Thoughts on the Trinity

Thoughts on the Trinity

I am going to offer some initial thoughts and see what sort of agreement or disagreement I get.

  1. It is possible to assert (though it may not be a true assertion) that God is absolutely one. There are not three persons who are one God, but one God ONLY. There are not three persons who are co-equal or co-eternal. There is one and only one God. Prophets like Moses and/or Jesus and/or Mohammad and/or Bahaullah and/or … are prophets, but in no way are they the One God. Persons who espouse this position would find plenty reason to call even Oneness Pentecostals or Sabellius polytheists.

  2. The Bible teaches there is one God.

  3. Christians for the most part speak of God the Father as God/divine.

  4. Christians for the most part speak of Christ as God, Christ as God the Son, Christ as divine, or some of all these.

  5. Christians likewise speak of the Holy Spirit as God, the Holy Spirit as divine, or some similar terms.

  6. Except for modalists (I think Oneness Pentecostals are modern modalist and Sabellius was an ancient modalist) Christians assert that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are not the identical (most common is the statement that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are not the same “person.”),

I am interested in hearing any thoughts (challenges or clarifications or …) to the above. I have hopes of moving to other topics, but I thought I would explore these 6 points first.
Charity, TOm

The Bible states Jesus is the Son of God the Father , not a prophet

I’m a bit confused about what your question or intention is, but I’m going to offer a response. I being Catholic obviously believe God is one and three persons; the Trinity. Jesus is not a mere prophet but God.

Firstly, I think one of the reasons people have a hard time accepting the Trinity is because humans minds cannot grasp how something can be one and three at the same time. It is a human limitation. I remember being, one point, very peturbed by this as well, even though I just accepted it. What put me at rest was realizing that if God is so mighty and great, then obviously he will be beyond human comprehension. So the fact that we cannot understand God’s nature as one and three at the same time does not take away from his divinity, but reinforces it.

Eventually, by the grace of God, I came to comprehend the Trinity a bit better. If you look at creation, God reveals this idea, of being one yet seperate, everywhere. Think about a man and women during sexual intercourse. The Bible says a husband and wife become one flesh. They literally do, yet even at the moment of intercourse they are still distinct persons. They become one and yet are seperate. And of course, if you think about the creation of a baby then you have a parallel for the Holy Spirit. After all, the Holy Spirit is the love between the Father and Son becoming another person itself. So are babies.
As well, our ultimate goal in life is to unite with God. We do so completely in Heaven. When we do so, we will become one with God, yet we will not be God. We will be distinct persons.

Now these analogies only carry us so far. Obviously the relationship between ourselves and God, and that between a husband, wife and child are NOT exactly the same as the Trinity’s relationship. But what is evident is that this idea, of being one and yet different persons, penetrates creation. Creation reflects the Creator. Honestly, after coming to understand these things, I realize how beautiful the Trinity is. It fills me with joy.

I’m under no delusion that this will convince anyone who adamantly rejects the Trinity. However I just wanted to offer a few thoughts and explain a Catholic’s thinking behind the Trinity,

God Bless

You perhaps want to read some books on the theology of the Trinity as taught throughout the centuries by the Catholic Church. It is difficult for us to craft appropriate answers. At least for me. All of what you say has been already addressed, literally ad nauseam. You are not the first one that ponders over these things!

It is impossible to assert what you assert, for it is rooted on an erroneous understanding of the nature of God.

I’ll try to express a very basic idea here, bear with me.

The concept of “person” is only definable within the indivisible unity of God’s nature with regards to the origin of each person.

God the Father is the Creator of all things.

When we think of ourselves, we have an image of ourselves in mind, an imperfect image that is destined to disappear as other thoughts arise. When God the Father thinks of Himself, this Thought is a perfect thought, and is the Son, the living Word of God, who would say:

The Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing.

If you have seen me, you have seen the Father, for I and the Father are one.

Thus the Son is generated, not created, consubstantial with the Father, “light from light”, “true God from true God”.

Indeed through revelation we know that “everything was made through Him” (the Son) “and without Him nothing was made”. We also know that He said: “the Father does not judge anyone, but has given all judgment to the Son”. Indeed, the Father gives everything to the Son as His divine inheritance, and the Son says: “All power has been given to me in heaven, on earth, and under the earth”. This is God’s will, because in the Son the Father is well-pleased, and because in the Son all of God’s children are gathered into one mystical Body, of which the Son is Head.

As it is natural, the Father and the Son, acknowledging each other, love each other. When this occurs between creatures, this love is strong indeed, but imperfect. Between the Father and the Son, who in truth are still One God, this love is perfect, in fact, is a living love and a perfect bound. This love is what is called the Holy Spirit, love of the Father and the Son, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, and with the Father and the Son receives one same adoration and glory. It is the Holy Spirit, this love, which unites the One nature of God. It is this Spirit who inspires the prophets to speak of God, and of the Father and the Son. And if you read the Bible, especially Psalms and Isaiah, you will find many of this dialogues between the Father and the Son narrated by the Holy Spirit through the prophets.

Do understand that the Son, as God and as one with the Father and the Holy Spirit, existed even before time itself came into existence. Only at a certain moment in time did the Son take human flesh to fulfill the salvation of mankind:

I did not come to condemn the world, but that the world may be saved through me.

By the will of the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit was the Son himself to become human. In doing this, the Spirit that united the Father and the Son now reached throughout all humanity: this Spirit, though the Son, who had become true man, extended to all of humanity to gather them into one:

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Remain in my love.

I want them to be one, Father, just like you and I are one.

This is why when we address God in the most excellent prayer of Christianity, we say at one point to the Father, referring to the Son:

through Him, with Him, and in Him, to you, God the Father Almighty, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honor and glory forever and ever.

This literally means that after the incarnation of the Son, by being united with Him we partake of the divine nature. For this reason the apostles of the Son were very explicit in their teachings: “your body is not your own, but the temple of the Holy Spirit.” And they taught that there is only one body, of which we are all members, and of which the Son is head."

I hope that any of the above has provided some insight. Remember that it is literally impossible for human beings to understand the divine mystery of God’s nature. It is only through revelation that we begin to grasp the trinitarian nature of God, but even this way we cannot express it if not partially. But our knowledge, while limited, is incredibly sound.

On the nature of God would also write Augustine of Hippo, Doctor of the Church. Here is a quote from Confessions:

…] my conjecture …] was untrue. For in this way a greater part of the earth would contain a greater part of thee; a smaller part, a smaller fraction of thee. …] And this would make the portions of thyself present in the several portions of the world in fragments, great to the great, small to the small. But thou art not such a one. …] is it not rather that thou art wholly present everywhere, yet in such a way that nothing contains thee wholly? …] For thou, O Most High, and most near, most secret, yet most present, who dost not have limbs, some of which are larger and some smaller, but who art wholly everywhere.

Great Post. I just hope the OP is serious enough to ponder what you have written. :thumbsup:

If anyone can truly explain the Holy Trinty, that person would be a great theologian, by faith I believe it.

Its a matter of the Ecumenical Council’s/Deposit of Faith. The Nicene Creed, many Saints and much time, perhaps the prolific work of this St will help.

Its also here in the CCC.

I am reading a book called “The Forgotten Trinity” by James White. Very good so far. Even has an endorsement from Fr Pacwa on the back. It is faith in the Trinity which unites Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Coptic and Protestants.

To give a very simple understanding of the Holy Trinity we can go to the Holy Family to discover these simple truths. The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is an excellent type or representation of the Holy Trinity in Heaven. Jesus of course represents Himself, Mary represents the Holy Spirit and Joseph represents the Eternal Father. The Trinity in Heaven are actually a family of three Divine persons. God in fact created the whole human family after His own model from Heaven. Every family on earth is another trinity. Your father represents the Father, your mother represents the Holy Spirit and childen have the greatest bond to Jesus for they represent the Son of God. In all three scenerios we see the Trinity. Archbishop Fulton Sheen often recorded on his blackboard JMJ representing the Holy Family our closest image of the Holy Trinity on earth.

I think this is a rather direct response to my point #1:

  1. It is possible to assert (though it may not be a true assertion) that God is absolutely one. There are not three persons who are one God, but one God ONLY. There are not three persons who are co-equal or co-eternal. There is one and only one God. Prophets like Moses and/or Jesus and/or Mohammad and/or Bahaullah and/or … are prophets, but in no way are they the One God. Persons who espouse this position would find plenty reason to call even Oneness Pentecostals or Sabellius polytheists.

I believe that Jesus Christ is God. He is the Son of God. I am at this point looking for thoughts on my 6 points. #1 is something that I personally would not assert and that is the reason that I qualified my statement.

I will suggest that the Bible calling Jesus Christ, “Son of God” does not demand that He is divine OR that He is not a prophet. Do you believe the term “Son of God” is an absolute designator of divinity?

And of course Christ is called a “Rabbi” too (I know this is teacher, but it is also a Jewish religious title).

Charity, TOm

Firstly, I think one of the reasons people have a hard time accepting the Trinity is because humans minds cannot grasp how something can be one and three at the same time. It is a human limitation. I remember being, one point, very peturbed by this as well, even though I just accepted it. What put me at rest was realizing that if God is so mighty and great, then obviously he will be beyond human comprehension. So the fact that we cannot understand God’s nature as one and three at the same time does not take away from his divinity, but reinforces it.
I think your position above is not as uncommon as some suggest to me. The impetus for this thread was folks calling me a “polytheist” and demanding that the Trinity is “not incoherent.”

I believe there are many versions of the Trinity including the one I embrace. I have no problem saying that God is three and God is one. If questioned about that statement I will resolve the tension WITHOUT saying, " humans minds cannot grasp how something can be one and three."

That being said, I think the “via negativa” tradition within Catholic thought acknowledges the definition of “what is not” even when that does not result in a coherent “what is.”
An Example:

[size=3]A. The number that represents God’s attribute X is not a number that is greater than one.
B. The number that represents God’s attribute X is not a number that is less than three.
Both A & B are coherent, but they are not compossible.[/size]

I do not believe that I can or should demand that all reasonable people reject incoherent positions especially when they embrace them while recognizing that they are doing this.

I personally believe that God desires us to use reason to the best of our ability even with what we think about Him. A dose of humility is of course necessary, but I am as of yet unconvinced God wants us to embrace facts that violate the “law of non-contradiction.”

I can say that I do not understand how God knows everything. I can acknowledge that God’s access to knowledge across the universe instantly violates all that is known of special relativity. But that God knows everything instantly is not an illogical assertion. I would suggest that there are aspects of God’s knowing that violate our current understanding of physics. I do not know how this works and I do not expect to know any time soon. This type of human limitation is IMO not problematic at all.

But, I personally shy away from something like this.

“He made a square circle and he made 1 equal to 3” is totally incoherent unless we say “God made a square circle and God made 1 equal to 3” in which case it is fine because God is God!

Still, for me to “shy” away from something does not require that others reject it.
Thanks, TOm

“The God Of Jesus Christ”, by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger is a gem of a book that I recommend. It’s inexpensive, even more so if you get an ebook version.

As to your points, point #1 is rather Islamic in nature, which of course, is not Christian. The rest I find no disagreement with, though, there seems to be the issue of definition going on. (As it always is with Mormons.)

Interesting, I just read again and really like the Athenasian Creed. It deals with the Trinity and Incarnation (Jesus fully God and man).

On topic, it’s trinity section… (edit, I’m pasting in the whole thing though the second part relates to the Incarnation, it is obviously touching on Jesus as God, a part of the Trinity)

"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 Eternal 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 in Trinity, and the Trinity in 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. "

source -

Personal thoughts on the subject is that it is too confusing to think about with this pea mind. Good thing Jesus rose from the dead so his teachings to Apostles can be believed with confidence.

. You are not the first one that ponders over these things!

I do not disagree that there has been a great volume of ink spilled on the Trinity. I have read a number of things including Scheeben and Sheed & various Internet things though it has been a while.
I do not understand what is impossible associated with what I assert. Which of the 6 points to do you claim cannot be asserted due to an erroneous understanding of the nature of God.

of each person.
I sometimes point out to Catholics that there is only One who is unbegotten and non-proceeding.

I interpret your statement here to mean that there is only One, but somehow the fact that this One is involved in begetting (thinking in a self-reflective way in your post) and proceeding (in your post loving one another) makes three who are One.

Do you believe that the three that you postulate within God are more plural than the One postulated by Moslems or modern Jews?
How would you respond to the charge that the emergent three you postulate are really different self states of a single God and as such you are guilty of modalism?
If these are not “self-states” then why not?

“Consubstantial” is certainly a word I recognize from my study of the early church.
What do you mean by “Consubstantial?”
Would you say that you and I are “Consubstantial” or would you say that the only three “persons” who are consubstantial one with another are Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? My reading of early church history suggests there is at least these two and maybe a third way of using this word (though sometimes I think two of them are really the same).

A different but related topic: Do you believe scripture really means what it says here? Are we (Christ is speaking to the Apostles, but I think it best to extend this to all mankind) to become “ONE” “just like” Father and Son are one?
If scripture means what it says and we are to become one like Father and Son are one, what can we infer/deduce/decide concerning the Oneness of Father and Son?
Does your concept of Oneness align with this inference?

Thank you for your post and any responses.
Charity, TOm

God cannot be divided, which is what the previous post is all about. Dividing God.

God is Father and Son, both. It is just as important for the Father to call the Son, Son, as it is for the Son to call the a Father, Father. This is Who God is. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. One God.

We are made One with the Father through the Son. Unlike Mormons, there is always an ontological difference. The created does not become the Creator. Look to the Eucharist, where we are made One with God through the Son.

It is not possible to assert:

  • that there are not three persons who are one God, but one God only;

  • that there are not three persons who are co-equal or co-eternal but there is one and only one God.

  • That Jesus was solely a prophet but in no way God.

  • The unity of God does not contradict the trinity: one can assert that there is one God only, in three persons, and for Christians it would be blasphemy to think that there is anything more than one God;

  • the fact that there are three co-equal and co-eternal divine “persons” does not contradict the fact that there is only one divine nature - this is the same as the first phrase, except that it focuses on the characteristics of the divine persons rather than on their divinity;

  • There is no way that Jesus can be considered anything less than God unless we want to rule out all of the Gospels as falsehood, but that would mean to forget about all of the miracles, exorcisms, and private revelations throughout 20 centuries, which would be irrational to do.

Well, that is very true, that would be the Father. But we cannot stop there only because we don’t like or don’t understand the fact that the Father generates the Son and that their mutual love generates the Holy Spirit. It would be resisting a revealed truth that makes perfect sense - there is no sensible, rational opposition to the understanding we have of the trinitarian nature of God; all have been addressed.

That is a very interesting question, very deep. I am not sure how to respond. The One postulated by them is more lonely than the One Trinity that we postulate, for instance.

I prefer not to get into the concept of God elaborated by a new religion. With regards to the Jews, they simply did not know the Son and the Holy Spirit until they were revealed - though the Scriptures speak of them. Those who understood the revelation eventually grew into a new community and were addressed as the disciples of the anointed one, of the Christ, thus Christians. However, the Trinitarian nature of God is fully scriptural - the Church has shown this time and again, though others may insists in claiming otherwise.

Modalism is an erroneous understanding of the Trinity, established as such already in c. 220 AD, which thinks that the divine persons are different modes as perceived by the believer, rather than three distinct divine persons. The error is in the idea that the believer would perceive three modes. This would contradict the Scriptures, for the Son himself speaks of a Son, a Father, and a Spirit, and quite the contrary, the disciples and followers always understood that there is only one God. The root of the error is the preference of the word mode over person, because perhaps the word person appears to hint at three distinct gods - an intollerable heresy. In truth, the word “person” would be more properly replaced by the word “hypostasis”.

Hypostasis (a Greek word) means “underlying state”. It is closely related to the Greek word ousia, essence or nature.

Eventually the formula “Three Hypostases in one Ousia” came to be everywhere accepted as an epitome of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. However, confusion came into play when some started translating hypostasis as “substance” rather than “subsistence”, because in the Holy Trinity there is one substance/essence/ousia but three hypostases (subsistences), and to use the erroneous meaning was to fall into the terrible heresy of Tritheism (3 substances = 3 gods).

Second Council at Constantinople, 553:

the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are one nature or essence …], a trinity of the same essence, one deity in three hypostases or persons …].

We find a fair discussion in the Catholic Encyclopedia:

[W]e have a definition comprising the five notes that go to make up a person: (a) substantia-- this excludes accident; (b) completa-- it must form a complete nature; that which is a part, either actually or “aptitudinally” does not satisfy the definition; © per se subsistens–the person exists in himself and for himself; he is sui juris, the ultimate possessor of his nature and all its acts, the ultimate subject of predication of all his attributes; that which exists in another is not a person; (d) separata ab aliis–this excludes the universal, substantia secunda, which has no existence apart from the individual; (e) rationalis naturae–excludes all non-intellectual supposita.

To a person therefore belongs a threefold incommunicability, expressed in notes (b), ©, and (d).

For the constitution of a person it is required that a reality be subsistent and absolutely distinct, i.e. incommunicable. The three Divine realities are relations, each identified with the Divine Essence. A finite relation has reality only in so far as it is an accident; it has the reality of inherence. The Divine relations, however, are in the nature not by inherence but by identity. The reality they have, therefore, is not that of an accident, but that of a subsistence. They are one with ipsum esse subsistens. Again every relation, by its very nature, implies opposition and so distinction. In the finite relation this distinction is between subject and term. In the infinite relations there is no subject as distinct from the relation itself; the Paternity is the Father–and no term as distinct from the opposing relation; the Filiation is the Son. The Divine realities are therefore distinct and mutually incommunicable through this relative opposition; they are subsistent as being identified with the subsistence of the Godhead, i.e. they are persons.

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