Ferguson's Paradox and the Trinity

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JohnDB

Well-known member
Jan 16, 2021
5,706
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#1
Shortly before the Colonies in America started their fight for independence (about 35 years before) a scientist was at a dinner party when a brewha started over the theology of the trinity. A watchmaker was present and tried to get the scientist Ferguson involved in the discussion.

For those who know....gear teeth are highly complicated feats of engineering....they must be identical to mesh or else they will jam up. Usually the number of teeth determines the size of the gear circumference made.

But Ferguson made a simple gizmo showing how three gear wheels of all the same size could actually behave independently when turned by one wide gear wheel of the same size. The watchmaker was shocked and declared that Ferguson understood more about the Trinity than he did.

Interesting story and orrery....

You can Google or read something about it here:

https://www.armstrongmetalcrafts.com/Products/ParadoxOrrery.aspx
 

wattie

Senior Member
Feb 24, 2009
3,062
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New Zealand
#2
That is a nice analogy. As far as the mechanics go of the Trinity, it goes beyond human comprehension, but the facts of the Holy Spirit, the Father and the Son being co-equal, co-eternal, all fully God are plain to see in scripture.

I like to see it as one being, God.. showing Himself in three essences/manifestations all at the same time, the manifestations being distinct.. sure.. but not seperate.

Problem with this is calling Jesus.. just a 'manifestation' or 'essence' .. so there it goes beyond human analogies.

The key thing being Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit are all equally, fully God.
 

JohnDB

Well-known member
Jan 16, 2021
5,706
2,233
113
#3
That is a nice analogy. As far as the mechanics go of the Trinity, it goes beyond human comprehension, but the facts of the Holy Spirit, the Father and the Son being co-equal, co-eternal, all fully God are plain to see in scripture.

I like to see it as one being, God.. showing Himself in three essences/manifestations all at the same time, the manifestations being distinct.. sure.. but not seperate.

Problem with this is calling Jesus.. just a 'manifestation' or 'essence' .. so there it goes beyond human analogies.

The key thing being Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit are all equally, fully God.
Of course it is not comprehensible...we are but human.

But the thing that caught my attention was that the same arguments are still being performed here 250 years later....of course with the same results as 250 years ago.

The other thing that caught my attention was the watchmaker's ability to admit defeat. No hubris. That sort of thing doesn't happen today.

I've been wrong and instructed others wrong when leading small groups....then Psalm 50 comes to mind and I feel so horrible about it all. Nobody ever wishes to admit that they can be wrong or are wrong but they do so because they have some form of humility.

Engineering gear trains is complicated stuff. Lots and lots of trigonometry and algebra are needed in a day and time when calculators and cell phone apps do everything for you so nobody even tries. But back then a watchmaker was the highest skilled trade. Those were the smart guys doing extremely smart stuff.

It obviously was an elite of the elite dinner party...as Ferguson was a scientist and the watchmaker was a high skill and the other members of the dinner were all having a heated discussion. All trying to "outsmart" one another.

I would have liked to have met and known the watchmaker.
 

Eli1

Well-known member
Apr 5, 2022
3,374
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46
#4
Here’s a modern visual design of the Trinity which is explained as higher dimensions.

 

JohnDB

Well-known member
Jan 16, 2021
5,706
2,233
113
#5
Here’s a modern visual design of the Trinity which is explained as higher dimensions.

Maybe you should actually read this thread instead of just the title and skimming the content.
 

oyster67

Senior Member
May 24, 2014
11,887
8,701
113
#6
The most important thing is to acknowledge the deity and perfection of Jesus. That is why there is soul-cleansing power in His blood. We serve a living and all-powerful Savior who is without beginning and without end.
 

markss

Active member
Feb 10, 2020
112
53
28
#7
The most important thing is to acknowledge the deity and perfection of Jesus. That is why there is soul-cleansing power in His blood. We serve a living and all-powerful Savior who is without beginning and without end.
We're being made into His image. We are being renewed according to our knowledge of Him. It behooves us to have correct knowledge of the Most High.

Much love!
 

wattie

Senior Member
Feb 24, 2009
3,062
1,036
113
New Zealand
#8
Of course it is not comprehensible...we are but human.

But the thing that caught my attention was that the same arguments are still being performed here 250 years later....of course with the same results as 250 years ago.

The other thing that caught my attention was the watchmaker's ability to admit defeat. No hubris. That sort of thing doesn't happen today.

I've been wrong and instructed others wrong when leading small groups....then Psalm 50 comes to mind and I feel so horrible about it all. Nobody ever wishes to admit that they can be wrong or are wrong but they do so because they have some form of humility.

Engineering gear trains is complicated stuff. Lots and lots of trigonometry and algebra are needed in a day and time when calculators and cell phone apps do everything for you so nobody even tries. But back then a watchmaker was the highest skilled trade. Those were the smart guys doing extremely smart stuff.

It obviously was an elite of the elite dinner party...as Ferguson was a scientist and the watchmaker was a high skill and the other members of the dinner were all having a heated discussion. All trying to "outsmart" one another.

I would have liked to have met and known the watchmaker.
Yeah that would have been quite something. The best scientists and academics are generally personable aswell... hence why they are at the top of their field. I have a friend who got all As through doing Electrical Engineering (the hardest kind) at university. I think he was in the top 3 students of the uni full stop.

But his dad is a truck driver.. and his manner is down to earth, regular jo blogs. So he was in high demand!
 

JohnDB

Well-known member
Jan 16, 2021
5,706
2,233
113
#9
Yeah that would have been quite something. The best scientists and academics are generally personable aswell... hence why they are at the top of their field. I have a friend who got all As through doing Electrical Engineering (the hardest kind) at university. I think he was in the top 3 students of the uni full stop.

But his dad is a truck driver.. and his manner is down to earth, regular jo blogs. So he was in high demand!
I studied electrics....it's not impossibly difficult. Just a lot of math. As a lead electrical foreman engineering solutions for complicated problems is par for the course. I've worked with "engineers " when repairing a control cabinet and they go through convoluted steps to just throw a transformer at an issue of a dropped neutral....while I was trying to figure out where the neutral got dropped.

And if that electric speak confuses you... basically the young engineers threw $300+ dollars at a $0.10 problem we knew was coming from reworking the production line in a Car manufacturing plant. Yes it solved the problem...but by using our heads it would have avoided the expensive transformer and just used about a foot of control wire. Something we could have grabbed from the mountains of scrap. He acted like the "Hero of the People's Republic" and I was just a dumb donkey servant....I kept my mouth shut though...one of my better achievements.

Mechanical engineering is a bit different. I'm squeezing my head trying to understand machining currently...which is how I came across the article and subject. I'm going to have to build a machine shop eventually and tool it up....how to solve my equipment needs is my biggest concern...

I think I'm going to have to grab some textbooks and stop using the internet so much. Most hobbyist machinists just make tooling and toys...I plan on something a bit more productive than what is referred to as "Yak shaving". I was planning on making some artistisan clocks and one off pieces for airplanes and boats...possibly tractors too. Dunno....I'll see what comes.

Gonna have to move out to the farm first.
 

wattie

Senior Member
Feb 24, 2009
3,062
1,036
113
New Zealand
#10
I studied electrics....it's not impossibly difficult. Just a lot of math. As a lead electrical foreman engineering solutions for complicated problems is par for the course. I've worked with "engineers " when repairing a control cabinet and they go through convoluted steps to just throw a transformer at an issue of a dropped neutral....while I was trying to figure out where the neutral got dropped.

And if that electric speak confuses you... basically the young engineers threw $300+ dollars at a $0.10 problem we knew was coming from reworking the production line in a Car manufacturing plant. Yes it solved the problem...but by using our heads it would have avoided the expensive transformer and just used about a foot of control wire. Something we could have grabbed from the mountains of scrap. He acted like the "Hero of the People's Republic" and I was just a dumb donkey servant....I kept my mouth shut though...one of my better achievements.

Mechanical engineering is a bit different. I'm squeezing my head trying to understand machining currently...which is how I came across the article and subject. I'm going to have to build a machine shop eventually and tool it up....how to solve my equipment needs is my biggest concern...

I think I'm going to have to grab some textbooks and stop using the internet so much. Most hobbyist machinists just make tooling and toys...I plan on something a bit more productive than what is referred to as "Yak shaving". I was planning on making some artistisan clocks and one off pieces for airplanes and boats...possibly tractors too. Dunno....I'll see what comes.

Gonna have to move out to the farm first.
Reminds me a little of Warehousing logistics, where managers problem solve to improve efficiency and supply chain issues.

I've done a lot of warehousing as a peon, and get frustrated with managers prioritizing money saving and efficiency over staff well being.
 

Komentaja

Active member
Jul 29, 2022
428
225
43
#11
Don't know if you guys know Beau Branson but he is Eastern Orthodox and the way they view the trinity is how I believe it. It is compatible with the Bible, and the Nicene Creed as well.

Check him out if you want to hear a more ancient view of the trinity. "Monarchy of the Father"

NOTE: Just because I agree with the ancient view of the trinity the eastern orthodox have does NOT mean I endorse any and every teaching they have, I don't even know all that they teach, nor am I a member, but in this case, I think they got it spot on.
 
Oct 15, 2022
99
22
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#14
The Godhead is one of the easiest things in the world to understand. An Elementary School student could figure it out. The problem is believing the answer.
 

Angela53510

Senior Member
Jan 24, 2011
11,782
2,947
113
#15
That is a nice analogy. As far as the mechanics go of the Trinity, it goes beyond human comprehension, but the facts of the Holy Spirit, the Father and the Son being co-equal, co-eternal, all fully God are plain to see in scripture.

I like to see it as one being, God.. showing Himself in three essences/manifestations all at the same time, the manifestations being distinct.. sure.. but not seperate.

Problem with this is calling Jesus.. just a 'manifestation' or 'essence' .. so there it goes beyond human analogies.

The key thing being Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit are all equally, fully God.
To say the three persons of the Godhead are "manifestations" or "essences" is heresy!

In fact, here is a definition:

"Sabellianism: Sabellianism is named for its founder Sabellius (fl. 2nd century). It is sometimes referred to as modalistic monarchianism. The father, son, and holy ghost are three modes, roles, or faces of a single person, God. This, of course, implies that Jesus Christ was purely divine, without humanness, and therefore could not truly have suffered or died."

https://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/heresies.html

Each of the three are persons (Latin) or in Greek as hypostaseis (pl) or singular: ὑπόστασις. That is:

"(in Trinitarian doctrine) each of the three persons of the Trinity, as contrasted with the unity of the Godhead."

"Mainstream Christian theologians nearly always reject “modalism”, meaning a one-self theory like that of Sabellius (fl. 220), an obscure figure who was thought to teach that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are sequential, non-essential modes, something like ways God interacts with his creation. Thus, in one epoch, God exists in the mode of Father, during the first century he exists as Son, and then after Christ’s resurrection and ascension, he exists as Holy Spirit (Leftow 2004, 327; McGrath 2007, 254–5; Pelikan 1971, 179). Sabellian modalism is usually rejected on the grounds that such modes are strictly sequential, or because they are not intrinsic features of God, or because they are intrinsic but not essential features of God. The first aspect of Sabellian modalism conflicts with episodes in the New Testament where the three appear simultaneously, such as the Baptism of Jesus in Matthew 3:16–7. The last two are widely held to be objectionable because it is held that a doctrine of the Trinity should tell us about how God really is, not merely about how God appears, or because a trinitarian doctrine should express (some of) God’s essence. Sabellian and other ancient modalists are sometimes called “monarchians” because they upheld the sole monarchy of the Father, or “patripassians” for their (alleged) acceptance of the view that the Father (and not only the Son) suffered in the life of the man Jesus."

According to Karl Barth:
"As God is in Himself Father from all eternity, He begets Himself as the Son from all eternity. As He is the Son from all eternity, He is begotten of Himself as the Father from all eternity. In this eternal begetting of Himself and being begotten of Himself, He posits Himself a third time as the Holy Spirit, that is, as the love which unites Him in Himself." (Barth 1956, 1)

All of Barth’s capitalized pronouns here refer to one and the same self, the self-revealing God, eternally existing in three ways. Similarly, Rahner says that God:

"…is – at once and necessarily – the unoriginate who mediates himself to himself (Father), the one who is in truth uttered for himself (Son), and the one who is received and accepted in love for himself (Spirit) – and… as a result of this, he [i.e. God] is the one who can freely communicate himself." (Rahner 1997, 101–2)

Similarly, theologian Alastair McGrath writes that:
…when we talk about God as one person, we mean one person in the modern sense of the word [i.e. a self], and when we talk about God as three persons, we mean three persons in the ancient sense of the word[i.e. a persona or role that is played]. (McGrath 1988, 131)​
 

wattie

Senior Member
Feb 24, 2009
3,062
1,036
113
New Zealand
#16
To say the three persons of the Godhead are "manifestations" or "essences" is heresy!

In fact, here is a definition:

"Sabellianism: Sabellianism is named for its founder Sabellius (fl. 2nd century). It is sometimes referred to as modalistic monarchianism. The father, son, and holy ghost are three modes, roles, or faces of a single person, God. This, of course, implies that Jesus Christ was purely divine, without humanness, and therefore could not truly have suffered or died."

https://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/heresies.html

Each of the three are persons (Latin) or in Greek as hypostaseis (pl) or singular: ὑπόστασις. That is:

"(in Trinitarian doctrine) each of the three persons of the Trinity, as contrasted with the unity of the Godhead."

"Mainstream Christian theologians nearly always reject “modalism”, meaning a one-self theory like that of Sabellius (fl. 220), an obscure figure who was thought to teach that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are sequential, non-essential modes, something like ways God interacts with his creation. Thus, in one epoch, God exists in the mode of Father, during the first century he exists as Son, and then after Christ’s resurrection and ascension, he exists as Holy Spirit (Leftow 2004, 327; McGrath 2007, 254–5; Pelikan 1971, 179). Sabellian modalism is usually rejected on the grounds that such modes are strictly sequential, or because they are not intrinsic features of God, or because they are intrinsic but not essential features of God. The first aspect of Sabellian modalism conflicts with episodes in the New Testament where the three appear simultaneously, such as the Baptism of Jesus in Matthew 3:16–7. The last two are widely held to be objectionable because it is held that a doctrine of the Trinity should tell us about how God really is, not merely about how God appears, or because a trinitarian doctrine should express (some of) God’s essence. Sabellian and other ancient modalists are sometimes called “monarchians” because they upheld the sole monarchy of the Father, or “patripassians” for their (alleged) acceptance of the view that the Father (and not only the Son) suffered in the life of the man Jesus."

According to Karl Barth:
"As God is in Himself Father from all eternity, He begets Himself as the Son from all eternity. As He is the Son from all eternity, He is begotten of Himself as the Father from all eternity. In this eternal begetting of Himself and being begotten of Himself, He posits Himself a third time as the Holy Spirit, that is, as the love which unites Him in Himself." (Barth 1956, 1)

All of Barth’s capitalized pronouns here refer to one and the same self, the self-revealing God, eternally existing in three ways. Similarly, Rahner says that God:

"…is – at once and necessarily – the unoriginate who mediates himself to himself (Father), the one who is in truth uttered for himself (Son), and the one who is received and accepted in love for himself (Spirit) – and… as a result of this, he [i.e. God] is the one who can freely communicate himself." (Rahner 1997, 101–2)

Similarly, theologian Alastair McGrath writes that:
…when we talk about God as one person, we mean one person in the modern sense of the word [i.e. a self], and when we talk about God as three persons, we mean three persons in the ancient sense of the word[i.e. a persona or role that is played]. (McGrath 1988, 131)​
I only use those terms because 'persons' makes me think of seperate beings. I don't believe the trinity operates as modalism.. God is all three at the same time. Not going from one to the other like sock puppets.

I have the same way of looking at trinity as the traditional 'persons' view.. I just don't like the word 'persons'

If they are seperate beings.. that looks like Polytheism. So I see it as one being.. God.. in 3 manifestations/essences.. but I could use the term persons -- since that would make more sense when Jesus is talking to the Father. Rather than a manifestation talking to a manifestation.

Like I said.. it falls short of really capturing the Trinity.. I just don't like the term 'persons'
 
P

persistent

Guest
#17
Shortly before the Colonies in America started their fight for independence (about 35 years before) a scientist was at a dinner party when a brewha started over the theology of the trinity. A watchmaker was present and tried to get the scientist Ferguson involved in the discussion.
I didn't check out the link but since you brought a 'scientist' into the topic and Einstein comes to mind as having recognized the correctness of 'a' Creator'. Don't know exactly what he believed but among scientific types the occasional reference to 'a' Creator' occurs.

I have a copy of this book>>>The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question? is a 1993 popular science book by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Leon M. Lederman and science writer Dick Teresi. Wikipedia Einstein and Teresi and Lederman and etc. if any believe the Bible would the atomic structure they are now finding to be INCREDIBLY complex turn them more toward believing and analogizing or more agnostic? Rhetorical question I hope you see.

The little amount of science man has been given to manipulate and somewhat understand is to the average man, especially politicians, incomprehensible. In your 'mechanics' analogy there are three gears. But your analogy makes me think of the atom as the 1)proton...2)neutron.......3)electron.......and whatever forces make it work is the way my little pea brain imagines at least 4 components if the 'forces' are counted as 1.
Then a look at Maxwell>>>Maxwell's equations, or Maxwell–Heaviside equations, are a set of coupled partial differential equations that, together with the Lorentz force law, form the foundation of classical electromagnetism, classical optics, and electric circuits. Wikipedia ......And these are generally presented as 4 equations.

Interesting note; M. Faraday asked J.C. Maxwell if he could somehow make these equations understandable. About twenty years ago I came across a book that gives them in plain English and it is a most perplexing explanation. Personally a lot of theory perplexes me. So the number 4 comes up with the atom and EMF as opposed to 3 with gears. Then consider looking at everything in a 'mechanistic' way.

So we know the Bible tells us>>>1 Corinthians 2:11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.>>>So if God has given man to understand some amount of science is it 'things of God' in that science? I think we look at modern developments as 'gifts of God'.

A Recollection; In the 1980's it may have been Digital Equipment Corporation that some were possibly looking upon with some contempt when it was revealed that employees were praying for insight as to what direction to go or possibly how to accomplish some goal.

Not any analogy here but just an observation. Most recently the Protein Folding solution was achieved using AI. If you aren't familiar this is to easily determine the structure of any molecule and by so doing the development of treatments or therapies or drugs will be greatly aided.
 

soberxp

Senior Member
May 3, 2018
2,511
482
83
#18
I don't really see what this has to do with the Trinity. If you look for the relationship between concentric circles, it might help a little bit. Concentric circles of different sizes are jumping around a central point, and if you understand that the center is God's will, then the other circles are just skipping their own will to do God's will.

Concentric circles are things like car tires
 
P

persistent

Guest
#19
I don't really see what this has to do with the Trinity. If you look for the relationship between concentric circles, it might help a little bit. Concentric circles of different sizes are jumping around a central point, and if you understand that the center is God's will, then the other circles are just skipping their own will to do God's will.

Concentric circles are things like car tires
The OP brought up #3 with gears and In nature the #4 may be more likely to occur. Is there any significance to the #4?
 
P

persistent

Guest
#20
The OP brought up #3 with gears and In nature the #4 may be more likely to occur. Is there any significance to the #4?
Just hit me that there are claims the Fibonacci series is natural. 1 1 2 3 5 8 13 21