July 22, 2010 8 Comments
The so-called argument from the one and the many is a hallmark aspect of classical Van Tillian apologetics. Having studied this school for the last ten years, I am very acquainted with its methodology and published works. However, once one moves into patristics and Catholic and Orthodox theology, and then into other religious philosophies, the argument as constructed in writers like Van Til, Rushdoony and Bahnsen no longer works. This is not to say, however, that the argument has no relevance: on the contrary, in my estimation, it still retains its strength as a powerful signpost pointing to the Personal God of the Bible. However, I don’t think it proves the Trinity.
There are two reasons the one and many argument doesn’t to prove the Trinity. For one, Van Til wasn’t the first to reason in this regard: many earlier Christian thinkers and church fathers had argued along similar lines, such as Origen, Irenaeus, Basil and the Cappadocian, Maximus the Confessor, and others even in other religions, as we see in the Coomaraswamy article on Vedic Exemplarism. What is interesting in Maximus though, is that from the created one and many we experience, it does not prove or point to a single divine ousia and three Persons, but rather a single rational Principle of God – the Logos, the second Person of the Trinity, in whom all the many logoi, or rational principles/meanings of things are united. So for Maximus, drawing on Origen, the many logoi are one in the one Logos of God. This argument arose historically in the context of Hellenic Christianity borrowing the Logos idea, and was transformed into an argument for the necessity of creation through the Logos. In other words, the one and many argument is an argument centered in divine exemplarism. Read more of this post