysical parts.”

>>>A genus is not a metaphysical part.

“Naturally, if it is the ultimate source, cause or explanation of things”

>>>See, you just conflated cause and explanation.

“it is actual or existent”

>>>But if it is huperousia, the word existent for you means something different for “it”.

“ — it could hardly cause or explain anything otherwise — but it is not a compound of actuality and potentiality as other things are, nor a compound of existence and essence.  It would have to be, always and “already” as it were, pure actuality rather than something that has or could have any potential in need of actualization.”

>>>You are conflating being and activity. A being does not have to be potential simply because it is logically distinct from its activity. Legs are not the same thing as running. Running is the activity of the legs. Does that mean that legs are only potential when they are laying still while you sleep and not actual? Do I actually only have legs when I am walking or running? Ridiculous!

“It would have to be, not “an” existent thing among other existent things, but pure being or existence itself.  Anything less would require a cause or source of its own and thus not be the ultimate cause or source.”

>>>And here is the pantheism. All things are the ultimate cause in substance. The ultimate cause is existence itself. If you exist you must be the One that is existence itself. It is either God does not exist or you are God on this silly dialectical model.

“Note that on the classical theist view of ultimate explanation, there are no inexplicable “brute facts.”  Things that require causes require them because they have potentials that need to be actualized and parts that need to be combined.  To say of a thing that it has parts and yet lacks any cause which accounts for their combination, or has potentiality yet lacks any cause which actualized that potentiality, would be to make of it a “brute fact.”  But that is precisely what the classical theist does not say about the ultimate cause of things.  It says instead that, since it is purely actual (and thus devoid of potentials that could be actualized) and absolutely simple (and thus devoid of parts that could be combined), it not only need not have a cause but could not in principle have had one.”

>>>But since you conflate cause with explanation, the fact that you are having to explain it means that it must have a cause.

 “It, and it alone, has its source of intelligibility in itself rather than in some external cause.”

>>>See, you did it again.

“So, whatever else we say about the ultimate cause, source, or explanation of things — and whether or not we want to call it “God,” whether or not we want to identify it with the God of the Bible specifically, and whether or not we think it has any religious implications in the first place — we are going to have to regard it as absolutely simple or non-composite, as pure actuality devoid of potentiality, and as being itself rather than something that merely instantiates being.”

>>>Keep dreaming.

“We are also going to have to regard it as immutable and uncaused, because only what has potentiality capable of being actualized, or parts capable of being combined, can be caused or undergo change, and the source or cause of all things must be devoid of potentiality or parts.”

>>>So now, immutability is conflated with aseity. Thus the Son cannot be immutable and caused or eternally begotten. The “deity” of the Son now gets the flush.

“Whereas the classical theist’s philosophical analysis of the idea of God typically begins by thinking of Him as the ultimate cause of things, the theistic personalist begins instead by conceiving of God as a certain kind of “person.”

>>>Then both are wrong, because this contrast affirms that causality is distinct from personhood, whereas the Orthodox position sees causality as a personal property of the Father.

“One of the main objections theistic personalists often raise against the idea of divine simplicity is that it makes God out to be too abstract, and is irreconcilable with the idea that God is a person.”

>>> Agreed, but who is to say that the father and the son are different persons if causality is a divine attribute and divinity cannot be caused?

 “Now classical theists, in general, by no means regard God as impersonal.”

>>>Smile and nod.

 “They typically argue that when the notion of the ultimate cause of all things is fully developed, it can be seen that there is a sense in which we must attribute to this cause intellect and will.”

>>>No you cannot because intellect and will require distinction. That is why the nous is second place in Plotinus’ construction.

“But the meaning of these terms as applied to God must be very carefully unpacked, and anthropomorphism avoided.  And it is definitely a mistake from the classical theist point of view to start with the idea that God is, like us, an instance of the kind or genus “person”.

>>>Person is not a genus. Humanity is a genus. Person is an instance of that genus.

“who instantiates some of the same properties that other persons do, but has them to a higher degree and lacks some of the other properties (such as corporeality).”

>>>Them? Can a monad possess them?

“There are various objections that can be raised against this approach, but the most relevant one for present purposes is that insofar as theistic personalism implies that God has parts”

>>>But I don’t accept the same definition of “parts” as you do. Your definition assumes that a genus is a historical thing/being/subject or a part of a thing/being/subject and that distinguishing being from activity implies potentiality. All unforgivably stupid.

“or that he is one instance among others of a kind, or that like those others he instantiates properties, etc., it makes theism simply unsuitable as a candidate for ultimate explanation.”

>>>Which would also make your explanation unsuitable because that would imply that you caused the One.

 “For (as the classical theist sees things, anyway) it makes of God something essentially creaturely”

>>>It’s almost as if man was made in the image of God! Oh no Nigga, we can’t be havin that!  If man got the idea that he was made in God’s image he might start excusing the intermediaries and flirting with heresies like the priesthood of the believer and private judgment! oh no nigga we can’t be havin that!

“– something which, like other composites, requires a cause of his own.  Or if he doesn’t have one, he will simply be a brute fact and thus not an ultimate explanation at all — something which, like other things, is composite, but which merely happens inexplicably nevertheless not to have been caused.  This opens theism up to New Atheist-style objections to the effect that God is a metaphysical fifth wheel — something which at best seems dubiously preferable to taking the universe as the ultimate brute fact, and at worst seems ruled out by Ockham’s razor.”

>>>Or you could distinguish being from activity and avoid the whole ocean of gobily-woop you have cooked up for us. Could it be that Ockham’s razor is what helped get you here in the first place? Maybe it is not such a good idea to conflate categories as a reaction to a multiplicity of entities?

“The question of whether a deity of the theistic personalist sort exists or not therefore does seem “eclipsed” by the question of why anything exists at all, and “not directly on point.”  And that was precisely my point in offering my friendly criticism of John and Robert’s choice of selections for The Mystery of Existence.  Given the book’s mission, it would, I argue, have been more appropriate to emphasize classical theist writers and give theistic personalist or neo-theist writers secondary consideration.  But (as I have complained) the reverse course was followed.”

>>>Seeing that your view of ADS would logically preclude the existence of anything I fail to grasp the point. On your view the ultimate principle is a monad huperousia which would imply it does not exist in the same sense we understand existence. It also has no distinctions and so how any emanation of distinctions, implying the distinction-less One is one substance with distinctions, could be explained remains in the realm of squared circles and elephants dancing on their ears.

“The first thing to say in response is that it cannot be emphasized too greatly that divine simplicity is not merely Aquinas’s doctrine.  It is by no means the eccentric teaching of a single thinker or two.  Rather, it is the common heritage of the entire mainstream Western tradition in theology and philosophy of religion, endorsed by the major pagan, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim thinkers referred to above and incorporated into the official theology of Roman Catholicism.”

>>>Nonsense. Plotinus was very clear to make intellect and will a secondary being to the One.

“So, suppose we took God to be one instance among others of the kind or genus “person,” who thus instantiates the same properties we do — power, knowledge, goodness, etc. — just to a higher degree.”

>>>Ridiculous. Yahweh is eternal and omniscient; nothing of this pertains to us.

“Since what we call “power,” “knowledge,” “goodness,” etc. in us are obviously different properties”

>>>No. Power is an attribute, not a property. Knowledge is the activity of a being not a being itself. Goodness is also activity.

“then argues that what we predicate of this cause cannot, for that very reason, be exactly what we predicate of the things of our experience, but only analogues of what we predicate of those things (Summa theologiae I, q. 4).”

>>>Like all composed things require a cause?

 “Hence when we say that God has power and knowledge (for example) we don’t mean that He instantiates the properties having power and having knowledge, just as we do.  We mean that there is something in Him that is analogous to what we call “power” and “knowledge” in us, but that whatever this amounts to, it does not amount to his “having” just the same thing we do, or instantiating “properties,” or being a substance in which various distinct attributes inhere, etc.”

>>>Depends on what kind of analogy we are referring to.

“Hence there is nothing any more suspect about Aquinas’s procedure than there is in quantum theory.”

>>>Fine. I reject both.

Is Divine Simplicity Necessary for Yahweh’s Aseity? Wednesday, Dec 4 2013 

This is a Facebook Dialogue I had with Ryan Hedrich.

Drake Shelton Ryan Hedrich, I thought I saw you commenting on the issue of simplicity a while back. I think you said you had a conversation with a guy about the necessity of simplicity, that is, simplicity is necessary for independence and a being with distinctions is inherently a dependent being. The whole thing is an ad hoc assertion in my opinion but I think you spoke to the issue in more detail. Could you refer me to that?

Ryan Hedrich That was a conversation I had with someone over facebook message. Here is an [edited] copy of it:


I’ve got some questions about Nicene triadology, as I’m rather sympathetic to it at the moment but still haven’t worked out many of the related issues in my mind.

1. Divine simplicity, as far as I can tell, seems to be the enemy of Nicene triadology, and I can think of various good arguments against it. (E.g. there is no real distinction between generation and creation, if nature = will.) But an argument for DDS which sounds rather convincing to me is that it is necessary for God’s independence; roughly, God cannot depend for His existence on anything that is not itself God, and thus there cannot be parts of God which compose Him. What are your thoughts on this pro-DDS argument?

2. Related to 1, it seems that modern Western philosophy involves a debate between “classical theism” (which includes DDS) and “theistic personalism.” Do you know if this debate at all corresponds with the debate between Western and Nicene trinitarianism?

3. What are your thoughts on Eastern Orthodox trinitarianism? That is, how close is it to your Nicene doctrine, and how does the Nicene doctrine relate to the essence/energies distinction?
Any recommended readings would be appreciated, too. Thank you for your help.


“But an argument for DDS which sounds rather convincing to me is that it is necessary for God’s independence; roughly, God cannot depend for His existence on anything that is not itself God, and thus there cannot be parts of God which compose Him. What are your thoughts on this pro-DDS argument?”

On Nicene Trinitarianism, “God” has multiple possible meanings. It can refer to the Father in a unique, Monarchical sense. It can refer to the Son and Spirit in the sense that both are consubstantial with the Father, members of the class of persons who are divine beings. It can also just refer to that actual genus under which each of these persons is classified.

The first question I would have, then, is what “God” means. I can’t answer the objection until that is clear. However, it seems to me DDS has a tendency to make “God” Totally Other and therefore utterly unknowable, rendering DDS self-defeating. Is God His attributes (cf. “itself”)? Are these attributes all really just one? Does it mean the same thing to attribute something to God as it does when we attribute something to a man? Are we God? Is language inadequate to describe God to us as He really is? Or is God three persons? If so, are there any real distinctions between the persons of the Trinity? How?

So I suppose I would deny the assumption that “God cannot depend for His existence on anything that is not itself God.” Even given one of the Western conceptions of God, whether a Trinity or set of attributes, one cannot do without the other. The persons are distinct from the attributes they possess – they cannot be conflated – but at the same time, there cannot be divine attributes without the persons and vice versa. And this seems to be the sort of “dependence” the argument has in mind.

“Related to 1, it seems that modern Western philosophy involves a debate between “classical theism” (which includes DDS) and “theistic personalism.” Do you know if this debate at all corresponds with the debate between Western and Nicene trinitarianism?”

Well, all the Nicene Trinitarians I know reject DDS, and the reason each one has changed his views on the Trinity has stemmed from a focus on the individual persons of the Trinity more so than the “being of God,” whatever that is taken to mean. But I honestly had to look up the debate you are talking about, so whether the connection is necessary or incidental, I don’t know.

“What are your thoughts on Eastern Orthodox trinitarianism? That is, how close is it to your Nicene doctrine, and how does the Nicene doctrine relate to the essence/energies distinction?”

The only book I have by an EO is Timothy Ware’s The Orthodox Church, so what I know about that distinction is derived from there. But he says enough in that to make it clear the distinction and reasons for it are absurd. Again, in the circles I’ve spoken with, there is a complete rejection of it by NTs as just another instance of an attempt to protect a God who is Totally or Wholly Other (Ware’s own words, in fact). We can know God, our knowledge is univocal with God’s (the Father’s, although the same can be said of the Son or Spirit) knowledge, and God’s omniscience is essential to His person, but pantheism does not follow from this. We are and ever remain partial knowers with creaturely limitations. But we can thereby be united to God – a real union, not an absurd one like being united to “energies” which somehow just are God without involving His “essence.”

As for recommended reading, Tertullian, Novatian, Alexander of Alexadria, and Athanasius are good ECFs, though they might differ on a few particulars. Samuel Clarke has some problems since he was a Unitarian, but the Scripture passages he cites are very useful. Bishop Bull is another guy from a few centuries ago who I would recommend you read something by on or whatnot. As far as contemporary authors go, I’m not sure that there’s much out there, to be honest. Most of my understanding has developed through group discussion/debate and reading the above authors.


I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to reply to this more in depth, but for now I have one question: is it true that Samuel Clarke was a Unitarian? I thought that was just the charge launched by those who couldn’t otherwise process what he was proposing, and that he was generally proposing the Nicene view.


He denied that the Son and Spirit necessarily exist:…/unitarianism-samuel…

Ryan Hedrich Interlocutor:

Thanks for the response, Ryan. I appreciate the reading recommendations.

The argument for DDS would most commonly use “the divine essence” as the definition of God, but I don’t think it actually matters much here what the definition is. The point of this DDS argument is that a being, to be perfect, must be completely independent and so lack all composition of any sort.

In other words, I do think a potentially good argument against DDS is that it is incompatible with trinitarianism, even with the “personal distinctions” posited within the mainstream Western conception of the Godhead. I also think that the resultant unknowability of God, as you mention, could be a good argument against it. But I’m trying to isolate this positive argument for DDS from the various negative arguments against it. So perhaps you could construe this argument as coming from a Muslim or even from a neoplatonist pagan, arguing that the “first principle” of reality, the ultimate metaphysical ground of all that exists, must be absolutely metaphysically simple, without any kind of composition whatsoever, not dependent for its existence on any parts.

My initial response is simply to deny that composition implies “dependence” on parts. When we, as men, discuss how we have a “dependent” or “contingent” existence, what we generally mean is that we would not exist unless God desired us to, we could cease to exist at any moment, and so on. But the fact that act and potency, or matter and form, etc. can be distinguished within us is not something that seems to mark out our dependence. And so it might be that with God the Father, on the NT view, real distinctions within Him, such as between nature and will, just as a matter of fact do not mark out any dependence within Him.


I got the sense that’s what you wanted, which is why I wrote that I suppose I would deny the assumption that “God cannot depend for His existence on anything that is not itself God.” That probably should have been its own paragraph to distinguish it from what followed.

I took “dependence” to refer to something without which God could not be who He is. That is, on the NT view, God “depends” on goodness insofar as He could not be God without being good. It’s necessary that one be good if one is God. But goodness isn’t God, it’s a component of God. So God depends on something that is not itself God.

My reply is just “so what?” Why do advocates of DDS think that “God cannot depend for His existence on anything that is not itself God”? It’s not as if goodness is somehow superior to God on the NT view, because we also hold that without God there could be no goodness. So dependency is mutual in that sense. [This might be what you are getting at in your reply as well? Goodness is not contingently related to God nor vice versa.] So I don’t see any reason to take their premise for granted.


Yeah, I agree with that. Thanks, I’ll probably be returning at random points in the future for further discussion.

Ryan Hedrich [A little while later]


I’m going to spill my thoughts a bit here and request feedback.

I’m discussing Nicene trinitarianism with some Reformed guys, and we’ve gotten to the point where we distinguish between two options: (1) the Son has the numerically same nature as the Father, in which case the Son also possesses the property of aseity, even though His personal distinction is generated by the Father; and (2) the Son has a numerically different nature from the Father, even though it is generically the same (just as two humans are part of the genus of humanness), in which case aseity is a particular property of the person of the Father, not an attribute peculiar to deity.

The main argument against (1), as I see it right now, is its incoherency. It makes no sense to speak of human relations this way (e.g. as if both father and son possessed the same token of the type of human nature, rather than having different tokens of the same type), and so we have good prima facie grounds to deny such an absurdity as the divine, uncreated foundation for all reality. But if this idea of three-persons-subsisting-in-one-numeric-nature is coherent, then I don’t think the revealed facts of eternal generation and eternal procession offer much evidence, in themselves, for your Nicene view; it sounds plausible enough to say that these three Persons stand in eternal causal relations with one another, even while they all subsist in one numeric nature. **If** it is coherent to say that three Persons can subsist in one numeric nature (a big “if”), then the idea that they could subsist in one numeric nature *and stand in eternal causal relations of generation and spiration* would also be coherent.

Here are the main arguments I can think of in favor of (1):

(a) The doctrine of divine simplicity entails (1).
(b) The Bible describes the three Persons as subsisting in one numeric nature.
(c) The biblical description of aseity as a divine attribute, rather than as a personal property of the Father, entails (1).
(d) The biblical teaching of monotheism entails (1).
(e) The early church fathers defended (1).

My questions:

(i) Are there any good arguments for (b)? That seems as if it could not be found anywhere in the Bible, because the distinctions between (1) and (2) seem too precise for the Bible to explicitly handle.

(ii) Are there any good arguments for (c)? This seems like the most plausible argument that could be made from the biblical data for (1), yet it also seems too precise for the Bible to explicitly handle. (Ironically, I think this argument would be undermined if (a) were utilized.)

(iii) I would assume that if (c) cannot be proven, then (d) cannot either. I know that in your blog post about Drake’s triadology, you mention the charge of tritheism as being the most serious, but you also mention that it is false since Drake holds to the Father as the one true God. I’d like to read more on this specific argument. Are you aware of any other debate or discussion on it?

(iv) Regarding (e), I know you already mentioned several ECFs above, but do these men deal specifically with the issue of numeric unity versus generic unity? One of the Reformed guys with whom I was discussing this said that “this exact question was the nature of much debate during the Patristic period, and the unity of a single will and undivided nature.” If you’re aware of any ECFs who discuss this specific question (whether there’s one will shared by the three Persons, whether there’s one numeric nature shared by them), that would be most excellent.

(v) Besides the argument from incoherency I mentioned above, what are the best arguments of which you know that disprove (1)? Indirectly, I can imagine that any real distinction between personal properties and divine attributes entails the falsity of DDS, which is generally regarded as the cornerstone of this one-numeric-nature view, yet I don’t know how to formalize that argument as a full disproof of (1) (i.e. I don’t know if the falsity of DDS entails the falsity of (1)).

Ryan Hedrich Me:

“But if this idea of three-persons-subsisting-in-one-numeric-nature is coherent…Besides the argument from incoherency I mentioned above, what are the best arguments of which you know that disprove (1)”

I wrote a post thoroughly critiquing numeric unity here:…/clark-realism-and…

I don’t know of any biblical, exegetical arguments that are explicitly contradictory to this position. Then again, I don’t know Greek so wouldn’t consider exegesis my strong suit. You’re better off asking opponents what they think.

“I know that in your blog post about Drake’s triadology, you mention the charge of tritheism as being the most serious, but you also mention that it is false since Drake holds to the Father as the one true God. I’d like to read more on this specific argument. Are you aware of any other debate or discussion on it?”

In addition to the above link, see here:…/more-trinitarian…/…/trinitarian…

See also these short posts:…/trinitarianism-and……/classification-and…

“Regarding (e), I know you already mentioned several ECFs above, but do these men deal specifically with the issue of numeric unity versus generic unity?”

Here is a very, very brief summary of what ECFs have to say in favor of generic unity over numeric unity:

“Transfer, then, to the divine dogmas ***the same standard of difference which you recognise in the case both of essence and of hypostasis in human affairs,*** and you will not go wrong.” – Basil the Great

“This term also corrects the error of Sabellius, for it removes the idea of the identity of the hypostases, and introduces in perfection the idea of the Persons. For ***nothing can be of one substance with itself, but one thing is of one substance with another.***”

“The Son is not only “like,” but equal, the same in Godhead, the same in eternity and power. And yet ***we do not say, “tautoousion,”*** or the expression that some use might be compared with Sabellius.” – Epiphanius

“For neither do we hold a Son-Father, as do the Sabellians, ***calling Him of one but not of the same essence,*** and thus destroying the existence of the Son.”

“For as the Beginning is one Essence, so Its Word is one, essential, and subsisting, and Its Wisdom. For as He is God from God, and Wisdom from the Wise, and Word from the Rational, and Son from Father, so is He from Subsistence Subsistent, and from Essence Essential and Substantive, and ***Being from Being.***” – Athanasius

“For we, who by the grace of God possess an insight into both the times and the occasions of the Sacred Writings, especially ***we who are followers of the Paraclete, not of human teachers, do indeed definitively declare that Two Beings are God, the Father and the Son, and, with the addition of the Holy Spirit, even Three,*** according to the principle of the divine economy, which introduces number, in order that the Father may not, as you perversely infer, be Himself believed to have been born and to have suffered, which it is not lawful to believe, forasmuch as it has not been so handed down.” – Tertullian


Extremely helpful! Thank you so much.

“You’re better off asking opponents what they think.”

As you would surely agree, I’ve found that with various topics I’m much better off asking the people who don’t even believe it for the best arguments in its favor.


Whether 1 John 5:20 refers to the Son has repeatedly popped up. I think not, but if so, it would put a dent in the argument that the “one God” only refers to the Father. John 8:58 has been cited as indicative of the Son’s aseity. There is also a question as to whether or not the Son is referred to as Yahweh (Genesis 18, Isaiah 6, cf. John 12) has also required some qualification which can appear to some as ad hoc, viz. the Son is the perfect image of and representative for His Father, from whom He has received all things. I might be forgetting some.

Drake Shelton Ryan, it seems then that you are admitting that Yahweh does depend on his attributes with reference to the genus of epistemology but not the genus of being. Would that be correct? It seems then that if it is true we have another conflation.

It would appear then that the four horseman of the Triune construction are these:

1. A conflation between person and nature.

2. A conflation between relation and being.

3. A conflation between generic and numeric unity-in abstracto and in concreto.

4. A conflation between the genus of epistemology and the genus of being.

Drake Shelton Let these be released upon the modern seminaries and we shall go conquering and to conquer.

Ryan Hedrich “Ryan, it seems then that you are admitting that Yahweh does depend on his attributes with reference to the genus of epistemology but not the genus of being. Would that be correct?”

Epistemologically: Given that Yahweh is an individual who is not beyond being – who we can know – then Yahweh is a member of genera or classes. He is in the class of beings whose attributes include goodness and/or eternality and/or omniscience, etc. We could not know Him if we could not classify Him, and so there clearly is some epistemological dependency, although again, that “dependency” is mutual since we couldn’t know what goodness, eternality, or omniscience is if we couldn’t know Yahweh.

Ontologically: I will probably have to think about this one a bit more, because it involves the status of the ontological existence of classes, but it seems to me Yahweh ontologically depends on His attributes insofar as Yahweh cannot be Yahweh unless He is good, eternal, omniscient, etc. Although none of these attributes are identical to Him, they are all essential components or parts (as some derogatorily refer to them) of Yahweh. God’s existence does not precede His essence; He did not become God. But by the same token and similar to the above point in the epistemological sphere, however, there goodness et. al. can’t “exist” apart from concretization in Yahweh. Yahweh, as an individual, is just as necessary for there to “be” goodness et. al., whether abstract or concrete [in anything/anyone else].

This doesn’t appear to me to be a conflation of epistemology and ontology for us. The cases are analogous insofar as God and God’s attributes are 1) both necessary in order for us to know either and 2) both necessary in order for either to exist. This isn’t even really surprising, given that what we know about God SHOULD correspond to who God is.

And this is obviously quite different from advocates of divine simplicity, who conflate epistemology and ontology when they argue that for us to know God would require that we be God because God just is what He knows.

Drake Shelton Ryan Hedrich, “God’s existence does not precede His essence”

>>>This is where I have distinguished essence and nature. In my mind Yahweh’s being/essence/faculties does logically precede in the order of being his attributes/thinking/nature. There must be a mind in order to think.

Ryan Hedrich I’ll have to think about that too. Any subclass must belong to a superclass, but such doesn’t require logical precedence. For example, a human must be a person, because all humans are persons. But we would not say that one who is a human was a person logically prior to that. However, what you are saying seems to be rather that since God is not pure act, there must be a difference between God’s activity (energy?) and the faculties which serve as a logical precondition for that. And that seems to be a mediating position between God as pure potentiality (existentialism) and God as pure act (simplicity). But [certain] activities would still need to be eternally necessary for God (e.g. thinking), right?

Drake Shelton Yes. That is a great deduction.


Excursus on 1 Tim. 3:16 Wednesday, Sep 11 2013 

I have spoken to this issue a bit here:

Even if the Theos reading were correct, there is no numeric qualification to it and thus we could fairly place this in the Elohim category. Clarke pointed out that if the Theos reading was correct this passage is simply saying the same thing as John 1:1-3.

Burgon argues,

“S. Paul certainly wrote μέγα ἐστὶ τὸ τῆς εὐσεβείας μυστήριον; Θεὸς ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκί, (“Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh”) But it requires to be explained at the outset, that the holy Name when abbreviated (which it always was), thus,—ΘΣ (“God”)” (99)

>>>You see reader, Burgon knows that the wording in the text is not Θεὸς ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκί. The Θεὸς reading is an inference from an assumed contracted form: ΘΣ.

Burgon states,

“An archetypal copy in which one or both of these slight strokes had vanished from the word ΘΣ (“God”), gave rise to the reading ΟΣ (“who”),—of which nonsensical substitute, traces survive in only two349 manuscripts,—א and 17: not, for certain, in one single ancient Father,—no, nor for certain in one single ancient Version.”

This is the exact opposite thing stated by Sir Issac Newton, in Opera quae exstant omnia, Volume 5,

“What the Latins have done to this text, the Greeks have done to that of St. Paul (Timothy 3.16). For by changing o’ into ΘC, the abbreviation of Θεός, they now read ‘Great is the mystery of godliness: GOD manifested in the flesh.’ Whereas all the churches for the first four or five hundred years, and the authors of all the ancient versions, Jerome, as well as the rest, read, ‘Great is the mystery of godliness, which was manifested in the flesh.’  ”

Page 531,+and+the+authors+of+all+the+ancient+versions,+Jerome,+as+well+as+the+rest+read+%E2%80%98+Great+is+the+mystery+of+godliness,+which+was+manifested+in+the+flesh%22&sig=BCqK2WTQbhfGzwlduZGwPPVof7s&ei=cbcqUvuYOqWZiAKWyYGIAQ&id=myMEjZwWbssC&ots=sHFN492Qg5#v=onepage&q&f=false

Jerome’s late 4th Century Latin Vulgate states,

“et manifeste magnum est pietatis sacramentum quod manifestatum est in carne iustificatum est in spiritu apparuit angelis praedicatum est gentibus creditum est in mundo adsumptum est in gloria

And evidently great is the mystery of godliness, which was manifested in the flesh, was justified in the spirit, appeared unto angels, hath been preached unto the Gentiles, is believed in the world, is taken up in glory.”

Bruce M. Metzger , The Text of the New Testament, page 187,

“In i Tim. iii. 16 the earlier manuscripts read  OC (‘he who’) while many of the later manuscripts read ΘC (the usual contraction for Θεός, ‘God’). The letters gamma, pi, and tau (F, II, T) were liable to be confused, particularly if the cross-bar on the first and last letters were carelessly drawn, or if the right leg of the pi were too short.”

Samuel Clarke, Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity

“It has been great controversy among learned men, whether [Θεός] or [ὅς] or [o’] be the true reading in this place.”

Page 88

Conspiracy sauce for the goose can be for the gander. Buzzard states,

“Another example of a text which was altered is 1 Timothy 3:16. This verse reads in the KJV: “God was manifested in the flesh .” Modern versions have corrected the word “God” to “He who.” The alteration of an original “He who” (in Greek Oj) was very sneakily accomplished when some scribes changed the O (omicron) into a q (theta) giving qj (theta sigma). The reading THS was an abbreviated form of the Greek word theos, God. All that had to be done was to draw a little line across the middle of the O to produce the Greek letter theta (q). Then the text was made to sound Trinitarian and to support the Incarnation: “God was manifested in the flesh.” “He who” (O j) was made to read “God” (qj).”

 Anthony Buzzard, Jesus Was Not a Trinitarian: A call to return to the creed of Jesus, page 257

Now the issue of how this reading relates to the quotations of the early Church Fathers is controversial as well. Some claim that the writings of the Church Fathers have been edited.

In these quotations the Theos reading does not appear,

Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, Book XI

9…Let us postpone for a moment the exposition of this passage in the Gospel, and ask them first whether they have forgotten the preaching of the Apostle, who said, Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness, which was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, received up in glory. 1 Timothy 3:16

John Cassian, On the Incarnation, Book VII, C 17,

“For Scripture says that that which was born of Mary is of the Holy Ghost. Matthew 1:20 Who also filled with righteousness (justitia) that which was created: for it says ‘He appeared in the flesh, was justified in the Spirit.’ 1 Timothy 3:16″

Tertullian does not use this passage in his Against Praxeas,

In these quotations the Theos reading does appear,

Gregory of Nyssa Against Eunomius, Book II, 1,

“but that we might be convinced that God has truly been manifested in the flesh, and believe that to be the only true mystery of godliness 1 Timothy 3:16,”

John Chrysostom, Homily 15 on the Gospel of John,

“And wonder not that Paul says in another place, God was manifested in the Flesh 1 Timothy 3:16; because the manifestation took place by means of the flesh, not according to (His) Essence. ”

Regardless of the controversies, I think I have proved that the variant reading is definitely not a product of the “the unwearied industry of 150 years” before Burgon wrote in the 1880s.   I don’t care to chase this rabbit any further.

Triune Theology and Hermeticism Tuesday, Jul 30 2013 

Great find Mark Xu!


Triune Theology is based off of occult materialism with the myth of the Triune Stone.  It has no meaning in propositional language. It is only designed to work (not to be confused with making any rational sense) in the phenomenal world.

This comes from the Hermetic writings:




“Who is he that fears the Lord? He will instruct him in the right path.”

When you have thus, as it were, devoted yourself to God (who is not mocked), and learned to appreciate justly the aim and scope of this Art, you should, in the first place, strive to realise how Nature, having been set in order by God the Triune, now works invisibly day by day, and moves and dwells in the will of God alone. For no one should set about the study of this Art without a just appreciation of natural processes. Now Nature may truly be described as being one, true, simple, and perfect in her own essence, and as being animated by an invisible spirit…



“Therefore, thus saith the Lord: Behold I lay in Zion for a foundation a Stone, a tried Stone, a precious corner Stone, a sure foundation. He that has it shall not be confounded.”

The numerous writers on our most noble Art have never wearied of singing its praises, and inventing for it new and glorious names. Its most precious object they have called the PHILOSOPHER’S STONE, or the most ancient, secret, natural, incomprehensible, heavenly, blessed, beatified, and triune universal Stone of the Sages. Their reason for naming it a stone, or likening it to a stone, was this: First because its original Matter is really a kind of stone, which, being hard and solid like a stone, may be pounded, reduced to powder, and resolved into its three elements (which Nature herself has joined together), and then again may be re-combined into a solid stone of the fusibility of wax by the skilled hand of the artist adjusting the law of Nature.”

2. Rosarium Philosophorum (part 2)

“Rosinus:  That is mineral, animal, and vegetable. A mineral Stone, a vegetable Stone, and an animal Stone, three in name but one in essence.

The Spirit is double, that is tincturing and preparing.”

Here we even have the Filioque Theology spelled out as well.

Joseph P Farrell put it into this diagram:



This image is based on A Chymicall treatise of the Ancient and highly illuminated Philosopher, Devine and Physitian, Arnoldus de Nova Villa, 

“Now will I in the name of God make manifest the practice and the very sense of the Philosophers how one shall perfect that Ellixir, that is the augmentation of the true tincture and of Silver and Gold only out of the Mercury of the Sages, or the minerall Mercury and in all copper bodies which fall short of perfection, insomuch that they become perfect into a perfect Luna and gold above the naturall, which is not that common Mercury, call’d by the Philosophers prima materia, waterish hot moist and cold, an element, a constant water, a Spirit, a body, a swimming smoake, a blessed water, a water of the wise, a vinegar of Philosophers, a dew of Heaven, virgin Milke, a corporeal Mercury, besides others innumerable names whereby he is called in the Bookes of the Philosophers; allthough these names sound variously, yet they signifie but one thing, to witt the aforesaid Mercurium Philosophorum, for out of him, and in him and by him only are sought all the vertues of the whole art of Alchimy, and of the red and white tincture, Q and R.”

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