My previous question on this topic was closed because it required knowledge of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. To avoid that problem, I am proposing a particular formal definition of the doctrine formulated by Aquinas, and asking whether this formal definition is considered polytheism by Jewish thought.
Basically, he says that there are intelligible relationships within the concept of the deity, which he seems to consider a necessary truth derived from scripture. He gives the example of the deity's word, such as speaking the world into existence in Genesis, and the word must be identical with the deity to preserve divine simplicity. Yet at the same time, there must be a relationship between the word and from whence it proceeds.
Additionally, these relationships cannot be other than the essence of the deity, otherwise that would violate the deity's necessary property of being fundamentally simple in its essence. In other words, these relationships cannot in someway stand outside the deity, or be 'parts' of which the deity is composed.
So, is there anything in this bare logical argument that necessitates polytheism? I'll grant the premise about the deity speaking a word is controversial, but if all the premises were considered correct by Jewish thinkers, would they still somehow be forced to conclude Aquinas' idea still necessitated polytheism?
I apologize this question comes across as awkwardly phrased. I am trying to avoid a couple problems:
- Site members having to know another religion's doctrine (Christian doctrine of the Trinity) to answer the question. To avoid this I am stating a specific formulation that is free from knowing anything about Christianity, stated in as plain a language as I can.
- Strawman arguments. The majority of Christians believe the Trinity is a single deity, and the Jewish arguments against the Trinity I have seen seem to be against a strawman version, which is certainly believed by some Christians, but I am interested in what the Jewish argument is against the best formulation of the Trinitarian doctrine as consistent with monotheism.
Hopefully, my attempt is successful and doesn't get shut down again. I am genuinely curious, since the doctrine of the Trinity is the main reason why Christianity is considered idolatrous due to polytheism, yet from what I have seen this appears to be an unfortunate misunderstanding, as Aquinas appears to have successfully demonstrated the doctrine of the Trinity is consistent with maximally strong monotheism.
Finally, as a side note, I've noticed other q&as on this site drawing comparison between the Trinity and Sefirot. This is a tangent, but the point is to demonstrate that when we boil things down to their logical essence, abstracting away the religious connotations, it looks like Aquinas actually is saying the same thing as the Sefirot. He only goes one step further and states the mental actions and will of the deity must be a part of its essence (not sub creations) to avoid violating the doctrine of divine simplicity.
Aquinas states there are four different relations based:
- on an original intellect (source)
- its intellectual activity (word)
- the will directing that activity (love)
It doesn't seem like things can get simpler than this, and I see the same divisions in the Wikipedia page on the Sefirot, which seems to be based on the same sort of reasoning. There are:
- Keter (source)
- intellectual activities (word)
- the emotions (love)
Yes, there are more subdivisions within the second two categories that make up the ten Sefirot, but if we are reductionist, in the end we are left with the above three categories that cannot be reduced further.
So my basic point is this abstract formulation of the Trinitarian doctrine, where it is reduced to fundamental conceptual relations independent from any religion and applied to the idea of the deity, seems to exactly agree with Jewish thought that is systematically considering the same thing (with one further step to preserve divine simplicity).
Thus, it is hard for me to understand where the Jewish charge of polytheism is coming from. My only conclusion is that the polytheism charge is against an unrefined notion of the Trinity, that has certainly existed among some Christians, but when we are trying to get to the truth of the matter and not popular opinion, we should deal with the most refined version of a concept.
Any assistance is greatly appreciated!