Philosophia Christi 5 (2):431 - 445 (2003)

Michael Rea
University of Notre Dame
The doctrine of the Trinity maintains that there are exactly three divine Persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) but only one God. The philosophical problem raised by this doctrine is well known. On the one hand, the doctrine seems clearly to imply that the divine Persons are numerically distinct. How else could they be ’three’ rather than one? On the other hand, it seems to imply that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are identical. If each Person is divine, how else could there be exactly ’one’ God? But the divine Persons can’t be both distinct and identical. Thus, the doctrine appears to be incoherent. Some try to solve this problem by appeal to the view that identity is sortal-relative. In this paper, I argue that this strategy is unsuccessful as a stand-alone solution to the problem of the Trinity.
Keywords Contemporary Philosophy  Philosophy and Religion
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.5840/pc20035247
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 62,289
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Identity.Peter T. Geach - 1967 - Review of Metaphysics 21 (1):3 - 12.
Material Constitution and the Trinity.Jeffrey E. Brower & Michael C. Rea - 2005 - Faith and Philosophy 22 (1):57-76.
Split Brains and the Godhead.Trenton Merricks - 2006 - In Thomas Crisp, David Vander Laan & Matthew Davidson (eds.), Knowledge and Reality: Essays in Honor of Alvin Plantinga. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 299-326.
In Defence of Relative Identity.Eddy M. Zemach - 1974 - Philosophical Studies 26 (3-4):207 - 218.

View all 11 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Trinity.Dale Tuggy - 2010 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
The Trinity and Extended Simples.Martin Pickup - 2016 - Faith and Philosophy 33 (4):414-440.
Many-One Identity and the Trinity.Shieva Kleinschmidt - 2012 - Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion 4:84-96.
The Logical Problem of the Trinity.Beau Branson - 2014 - Dissertation, University of Notre Dame

View all 13 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles


Added to PP index

Total views
125 ( #84,197 of 2,445,321 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
9 ( #76,730 of 2,445,321 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes