Tying a Trinity Knot—Part 4

knot3I’m trying to process Unitarian objections to Trinitarianism. I’ve been exploring this conversation in the context of Dale Tuggy’s writings. Here’s my struggle. Dale sees Trinitarianism and Unitarianism both as viable expressions of Christian faith because both share the earliest belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior. The earliest believers, Dale points out, didn’t have any developed belief in the Trinity. The faith was defined as trusting in Christ (his life, death, and resurrection) as God’s means of salvation—period. Beliefs outside of that act of faith shouldn’t be subject to condemnation.

How later conciliar expressions of the faith can legitimately be viewed as authoritative is an extremely important issue and I’m very interested in it. However, that’s a separate question unrelated to my interest here regarding the Unitarian’s openness to embrace Trinitarians as Christian believers. I don’t see how Dale can maintain that Trinitarian faith is compatibly biblical, Christian monotheism. Why do I suppose this? Because surely monotheism is essential to biblical faith generally and to the NT proclamation of the gospel and participation in its salvation specifically. But Dale has made it clear, or so I understand, that he knows of no trinitarian version of the faith that successfully qualifies as monotheistic. The Unitarian’s rejection of Trinitarianism isn’t the rejection of one adiaphoron in favor of another more preferred adiaphoron. I don’t see how Unitarians can regard Trinitarianism as other than polytheism and thus as not viably Christian. So I should think Unitarians are bound to treat Trinitarians the way Orthodox Trinitarians treat Unitarians, i.e., as something other than Christian however historically related Unitarianism might be to Christianity and its first confessions. But in accepting the other as compatibly Christian, Trinitarians and Unitarians both compromise their commitment to what each must believe is fundamental to his/her view of God. Orthodox Trinitarians concede this already. My point here is that Unitarians also cannot maintain that their Unitarianism is adiaphorous to Christian monotheism.

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God’s triune actuality the only metaphysical necessity

16_Dorrien_FIG1It’s no secret here that Dwayne and I are big fans of Greg Boyd’s early work on the Trinity (Trinity & Process | TP) and that we think positions he presently holds essentially abandon that work. I thought of a series of posts boiling down the arguments of TP, but this week I was thumbing through Trinity in Process (Bracken/Suchoki, 1997) in which Greg contributes a chapter summarizing TP quite nicely. I may just upload that chapter, but for now let me share a passage from that chapter that express well that earlier view of God which Greg held and which we’ve argued his kenoticism essentially denies. Greg’s chapter is “The Self-Sufficient Sociality of God: A Trinitarian Revision of Hartshorne’s Metaphysics.” Nearing the end of his essay he writes (p. 86f):

God’s Actuality as the Only Metaphysical Necessity. We might point out that Hartshorne faces this very same problem in relationship to God’s abstract nature, because, in his view, it is only the abstract nature of God that is necessary. On a concrete level (God’s Consequent Nature), God is wholly contingent. But how is the abstract necessity of God to be rendered intelligible if everything concrete about God is contingent, while abstractions are held to be derivative from concreteness? How can an abstraction from the concrete possess a quality (viz., necessity) which the concrete it abstracts from altogether lacks? What, in other words, renders intelligible the necessity of God if God’s actuality is altogether contingent?

I certainly agree with Hartshorne’s arguments concerning the necessity of God, but for just this reason, I maintain that God must be essentially constituted by a necessary actuality. The abstract necessity of God, I argue, is not rendered intelligible if God’s actuality is wholly contingent. Once we locate the necessary experiential, social, and aesthetic features of being within the one necessary being, however, this problem is solved. For what is abstractly necessary is, in God, also concretely necessary. [my emphasis]

If my case against Hartshorne’s analysis of the principle of contrast is correct, then there are, again, no longer any grounds for maintaining that the supreme Being must eternally contrast with an actually non-supreme world. Indeed, there are, we have seen, good metaphysical grounds to deny that God must do so. The nature of metaphysical necessity is intelligible only as applied to a necessary actuality and, hence, not as applied to a world of contingencies.

Finally, to bring this essay full circle, what I have been arguing is that the nature of this sole necessary actuality is intelligible only on the supposition that God satisfies within Godself all the a priori conditions of being; namely, as being self-sufficient and unsurpassable in sociality and aesthetic satisfaction. By metaphysical necessity, then, God must exist as a plurality of experiential centers, socially related in an unsurpassably intense aesthetic satisfaction by virtue of the unsurpassable openness and availability each center has toward the others. Among all the available theistic options, I submit, only the classical trinitarian understanding of God articulates this conception unambiguously. [my emphasis]

By ‘sociality’ is simply meant the ‘communion’ of the divine persons, the essentially relational nature of divine triune being. There are other interesting questions to pursue here (What is meant by “centers”?), but the point I want to bring up is Greg’s identifying God’s necessary concrete actuality with God’s triune sociality as such. That’s the material point. God’s essential, necessary concrete actuality just is the experienced sociality/relationality of the Father, Son and Spirit. But it is also this which makes impossible kenotic models (like Greg’s present position) of the Incarnation which posit a real cessation of this experienced actuality. To go kenotic in this sense one has to construe (as Greg explicitly does today) God’s experienced sociality/relationality as contingent and not necessary.

One could maintain that God is essentially triune even in the absence of God’s concrete triune experienced sociality, but one would be affirming a mere abstraction, and this would be open to the same criticism Greg levels against Hartshorne, namely, that what is abstractly necessary is also concretely necessary (in the sense that abstractions are by definition abstractions ‘of’ or ‘upon’ or ‘relative to’ concrete realities). Hence, if one then says that the experienced loving sociality of the divine persons ever fails concretely (say, upon the Cross), it follows that it fails abstractly as well as a necessary feature of God’s existence. To be a kenoticist, then, one has to abandon the necessity of the One God’s essentially triune ‘concrete’ existence.

To explore a bit of Greg’s reasoning along these lines, check out TP (pp. 212-217), a portion of which I present here:

Whitehead thus correctly saw that the intelligibility of God’s relationship to the world (and hence the intelligibility of the world process itself) requires that the necessary self-defining features of God be identified with a “reality,” a reality which is more than an abstraction and which, in fact, is “complete” and “unconditioned” in relation to the contingent temporal process. The categories of his system, however, did not allow him to carry this insight through to its end. Likewise Hartshorne, therefore, the full actuality of God must here be viewed as being constituted as a prehension of antecedent (non-divine) data…[emphasis mine]

The perfection of God, that which defines God’s self apart from all interaction with a non-divine reality (viz., is “unconditioned”) must be identical with a necessary and actually abiding reality. As to God’s necessary existence, God does not have the abstract features of goodness, love, awareness, etc. God is—actually—goodness, love, awareness, etc.

To use traditional terminology, God’s “abstract” essence is God’s necessary concrete existence. The a priori features which “abstractly” identify God as God constitute God’s essential actuality. God’s actuality is not, therefore, simply a contingent exemplification of divine attributes.

The “abstract” attributes of God are, on this account, given an intelligible normative status over all of God’s contingent activity. The “absolutely fixed” and “ungenerated style” of God, the “law” of God’s concrete contingent activity, is simply the aseity of God’s eternal actuality. God’s necessary character is not paradoxically “contained in” God’s contingent actuality: it is, rather, identical with God’s eternal actuality. [emphasis mine]

It is not difficult to see how a kenotic Christology abandons this reasoning, for the necessary divine actuality which must be “complete” and “unconditioned” antecedent to all created contingencies is, as is argued here (in TP) by Greg (with Orthodoxy), the full and unconditioned actuality of the Father, Son and Spirit in their full and reciprocal knowledge of, love for and enjoyment of each other.

(Picture, “Freedom” by Rafael Lopez)

Tuggy Interview: Stephen Holmes’ The Quest for the Trinity


quest-for-the-trinityStephen Holmes’ The Quest for the Trinity (2012) is on my to-read list (toward the top, when I get the cash) and is the topic of discussion of Dale Tuggy’s interview with Holmes. It’s an informative and helpful discussion. And you’ve got a second very interesting interview on the book with Holmes here. Thanks to Dale for landing such great interviews.

The art of divine napping—Part 1

1033There he is — God incarnate. That zygote right there. And the Logos became flesh. We’ve discussed the whole zygote thing before. While debates about divine incarnation in the womb might appear fantastic or as uselessly speculative as arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, whether or not God really took the human journey in its entirety certainly bears on the integrity of the incarnation and with it the salvation Christians suppose is therein provided.

One possible line of inquiry which might shed light on recent discussions regarding kenoticism was suggested to me by Dwayne. It asks us to consider what it means for the Son to “have life in himself just as the Father has life in himself” (Jn 5.26; cf. Jn 1.4; 1Jn 1.1-2) and explore what the consequences of this would be for the kenotic claim that this same Son relinquished all attributes not compatible with the natural constraints of a created, embodied human nature. A couple of obvious questions might include:

(a) What would “possessing life in one’s self as the Father possesses life in himself” entail?

(b) Is the answer to (a) instantiable exclusively in terms of the constraints of embodied human nature?

Additionally, an important methodological question might be:

(c) What ought to be the proper order in answering (a) and (b)?

This last question (c) is unavoidably important. We recently finished up discussing Bruce McCormack’s Ch. 10 on Barth & open theism, and we noted McCormack’s complaint that open theists fail to make Christology the proper starting point for their doctrine of God. We are to start, he argues, with Christ and, not stepping outside the event of God’s own self-revelation in Christ, determine our understanding of God from there. Greg Boyd, not a Barthain by any means, is nevertheless equally passionate in advocating for a Christ-centered understanding of divine being. Jesus is God incarnate, and that should provide us a straightforward strategy for knowing just what being God really/essentially amounts to. Whatever supposedly essential divine attributes fail to be instantiated by Christ within the constraints of his embodied human experience can summarily be dismissed as not necessary or definitive of what it means to be God. Greg argues the point:

“If we allow the incarnate and crucified Christ to define God for us while embracing the Kenotic understanding of how the Son became a human, it becomes clear that the only attribute that defines God’s divinity is his love. That is, if Jesus was ‘fully God’ without exercising his omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence, then clearly God need not exercise omnipotence, omniscience and/or omnipresence to be God. One might of course argue that God must at least have the potential to exercise these attributes to be God. But it nevertheless remains true that….”

Thus kenoticism follows from a Christ-centered methodology for determining truth about God. If God’s essential attributes are to be understood as instantiated exclusively in terms of the boundaries of Jesus’ human experience, then what you see in Christ is all God is essentially and necessarily, “all that it takes” to be God. And, so the logic goes, since Jesus isn’t omnipresent and omniscient (among other things), these attributes aren’t essential to being divine. What is the only essential, God-defining attribute that can be gleaned from Christ’s life? What nevertheless remains true? Greg explains:

“…it nevertheless remains true that Jesus’ self-emptying entails that the only thing God cannot stop exercising and yet be considered God is his essence-defining love.”

Unfailing love. That and that alone is God’s self-defining essence and necessary actuality. Jesus loves without fail, therefore Jesus is God (never mind for the moment that we also shall one day love without fail without being God). And certainly no Christian wants to say God isn’t personally present in Christ or that God isn’t personally and authoritatively revealed in Christ, or that God doesn’t love without fail, so non-kenoticists like Dwayne and me are in the apparently disadvantaged position of having either to:

Answer (a) (i.e., what “possessing life in one’s self as the Father possesses life in himself”) prior to answering (b) (and thus be guilty of constructing our doctrine of God independently of Christology)

    or

Somehow argue on biblical/Christological grounds that there’s more to the Son’s being divine than there is to the embodied experience of Jesus.

Sleepy God

We take the latter route, in view of which let us offer three suggestions for this Part 1 which have to do with the scope of the Christology at play in (b) and also with the nature of the apostolic testimony regarding God.

First, we’d like to suggest that the ‘Christ’ who ought to occupy the place of pre-eminence in shaping our understanding of God is not simply any single event in Christ’s life described in the gospels (as is the case, for example, with Greg Boyd who via a ‘cruciform hermeneutic’ argues that it is not the entirety of Christ’s incarnate career which finally and authoritatively determines our understanding of God but only the cross), nor Christ’s life as reconstructed on the basis of the gospel accounts only, but rather the entirety of Christ’s life as interpreted and applied apostolically. It is theologically illegitimate to pretend to have access to Christ independent of the whole range of apostolic authority and voice. The voice of the entire New Testament is equally authoritative for Christians in understanding Christ — who he was, what he accomplished, what his life means, in what sense he is God and in what sense he is human.

Second, it seems equally misguided to suppose that a description of Jesus’s life and career by Luke or Matthew is more definitive of our understanding of God than a description of God by, say, Paul which is not explicitly a reflection upon any aspect of Christ’s life. For example, Paul affirms (1Tm 6:16) that God is “immortal and lives in unapproachable light.” Where did Paul get this idea? Certainly not from any observation of the events of Jesus’ actual life. It doesn’t obviously follow from Jesus’ life, or his pre-eminent role in defining our understanding of God, that God should be thought of as immortal. It would seem Paul’s belief in God’s immortality was not derived Christologically but from the wider witness of the Hebrew Scriptures. This is not to say Christ’s life does not in fact render much of Israel’s understanding of God false. But it certainly means our doctrine of God is not simply the end product of looking at Jesus, writing down what we see and calling it ‘all that it takes to be God’.

If we have grounds on statements made by the apostles outside the gospel texts (Eph 2.20) for thinking God to be of a certain nature, then it would seem to follow that the Son, being divine, exemplifies this same nature though incarnate. Point is, statements made in the NT about God which are not obviously Christologically derived nevertheless have implications for what it means for us to say that the “fullness of deity” indwells Christ bodily (Col 2.9).

Third, unless one wishes to advocate an adoptionist Christology in which the Son descends upon or personally assumes an already existing human individual at some point (childhood, adulthood), we must understand incarnation to begin with Jesus’ conception. This means that whatever one wishes to believe God is on the basis of Christology, the scope of that Christology should embrace Jesus not just as a mature adult in responsible relationship with his Father or suffering in love on the cross, but also as a newly conceived zygote. The womb, not the Cross, is the least common denominator which kenoticists are obliged to reduce divinity to.

Problem is zygotes are neither personally consciousness nor self-aware, neither volitional nor relational nor subjects of a benevolent disposition or character — nothing that might fulfill that unfailing choice to love which Boyd supposes is the only necessary self-defining feature of God’s actuality. At this point we don’t wish to argue there are other self-defining features of God’s necessary actuality (although we believe there must be). We simply want to insist that whatever one supposes constitutes God’s self-defining necessary actuality, one must equally hold that the person of the Son instantiates this through the entirety of his incarnate career beginning with being a zygote. If the self-defining essence of divine being is unfailing love, then the Son must instantiate this unfailing love and do so exclusively in terms of a zygote’s created, embodied natural capacities (not just as a mature and responsible adult rationally exercising his freedom). It’s one thing to limit your Christology to the adult Jesus choosing the cross in the garden, or to his mature identity as the Father’s Son asking the Father to forgive them for they know not what they do and so conclude that “full divinity” is just the unfailing disposition to love at cost to one’s self. It is an entirely different thing to account for a zygote’s being divine exclusively in such terms.

Teaser sleepingWhere is the Son qua zygote doing what any of us thinks is necessarily involved in “being God”? Some kenotic answers we’ve met in conversation include, “Well, you’re still a person when you sleep, so the Logos is just sleeping in the womb,” or “You still love your wife when you’re asleep, right?” or “The Father and Spirit just agree to cover for the Logos during his absence.” I guess that must be what’s going on in that zygote there — the eternal Logos, the Father’s own Image, the author of life who possesses life in himself “just as the Father possesses life in himself” is taking a nap while the Father and Spirit cover for him.

In Part 2 we’d like to explore what it means for “the Father to possess life in himself” and then ask what it means to do Christology from this point of view on the assumption that the Son possesses life in himself “just as the father does.”

(Pictures here, here, and here.)

Schrodinger’s God

tumblr_mqj8e2rQV21sti3zno1_1280I’d like to qualify the analogy we shared at the end of the previous post. It was a favorite of James Loder. I’m a fan, but Dwayne is a real student of his thought. So the qualification on the use of quantum mechanics (QM) I’d like to make is to remind readers that for us QM is definitely not any kind of analogy of the Trinity. It is instead an instance of the kind of epistemic humility we think belief in the Trinity occasions. As predictable as the behavior of the quantum world is, its behavior continues to surprise and baffle all accounts of its ultimate treasure. Ask a particle-like question and the quantum world provides a particle-like answer. Ask a wave-like question and you get a wave-like answer. We’ve even invented new words (combining elements of both ‘particle’ and ‘wave’) to posit ‘that which is’ the quantum reality itself, even though these terms are ‘off the map’; that is, they exist only as descriptions of a reality we are forced to recognize but unable to capture in terms of any concept we have. It’s not like these new terms are categorically parallel to a general experience or manifest instance of a general kind of thing. They are unique.

The sort of epistemic humility we’re trying to express and advocate theologically for is forced upon us by the failure of language to account finally for the manifest experience of God (in Christ via the Spirit) in ways that simultaneously affirm and defy the given categories of our created contexts. As we’ve urged previously, this humility is palpable. It is felt and lived every time we open our mouths to speak of God or sing his praise (as opposed to its being just affirmed as a proposition and set on the shelf until we need to be reminded of it again). It is a kind of learned ignorance that journeys with you, the linguistic effects of God’s transcendence, and it is humbling. The experience of it can be surprising, upsetting, or chaotic. Again, as Denys Turner reminds us (Silence of the Word):

“So it is not that, first, we are permitted the naïve and unself-critical indulgence of affirmation, subsequently to submit that affirmation to a separate critique of negation. Nor is the ‘way of negation’ the way of simply saying nothing about God, nor yet is it the way simply of saying that God is ‘nothing’: it is the encounter with the failure of what we must say about God to represent God adequately. If talk about God is deficient, this is a discovery made within the extending of it into superfluity, into that excess in which it simply collapses under its own weight.”

In a similar vein, Karen Kilby advocates for many analogies of the Trinity because no one category will bear the weight of explaining the divine reality behind our experience of the full, manifest, transcendent treasure of salvation. The QM analogy is brought in simply to demonstrate that we are not entirely incapable of embracing such failure of our language. Even within the context of created things (i.e., QM) our language and categories collapse under the weight of experience and evidence. How much more humble ought we to be when speaking of the divine mystery of uncreated being? Particle and wave explanations of quantum behavior are both true so far as our language functions to describe things from a particular context under which we encounter the mystery in question. But each explanation also fails, even contradicts, other explanations when contexts are compared to one another. And all the while we admit, for good reason, that the final, ultimate reality in question, that which we name the “quantum world,” is not in fact self-contradictory but is an indivisible and meaningful unity. Even where apprehending the ‘essence’ of any created entity is concerned there is genuine ‘ineffability’ to be confessed (something Gregory of Nyssa knew centuries ago).

We’re advocating for a similar epistemic humility not just regarding how far our language and categories are able to take us in accounting for God as triune, but for how conflicted our explanations may often be in terms of their own semantic reach. The question is, have trinitarians successfully justified the claim that the Trinity is in fact a case in point were Christian faith must humbly embrace a transcendent triune mystery? In the case of QM, we have clear experimental evidence in ‘particle’ behavior to justify a particle explanation (so far as it goes), and we also have ‘wave’ behavior to justify a wave explanation (so far as it goes). Perhaps the challenge for Trinitarians is to show that there is, equivalently, divine behavior which justifies a ‘monotheist’ explanation as well as divine behavior that justifies a fully ‘trinitarian’(in terms of three ‘persons’) explanation. But it can’t be an argument against trinitarianism per se that it involves us in strange or contrary explanations of divine behavior taken as a whole (any more than the explanations of QM as ‘particle’ and as ‘wave’ are evidence that there isn’t a quantum world whose integrity isn’t truthfully described by both).

(Pictures here ).

Toward the Trinity

warning-analogies13If we had to go with Dale Tuggy’s categories for the moment, we’d liken orthodox trinitarianism to what Dale calls “noumenal concurrent modalism” as opposed to his “phenomenological modalism.” The latter form of modalism posits ‘modes’ adopted by God as means of representing himself to the world. As such they’re not self-constituting; God relates only to us now as Father, now as Son, etc., and the distinction between these is merely formal. Modalism of this sort was condemned historically because the divine relations were believed to be definitive of God in more than a merely formal sense.

If the divine relations are forms of self-relation, then we’re not talking about a merely formal distinction between modes or roles God adopts in representing himself to the world. Instead, we’re imagining relations (perspectives? Language strains!) as constitutive of divine being per se (as far as we’re able to speak of these relations analogously).

What might such an analogy look like? In our view it could extend from human being as an analogy of God. As sentient beings, conscious subjects, we self-perceive or self-relate, and in self-relating are able to objectify ourselves; we image ourselves. We exist as persons minimally as this self-constituting conversation. We also reflect upon this conversation and observe it. This may not conform nicely to the options which Dale specifies as being our only trinitarian options in, say, his Stanford article (i.e., “She’s a three-selfer,” or “He’s a one-selfer”). Dale may need some new boxes. But it seems to us that the concern to regard YHWH as being the One God can be adequately accounted for in terms of the (Orthodox belief in the) ‘monarchia’ of the Father. As Nicaea begins, “I believe in One God, the Father Almighty….” No ambiguity there.

Imagine (analogously) a self-relationality (that which defines us as personal/relational beings) that obtains perfectly and paradigmatically in God (as he whose image we bear). Edwards’ approach expresses it nicely. Just as I self-contemplate or self-perceive and in this self-defining act generate an ‘image’ of myself as the objectified content of my self-perception, so God can be thought. Every conscious self objectifies itself and in this act self-relates. Kierkegaard would help here.

One concern is that even if this were true of God (such that the divine relations could be viewed as God’s self-existent act) these ‘perspectives’ don’t seem sufficiently independent or concrete. These ‘perspectives’ within us aren’t distinct ‘persons’ (and this is where our term ‘person’ fails). Hence at best we get what Dale calls a “noumenal concurrent modalism” — three ‘perspectives’ that define God essentially but which can’t bear the weight of the additional claim that these perspectives are ‘persons’. What to do?

It may be that Edwards can help us here. He suggests that where our powers to perceive (and in perceiving to reproduce or represent to ourselves, i.e., to have a perspective on ourselves) the truth about ourselves (thus generating our own image and self-relation) are inherently limited, God is not so constrained. I cannot consciously contemplate all that is in fact true about myself without remainder, and what I contemplate cannot reproduce the contemplated in its actuality. In addition, as a finite being whose ‘essence’ and ‘existence’ are in no way identical, this distinction between ‘essence’ and ‘existence’ is not the case with God. As a created being who exists contingently in the perpetual movement from potency to actuality, my existence and essence are never coterminous. This could not be the case with a necessarily existing self-existent God. In God’s case, all that is in fact true and actual about God the Father (YHWH) becomes true of his self-contemplated image. Nothing that ‘is’ in the case of the Father could fail ‘to be’ in the case of his own self-perceived image, with the exception of course that the ‘image’ (as the word suggests) is ‘derived’ whereas the Father is not so derived (i.e., the Father is not an image of anything else). This distinction is Athanasian.

cropped-false-mirror

Is my own ‘image’ me? Well, yes. And “I” wouldn’t ‘be’ apart from this self-relation. Are both numerically identical? Well, no; though where this relation is constitutive essentially of God’s self-defining actuality, both would share a single ‘nature’. But they are different self-constituting ‘perspectives’. This dialogue, this address and response, constitutes God’s undivided existence. (We’re definitely not thinking of a social trinitarian model.)

As an analogy, we’d like to extend a thought James Loder used to explain how ‘reason’ and ‘language’ map our experience of quantum mechanics (QM) as a means to imagine our shortcomings along theological lines. QM defines itself in terms of the question put to it. The answer you get (‘location’ or ‘velocity’) depends on the question you ask (Where are you? vs What’s your velocity?) But scientists and philosophers suppose reality — that which the world ‘is’ — not to be ultimately contradictory, and that ultimately how our experience of the world requires us to describe things is transcended by what is in fact the case. Whatever reality truly is (at the subatomic level), it is in fact a unity whose indivisibility just is the different answers it yields on the level of our perception and description re: relation and identity. We are led by our reason to posit that which ‘cannot be said’. The shape and form of our saying it at once involves us in paradox, though we must say it as we do.

In terms of one articulation of things, yes, Dale’s right, the truth of God certainly appears ‘modalistic’ in light of every attempt to possess the relations in terms of their unity. Similarly, the truth of God will appear ‘polytheistic’ in light of attempts to possess the relations in terms of their diversity. But — returning to QM for the moment — the math which describes reality achieves a sort of ‘creedal’ status and affirms both unity and diversity. Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and Planck’s constant are the Nicaea and Chalcedon of QM — we might say. We comprehend their terms and we must ‘say it’ so, but we can’t help but complain that they posit a world which defies final explanation and which the categories we have to deploy balk at in their own way.

Having offered a psychological analogy of the trinity, we want to make it clear that (a) this is an analogy and not a claim to have univocally described ‘what’ God is, and that (b) other analogies are needed to expresses other aspects of the biblical narrative, and that (c) all these analogies together fail, as all analogies must, to reduce triune being to their respective truth. Karen Kilby is right to warn us against too confidently reducing God to any one analogy (cf. her “Is an Apophatic Trinitarianism Possible?” International Journal of Systematic Theology 12, no. 1 (2010): 65–77). We don’t assume God is simply a blown-up version of what human ‘personal’ existence is. However, it is our personal existence (as opposed to that of rocks, trees or cows) which by virtue of bearing the divine image is an analogy of God.

(Pictures here and here.)