The Logic of the Trinity
By Jim J. McCrea
The Trinity is a mystery. Yet it is intelligible. It is an intelligible mystery.
With the Trinity, three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit exist as one God.
We cannot derive that fact by reason. It must be revealed by God for us to know that.
No finite intelligence can derive the truth of the Trinity. In fact, it had to have been revealed to the highest of the seraphim for them to know that.
However, given its revelation, we can come to an understanding of how it is logical and intelligible that God is a Trinity. For God is Pure and Absolute Intelligibility, and the revelation of His inner structure sheds light on our mind so that we can, in part, penetrate its logic.
There exists an underlying and necessary logic as to why God exists and why He is the way He is. He is not like a god, for example, in Hinduism, which is contrived and which can be logically an infinite number of ways other than it is.
The persons of the Trinity are defined by their relationships: The Father generates the Son, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Now it can be understood logically why this is so and what constitutes them, given their revelation, in the light of the theological virtue of faith and the gift of the Holy Spirit of wisdom.
Considering God as God, all things in existence require a first cause which explains them, which itself is not caused.
This cause being absolutely first, would have no limits whatsoever, and would have all possible positive attributes to an infinite degree. This is because being the Absolute First it would be subject to nothing, therefore, nothing limits it. God's name is simply "I Am" (Exodus 3:14) which is not "I Am such and such" which contains a qualifier which is a limitation. God's infinity is one way of defining God, for when we say "God" we must give a definition for that term. This fact of God's existence and infinity can be derived by reason alone, as God's existence is most intelligible and natural for the human intellect to hold. Atheism is an unnatural aberration.
Considering God as a Trinity, when it is revealed that the Father, who is God, generates a term who is equal to Him and who is also God, it can be demonstrated that it is eminently logical that this is so.
God, having all possible positive attributes is Infinite Life and contains all that life can possibly possess.
Now it is a property of life to be generative and fruitful. God who is Infinite Life would be necessarily infinitely generative and fruitful. Infinite Life's act of generating would be as necessary and as infinite as its other attributes, and that which is generated by it would necessarily be also infinite, which is the definition of God. Thus with the Father begetting His Son, God comes from God.
The Son is known as the Word of the Father because He is the Father's one infinite thought which contains all truth (John 1:1).
Now truth must have some content and the highest truth that exists, is that of love. Therefore the truth that the Son is, is the infinite love of Himself and the Father. Conversely, the essence of the Father, being the greatest thing possible, is His love for Himself and for the Son.
It is logical that this love is not sterile, for it is only fitting for the Infinite that this love be fruitful in another person, who is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the love of the Father for the Son and the Son for the Father proceeding from them as a distinct person, as this procession is according to a single principle. It is a single principle because in the Father/Son love relationship there is an absolute unity of interest, as a division of interest (which would be the logical result of the procession of two Holy Spirits) is contrary to the Supreme Perfection which is God.
The Holy Spirit, unlike the Son, it not generated, but proceeds by elicitation. The Father and the Son's love for each other elicit the Holy Spirit from each other (as theologians say, passively). And, like the Father and the Son, this term of procession of the Holy Spirit would be infinite, who also is God.
Although each person of the Trinity, each being God, has all possible positive attributes, the theologians maintain that the Son proceeds *specifically* from intellectual generation of the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeds *specifically* from the mutual love between the Father and the Son.
Why is this so?
This is so because of the *forms* of the two processions.
When we consider God as God, apart from the persons, He is that-which-a-greater-cannot-be-conceived. As a result, He must be all good things together.
When we consider the Father generating the Son, we see that it is a that-which-a-greater-cannot-be-conceived generating a that-which-a-greater-cannot-be-conceived (infinite A generating infinite B). Now the highest form of generating is a thinker generating a thought. Therefore, God generating God is specifically an infinite thinker generating an infinite thought.
With the Holy Spirit, that-which-a-greater-cannot-be-conceived proceeds from two persons, each which is that-which-a-greater-cannot-be-conceived (infinite C proceeding from infinite A and infinite B). Now the highest possible form of such mutuality between two beings is the sharing of love. Therefore, God proceeding from God and God is specifically infinite love being shared between two infinite persons.
However, it is a principle that God is absolutely simple, in that all of His attributes are identical to each other - His love, His intellect, His knowledge, His power, His beauty, etc. are all one and the same as each other. God must be absolutely simple because if He were not, and He were composed of distinct components, His parts and the principle of their composition would be in some manner prior to Him, contradicting His absolute primacy (this fact of God's simplicity can be derived from reason).
As a result, when the Son proceeds from the Father by intellectual generation and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son by mutual love, the persons of the Trinity do not have different natures or essences whereby the Father is specifically thinker, the Son is specifically thought, and the Holy Spirit is specifically love. Because of the divine simplicity, the Father is thought and love as well as thinker; the Son is thinker and love as well as thought; and the Holy Spirit it thinker and thought as well as love. As a result, all three persons are thinker, thought, and love.
With this, there is an identity of essence with the three persons. Each is infinite, therefore, one does not lack what the others have or possess what the others do not. As a result, in themselves, there is a complete identity between the persons. They are distinguished only by their *relations of origin.* The only difference between the Father and the Son is in the fact that the Father generates the Son, and the only difference between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit is in the fact that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. The differences between the persons are those of relation and not those of being, therefore, they are one being. That is why they are one God.
This analysis of the Trinity is exceedingly complex for the discursive reason, but the idea analyzed is exceedingly simple in itself. It is the necessary logic of infinite B proceeding from infinite A, and infinite C proceeding from infinite A and infinite B. Picture a triangle with vertices A, B, and C, with two arrows going out of A, one arrow going into and one arrow going out of B, and two arrows going into C. That is the diagram of God who is both infinite and absolutely simple.
However, no matter how clear and intelligible an explanation of the Trinity that can be given, and no matter how clearly we can understand it, it is still a mystery to us. This is because the intelligibility of God is infinite and we have only a finite grasp.
God in Himself is infinitely more clear, simple, understandable, and natural than the idea or vision of any finite intellect that grasps Him.
He who is the core of all reality, is eminently logical, but infinitely more so than a finite mind can understand.
** End-note 1 - It may be asked if God as God is infinite life, why does not the Son and the Holy Spirit generate a son, as they are both God? The answer to this is that the persons of the Trinity are distinguished by their relations of origin. What defines the Father within the Trinity is the fact that He generates the Son. What defines the Son is that He is in the relation of being generated. And the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit because He proceeds from the Father and the Son. Generation in God belongs to God as generating, which is precisely the Father, which is neither the Son nor the Holy Spirit.
** End-note 2 - If God is Pure Being, it may be asked that if that implies all attributes, why does He not also contain the attributes of evil? The answer to this is that evil is not another attribute along with good, but is the absence of good (precisely the absence of good where it is due). Thus the pairs good/evil, truth/falsehood, beauty/ugliness, love/hatred are contradictories. A contradictory cannot exist in the same thing in the same respect at the same time. As a result, if God is infinite good, that would exclude all evil. If God is Being, then He would have good as opposed to evil, as good is being and evil is non-being.