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#705 Is the Doctrine of the Trinity Kid Stuff?

October 26, 2020

Hi Dr Craig

I came across the book 'Dr. Craig's What is God Like? God Is Three Persons' where the book description (on the back of the book) states:

'This fifth booklet "God Is Three Persons" is about the important doctrine of the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity is not the logical incoherence that three persons are somehow one person or that three Gods are somehow one God. It is the doctrine that the one God is tri-personal. God has three minds or self-conscious selves. There are three divine persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and together they make up the one being that is God. Each one has all the attributes of God, but each person plays a different role in the plan of salvation. This booklet will stimulate your children's thinking about the Christian doctrine of God and help them to understand the relations between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as well as our adoption into God's family.'

Is this description written by you? Would you correct any part/s of it? If so, which part/s would you correct and what would the correction be? One particular part that caught my attention was 'God has three minds or self-conscious selves'. Isn't God one soul with three self-conscious selves? Wouldn't that mean that God is one mind with three self-conscious selves? Hope you can help. God bless


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Dr. craig’s response


I almost never get a question about our children’s books on the attributes of God, so I couldn’t resist taking this one! (Forgive my facetious title above.)

Yes, I wrote the note to parents on the back cover, and, no, I wouldn’t correct any of it. I very deliberately take what is called a “social Trinitarian view,” according to which God has three centers of self-consciousness called Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in eternal communion with one another. I cannot understand how anyone who espouses an anti-social view, according to which there is a single self-conscious subject who is God, is a Trinitarian rather than a unitarian. It is woefully insufficient for three persons to say that the Father is God’s “I” and the Son his objectification “me” and the Holy Spirit the love between the divine “I” and “me.”

In answer to your question, yes, I should say that God is one soul, that is, one spiritual substance, with three self-conscious selves. Obviously, I’m not equating “soul” here with “mind.” Rather I’m using “mind” as a synonym for “self” or “person.” In other contexts, “mind” is often used as a synonym for “soul”, but in theological contexts like the doctrines of the Trinity and incarnation, such identifications can break down. We tend to equate “person” or “mind” with “soul” because as souls endowed with one set of rational faculties each of us is one person or mind. But in God’s case, I suggest, He is a single spiritual substance endowed with three sets of rational faculties, each sufficient for personhood, so that He is a soul (a spiritual substance) with three minds (centers of self-consciousness). For elaboration see my chapter on the Trinity in Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview.

- William Lane Craig