De Trinitate

Today is Trinity Sunday, the first Sunday after Pentecost. It is celebrated in Catholic Churches around the world. Since I’m not Catholic nor a mainline Protestant, then chances are I’ll hear nothing of it from the pulpit today.

Nevertheless, the Trinity is a fundamental belief essential to all Christians everywhere for all time. It is a tenet of the faith that cannot be compromised. For your musings, here’s a reading from Michael Horton‘s systematic The Christian Faith.

Essential attributes are shared equally by the three persons. All three persons are infinite, sovereign, loving, and omniscient. However, only the Father begets, only the Son is begotten, and only the Spirit is spirited….Even in human generation, it is persons who are begotten, not human nature.

(p 290)

Presumably, to beget or be begotten is not an essential attribute but an accidental one. Humanly speaking, personhood carries with it both essential attributes (all that human nature entails, e.g., mind, body) and accidental ones (having a sister, not having a brother, being the first-born, being female, etc). Thus the Son is not the Father (accidentally speaking) but shares in the Father’s nature in toto.

For a provocative but accessible presentation see the essay by Jeffrey Brower and Michael Rea, “Understanding the Trinity“.

See also “Trinity without Tiers or De Trinitate“.

5 thoughts on “De Trinitate”

  1. “To beget or be begotten is not an essential attribute but an accidental one.” I’m not so sure about that. Would that mean that the Son is not necessarily the Son and could in some possible world he could be the Father? If the son is “eternally” begotten is he begotten in every possible world? If what distinguishes the son from the father is the begotteness then it would seem to be a essential attribute or else the very persons of the Trinity are mere accidents. Just thinking out loud.

    1. Consider: If God is a Trinity in all possible worlds, then there is no world in which God is not a Trinity. Simply because Son is designated an accidental property and not an essential one, does not entail that accidental properties do not convey in all possible worlds. Put differently, if a) accidental properties supervene from essential properties and b) essential properties transcend all possible worlds, then c) it’s conceivable that the accidental properties subsist in all possible worlds. Ergo, the Son is the Son in all possible worlds.

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