Priest's inaccurate comparison?

My priest compared the trinity to the three branches of the united states government in his homily.

What are the strengths of this comparison, and in addition are they outweighed by the weaknesses of the arguement?

The three branches are meant to be a balance. Each one keeps the other in check. The Trinity does not do this. No one “branch” needs to be checked.
The government branches OFTEN OPPOSE the other. Congress and the president, the Supreme Court etc.
the Trinity does not do this.

It’s a poor analogy.

When it comes to explaining the Trinity, all we have are analogies, because we can’t access the Transcendant reality that the Three Divine Persons possess in their essence. And every analogy always lacks something. Kudos to your pastor for trying to explain something that is utterly inexplainable in language that can be grasped by most people.

Yeah nobody knows what a clover is, or a Venn diagram. But people really grasp the legislative, judicial, and executive branches, I mean, just watch the news!

While you are right, no analogy is perfect, I think picking an bviously flawed system with corruption in it and comparing it to the Trinity, is borderline disrespectful to the Trinity. I wouldn’t say blasphemous, but it’s not a good idea…

ESPECIALLY in this climate of politic now!

I also think it feeds into people’s view of the Church as a democracy. Which is dangerous.

Do not publicly criticize your priest. If you have a concern, talk to him in private.

“To Me redounds every assault they make on My ministers: derision, slander, disgrace, abuse.Whatever is done to them I count as done to Me. For I have said and I say it again: No one is to touch My Christ’s. It is My right to punish them, and no one else’s.”

Saint Catherine of Siena, Dialogue 116

Well, he does have a good point. In each branch of our government there are people who THINK they are God.

Well said! :thumbsup:

What was the analogy? Theoretically, while a stretch, the analogy could be made; for example: The Executive Branch has to uphold the Constitution, the Legislative Branch has to uphold the Constitution, and the Judicial Branch has to uphold the Constitution. All three are as Constitutional as the other. While the Executive is not the Lawmaker, nor Judiciary. The Lawmaker is neither the Executive nor Judiciary. The Judiciary is neither Executive nor Lawmaker. The Executive is the sole head of State and represents both the Legislature and Judiciary in matters of State; the Legislature controls the purse, the Judiciary holds the scales and decides the Law. Yet all three are one Governmental system.

An imperfect analogy and one I wouldn’t use, but so is any analogy

To be fair, we didnt hear the homily.

Exactly. We have NO IDEA what the priest said. It may well have been quite appropriate.

The best analogy I ever heard was a rock band.

God writes the lyrics.
The Holy Spirit plays the music.
And Jesus is the Lead Singer.

I like this!! :thumbsup:


All analogies of the Holy Trinity end up being heretical. This one, as are many, is monalism. This is not to criticize the priest. Whenever you analogize the Trinity you run quickly into problems as it is unlike anything else, one nature with three persons.


I’m sure just a mistake, so I assume it was God the Father writes the lyrics.

What is monalism?

Why God the Father, rather then God?

Because the Trinity consists of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and each of those three persons is God.

Perhaps modalism.

Yeah, I suspect the poster meant “modalism.” I’ve never heard of monalism. Modalism is the error that teaches that the Trinity exists at various times and places AS the Father, Son, OR Holy Spirit. In other words, God changes His “mode” depending on a number of factors. It would be like comparing God to water. Sometimes, water exists as a liquid, sometimes as a solid (ice), and sometimes as a gas (water vapor). However, this is heresy, to say that sometimes God is the Father, sometimes the Son, and sometimes the Holy Spirit.

But, the analogy can be used to demonstrate that like liquid water, ice, and water vapor are ALL water, so also the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are ALL God. Again, the analogy lags, but all analogies lag when talking about the Trinity.

But, to be fair to the priest, we don’t know what he said. He MAY have said something modalistic, but we don’t KNOW as we weren’t there. Perhaps he said that the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government are all coequal branches of the ONE federal government. All are distinct. So also the Three Persons of the Trinity are God, and are distinct Persons, but there is only ONE God.

Does the analogy lag? Yes. How so? Well, the Three Divine Persons are ALL God, but they are not “parts” of the One God, in the same way that the three branches of government are “parts” of the one government. But, this is the same problem St. Patrick had with his clover. Each branch of the clover is not fully the clover, while each of the Three Divine Persons IS fully God. St. Patrick did the best he could. Presumably, so did the priest. Out of simple Christian charity we owe him the benefit of the doubt, the same as we’d want anyone to give us the benefit of the doubt.

When it comes to the Trinity, all we can do is offer analogies. St. John Paul II used the family. Great analogy…but it still lags, and he would readily admit this. St. Patrick used the clover…but it still lags, and he likewise would admit this. This priest came up with a unique analogy to explain literally the most complex idea in the universe (and even that is heresy…because the Trinity is not an “idea” and He (God) ENCOMPASSES the universe, rather than being contained within it). In other words, we literally CAN’T come up with words to adequately express the Trinity. So, we do the best we can with our feeble human language, until on the other side of eternity we can contemplate the inner union of God for all eternity, and then we STILL won’t be able to comprehend it.

The running joke among priests is that we all give our deacons the opportunity to preach on Trinity Sunday. It’s tough…be patient with us. We’re doing the best we can!


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