In this post I will continue my critique of Dr. William lane Craig’s article A Formulation and Defense of the Doctrine of the Trinity. In Part 1 of this critique I laid out Dr. Craig’s argument for the need for a formulation of the trinity. In Part 2 I will go over Dr. Craig’s favored formulation of the trinity, and show out how it undermines his own argument for the trinity (which in my opinion can be undermined directly from scripture, with or without Dr. Craig’s formulation).
In Dr. Craig’s article he goes over various formulations of the trinity, formulated by different historical and modern theologians, showing how they don’t work logically, or how they fall into Sabellianism or Tritheism. He then takes a shot at his own formulation, conveniently named, “Trinity Monotheism,” and points out a dilemma that comes with it:
We turn finally to Trinity Monotheism, which holds that while the persons of the Trinity are divine, it is the Trinity as a whole which is properly God. If this view is to be orthodox, it must hold that the Trinity alone is God and that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, while divine, are not Gods. Leftow presents the following challenge to this view:
Either the Trinity is a fourth case of the divine nature, in addition to the Persons, or it is not. If it is, we have too many cases of deity for orthodoxy. If it is not, and yet is divine, there are two ways to be divine—by being a case of deity, and by being a Trinity of such cases. If there is more than one way to be divine, Trinity monotheism becomes Plantingian Arianism. But if there is in fact only one way to be divine, then there are two alternatives. One is that only the Trinity is God, and God is composed of non-divine persons. The other is that the sum of all divine persons is somehow not divine. To accept this last claim would be to give up Trinity monotheism altogether.
He then goes on to give his preferred solution to the Dilemma:
How should the Trinity Monotheist respond to this dilemma? Starting with the first disjunction, he will clearly want to say that the Trinity is not a fourth instance of the divine nature, lest there be four divine persons. Moving then to the next set of options, he must say that the Trinity is divine, since that is entailed by Trinity Monotheism. Now if the Trinity is divine but is not a fourth instance of the divine nature, this suggests that there is more than one way to be divine. This alternative is said to lead to Plantingian Arianism. What is that? Leftow defines it as “the positing of more than one way to be divine.” This is uninformative, however; what we want to know is why the view is objectionable. Leftow responds, “If we take the Trinity’s claim to be God seriously, . . . we wind up downgrading the Persons’ deity and/or [being] unorthodox.” The alleged problem is that if only the Trinity exemplifies the complete divine nature, then the way in which the persons are divine is less than fully divine.
So then, does Dr. Craig fall into Plantingian Arianism?
This inference would follow, however, only if there were but one way to be divine (namely, by exemplifying the divine nature); but the position asserts that there is more than one way to be divine. The persons of the Trinity are not divine in virtue of exemplifying the divine nature. For presumably being triune is a property of the divine nature (God does not just happen to be triune); yet the persons of the Trinity do not exemplify that property. It now becomes clear that the reason that the Trinity is not a fourth instance of the divine nature is that there are no other instances of the divine nature. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not instances of the divine nature, and that is why there are not three Gods. The Trinity is the sole instance of the divine nature, and therefore there is but one God. So while the statement “The Trinity is God” is an identity statement, statements about the persons like “The Father is God” are not identity statements. Rather they perform other functions, such as ascribing a title or office to a person (like “Belshazzar is King,” which is not incompatible with there being co-regents) or ascribing a property to a person (a way of saying, “The Father is divine,” as one might say, “Belshazzar is regal”).
Now I hope you understand the solution. There is only one God in the sense of the fact that there is only one instance of fully divine nature, which includes the property of being triune, yet there are 3 divine persons, all of whom together are a divine being.
Now this solves all sorts of problems for the trinity, you don’t have 3 Gods, because God as a divine nature includes being triune, yet you can have 3 who are called God because they are all divine persons who together make up the divine nature. So the triune God can be Omnipotent and Omniscient and Omnibenevolent because all the persons that make up the triune God are such, and each one can take a different role, and yet there be one God.
But here’s the problem, if we accept that there can be 2 ways of being Divine, then it follows that “God” or being “Divine” can have to absolutely different meanings, one including the arbitrary addition of being triune, and one having the meaning of being a divine person within a triune God. Why, then, would one be forced into formulating a trinity only because both the Father and the Son (and the Holy Spirit, included in parenthesis because I don’t believe the Holy Spirit is talked about as a personal god) are called God?
If we accept that being called “God” or “Divine” need not mean the same thing every time, why wouldn’t we exegete scriptures calling Jesus “God” in sense that would be compatible with Unitarianism? This is not a novel idea; in fact there is plenty of scriptural support for the use of the word “God” meaning different things when applied to different people, so as to avoid this problem. For example it is well known that Moses is called “God” (Elohim) to Pharaoh. Now no one reading that would argue that Moses is now part of the Godhead, or perhaps that Pharaoh would be correct in giving Moses viewing Moses as his ultimate God rather than Yahweh. We correctly exegete that in other ways, Moses will represent Yahweh to Pharaoh and/or Moses will be a mighty man standing up to Pharaoh showing himself more powerful than Pharaoh.
We also know that Psalm 82 has “God” (Elohim) among the council of “Gods” (Elohim), as well as declaring that they are “Gods” (Elohim), and Children of the most high. Now clearly here the Most High is Yahweh, yet there are other beings called “Elohim,” we rightly exegete that text as talking about “God” in 2 different senses, one being the most High, Yahweh, the other being these mighty judges who are correctly called “Gods” but not in the same sense that Yahweh is God.
There are plenty of other examples we could turn to, but for the sake of argument let’s stick with these. It is perfectly reasonable for us to say “there is one true God” Yahweh, and still affirm that those scriptures were correct in calling Moses and the judges God. From that we don’t have to theorize a multiplicity within the Godhead, because we recognize that the term “God” means different things when referring to people who are not Yahweh.
So Dr. William Lane Craig’s solution to the trinity absolutely works, we can simply accept that the term “God” can have multiple meanings. Then we look at his original problem, There is only one God, Jesus is called God, the father is called God, (and it is claimed so is the Holy spirit), yet there is but one God, accepting Dr. Craig’s affirmation that the term “God” need not have a static meaning, we don’t have a problem here. There is only one God, the Father, one true God the Father, in one sense, the sense of being the Most High, the sense of all things being ultimately subject to him, the sense of him being the ultimate source of all being. There are also other beings that can properly be called Gods, for example Jesus, due to his being exalted by God to kingship over the kingdom of God.
So basically it goes like this, Dr. William Lane Craig’s argument for the trinity requires we take Jesus’ being called God as meaning nothing less than his being called Yahweh in some sense, since we have other verses in which it declares Yahweh alone is God. This assumes that in the statements “Yahweh alone is God” and “Jesus is God,” the term “God” is interchangeable; they both mean the same thing, for otherwise there is no Trinitarian problem. Yet his solution for that Trinitarian problem is to state that in those 2 statements the term “God” actually means 2 different things, they are not absolutely interchangeable. Once we grant that, then I see no reason why we can’t grant it to the statements “the Father is God,” and “Jesus is God,” since granting that the meanings are different in those cases would explain a whole lot of the texts affirming the subordination of Christ to the Father in the New Testament.