The Puzzle of the One and the Many

“The rational problem of the one and many has been a knotty dilemma since the classical Greeks. And from Hume to Russell, modern thinkers have been perplexed to explain whether unity has priority or does diversity. Men have pondered the question, “Why does unity contain diversity?” No one found a compelling answer for the basis of the unity of the diverse parts and the thing that brings all this together. Some say that unity has the greater priority (Hinduism) while others declare that the diversity has the greater priority (Mormonism). Opposing this notion is the unity and diversity that is structured in the material world and in the spiritual world.

A human being is one person (unity- the one), and yet that person is made up of many parts: arms, legs, eyes, liver, heart (diversity – the many). Each part contains many cells that make up that one organ. Each specific cell contains many molecules; each individual molecule, many atoms. Living things are individual things that are made up of diverse parts.

This one book is composed of many chapters. Each chapter is made up of many paragraphs; each one paragraph is made up of many sentences; each sentence, many words; and each word is composed of many letters. The truth of the one and many is an unavoidable aspect of any book. This truth adjoins everything. The only coherent solution was pressed by Van Til. He proposed that the Trinity alone has the capacity to ground the unity and diversity in equal ultimacy. The one and many are co-terminas, co-infinite, co-universal, co-eternal within the nature of God. God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (diversity) and is one God (unity). The equal and universal ultimacy of all things is grounded and proceeds from the Trinity. Where unity and particularity harmoniously and infinitely coalesce, associate, commune, and inter-adhere.”

(Robinson, One Way to God, 98-99)

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