In an earlier post i introduced what William C. Placher called the “social” and the “psychological” analogies used to understand the Trinity. A key consideration for Placher is that we understand that each analogy has inherent limitations, and one reveals the other’s flaws. This post will examine Placher’s apprehensions regarding these two analogies, and what their proer use entails.
For example, in the psychological analogy, Placher writes in his article, “there is only one person–no element in God that could pray to another or feel abandoned by another . . . The social analogy, on the other hand, inevitably risks tritheism . . .” From this Placher concludes that “the social analogy gives us too much threeness, while the psychological analogy does not give us enough.”
It is clear that Placher is wary of giving a lot of theological significance to either analogy. Furthermore, the idea that these “theories” can be synthesized isn’t possible either. For Placher, “traditional trinitarian terminology does not embody some appropriate theory of how the Trinity fits together; rather, the terms were developed to preserve the mystery of a God we cannot understand.” Thus, the true value of these analogies is found in realizing the value of each and using them as “mutually corrective” of each other. In a sense, these analogies should be used like guard rails, which when used properly can keep one from flying off an icy road.
I hope to post my musings on Placher’s article soon.