20
back
5 / 06

#164 The Trinity and God’s Omni- Attributes

June 07, 2010
Q

Dear Dr. Craig,

I have been diligently listening to your podcasts. You are doing an amazing work for the kingdom. I am keeping you in my prayers for wisdom, purity and strength.

You mentioned the Trinity may be explained by three personalities in one being, kind of like a multiple personality disorder, but in this case, it would be very ordered. I found that very helpful.

The question is if each personality is omniscience, omnipresent and omnipotent that would mean that three different persons would have these properties. But these properties, are things only one person can have, necessarily so. That is one of the arguments given to why there can only be one God.

I look forward to reading, or hearing your response.

Under His Mercy,

Khaldoun

United States

Dr. craig’s response


A

It’s great to hear from a philosophical colleague, Khaldoun! Thank you for your prayers! I trust you’re doing well.

It doesn’t seem to me that either omnipresence or omniscience presents even a prima facie problem for a plurality of persons in the Godhead. Omnipresence is, in God’s case, the property of transcending space (i.e., existing but not existing in space) but being cognizant of and causally active at every point in space. There’s just no apparent reason why several persons could not be omnipresent in this sense. So I see no argument for monotheism based on the attribute of omnipresence (any more than timelessness).

The property of omniscience is the property of knowing that p, for any true proposition p, and not believing not-p, or, in other words, the property of knowing only and all true propositions. Again, this definition seems to pose no difficulty for a plurality of omniscient persons. It would occasion difficulty only if you held that there are purely private propositions, like “I am J. P. Moreland,” which could not be truly believed by anyone other than J. P. Moreland. If you held to that, you would have to hold, not merely that there can be only one omniscient person, but that if such a person exists, there are no other persons at all! For if Jones, say, existed, God could not Himself know “I am Jones” (only Jones knows that!) and so He would not be omniscient after all. But virtually all philosophers hold that the propositional content of sentences containing what are called personal indexical terms ( like “I,” “you,” “we,” etc. is universally accessible. When I say, “I’m hungry” and you say to me, “You’re hungry,” we express the same proposition, viz., that Bill Craig is hungry, from our different standpoints. If this is correct, then there is no difficulty with the three Trinitarian persons’ each having complete propositional knowledge.

Rather the only possible difficulty is occasioned by omnipotence. Philosophers like Richard Swinburne have, indeed, argued for monotheism on the grounds that there cannot be a plurality of omnipotent beings because they could come into conflict with each other and so would limit each other’s power. But suppose that it is logically impossible for the persons to come into conflict because they are essentially harmonious and so always will the same thing. Then the argument would fall to the ground. And it is part of the classical doctrine of the Trinity that the persons of the Godhead all share the same knowledge, love, and volition, making conflict impossible.

A better argument for there being at most one omnipotent God is that any other being that exists must be within the power of God to create or not. But then the existence of that being depends asymmetrically upon God. So God has power over it, while it lacks this power over God. So there can be at most one omnipotent God.

This conclusion will, however, be welcomed by the Trinitarian theist, since he believes that there is in fact only one God! Perhaps we should say that omnipotence is, like necessity and timelessness, primarily a property of the Godhead and only derivatively of its members. So while there can be at most one omnipotent God, there is no problem with that God’s being tri-personal.

- William Lane Craig