The ‘Power’-ful Trinity


  • Ben Page University of Durham



Trinity, Powers, Dispositions, Philosophical Theology


This paper proposes a new orthodox Latin Trinitarian model of the Trinity, through employing current work from the metaphysics of powers. It outlines theses defended within the contemporary powers literature that form the backbone of the account and then shows how they can be combined to provide an orthodox metaphysics of the Trinity. Having done this it addresses a further element required for orthodoxy, the ontological priority of the Father, and then notes a particular benefit that comes along with the model. The paper concludes by posing and answering some objections one might raise against the account.


Anselm. “On the Procession of the Holy Spirit.” In The Major Works, 390–434. Oxford world’s classics. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Aquinas, Thomas. Aquinas: Basic Works. Edited by Jeffrey Hause and Robert Pasnau. The Hackett Aquinas. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company Inc, 2014.

—. Contra Gentiles.

—. De Rationibus Fidei.

—. De spiritualibus creaturis.

—. De Trinitate.

Armstrong, David M. A World of States of Affairs. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1997.

Augustine, De Trinitate V.

Ayres, Lewis. Nicaea and Its Legacy: An approach to fourth-century Trinitarian theology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. doi:10.1093/0198755066.001.0001.

—. “Augustine on the Trinity.” In The Oxford Handbook of the Trinity. Edited by Gilles Emery and Matthew Levering, 123–38. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2011.

Barth, Karl. Church Dogmatics 1. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1936.

Bauer, William, A. “Four Theories of Pure Dispositions.” In Properties, Powers, and Structures: Issues in the metaphysics of realism. Edited by Alexander Bird, Brian D. Ellis and Howard Sankey, 132-163 5. New York: Routledge, 2012.

Bird, Alexander. Nature’s Metaphysics: Laws and Properties. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2007.

Blackburn, Simon. “Filling in space.” Analysis 50, no. 2 (1990): 62–65. doi:10.1093/analys/50.2.62.

Bostock, Simon. “In Defence of Pan-Dispositionalism.” Metaphysica 9, no. 2 (2008): 139–57. doi:10.1007/s12133-008-0028-9.

Brower, Jeffrey E., and Michael C. Rea. “Material Constitution and the Trinity.” Faith and Philosophy 22, no. 1 (2005): 57–76. doi:10.5840/faithphil200522134.

Campbell, Keith. Abstract Particulars. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990.

Coakley, Sarah. “Why Three? Some Further Reflections on the Origins of the Doctrine of the Trinity.” In The Making and Remaking of Christian Doctrine: Essays in Honour of Maurice Wiles. Edited by Sarah Coakley and David A. Pailin, 29–56. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993.

Davies, Brian. An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. 3rd ed. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, [1993] 2004.

Descartes, René. Descartes: Selected Philosophical Writings. Edited by John Cottingham. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Emery, Gilles. The Trinity: An introduction to Catholic Doctrine on the Triune God. Thomistic ressourcement series volume 1. Washington, D.C: Catholic University of America Press, 2011. doi:10.2307/j.ctt3fgqdw.

Fine, Kit. “The Question of Realism.” Philosopher’s Imprint 1, no. 2 (2001): 1–30.

—. “Guide to Ground.” In Metaphysical Grounding. Edited by Fabrice Correia and Benjamin Schnieder, 37–80. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Greco, John and Ruth Groff, eds. Powers and Capacities in Philosophy: The New Aristotelianism. 1st ed. Routledge, 2013.

Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 45.4.

Hart, David Bentley. The Experience of God. Michigan: Yale University Press, 2013.

Hasker, William. Metaphysics and the Tri-Personal God. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Heil, John. The Universe as We Find It. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Jacobs, Jonathan D., ed. Causal Powers. First edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.

Kerr, Fergus. After Aquinas: Versions of Thomism. Oxford: Blackwell, 2002.

Koslicki, Kathrin. “Questions of Ontology.” In Ontology after Carnap. Edited by Stephan Blatti and Sandra Lapointe, 220–41. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.

Leftow, Brian. “A Latin Trinity.” Faith and Philosophy 21, no. 3 (2004): 304–33. doi:10.5840/faithphil200421328.

—. “Modes without Modalism.” In Persons: Human and divine. Edited by Peter van Inwagen and Dean W. Zimmerman, 357–75. Oxford, New York: Clarendon Press, 2007.

—. “Anti Social Trinitarianism.” In Philosophical and Theological Essays on the Trinity. Edited by Michael C. Rea and Thomas H. McCall, 52–88. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

—. “Two Trinities: reply to Hasker.” Religious Studies 46, no. 04 (2010): 441–47. doi:10.1017/S003441251000017X.

—. God and Necessity. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Lowe, E. J. The Possibility of Metaphysics: Substance, Identity and Time. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Lowe, E. Jonathan. “On the Individuation of Powers.” In The Metaphysics of Powers: Their Grounding and Their Manifestations. Edited by Anna Marmodoro, 8–26. Routledge studies in metaphysics 2. New York, NY: Routledge, 2010.

Makin, Mark. “God from God: The Essential Dependence Model of Eternal Generation.” Religious Studies (forthcoming).

Mann, William E. “Simplicity and Properties: A Reply to Morris.” Religious Studies 22, 3-4 (1986): 343–53. doi:10.1017/S0034412500018369.

Marmodoro, Anna, ed. The Metaphysics of Powers: Their Grounding and Their Manifestations. Routledge studies in metaphysics 2. New York, NY: Routledge, 2010.

—. Aristotle on Perceiving Objects. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

—. “Aristotelian Powers at Work.” In Causal Powers. Edited by Jonathan D. Jacobs. First edition, 57–76. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.

—. “Power Mereology: structural versus Substantial Powers.” In Philosophical and Scientific Perspectives on Downward Causation. Edited by Michele Paolini Paoletti and Francesco Orilia, 110–27. Routledge Studies in Contemporary Philosophy. Milton: Taylor and Francis, 2017.

McCall, Thomas H. Which Trinity? Whose Monotheism? Philosophical and Systematic Theologians on the Metaphysics of Trinitarian Theology. Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 2010.

McGrath, Alister E. Christian Theology: An Introduction. 5th ed. Chichester, West Sussex, U.K, Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

Molnar, George. Powers: A Study in Metaphysics. With the assistance of Stephen Mumford. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2003.

Moltmann, Jürgen. The Trinity and the Kingdom: The Doctrine of God. Harper & Row, 1981.

Moreland, James P., and William Lane Craig. Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview. InterVarsity Press, 2003.

Mumford, Stephen. Dispositions. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2003.

—. Laws in Nature. Routledge studies in twentieth century philosophy 18. London: Routledge, 2004.

Mumford, Stephen, and Rani Lill Anjum. Getting Causes from Powers. OUP Oxford, 2011.

Oppy, Graham. Describing Gods: An Investigation of Divine Attributes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Pannenberg, Wolfhart, and Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1991.

Polkinghorne, John. “The Demise of Democritus.” In Trinity and an Entangled World: Relationality in Physical Science and Theology. Edited by John Polkinghorne, 1–14. Eerdmans, 2010.

Rahner, Karl. The Trinity. Seabury Press, 1970.

Rogers, Katherin. “The Traditional Doctrine of Divine Simplicity.” Religious Studies 32, no. 02 (1996): 165–86. doi:10.1017/S0034412500024215.

Schaffer, Johnathan. “On What Grounds What.” In Metametaphysics: New essays on the foundations of ontology. Edited by David J. Chalmers, David Manley and Ryan Wasserman, 347–83. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Schaffer, Jonathan. “Grounding in the image of causation.” Philosophical Studies 173, no. 1 (2016): 49–100. doi:10.1007/s11098-014-0438-1.

Strawson, Peter F. “Reply to Evans.” In Philosophical Subjects: Essays Presented to P.F. Strawson. Edited by Zak van Straaten, 273–82. Oxford University Press, 1980.

Swinburne, Richard. The coherence of theism. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977.

—. The Christian God. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994.

Turner, Hugh E. “Modalism.” In The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology. Edited by Alan Richardson and John Bowden, 375. Westminster John Knox Press, 1983.

Vallicella, William F. “Divine Simplicity.” Faith and Philosophy 9, no. 4 (1992): 508–25. doi:10.5840/faithphil19929441.

Vetter, Barbara. “Multi-track Dispositions.” Philosophical Quarterly 63, no. 251 (2013): 330–52. doi:10.1111/1467-9213.12024.

—. Potentiality: From Dispositions to Modality. First edition. Oxford philosophical monographs. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.

Ward, Keith. Christ and the cosmos: A Reformulation of Trinitarian Doctrine. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Ware, Kallistos M. “The Holy Trinity: Model for Personhood-in-Relation.” In Trinity and an Entangled World: Relationality in Physical Science and Theology. Edited by John Polkinghorne, 107–29. Eerdmans, 2010.



How to Cite

Page, Ben. 2017. “The ‘Power’-Ful Trinity”. European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 9 (4):155-80.