About the Trinity

I have some questions about the Trinity.

About the Trinity, are the following statements true?

(1) The Father is God.

(2) The Son is God.

(3) The Father is not the Son.

If they are true, how is it possible? How can X is Z, and Y is Z, and X is not Y?

If they are not true, what is the error?

You forgot the Holy Spirit

lol :blush: . . . something I’m also prone to do on occasion (well, maybe not “forget”, but at least “neglect”- apart from when making the sign of the Cross) - praying much more often to the Father and to our Blessed Lord Jesus.

Could not exactly the same question then be asked of a human father and son ; and in so doing , wouldn’t we find the difference between person and essence ?

For example:

(1) The father is human.

(2) The son is human.

(3) The father is not the son.

From Modern Catholic Dictionary ; Fr. John Hardon, S.J.

A term used since A.D. 200 to denote the central doctrine of the Christian religion. God, who is one and unique in his infinite substance or nature, is three really distinct persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The one and only God Is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Yet God the Father is not God the Son, but generates the Son eternally, as the Son is eternally begotten. The Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son, but a distinct person having his divine nature from the Father and the Son by eternal procession. The three divine persons are co-equal, co-eternal, and consubstantial and deserve co-equal glory and adoration.

The nature of God as mentally distinguished from the persons and the attributes of God. Thus each of the three divine persons has one and the same essence. And the different attributes of God are objectively identical with the divine essence.

Oh, I am just talking about that three statements. I know there is the Holy Spirit. I just don’t mention the Holy Spirt in that three statements.

They are different. In my case, X, Y and Z are all specific, for example, they can be a certain man, but cannot be “human”, which is not specific.

It seems that the Father, the Son, and God are all specific.

God the Father is a person.
God the Son is a person.
God the Holy Spirit is a person.
The Holy Trinity is these three persons in one God.
God is a unity of these persons.

The link below to a section on the Trinity from Frank Sheed’s Theology and Sanity may help shed some light on the topic. The Trinity is not an arithmetic problem, and when we say that there is one nature who is three persons (or three persons who possess one nature), we have different and precise meanings for the terms “nature” and “persons”. It must not be interpreted as “three natures in one nature” or “three persons in one person”. Either of those two formulations is not just difficult; it’s nonsense. I highly recommend giving this a read:


Father, Son, and Holy Spirit answer the question “who”.

God answers the question “what”.

Persons and natures.

I highly recommend the book Theology For Beginners by Frank Sheed. This will help you immensely in this regard.

No worries. :dove: . I don’t know the answer.

The person of the Father is God, and the person of the Son is God, the person of the Holy Spirit is God, but the persons of the Father and the Son and Holy Spirit are not the same, yet they share the same essence.

Sticking with your alphabet example at the end, it’d be more like this:

X is a letter, Y is a letter, Z is a letter…X is not Y is not Z, but X and Y and Z all have the same essence as a letter of the alphabet.

Its not a perfect analogy, but I think it might get the point across for this purposes of this discussion.

I suggest we avoid all analogies in this case, as analogies inevitably will fail.

Socrates is a man, Plato is a man, Aristotle is a man. Socrates is not Plato and is not Aristotle, and Plato is not Aristotle, but all have the same essence of man. You can see that this becomes a poor analogy for God, because Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle each have individual natures, with one person per nature, and there are three natures for three persons. The analogy would suggest that there are therefore three Gods and not one God, just as there are three men and not one man, just as there are three letters and not one letter.

But with God, there is only one nature who is three persons, or three persons who possess one nature.

Yeah, I know analogies for the Trinity will fail, but he provided the lettering system as part of his understanding and so I thought I would use that same (somewhat corrected) version of the analogy to answer his question. I know analogies will fail, either quickly/easily or after further scrutiny, but IMO if we recognize the shortcomings of the analogy (such as what you just pointed out), I don’t think there is anything wrong with using them for some assistance.

Analogies certainly do have their uses.

I wanted to further respond to part of the original post.

Bill Clinton wasn’t being entirely non-sensical when he said, “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” When speaking of the Trinity, the word “is” should not be construed as mathematical equivalency or mathematical identity. When speaking of the Trinity, stating that “The Father is God, The Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God” should be understood as meaning “The Father entirely possesses the one nature of God, The Son entirely possesses the one nature of God, the Holy Spirit entirely possesses the one nature of God.” But the Father is not the Son or the Holy Spirit, and the Son is not the Holy Spirit, and there is only one nature of God.

Admittedly, this is still not something that the human mind easily wraps itself around. But it’s not mathematical nonsense we are speaking here. The hurdle is in understanding that there is a distinction between nature and person even amongst the things we are familiar with such as you and I. It is then understanding that our common sense notion that there is a one-to-one correspondence between nature and person is not a law of logical necessity. Since there is no logical necessity that there must be a one-to-one correspondence between nature and person in all things (and that ratio is only a matter of common experience of human persons), there is no logical contradiction inherent in stating that there is one nature who is three persons or three persons who possess one nature. Mind-boggling? Yes. Logically contradictory? No.

The Trinity is not something we would be able to deduce only from our common experience precisely because there is nothing else like it that would lead us to posit it. We accept it because it is a direct revelation of God into who He is personally.

So a question I have if I may: when did the church come to the understanding of what the Holy Spirit is in relation to the other two persons of the trinity? Prior to becoming Catholic, I had never heard of the Theology that the HS being the love that is fully, completely and eternally expressed between the Father and the Son.

Could the greatest commandments possibly describe how Christ is ‘One with the Father’?

God the Son, loves the God the Father with all his heart, soul, mind and strength.
Jesus loves all of us as he loves himself.

God the Father returns the same perfect love.

God the Father loves God the Son with all his heart, soul, mind and strength.
God the Father loves each and everyone of us as he loves himself.

Could the spirit be the power of God’s love; working through the perfection of the greatest commandments?

1 Samuel 18-1, NIV version

Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.

I know that Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote about it in a very systematic and developed way, but I do know that prior church fathers had also written of the Holy Spirit as being love.

Saint Augustine: ewtn.com/faith/teachings/spirb3.htm

I cannot find an online version of this document in English, but Saint Thomas Aquinas quotes Pope Gregory as stating “The Holy Ghost Himself is Love.” (Hom. xxx, in Pentecost.) newadvent.org/summa/1037.htm

Perhaps others better versed in Patristics can help.

I think your error is that you are considering the Father and the Son as two distinct and separable things, whereas they are two distinct but inseparable things. The Son is the Father’s own self-image, the image the Father has of himself in the mirror of his own mind. The Father is sort of like a lighted candle and the Son is like the candle’s reflection in a nearby mirror, each candle shining their distinct light on surrounding objects causing the objects to cast two distinct shadows yet the candles are inseparable; when the original candle brightens or dims, its reflection also brightens or dims; the lighted candle cannot exist without its reflection and vice versa.

Ok, well thank you for the sources. Something to add to my list of things to read up on :joy:

There is just one sentence in the NIV version of the Bible, that connects the spirit with the second greatest commandment. Other Bibles have a slightly different translation.

1 Samuel 18-1, NIV version

Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.