On Analogies, and the Uses Thereof

In essays such as “Three In One“, I’ve scorned the Christian doctrine of the Trinity:

If a claim is labeled beyond our ability to understand, then how are we supposed to tell if it is true? What assurance do theists have that the Trinity is a true fact about the world that is genuinely beyond our ability to comprehend, as opposed to a false claim invented by people whose illogical nature is protected from scrutiny by labeling it a mystery we aren’t intended to understand?

But is this claim too hasty? A Christian site admits the idea seemingly defies logic and reason, but compares it to modern scientific theories that also have highly counterintuitive implications:

It a strict sense, the doctrine of the Trinity does not violate logic at all—at least no more than quantum physics or general relativity.

We can talk about it rather thoroughly. What we can’t do is imagine how it could work. But the same is true for quantum physics and relativity.

It’s true that the analogies proposed to explain relativity, like depicting spacetime as a rubber sheet, on the surface seem no more or less comprehensible than C.S. Lewis’ analogy of the Trinity as a cube:

On the Divine level you still find personalities; but up there you find them combined in new ways which we, who do not live on that level, cannot imagine. In God’s dimension, so to speak, you find a being who is three Persons while remaining one Being, just as a cube is six squares while remaining one cube. Of course we cannot fully conceive a Being like that: just as, if we were so made that we perceived only two dimensions in space we could never properly imagine a cube.

But there is a significant point of difference here, which is that in the case of general relativity or quantum mechanics the analogies, are not the whole of the theory. The analogies are just superficial descriptions of an intricate and incredibly precise mathematical framework that allows us to make confident and astonishingly accurate predictions about the natural world. We do not need to be able to fully grasp the principles involved, because we can test and verify in a quantifiable way that the idea is true.

But with doctrines like the Trinity, there is no deeper understanding, no underlying mathematics. The vague and imperfect analogies are not backed by a model of precise predictive power; the vague and imperfect analogies are all there is. From the vantage point of the naive observer, these two might look similar, as I wrote in “The View From the Ground“. But it is a false equivalence: though they both have an outer structure of metaphor and analogy, one of these ideas is backed by a solid core of evidence, while the other is built on insubstantial air.

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Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • MS (Quixote)

    Granted I’m no mathematician, but it seems to me the underlying mathematics for the Trinity could be the following: 1X1X1=1.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    No it couldn’t.

  • lpetrich

    C.S. Lewis’s analogy for the Trinity, like a cloverleaf and others that I’ve seen, use multipart objects, implying that the Christian God is a tripartite entity, with the three persons of the Trinity as those parts. This three-subgod view is suspiciously close to tritheism, the notion that the Trinity is three gods.

    But I’ve seen some other attempts to argue by analogy that the Trinity is a three-way split of the Christian God’s personality.

    More generally, arguments by analogy I find rather troublesome, because it can sometimes be hard to identify the speciousness of the more specious ones. And it seems to me like a sign of weakness to resort to arguments by analogy; it is as if one cannot find any better arguments.

  • John D.

    Ebonmuse: “The vague and imperfect analogies are not backed by a model of precise predictive power”.

    hmph! that is just misapplied jargon. Your criticism doesn’t take into account the finality of these analogies, nor the subject they seek to say something about. Are the only worthwhile analogies ones that are “backed by models of precise predictive power”? What about when I say “Ebonmuse is like a mule: once he’s made up his mind, he won’t budge”? For whatever other reasons you might criticize this analogy, it would be quite silly to do so on the basis of its lack of “precise predictive power”.

    When you disagree with the Christians who defend the Trinity by recourse to quantum physics, I think you’ve got a point. But at the same time, we have to recognize the role of analogy, not as a demonstrative argument, but as an imperfect mode of illustration.

    (no offence about the mule one, by the way. It was the first one that came into my head)

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    As I understand it the concept of the Trinity was of itself a post gospel construct; an attempt to resolve internal inconsistancies and avoid the charge of polytheism. The word trinity is not used explicitly in the bible.Bcause the concept is effectively incomprehensible to everybody (deliberately so?)when analogies fall down just point at the ineffable god and shrug your shoulders.
    Quantum mechanics however is understood by someone (not me though) so simplification by analogy for the rest of us is fine.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    As Feynman said:

    I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.

    Of course, he also said this:

    God was invented to explain mystery. God is always invented to explain those things that you do not understand.

  • Brad

    There are scientists that surely understand and conceptualize the principles of quantum mechanics – the tantalizing part comes when trying to imagine or interpret the reality behind these principles. I think that’s what Feynman was getting at: why do these strange, bizarre, counterintuitive principles govern reality? How can we truly imagine such a curious reality?

    MS, why do you use multiplication and not addition? When there are three things grouped together, there are 1+1+1=3 of those things.

    As for the cube analogy: there are six faces! Six faces! Yes; one cube, but multiple faces. So when we talk about the trinitarian “god,” we are talking about three unique persons, and the only way to save monotheism is to change the traditional definition of “god” to not be dependent upon the number of persons, but rather to be any set of persons! An analogy: the government treats corporations as single entities, even though they are composed of many persons.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Perhaps I should have included a smiley?

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    As Feynman said:

    I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.

    Without descending into solipsism; every scientific explanation of the observable universe is really only a model in someone’s mind. Some models are simpler than others and puny intellects like mine can grasp them. Some, like quantum mechanics, can really only be properly described in mathematical terms that are beyond most of us. However no matter how abstract the models are, as long as they work, we can reach a concensus on that particular description of reality. I still think of matter in terms of the Bohr atom; I know it’s over simplistic and just plain wrong but it’s a reasonable working model for most purposes.
    This sort of epistemology is why theists think that goddidit arguments are as valid as scientific ones. If god is your model and it works, and all scientific models are approximations, what’s the difference?

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    My snarky suggestion is to compare the Trinity to a pizza pie. It is cut into slices, but is still a single pie.

  • Erika

    John D, where does Ebon say that “the only worthwhile analogies ones that are ‘backed by models of precise predictive power’”? I interpret the post as saying that one cannot say that an analogy that is backed by some predictive power cannot be thought of as equivalent to one that does not. This is different from saying that analogies without predictive power are not useful.

  • MS (Quixote)

    MS, why do you use multiplication and not addition? When there are three things grouped together, there are 1+1+1=3 of those things.

    Brad,

    Multiplication expresses the concept mathematically, whereas addition does not. “Three things grouped together” does not express it linguistically. From your previous posts, I gather that you know this, so I’m assuming you’re baiting me:)

  • Leum

    MS (Quixote),

    1*1*1 means “ONE group of ONE group of ONE unit” or (alternately) “a cube with dimensions ONE, ONE, and ONE.”

    In the former definition you’ve just got one thing inelegantly described. The latter is just Lewis’ cube analogy.

    In any case, it doesn’t make sense of the trinity and there’s still no evidence that it’s an accurate description.

    On the other hand, it could be argued that the incomprehensibility of the trinity is a sign that it isn’t a man-made conception, except that there isn’t any evidence that the earlier Bibles (the ones in Greek) actually even alluded to a trinity.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    MS,
    Again, no it does not. Multiplication is a shorthand notation for expressing the addition of groups. Two groups of three items makes six items total. 2 times 3 is the same as 3 plus 3. Also, three groups of two items makes six items total. 3 times 2 is the same as 2 plus 2 plus 2. All you are saying is that you have one group of one group of one. It’s basically a tautology. In reality, you should be claiming that 1+1+1=1 or that 1/3+1/3+1/3=1 or something like that.

  • MS (Quixote)

    Leum, OMGF,

    Good points both; I think I get it. Let’s continue my math lesson then. At least you can do me the favor of preventing me from saying ridiculous things.

    How about the mathematical conception of a triangle and a circle, which seem forever separate in two dimensions, becoming a cone in three.

    (the ones in Greek)

    These are the ones we Trinitarians use. What did you have in mind here? The Johannine Comma?

  • prase

    OMGF, in more complicated mathematical models, quantum physics icluded, operations like multiplication are used in ways far more abstract than “shorthand for addition of groups”. The usefulness of a mathematical model doesn’t rely on the use of operations in some intuitive sense. The model of trinity based on 1x1x1=1 is not so bad … at least as a mathematical joke (maybe I’ve just a bit deformed sense of humor).

    On the other hand, the holy trinity was for me always kind of mystery. I wonder how Christians arrived at this apparently unexplainable absurdity. Can it be that it could surprisingly help people believe then in 3rd century? After all it was the epoch when arguments like credo quia absurdum were popular.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    I’m not sure what you are getting at with the cone idea. If you take a cross-section of a cone, it looks like either a circle or a triangle, depending on how you slice it, but I don’t see this as being appreciably different from the cube analogy.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    prase,

    OMGF, in more complicated mathematical models, quantum physics icluded, operations like multiplication are used in ways far more abstract than “shorthand for addition of groups”.

    For example?

  • MS (Quixote)

    I’m not sure what you are getting at with the cone idea.

    Obviously, I don’t want to push this too far, but it seems on the face of it that things that seem incoherent within one set of dimensions can resolve when extra dimensions are added.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    What about when I say “Ebonmuse is like a mule: once he’s made up his mind, he won’t budge”? For whatever other reasons you might criticize this analogy, it would be quite silly to do so on the basis of its lack of “precise predictive power”.

    Yes, but it’s clear what that analogy means. It corresponds to things and qualities that are part of everyday experience.

    “God is three persons in one” is an analogy that does not correspond to anything in everyday experience. The same can be said of relativity or QM, but those analogies describe a theory which makes precise, quantifiable, and experimentally confirmed predictions about the real world. Analogies about the Trinity have neither everyday correspondence nor predictive power, so they convey no information or meaning.

  • Stacey Melissa

    I find Arguments by Analogy to be a sign of muddy thinking when they are presented in place of more rigorous sorts of argument. Analogies cannot make the case for anything at all by themselves, although sometimes they are useful for illustrating something which has already been established by more rigorous means. This is largely because it must be established that one thing really is in fact like another thing, in order for the analogy to be genuinely applicable. Establishing that requires first establishing exactly what the one thing is, in independently meaningful terms, without resort to any analogies.

    As such, I almost entirely avoid making analogies myself, and watch in amusement as religionists spout them by the truckload.

  • Paul S

    I find it ironic that a person who claims to be 3 persons in one would be medically diagnosed as a schizophrenic and, depending on severity, be institutionalized in a psychiatric hospital, yet Christians have no problem putting their common sense aside and accepting this incomprehensible concept as a guide on how to live their lives.

  • Kaltrosomos

    Christians can certainly get snarky when discussing the trinity.

    I asked one a question like, “How can God be three persons and also one person?”

    And the Christian replied, “God is not three persons in one person. God is one god in three persons.”

    So then I asked what the difference between a person and a god was, that would allow three of one kind to equal one of the other. Since the doctrine of the Trinity states, as I remember, that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all distinct persons, even though they are of the same substance, and equal only one god.

    The response? The Christian thought I was just trying to get a rise out of him, and insisted I leave his comboxes. He never did answer after that, though other readers spent pages and pages trying to explain the ‘subtleties’ of the doctrine, and why it was not intrinsically irrational.

    The common plea was basically this: the doctrine is understandable, but only to higher minds than ours. Maybe we don’t understand it, but it is understandable by somebody and we should accept that as good enough.

  • Polly

    I’ll take devil’s (ahem) advocate.

    One analogy that I thought MIGHT fit the 3-in-1 concept was that of networked computers or distributed processing. Imagine a future AI society that could be at once a single instance of consciousness and also a community of intelligent nodes. All of them could share knowledge near instantly and each would experience what the others experience.

    Another idea for a network: Something akin to having all your neurons self-aware, and consciously acting to creat a higher awareness of which they all partake.

    Actually, does anyone remember the Battle of the Worlds (or something like that)? There was a “race” of pitch white clones. They regarded themselves as 1 mind, but there were of course, numerous instances of the cloned bodies. They all shared experience and knwoledge.

    The Trinity is a very sci-fi type concept. Funny thing is, I doubt that there was any intention to put forth the idea in the Bible. It looks more like a post-hoc attempt to justify the divinity and co-equality, co-eternity, etc. of Christ with god. But, that’s a completely different discussion.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Brad,

    You said,

    When there are three things grouped together, there are 1+1+1=3 of those things.

    Sure, when you’re thinking exclusively Newtonian. In reality, we have matter, and we have energy, and we have one ‘thing’ that manifests in at least two different forms. The subatomic particles that result when atoms and atomic nuclei get fissioned appear to display the strange ability to be at once corpuscle and wave.

    Leum,

    On the other hand, it could be argued that the incomprehensibility of the trinity is a sign that it isn’t a man-made conception, except that there isn’t any evidence that the earlier Bibles (the ones in Greek) actually even alluded to a trinity.

    Great points.

    Ebonmuse,

    …in the case of general relativity or quantum mechanics the analogies, are not the whole of the theory.

    You are correct in noting the predictive powers of general relativity or quantum mechanics but not so fast here… Analogies are not the whole of the theory of the trinity – we also enjoy material precedent because there is reasonable material evidence for this strange allegation that things can exist in more than one form or in more than one place at more than one time. The original EPR experiment (Einstein, Boris Podolski, Nathan Rosen) shows conclusively that particles which at one time shared the same system of coordinates remain instantly and enduringly correlated. (*the atomic condition, not the general use of the word) This nonlocality is completely irreverent of space-time, and it exists whether the time that separates the particles is measured in fractions of a second or billions of years of time, and it exists whether the particles are separated by millimeters or light-years of space.

    Now, I grant these phenomena may or may not extend beyond our universe or be characteristic of God, and can by no means be considered proof of any scripture or doctrine, because science cannot verify a religious claim. But does it not stand to reason that given such an analogous material precedent, if God created the universe, that God might exhibit principles strikingly similar to nonlocality? Are not the terms omnipresence and nonlocality at least loosely interchangeable?

    But with doctrines like the Trinity, there is no deeper understanding, no underlying mathematics.

    This is a statement without evidence, i.e., a baseless claim. How do you know? Just because you’ve gotten no deeper understanding from it? Just because you can’t get your mind around it? Steve Bowen makes a similar subjective claim November 17, 2008, 12:29 pm that the trinity “concept is effectively incomprehensible to everybody…” These arguments are atheist flavors of God of the Gaps arguments.

    As for,

    From the vantage point of the naive observer, these two might look similar… one of these ideas is backed by a solid core of evidence, while the other is built on insubstantial air. (ital. mine)

    Quite literally, this particular claim is built on insubstantial air, because you offer no evidence to support it. It also smells a wee bit like the ole “anybody who might actually be able to get their head around concept A, B, or C, is X, Y, or Z (where A, B, or C = some arbitrary claim and X, Y, or Z = intellectual denigration of varying intensity).

    The vague and imperfect analogies are not backed by a model of precise predictive power;

    Ah, yes, the precise predictive power of metaverse cosmology, string theory and nonlocality… John D. makes an interesting point about your denouncement of the trinity on account of its ‘lack of predictive power.’ Please quantify the degree of solidity displayed by the core of evidence in metaverse cosmology, string theory and nonlocality. Not all scientific hypotheses enjoy the predictive power you demand of trinity doctrine, and on what grounds is your demand for such predictive power justified? In science, predictive power is expected, because we assume methodological naturalism if we wish to conduct good science. When discussing something like God, however, our demands for predictive power are not as justifiable or warranted as we might like them to be. As Dawkins notes in TGD, any being that created the universe would arguably have to be infintely more complex than the universe it created, right?** Well, I’m sure we can all agree on the inherent difficulties involved in predicting the behavior or character of such a being, but these predictive difficulties – although very frustrating for us – in no way preclude such a being.

    In your comment November 17, 2008, 4:04 pm, you said,

    Analogies about the Trinity have neither everyday correspondence nor predictive power, so they convey no information or meaning.

    I disagree. Analogies about the trinity have everyday correspondence in the strange ability of subatomic particles to be at once corpuscle and wave, and whether they confer meaning or not is subjective.

    My point is this – energy and matter are but different manifestations of the same thing, right? This is not subjective, and since an objective situation exists in actuality by where one ‘thing’ can exist in more than one form and in more than one place at the same time, why is a similar situation decried as preposterous when we extend that line of thinking to the creator?

    John D,

    You said Ebonmuse had a point when he,

    …disagree(s) with the Christians who defend the Trinity by recourse to quantum physics…

    Just of curiosity, what point do you think he has? I’ll grant that such comparisons are unsatisfying in their explanatory power of the trinity; but such comparisons are sufficient IMO to establish that reasonably analogous occurrences are to be found in nature, thus elevating the proposition of the trinity from something abstract and without material precedent to something abstract with material precedent.

  • Brad

    What we can’t do is imagine how it could work. But the same is true for quantum physics and relativity.

    We have observed that QM and TR do work. Plus, the axioms of QM are not conceptually incoherent* (albeit counterintuitive, bizarre, strange), whereas the doctrine of the Trinity is. So how is the analogy between the Trinity and QM a valid one?

    *”Incoherence” is also a phenomenon describing the collapsing of superposition of particles, not to be confused with a breakdown in logic. (If there were breakdown in logic then the math wouldn’t work out.)

    The foolproof 3-step guide to profitably utilizing analogies:

    1. State that X is true.

    2. State that Y is like X.

    3. Claim that Y is true too.

    (Note: don’t get bogged down on elaborating part 2. It’s common sense after all.)

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    cl,

    These arguments are atheist flavors of God of the Gaps arguments.

    No they aren’t. Pointing out that the concept of X is globlydegook (whether it is or not) is not an atheist version of god of the gaps.

    In science, predictive power is expected, because we assume methodological naturalism if we wish to conduct good science.

    This isn’t strictly true. There is no reason why one can’t posit supernatural phenomena and try to use the scientific method to investigate those. We simply have no way to do so. So, science does not assume MN so much as we simply realize that we’ve only ever been able to figure out how to use MN vs. some supernatural scheme.

    Analogies about the trinity have everyday correspondence in the strange ability of subatomic particles to be at once corpuscle and wave, and whether they confer meaning or not is subjective.

    Wait a second. Are you really trying to tie the multiple-personalities of god to the particle/wave duality of sub-atomic particles?

  • Brad

    cl,

    How does wave/particle duality relate to elementary grouping? There is a precise mathematical formulation of wave/particle duality, based off of the idea that a particle can be in superposition, forming what is called a “wave” of probabilities located at all possible positions. Whether you’re thinking Euclidean, Newtonian, Minkowskian, or Hilbert – x things is still x of those same things, no matter what space you’re using.

  • Brock

    I’m surprised that no one so far has mentioned the history of the concept, except peripherally. In the early days of christianity, there was a good deal of confusion and strife among people trying to decide whether Jesus was a man, or Jesus was a god, or was he somehow both. And if jesus was god, how do we square this with monotheism, and the fact that he continually referred to god as someopne outside of himself? And who the heck is this Comforter Luke talks about, and how does he fit in? Several people (like Paul) also talk about the Spirit of god, but making it a god seems at first unjustified, and besides don’t we already have god the father? And jesus too, is he a god? Wait, I’m getting confused. Hey, how about this? Jesus was both god and man in some fashion that we can’t completely understand, and father son and holy ghost are all the same person, except that they are different persons, and one god, so that the three gods are one god, or maybe one person, or… OK, we’ve got this Trinity thing going, let’s stop before we get confused again, and call it a mystery. That way we can be monotheists,and still have Jesus be a god like his father, and explain the Comforter too. We now have a triune god, one of whose parts (Jesus) is both god and man at the same time, making god four people, only he’s really three, only he’s really one. Is that clear? I find it hard to believe that anyone buys this today, or even bought it then, except that the christian HAS to believe mutually contradictory things, in order to make sense of his religion, and the Trinity was the solution they came up with.

  • http://www.myspace.com.driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    Another idea for a network: Something akin to having all your neurons self-aware, and consciously acting to creat a higher awareness of which they all partake.

    Polly. I Like this: emergent supra-consciousness. So god can only exist if a pre-existing self aware collective exists first. Man creates god in his own image.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Brad,

    You said,

    Whether you’re thinking Euclidean, Newtonian, Minkowskian, or Hilbert – x things is still x of those same things, no matter what space you’re using.

    and to that I offer:

    That “x things is still x of those same things” does not preclude the possibility of x things to exist in more than x states.

  • http://chromiumoxidegreen.blogspot.com Maria

    Wow, someone really said that? Someone tried to justify the apparent illogic of the trinity by saying that, well, quantum mechanics and general relativity are also counterintuitive?

    You know, perhaps I would be more apt to believe in the trinity, if it proved to be an essential componet in building accurate GPS devices, or faster hard drives, or if it could provide a detailed mathematical description of the colors of lights that different elements radiate when they’re heated, and predict what colors will be emmited from an undiscovered element. Though can you imagine how silly these sort of predictions would sound? “If the ominiscient god contains three persons, then we can expect a strong line coming off of an Uubium atom at 385 nanometers, except its wavelength should follow some approvimation of the inverse square law, because the electron that falls from the ninth to the sixth energy level will be continuously deflected as it moves through the tri-godiferous ether…”

  • http://www.myspace.com.driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    Brock

    I’m surprised that no one so far has mentioned the history of the concept, except peripherally.

    Well I sort of did early on

    As I understand it the concept of the Trinity was of itself a post gospel construct; an attempt to resolve internal inconsistancies and avoid the charge of polytheism.

    The point being that analogies “explaining” the concept of the trilogy are really just pissing into the wind; one metaphysical construct attempting to explain another. This is not the same as using simple examples to illustrate a complex (but functional) concept like QM.

  • silentsanta

    I’m not a big fan of Hitchens, but I saw a video debate featuring him recently, in which he claimed the function of the Trinity was to present people with an insoluble problem so that they feel inadequate.

    I hadn’t really thought about it in a functional way beforehand; I was always more concerned with whether or not the claims being made were true. In the same way, postulating evolutionary explanations for the origin of religion sort of bypasses the examination of wehther religious claims are true. Yet I think Hitchens does have something of a point – because unlike many religious claims which are demonstrably false, the doctrine of the trinity is characterised by being utterly undemonstrable in either direction, because it is so utterly divorced from any real-world implications.

    And after looking at the idea of the trinity, I see it is about as functionally retarded an idea as they come; heck cl why don’t we claim 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 = 1 OH WOW THERE MUST BE FOUR GODS. Or wait – how about two? Can’t you see what sort of absurd masturbation this exercise is?

    The point that you seem to be missing, cl, is that once your analogy is divorced from having any predictive power, there is nothing left with which to distinguish a ‘good’ analogy from a bad one; your corpuscle / wave analogy demonstrates precisely the same absence of utility as my competing stack-of-turtles analogy, or someone elses’ benevolent pasta theory.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    silentsanta,

    The point that you seem to be missing, cl, is that once your analogy is divorced from having any predictive power, there is nothing left with which to distinguish a ‘good’ analogy from a bad one;

    It appears you argue that we cannot distinguish a good analogy from a bad one sans predictive power, and I disagree. Lecture me on the predictive power of metaverse cosmology, string theory, or nonlocality, please, and then lecture me on which of them encompass good analogies and which do not.

    You also told me that my

    …corpuscle / wave analogy demonstrates precisely the same absence of utility as (your) competing stack-of-turtles analogy, or someone elses’ benevolent pasta theory. (paren. mine)

    Preposterous. State your material precedent for the stack-of-turtles analogy, or the benevolent pasta theory. The corpuscle / wave analogy demonstrates that in nature, a series of events occurs by which matter and energy are discontinuous expressions of a singular phenomenon.

    IOW, that “x things is still x of those same things” does not preclude the possibility of “x things to exist in more than x states.”

  • prase

    OMGF,

    OMGF, in more complicated mathematical models, quantum physics icluded, operations like multiplication are used in ways far more abstract than “shorthand for addition of groups”.

    For example?

    The vector product, for example, is a good generalisation of multiplication which can be fairly well interpreted geometrically, but hardly as iterated addition. Matrix multiplication has many applications and yet it is not shorthand for addition of groups in any meaningful sense. To consider multiplication a shorthand for addition of groups assumes that the multiplied objects are numbers expressing quantities of objects. Often they are not.

    By the way, by taking logarithm of “Holy Trinity equation” 1x1x1=1 one gets 0+0+0=0. Maybe this equation suggests that we shall assign zero to each person in Trinity and expresses the emptiness of God. Well, this wasn’t serious.

  • MS Quixote

    And just when we were all getting along so well. When SilentSanta says:

    “there is nothing left with which to distinguish a ‘good’ analogy from a bad one”

    he has seemingly not thought through this claim with any due diligence. The analytic framework under which these Trinitarian analogies are proffered conforms to an artifactitious collection of source material, and subsequent body of theology, that both regulate the construction of the analogy and provide a tangible benchmark from which to measure the accuracy of any such analogy. Brock appears to have recognized this en route to his particular conclusion.

    Secondly, it seems his claim is demonstrably false based on previous posts. Evidently, it was a simple task for a mathematician, or even an engineer, as I surmise in OMGF’s case, to dismiss what was apparently a sophomoric intuition on my part, that 1x1x1=1 might be an acceptable mathematical equivalent of the Trinitarian formula. It would seem, at least, that some bad analogies are relatively easy to pare from the set of good, or perhaps better, analogies.

    Thirdly, analogous devices are inherently faulty after exceeding a critical horizon. To my knowledge there are none that do not fail if pushed beyond their capacity to illustrate a truth. Why would we predict analogous language to succeed unscathed with an extreme abstraction, yet fail within more grounded applications? This should not be maintained as a discriminator of the analogy’s worth or utility. After all, the analogy is analogous to the doctrine; it is not the doctrine itself. In fact, if utility or pragmatism is the arbiter, Trinitarian analogies have proved wildly successful in practice.

    How does one, from within the tradition as described above, discuss the Trinity? The doctrine is certainly not contradictory, though perhaps paradoxical. The limited device of analogy is helpful, though not exhaustive. For developments in the field I would suggest a look at social trinitarianism, though the classic doctrine is satisfactory from within the Christian tradition.

    Moreover, the constant claim that knowledge is only utile or worthwhile if its meets the rigors of scientific prediction and verification is simply false. No doubt it dwells within the set of the most rigorous types of knowledge, but it has neighbors. What exactly were you thinking at 3:28 PM today, and how did you intend to verify it? And the method of transmitting such knowledge to the outside world? Most likely an analogous device. And does verification ever really get us to the “thing in itself?” What is energy, after all? Whatever it is, it seems we will be forced to convey an unverifiable conception through a frail analogue. To convince one’s self otherwise is to construct an artificial barrier against what is knowable. To analogize: to keep one’s self in the dark. Viva the lovers, the dreamers, the theorists, and the metaverse cosmologist, the string theorist, the nonlocalitist, and yes, the Trinitarian, I say.

    Lastly, I do not begrudge the atheist the latitude to engage with analogy the non-predictive “just so” stories of evolutionary thought, or any other like abstract concept. They arise from within a tradition, and maintain their own set of mandates to guide their usage, though they appear highly masturbatory at times. I can just imagine a room full of scientists discussing the evolutionary reasons women prefer non-missionary positions, always on the look-out for predators and such :)

    The entirety of Theism may in fact prove masturbatory, if in fact theism is false, much less a Trinitarian analogy. This, however, would prove to be a higher standard of proof than could reasonably be met, and is not even within the scope of the OP. Incidentally, the “stack of turtles” proved a highly-valued historical analogy, one employed by your forebears, if I am not mistaken. Sorry for the sermon….

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    prase,
    The “vector product” or cross product while using the same “x” symbol is not the same as a multiplication.

    Matrix multiplication is just another, more complex form, of adding groups of numbers. I thought you might suggest this, since it seems rather convoluted, but once you break it down to its constituent parts, it’s really just addition of groups.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    silentsanta,

    heck cl why don’t we claim 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 = 1 OH WOW THERE MUST BE FOUR GODS.

    To be fair, it was MS that posited the 1x1x1=1, not cl.

  • Libby

    Christian thinking was developing during Roman times. During the empire period of rome, there were several “triumvirates”, groups of three men that ruled the empire together (though they generally ended up killing each other). One example is the triumvirate of Caesar, Mark Antony, and Cassius (I could be mixing them up). But anyways, is it possible that this concept made its way into christian though during their time in the Roman empire? Three separate persons working together to collectively form one “ruler”? Most of Christianity seems to be borrowed from contemporary religions and mythologies anyways, couldn’t this have just been one more thing they borrowed from neighboring cultures?

    They couldn’t quite explain the inconsistencies properly, so they just modeled the whole structure after previous roman ruling structures and called it a mystery?

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    NOTE: It’s also a bit biased to frame a discussion about tripartite gods exclusively in a Christian framework. Hinduism, for example, also posits a trinity, and goes unnoticed. What do any of you have to say against the Hindu trinity? Be sure to understand it before you respond.

  • Leum

    MS,

    My understanding is that the Greek texts did not refer to the trinity until the Catholic Church wrote a Greek version for someone to translate (can’t remember who, but he’d refused to include the reference unless the Church produced a text containing it in the original Greek). I could, of course, be wrong.

    I like your circle-triangle-cone analogy, even if no one else does, probably because I’m currently studying Calculus. The other analogy I’ve liked (from C.S. Lewis) is of the Father as a lamp, the Son as the light, and the Holy Spirit as something else that didn’t make sense, a relationship or somesuch.

    But isn’t the whole idea of the trinity incomprehensibility? My impression was that it was supposed to be the ultimate leap of faith, something you believe despite not knowing what it is that you believe.

  • Virginia

    Trinitarian doctrine, is a topic that is not really taught in depth, both in the church and even in theological seminaries — except that for some who wanted to go into depths of it — it is apparent that this doctrine is so muddled, incomprehensible, so confusing that if you ask any Christian layman you be surprised at how little they know about this — yet this is the core piece that makes the difference of orthodoxy and heresy
    If something is so muddled, so incomprehensible, you cannot really tell if its truth or what, so their belief is again blind faith

  • TommyP

    Considering how annoying Christianity can be, I think I understand why most arguments about the Trinity are framed from a Christian position. If Hinduism were as fantastically awful in our everyday lives, then I imagine that it would be taking the focus of these arguments.
    Not that Hinduism is particularly wonderful in and of itself, but when you are confronted with multiple annoyances it does well do deal with the worst offender first. However, if someone really wants to dig into Hinduism to expose some of the illogical fun there, I’d like to see it.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Leum / Virginia,

    You both left comments with similar themes, as have many others – that the trinity idea is so ‘incomprehensible.’

    I am trying to understand why so many critics have difficulty with the idea – to me, it’s pretty straight-forward that one thing can exist in more than one state.

    Again, since we’re on this business of offering equations,

    Does “x things is still x of those same things” preclude “x things existing in more than x states?”

    And, in this universe, don’t we find instance of this in the corpuscle / wave dichotomy?

  • Polly

    @cl,

    What you are espousing sounds alot like a XX version of Modalism, a heresy.

    http://www.carm.org/heresy/modalism.htm

    http://www.catholic.com/library/God_in_Three_Persons.asp

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Polly,

    I will read the links, but it’s quite an interesting note of distinction to be referred to as a ‘heretic’ – what a fun badge to wear!

  • Leum

    I’ve said the trinity was incomprehensible because my understanding of Christian theology was that it is almost heretical to claim to understand it. I seem to recall reading somewhere that medieval theologians bragged about how great their failure to understand the trinity was and felt that its incomprehensibility was part of what proved Christianity’s truth, but I am often wrong and misremember easily.

    Of course, as Polly points out, you’re a heretic with regard to many conceptions of the trinity anyway, so many theologians’ views probably aren’t important to you.

  • 2-D Man

    What do any of you have to say against the Hindu trinity? Be sure to understand it before you respond.

    This is really immaterial, cl. If the Hindu trinity is false, it lends no credibility to the Christian one. And I find that second sentence particularly ironic when you use statements like this:

    Analogies about the trinity have everyday correspondence in the strange ability of subatomic particles to be at once corpuscle and wave, and whether they confer meaning or not is subjective.[Emphasis mine]

    And this:

    Are not the terms omnipresence and nonlocality at least loosely interchangeable?

    And this:

    That “x things is still x of those same things” does not preclude the possibility of x things to exist in more than x states.

    And worst of all:

    Ah, yes, the precise predictive power of metaverse cosmology, string theory and nonlocality…[Emphasis mine]

    You’ve shown a complete mischaracterization of scientific theories and scientific knowledge in your reckless attempt to defend an absurd doctrine. Go take a course on quantum, even at the undergraduate level, before you begin trying to argue that theology and quantum are even remotely close in terms of explanatory power, or that one supports the other.

    (By the way, I’ve done a quick Google search and I did not get any results for “Metaverse Cosmology”. The closest result was from Neil Stephenson’s book Snow Crash wherein there’s a Second Life-esque environment. Do you perhaps mean multiverse cosmology?)

  • Brad

    That “x things is still x of those same things” does not preclude the possibility of x things to exist in more than x states.

    If I’m reading into that correctly, cl, you’re implying that persons are fundamentally “states.” Is that what you are implying? Hmm…

    |God> = |Father> + |Son> + |Holy Spirit>

    In bra-ket notation, any “vector sum” of basis people can be composed. So, I can now formally define whole new “beings”:

    |My Family> = |Me> + |My Brother> + |My Mother> + |My Father>

    |Humanity> = Σ|Human Person n>

    It appears that under these metaphysics, the “vector sum” of “states” is really just the mereological sum of people. This makes sense to me. It goes back exactly to what I said before:

    So when we talk about the trinitarian “god,” we are talking about three unique persons, and the only way to save monotheism is to change the traditional definition of “god” to not be dependent upon the number of persons, but rather to be any set of persons! An analogy: the government treats corporations as single entities, even though they are composed of many persons.

    I think that, depending on one’s definition of “god,” the doctrine of the trinity is safe and makes perfect sense.

  • MS (Quixote)

    Hey Leum,

    My understanding is that the Greek texts did not refer to the trinity

    I think you’re right about this in the sense that the word Trinity is never used in the original Greek or the translations for that matter. Also, it’s true that 1 John 5:7 seems to be a later addition to the text, so maybe that’s what you are referring to? The concept is clearly taught in the Greek, though, as some of the commenters have noted, leading to what they call a post hoc rationalization attempting to reconcile monotheism with Christ’s divinity, etc. This is not an unfair representation of what happened; it’s only a rationalization if it turns out to be false :)

    As to incomprehensibility, yes and no. The doctrine is not contradictory, so we can describe it as “one in essense, three in person” in a comprehensible fashion; however, it is incomprehensible in the sense that we have trouble conceiving of it with the constraints placed upon us 3 dimensions and time.

    With all that said, it’s interesting that you say its almost heretical to claim to understand it. That’s a very intuitive point on your part, and now that you mention it, you’re right in a lot of cases, along with several other points of related Christian doctrine where this non-intellectual sentiment creeps in. Nicely done.

    Good luck with Calculus.

  • Polly

    @cl,

    but it’s quite an interesting note of distinction to be referred to as a ‘heretic’ – what a fun badge to wear!

    Well, then I highly recommend trying on “infidel.”
    It’s twice the fun with 0 calories! ;)

  • John D.

    cl,
    what is at stake is not so much material “precedent” (of states in the Trinity) as material similarity- which, however, is offset by a much greater dis-similarity. This greater dis-similarity already compromizes the power and utility of the analogy.
    In this way, I think Ebonmuse was right to say that these Christian apologists’ case was unconvincing, as is any analogy used in relation to the Trinity. However, I wouldn’t say it is entirely useless, in that it can help one understand a datum of revelation (if one is a Christian) that is otherwise, it must be siad, very difficult to understand.

  • Leum

    MS (Quixote):

    Also, it’s true that 1 John 5:7 seems to be a later addition to the text, so maybe that’s what you are referring to?

    Yes. Thank you.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Brad,

    Not quite following all your logic, but it seems that its productive for you so right on.

    Leum,

    I’ve said the trinity was incomprehensible because my understanding of Christian theology was that it is almost heretical to claim to understand it.

    Thank you, that adds to the conversation, at least for me.

    John D,

    This greater dis-similarity already compromizes the power and utility of the analogy.

    And what is the dis-similarity IYO? Lack of predictive power, as Ebonmuse suggests?

    2-D Man,

    You’ve shown a complete mischaracterization of scientific theories and scientific knowledge in your reckless attempt to defend an absurd doctrine. Go take a course on quantum, even at the undergraduate level, before you begin trying to argue that theology and quantum are even remotely close in terms of explanatory power, or that one supports the other. (ital. mine)

    1) As far as your contention that the trinity is an absurd doctrine and that my attempts are reckless, those are your opinions and we’re all entitled to subjective opinions, so save those next time ’round.

    2) Regarding the italicized text – strawman all the way. Show me where I’ve argued “that theology and quantum are even remotely close in terms of explanatory power.” That is total BS, 2-D Man. I barely have an iota of respect or interest in theology, for one; and for two, I don’t propose that we can explain more about the world with the trinity or theology than QM, general relativity, or science, so save it. And I don’t think that one necessarily “supports” the other, either. I’m trying to understand the mindset of people who have such difficulty with the concept that one thing can exist in more than one state, and I am also positing that there are at least rudimentary similarities of this notion in nature. Have you any explanation or anything to add?

    3) It’s very, very likely I’m ‘mischaracterizing’ quantum mechanics, sir, but if you wish to argue some factual error on my behalf I’m more than welcome to hear it, admit it, and learn from it. In the absence of such from you, your charges of mischaracterization are not supported – just hot air.

    As for this,

    By the way, I’ve done a quick Google search and I did not get any results for “Metaverse Cosmology”. The closest result was from Neil Stephenson’s book Snow Crash wherein there’s a Second Life-esque environment.

    Your point? I mention string theory, metaverse cosmology and nonlocality simply to note that an analogy can be valid, even if it particularly lacks predictive power. For example, metaverse analogies are useful in TOE research; they are not as predictive as gravity or general relativity, but this does not render them ‘useless’ or ‘incomprehensible.’

    One last question for you or anyone – counterintuitive ideas arguably form the bedrock of 20th century science – why is it that counterintuitive ideas are praised and useful in science, but scorned and mocked in religion?

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Because in science a counter-intuitive idea is a triumph for us, of sorts. It means that we were able to see through our faulty senses to get at the truth via experimentation and empirical study.

    In religion, it’s a defeat for the religion in that it is not based on actual data nor does it help us actually understand truth or the world. It’s like religion is accepting defeat and simply trying to shoehorn the real world around pre-conceived beliefs in order to remain relevant.

    HTH

  • paradoctor

    Triadic logic is encoded in the Constitution: executuive, legislative, and judiciary; analogous, respectively, to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. This shows an influence on the Founders, from Montesqieu’s “Spirit of the Laws”.

    The Constitutional point of this is to limit government by dividing powers. This is to prevent the accumulation of power, with consequence abuse and corruption. Is a trinitarian god therefore a limited one?

    I’ve asked Catholic priests to define trinitarian doctrine for me, without success. I don’t know what that doctrine is; I doubt they do either; so does that doctrine exist?

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    paradoctor,

    In the early 1900′s, if you asked top physicists to define quantum mechanics, they would have done so without much success. Did QM exist at that time in your opinion?

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Open question for whoever:

    When a believer and an atheist are discussing abiogenesis, and the believer offers the lack of complete abiogenesis theory as evidence against abiogenesis and for theism, does not the atheist rightfully reply by noting that theism does not logically entail lack of complete abiogenesis theory? And what does the atheist rightfully call this mistake of the believer? Is it not the God of the Gaps fallacy?

    So when a believer and an atheist are discussing trinitarian theory, and the atheist offers the lack of complete trinitarian theory as evidence against trinitarian theory and for atheism, should not the believer rightfully reply by arguing that atheism does not logically entail lack of complete trinitarian theory? And what should the believer rightfully call this mistake of the atheist?

  • Mathew Wilder

    @ cl: whether the doctrine exists, and whether what it describes exists are two separate questions. So, no, in the 1900s, Quantum Theory did not exist, although what Quantum Theory describes did.

    I think it is a fair question to ask whether the doctrine (“theory”?) of the Trinity exists, if no one can explain it. Whether the Trinity exists is a separate question, but how are we even supposed to go about figuring out whether Trinitarianism is true, if we don’t even know what Trinitarianism IS?

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    cl,

    Is it not the God of the Gaps fallacy?

    It’s also a false dichotomy.

    So when a believer and an atheist are discussing trinitarian theory, and the atheist offers the lack of complete trinitarian theory as evidence against trinitarian theory and for atheism, should not the believer rightfully reply by arguing that atheism does not logically entail lack of complete trinitarian theory?

    Has anyone claimed that the incoherent trinitarian idea is somehow supportive of atheism?

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Mathew Wilder,

    So, no, in the 1900s, Quantum Theory did not exist, although what Quantum Theory describes did.

    Exactly. Lack of a coherent theory does not preclude existence.

  • Mathew Wilder

    I was just thinking before we try to make sense of the idea that “the one God exists in three Persons and one substance, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” it might be a good idea to clarify what is meant by the following terms:

    1. God
    2. Person
    3. Substance

    I think only then could a discussion of whether “one God/substance” can exist as “three persons” happen.

    I’m not too hopeful that any useful definitions of those three terms will be forthcoming, though.

  • Mathew Wilder

    Now, to disregard my own advice :-)

    Exactly. Lack of a coherent theory does not preclude existence.

    Are you conceding our point, then, that the “theory of the Trinity” is incoherent?

    Since the Trinity cannot ever be investigated, how are we to know whether it exists or not? I mean, if we don’t even have a coherent theory, what reason do we have to think the Trinity exists?

    I guess QT wasn’t developed until after certain facts were observed which necessitated an explanation, but there are no observable facts when it comes to the Trinity. So what exactly is the “theory of the Trinity” supposed to explain?

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Mathew Wilder,

    Are you conceding our point, then, that the “theory of the Trinity” is incoherent?

    No. The point of the OP is to eschew those who see a valid connection between Trinitarian ideas and quantum ideas. I argue that quantum analogies are actually relevant and useful in apprehending Trinitarian concepts. Of course they don’t prove or support the trinity – but they are relevant, useful analogies IMO, and I don’t think we can fairly decry them as any of the things some have here.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Mathew Wilder,

    PS – I fully concur with your call for sound definitions, as well as your skepticism that such will be reached.

  • http://www.myspace.com.driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    cl

    I argue that quantum analogies are actually relevant and useful in apprehending Trinitarian concepts.

    Not really! Take wave /particle duality. It’s not that sometimes a particle is a wave and sometimes the wave is a particle. It’s more that sometimes the object in question is better described as a wave in some circumstances and a particle in others. The photon (or whatever) is what it is; we are merely ascribing characteristics to what we observe.

  • Mathew Wilder

    as well as your skepticism that such will be reached

    If that is true, then why do you believe in (and even more, worship) god? It seems to me you are admitting you do know know what you believe in and worship. Color me confused.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Matthew Wilder,
    I believe cl is saying that he’s also skeptical that definitions will be provided by those participating. He’s ignoring me right now though, so he’ll probably have to come back and tell you that himself. Of course, if I’m right, he could have dealt his own skepticism a blow by taking a crack at those definitions himself…

  • 2-D Man

    Comment to cl

    It’s very, very likely I’m ‘mischaracterizing’ quantum mechanics, sir, but if you wish to argue some factual error on my behalf I’m more than welcome to hear it, admit it, and learn from it. In the absence of such from you, your charges of mischaracterization are not supported – just hot air.

    If it’s “very likely” that you are mischaracterizing QM, why are you spouting off as if you know anything about it at all? As for your factual errors, I already told you to take a class. If that’s too much, I suggest An Introduction to Quantum Mechanics by David J. Griffiths. Since I already supported such and you refused to listen, you might want to reconsider your source of the hot air.

    As far as your contention that the trinity is an absurd doctrine and that my attempts are reckless, those are your opinions and we’re all entitled to subjective opinions, so save those next time ’round.

    As you admitted, you are mischaracterizing QM. It is reckless to attempt to invoke something you don’t understand as support for your position, so this is not an opinion. Further, the trinity is absurd. If I were to declare that my father and I are the same being, you’d find it pretty damned absurd.

    …argue[ing] that theology and quantum are even remotely close in terms of explanatory power, or that one supports the other.

    …strawman all the way.

    [I]n this universe, don’t we find instance of this in the corpuscle / wave dichotomy?

    [W]e also enjoy material precedent because there is reasonable material evidence for this strange allegation that things can exist in more than one form or in more than one place at more than one time.

    I argue that quantum analogies are actually relevant and useful in apprehending Trinitarian concepts

    Not a strawman. Further:

    I barely have an iota of respect or interest in theology…

    Blatant lie.

    Your point? I mention string theory, metaverse cosmology and nonlocality simply to note that an analogy can be valid, even if it particularly lacks predictive power. For example, metaverse analogies are useful in TOE research; they are not as predictive as gravity or general relativity, but this does not render them ‘useless’ or ‘incomprehensible.’

    My point is that “metaverse cosmology” is not a scientific theory. I was curious if you had made a typo since you had incorporated it into the same list as string theory and nonlocality. I still don’t see how a fictional computer program has anything to do with cosmology and I’m unsure of the meaning of the acronym TOE.

    why is it that counterintuitive ideas are praised and useful in science, but scorned and mocked in religion?

    Find a scientist praising the idea of the crockoduck and I will concede this point. Otherwise, shut up.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    I think TOE = Theory of Evolution.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    2-D Man,

    I’ll take these:

    …I already told you to take a class. If that’s too much, I suggest An Introduction to Quantum Mechanics by David J. Griffiths.

    Hmmm… some interesting things here. You allege factual errors three times now but refuse to specify them, let alone provide any explanation. Instead, you point me snarkily to authority X, Y, or Z. What am I supposed to reply to that sorry copout? “Sorry Mr. 2-D Man, the oh-so intellectually-superior, reason-enshrining atheist… Excuse me for making mistakes you refuse to specify or explain, I will get to my studies right away?”

    Since I already supported such and you refused to listen, you might want to reconsider your source of the hot air.

    And if you’re so into logic and reason, how do you know I ‘refused to listen’ as you take the liberty to assume? How do you know I did not in fact listen closely and make a note to look for the book you suggested (and the one OMGF suggested) next time I hit Amazon, which is fairly often? Oh, wait, you don’t know these things, because you can’t know these things, yet you speak on what you don’t and can’t know. Ha! Funny thing is, if I’ve said anything inaccurate about quantum mechanics, I can take a class and correct my knowledge – but what class or new knowledge can cure the presumptive fool who attempts to read minds?

    Further, the trinity is absurd. If I were to declare that my father and I are the same being, you’d find it pretty damned absurd.

    That the trinity is absurd is subjective opinion, again, more hot air, i.e., cranky ranting, personal whining, not an argument. Save it. However, you are correct in that I would find it pretty damned absurd if you were to declare that you and your biological father were the same being, and that analogy is so poorly thought out it’s laughable. You should have anticipated that a believer would reply as such and changed your pedestrian analogy accordingly.

    It is reckless to attempt to invoke something you don’t understand as support for your positi- [snipped]

    Again, you attack my credibility but offer no evidence. What am I so wrong about that you feel derails my argument? And what is my position? Can you articulate my argument here in your own words? Go on now.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Mathew Wilder,

    In response to me saying I agreed with you that reaching mutual definitions of God, person and substance seemed unlikely, you said,

    If that is true, then why do you believe in (and even more, worship) god? It seems to me you are admitting you do know know what you believe in and worship. Color me confused.

    The inability of a diverse group of people to agree on standard definitions of terms does not preclude the ability of an individual group member to apprehend those terms in an authentic and meaningful way.

    Steve Bowen,

    …sometimes the object in question is better described as a wave in some circumstances and a particle in others. The photon (or whatever) is what it is; we are merely ascribing characteristics to what we observe.

    Exactly. So if we grant God, why is it not sensible to describe God in more than one way? God is what God is, and we are merely ascribing characteristics to God.

  • Brad

    I would find it pretty damned absurd if you were to declare that you and your biological father were the same being, …

    Why is that? If “persons” are not metaphysical objects but “states” which higher beings can take, then what is absurd about this statement? Doesn’t this analogy correctly apply to the trinity in using those same metaphysics you posited, cl? (Just saying.)

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Brad,

    Why is that? If “persons” are not metaphysical objects but “states” which higher beings can take, then what is absurd about this statement? Doesn’t this analogy correctly apply to the trinity in using those same metaphysics you posited?

    What metaphysics did I posit? All those numbers and Greek stuff was yours and I stayed out of that. I’ve never alleged anywhere in any analogy that it is possible for two separate biological human beings to be the same being.

    I do allege that matter and energy are essentially vibrational manifestations of the same thing, and that because of this, the idea that God can exist in different states for different purposes has precedent and value.

    Sorry if I seem snarky or short. Just at my wit’s ends here.

  • Mathew Wilder

    The inability of a diverse group of people to agree on standard definitions of terms does not preclude the ability of an individual group member to apprehend those terms in an authentic and meaningful way.

    Private language much? :-)

    The problem seems to me that you get as many definitions for those terms as people you ask. In other words, the terms are meaningless.

  • Brad

    I can see plainly why your wit might be so whittled away at this point. Anyway, I wasn’t talking about bodies, I was talking about persons.

    When you said “exist in x states” to defend the analogy between QM and the trinity, I took it to mean that particles existing in many places was analogous to God existing in three persons. Was I wrong to infer that you are describing persons as “states”? If I was wrong, then that’d put me back at square one in figuring out how you relate QM and T.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Mathew Wilder,

    The problem seems to me that you get as many definitions for those terms as people you ask. In other words, the terms are meaningless.

    I agree with you that this is what would happen, and that it would be a problem. If by ‘meaningless’ you mean for the sake of any semblance of a debate, then yes, the words would be meaningless.

    But it seems like people act as if our challenges to properly articulate this theory of the trinity speaks badly of, or somehow negates any potential validity of, the theory itself.

    So in a nutshell, and if you don’t mind me asking, summarize your argument against the trinity?

    Brad,

    See, it’s a statement like this that’s volatile:

    I can see plainly why your wit might be so whittled away at this point.

    Meaning only that, on the internet there’s no real-world communication going on, and by that I mean that things like intonation, body posture, facial expression, etc. all go unnoticed, thus making sarcasm, snark, etc. far more difficult to properly identify.

    That statement is volatile for me because I’m like, “Okay… how do I interpret that?” On one hand, I can interpret it as your way of agreeing with me, that yes, in fact I do have some valid points and yes, some people here are acting inappropriately by saying that I lie, by claiming these major errors without even specifying them so I can defend myself, by responding to comments out of context, or whatever. On the other hand, I can also interpret it as your way of roasting me, that yes, you can see why I’m at wits’ end because OMGF and 2-D man and bleem guy (Chet?) just crushed me so hard with their superior logic. Now, granted you and I have been 100% trouble-free in our blogoshpere adventures to date, and I like that, but you see where I’m coming from?

    I mean I’m trying to be polite here and reduce unproductive and childish bickering. For example, in Jesus Never Laughed I’m describing Ebonmuse’s writing as “strong, well-written, persuasive” and he implies that because I believe in something he doesn’t that I’m “ignorant, mockworthy, credulous, shameworthy?” What is that? In this thread, even in disagreement I’m using words to describe people like “smart, strong debater, intelligent, passionate for truth,” and these people have used the following to describe or allude to me: hypocrite, disingenous, contradictory, afraid to engage on an issue, saying that I lie, telling me to shut up… If I was considering leaving theism, I would be very put off by this type of treatment. As Greta says, folks could use a safe place to land, and I sure don’t get that feeling around here because of certain people.

    I value testing my arguments and beliefs, and I want to strain the fat from all of them, believe me. I value the time others pay my ideas, even if they do express their discontent like condescending snobs, but if people want to make what ought to be positive and productive discourse more like Jerry Springer, I’m over it.

    At any rate…

    Why is that? If “persons” are not metaphysical objects but “states” which higher beings can take, then what is absurd about this statement? Doesn’t this analogy correctly apply to the trinity in using those same metaphysics you posited, cl?

    I’ll answer this again to clarify my point:

    God existing in 3 states or persons or whatever is not absurd, to me, because I grant that a being of vastly superior knowledge existing outside time and space could very reasonably possess such ability or characteristics.

    2-D Man and 2-D Man’s father being the same person is absurd to me, because we are positing two biological human beings with ordinary powers of intelligence existing as one being, both here and now in this time and space continuum.

    Two totally different scenarios, and 2-D Man’s analogy fails IMO.

  • 2-D Man

    cl,

    I have told you which statements you made that were in error. If you don’t believe me, by all means, go look it up. Further, telling you to go take a class or read a textbook is not an appeal to authority; this is how people learn things. If you can’t grasp that, maybe scientific debate isn’t for you. Can I suggest interpretive dance?

    And if you’re wondering how I know you didn’t listen, it’s because you continued to make the same mistake even after I told you what you were doing wrong. This is not an assumption; this is an observation.

    And since you’re so fond of the evidence card, I’ll toss it back at you. How is my analogy to the trinity doctrine “laughable”? Where is the breakdown?

  • Mathew Wilder

    I don’t have an argument against the doctrine of the Trinity because I have no idea what the doctrine of the Trinity means. All attempts to explain it to me have left me as befuddled as when I started, even when I was a theology student and believer.

    I maintain that religious language is empty of cognitive content. Now, I admit, I argue against religious beliefs online, but, truthfully, it is out of boredom and a love of argument. I don’t think I’ve ever changed anyone’s mind, nor is that really the point for me.

    My basic position is this:

    “The atheist does not say ‘There is no God’ but says ‘I know not what you mean by God; I am without idea of God; the word God is to me a sound conveying no clear or distinct affirmation. I do not deny God, because I cannot deny that of which I have no conception, especially when even those who believe in the thing cannot even define it.” -Charles Bradlaugh, late 19th-century British author

  • 2-D Man

    Whoa, you posted while I was typing, cl.

    2-D Man and 2-D Man’s father being the same person is absurd to me, because we are positing two biological human beings with ordinary powers of intelligence existing as one being, both here and now in this time and space continuum.

    I just need to point out that a man need not be a biological unit at the time of the conception of his child. You do believe that one need not be alive to exist, right?

    But even if that were not the case, how is it any different? Last I checked, Jesus and Yahweh occupy the same space, (all of it). So what’s wrong with my father and I as a single being occupying the same time continuum? How do you know that my father isn’t another “dimension”, or “energy harmonic” of me?

  • Kaltrosomos

    “God existing in 3 states or persons or whatever is not absurd, to me, because I grant that a being of vastly superior knowledge existing outside time and space could very reasonably possess such ability or characteristics.”

    Cl, for the sake of argument, let’s assume the doctrine of the trinity is correct. How does it influence the world? What would the world be like if the doctrine were false?

  • Brad

    cl,

    Apologies for the volatile statement. I was agreeing with you. Your visit to DA has been something of a reality check to me. It seems that when you present rational arguments and criticisms, many commenters feel territory slipping and then work up vaporous or leaky responses. (I think I did that at first at your blog.)

    At any rate, what I was getting at was that the difference in scenarios you point out is superficial. To go with the hypothetical understanding that persons are “states,” one must stay consistent with that understanding in all scenarios involving persons, even if there are material bodies added into the equation. Case in point: do you find it absurd that God the father is the same being as the son, because the son has a material body? Plus, the original analogy was not that the father and son are the same person, but are the same “being” (presumably in both the father and son “states” simultaneously) – which means the analogy is perfectly valid.

    I think that thought can be extended too, with the help of your tripartite model of human. Suppose we take your spirit/body/soul model and run with it here. We may then say that spirit and soul are two components that make up the “person state.” As a note of interest, electricity and light happen to be made of exactly the same particle/waves that are being compared with persons in the QM-T analogy.

    However, the ultimate question remains: if all persons are “states,” then what are in those states? If “God” is in the state |F>+|S>+|HS>, then what being(s) are in the state of |Brad>? To what curious, magical organism am I the cell of? Just some interesting thoughts I had.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    2-D Man,

    Not satisfied, you taunt,

    And since you’re so fond of the evidence card, I’ll toss it back at you. How is my analogy to the trinity doctrine “laughable”? Where is the breakdown?

    Oh, don’t worry, we’ll get to Act III on this one, but here’s the teaser: Don’t fault someone for mischaracterizing a complex and counterintuitive theory such as QM when you do violence to basic arithmetic any educated schoolchild should know, and also show significant ignorance of the doctrine you criticize. Bold of me to say? Maybe. But unlike you, I back these charges specifically in my comment to Brad, below, because it related to his question and I didn’t want to have to repeat myself.

    Now, as for,

    I have told you which statements you made that were in error.

    Since your first comment to me, you have alleged I claimed QM and the trinity shared similar explanatory power when I never said anything of the sort, and you said metaverse cosmology was not a scientific theory, which I never said it was. Am I missing something?

    I’m unsure of the meaning of the acronym TOE

    And you apparently can’t do basic addition (see below), yet I’m the dummy who needs to take a class. Piss off -

    Brad,

    I was agreeing with you. Your visit to DA has been something of a reality check to me. It seems that when you present rational arguments and criticisms, many commenters feel territory slipping and then work up vaporous or leaky responses.

    Well then my instincts were correct. Thank you. I’ve gotten alot from our exchanges as well.

    At any rate, what I was getting at was that the difference in scenarios you point out is superficial. To go with the hypothetical understanding that persons are “states,”….

    That X things can exist in more than X states does not entail that persons are states. To repeat, at least in this discussion, I do not posit that persons – and by ‘persons’ I mean what you and I refer to as everyday folks who don’t turn water into wine – are states. I reject the description of the trinity as three ‘persons’ precisely because it implies bodies, and invites confusion.

    do you find it absurd that God the father is the same being as the son, because the son has a material body?

    No.

    Plus, the original analogy was not that the father and son are the same person, but are the same “being” (presumably in both the father and son “states” simultaneously) – which means the analogy is perfectly valid.

    I’m getting a disconnect here, but I want to understand you. I believe 2-D Man implied it would be absurd for him to say he and his father were one being, correct? I agree with this, because normal human beings that do not turn water into wine exist disparately from one another. In the case of the trinity, we have a different class of entity from the start, correct? So my reasoning is consistent at least in this respect, but in what way is 2-D Man’s analogy valid?

    For example, here, 2-D Man shows lack of basic arithmetic skills and ironically mischaracterizes religious doctrine far worse than I’ve mischaracterized nonlocality or QM, if I even have:

    Last I checked, Jesus and Yahweh occupy the same space, (all of it).

    Jesus and Yahweh do not make a trinity unless your math is as equally deficient as your knowledge of TOE’s. The paraclete is clearly not embodied in scripture, and it is also a point of interest that the paraclete, the “Great Counsellor,” did not come until after Jesus departed from Earth. John 16:5-12, all sorts of insights that are relevant to the trinity concept. Jesus had to leave in order for another aspect of the trinity to come – the Holy Spirit. So alleging that all 3 attributes of God as described in the trinity exist in the same plane is in fact incorrect. But hey, you know, I’m the one that needs to take classes and brush up on things around here, so what the bleep do I know.

    Suppose we take your spirit/body/soul model and run with it here. We may then say that spirit and soul are two components that make up the “person state.” As a note of interest, electricity and light happen to be made of exactly the same particle/waves that are being compared with persons in the QM-T analogy.

    Hmmm…. I’ve thought of that but not with the electricity and light components that were introduced in my response to AGITM (will Ebonmuse link to my 4 essay-length responses to that essay? Time will tell).

    Kaltrosomos,

    Cl, for the sake of argument, let’s assume the doctrine of the trinity is correct. How does it influence the world? What would the world be like if the doctrine were false?

    By asking this, are you asking, “How do the father, the son and the holy spirit influence the world? what would the world be like if they were false?” Or, are you asking specifically how the doctrine itself influences the world, and what the world would be like without the doctrine itself?

  • http://www.myspace.com.driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    cl

    Exactly. So if we grant God, why is it not sensible to describe God in more than one way? God is what God is, and we are merely ascribing characteristics to God.

    But, we can observe the passage of individual photons through a diffraction grating, yet also observe the interference pattern. We know it happens, regardless of the “true” nature of photons. To talk about the dual nature of a photon is reasonable use of language, even if it is only an approximation of what “really” happens. On the other hand we have no objective experiential evidence for the existence of a god, so describing one as a trinity is as specious as comparing it to a bowl of pasta.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Steve Bowen,

    To talk about the dual nature of a photon is reasonable use of language, even if it is only an approximation of what “really” happens.

    Thank you. That’s basically all I’ve asked anyone to concede here. 2-D Man seems to strongly disagree, but pay him no mind – he also posits that 1+1=3.

    On the other hand we have no objective experiential evidence for the existence of a god, so describing one as a trinity is as specious as comparing it to a bowl of pasta.

    If the God of the Bible or some other triune God does not exist, this is most certainly correct. However, note that if the God of the Bible or some other triune God does exist, this statement becomes specious.

    :)

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    2-D Man,

    I’ve decided I want to go to sleep this morning with you completely erased from my mind. See, it’s not that you rebuke – I can handle that. But you came with fire and sword thus making an enemy, when you could have come in gentleness and thus made an ally. By saying I lie blatantly when you don’t even know me, and by telling me to “shut up,” you crossed a line of respect with me. I suspect if you return to the thread, you’ll have quite a bit to say, but it would really look better for you if you said nothing at all IMO. Either way is up to you, but save yourself the trouble of writing any response to me, because I won’t return it. Nothing you can possibly say will undo the mess you’ve created for yourself in my eyes. Your analogy is utterly derailed and exposed for the chutzpah it is.

    Sir, you had the nerve to tell me to take classes and read so-and-so on QM and blah blah blah, then you had the nerve to offer a worse-than pedestrian analogy of the trinity that contained only two members (you and your dad / Jesus and Yahweh), and and then you had the nerve to taunt,

    And since you’re so fond of the evidence card, I’ll toss it back at you. How is my analogy to the trinity doctrine “laughable”? Where is the breakdown?

    How does it breakdown? Excuse friggen me but does 1+1=3? You completely omit anything remotely resembling the Holy Spirit, and thus you posit that 1+1=3. It’s laughable because it’s a joke. Goodnight, 2-D Man, and may I suggest to you any introductory volume on arithmetic from FisherPrice.

  • John D.

    cl,
    you have certainly been busy on this one! Just to reply to your question to me, the dis-similarity between the Trinity and quantum wierdness resides mainly in the fact that one is God, while the other is not. Any likeness between God and something he created must be offset by a greater unlikeness, I would expect.
    But regardless of that, the analogy itself isn’t that good. That is because the relation of the 2 terms in God (personhood and Godhood) is different from in the material analogue (particle and wave). In the former, each term expresses a different concept, which has a foundation in a real difference: the divine Essence and each of the 3 Persons are not just 2 ways of looking at an indistinct whole in the Trinitarian doctrine. But in the latter, the terms don’t express a real difference: the whole point is that our “concepts” of particle and wave have no foundation in a real difference, since at the quantum level they seem to collapse into each other. So in this case, we ARE dealing with 2 ways of understanding the same “thing”.

    If God was irreducibly person-God, and these concepts seemed intuitively incomensurable (as particle and wave), then it would be suitable. But God is

  • John D.

    soory about the last bit (detached, above). It was posted by mistake.

  • 2-D Man

    *says wistfully to himself*
    If only I had tossed in a ghost with my father analogy; it would have been ironclad.

  • John D.

    I see Steve Bowen argued the same as I did (more concisely, Nov18, 8:17pm), and you replied that we are indeed just describing God in different ways: “God is what God is”. But this is not what the doctrine of the Trinity says. Certainly not in mainstream Christianity, which affirms that God REALLY is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    2-D Man,
    You should have used the robotic ghost of Xmas past from the future.

  • Brad

    cl,

    I reject the description of the trinity as three ‘persons’ precisely because it implies bodies, and invites confusion.

    In the case of the trinity, we have a different class of entity from the start, correct?

    Oh. It seems you aren’t defending “the” doctrine of the trinity (“One God in three persons”), but your own version where the F,S,&HS were not “persons.”

    Carry on then.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    John D,

    …which affirms that God REALLY is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

    IMO, nothing I’ve said conflicts with this. When I say to Steve Bowen that these are just the best terms the believer might use to describe, that doesn’t mean that God is not *actually* those things..

    Brad,

    Oh, It seems you aren’t defending “the” doctrine of the trinity (“One God in three persons”), but your own version where the F,S,&HS were not “persons.”

    Mathew Wilder’s comments about the necessity for sound definitions comes back to mind. Again, this why I don’t use ‘persons.’ Nowhere in scripture does it contain anything even remotely close to ‘God is one god in three persons,’ and where in the Bible is it implied the Holy Spirit is embodied? So obviously, IMO, that trinity doctrine entails three biological beings is the source of much of its confusion.

    3 ‘personages’ or ‘personalities’ or ‘aspects’ – not 3 bodies. I don’t know much about theology, but I’m pretty sure conventional ideas of the trinity did not assume 3 biological bodies. Do people really posit that the trinity = 3 biological beings? Am I missing something, here? I really don’t have that much interest in theology, even though 2-D Man called that a lie.

  • Mathew Wilder

    @ cl: the doctrine of the Trinity was developed at ecumenical councils. It is not elaborated upon in the Bible. The councils used the word Person, but did not mean at all to imply physical bodies. It was more a term of identity. The Trinity is supposedly a hypostasis (think I spelled that right) – there are supposedly 3 (incorporeal) People that actually have the same being (or substance).

    Except that Jesus was supposedly taken bodily up into heaven, so it’s not really clear how that works. LOL As if any of it is!

    I have no idea what a Person or substance is (as I have already said)!

    If you deny this, as we have said, your Trinitarian doctrine is not the one of most Christians, then.

    @ OMGF:

    2-D Man,You should have used the robotic ghost of Xmas past from the future.

    I LOVE that episode!

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    cl

    Mathew Wilder’s comments about the necessity for sound definitions comes back to mind.

    Then define your terms! If you are positing that some doctrine called the “trinity” makes sense, then define the terms that you are putting forth so that we can evaluate them. When you don’t do that, we will use the normal meanings of words or the meanings that most Xians use and you will simply sit back and deflect all criticism with a smug, “Well, that’s not what I believe,” without ever actually telling us what it is that you do believe.

  • Kaltrosomos

    “By asking this, are you asking, “How do the father, the son and the holy spirit influence the world? what would the world be like if they were false?” Or, are you asking specifically how the doctrine itself influences the world, and what the world would be like without the doctrine itself?”

    Although I meant the first, I’m curious how you’d answer both possibilities.

  • 2-D Man

    2-D Man,You should have used the robotic ghost of Xmas past from the future.

    I do have a certain affinity for taco pie….

    Do people really posit that the trinity = 3 biological beings?

    Who’s strawmanning?

    Am I missing something, here?

    Yeah. It’s called reading comprehension.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    2-D Man,

    Going with the conventional definition that a strawman argument occurs when a debater rebuts a claim his opponent does not actually make, how is my question to Brad a strawman?

    Explain.

  • 2-D Man

    how is my question to Brad a strawman?

    You are the person who brought up biology. I have already explained to you how it was unnecessary. You persist in your position that anyone here besides you is talking about biology. We are not. You mock our position on biology. Strawman.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Mathew Wilder,

    …the doctrine of the Trinity was developed at ecumenical councils… The councils used the word Person, but did not mean at all to imply physical bodies. It was more a term of identity.

    Thank you. As for,

    It is not elaborated upon in the Bible.

    Depends what you mean by ‘elaborated upon’ but I grant that the Bible does not contain literal references to any trinity. However, that the trinity is not elaborated upon in the Bible is an inaccurate statement, IMO.

    Kaltrosomos,

    You said,

    Although I meant the first, I’m curious how you’d answer both possibilities.

    In short, I can only speculate. If what the trinity purports to describe does not exist, but the Bible and the doctrine itself did, the world would probably be pretty much the same as it is now, with a bunch of gasbags like us all running around pontificating one way or the other. However, if the doctrine itself did not exist, well, that would at least mean one less conversation to have at DA.

    2-D Man,

    You said,

    (cl is) the person who brought up biology. I have already explained to (cl) how it was unnecessary. (paren. mine)

    When, where, in what context, and with timestamps, please.

    You also say,

    (cl) persist(s) that anyone here besides (cl) is talking about biology. We are not. (cl) mocks our position on biology. Strawman. (paren. mine)

    I’ve never thought anyone here was talking about biology, with the possible exception of you and your lame analogy. Who was the one who posited himself and his biological father as an analogy for the trinity? Granted you meant for me to interpret it in some ‘harmonic state,’ but you still posit an analogy with 2 biological beings. For me, that’s when biology entered (re-entered) the discussion. I’ve been arguing for the trinity in a non-biological sense throughout the conversation.

    To clarify, when I asked Brad the original question,

    Do people really posit that the trinity = 3 biological beings?

    the meaning wasn’t sarcasm, as in, “Do these people at DA really believe in a biological trinity?” It was an honest question – asking if there was anybody who actually does argue the trinity as three biological people.

    You claim I’m talking about biology, and that I’m assuming everyone else is too. But I’m not, and I haven’t assumed such.

    That is a strawman. If you can demonstrate how it is not, explain.

  • 2-D Man

    the meaning wasn’t sarcasm, as in, “Do these people at DA really believe in a biological trinity?” It was an honest question – asking if there was anybody who actually does argue the trinity as three biological people.

    And your quote in context:

    I don’t know much about theology, but I’m pretty sure conventional ideas of the trinity did not assume 3 biological bodies. Do people really posit that the trinity = 3 biological beings? Am I missing something, here?

    Did you know that you’re likely to trip when backpedaling? For asking an honest question, you sure went out of your way to defeat it before asking, particularly for someone who brought up the subject. Looks like you were angling for a strawman the whole way along – unless you don’t happen to believe in souls, of course… which would pretty much take your “conventional ideas of the trinity” bullshit and throw it in the trash, not that you haven’t already done so.

    As for finding my quote and time stamping it, that will be left as an exercise for your research skills. It might help if you ever decide to start learning the subject matter before citing it in a discussion.

    Now, you have taken enough of my time and there is very little I can see you contributing to this or any discussion. However, I’ll keep an eye out to see if you try bullying anyone else using pseudo-scientific claims and I’ll call you on them. Good day.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    2-D Man,

    However, I’ll keep an eye out to see if you try bullying anyone else using pseudo-scientific claims and I’ll call you on them.

    Oh, please do! Anytime. I’m sure you’ll try again, probably again with fire and sword, and I’ll continue to keep an eye out for your inaccurate analogies and toddler arithmetic. Next time state your case instead of waving me to authority, too.

    Good day!


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