More sophisticated theological gibberish from Polkie and Beale

UPDATE:  Beale has kindly graced us with his presence (and a snarky remark) at comment #21. Feel free to respond.  There will be more quotes from him and Polkinghorne in the next few days.

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I think we’re going to have Polkinghorne Week, with a quote a day from one of the world’s most Sophisticated Theologians®.  This enables me to convert my own frustration and rage at having to read him (and coauthor Nicholas Beale) into useful website posts.  The following quote is an unintentionally amusing gloss on the Trinity, and how it came to be accepted as a “correct” model of reality. It’s from Polkinghorne and Beale, Questions of Truth, pp. 36-37:

Any deep understanding of the fundamental nature of reality is bound to be something of a mystery.  Theologians arrived at the doctrine of the Trinity after long and careful reflection on the facts that they observed, in a rather similar way to how physicists arrived at the Standard Model after sixty years of reflection on a whole series of remarkable discoveries and theoretical insights and a great many blind alleys. . . This is not the place to discuss in detail either the reasons behind the doctrine of the Trinity (John’s Science and the Trinity would be a good place to start) or the parallels explored in John’s Quantum Physics and Theology. In the end, in formulating the doctrine of the Trinity, pretty well the simplest and most symmetrical model that fits the observations turns out to be the correct one—as far as the official theology of at least 90 percent of Christians is concerned: that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all God but in such perfect loving unity that there are not three Gods but one God.

162 Comments

  1. Dodo
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Ooh my ! What a delicious word salad.
    I can not for the life of me understand why you would want to wade through this prolix palaver when your time here on Earth is so limited.

    • Alexander Hellemans
      Posted June 10, 2012 at 9:17 am | Permalink

      Well, their time on Earth is limited, but after that, the fun starts…

    • Hempenstein
      Posted June 10, 2012 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      Indeed. & BTW, is there an impact factor for this little tome?

  2. moochava
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    If I were a theologian I would work hard to draw attention away from the Trinity.

    Talking about the Trinity is a bit like a cheap tux in that everyone, of any degree of sophistication, can realize that you look stupid — though for different reasons. Educated logic-choppers can spot the inconsistencies and ad hoc rationalizations, while even a pretty dim person knows that 1+1+1=3, not 1.

    And again, as everyone pointed out with the *last* post, these arguments fail the “apply it to another religion” test. *All* these arguments fail that test. “Theologians arrived at the Tawhid — the Oneness of Allah — after long and careful reflection on the facts that they observed, in a rather similar way to how physicists arrived at the Standard Model…”

    • GD Lovechild
      Posted June 10, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

      RE the Trinity, it seems plausible that Polkie simply meant that the relationship was multiplicative rather than additive. In which case, 1x1x1 does equal 1. Chalk another win up for theological mathematics!

  3. Tim
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Theologians arrived at the doctrine of the Trinity after long and careful reflection on the facts that they observed, in a rather similar way to how physicists arrived at the Standard Model…

    They just forgot to leave out the Experimental Section and skipped straight to the Discussion. These theologians are an efficient lot.

    • Tim
      Posted June 10, 2012 at 9:22 am | Permalink

      Oops… they forgot and left out

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted June 10, 2012 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      “Theologians” and “facts” in the same sentence! !!111@#$eleventy!!

    • Tim
      Posted June 10, 2012 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      Seriously, it is bad enough that Polkinghorne happily spews bullshit about theology (I suspect that even most other theologians wouldn’t claim that theology and physics arrive at their claims in similar ways) – but that in doing so, he shits all over physics.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted June 10, 2012 at 10:14 am | Permalink

        Agreed. That was what reading Polkinghorne taught me yesterday.

        I suspect that is all what he will inform me on re religion: it truly poisons *everything*.

  4. James Chalmers
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    I look forward to Dr. Polkinghorne’s releasing the lab notebooks reporting the observations from which he inferred the very existence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, let alone their “perfect loving unity.”

    • bernardhurley
      Posted June 10, 2012 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      The observations were done some 17 centuries ago. Since that time the lab notes together with all the versions of scripture that disagree with the Standard Model of God have unfortunately all been lost.

      • RFW
        Posted June 10, 2012 at 11:14 am | Permalink

        Not entirely lost.

        Gnostic scriptures of various flavors reveal far more complex (and entertaining!) conceptions of the structure of divinity.

        The experimental technique is to accelerate cherubs heavenward and thereby measure the scattering cross sections.

        PS: Don’t waste your time trying to read primary transcriptions of, say, the Nag Hammadi library. It’ll drive you mad. Instead, if interested, read one of the book that summarizes and synthesizes what we believe to have been the Gnostic belief systems. Yes, there was more than one, though they had a lot in common.

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted June 11, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

          Isn’t it a delicious irony that fundamentalism occurs by a process of variation and selection?

          • Posted June 11, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

            This is where some of the “meme” hypothesis takes root. That said, I still think we need a better theory of “social contagion”.

    • corio37
      Posted June 10, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

      I often wonder what some of the early Christians — you know, the ones who actually believed in this stuff, who suffered and often died for it — would make of the half-baked pathetic logic-chopping engaged in by the modern champions of their faith. Can you imagine Joan of Arc nodding solemnly at the notion that the Trinity was arrived at by scientific research, or John Hus agreeing that, yes, 90% is the magic number for doctrine to pass as Officially Christian?

      I like to think that they would throw in their lot with the atheists and tell the theists in no uncertain terms just where they could stick their sophistimacated theologicity.

  5. Cathy
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    I think working out frustration at this insanity is why I keep posting (“too much,” according to my son) on FB. Equating coming up with the doctrine of the trinity to anything science arrives at through its research methodology is lunacy. I’d go nuts with it. It does make me crazy, and that’s at a distance of only appreciating what science does, not actually doing it!

  6. emmageraln
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on emmageraln.

  7. krzysztof1
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    “Any deep understanding of the fundamental nature of reality is bound to be something of a mystery. ”

    If it’s a mystery, that means you don’t understand it! Duh.

    • Posted June 11, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      That’s why _Unsolved Mysteries_ was so popular. Personally I was always more of a fan of the shows where rational investigation was performed on the mysteries, not silly reenactments and spooky music.

      (Think early _Scooby Doo_ or the “Bloodhound Gang” segment of _3-2-1 Contact_.)

  8. Jim Jones
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    The gospels are superhero comic books. When apologists use ‘explanations’ like “This is not the place to discuss in detail either the reasons behind the doctrine of the Trinity …” they echo this same sort of comic book writing.

    It ain’t Shakespeare.

  9. Posted June 10, 2012 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    “the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all God but in such perfect loving unity that there are not three Gods but one God”

    Apparently the Triune God is narcissistic and autoerotic. Who knew?

    • RFW
      Posted June 10, 2012 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      Why does your comment make me think of some of the more alarming photos of the infamous Goatse type? Talk about auto-eroticism!

      Warning: Goatse is NSFW in spades. Do not search for it while at work or where your nearest and dearest can observe.

  10. darrelle
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    “Theologians arrived at the doctrine of the Trinity after long and careful reflection on the facts that they observed, in a rather similar way to how physicists arrived at the Standard Model after sixty years of reflection on a whole series of remarkable discoveries and theoretical insights and a great many blind alleys. . .”

    This is such an egregious comparison that it is very likely that they are simply lying. If Polkinghorne really believes that then he was never a scientist no matter how well he learned the course material.

    “In the end, in formulating the doctrine of the Trinity, pretty well the simplest and most symmetrical model that fits the observations turns out to be the correct one . . .”

    Oh boy, I’m really on the edge of my seat! They are about to reveal How It Is That They Know!

    “—as far as the official theology of at leas 90 percent of Christians is concerned:”

    Wait, I’m confused. After all that are you not going to tell us how you know? Or are you saying that because the official theology of at least 90 percent of Christians is the same on this issue that therefore it is true? I thought you guys were supposed to be sophisticated?

    It is really pathetic to see grown people make such foolish claims. I am embarrassed for them.

    • AndrewD
      Posted June 10, 2012 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      Polkinghorne can’t even get his Christianity right. ALL Christians accept the Trinity or they are not Christians. This was established at the Council of Nicea 325AD, confirmed at the Council of Constantinople 381 AD and reconfirmed at later councils. The Nicene creed is the absolute foundation of Christianity.

      • bernardhurley
        Posted June 10, 2012 at 10:31 am | Permalink

        Ah, but which Nicene creed? Isn’t there the small question of whether the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son or just from the Father? People used to kill each other over that question.

        • mandrellian
          Posted June 10, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

          Yes, but they obviously weren’t sophistimacated enough in their theologicity.

      • Tulse
        Posted June 10, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

        Mormons consider themselves Christians, and they don’t believe in the Three-In-One Trinity, but instead that each are three separate beings.

        • Caroline52
          Posted June 11, 2012 at 5:27 am | Permalink

          So, — wait, does that make nine?

  11. Badger3k
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    “Theologians arrived at the doctrine of the Trinity after long and careful reflection on the facts that they observed,”

    How can someone be so clueless as to his own religions origins…well, actually that’s not surprising. The only facts they had were some written documents, and that’s really stretching the “fact” part, as well.

    It also ignores all the heresies that developed alongside trinitarianism. Such ignorance.

    • lamacher
      Posted June 10, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      Be nice it they’d tell us what facts they observed. Bollocks!

  12. andreschuiteman
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    I’d like to think that the concept of the Trinity is consistent with the idea that God is a sponge. You can cut a sponge into three pieces, each of which can grow into a new sponge. Or you can push the three pieces through a grater and the fragments will reorganise themselves into a single sponge.

    But, seriously, why engage with the proponents of nutty theology at all? Just ask: How do you know this? What’s your evidence? Watch them squirm.

    • darrelle
      Posted June 10, 2012 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      You, sir, are a genius! SPONGE BOB is the second coming! And andreschuiteman is his prophet! Who knew? It was all right there in plain sight. My kids kept trying to tell me, but I just didn’t listen. Is it too late?

      • andreschuiteman
        Posted June 10, 2012 at 11:04 am | Permalink

        Only sponges and starfish go to Heaven, I’m afraid.

        • darrelle
          Posted June 10, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

          If you can make sense out of all this sophisticated theology, I’d be willing to convert! Please tell me, how does one become a sponge or a starfish?

          • andreschuiteman
            Posted June 10, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

            That’s easy. It was revealed to me that you have to drink 7 cc of sea water from the Holy Grail. Then you have to chant this sacred song:

            Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?
            SpongeBob Squarepants!
            Absorbent and yellow and porous is he.
            SpongeBob Squarepants!
            If nautical nonsense be somethin’ ya wish.
            SpongeBob Squarepants!
            Then drop on the deck and flop like a fish.
            SpongeBob Squarepants!
            SpongeBob Squarepants!SpongeBob Squarepants!

            However, this should only be attempted if you are free of sins. In particular, you should never have eaten shellfish in your life. That’s the one mortal sin in the eyes of our spongiform deity.

            • darrelle
              Posted June 10, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

              *laughing*

              Nice!

      • RFW
        Posted June 10, 2012 at 11:19 am | Permalink

        They’re having a special on Square Pants at Walmart as we speak.

    • Ken Pidcock
      Posted June 10, 2012 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      Just ask: How do you know this? What’s your evidence?

      Why, it’s the evidence for things not seen. [Hebrews 11:1]

    • mandrellian
      Posted June 10, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

      I like this – as God & Co are a sponge, immune to dissection, so are theologians: hack their arguments to pieces by, for example, pointing out the sheer, vapid pressupositional silliness of it all, and they simply pick themselves up and re-assemble as if nothing had happened. In this, they truly emulate their spongiform deity/ies (even if they disagree with each other).

    • Marta
      Posted June 11, 2012 at 8:12 am | Permalink

      Is it really true that you can push a sponge through a grater, and the fragments will reorganize themselves back into one sponge?

      • andreschuiteman
        Posted June 11, 2012 at 9:00 am | Permalink

        From what I’ve read about it, the process is more complicated than that. If the fragments are too big they will just form separate sponges. On the other hand, very small fragments will not directly assemble into a single sponge, but will form another structure first. There is a description in the link I supplied above (search for regeneration).

  13. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Any deep understanding of the fundamental nature of reality is bound to be something of a mystery.

    What a deepity! Which isn’t to say that any Sophisticated™ understanding of the fundamental nature of Theology™ is bound to see the suggestions of deepities as a mystery.

    Many deep results are, as they are bound to be, simple in principle yet removed from daily experience. For example relativity, which combines space and time, removes the requirement for an aether, and rejects an absolute space, hence greatly simplifying while at the same time shows how magnetism is surprisingly a low velocity relativity effect.

    “Polkie and Beale” slips over the inconvenient fact that the simplest model that fits the observations turns out to be that faith is a pile of man-made waste.

    Absence of magic is also a whole lot more symmetrical than presence in the only comparable symmetry measure. (0, 1, …, oo) x 0 = (0, 0, …) vs (0, 1, …, oo) x magical invisible skydaddy = (0, m.i.s, …) -> infinitely self-similar vs finitely. [Hey, did I just 'prove' that gods doesn't exist? =D]

    • darrelle
      Posted June 10, 2012 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      Yeah, but what about Sponge Bob!

      “Many deep results are, as they are bound to be, simple in principle yet removed from daily experience.”

      Well said. I have often tried to explain that but have never come up with such a simple and concise way to say it as that.

      Sorry, but I will shamelessly use it whenever I feel the need.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted June 11, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

        Shamelessly use away!

        This is what the web is best at – dialogue.

  14. Marta
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    “:that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all God but in such perfect loving unity that there are not three Gods but one God.”

    Good god, this is so unbelievably bad, I want to weep. How does a physicist think like this and be able to do physics with the same brain?

    • Posted June 11, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

      We are large, we contain multitudes.

      This can be good, as we contemplate many different solutions to a problem or ways to create something beautiful or efficient.

      But it can also be horribly bad, when the parts do not work as a team and work together to reinforce each other. Systemism again, rather than holism or atomism.

  15. Posted June 10, 2012 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    My brain was working just fine before I opened this post. Now I must head for the Barcardi; the pain is too much to endure w/o chemical help.

    But your trademarking of the words “Sophisticated Theologians” does help a little; As least the post left me w/ something to chuckle about!

  16. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    I can’t quite figure out why in my gut instincts Polkinghorne bothers me more than Collins. Somehow JP’s talk about “mystery” annoys me more than Collins on “scientism”. JP fibs more about science and history, perhaps.

    That said, it is IMO well-established that the Trinity was formulated for political reasons, since Constantine needed a more uniform church, and that it was worked out in the context of a Greek metaphysics which well-educated people then believed but no one does today.

    Lots of books have been written on the process about how the Trinity came about. Richard Rubinstein’s “When Jesus Became God: The Struggle to Define Christianity during the Last Days of Rome” is a good one to start with. Bart Ehrman has a forthcoming book on the subject with a very similar title.

    • RFW
      Posted June 10, 2012 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      One of the things wrong with Xtianity is the various branches’ insistence that their point of view is right and all others wrong. It’s a very Greek attitude, imho. Following the old saying “the Greeks have a word for it”, the theologians had to label every damned aspect of theology, making the most minute of distinctions. More than a little blood has been spilt over the most arcane and subtle of theological distinctions.

      ISTM that any religion with an ethical side to it should be satisfied with guiding people’s behavior in daily life. If they get the exact number of cherubs circling the Divine Throne wrong, what difference can it possibly make?

      I understand that the Buddhists take an entirely different tack: though the various sects and branches of Buddhism very widely, all Buddhists agree that the others are Buddhists too. Amusingly, American offshoot branches of Buddhism have sometimes come close to having blows over their differences, IMO a hold over from their exposure to Constantinian-Greek logic chopping.

      Maybe it’s time for free thinkers to start referring to Jews, Xtians, and Moslems of all types as “Abrahamists” and poo-poo the silly theological distinctions they use to set themselves off from other sects.

  17. Elle
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    “Theologians arrived at the doctrine of the Trinity after long and careful reflection on the facts that they observed”.

    “Facts” that “they observed”? You mean, scientific method ante litteram?

    Mmmh… I beg to differ.

    At least, last time I checked, scientific consensus wasn’t achieved by majority vote of group leaders in occasional assemblies heavily influenced by both widespread violence and corruption and superstitios interpretations of natural events. Correct me if I’m mistaken.

  18. ForCarl
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    I remember very little in detail about my Lutheran confirmation classes, but one class stands out in my memory. That was the day that our pastor, who I really liked and still think of fondly (except for the fact that he never told us the truth about Martin Luther)tried to explain the trinity. He was partially baled out on the impossibility of making sense of it all by a new product on the market that was being heavily promoted at that time.

    Three in One Motor Oil. It was a lubricant, a rust preventer and cleaner all working towards making your car engines run smoother. Pastor took this product and likened it to the father,son and holy ghost all having separate duties, but working together as the unified entity of god (here I am assuming that god=oil).

    The analogy really stuck with me until as an adult, I realized that it was all stuff and nonsense.

    Poor Pastor couldn’t even grasp the concept without the aid of Madison Ave. The only way Pokingham and crew can try to lend it some sort of credibility is to steal from science? What a riot!

    By the way, Thomas Jefferson in letters repeatedly used the term “unintelligible” to describe the idea of the “trinity”. I just love that word!

    • Dawn Oz
      Posted June 10, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for Thomas Jefferson’s ‘unintelligible’, and he would have loved Dennett’s ‘deepities’.

      And a continuous thanks to Jerry for his academic dedication to reading material that Wittgenstein’s sword would shred in moments. I’m angry with Polkington that whilst he understands upper physics, he hasn’t worked out that his psychology is driving him to hang on to nonsense words like ‘mystery’. There are probably some genetic predispositions as well.

      I’ll search the CFI site for a podcast I listened to on the genetic underlays of the tendency for belief.

      • Posted June 11, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

        Wittgenstein himself is a great example of a very clever person (perhaps a genius) tormented and pulled in two (or more) directions because of various traditional customs and doctrines (many religious) that he could not totally shake. The Monk biography really opened my eyes to that – I had no idea until then.

  19. Posted June 10, 2012 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    As before, nothing that does not become better with translation (changes marked in bold):

    Any deep understanding of the fundamental nature of reality is bound to be something of a mystery. Theologians arrived at the doctrine of the Trinity after long and careful reflection on the facts that they observed, in a rather similar way to how physicists arrived at the Standard Model after sixty years of reflection on a whole series of remarkable discoveries and theoretical insights and a great many blind alleys. . . This is not the place to discuss in detail either the reasons behind the doctrine of the Trinity (John’s Science and the Trinity would be a good place to start) or the parallels explored in John’s Quantum Physics and Theology. In the end, in formulating the doctrine of the Trinity, pretty well the simplest and most symmetrical model that fits the observations turns out to be the correct one—as far as the official theology of at least 90 percent of Hindus is concerned: that Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, along with their companions Saraswati, Lakshmi and Parvati are all God but in such perfect loving unity that there are not three God-Goddess pairs but one God.

    • Posted June 10, 2012 at 11:12 am | Permalink

      As before my question to any would be theologian is: why doesn’t your argument apply to a rival religion. What breaks down?

      • mandrellian
        Posted June 10, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

        I’ve asked believers variations on that question for as long as I’ve been having these conversations online. Not once have I heard anything approaching an actual answer – but I have read a few that approached sophisticated theology.

    • Darth Dog
      Posted June 10, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

      Excellent!

      I’ve always wondered why Christians (at least the ones who know enought to even know of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva) insist that they are monotheists but Hindus are polytheists. It always seemed that the concepts were similar.

      • Posted June 10, 2012 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

        Well, actually, Hinduism is slightly more “sophisticated” then just having a Trinity of pairs. The “usual” formulation is that a the “power” of a propertly-less (hence genderless) but deistic supreme creator created the Trinity of pairs, who in turn created the world. In some accounts, this primordial “power” is treated as the Goddess Shakti (lit. “power” in Sanskrit), and the three goddesses in the Trinity of pairs are supposed to be her “avatars” or representations.

        Most of this is not treated, though, as “sophisticated” at all, and is part and parcel of mythological fairy tales usually reserved by grandparents for children. That’s where I learnt most of this anyway.

        • Posted June 11, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

          Doesn’t it depend on which Hindu theologian you talk to? From what (little) I understand, some versions of Hinduism are basically monistic (though idealist, rather than materialist) in an extreme way. That segment in Cosmos (by Sagan) is sort of what I have in mind as one secondary source I remember, though I’ve seen it elsewhere.

          • Posted June 11, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

            Yes, there are even more extreme monistic branches than the ones I mentioned: parts of the Rigveda (such as the famus Nasadiya Sukta) being an example.

            Curiously there are also dualist atheistic branches of Hinduism.

            As usual in theology, the “truth” depends upon which theologian you ask. I do not claim (and hope not to be considered) one.

  20. Daryl
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    Jehovah’s Witnesses are one group of Christians that reject the Trinty (Yes, they have as much right to be called Christians as any other sect.) Probably a good move, actually; with the Trinity, you’re just lengthening the line of defense. They also reject Jesus being God, which is as ambiguously supported in the bible as the Trinity itself.

    The J Dubs believe in numerous absurd and dangerous things, but in many ways are more biblical than most supposedly ‘orthodox’ Christians.

    • RFW
      Posted June 10, 2012 at 11:37 am | Permalink

      You have a point there.

      I used to go to laundromats to do my laundry. When I got bored,m I frequently read the copies of “Awake!” and “The Watchtower”, JW publications, that local chelae of the cult had left there.

      From them I learned taht another “standard belief” among Christians, that you die and then go to heaven or hell (or in the case of Catlicks, purgatory), is rejected by the JW’s. You die and you are dead: not asleep, not in heaven, nowhere. Only at the Resurrection at the end of times do you come back to existence.

      This is, I believe, in much close agreement with the bibblical texts than the usual Xtian understanding of the afterlife, which is derived to a degree from pagan belief systems.

      • Caroline52
        Posted June 11, 2012 at 5:41 am | Permalink

        Or, in the case of Catlicks, purrrgatory.

    • gluonspring
      Posted June 10, 2012 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

      The Trinity never bothered me terribly, as Christian difficulties go. It always felt to me a bit like telling me that a Bandersnatch is frumious. Um… OK…

      Omnipotence and monotheism, for example, bother me more. I keep looking for a Christian sect that rejects the traditional concept of the omnipotence of god, or of monotheism. Those two really lengthen the line of defense because you can’t get such a god off the hook for evil either here and now or the wicked idea of the evil of eternal Hell later. If God were merely powerful, but not all powerful, or one of many Gods, then some real struggle could be afoot, and the whole thing would seem a lot less absurd, Trinity or no.

  21. Posted June 10, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Jerry:

    Telling your faithful that something is WRONG is great for your flock – ex cathedra statements from a minor prophet, how comforting. But can you actually find a valid argument against it, or is that asking too much?

    • andreschuiteman
      Posted June 10, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

      Cats don’t live in flocks. You must mistake us for religious people.

      You ask for valid arguments? Total ridicule is the only possible response to your silly assertions. Come back when you have some evidence for them.

    • Mark Fuller Dillon
      Posted June 10, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      >>Telling your faithful that something is WRONG is great for your flock

      Then why not try it?

      Why not have your flock subject your view of the trinity to a critical eye? For instance:

      Several flock members could examine your argument from the viewpoints of other religions, both of the modern day and of the past.

      Several could examine it from viewpoints that are not at all theistic: deists, for instance.

      Several could examine it from the viewpoint that Christianity is a human fabrication, a sort of urban myth: what clues would they look for? What inconsistencies?

      Several could examine it from “heretical” viewpoints condemned by the early church. And so on.

      And I do agree: this would be great for your flock.

      • Sunny
        Posted June 10, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

        The Flock could also invite “critical examination” from members of other Flock (such as Islam, Hindhuism, etc.) Many “Truths” are also self-evident to members of other Flock. Such “Flocks” and their “Truths” seem to be happily ignored by Mr. Beale and company.

    • Marta
      Posted June 10, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

      “Telling your faithful that something is WRONG is great for your flock – ex cathedra statements from a minor prophet, how comforting.”

      This is knucklehead stuff.

      By the way, you left out “I know you are, but what am I?”

    • darrelle
      Posted June 10, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

      “Telling your faithful that something is WRONG is great for your flock – ex cathedra statements from a minor prophet, how comforting.”

      I have always found it interesting that believers seem to understand just as well as non believers that faith and authoritarianism are not positive attributes, even though their holy writings and their holy men work very hard to make the believers think that they are. Among yourselves you praise each other for having faith, and use words like flock as a term of endearment. And yet when you wish to insult a non believer you throw the same types of words at them with the intent of disparaging them.

      Even more specifically, with the intent of insulting the non believer, you accuse them of beliefs and relationships that are common to believers themselves, because of their beliefs, but which are unusual for a non believer for the very same reason.

      “But can you actually find a valid argument against it, or is that asking too much?”

      Are you being facetious, or do you mean that seriously? Valid arguments against your positions have been presented to you and your ilk time and again. You simply refuse to understand them because you don’t want to. You have a vested interest in your religious beliefs.

      What you don’t seem to understand is that your typical non believer does not have a vested interest in non belief. If the evidence indicated a god, so be it. The non believer simply accepts what humanity’s best understanding of reality happens to reveal. Understandings revealed by testing ideas empirically and keeping those which match most closely with observed reality. And discarding those for which there is no good evidence. Even you believers do this most of the time.

      But ancient writings are not good evidence. And a couple thousand years of rationalizations based on faulty premises, are not evidence of anything except wishful thinking or dedication to the maintenance of power.

      • Old Rasputin
        Posted June 10, 2012 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

        “What you don’t seem to understand is that your typical non believer does not have a vested interest in non belief. If the evidence indicated a god, so be it.”

        Yes. This is a good point which in my opinion, is not made often enough. I (at least) have no particular interest in “proving” the trinity or any other tenet of any religion false. What do I care? If there was sound evidence that rabbits laid chocolate eggs, I’d be among the first to set about ridiculing the Easter Bunny deniers…

    • Posted June 10, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

      “But can you actually find a valid argument against it, or is that asking too much?”

      Valid argument? You talk about validity? I’ve read that tripe before. Your regurgitation is the same crud we’ve heard before god-of-the-gaps, and “religion and science both seek the truth but in different domains”. The hairball my cat just tossed has more substance. In fact, if you want, I’ll do an energy reading from it for you. I’m sure it won’t take long for my cat to toss another when I show it your book.

    • Posted June 10, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

      From your book: “Theologians arrived at the doctrine of the Trinity after long and careful reflection on the facts that they observed, in a rather similar way to how physicists arrived at the Standard Model after sixty years of reflection on a whole series of remarkable discoveries and theoretical insights and a great many blind alleys…”
      Exactly which ‘facts’ did theologians ‘reflect on’ to arrive at the doctrine of the Trinity? And since the Trinitarian doctrine is not universal even among Xtian sects (see also: Jehovah’s Witnesses, among others), could you tell us which ‘facts’ those other guys are ignoring or interpreting differently than the guys you like, and could you also explain why the guys you like are right, and the guys who disagree with you are wrong? Thanks in advance.

    • Posted June 10, 2012 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

      Theologians arrived at the doctrine of the Trinity after long and careful reflection on the facts that they observed

      Excellent, so can we now have these observed facts enumerated please? Maybe just one to start off with and then some more for dessert? Hopefully these will be documented observable facts, maybe even falsifiable observations which hold true, or even True(tm), and without possible alternative explanations?

    • Achrachno
      Posted June 10, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

      A valid argument against it? You make multiple statements but they don’t seem to hang together well enough to make a decent argument.

      “Any deep understanding of the fundamental nature of reality is bound to be something of a mystery.”

      A deep understanding would normally be the opposite of a mystery. This seems like a nonsense statement on your part. Can you explain?

      “Theologians arrived at the doctrine of the Trinity after long and careful reflection on the facts that they observed,”

      What facts have theologians ever “observed” that bear on the doctrine of the trinity?

      No one can even define the word “God” with respect to what object/being it’s supposed to label, and there are certainly no reliable observations of “God”. Is “God” really a father? Literally?

      There is more evidence that the “historical Jesus” is imaginary than there is that he really existed — even as a mere mortal. No “son” seems t have ever existed.

      The “holy ghost” is even less substantial than the first two. Christians have almost nothing to say about the HG because it’s such an undeveloped idea and so dispensable to their religion. A bit player, at best.

      The doctrine of the trinity appears to be, according to reason and observation, simple nonsense. Please show how I’m wrong if you think I am.

      • Posted June 12, 2012 at 12:36 am | Permalink

        “Any deep understanding of the fundamental nature of reality is bound to be something of a mystery.”

        A deepity!

        • bernardhurley
          Posted June 12, 2012 at 1:35 am | Permalink

          This is three deepities in one – a deepitrinity!

    • CR
      Posted June 10, 2012 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

      I’m guessing that he’s not going to respond to any of the replies, or if he does, he’ll do so to one point that one person made that he already had a response prepared for.

      • Posted June 11, 2012 at 3:27 am | Permalink

        You have been proved right, just have a look at his comment below. He is interested only in JAC’s arguments, not just any old arguments.

        • CR
          Posted June 11, 2012 at 7:18 am | Permalink

          Sadly, I know how his sort tends to work. He’s plainly not interested in an actual discussion; his goal is to try to win some “points” back, likely for publicity’s sake.

    • Posted June 10, 2012 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

      How shall one argue against something that isn’t itself an argument? You’ve simply made unsupported assertions. An appeal to the opinions or feelings of “90%” of a given population is not support. I bet you even know the name of that fallacy.

      Pointing out the unsupported nature of your assertions is all that is required!

      And Jerry is confident, as he should be, based on the comments they’ve made in the past, that his readers can spot logical problems and other faults in theobabble without being spoofed.

      • Posted June 10, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

        *spoonfed*

        • Posted June 10, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

          spoofed works, too. As in “being fed with spoo”. (or even “without being hoaxed”.)

          Two additional meanings with one typo. I think that qualifies as a trinity.

          • Posted June 10, 2012 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

            I was all ready to chuckle when it struck me that this is exactly the kind of “argument” a theologian might make: “The trinity is not incoherent! Look at how words have multiple meanings! QED!” I’d bet a reasonable sum it has been used.

    • Posted June 10, 2012 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

      As far as I see, the main conclusion of the quote from your work above is the following:

      In the end, in formulating the doctrine of the Trinity, pretty well the simplest and most symmetrical model that fits the observations turns out to be the correct one—as far as the official theology of at leas 90 percent of Christians is concerned: that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all God but in such perfect loving unity that there are not three Gods but one God.

      As several people have already pointed out (in comments comments here that you chose to ignore, I hope not maliciously), this fails on multiple counts:

      1) As pointed above, an important preliminary test for a correct argument leading to a strong or unexpected result is to apply it to another related conclusion you believe or know to be false, and to show precisely what step in the argument breaks down. This is so common in some parts of science (especially in Mathematics and Computer Science) that important papers would often devote a section to such exercises: after all it helps in understanding the argument better. So let’s do that with this one. What breaks in the following adaptation of the argument (changes marked in bold, and the adaptation copied from my comment above)?

      In the end, in formulating the doctrine of the Trinity, pretty well the simplest and most symmetrical model that fits the observations turns out to be the correct one—as far as the official theology of at leas 90 percent of Hindus is concerned: that Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, along with their companions Saraswati, Lakshmi and Parvati are all God but in such perfect loving unity that there are not three God-Goddess pairs but one God.

      2) Let’s progress to the next step, and take the argument at its face value. Why does majority acceptance by a motivated group constitute any proof of validity of a proposition?

      3) And last and most important. The implicit assumption here is that a Trinity exists. Of course, this is not something the argument is trying to show, but an argument from false (or suspect) premises is only of a formal logical value, and cannot have much practical value except as a proof by contradiction of the already suspect original premises.

    • Posted June 11, 2012 at 12:28 am | Permalink

      Jerry:
      Sorry no time to reply to your followers in detail. I’m more interested in whether YOU can offer a valid argument.

      And perhaps you will agree that QM and GR are just a bit mysterious? No-one knows how they fit together and there is no agreement on what QM means.

      Of course theology isn’t the same as physics and the primary “observations” that Christian theologians deal with are (roughly speaking) those that are recorded in bible. Now you may think that these observations are wrong – that’s a perfectly reasonable (though I think mistaken)view. But that doesn’t invalidate our basic point, which is that IF you take these observations as “data” then the doctrine of the Trinity is indeed “pretty well the simplest and most symmetrical model that fits the data”.

      You are, I think, intelligent enough to realise that it is important to understand other people’s points of view when they are highly influential in your country, even if you disagree with them.

      And when you get on to our appendix on Evolution I’d be very grateful if you could see whether you can find any mistakes. We’re planning a 2nd edition next year and we’d be delighted to correct any errors, with acknowledgements of course.

      • bernardhurley
        Posted June 11, 2012 at 12:50 am | Permalink

        Nicolas, I find your use of the word “follower” interesting. If by it you mean “people who follow Jerry’s blog,” then everyone who is posting her, except Jerry himself but including you, is a follower. If, however, you mean “people who accept Jerry’s views without question,” then I have yet to see any evidence that Jerry has any followers. So what precisely do you mean by it?

      • Posted June 11, 2012 at 12:58 am | Permalink

        So really the Christian Theology is just literary criticism, and the concept of the Trinity is declared valid by very much just comparing different bits of the bible?

        I guess that takes it as far as it goes. However, what happens when you compare the bible (whatever translation) to, say, the Tao Te Ching, or the Hindu Vedas as suggested by अहंनास्मि (Ahannāsmi) above? Surely as the next step from fully understanding the internal consistencies of the bible, studying these other texts for their own internal coherence would be just as important? Then if those are then found to be internally consistent the next logical step is to see which of these texts are a “best fit” for the observable universe. I would suggest that the Tao Te Ching is far more consistent within itself (as one of the central tenets of Taoism is its self-contradiction) and is closer aligned with the real world (such as it is).

        If you are going to regard works of fiction as realty, why not choose the one that is the best fit?

      • Mark Fuller Dillon
        Posted June 11, 2012 at 1:05 am | Permalink

        I wonder, Beale, what you mean by followers.

        You’re not likely to find any followers here. Readers, appreciators, arguers, people of similar doubts or inclination, yes; but followers? Unlikely.

        Perhaps by using terms like “flock” or “followers,” you are merely repeating terms that come habitually to you, given your theological focus.

        For that reason, I’d like to give you the benefit of a doubt, and not believe that you are as condescending and obnoxious in life as you seem to be on this page.

        • PB
          Posted June 11, 2012 at 10:18 am | Permalink

          I think you’re too generous here, Beale is definitely condescending.. his usage of the words “flocks” and “followers” definitely malicious.
          Just an observation.

          Keep on! :D

          • bernardhurley
            Posted June 11, 2012 at 10:24 am | Permalink

            He could just be stupid.

      • Bender
        Posted June 11, 2012 at 2:58 am | Permalink

        “But that doesn’t invalidate our basic point, which is that IF you take these observations as “data” then the doctrine of the Trinity is indeed “pretty well the simplest and most symmetrical model that fits the data”.”

        And IF you take an “observation” of The Avengers as data, then the “simplest and most symmetrical model” is that Thor is indeed the god of thunder. QED. How much money does a theologian make? Because this is really easy. I could be interested in pursing a career in theology.

      • Posted June 11, 2012 at 3:25 am | Permalink

        Sorry no time to reply to your followers in detail. I’m more interested in whether YOU can offer a valid argument.

        So WHO offers the argument is somehow more important to you than the argument itself? Interesting. I thought we were supposed to be indulging in a logical exercise.

      • Posted June 11, 2012 at 3:36 am | Permalink

        And perhaps you will agree that QM and GR are just a bit mysterious? No-one knows how they fit together and there is no agreement on what QM means.

        (Emphasis mine)
        As someone who quite often deals with QM on his day job, I am not sure what the emphasized part is supposed to mean. Do we know something about what Newtonian mechanics “means”, or what the Navier Stokes equations “mean”, or what Special Relativity “means” that we do not know about QM? I don’t think so. Yes, as Feynman put it, we don’t “understand” QM. But neither do we “understand” turbulence. I am, however, yet to see a God or Goddess predicated on the fact that the “turbulence is hard”.

        • JBlilie
          Posted June 11, 2012 at 6:34 am | Permalink

          Wonderful. Well said.

        • Tim
          Posted June 11, 2012 at 9:04 am | Permalink

          As someone who also uses QM on a nearly daily basis, I like your comment. I’ve heard a quote (attributed to E. Bright Wilson, but I have no independent verification of that) that I like better than Feynman’s: ‘No one understands QM, they just get used to it.’ I like this better, because if you think about it, the only reason that we think we “understand” Newtonian mechanics is that we’re used to it. I’ve been “using” QM as a part-time theoretical chemist for 35 years or so, and I’m used to it (at least to it’s applications in chemistry and condensed matter physics). Consequently, I use QM with the ‘feeling’ that I “understand” it.

      • Marta
        Posted June 11, 2012 at 5:08 am | Permalink

        Oh, what a bother, replying to any of Dr. Coyne’s readers, not a single one of whom is of sufficient consequence to delay a self-important sycophant like Beale for even a moment.

      • andreschuiteman
        Posted June 11, 2012 at 5:38 am | Permalink

        Of course theology isn’t the same as physics and the primary “observations” that Christian theologians deal with are (roughly speaking) those that are recorded in bible.

        Which observations might that be? Talking snakes? Demons? Preachers who walk on water? Cursed fig trees? Zombie infestations?

        No, sir, theology isn’t the same as physics. It’s an affront to physics to even mention the two in the same sentence.

        • bernardhurley
          Posted June 11, 2012 at 5:45 am | Permalink

          Me want one of them talking snakes.

      • Draken
        Posted June 11, 2012 at 6:49 am | Permalink

        You are, I think, intelligent enough to realise that it is important to understand other people’s points of view when they are highly influential in your country

        This almost sounds like blackmail.

        • andreschuiteman
          Posted June 11, 2012 at 7:29 am | Permalink

          It certainly sounds like a veiled threat. He wants ‘minor prophet’ Jerry to assist him with that Evolution appendix, or else. (‘with acknowledgements of course.’)

        • PB
          Posted June 11, 2012 at 10:21 am | Permalink

          Beale means to say that he is highly influential in Jerry’s country? Is this true?
          :D

          • bernardhurley
            Posted June 11, 2012 at 10:27 am | Permalink

            If he is it doesn’t say much for the US.

      • truthspeaker
        Posted June 11, 2012 at 6:51 am | Permalink

        ‘which is that IF you take these observations as “data”’

        Taking those “observations” as data is exactly your problem.

        First, they’re not observations, they’re stories.

      • whyevolutionistrue
        Posted June 11, 2012 at 8:08 am | Permalink

        Here’s my response: observations that constitute “data” for Christian theologians are not just those in the Bible, but also a post facto decision that they needed to confect a Trinity for political and theological reasons. In other words, this trio came into being not because there were real data, but because people WANTED it to come into being. It’s pure fiction, made up stuff on par with Santa Claus. So no, I do not take those observations as data, but as wishful thinking. It’s another example of religious people fooling themselves. If you really think that there is such a Trinity, I would see you as deluded by wishful thinking and brainwashing by your antecedents.

        And if that “data” were so convincing, why don’t even all Christians believe it, much less Muslims, Jews, and Hindus?

        What we have is not data, but mythology, and it is shameful that you put it on a par with science, whose observations can in principle be verified by anyone, regardless of their faith.

        • Posted June 11, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

          Jerry: Thanks. Perhaps you think your understanding of Christian theology is better than mine. But you haven’t addressed the logical point which is that IF you take the observations in the Bible as Data then the Trinity is pretty much the simplest theory that fits the facts. You say that there is additional “data” which you don’t agree with, and also that you don’t agree with the data in the Bible. You have a right to your opinions of course, but you are still not producing a valid argument against the Polkinghorne/Beale position which is IF you accept these data THEN this is the position.

          You ask “why don’t even all Christians believe it, much less Muslims, Jews, and Hindus?” Well the Muslims, Jews and Hindus don’t accept the data, and theology is much harder and less certain than science. Even in science there is no unanimity about some pretty basic questions (How many spatial dimensions are there? How valid is Hamilton’s Rule? Are there Many Worlds?) Do you think that all disciplines other than math and science are rubbish? Because in every other discipline (eg history, philosophy, literature, economics) there is no unanimity about major issues, yet somehow these disciplines limp along.

          Others: I think you are all just as important as Jerry or I am. But I can’t engage with everyone – I have a day job (and a family!) For a Christian to say that someone is in a/has a flock is a big compliment (Christ has a flock, we Christian are members) and I apologise if people took it some other way.

          • Mark Fuller Dillon
            Posted June 11, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

            >>you haven’t addressed the logical point which is that IF you take the observations in the Bible as Data then the Trinity is pretty much the simplest theory that fits the facts.

            If the green elephant flies through the purple doughnut 97 times, but refuses on every occasion to fly through the holes of the 14 floating swiss cheeses, then the Data clearly imply that the green elephant prefers to fly through the purple doughnut. That would seem the simplest hypothesis to fit the facts.

            …Except that we have no facts. In this case, we only have text. Even if the text were centuries old, and beloved by 90% of all Doughnutians, it would still be nothing more than text.

            So perhaps the real issue here is not whether the point is logical, but whether the text itself refers to anything more than pure fantasy. Is it really worth addressing logical points, while completely ignoring the main issue at hand?

            • Posted June 11, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

              Concur. Why worry about the conclusions when the premises are so poorly founded?

              /@

            • Posted June 11, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

              Only if you want to THINK as opposed to pontificate.

              Surely anyone remotely rational can see that X is “nothing more that a text” does not imply that X can be disregarded. Have you never been bound by a contract, followed a law or a constitution, read a scientific paper or looked at a historical document?

              The New Testament is the best historical record we have of a set of events which clearly changed history – arguably more than any other single event. Something clearly happened at around this time to create a religion that overthrew the religion of the Roman Empire and massively changed the world. To say “it’s just fantasy” is a cop-out.

              • Mark Fuller Dillon
                Posted June 11, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

                “Have you never been bound by a contract, followed a law or a constitution, read a scientific paper or looked at a historical document?”

                Yes, I have. But notice that these texts have a verifiable relevance to conditions in the real world. There are ways to find out — beyond the given text — that countries have laws and constitutions, that scientific papers are reviewed by other scientists and even by science journalists, that historical documents are often supported by other texts. In short, if you question the truth of these documents, you can go beyond them into a tangible, everyday context.

                Is that true for the green elephant?

                “The New Testament is the best historical record we have of a set of events which clearly changed history”

                But is it really the best historical record? Is it even history at all?

                Let’s consider this from a different angle.

                Homer’s THE ILIAD and THE ODYSSEY are two of the best records we have for what life might have been like in Greece during its Dark Age (1100-800 B.C.) But most people would agree that along with information about geography and social customs, the books include a great deal of fantasy.

                These books clearly changed history: they provided insight into what the Greeks of that period thought and felt, and their influence on literature and art remains strong. Yet we don’t see them as religious texts anymore… because time and experience have allowed us to see that not everything the Greeks believed back then fits into the context of what we know today.

                As you’ve probably discovered for yourself, the historical accuracy of the new testament has been debated for generations now, and there is no clear consensus that everything it describes actually happened. This is hardly news: even christians like Albert Schweitzer accepted this ambiguity.

                What we do know about the new testament, and which nobody can deny, is that many people have *believed* in its truth, and these people, as you say, had a huge impact on the Roman Empire and on subsequent history. But all this really implies is that fantasy has power, belief has power, just as THE ILIAD and THE ODYSSEY have had great impact on the literature that came afterwards.

                But impact is not evidence of truth.

              • Posted June 11, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

                Something clearly happened in Ancient Egypt in around 3150 BC that established a religion and a culture that changed history forever. Therefore, Isis, Ra and Amun. To say the Eygptian gods were “just a fantasy” is a cop-out.

                Something clearly happened in Ancient India around 1500 BC that established a religion and a culture that overthrew the Indus Valley Civilization, led to the creation of one of the oldest books in existence, and changed Indian history forever. Therefore, Parbrahma. To say the Rigveda is “just a fantasy” is a cop-out.

                Something clearly happened in Arabaia around 700AD that established a religion that single handedly overthrew all other religions in the Arabian peninsula and is today the fastest growing religion in the world, and this changed World history forever. Therefore, Allah To say the Quran is “just a fantasy” is a cop-out.

                I hope you see now why your argument won’t pass muster in any rational field of study?

                you haven’t addressed the logical point which is that IF you take the observations in the Bible as Data then the Trinity is pretty much the simplest theory that fits the facts.

                In none of the rational and serious fields of study you list above is an argument for suspect and faulty premises given any importance except as an exercise in highlighting the problems with the premises themselves.

              • Posted June 11, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

                By the way before it is pointed out that somehow the fact that I used the usual Western calendar convention of AD and BC is evidence that Christianity has had a higher qualitative impact than the vents I quoted, let me hasten to add that I only did this because of accidents of history and geography, this is the currently popular calendar in this part of the world.

          • Posted June 11, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

            Well, that’s an egregious false equivalence. Not accepting the data as valid in the first place is quite different from disagreements as to which hypothesis provides the best explanation of a widely accepted corpus of data.

            /@

          • philokgb
            Posted June 11, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

            I’m not sure why anyone should accept your assertion that the Trinity doctrine satisfies parsimony. There are at least as many mentions of Father/God, Son/Christ, Holy Spirit in the New Testament as separate and distinct entities as there are statements that identify two or three as consubstantial.

            If we’re being honest, the various mentions of the workings of the Holy Spirit lead to an understanding that is chaotic at best, incoherent at worst. The elevation of an entity whose abilities consist almost entirely of passive or ephemeral acts, like inspiring and enabling and sanctifying, to full member of the Godhead is bizarre on its face.

            And, of course, the inclusion of Jesus is almost entirely a product of the decidedly iconoclastic Gospel of John. That’s the same GJohn whose Latin versions were altered around the fourth century AD specifically to bolster Scriptural evidence for the Trinity.

          • Steve Smith
            Posted June 11, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

            Beale: IF you take the observations in the Bible as Data then the Trinity is pretty much the simplest theory that fits the facts.

            The Johannine Comma (1 John 5:7–8)—the Bible’s only reference to the Trinity—is a fraudulent addition to the Bible made sometime in the early Middle Ages. This is one of the more famous examples of the many cases of Biblical fraud.

            This is the only “evidence” of the Trinity we have, in the Bible or anywhere. Therefore, the simplest explanation of the Trinity is that it is also fraudulent.

          • Steve Smith
            Posted June 11, 2012 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

            Beale: For a Christian to say that someone is in a/has a flock is a big compliment (Christ has a flock, we Christian are members)

            Hard to improve on this:

            “Everything about Christianity is contained in the pathetic image of ‘the flock.’”
            ―Christopher Hitchens

          • Steve Smith
            Posted June 11, 2012 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

            Beale: Muslims, Jews and Hindus don’t accept the data, and theology is much harder and less certain than science

            Theology is infinitely more certain than provisional science. Based on theology, I know that you will burn in hell without cessation for committing the blasphemy of saying that God is three, that God has a son, and that God needs a little helper. I know this from God’s Own Words:

            Certainly they disbelieve who say: Surely Allah is the third (person) of the three; and there is no god but the one God, and if they desist not from what they say, a painful chastisement shall befall those among them who disbelieve.
            Original: لَقَدْ كَفَرَ الَّذِينَ قَالُواْ إِنَّ اللّهَ هُوَالْمَسِيحُ ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ وَقَالَ الْمَسِيحُ يَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ اعْبُدُواْاللّهَ رَبِّي وَرَبَّكُمْ إِنَّهُ مَن يُشْرِكْ بِاللّهِ فَقَدْ حَرَّمَ اللّهُعَلَيهِالْجَنَّةَ وَمَأْوَاهُ النَّارُ وَمَا لِلظَّالِمِينَ مِنْ أَنصَارٍ
            لَّقَدْ كَفَرَ الَّذِينَ قَالُواْ إِنَّ اللّهَ ثَالِثُ ثَلاَثَةٍ وَمَا مِنْإِلَـهٍ إِلاَّ إِلَـهٌ وَاحِدٌ وَإِن لَّمْ يَنتَهُواْ عَمَّا يَقُولُونَ لَيَمَسَّنَّالَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ مِنْهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِي
            —The Qur’an (القرآن), Sura 5:72–73 (The Dinner Table, سورة المائدة)

            There is nothing uncertain about this assertion that Christians will burn in hell for their disbelief.

          • CR
            Posted June 12, 2012 at 12:39 am | Permalink

            I’m sure most of us can understand your not being able to engage with everyone. Quite a few people comment on this blog.

            I’d like to help sum up some of the prevalent counterpoints that people have made to the excerpt from your book and your response here.

            1) Why bother engaging in such involved interpretation of “data” (whatever sort of Ockham’s Razor argument you’re making for the Trinity) when those data seem so shaky? Shouldn’t you shore up the foundation first? Or is that book only intended for people that already are Christians?

            2) Most people here (myself included) seem to take issue with your comparison involving the path that led to the Standard Model. You are apparently a compatibilist, but surely you still see the stark differences between how people come to a theological conclusion about anything and a scientific one. If you could explain your reasoning behind that a bit more (without just suggesting that we read the book), then I’m sure it would go a long way to clear up any confusion.

            3) Your original response was pretty clearly not intended to convey respect. I’m not suggesting that such a response wasn’t justified (I’d be annoyed if my work was lampooned as well), but I don’t see how anyone could have interpreted that as a compliment.

          • MM
            Posted June 12, 2012 at 8:18 am | Permalink

            “Do you think that all disciplines other than math and science are rubbish?”….”(eg history, philosophy, literature, economics)”

            No:
            history tries to explain facts,
            literature does, if you exclude holy books, not make truthclaims,economic at least should try to explain real economic behaviour, philosophy is based (it should be) on reason and logic.

            Theology is the art of making unfounded assumptions.

            P.S.
            I just discoverd in my dictionary the first definition “holy”
            ‘holy': having holes..

      • Stan Pak
        Posted June 11, 2012 at 11:40 am | Permalink

        “And perhaps you will agree that QM and GR are just a bit mysterious? No-one knows how they fit together and there is no agreement on what QM means.”

        You are using equivocation here.

        One of the meaning of “mystery” is “unknown”.
        QM and GR are largely known so it does not apply.

        If the other possible meaning of “mystery” is “unintuitiveness” – it might be applied to QM and GR. But limitations of our brains and contrast with common human experience does not render these theories false. They can be unintuitive and true at the same time.

        BTW. QM means exactly what the model/theory means as expressed in equations. It might not have practical meaning to our personal lives and how we see the world with our animal eyes and brains.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted June 11, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

        This is ludicrous:

        no time to reply to your followers

        What is your proof that all commentators are “followers”? (Instead of say, first time visitors.) Surely you haven’t “followed” the blog long enough to know this?

        And perhaps you will agree that QM and GR are just a bit mysterious? No-one knows how they fit together and there is no agreement on what QM means.

        Neither QM nor GR are more mysterious than that they are the most successful theories of science (quantum physic respectively standard cosmology). Surely you mean “non-intuitive”.

        Let me repeat from above: “Many deep results are, as they are bound to be, simple in principle yet removed from daily experience.”

        (For example relativity, which combines space and time, removes the requirement for an aether, and rejects an absolute space, hence greatly simplifying while at the same time shows how magnetism is surprisingly a low velocity relativity effect.)

        We know a great deal how they fit together. General relativity can be quantized but the process diverges for large energies. Which is as expected, since it is known that general relativity is an effective theory. Progress in modern physics comes from looking at the embedding of GR into standard cosmology: AdS/CFT duality and string theory shoring that up.

        What QM “means” is an ill-defined claim. The theory “means” we can use it, which means “we know what it is as far as science goes”.

        I suspect you are asking for a model of QM, but that is like asking for a model of GR. We know that QM describes the wavefunction (which is pretty much established as physical instead of effective by know) and in the relativistic sense particle fields, exactly as we know that GR describes spacetime curvature and in the quantum sense gravitons.

        What we are looking for is an extended theory of QM, such as non-locality of entangled spacetime and decoherence gives. This means in a cosmological context that local entangled systems are temporarily lagging behind the cosmological clock of expansion until they decohere. I suspect this, as many other things cosmological, will be the next step in extending QM. (Mind, decoherence is not well tested as of yet.)

      • Posted June 11, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

        Taking observations as a data set does not require assigning zero uncertainty and absolute confidence to the data values. It appears likely that from a mathematically formal sense of simplicity (doi:10.1109/18.825807), the simpler explanation is to consider the data less accurate.

    • Caroline52
      Posted June 11, 2012 at 5:44 am | Permalink

      I think he was more, like, venting to his friends. Or did you not get that?

    • Posted June 11, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      Why bother trying to find a valid argument against it when you haven’t presented a valid argument for it in the first place?

      /@

  22. Posted June 10, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    This enables me to convert my own frustration and rage at having to read him …

    Maybe you should get yourself some free will, so that then you would not have to read him.

    In the end, in formulating the doctrine of the Trinity, pretty well the simplest and most symmetrical model that fits the observations turns out to be the correct one

    They are right about that one. The simplest and most symmetrical model, of course, is that it is all made up BS.

  23. A.T. Pritchard
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    “…as far as the official theology of at least 90 percent of Christians is concerned…”

    And no further. This is really all the response one need make.

    • Chris
      Posted June 11, 2012 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      Yep, it even fails at argumentum ad populum. Spectacular!

  24. docbill1351
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    I never understood why it isn’t the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit and Kink the Cat.

    Kink shares my puzzlement.

  25. shakyisles
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    I say bring on the bed of nails, thumbscrews and watching paint dry. All activities I prefer over reading theology

  26. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Batman, Robin, and Alfred – but just one crime fighting team.

    I’ve seen it in pictures, so it must be true. Pow! Zap!

  27. MadScientist
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Ouch … the stupid burns!

    Now how does Polkie explain the fact that not even all Jesus cults believe in the magic trinity? My bet is that those cultists are “No True Christians”.

  28. Posted June 10, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned “Three quarks for Muster Mark.” The three-fold way and all that.

    So if the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one are inseparable, would they be the three quarks corresponding to the particles? And who makes up the antiparticle quarks, I wonder. So many questions; so little time to masturbate on them.

  29. Pray Hard
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    What most Western/Christian theologians seem utterly incapable of realizing is that the “Trinity” represents three aspects of the same “deity”. My guess is that if we could find the evidence, some really astute archeologist could trace it directly to some three-faced deity statue buried in the sand somewhere. It probably came over from the “astrotheology” of the Egyptians, Buddhists or Hindus. Hell, some of their deities have four aspects (the four directions)! Can you imagine the Christian retards dealing with that?! It’s all symbol and myth, nothing more.

    • Posted June 10, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

      I think there is circumstantial evidence. Pardon me if I offer info I just googled (questionable internet sourcing, I’m no historian. However, there is evidence of triumvirate belief systems dating back as far as Sumerians (4000 BC). the gods

      The historian S. H. Hooke tells in detail of the ancient Sumerian trinity: Anu was the primary god of heaven, the ‘Father’, and the ‘King of the Gods’; Enlil, the ‘wind-god’ was the god of the earth, and a creator god; and Enki was the god of waters and the ‘lord of wisdom’ (15-18). The historian, H. W. F. Saggs, explains that the Babylonian triad consisted of ‘three gods of roughly equal rank… whose inter-relationship is of the essence of their natures’ (316).

      It precedes the Egyptian Gods,
      “Will Durant concurs that Ra, Amon, and Ptah were ‘combined as three embodiments or aspects of one supreme and triune deity’ (Oriental Heritage 201)”

      And the list goes on. So its not suprising that xtians have drawn from earlier belief systems. As Joseph campbell stated, “The Trinitarian doctrine of the Gnostic, which was adopted by the Church in AD 325 states the following [Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God: Accidental Mythology, Penguin Books, New York, 1976, p.389]”

      What really causes me to to slap my head is the fact that xtians seem to believe that their myths are somehow unique and original. Its the very fact that myths have historical lineages that make them quite mythological. All the junk in bible (old and new testaments)and Koran can be traced to earlier belief system.

      In discussing the four functions of myth J. Campbell says this, “The first law of science is that the truth has not been found. The laws of science are working hypotheses. The scientist knows that at any moment facts may be found that make the present theory obsolete; this is happening now constantly. It’s amusing. In a religious tradition, the older the
      doctrine, the truer it is held to be.”

      Links sources:
      http://www.usislam.org/christianity/trinitychristianity.htm
      http://www.heraldmag.org/olb/Contents/doctrine/The%20Origin%20of%20the%20Trinity.htm

      • Old Rasputin
        Posted June 10, 2012 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

        Well, yeah, what it boils down to is that 3 has long been considered a mystical number of sorts. It’s no wonder that such a numerologically auspicious number was chosen. A god having 117 manifestations isn’t nearly as catchy or memorable.

        …well, now that I think about it the Hindus have outdone this figure by orders of magnitude, but somehow I can’t see Francis Collins counting that many individual icicles.

        • Posted June 11, 2012 at 3:21 am | Permalink

          …well, now that I think about it the Hindus have outdone this figure by orders of magnitude, but somehow I can’t see Francis Collins counting that many individual icicles.

          Technically, those 330 million gods in Hindu myths and goddesses are rather like angels and saints in Catholic mythology. The number of Creator gods (Goddesses) in Hinduism is either 6(3 God-Goddess pairs, forming the Trinity), 4(The Trinity and the Mother Goddess), 3(The Trinity), 1(a desistic “propertyless-creator” whose “power” represented as the Mother Goddess creates the Trinity, who create the Universe) or 0(there are branches of Hinduism that reject the whole notion of there being a creator god/goddess), depending upon which Hindu you ask. Take your pick :).

          • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
            Posted June 11, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

            In other words, christianity looks pretty much like (some) other religions.

            What a miracle!

          • Posted June 11, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

            And amongst the Inuit, the answer is either infinite or zero. How is that for a variation?

  30. Veroxitatis
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Where was the “perfect loving unity” of God when Jesus said, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”

  31. BillyJoe
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    “Any deep understanding of the fundamental nature of reality is bound to be something of a mystery. ”

    krzysztofer: If it’s a mystery, that means you don’t understand it! Duh.

    Exactly my thought.
    Except that I never think – or write – that last word you wrote. It just makes you sound…cartoonish.

  32. Mark Fuller Dillon
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    “Theologians arrived at the doctrine of the Trinity after long and careful reflection on the facts that they observed….”

    This might be the most insane statement I’ve read this week… even though I’ve been reading about the screenplay for PROMETHEUS. :/

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted June 10, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

      Yes, but Beale is here in person to defend it! See comment 21. I’ll let the readers purée him into fish chow should they choose.

      • Achrachno
        Posted June 10, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

        I have a feeling we’ll not be hearing from him again. Perhaps he’s feeling outnumbered, even with the trinity and the whole heavenly choir invisible on his side.

        • Mark Fuller Dillon
          Posted June 10, 2012 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

          Let’s be fair, now: we can’t expect christians to be martyrs. :)

          • Achrachno
            Posted June 10, 2012 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

            We don’t bite much, do we?

      • Posted June 11, 2012 at 5:23 am | Permalink

        Beale is here in person to defend it!

        Oops. Guess he was just here to poop in the pool and run away. Typical troll.

      • phil
        Posted June 12, 2012 at 5:21 am | Permalink

        And damned entertaining it has been too! Your further contribution, while welcome, seems hardly necessary.

  33. Sunny
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    So the “proofiness” [thank you, Dubya!] rests on an absurd comparison with the Standard Model in Physics. What I do not understand is why the Sophisticated Theologians always seem to be need the crutch of Science.

  34. Darth Dog
    Posted June 10, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    I can’t believe the thread got this far without a link to this excellent explanation of the Trinity by Mr. Deity. It’s all quite simple when you here Him explain it.

    “Third base!”

    • Posted June 11, 2012 at 5:25 am | Permalink

      Someone finally went to the source. Excellent.

    • gluonspring
      Posted June 11, 2012 at 8:47 am | Permalink

      Now that’s Sophisticated Theology(TM)

    • Tim
      Posted June 11, 2012 at 9:33 am | Permalink

      That’s some Sophisticated Theology® indeed…this little gem really is as much as the idea of the Trinity deserves by way of refutation.

  35. Posted June 10, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    There is a quote by Isaac Asimov that I often think of which so succinctly addresses the xtian position.

    To surrender to ignorance and call it God has always been premature, and it remains premature today.

  36. Posted June 11, 2012 at 5:55 am | Permalink

    Besides being word-salad, his explanation is bullshit. The doctrine of the trinity wasn’t poured over by careful examination of the facts. It was voted on for political expediency. And anyone who disagreed with that ruling was declared a heretic. That is the total opposite of the scientific method.

    This person betrays both the history of early Christianity and science.

    • gluonspring
      Posted June 11, 2012 at 8:48 am | Permalink

      This is exactly how science works. Haven’t you seen Expelled? ;-)

  37. Reg Le Sueur
    Posted June 11, 2012 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    “RE the Trinity, it seems plausible that Polkie simply meant that the relationship was multiplicative rather than additive. In which case, 1x1x1 does equal 1. Chalk another win up for theological mathematics!”

    I wish they would do “take-aways” instead, or division, then perhaps the Trinity might cancel out and we might all at last get a bit of piece from this rubbish.

    • Reg Le Sueur
      Posted June 11, 2012 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      I mean “peace”.

    • Posted June 11, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

      Or you could imagine the Trinity as holding values in a field of characteristic 3 (such as the integers modulo 3), where in 1 + 1 + 1 = 0. I wonder why no sophisticated theologian has yet pounced upon this fact.

  38. PB
    Posted June 11, 2012 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Still, all in all, these are not boring thread.
    Hope that Beale-troll visit again someday, quite entertaining in a sort-of-smelly way ..

  39. Posted June 12, 2012 at 12:53 am | Permalink

    “that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all God but in such perfect loving unity that there are not three Gods but one God.”

    Then why did the Son (reportedly – though there were also reportedly no witnesses) ask the Father to spare the Son from being crucified? (Matt 26:39)

    And why did the Son reportedly ask the Father why the Father had foresaken the Son? (Matt 27:46)


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