A trinity: no more absurd than the left and right versions of the hand

September 10, 2015

Definitions

U-nity: a group of two or more objects which have the same description and definition and where each can be substituted for every other member of the group, e.g., three identical triplets can wear the same clothes and, in this sense, make up a unity. Such objects might be called examples of the unity.

Multi-nity: a group of two or more objects which have the same description and definition and which cannot be substituted for each other. Such objects are called versions of the multinity.

Bi-nity: a multinity, the count of the versions of which is two, e.g., the hand is a binity in that the left hand and the right hand are identical, but not interchangeable, i.e., identical with a difference, e.g., identical but unable to wear the same glove. The description and definition of the one hand is identical to that of the other, and the two versions must be viewed together in order to make sense of the matter, i.e., that here each hand is the mirror opposite of the other.* **

* Immanuel Kant had this to say about a binity*** in his Prolegomena (Part One, par. 10): “If two things are quite equal in all respects as much as can be ascertained by all means possible, quantitatively and qualitatively, it must follow that the one can in all cases and under all circumstances replace the other, and this substitution would not occasion the least perceptible difference.” And then he goes on to show that this logic fails with regard to the left hand and the right hand (among other binities), one being left and the other right.

** Another example of a binity would be two equal scalene triangles on a sphere with a common base and where all equal sides share a common endpoint. Here then each side of each triangle can be substituted for its respective equal side in the other, and so all the parts of one can be substituted for the parts of the other, but yet the two triangles cannot be substituted for each other.

*** Kant does not use this term “binity”, and instead prefers “incongruent counterparts” (inkongruente Gegenstücke).

Tri-nity: a multinity, the count of the versions of which is three. No multinity beyond the binity, e.g., hand, can be sighted and fathomed by the human and, as a consequence, any actual trinity must remain a mystery for the human.*

* I doubt that the born blind can grasp the difference between two right hands on the one hand and a right hand and a left hand on the other (pun not intended). They can feel the difference of the two hands, I’m thinking, but not understand it, for that requires taking a look. Hence for them it will remain a puzzle (or mystery). In this way then such a binity for the blind is an analogy for a trinity for all humans with respect to a recognition, for a trinity cannot be looked at by humans as can the binity of the left and right hand, and in this regard all people stand here as do the blind. (However there is a partial exception mentioned in a note to the Utility For Trinitarians section below.)

Analysis

While a multinity is absurd intellectually speaking, i.e., being identical and yet not interchangeable, the fact of the binity of the left and right hand does prove the existence of a multinity. Conceptually then a trinity, as a multinity, is no more absurd than the factual binity of the left and right hand.

Utility For Trinitarians

In discussion with skeptics, the Christian Trinitarian can utilize the thinking expressed here. This will not show the fact of any trinity, but at least will indicate that the notion is not absurd, at least no more so than the binity of the human hand. Briefly then: just as the left hand and the right hand are identical (each being an archetype of one and the same concept of hand and conforming to the same description) and yet are inherently different (unable to wear the same glove), even so all of the three versions of the Trinitarian God, i.e., Father, Son and Holy Spirit, will be considered as identical (each being an archetype of the same concept of the Godhead, and hence the same definition and description as such) and yet inherently different (but, as stated above and unlike a hand, cannot be looked at and understood, and hence must remain a mystery).*

* While we cannot look at a trinity as such (as we can the binity of hand) we can spy one member of the Christians’ Holy Trinity, namely Jesus as reported in the Christian scriptures, and we can draw on an analogy with light. According to quantum mechanics light is at one and the same time both fully a particle and fully a wave. In Michael Guillen’s book Amazing Truths this fact serves very well as an analogy for the Christian’s assertion of Jesus as fully human and fully divine. Such an assertion may be a contradiction or paradox logically, but conceptually is no more absurd than the dual nature of light, an established fact of quantum science. And it does fit in nicely with the notion of Jesus as “the light of the world“. Furthermore, and not quite as emphatic perhaps, is this situation: two people are facing each other and one of them traces out a circle in a clockwise motion. The other will see a counterclockwise motion. But these two motions are opposites. And so one and the same motion is both fully clockwise and fully counterclockwise. And also a person looking at the circle being drawn from the edge of the circle will see two motions, i.e., up and down.

Comments

In ordinary talk we speak of the human as having two hands, but in technical language we would speak of the human as having two versions of hand.* Likewise a Trinitarian God would be spoken of as consisting of three versions of God (and not three gods), usually referred to as Persons.

* There is no definition for the left or right hand, but only for hand. The distinction is entirely spatial. It is an internal difference, but which can be discerned by humans only by taking an external look at the two versions. Likewise the ear and the foot constitute a binity, respectively.

Due to the difficulty of grasping the concept of a trinity, it is understandable that it would have taken a long time before the Christian Church could finally correctly express and accept its Trinity. Hints are given in the annals of the scriptures, but the concept did not receive formal acceptance until the Council of Nicea (325 AD).

The Christian marriage might also today be considered as a sort of trinity, consisting of the two members of the physical element of the marriage joined with the person of Jesus or the Holy Spirit, i.e., three persons of one spirit. This would be a more current take on this marriage; earlier the analogy was Jesus rules the man and man rules the woman.

There may be additional multinities beyond a trinity. It might be that since the same Holy Spirit resides in and guides different Christians, we could have an extension of the trinity (à la marriage just above) via various saints into four persons, or five, etc. (This is a speculation).

Visual Analogy

Perhaps the easiest physical and visible analogy of what might pass for a trinity is what tipped Francis Collins into converting to Christianity from atheism, namely a single stream which, when reaching a precipice, is divided by rocks into three equal waterfalls in a row, and then after which reverts to a single stream again. This was a true three in one, for it was easy to look and see it/them both ways: here is a single waterfall and here are three distinct waterfalls.* **

* Niagara Falls consist/consists of three (albeit not equal) waterfalls, located in New York and Ontario.

** Incidentally and here quite parenthetically, these two different perspectives, one-in-three versus three-in-one, are a function of the viewing or what Kant and the Germans would call the Anschauung, the at-looking; a very individual and personal take on things looked at, in this case the waterfall/waterfalls.

However that waterfall(s) picture doesn’t fit entirely well with the notion we are developing here of versions. A better analogy might be: there is only one Bible, but a host of versions of this one Bible, such that the different translations then should count as a multinity, i.e., identical (in terms of source, and far more numerous than a trinity), but still different (in terms of expression); and where two or more Bibles of the same version/translation would be substitutable for each other and thus would not constitute different versions relative to each other, but rather examples of one and the same version.

And also there is this definition for a musical variation: “a version of a theme, modified in melody, rhythm, harmony, or ornamentation, so as to present it in a new but still recognizable form,” which also suggests something like a multinity.

And finally, as we play with this notion, we can think of space as a singularity with three distinct dimensions: length, width, and depth. Each of these three encompasses and describes the entire and single space, and yet they are all different, e.g., the space divided below me and above me is identical with the space divided before me and behind me, and yet they are different, i.e., identical and yet different, identical and yet seen as different. We might consider them as different “takes” on space, even as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit might be different takes on the Godhead.*

* Kant observed that the human body is necessary for a recognition of the three dimensions of space, i.e., before and behind me, above and below me and, especially, to my right and to my left.

Final Consideration

I think it is worthwhile to note that Kant thought that such matters as the Trinity belonged to the “theoretics” of Christianity, and that we should keep the practical aspects of this religion in mind above all else, namely: to seek to love our neighbor as we do ourselves and to remember that all people are our neighbors. This, it seems also to me, is more important than our understanding of the Trinity.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Mr. Benjamin Turnbull for his assistance regarding the Latin terminology. Also thanks to Immanuel Kant for the inspiration, although not for any specific suggestion, of how the two hands, as a binity, might open the mind to an acceptance of a trinity as a concept and then, potentially, as a reality.

Note

It may also be reasonable to use Unum-nity instead of U-nity and Pluribu-nity for Multi-nity as suggested by the American motto: E Pluribus Unum, i.e., “Out Of Many, One.”

Author Contact

pmr#$kantwesley.com (replacing #$ with @)

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