Friday, June 15, 2012

The Doctrine of the Trinity Is Logical

The Trinity is a unique and important Christian concept, but some people have expressed the opinion that this concept is illogical. It is interesting in this regard that the English word logical is derived from the Greek adjective λογικός, which is related to the word λόγος (usually translated as word) that is used in John’s Gospel to refer to the second person of the Trinity (see John 1:1, 14).

According to Liddell and Scott, the word λόγος denotes “the word by which the inward thought is expressed,” and additionally “the inward thought or reason itself” (Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, A Lexicon: Abridged from Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon [Oxford: Oxford University, 1983], 416). The adjective λογικός also reflects this basic dual semantic potential of the word λόγος. Thus, λογικός can mean “belonging to speech or speaking,” or “belonging to reason, rational” (ibid.).

From the point of view of the Greek language used in the prologue of John’s Gospel (i.e., John 1:1–18), we have to say that the concept of the Word is λογικός. The Logos expresses the rationality or thought of God the Father that the latter has chosen to express (John 1:18).

Extrapolating from John’s depiction of the second person of the Trinity as ὁ λόγος, we can say that the totality of the concept of the Trinity is itself distinctly logical. The logic involved is the logic of the Father expressing himself through the Son and the Spirit. Being the self-expression of the Father, the Son and the Spirit possess the same divinity as their eternal source, God the Father.


Anonymous said...

The problem I have with the doctrine of the Trinity as it relates to John's Prologue is that the Trinity doctrine is an attempt to "explain" (or, interpret) John's Prologue, whereas the Prologue is ITSELF the explanation. So we essentially have an explanation of The Explanation. Granted, the Prologue presents some theological concepts difficult to understand, but if John had wanted to make it more "clear," or more "simple," he would have.

So, not only is Trinitarian doctrine (as it relates specifically to the Prologue) an interpretation, but it is the only acceptable (orthodox) interpretation. To me, whether or not I "believe in the Trinity" (an interesting phrase in itself) is beside the point, so long as I "believe" John 1:1-14.

Do I "believe" what the Prologue says? Yes, I do. "But what does the Prologue MEAN?" That is a different question, but one that, if we wish to remain orthodox, has already been decided for us. In my mind, I "believe" some of what the Trinity doctrine teaches (e.g., that Jesus is God), but as to some other points (e.g., eternal generation of the Son), if I'm honest, I cannot unreservedly say I am in agreement. Which is to say, I don't know.

Steven Coxhead said...

Thanks, Anonymous, for your comment.

I get what you are saying about the doctrine of the Trinity being our “human” attempt to synthesize what John and other parts of Scripture are saying in relation to this issue. Synthesizing is good as long as it does not add or take away from the scriptural description, and some of the historical discussion on the Trinity on the orthodox side has arguably made this mistake.

Regarding the concept of the eternal generation of the Son, if by that we mean that the Logos is the eternal self-expression of the Father, then it can be a handy concept (in my opinion). The key lies in understanding the logos metaphor of John 1. My next post is planned to be on this topic, so hopefully you might find it helpful. Overall, I agree that understanding the meaning of John 1:1–18 is the key.