Further Moderation

Thus far I have deliberately ignored five desiderata for Moderate Social Trinitarianism which are not satisfied by Swinburne's speculations. One of these is that the first cause of all other things should be the one who is now worshipped as God and not, as in Swinburne's account, a single divine person who was once the whole of God. My chief reason for proposing this as a desideratum is respect for such monotheistic traditions as Judaism and Islam, who would insist that there is just one God which is the cause of all things. I shall satisfy this desideratum by speculating that the primordial God undergoes a fission into the three divine persons. For that ensures the identity of the primordial God with the God who is the Trinity. As far as I can see Swinburne cannot modify his speculation to satisfy this desideratum.

The second desideratum is that, as Clark urges, our account of the Trinity should be compatible with the ontological necessity of the continued existence of God. We should not be committed to the somewhat startling thesis that God has the power of self-destruction. It is not easy to combine this desideratum with the attractive idea that the divine persons express their love by giving each other continued existence. As far as I can see Swinburne could adapt his account to satisfy this desideratum in much the way that I shall, that is by attributing to each divine person the power either to continue their own existence or to confer existence on another. In that way if, of metaphysical impossibility, a war broke out in the Trinity the last divine person left would be God.

The third desideratum is based on Clark's objection that metaphysical necessity is just too weak for the sort of necessity which theologians have had in mind when discussing the existence and nature of God. Now both the unity of God as a substance, in the sense of'ousia', and the unity of the divine wills is explicated in terms of the necessity of the relations between the persons. Necessarily the first person brings into existence the second, necessarily the first two (or on the Eastern Orthodox view the first) bring into existence the third. Necessarily they agree because, according to Swinburne, necessarily there is a wise delegation of powers. This necessity is, on his speculation, a metaphysical but not an ontological necessity. The third desideratum is that the necessity by which the divine persons are one 'ousia' should be ontological necessity. The argument for this is partly respect for the tradition, but partly that, on intuitive grounds, the parts which constitute a single thing will only do so if it is beyond even divine power to split them.

The fourth desideratum is that the divine wills should be united in the further sense that the divine persons necessarily have the same desires. This is not the same as there being a wise delegation of powers within the Trinity. (Imagine a culture in which men have power over their sons' education and women over their daughters'. Parents could still disagree about how they want their children educated.) I argue for this fourth desideratum by returning to Affective Monotheism. If the harmony of the wills of the three divine persons is merely a consequence of a delegation of powers then you could knowingly submit yourself to the will of the second person without submitting yourself to the will of the first.12 Or, more plausibly, you could lovingly submit your will to the Second Person but only grudgingly and resentfully to the First. I say that the submission to the will of the one God, required by affective monotheism, requires there to be a necessary harmony of the divine wills. Only then is it absurd knowingly to submit to the will of one but not the other. I am not sure just what sort of necessity is required here, but my conjecture, for what it is worth, is that the harmony should be due to divine goodness, not to any lack of power to disagree. For lack of the power to disagree among members of the Trinity would seem incompatible with it being a perfect community.

I reject on the above grounds Swinburne's account of how the divine wills are united. In any case, I think his account is unnecessarily complicated. For although not all coordination problems are solved by love, those in finite communities of more than two are. We may assume that provided the outcome is good the chief desire of each of the three divine persons is to please the others.13 Hence for any two-way decision all three necessarily desire that the majority will prevail, and unlike in human democracies the majority's will then becomes the ungrudging will of all. Swinburne considers this (p. 174) but then rejects it because of the possibility of decisions with more than two alternatives. Let us suppose, then, that the three divine persons make initially diflErent choices. If we think of it anthropomorphically, each will then desire to defer to one of the others. Of the eight ways of thus deferring six result in a choice by two that the third's will be deferred to. So there is a 75% chance of reaching agreement at each attempt. Assuming there are infinitely many opportunities for the divine persons to try to reach agreement, then the possibility of never doing so has infinitesimal probability.14

12 Clearly you can unknowingly submit yourself to the 'will of X' but not 'the will of Y' where X and Y are identical. For instance you could submit yourself to the will of Allah but not to the triune God, not knowing that they are the same. My remarks concern, however, someone who knows all there is for us to know about the persons of the Trinity.

!3 There is a threat of regress. For example suppose X desires to please Yand Ydesires to please Z who desires to please X and so on. Then it might seem that X is motivated to do what Y wants and hence to do what Z wants and hence to do what X wants, and hence to do what Y wants etc. I avoid the regress by submitting that the motive of love is to seek something deWnite which the beloved already desires. Thus if you do not yet love newly acquired stepchildren whom your spouse loves, love of your spouse would motivate doing speciWc things for your stepchildren that your spouse desires to occur. By itself love for your spouse would not motivate doing specific things they want about which your spouse is neutral.

14 Bartel, like me, rejects Swinburne's solution to the problem. His own solution which he considers cannot be guaranteed to succeed depends on Middle Knowledge. See T. W. Bartel, ''Could There Be More Than One Almighty?', Religious Studies 29 (1993), 465-495.

Perhaps this is just too anthropomorphic but it shows that the final desideratum can be satisfied on any version of Social Trinitarianism. Personally I would prefer to speculate that joint action as a result of joint intentions is really no more mysterious than the action of a single individual, so we do not need such anthropomorphic models. It suffices to point out the three persons would judge it better to act jointly than individually and hence do act jointly.

Finally, there is the desideratum that we respect the Athanasian Creed's statement that each person is God. Perhaps I should add to this the statement, which has the authority of, for instance, the Council of 1421-1445, that the divine persons have no beginning.

We are left, then, with three further desiderata which Swinburne's account does not satisfy—and cannot easily be modified in order to satisfy—namely: (1) that the ultimate cause of all things be God not just the First Person; (2) that, as Clark has stressed, the necessity by which the divine persons are united is more than mere metaphysical necessity; and (3) that we should give some respect to the claim that each person is God and is without beginning. In the next section I develop a speculation satisfying these desiderata.

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