The Problem of the One and the Many (John Frame)

“The Trinity also means that God’s creation can be both one and many. Secular philosophy veers between the extremes of monism (the world is really one; plurality is an illusion) and pluralism (the world is radically disunited; unity is an illusion). Secular philosophy moves from one extreme to the other, because it does not have the resources to define a position between the two extremes, and because it seeks an absolute at one extreme or another–as if there must be an absolute oneness (with no plurality) or else a universe of absolutely unique, unconnected elements, creating an absolute pluralism and destroying an universal oneness. To find such an absolute in either direction is important if the philosopher is to find an adequate standard apart from the God of Scripture. Thus is revealed philosophy’s religious quest–to find an absolute, a god, in the world. But the Christian knows there is no absolute unity (devoid of plurality) or absolute plurality (devoid of unity). These exists neither in the world’s Creator. If either of these existed in the world, it would be a sort of unitarian god, but there is no God but the Trinitarian Lord. Such a unitarian god would be unknowable, for we cannot know a blank oneness or an utter uniqueness. And if that perfect oneness or perfect uniqueness is the metaphysical essence of reality, then nothing can be known at all. But the Chritian knows that God is the only absolute, and that that absolute is both one and many. Thus, we are freed from the task of trying to find utter unity or utter disunity within the world. When we search for ultimate criteria or standards, we look, not to some “maximum unity” or “utter uniqueness” within the world, but to the living God, who alone furnishes the ultimate criteria for human thought. Thus, the Trinity also has implications for epistemology.”

(Frame, Apologetics to the Glory of God, 49-50)


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