How to explain the trinity do a non-believer? I have a girl that I’m interested in, she was raised Greek Orthodox, but I just found out that as an adult she states that she can’t understand the Trinity and states she thinks it doesn’t “make sense”; that if Jesus was born of Mary he can’t be "fully God’ cuz he’s part human. How can I explain the Trinity to her in a loving way that she can come to understand?
Is it wrong to date someone who believes in God and Jesus, but doesn’t believe in the trinity?
I’ll take a stab,
To the first question, I would answer as thus: God is the three Divine Persons. The persons are not distinct from God’s Divinity, but are essential to it, as is everything in God. Each of the persons is fully God, because God, Who is supremely simple, cannot be divided into parts. Or more simply, God cannot be divided, since He is not made up of parts; hence, each person must be God, and the three persons are not seperable from each other, because God cannot be divided. The Father is wholly in the Son, the Son, wholly in the Father, the Holy Spirit is wholly in the Father and the Son, and the Father and the Son, are wholly in the Father. The persons are distinct in regards to their relations. Since it is the nature of goodness to diffuse itself, and God is the ultimate good, it pertains that God, exisiting by necessity from all eternity, and good from eternity, diffuses Himself. Now nothing is eternal except God Himself, hence it is fitting although not absolutely necessary from a logical perspective that there be the Father, who diffuses Himself, the Son, whom He diffuses Himself too, and the Holy Spirit, who is actually diffused. This cannot be proven by reason, however, since it could just be held that God diffused Himself to Himself, without other persons.
It’s not really a good idea to think we can ‘explain’ the Trinity. The Trinity is a mystery of Faith. The doctrine of the Trinity is this: There is one God, in three Divine Persons; each of the Persons is fully God, but there are not three Gods, but one God.
As to the second question,
It is wrong to date someone like this. The Trinity is a fundamental Christian truth. Traditional Catholic theologians hold that it is one of the four principal mysteries of the Faith.
I hope my theological answer didn’t confuse you :), and I wish you the best of luck,
Let’s go the handy dandy… Catechism of the Catholic Church. Honestly, I recommend everyone to buy a copy (or go to the USCCB website for an online version). It’s a Catholic’s best friend when understanding Church doctrine and beliefs.
240 Jesus revealed that God is Father in an unheard-of sense: he is Father not only in being Creator; he is eternally Father in relation to his only Son, who is eternally Son only in relation to his Father: “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”64 (2780, 441-445)
241 For this reason the apostles confess Jesus to be the Word: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”; as “the image of the invisible God”; as the “radiance of the glory of God and the very stamp of his nature.”65
242 Following this apostolic tradition, the Church confessed at the first ecumenical council at Nicaea (325) that the Son is “consubstantial” with the Father, that is, one only God with him.66 The second ecumenical council, held at Constantinople in 381, kept this expression in its formulation of the Nicene Creed and confessed “the only-begotten Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father.”67 (465)
245 The apostolic faith concerning the Spirit was confessed by the second ecumenical council at Constantinople (381): “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father.”71 By this confession, the Church recognizes the Father as “the source and origin of the whole divinity.”72 But the eternal origin of the Spirit is not unconnected with the Son’s origin: “The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, is God, one and equal with the Father and the Son, of the same substance and also of the same nature… Yet he is not called the Spirit of the Father alone,… but the Spirit of both the Father and the Son.”73 The Creed of the Church from the Council of Constantinople confesses: “With the Father and the Son, he is worshipped and glorified.”74 (152, 685)
246 The Latin tradition of the Creed confesses that the Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son (filioque).” The Council of Florence in 1438 explains: “The Holy Spirit is eternally from Father and Son; He has his nature and subsistence at once (simul) from the Father and the Son. He proceeds eternally from both as from one principle and through one spiration… And, since the Father has through generation given to the only-begotten Son everything that belongs to the Father, except being Father, the Son has also eternally from the Father, from whom he is eternally born, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son.”75
The dogma of the Holy Trinity
253 The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the “consubstantial Trinity.”83 The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God whole and entire: “The Father is that which the Son is, the Son that which the Father is, the Father and the Son that which the Holy Spirit is, i.e., by nature one God.”84 In the words of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215): “Each of the persons is that supreme reality, viz., the divine substance, essence or nature.”85 (2789, 590)
254 The divine persons are really distinct from one another. “God is one but not solitary.”86 “Father,” “Son,” “Holy Spirit” are not simply names designating modalities of the divine being, for they are really distinct from one another: “He is not the Father who is the Son, nor is the Son he who is the Father, nor is the Holy Spirit he who is the Father or the Son.”87 They are distinct from one another in their relations of origin: “It is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds.”88 The divine Unity is Triune. (468, 689)
255 The divine persons are relative to one another. Because it does not divide the divine unity, the real distinction of the persons from one another resides solely in the relationships which relate them to one another: “In the relational names of the persons the Father is related to the Son, the Son to the Father, and the Holy Spirit to both. While they are called three persons in view of their relations, we believe in one nature or substance.”89 Indeed “everything (in them) is one where there is no opposition of relationship.”90 “Because of that unity the Father is wholly in the Son and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Son is wholly in the Father and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is wholly in the Father and wholly in the Son.”91 (240)
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, 1995)
Now, the following words are my own and may not be perfect explanation of the Trinity and may not use the correct terminology. However, I think this will suffice to explain in simple terms of the Trinity. Understand however that we can never fully understand the Trinity as it is a mystery of faith as a previous poster said. It is impossible to comprehend the infinite within the finite. However, we can still try to at least gleam some understanding.
There is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. God the Father is the originator of all person’s of the Trinity. The Father eternally begets the Son. Through this relationship, a third person of the Trinity is formed, the Holy Spirit. An analogy of this is the love of a father and son is so great that the love itself forms a third person.
This delves into the theology (theologia) and economy (oikonomia) of the Trinity I do not know but would be suitable for a more knowledgeable person than I.
Once we have the three Persons, the question is how can they All be eternal if there is an originator of the Son and Holy Spirit. An analogy would be a spring that has flowing water. This flows down a mountain into the ocean. However, the flow of water is so strong it forms a pond before going into the ocean. If this stream of water existed forever, then all three aspects (spring, pond, ocean) are all eternal while the originator is still only the spring.
Now the question is of polytheism vs monotheism. The Trinity doctrine supports monotheism because it is three Persons in one Godhead. They all share a divine essence, so the Persons of the Blessed Trinity may not be separated or conflicted with each other (as in polytheism). They are one being yet manifested as three persons. They have the same substance. The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not the Father, but they are all God (one).
The best analogy I can think of showing the One God and Three Person relationship is a pizza pie with 1/3 mushroom, 1/3 pepperoni, and 1/3 pineapple. It is one pizza, one being (Godhead). They all share the same cheese and bread (divine essence), but the mushroom pizza is not the pepperoni pizza and is not the pineapple pizza (each Person of the Holy Trinity is distinct from the other). This is honestly the simplest way to put it without delving too much into the theology that I do not yet understand.
Now we go to the question of Jesus’ relationship with the Blessed Virgin Mary and his taking on of human flesh. Jesus being born from a woman doesn’t pose any problems. Jesus was born from the Blessed Virgin Mary, but the Blessed Virgin Mary is not the originator of Jesus. Jesus is eternal as He is the Word (logos). If we look at John 1:1 it says “1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (NAB courtesy of the Laudate App). Jesus is an eternal person of the Holy Trinity, and just so happened to enter the physical world with taking on of human flesh through childbirth. This can be analogous to any other childbirth. A child is born from a mother, but did the mother create the soul? No. The soul was breathed by God, but manifests and exists in this world through childbirth.
Now we consider Jesus with taking on of human flesh. This can be summed up in the Hypostatic Union. This describes Jesus as One Person but with two natures. 1 Divine Nature and 1 Human Nature. The relationship between the natures is expressed in the Hypostatic Union (name explains it). Jesus also has two wills for each nature. However, understand that the human nature is always subject and complements the Divine Nature, as Jesus (as human) is a single person, not two. This can be summed up as Fully Human and Fully Divine. HOWEVER, understand that the human nature and taking of human flesh does NOT change His Divine Nature. If we are to see God as unchanging (if He is perfect, then any change could be seen as a change from perfection, and God can only be perfect), then that means Jesus taking on human flesh does NOT change his Divine Nature.
Honestly, I think explaining the Trinity comes down to charitable discussion and study of previous ecumenical councils that infallibly proclaim certain truths. Also, be careful of her belief of Jesus as a “created” being and lesser than what it means to be fully God because that sounds like Arianism, a heresy that arose (and was condemned as heretical) in the early Christian Church.
Furthermore, as to whether you date this person is based on your prudential judgement. If dating a person will weaken your faith and move you away from God, then stop. In most situations, a common faith sustains and strengthens each other of a man and woman. This is up to you.
However, make note that to believe in Jesus yet have heretical/heterodox beliefs is contradictory. Jesus makes clear mention of being ONE with the Father as the Word (John 1:1) and "58 Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.” (New American Bible, courtesy of the Laudate App). To believe in Jesus is to believe what He says, yet to not believe in Jesus being One with God the Father is contradicting.
Hope this helps.
Saint Patrick said it’s like a shamrock. Three heads and one stem. Three persons(I don’t know the right term here), one God. It’s not really possible to fully understand how it works. God is above and beyond our limited imaginations. We probably won’t ever fully understand unless we go to Heaven and ask God that question.
God cannot be broken up into pieces, so Jesus being born from Mary didn’t separate Him from the Father and Holy Spirit.
For an ordinary layman the explanation is an extremely complicated and complex matter, but to me it’s almost like poetry - the semantics, the rhythm - whenever anyone tries to explain it.
“For an ordinary layman the explanation is an extremely complicated and complex matter”.
Perhaps people get tied into such semantic and logical knots trying to “explain” this is because it is not true? There seems no logical way three things can be one. When Jesus spoke to God, was he talking to himself?
Good analogy, I like the water one myself. I explain that the Trinity is like water; it can exist as liquid, ice, or steam, but all forms are water. Like that, God can exist as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but is still God.
A simpler way to explain, rather than using the theological approach, which can lead to more questions leading to going off on a tangent, like the one above, is to relate the Holy Trinity to family.
A cliche’ question, christophercama, is: what is the meaning and relevance of life? We’ve all heard it. One could answer: “God!” Most people know life is a mystery even if they don’t know about the Mystery of the Holy Trinity. So…go back to this person as Jesus went to the woman at the well. Have respect for her and empathise that not everyone is at the same place of understanding. Jesus went to where she was! - the woman at the well. Jesus can go to your girl through you with the Holy Spirit within you, guiding you, to where *your girl *is. He didn’t speak in such and such a way that the woman at the well couldn’t get the idea of how confused her life was. So, do you?
You could explain that God is all about relationship:
Three persons in one God, in relationship with one another - family love!
Family life and love mirrors the reality of the Holy Trinity: a father, a mother, and offspring -the love that binds them together as one unit. A loving relationship where they are in union as a whole and with one another.
All of the Bible is about the Jew’s growing relationship with God.
All of the Bible is also about the Jew’s growing relationship with each other and
others, within their understanding of who God is.
All of humanity is called into relationship with God.
The father gave is His son to be in relationship with Him.
The Son taught us how to be in relationship with the Father.
The Son sent us His Holy Spirit to be in relationship with Him.
It all binds up and one person reaches the other all as one circle of love within God, in God’s Kingdom, in relationship!
Our Lady, and the Saints, are praying for all people on earth to discover that they too are being called into relationship with one another and with God; and with Mary and the Saints too.
One big happy family!
One other thing is to remember that God is also mother and father within Himself. Which may explain a little why Christ could have been there at the beginning as the Word, until made flesh. We can see this in strong family set-ups, in which the man becomes more feminine in sensitivity, and compromises; and vice-versa, the mother will often become more fatherly. One is bound and complete in the other! Yet, both retain their own characters / persons.
…also, we are being called into understanding God’s relationship between Him and other people. For example, the relationship between Jesus and His mother, or Jesus and St. Peter, or St. Pio with God, or St. John with us, or this group or culture of people with their understanding of God, so that we can share our faith with them!
One big happy invitation!
Implicit in her objection about Jesus being part God and part human is the notion that divinity and humanity conflict, so that if p is the proportion of me that is Godly, then 1-p is necessarily the proportion of me that is human. In other words, she is saying that the difference between divinity and humanity is like the difference between male and female: they are opposite.
But are they? Maybe divinity and humanity is rather like being both rational and animal (i.e., having both a thinking mind and a physical body). Being rational doesn’t conflict with my animality, it perfects it.
Or maybe divinity and humanity is like my being both a male and an American: they are orthogonal to one another, so it is possible to be one and the other, or one and not the other.
And if there are these two other ways to be both one thing and another thing at the same time, maybe there are other ways we haven’t yet thought of, as well.
Reading this is reminding me of what is said that “We are the Body of Christ.”
One great big family that is one body. When I read the Catechism that was quoted earlier…"241 For this reason the apostles confess Jesus to be the Word: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”; as “the image of the invisible God”; as the “radiance of the glory of God and the very stamp of his nature.”
And then I remember how the “Spirit of God moved over the waters” in Genesis it helps me se and understand more clearly how all three persons have always been together. Now I believe I kind of see the Trinity as a Body. A Divine Body. The Body
Is the person of God the Father. The Body speaking the words that bring creation into existence is The Word of God, the person of God the Son, Jesus Christ, and the Breath of God that God exhales to speak The Word is God the Holy Spirit. We are all created through the word of God, Jesus Christ, and the Breath of God, God the Holy Spirit is what gives us Life.
Like it or not, we are one great big family.
Not sure if that helps the Original Poster or not but hope its a sound enough way to see or understand this Mystery of Faith and that if it is it helps your girlfriend in some way.
The best explanation I ever read was Frank J. Sheed in his book “Theology and Sanity”. He explains that when God thinks…he creates. When a human being thinks of Paris, for example, he/she remembers some buildings roads, etc., but that memory is imperfect. When God thinks of Paris, it IS Paris. You and I are actually held into existence by God’s thought and will. Sheed continues, when God thinks of Himself…His reflection is so perfect, it actually eternally creates a 2nd Person within the God-Head. This 2nd person is the Son of God, Jesus Christ. This is why in John’s prologue, he describes Jesus as “the Word”. Word is another way to say “knowledge”. Lastly, Sheed explains that when these 2 Persons of the God Head Love each other, their Love is SO REAL that it eternally creates a 3rd Person: The Holy Spirit. This is why the Church teaches that a married couple’s love actually reflects the reality of the Trinity…their marital embrace is so intense and real that in 9 months it becomes another human being!
No of course not so long as the relationship doesn’t lead you away from God. And, God probably placed this person in your path to help them.
Randomusername summed it up nicely by using the way St. Patrick taught the people of Ireland who were pagans and using the shamrock plant that grew in the meadows to teach them about the nature of God. See if you can obtain a shamrock plant to explain that the shamrock has one stem and 3 leaves - the stem and 3 leaves are connected not separate. It is the same with God. There is 1 God yet God has 3 Divine natures: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. When God became man in the womb of Mary, God did not leave His throne in Heaven. Also we can never fully understand God but He certainly gives us the means to try. We don’t have to know everything there is to know about God to come into relationship with Him. He just simply says: I am the Truth, the Way, and the Life so come follow me, trust me for I know the way that leads home.
[quote=simple soul]Not sure if that helps the Original Poster or not but hope its a sound enough way to see or understand this Mystery of Faith and that if it is it helps your girlfriend in some way.
I hope so too, christophercama. The real message for both of you in all this may even be the fact you cared enough for her to go to all this trouble!
I hardly have a grasp on the concept myself. It is just one of the mysteries of faith that I accept without question and with the hope that someday I will understand.
Having said that however, when I talk to children who ask me about the trinity, I honestly tell them that I can’t give them a straight answer, but I can point out to them that we are ourselves are many people. I am a mother, daughter, granddaughter, grandmother, friend, cousin, teacher, musician, sister, niece, aunt etc. Not only that each of us have three separate qualities: body, soul and intellect. Although this can not answer the question directly it gives a child an insight to how it just might be possible.
I remember as a child I asked that same question to my grandmother, and she said, " oh, you see it’s like water; water can be boiled and it becomes steam. You can freeze it and it becomes ice. But you see my dear, it’s still all water". I know that analogy has probably been said for ages and is childish, but I’ve never forgotten it.