when Trinity veers to tritheism

Steven Avery

Discerning the Boundary between Trinitarianism and Tritheism
Sanjay Merchant
Candidate for Doctor of Philosophy
Claremont Graduate University Claremont, California Summer

A Covenantal Ontology of the Triune God (2005)
An Attempt to Expound the Relationship between the Covenant and Ontologyand Answer Richard Phillips’ Criticisms of My Views
Ralph Allan Smith

Two Tendencies in Trinitarian Thought
First, I think it is important to point to two general trends in Reformed thought. In fact,these are two general trends that characterize Christian thought about God in general, but theyare also found among Reformed thinkers as well. On the one hand, there are theologians whosebasic concern is to guard the doctrine of God’s oneness. Often this may be because of fighting against heresies or attempting to respond to Muslim and Jewish critics of Trinitarian faith. The result, however, is that they do not do justice, in my opinion, to the full Biblical truth about God’s threeness. Of course, the opposite tendency is to overemphasize God’s threeness with the result tha our doctrine of the oneness of God suffers. In most cases, this is a matter of emphasis. Taken to the extreme, the overemphasis on the oneness of God is seen in the heresy modalism, in which the three persons of the trinity are reduced to mere names for God or roles that the one God assumes. God is one God who works in the world and manifests Himself in various ways. Father, Son, and Spirit are not persons but simply different roles the one God plays. The opposite extreme, an overemphasis on God’s threeness, results in the heresy known as Tritheism. Father, Son, and Spirit are not three persons in the one God, but three different gods. Though it is often not thought of as such, Arianism is a form of tritheism or perhaps bitheism because itasserts that the Son was created by the Father and has been exalted to the status of a god. Whenreading discussions of the Trinity the opposite dangers of modalism and tritheism occupy much attention.

... To avoid tritheism, Shedd believes he must assert that the three “hypostaticalconsciousnesses constitute the one self-consciousness of the divine essence.”45

.... Aquinas in particular, but Western theology ingeneral, has been very sensitive to assertions that what the church believes is a form of polytheism or tritheism. If the three Persons of the Trinity are seen as Persons who love one another, communicate, and live in a fully personal relationship, then there are three subjects in God, not one. This doctrine is attacked as tritheism. Theologians who fear that accusation and the tendency toward tritheism at a practical level emphasize the oneness of God. In the West, ever since Augustine, oneness has held a higher place than threeness

Tritheism and Christian Faith - (2005)
Ralph Allan Smith
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