What we say about God and what we ascribe to Him can be very challenging. Philosophical constructs can assist us in understanding what we are trying to articulate about God, but they may only represent our imperfect attempt to approximate our understanding when we speak about the Divine. Paul Thom discusses the earliest Christian community and their appreciation of Platonic Philosophy in particular. He writes.
In the early years of Christianity, when any educated person knew Platonic philosophy, it was natural that these ideas should be given a theistic reinterpretation. God, after all, is thought of as an ultimate source, and therefore is naturally thought of in terms that are both reflexive and transcendent.
When we consider what could be stated about God, two alternatives emerging could be identity statements and then statements of predication. Identity statements and statements of predication are two fundamental types of statements in logic and language. Here’s an explanation of the key differences between them:
Identity Statements: An identity statement asserts that two expressions or terms refer to the same thing or have the same referent. It is typically represented by the symbol “=,” read as “equals” or “is identical to.” An example will be, for instance: “Aristotle = the philosopher who taught Alexander the Great.” This statement asserts that the term “Aristotle” and the term “the philosopher who taught Alexander the Great” refer to the same individual.
Statements of Predication: Statements of predication assert a property or attribute about a subject. They involve using a predicate (a verb or an adjective) to describe a subject. An example of this would be: “Socrates is wise.” This statement predicates the attribute “wise” to the subject “Socrates,” asserting that Socrates possesses the attribute of wisdom.
It is therefore important to note that when we make identity statements and statements of predication we are speaking about two types of statements that differ in their meaning and structure. To nuance this even more when we look at it philosophically, we can structure it in the following way.
Identity statements assert that two entities are the same. They are typically of the form “A is B,” where A and B are terms that refer to the same entity. For example, “The Morning Star is the Evening Star” and “Tully is Cicero” are both identity statements.
Statements of predication assert that an entity has a particular property or characteristic. They are typically of the form “A is P,” where A is a term and P is a predicate. For example, “The Morning Star is bright” and “Tully is a Roman orator” are both statements of predication.
One key difference between identity statements and statements of predication is that identity statements are informative, while statements of predication are not. This is because identity statements tell us something new about the entities involved, namely that they are the same.
An example of this would be: If we know that the Morning Star is the Evening Star, then we also know that the Morning Star is bright since the Evening Star is bright. However, statements of predication tell us something about an entity that we already know. For example, if we know that Ben is a conductor, then we already know that he is a person. We therefore assert personal agency when we ascribe to Ben the predicate that human agents fulfil.
Another difference between identity statements and statements of predication is that identity statements are necessary, while statements of predication are contingent. This means that identity statements cannot be false, while statements of predication can be false. For example, it is impossible for the Morning Star to be different from the Evening Star, since they are the same entity. However, it is possible for Tully to not be a Roman orator, if, for example, he were to lose his memory.
Here is a table summarizing the key differences between identity statements and statements of predication:
|Characteristic||Identity statements||Statements of predication|
|Structure||A is B||A is P|
The Morning Star is the Evening Star.
Tully is Cicero.
The Morning Star is bright.
Tully is a Roman orator.
Identity and Predication in Trinitarian Theology
Now when it comes to our understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity, we can apply the following logic when we speak about the reality Christians describe when they speak about God. When discussing each person of the Christian Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit), the distinction between identity statements and statements of predication takes on a theological significance. Here’s how these differences apply within the context of the Trinity:
Identity Statements in the Trinity:
Identity statements within the Trinity assert that each person of the Trinity is the same God. They emphasize the essential unity and oneness of God. Examples of identity statements:
– “God the Father = God the Son = God the Holy Spirit.”
– “Each person of the Trinity shares the divine essence.”
These identity statements underscore the doctrine of the Trinity, which teaches that there is one God who exists in three distinct persons.
Statements of Predication in the Trinity:
Statements of predication in the Trinity describe the distinct roles, attributes, or functions of each person of the Trinity. Examples of statements of predication:
“God the Father is the Creator of the universe.”
“God the Son became incarnate as Jesus Christ.”
“God the Holy Spirit is the Comforter and Counselor.”
These statements emphasize the unique characteristics and activities of each person of the Trinity within the context of their relationship with creation and humanity. Now we should also note some key differences in a Trinitarian context.
Identity Statements: In the Trinity, identity statements affirm the oneness of God and the equality of the three persons in terms of their divine essence. These should not be confused. William Lane Craig argues;
The Trinity is the sole instance of the divine nature, and therefore there is but one God. So while the statement “The Trinity is God” is an identity statement, statements about the persons like “The Father is God” are not identity statements. Rather they perform other functions, such as ascribing a title or office to a person (like “Belshazzar is King,” which is not incompatible with there being co-regents) or ascribing a property to a person (a way of saying, “The Father is divine,” as one might say, “Belshazzar is regal”). .
Statements of Predication: Statements of predication in the Trinity highlight the distinct roles and activities of each person within the Godhead, emphasizing their specific interactions with creation and humanity. Matthew Barrett writes,
The Father is unbegotten: The Bible calls the Father, Father, because He begets His Son (paternity), though himself is begotten by no one.
The Son is begotten (generated): the Bible calls the Son, Son because he is begotten by His Father (filiation).
The Spirit is Spirated: The Bible calls the Spirit, Spirit because he is breathed out [send] by the Father and the Son (spiration)…
… eternity, filiation, and spiration are properties unique to each person. The Persons are identical in all things except these personal properties [predications]. 
We can, therefore, note that identity statements aim to articulate the doctrine of the Trinity and the shared divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Statements of predication provide theological insight into how each person of the Trinity relates to the world and to believers. It’s important to note that the distinction between identity and predication statements in the context of the Trinity is a complex theological matter, and interpretations may vary among Christian denominations and theologians. Theological discussions about the nature of the Trinity often involve a careful examination of both identity and predication statements to understand the relationship between the persons of the Trinity and their interactions with creation. Paul Copan mentions that;
When we [Biblical Tirnitarians] say, “Jesus is God,” therefore, we are using the is to describe or predicate, not identify or equate. Jesus is God in that he possesses a nature that only two other persons share; therefore, there is not just one person who can properly be called God… we must make distinctions between the persons of the Trinity and the one nature or essence they share. Again, threeness pertains to persons, and oneness pertains to nature or essence. 
In the study of God and the Trinity, we encounter the distinction between identity statements and statements of predication. Identity statements affirm the fundamental oneness of God in the context of the Trinity, emphasizing that each person (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is the same God. This echoes the doctrine of the Trinity, underscoring a shared divine essence. For instance, saying “God the Father = God the Son = God the Holy Spirit” embodies this unity. Conversely, statements of predication delineate the distinct roles, attributes, and functions of each person within the Trinity, emphasizing their unique interactions with creation and humanity. For example, “God the Father is the Creator” or “God the Son became incarnate” illuminate these distinct aspects of their divine identity and activities. Understanding these distinct types of statements is vital for comprehending the complex theological nature of the Trinity.
 The Logic of the Trinity, Pg.4.
 Thomas McCall and Michael Rea. Philosophical and Theological Essays on the Trinity, Pg.103.
 Simply Trinity: The Unminipulated Father, Son, and Spirit. Pg.59.
 That’s just your interpretation, Pg.123.