Unity of Divine Will

Although not itself a metaphysical thesis, Affective Monotheism presupposes Intellectual Monotheism. This is the thesis that the divine persons are not properly called gods because they are not distinct enough from each other. As it stands, that characterization is rather vague, but one version of it would be the thesis that the three persons necessarily agree. In this way we arrive at the thesis of the Unity of Divine Will.

A further reason for believing in the Unity of the Divine Will is that we should be influenced by the characterization of God as a perfect being. Social trinitarians stress the perfection exemplified by a loving community, but there is a further, and apparently incompatible, perfection, namely that exemplified by a loving individual. If we modify Social Trinitarianism so as to ensure the Unity of the Divine Will we can argue that God has both perfections on the grounds that a community with a united will can behave towards others just as if it were a single individual.

Given the Unity of Divine Will, the act of submission to the will of one divine person, expressed by worship, may reasonably be interpreted as submission to the will of God. So we have at least gone some way towards satisfying the desideratum of Affective Monotheism. Notice that there is a stronger thesis not available to social trinitarians, however moderate. It is that the three persons are distinct conscious beings but share the very same will and hence are a single agent. In that case the divine will would not merely be a unity formed out of the wills of the three persons but a unity in the stronger sense of not being analysable into component wills. Superficially this is no more incoherent than the mythical dog Cerberus's having three heads but one heart. Rather the problem is that it would destroy the important positive teaching of Social Trinitarianism that the Trinity exemplifies the perfection of a loving community. For, I take it, a perfect loving community must be one in which there are distinct wills, even if they are in harmony.

I submit, then, that Social Trinitarianism should be moderated so that we say the three divine persons necessarily agree on all things. Swinburne argues that this occurs because the first person in bringing the others into existence, delegates powers in such a way as to prevent even the disagreement that can occur among those who love each other and seek only what is good. If an example of such disagreement is required, consider the predicament of a couple one of whom wants to spend the afternoon at the beach and the other wants to spend it in the Botanical Gardens. Neither dislikes what the other prefers. If they are inclined to be unselfish and do what the other wants they would have just as much trouble agreeing as if they are inclined to be selfish.11

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