I’ve been studying and reflecting more on the doctrine of the Trinity lately. Consequently, I would like to respond something I wrote earlier in this post.
Concerning my analogy, the phrase “a being with three persons” seems to swing toward a social model (“three-self model”) of the Trinity rather than a Latin model (“one-self model”) of the Trinity. I am not a fan of the social or three-self model. Perhaps we could conjure up a means to differentiate between ‘person’ and ‘self.’ But working with three terms of ‘being,’ ‘person,’ and ‘self’ appears rather messy. I understand that the term ‘person’ is conventionally used to talk about the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit. However, this term can sometimes result in separating these figures too much in the minds of laypersons. ‘Person’ can still be used, of course, but we need to be sure to qualify it.
Maybe we could adjust the illustration to say the following:
A flower is a being with no self. I am a being with a self. An advanced alien species that is perhaps billions of years ahead of us in evolution would probably have a much higher capacity for selfhood. God, the Ultimate Being, is a being with the capacity for self that involves three essential figures: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
This illustration is lacking and doesn’t solve all issues regarding the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Perhaps, however, it is useful in spurring our imaginations and humbling ourselves to say that the full imminence of the Trinity-in-itself is a fact outside the boundaries of our cognitive capacities.
This is why I think analytic theology is so vital to the church and theology. Our cognitive faculties may not allow us to understand the fullness of the trinity doctrine. However, many analytic theologians are making great work in creating models of non-contradictory propositions for theological use, such as the soft-Latin trinitarian model.
In the soft-Latin conception of the Trinity advocated by Scott Williams, the divine Logos thinks: “I am the Father,” which translates: “I am numerically the same but not identical to the Father.” And the Father thinks: “I am the Father,” which translates: “I am numerically the same and identical to the Father.” Through means of these indexical phrases, one is able to preserve the Trinitarian aspect of God, but also preserve a robust monotheistic conception.