Human philosophy is at a loss when it comes to explaining the world we live in. As human beings, we experience both unity and diversity in our world. Unity is observed in what we all have in common as humans: in common dreams, hopes, fears, struggles. Our brains tend to follow similar patterns of logic. We can read a news report about a person from an entirely different culture, who speaks a different language, and sense a commonality with that person. We can even empathize with her if her parents have been ruthlessly murdered in cold blood, or be happy for her if she wins a prize. This commonality bespeaks an underlying unity to mankind. There is an underlying unity between human beings, and this also allows for communication from one person to another. The English language, for example, works as a way for me to convey the ideas I am now expressing because there is enough unity among human beings that we can assign common definitions to words and convey meaning to one another. I can type in a way that the reader can understand, and this points to an essential unity in human existence. Although English is only one of many human languages, any human can learn English with enough practice. This unity between human beings is also seen in many ways in the world around us, like when a bird helps pick insects from a rhino, an act of mutual cooperation which benefits both, and when ants communicate with each other to alert the colony of an approaching green lizard. Diversity is seen in the multiplicity of all that exists in our world. The many stars in their own different solar systems, the diversity of lifeforms on earth from infectious bacteria to wrinkled Grey Elephants, and the diversity of human races, languages, and individual opinions are all manifestations of diversity in our world. What are we to make of the fact that the world is unified and that it is diverse at the same time?
Human philosophy, which tries to make sense of the universe around us, has attempted to explain, account for, or understand how our world can be both unified and diverse, as shown in the examples described. After all, if the world were only unity, how could we have so many different dog species, or flavors of barbecue sauce? If it were only diversity, we could not even have a discussion because there would be no common understandings of words or their meanings. How are we to make sense of all this? As human beings we see diversity all around us in the world we inhabit, but we have an intuitive sense of an underlying unity which is behind it all. The great Greek philosopher of the ancient world, Plato, tried different methods of thinking in attempts to explain the unity and diversity in the world. But each time he failed, because the diversity that we experience in the world around us would not give him any clues as to where the perceived unity has its foundation. Modern thinking has not been able to get any farther in solving the problem of the unity and diversity in the universe than Plato did. If only the material world exists, and the supernatural is a fiction, as some today would say, then where does the underlying unity, that we perceive intuitively, come from? Universal laws of human behavior, the laws of physics, laws of grammar, etc. point to a unity underlying them all. The modern thinker just can’t explain this other than just to shrug and say it must exist somehowi.
The riddle of the unity and diversity in our world is only solvable by the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Since the Creator of the Universe is a Trinity, that is, one God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, from all eternity, He is the root of the unity and diversity that exists in our world. Since our world is a reflection of Him, and He is one God in three Persons, therefore it is easy to see how our world can exhibit such unity and diversity at the same time. Conceptions of God like that of Islam, which teaches that God is only one person, not three, cannot account for the wide diversity in the world that we experience. How could such a diverse world be created by a monolithic god? Materialism, which takes all its cues from the physical world around us, cannot explain the unity which under-girds us. Only the Bible with its teaching of a God who is One in Three can make sense of the world that we live in. And although we cannot fully understand the Trinity, yet we can see that the unity of essence and diversity of persons in God is the root of the unity and diversity that we experience here below.
i I am indebted in my thinking on this topic to the published works of Conelius Van Til, 1885-1987.