To fully understand a philosophical theory, one needs to understand not only the content of it, but the reasons for which it is held. This is why I’m patiently going through how Moreland and Craig reject what they see as the competing Trinity theories, before giving their own.
As we’ve seen, they consider themselves to be “social trinitarians” (last time we looked at their rather vague definition of that term). They then adopt Brian Leftow’s taxonomy of social trinitarian theories, and decide that the first of these is the most promising. (This is from Leftow’s 1999 article, “Anti Social Trinitarianism”, in Stephen Davis et. al. ed. The Trinity: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Trinity, New York: Oxford University Press, 203-49. While this long and rich article deserves discussing, here I’ll stick with what Moreland and Craig say about it, and so the following page numbers are for their chapter, not for Leftow’s article.)
What these approaches are doing, in different ways, is trying to show how three numerically distinct persons ought to be counted together as the one God. Functional monotheism (their section 3.2.1) says that the three count as one god because they can’t but cooperate in everything – that is, because they function as one. (587-8) This, they seem to agree with Leftow, is simple polytheism, and so must be false. Richard Swinburne in this book is the target. They also pounce on Swinburne’s view that there are causal dependence relations among the three (the Son depends on the Father, and the Spirit depends on the Father and Son), asserting this to be inconsistent with Christ’s full divinity.
Group Mind Monotheism (3.2.2) says that the three persons are each “subminds of the mind of God”. (588) We mustn’t say that (as with the Borg of Star Trek) there are several minds here, which combine to form a fourth, greater Mind; this would be positing a divine Quaternity (Father, Son, Spirit, and also God) rather than a Trinity.
“Jesus has been assimilated.” A tempting trinitarian analogy but… Quaternity!
This is a difficult theory to comprehend, but they do an excellent job summarizing it:
In order to render [Group Mind Monotheism] intelligible, Leftow appeals to thought experiments involving surgical operations in which the cerebral commissures, the network of nerves connecting the two hemispheres of the brain, are severed. …Patients sometimes behave as though the two halves of their brain were operating independent [sic] of each other. The interpretation of such results is controversial, but one interpretation… is that the patients come to have two minds. Now the question arises whether in a normally functioning human being we do not already have two separable subminds linked to their respective hemispheres that cooperate together in producing a single human consciousness. In such a case the human mind would itself be a group mind. (588, emphasis added)
To this they object that we can’t say that the persons of the Trinity are mere “subminds”, as that would rule out their “existing in I-Thou relationships” with one another. (588) Such relationships are between two self-conscious persons – not between two states of a single person. This seems right. But in a highly compressed passage, which I don’t really get, they suggest that Group Mind Monotheism might best be “construed dynamically, as the process in which the subminds emerge into self-consciousness to replace the single trinitarian self-consciousness.” (589) In any case, they ask, are persons just minds – are those two names for one thing? If not, then the theory seems to say that there’s one person – God – who has three minds (or subminds), which “falls short of the doctrine of the Trinity”. (589) Yup – that’d be a kind of modalism. On the other hand, if “minds” or “subminds” just are persons, then it looks like tritheism, and so must be rejected as inconsistent with monotheism. So on the whole, this route doesn’t seem promising.
Next time: taking a crack at rehibilitating what Leftow calls “Trinity Monotheism”.