persons of the Trinity


#1

Ok, after getting some great responses on my thread regarding the Word.
I figured out what may be the bigger issue.

Persons of the Trinity.
God the Father
God the Son
God the Holy Spirit (ghost?)

Ok. Perhaps it’s my jw upbringing, buttttt
In what way do you (Catholics or Christians in general)(but a pagan or atheist could answer as well if you know the answer :smiley: ) believe that the Father, Son or Ghost are Persons?

I.e. when I think of a person I think of a Person. A person placed in time and space. You, me or Michael Jackson.
That is a person to me.

So, in what way is God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit a person? (I’m sure I butchered the Trinity pretty badly there. The intent is not to focus on the theology of the trinity, though :wink: )

How are they Persons? Why can they be described as persons?
I suppose if we were talking about invisible entities such as a ghost, I don’t know that I would call the ghost a person. More of an entity or spirit.
As for angels…let’s just get through the God part first.

So? :confused:


#2

Basically, a person is who someone is. In other words, a being that has an identity, that can say “I” is a person.

A nature, on the other hand, is what something is.

So, if you said to the Father, “Who are you?” He could say, “I am the Father.” If you asked him, “What are you?” He would say, “I am God.”

If you said to the Son, “Who are you?” He would say, “I am the Son.” If you asked him, “What are you?” He would say, “I am God and man.”

So, if you said to the Holy Spirit, “Who are you?” He could say, “I am the Holy Spirit.” If you asked him, “What are you?” He would say, “I am God.”


#3

Three Divine Persons - but ONE God.

Think of a Family, it is made up of different persons - husband, wife, child - but it is just one family. This is a bit simplistic but it may help.

The Catholic apologist Frank Sheed has the best explanation I have ever come across.

Here’s how Frank Sheed puts it:

"An idea is, so far as we can make it so, the mental double or image of the object we are contemplating; it expresses as much of that object as we can manage to get into it. Because of the limitation of our powers, the idea we form is never the perfect double or image, never totally expresses the object, in plain words is never totally adequate.

"But if God does, as we know from Himself that He does, generate an idea of Himself, this idea must be totally adequate, in no way less than the Being of which it is the Idea, lacking nothing that that Being has. The Idea must contain all the perfection of the Being of which it is the Idea. There can be nothing in the Thinker that is not in His Thought of Himself, otherwise the Thinker would be thinking of Himself inadequately, which is impossible for the Infinite.

“Thus the Idea, the Word that God generates, is Infinite, Eternal, living, a Person, equal in all things to Him who generates It - Someone as He is, conscious of Himself as he is, God as He is.”

"The First Person knows Himself; His act of knowing Himself produces and Idea, a Word; and this Idea, this Word, is the Second Person. The First Person and the Second combine in an act of love - love of one another, love of the glory of the Godhead which is their own; and just as the act of knowing produces an Idea within the Divine Nature, the act of loving produces a state of Lovingness within the Divine Nature.

"Into this Lovingness, Father and Son pour all that They have and all the They are, with no diminution, nothing held back. Thus this Lovingness within the Godhead is utterly equal to the Father and the Son, for They have poured Their all into it. There is nothing They have which their Lovingness does not have.

“Thus Their Lovingness too is Infinite, Eternal, Living, Someone, a Person, God. Observe that here again we are still within the Divine Nature. For love is wholly within the nature of the lover. But this love wholly contains the Divine Nature, for God puts the whole of Himself into love.”

(Frank Sheed, Theology and Sanity, pg 66, Sheed & Ward, 1973).


#4

That’s a great answer…but my shorter version goes like this:

God is love.
Love is a relationship. It requires someone else to love.
So God the Father eternally loves the Son, who reflects that love eternally back to the Father.
The love that flows between them is the Holy Spirit.

BTW - the reason we exist, the reason we were created is to enter into the same sort of eternal loving relationship with God. God loves us, and we love him back. That’s difficult to comprehend and difficult to do. Fortunately, God gave us an entire lifetime to practice and get it right :slight_smile:


#5

I love the short verson:)


#6

A nature, on the other hand, is what something is.

So, if you said to the Father, “Who are you?” He could say, “I am the Father.” If you asked him, “What are you?” He would say, “I am God.”

If you said to the Son, “Who are you?” He would say, “I am the Son.” If you asked him, “What are you?” He would say, “I am God and man.”

So, if you said to the Holy Spirit, “Who are you?” He could say, “I am the Holy Spirit.” If you asked him, “What are you?” He would say, “I am God.”

You very well might want to smack me upside the head for asking this but…oh well, good thing it’s the internet :smiley:
What Is God?

<>

(Frank Sheed, Theology and Sanity, pg 66, Sheed & Ward, 1973).

theology and Sanity?!?!
:eek:

"But if God does, as we know from Himself that He does, generate an idea of Himself, this idea must be totally adequate, in no way less than the Being of which it is the Idea, lacking nothing that that Being has. The Idea must contain all the perfection of the Being of which it is the Idea. There can be nothing in the Thinker that is not in His Thought of Himself, otherwise the Thinker would be thinking of Himself inadequately, which is impossible for the Infinite.

So, is God a Being then?

See, when I was a JW, God was a Person, I believe they considered Him to be a Person in fixed time and space. Yeah, yeah, I know that throws us into the whole omni argument.
Anyhow, my point is this, trying to conceive in my head a Being that is not in fixed time and space, yet still is Being, is well, a little much to take.

Thus the Idea, the Word that God generates, is Infinite, Eternal, living, a Person, equal in all things to Him who generates It - Someone as He is, conscious of Himself as he is, God as He is.”

"The First Person knows Himself; His act of knowing Himself produces and Idea, a Word; and this Idea, this Word, is the Second Person. The First Person and the Second combine in an act of love - love of one another, love of the glory of the Godhead which is their own; and just as the act of knowing produces an Idea within the Divine Nature, the act of loving produces a state of Lovingness within the Divine Nature.

Ok, see. This is where I get lost.
How does an Idea become a Person? That’s why I’m trying to get in tune with the thinking behind what is the Person of God. Is God a Being in fixed time or space or not? If God is not, than what makes God a Being, indeed, what makes God a Person?

The notion that God IS Love is something that to me, sounds lovely. But the practicality of it is akin (imho) to saying that I AM Pain.
I can understand the notion that God is All Love so that He IS Love.
But Love is a quality, or a feeling. Not a Thing or substance.
So, while I love the sentiment.
I am still trying to get a sense of What is God? What makes God a Person? In what sense is God a Person?

See (try to stay with me here, as I think even to myself this can get more then a little confusing) if God is a Person in the sense of what I perceive a person to be, then how can God have three persons? So, what I figure is, there must be something about the idea of a Person, that I’m not getting.
Which is ok.
But before I can understand how the Second Person of the Trinity is all these things, first I need to get a grip on what makes the Second Person, a Person.
How do I get from an Idea to a Person?

So, let’s try this:
Is there a working definition of Person that helps to define the Persons of the Trinity?
:eek:

Don’t ya love me? :wink: :stuck_out_tongue:


#7

Yup. :slight_smile: But you might like to start with Sheed’s Theology for Beginners, which also has excellent material on the questions you’ve raised here.


#8

Think about it this way, Curious.

Lool at something near you - anything - and think about it. Think, as perfectly and best as you can, about it. Now, if you could think about that thingperfectly, then the thing in your mind would have every single quality that a real one would. However, no matter how perfectly you think about it, the thing will always lack one thing that a real one has: existence.

God, however, is absolutely perfect. When He knows something, he knows it perfectly, and so it does not lack anything that the actual thing He is knowing has - even existence. Thus, when He knows Himself, the He in His self-knowledge is perfect and actually exists - this is the Son.


#9

A person does not have to be bound by time and space to be a person. Being a person means being someone instead of only something.

There is one divine nature (one God). God is Being itself. He is the only thing that absolutely has to exist upon which everything else is contingent. He is omniscient, immutable, omnipotent, etc. He has every perfection. He is utterly simple–he has no parts and is indivisible.

There are three Persons, each fully possessing the one divine nature but who are really distinct from one another.

The Father is God.
The Son is God.
The Holy Spirit is God.

The Father is not the Son.
The Son is not the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is not the Father.

What makes one Person distinct from another in the Trinity is the relationship that each has to the others. The Father begets the Son. The Son is begotten of the Father. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.

You will never ever comprehend this mystery. It is inexhaustible even though we can know certain things about it.

This is a mystery that had to be revealed to us. If we did not have God’s word for it, we could never have known that God is a Trinity through reason alone.


#10

Perhaps this can help.

The Athanasian Creed

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith. Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the Catholic Faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity. Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost is all One, the Glory Equal, the Majesty Co-Eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father Uncreate, the Son Uncreate, and the Holy Ghost Uncreate. The Father Incomprehensible, the Son Incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost Incomprehensible. The Father Eternal, the Son Eternal, and the Holy Ghost Etneral and yet they are not Three Eternals but One Eternal. As also there are not Three Uncreated, nor Three Incomprehensibles, but One Uncreated, and One Uncomprehensible. So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not Three Almighties but One Almighty.

So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not Three Gods, but One God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not Three Lords but One Lord. For, like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and Lord, so are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion to say, there be Three Gods or Three Lords. The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father, and of the Son neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

So there is One Father, not Three Fathers; one Son, not Three Sons; One Holy Ghost, not Three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is afore or after Other, None is greater or less than Another, but the whole Three Persons are Co-eternal together, and Co-equal. So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity is Trinity, and the Trinity is Unity is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, must thus think of the Trinity.

Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting Salvation, that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man.

God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the substance of His mother, born into the world. Perfect God and Perfect Man, of a reasonable Soul and human Flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His Manhood. Who, although He be God and Man, yet He is not two, but One Christ. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into Flesh, but by taking of the Manhood into God. One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by Unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one Man, so God and Man is one Christ. Who suffered for our salvation, descended into Hell, rose again the third day from the dead. He ascended into Heaven, He sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty, from whence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies, and shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting, and they that have done evil into everlasting fire. This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.


#11

Yup. But you might like to start with Sheed’s Theology for Beginners, which also has excellent material on the questions you’ve raised here.

Ok, I found it on amazon. Actually a used copy. So, I’m going to go ahead and order that. I could use a good theology book. I guess :stuck_out_tongue:

A person does not have to be bound by time and space to be a person. Being a person means being someone instead of only something.

Ok, at what point does a >>fill in the blank<< become a person rather then a thing?
I’m thinking consciousness?
So, would God possibly be just Consciousness?

An example would be the people out there who think of God as being Consciousness, the First Source etc.?

Would that be a fairly appropriate way to think of God in the Christian context?
Because this:

There is one divine nature (one God). God is Being itself. He is the only thing that absolutely has to exist upon which everything else is contingent. He is omniscient, immutable, omnipotent, etc. He has every perfection. He is utterly simple–he has no parts and is indivisible.

Seems like it would fit the notion of Consciousness. Uhm, you know like a Conscious Universe type thing.

Let me stop there. Because as soon as I go from that to three persons my mind sort of does this :bigyikes:

You will never ever comprehend this mystery. It is inexhaustible even though we can know certain things about it.

I think this has to be one of the truest statements ever.
Despite what God a person believes in, wrapping one’s head around the Concept of Any God, let alone One God, is very difficult and I don’t think we can truly do it.
However, for me to get to the point where I can see the division of the persons and further the concept of the Word, I need to Try to get a sense of this Person part first.

Ok, that’s a BIG creed. Thank You for that. :thumbsup: Is that is the Catechism? If so, then I’ll read it out of there in a little while.

Sheeesh, who knew Catholic theology was soooooo deep?
I am beginning to see why the Catechism is soooooo big! :slight_smile:


#12

A thing can’t become a person. A being is either always a person or never a person.

This is because personhood includes a spiritual dimension. Being a person means having an identity and having certain faculties such as will and intellect. Once created, God maintains all persons in existence for all eternity. While matter can fall apart, spirit cannot. Personhood can neither be gained or lost by a being.


#13

Ok that is graspable.
I think what I meant was not so much literally “at what point”, more what is dividing line between who and what.

What makes a person a person. And a thing a thing.

I.e.
An animal is not a person, but an animal thinks.
So, how does a person differ from an animal.
What makes me a person and my cat a thing?

In the same sense what makes God a person and not a thing?

I think that’s why I was thinking along the lines of consciousness.


#14

My favorite analogy for how three distinct things can be ONE entity, is a TREE.

The ROOT is fully the essence of a Tree.
The TRUNK is fully the essence of a Tree.
The BRANCH is fully the essence of a Tree.

Yet we are not talking about 3 trees, but one tree,
yet the root is NOT the trunk, and the trunk is NOT the branch.
There are not three trees, but there are three distinct things sharing the same TREE-essence,
the ROOT, which I compare to God the Father, then
the TRUNK, which I compare to God the Son, and
the BRANCH, which I compare to God the Holy Spirit.
Both the TRUNK and the BRANCH rely for their very existence upon the ROOT,
Just as God the Son and God the Holy Spirit exist because God the Father eternally exists.

The Son is BEGOTTEN, not created, and begotten of the Father’s OWN essence. In humans, begetting requires a male and a female to produce a baby human which shares the essence of the Father and the Mother. But God is pure, infinite spirit without any sort of physical limitation and eternal. His Word (or Son) is therefore eternal, as is his Spirit, all of which share the Father’s Divine ESSENCE.
Hope that helps,
God bless,
Jaypeeto3 (aka Jaypeeto4)


#15

The potential for self-consciousness does require that one be a person (a spirit in the case of God and angels or having a spirit in the case of men). This is a common way of defining personhood.


#16

This is from the Summa Theologica I, 29, 1:

Further still, in a more special and perfect way, the particular and the individual are found in the rational substances which have dominion over their own actions; and which are not only made to act, like others; but which can act of themselves; for actions belong to singulars. Therefore also the individuals of the rational nature have a special name even among other substances; and this name is “person.”

It seems pretty reasonable to me. :smiley:


#17

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.